One frosty November evening I was walking home with my son who was about seven years old. We were looking up into the night sky at the stars and I was trying to make out some of the constellations for him and he asked what stars were. My answer reflected both the need to keep it simple and also the fact that I had limited knowledge of the subject. I pointed out that our own sun is a star. I still remember his reaction to this news which was totally unexpected. He didn't want to hear it and he became upset because he found this too difficult to understand. He couldn't see how the sun (such a familiar thing) could be the same as the tiny twinkling dots in the night sky. Unfortunately it became very clear that I was not going to provide an explanation that could satisfy him.
I wonder if you watched and enjoyed, as I did, the recent television adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. As disturbing as the portrait was, of a future society where women have little worth beyond childbearing, I was surprised to find that many online comments focussed on the Scrabble game played between the handmaid Offred and her Commander.
Offred related, "Larynx, I spell. Valance. Quince. Zygote."To some viewers this seems beyond belief..."The least believable part of The Handmaid's Tale is their luck at Scrabble. Larynx? C'mon!!" and,"The Handmaid's Tale seriously strains credibility by having a Scrabble game end with a score of 386-383."
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This summer I've started to go to a new table tennis club in our local village hall. I hadn't played table tennis since I was a child and I don't think I'd ever played on a proper table. As children we had the net with fixings at either end that you could attached to your own table but as our kitchen table was more square than oblong and was against the wall on one and a half sides it wasn't always a fair game! I'm still learning the rules and techniques but I have managed to have a reasonable game, win a few points, stretch some muscles and have lots of laughs. Table tennis started in the 1880s as a parlour game for outdoor tennis players to play during the winter months. Over 130 years later it is still popular, there are a couple of thriving clubs within a few miles of home.
Rag books (or cloth books) for babies/toddlers were the creation of Henry Samuel Dean, a director of Dean & Son. Turning to the vexing problem of 'how to produce a genuinely indestructible children's book' he and a colleague turned their thoughts to a book produced on cotton cloth with a sewn binding.
Dean's published the first rag book “The Life of A Bold AB on his Ship in the Rolling C” in 1902 which was a great success. Realising that to produce rag books on a commercial scale would mean major alterations to the existing plant and machinery they decided to open new premises and start publication under an entirely new company – The Dean's Rag Book Company.
British seaside towns might not be the draw they once were, but I love them!
From Margate to Scarborough to Pittenweem in Fife, from Weymouth to Porthmadog and on to Blackpool.
Whole companies would close in the summer and their employees would flock to the seaside, there were even special trains laid on.
It is that time of year when all is hustle and bustle in the garden, weeding, late spring planting, watering, dead-heading flowers that have lost their early Spring grandeur.
Not in my garden I hasten to add – I hate gardening!
I hate the noise - the electric whine of a mower, the whirr of hedge-trimmers, the snick, snick, snick of wood-chippers.
There is always something to do! You never really seem to see people relaxing in their gardens.
So I look out of my kitchen window and think 'maybe next weekend' and content myself with the idea that I have created a haven for wildlife.
Archery is the sport, practice or skill of being able to propel an arrow (a shaft with an arrowhead at the front end and fletchings and a nock at the other) using a bow (a string attached to elastic limbs that allow mechanical energy to be imparted by the user drawing the string), according to our font of all knowledge, Wikipedia.
We, at Stella Books, have recently acquired a collection of books about this sport. I can recall a time when I participated in target archery as a child. I went on a PGL holiday (an activity holiday for children) and archery was one of the activities I enjoyed very much. That, unfortunately, has been my only experience. It was jolly good fun and not easy to hit the target in the right place - more often than not I would miss the target completely!
When I was a teenager (many moons ago) it was considered almost a rite of passage to travel round Europe on an Interrail ticket. The furthest I had been up until then was France. I travelled with two friends – unbelievably we manged to stay friends during the month long trip and to this day. Our journey criss-crossed Europe and finally into Turkey. I had never seen landscapes or scenes like it before. The camaradarie on the trains – sharing food, sleeping wherever you could (on one occasion in the luggage rack), looking out for each other was a new experience for all of us. I still remember going to sleep in Germany and waking up to the most beautiful, stunning countryside I have ever seen. It was Croatia (Yugoslavia as it was then). I was absolutely spellbound. I have been to many countries since then, but very few have made such an impression on me. In Greece we spent an evening in a tiny bar drinking with the locals. Our only common language was footballers' names and as each name was shouted out we drank some more. As teenage girls at that time our knowledge of football was limited and so we had to keep repeating the few that we knew. I don't think it mattered much! We may have been “innocents abroad” at that time and although we had a camera and money stolen and we endured two nights of heat stroke and sickeness in Turkey we survived, and it left me with a lifelong love of train journeys and travel.
There has been a canine addition to my household recently in the form of Bertie, a Cavachon. What you may ask is one of those?! Well, I can tell you he is a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Bichon Frise. He is actually more Cavalier as his father is a pure bred Cavalier and his mother a Cavachon. He is a crossbreed which according to the Kennel Club is “a dog of mixed blood, whose parents are of two different breeds or a mixture of several breeds”. There have always been crossbreeds which until recently were usually referred to as 'mongrels'. The Oxford English Dictionary defines mongrels as dogs of 'no definable breed or type'. Today people often refer to dogs such as the Cavachon as 'designer dogs.' But what does this mean?
For many car drivers or repair enthusiasts, possibly the first 'Haynes' book we own will be the repair manual for our first car. I know that this was true for me, although I think that possibly it was used by my father more for repairs and trouble shooting, than by me!
How though did the company begin?
In 1956 John Haynes, whilst only 16, wrote and illustrated a book ('Building a 750cc Special'), which showed how he adapted an Austin Seven into a sports car. After the book's success, he went into partnership with his brother, David and they produced a few other titles. However, it wasn't until 1960 that J.H. Haynes & Co. Ltd was officially founded.
Names are wonderful things, aren't they? Just imagine how confusing life would be without them!
It is the pursuit of the names of my ancestors which has been occupying (too) many hours of my spare time recently as I try to fill in the gaps on our family tree – including the titular Drains, related by marriage to one of my great aunts.
I have been interested in tracing our family for around thirty years, but as with most hobbies the level of enthusiasm waxes and wanes, or constraints are applied by other factors, so there may be times when there is no active research. However, at present I admit that I am deeply in 'enthusiastic mode' once again and my desk is slowly disappearing beneath an unstable pile of printouts from census returns and certificates of births, marriages and deaths as I attempt to collate all the information onto the computer.
Here are Sooty and Sweep, my six year old lop-eared rabbits. Sooty is the white rabbit and Sweep is brown. As you can see from the photos they both have long floppy ears which is typical of lop-eared rabbits. I always wanted a lop-eared rabbit when I was a child but I was never allowed, although we did have lots of other pets: dog, cats, tortoise, cockatiel and hamsters, but no rabbits.
So as an adult and still wanting a rabbit we (my family) decided to go and pick our bunny. We phoned ahead to the pet shop and they had two left, when we arrived there was just one! We couldn't leave him once seen so he came home with us. We didn't want him to be by himself so we went back to the pet shop a couple of days later and picked another male rabbit. Male rabbits are known as the buck.
What do the characters Colonel Daniel McGregor Dare, Digby, Sir Hubert Guest, Professor Peabody, Hank Hogan and Lex O'Malley have in common? They all feature in the science-fiction comic strip series “Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future”!
We were recently lucky enough to purchase a large collection of Eagle and Dan Dare related items. Not having purchased much of this kind of stock previously I hadn't actually realised that there was a connection between Eagle and Dan Dare! So I did a little research...
The Eagle comic was founded by the Rev. Marcus Morris together with Frank Hampson and publication started in 1950. It was more than a comic for boys, though, as it contained educational features, articles on sports and hobbies, cut-away diagrams of the latest technologies of the time, and so on. The character of Dan Dare was created for the very first issue of the Eagle comic.
The ability to tell a story without the use of words was one of the many talents of John S. Goodall. John Strickland Goodall, to give his full name, was born in Heacham in Norfolk in 1908 to Amelia Hunt and Prof. Joseph Strickland Goodall, a famous heart specialist. During his time at Harrow School, and in the years immediately after, he learnt from and worked with such famous artists as Sir Arthur Cope RA, J. Watson Nicol and Harold Speed, and he also spent some time at the Royal Academy Schools.
Illustrations for magazines including the Radio Times provided regular work for him right up until WW2 when he served in the Royal Norfolk Regiment. Advertisements for major companies and banks were part of his work after the war and into the 1950s. He was comfortable with all mediums, from pen and ink and oils in his early illustrating days to watercolours later and, it would seem, with all subjects including portraits, animals and landscapes.
In the office upstairs at Stella Books, we're always keeping an eye out for any book-related news.
This month, one such article was kept from a recent newspaper. It was about Gordon Murray, who sadly died on 30th of June 2016. Now, if you had said to me 'Gordon Murray' I wouldn't have known who you were talking about! However, looking at the article, I definitely recognized the popular children's characters in the photos that went along with the article.
Gordon Murray (born 3rd May 1921), was possibly most well known for his contribution to children's TV in the 1950s and 1960s. He first helped out on a number of shows with the BBC, including 'The Flowerpot Men' (featuring everyone's favourite characters Bill and Ben!); originally read aloud on the radio programme, Listen With Mother (1951), but subsequently broadcast from 1952 as a TV show on 'Watch With Mother'.
With the recent release of "The Cursed Child", a new play set within the Harry Potter universe, and "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them", a film about a magical zoologist in the series, the world of Harry Potter is being talked about everywhere once again: J.K. Rowling created a true world of magic when she first wrote "The Philosopher's Stone", and today that world spans ever wider.
For those who have never read the series or watched the films: Harry Potter's parents are murdered by a dark wizard when he's a baby, and although he's raised by his Muggle (non-magical) aunt and uncle, at eleven years old he receives an invitation to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The initial series of books covers his adventures at Hogwarts, and his eventual defeat of the man who killed his parents: it's a fantasy series, but it's also about growing up, and about the polarizing differences between some people and others.
Many of us have probably heard of Tintern Abbey - if not, read Sonia's potted history. However, Tintern has a partly hidden history including being the first place in the world where brass was produced by alloying copper with zinc in 1568. So here is my disjointed article on Tintern industrial history.
So why does Tintern have an industrial history?
It is all to do with Location -
The fast flowing Angidy river – suitable for driving water wheels, at one point there were 22 of them.
Plentiful woodland to make charcoal to heat the furnaces
So Just Who Was Biggles? Biggles first appeared in book form in 1932 when "The Camels Are Coming" was published by John Hamilton. His 96th, and last, appearance, as written by Captain W E Johns, was in Biggles Sees Too Much, published in 1970. During that time there was hardly an inch of the earth's surface or air space that he had not covered.
Originally for adults, examples of three dimensional or movable books date back to the 13th century. Since that time, this type of book has been used to beautifully illustrate fiction stories and serve as a learning tool initially for adults and then for children. They are more expensive to produce and require specialised skills so there are few examples until the Bookano series was produced from 1929 for 20 years. These have lovely, colourful three dimensional pop ups which can be viewed from several angles. Bookano books (the name comes from Meccano which was also becoming popular at this time) are very collectible.
Lothar Meggendorfer, a German, is famous for his movable books. He originally created them for his son and went on to create over 200 from the middle of the 19th Century. The pop up mechanisms and movable parts in his books are some of the most complex ever created. They have been so admired that there is a bi-annual Meggendorfer Prize awarded for outstanding paper engineering to the artist who has produced the most outstanding commercially published pop-up or movable book.
Every day we encounter advertising in one form or another, whether through television, radio, newspapers, post, the internet or advertising hoardings it forms part of our day to day lives. How much we are influenced by it is open to question. I find that there are certain adverts on television that I watch every time they are shown just because I like the music or they amuse me. Often I have no interest in the product and sometimes I fail to see the connection between the content of the advert and the featured product but this doesn't stop me repeatedly watching them. There are also adverts that I find intensely irritating but love them or hate them advertising is here to stay and can be a powerful way of getting a message across. I am proof that this message can remain with you for many years as I can still remember advertising jingles or phrases from 30 years ago for chocolate bars, carpet cleaner, tea, petrol, washing-up liquid, mashed potato etc.