I have long harboured a dream that I could sell up and live on a canal boat. My family are far less enthusiastic but from time to time I head off to the Monmouthshire and Brecon and wander along its banks with the dog whilst I imagine how it would be to wake up in the morning on this particularly beautiful canal. It seems that this dream is doomed to meet with extensive doses of reality provided by my ever doubtful family. “You won't like it on a frosty winter morning”. “How are you going to manage when you have run out of supplies miles from anywhere?” “Who is going to help with all the heavy work like changing gas bottles?”. I know they are right and so I forget about it for a while, but many people do live on the canal and in fact the numbers are growing.
There are so many things to celebrate throughout the year, but here are a few from the past 150 years that might have slipped your mind.
First of all let's look at those events that are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.
1969 saw the year in which Robin Knox Johnston sailed solo around the world without stopping, and The Clangers, one of the many beloved characters created by Oliver Postgate, was first shown on television. 1969 also saw the maiden flight of Concorde.
Let's go back another 50 years to 1919, when the character 'William' created by Richmal Crompton made his first appearance in 'Home' magazine, this was the same year that saw the founding of 'Bentley' cars.
Oh my goodness, what an adventure!
Back in January 2001 (so long ago already) I decided, for my annual holiday, to become part of a working crew on board the Stavros S. Niarchos, a British Brig square rigged Tall Ship. A twelve day voyage away from the stresses of running a restaurant. She has since been re-named Sunset but then she was operated by Tall Ships Youth Trust.
Their mission is: "to enable young people aged 12-25 to fulfil their life potential through genuinely life changing adventures at sea. What's more, our extensive Adult Voyage programme, for ages 18-80, helps fund our youth development work."
Being a novice traveller this was going to be quite an adventure, no support from husband or children, just me to fit in with the crew on board a Tall Ship.
Have you ever wondered where some of our everyday phrases come from? I know I've used 'happy as a sandboy' when I'm particularly pleased with something but I've never really thought about its origins. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens featured an Inn called The Jolly Sandboys which had a sign outside showing three inebriated sandboys. Many years ago, in the Bristol area, a sandboy was a youngster employed to bring sand to an inn from the nearby caves, this sand would be spread on the floor to absorb spillages. The boys were paid partly in alcohol so it is not surprising they were often drunk. The phrase became popular after the publication of the book although I notice that we now use happy rather than jolly.
A what? Say again.... What is that?
These are the most common questions and responses I get, when I relate to friends and family a recent animal encounter that my husband and I participated in!
To prepare for our encounter, we had to be briefed and were given protective goggles and overcoats. It was made very clear to us that we would be entering the Binturong's enclosure and any interaction would be on their terms, with their (and our) safety and welfare being of paramount importance. This all being done and being suitably togged up, in we went. Here is some of what we learned.
What is a Binturong?
It is part of the Viverridae family, its scientific name being Arctictis binturong. They are native to South and South East Asia and prefer tall forest, or places with good tree coverage. Sometimes the Binturong is also known as a bearcat, but it is neither a cat nor a bear, but rather is related to the palm civets of Asia. However, you can understand this name when you see one; with their face and whiskers looking like a cat, but stout and stocky bodies and limbs, that look more like a bear, together with thick coarse hair and long prehensile tails. These tails can be almost as long as the head and body put together and can act like another limb.
Stella & Rose's Books wish to thank Mr. John Gough for his kind submission of this article
Do you remember Pookie?
Author-illustrator Ivy L. Wallace’s Pookie was first published in 1946, when she was thirty-one. This and subsequent volumes in the series remained in print until I was working in a bookshop around 1970. Then they fell into an abyss. The original publishers, William Collins, decided not to reprint any of the Pooki” books, or Wallace’s other Animal Shelf series.Despite nearly thirty years of publishing success, Pookie and his creator have never been discussed in any children’s literature books or journals. Not treated seriously in their time, and no longer in print – when I first started researching Ivy L. Wallace and Pookie, around 1990 - things were looking pretty grim!
Are you a hylophobe?Or a bit of a tree-hugger?
Do you find forests places of fear and danger?Or places of peace and emotional healing?
Even the most cursory of glances reveals the pervasive influence of woods and forests in literature, legends and fairy tales. Sometimes the forest is a dark and forbidding place, full of hazards and unseen enemies that await the unfortunate individual who ventues within.
Examples include the Wild Wood from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, where the frightened Mole is fortunate to stumble across the safety of Mr. Badger's sett, or the suffocating gloom of Mirkwood in Tolkien's The Hobbit, where Bilbo Baggins has to rescue the Dwarves from the attention of the giant scary, hairy spiders.
Stella & Rose's Books wish to thank Mr. John Gough for his kind submission of the following article
Magdalen Eldon wrote and illustrated three children’s picture-story books that feature a Pekinese dog called Bumble.
Bumble (1950)Snow Bumble (1951)Highland Bumble (1952)
Who is this Bumble? Bumble is a Pekinese dog, who happens to be half Chinese (of course, as a Peke) and half Scottish. Bumble also claims to be descendent of Sherlock Holmes, although none of the stories involve Bumble in solving mysteries, or smoking a pipe, or ….
Bumble lives with a large, lively family of mice, named Macmouse. They all live in Windwhistle Manor, a cosy hollow tree and old badger sett on a Devonshire moor, with a family of Scottish mice whose very many children have amazing names, a wise worm who lectures from an encyclopedia and an infestation of well-meaning beetles and some of the prettiest pictures ever made for children, or, perhaps, adults. Even the candy-striped book covers were delightful designs. Bumble 'owns' the tree/apartment house, and its farm, and the mice are his housekeeper tenants.
Aah, I just love a bit of Les Mis!
Do you hear the people sing,Singing the songs of angry men?It is the music of the peopleWho will not be slaves again!
It was thirty years ago this month that I exited the Palace Theatre in London with those lyrics reverberating through my head. As many other people have probably done before and since, I immediately resolved to tackle reading Victor Hugo's masterpiece.
The written narrative of the life of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables is magnificent and so very much more than is told in either the musical or any of the films. It is well known that the book comprises a daunting number of pages. At the time I had never attempted to read such a long work, but I found out something that made the book so much more accessible to me. Please don't tell anyone who told you this, but you really don't need to read every chapter! There are numerous sections of the book where Hugo makes rambling diversions, such as detailing the history of the Convent of Petit-Picpus or the building of the Parisian sewers. Some may consider it sacrilegious when I say that chapters such as these can be skimmed or even skipped altogether as the principal characters play no part in them whatsoever.
Browse the Special Book Room >
An Aladdin’s cave for Booklovers. I think that is an apt description for the Special Book Room at Stella Books. On entering the shop door one is struck by the spaciousness and openness of the store but wait! To the left is a gate. Why? Can you not venture in? Of course you can. The gate signifies that you are entering a very special place - the area where all our most rare, fragile and valuable items are collected together. But unlike many bookstores most items are in plain sight, beautifully displayed on bookshelves, not locked away in glass cabinets making one afraid to ask to view.
I like stained glass and I've always wanted to have a go at making something out of it. So when I saw a course advertised locally, which was spread over 3.5 days and involved designing and making a stained glass panel, I jumped at the opportunity and eagerly booked a place.
I arrived for the first session on Saturday afternoon excited and anxious. Excited because I like to try new crafts (I've been on a few one day craft courses before) but equally anxious because I wasn't sure if I would have the necessary ability or skill.
So after introductions our excellent teacher gave us a brief insight into making stained glass panels, the tools and techniques used and some instruction on cutting glass to shape. We were then let loose on a piece of clear glass. If there was a prize for the first person to cut themselves I would have won. Having mastered, and I use that term loosely, glass cutting we had slides of our teacher's work and previous students' panels to give us inspiration. Homework was to decide on your design.
Is it my imagination or are the Winters in Britain (specifically the South Wales area) becoming milder? I have a tortoise who hibernates every year in a double insulated box in the garage. His name is Zebedee (see the Magic Roundabout connection... he used to have a mate called Florence who is no longer with us). This Winter past I was watching the weather temperatures earnestly 'oh no, its not cold enough' (above 4C) 'oh no, it's too cold for him to be outside' (below 0C) – dash to the garage and bring his hibernating box into the unheated conservatory! Roll on Spring when he finally wakes up, albeit early, and take a huge sigh of relief!
The hesitation at the door, the hopeful smile, and then the inevitable question: "Do you buy books?"
Oh... if only I was witty and quick.... the answers I could give! "No, we prefer to steal them - although it's increasingly frowned on". "No, we write them". "No, they are all from the library down the road..." Oh, if only we could sometimes be like the Black Books television series!!
We are a secondhand book business. We need stock. So, of course we buy books! Secondhand bookshops come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes but all need stock if they are to survive and therefore I believe that they do all buy books! Someone please correct me if I'm wrong!
Writers have been inspired for centuries by the natural landscapes of Wales and it is easy to see why. Majestic peaks, rugged coastlines, sweeping bays, rolling hills, waterfalls, caves and lakes, magical river valleys and forests have inspired Welsh writers for centuries and in turn have helped the Welsh define how they think of their country. Pride and passion are evident in the art, music, poetry and literature.
The National Eisteddfod is the largest and oldest celebration of Welsh culture dating back to 1176 when it is believed the first one was held. There are three ceremonies during Eisteddfod week:-
Once the Christmas festivities are over and winter is well into its stride, it is a consolation to know that the days are getting longer.
Each day there is an evergrowing glimmer of daylight, a hint to the changing of the seasons. The postie arrives at 5pm every day to pick up our parcels - and this too has gone from dark to light.
The next portent of Spring are the snowdrops, only a few at first, seemingly huddling together for warmth, their delicate heads nodding in the wind. Surely too cold for them to survive? But survive they do, and soon the verges and the forest floor are wearing a mantle of white.
The time in our lives had arrived where we could be free to take a new path in life, a new adventure.
My husband and I chose to tour the UK in an old motorhome. So I left work and told the family, it seemed important to me that they gave us their blessings.
We decided on a trial period to see if we would be compatible to this lifestyle, choosing three months and Scotland as our first destination. The first night in Scotland certainly tested us, the temperature fell to minus eight degrees and when we woke in the morning having had a really good nights sleep we found that even the toothpaste was sluggish to come out of its tube. It was stunning outside with deep drifts of snow, white coated hares in abundance and highland cattle munching contentedly on hay with their collective breaths creating a misty scene. We had electric hooked-up and the site owner came out in the morning to see if we had survived the night.
Happy New Year, or I should say Blwyddyn Newydd Dda as I am in Wales. 2018 has arrived. Do you look forward to the New Year? Do you take the optimistic view and wonder what 2018 has in store for you, what opportunities lie ahead, what new adventures will you have? Or the pessimistic line and dread what the new year will bring, what difficulties will there be, will you face challenges ahead? Or perhaps you are like me, and fluctuate between the two.
January is associated with Janus, a god in ancient Roman mythology. He is the god of beginnings and transitions and is usually depicted with two faces as he looks to the future and to the past. January 1st is the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar. Amongst the first places to welcome in the New Year are Tonga, Samoa and Kiritimati or Christmas Island. Whilst the last few include American Samoa and Baker Island. I assume in the UK we must be somewhere near the middle.
Having just enjoyed an annual visit to one of the UK's larger Zoos, I thought I would investigate the origins and see what books on the subject that we have in stock here at Stella & Roses Books.
On looking at some online dictionary definitions under 'Zoo', the most popular is: 'An establishment which maintains a collection of wild animals, typically in a park or gardens, for study, conservation, or display to the public'. The term 'Zoo' started to be used in the mid 19th century and is an abbreviation of Zoological Gardens, originally applied specifically to that of Regent's Park in London.
In the late Terry Pratchett's Discworld, described as both a world and mirror of worlds, the race of trolls is unique in believing that all living creatures go through life backwards:
“Alone of all the creatures in the world, trolls believe that all living things go through Time backwards. If the past is visible and the future is hidden, they say, then it means you must be facing the wrong way. Everything alive is going through life back to front. And this is a very interesting idea, considering it was invented by a race who spend most of their time hitting one another on the head with rocks.” Reaper Man
I returned from my last shopping expedition – an activity for which I typically have to work hard to summon any great enthusiasm – somewhat lighter of wallet but sporting four new neckties. I agree that these can hardly be classed as life's essentials, but I'm a sucker for a smart tie and a promotional offer. The wearing of ties may be in decline today but I still enjoy wearing a tie (almost) every day at work. But as I struggled to squeeze the new ties into the already bulging racks in the wardrobe, it struck me that I knew little about the history of neckties.
When did people start wearing ties?What did early ties look like?How has the fashion changed over the years?