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May 2019




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Apr. 27th, 2016


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Reviews Published

100 Book Reviews

May. 14th, 2019


‘All England is a garden in May’

So wrote Christopher Lloyd in one of his books. It certainly felt that way as I was driving along country roads this afternoon. There was a whole field full of lambs; I wished I could slow down to look at them. Every road was lined with Cow Parsley and there was even the occasional clump of bluebells. Chaucer got it right when he described the Squire: ‘as fressh as is the monthe of May.’


Apr. 30th, 2019


Toiling in the garden

Last September I wrote here about the pots I’d filled with daffodils for spring. Alas, they’re all over and the pot garden, as I grandly call it, is bare except for some evergreens I’ve put there and the hosta, which is growing like mad. I spent some time this afternoon potting up so that I’ll have a new display this summer. The cuttings you see in the September post spent the winter on a bedroom windowsill, were moved into the greenhouse last month, then potted on when they’d hardened off a little. They’re flourishing; one more pot and they’re ready for the summer show. I was so successful with them that I shall have some spare geraniums for the borders; they make very good fillers.

It’s so nice that there are now new flowers out every day. The tree peony, which I wrote about here, has at least ten flowers open, with more buds to come. This pleases me.
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Apr. 28th, 2019


Cazalet bargain

I’ve just had an email telling me that the five Cazalet novels by Elizabeth Jane Howard are £1.09 each for the Kindle, just for today. I’m tempted but I do have hard copies. These books are such a treat.

Apr. 21st, 2019


Easter Day: through a bedroom window

I always mentally misquote St John as, ‘she thought he was the gardener’.
Happy Easter, everybody.
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Apr. 19th, 2019


Good Friday

The other evening I watched Janet Baker - In Her Own Words on BBC 4 and cried my way through most of it. What an inspirational woman.

Here she is singing in the St Matthew Passion, which is an utterly wonderful work and very appropriate listening today.

The quality here isn't that great but it does give you an idea.

Apr. 17th, 2019


The Return of Mr Campion, Margery Allingham

This is a collection of short stories, first published together in 1989 and now reissued by Agora Books, thanks to whom I read it. The title is strange, since Mr Campion appears only briefly; most of the book consists of standalone short stories, one of which I’d read previously in Campion at Christmas. There’s an essay by Allingham about the way critics treat detective fiction differently from other novels; she defends her craft vigorously. There are two whimsical pieces in which she writes as herself. In one, My Friend Mr Campion, she explains how Campion began as a minor character but insinuated himself into the books until he was the hero. In the other, she has a fantasy meeting with Lugg in which she asks how he can possibly still be alive? It’s nice to meet Luke again in a couple of stories but the lack of Campion is disappointing, as is the repetition of a story already in another collection.

Apr. 15th, 2019

school stories

A Girl Called Justice, Elly Griffiths

I’ve enjoyed Elly Griffiths’ Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries, so when I learned that she’d written a children’s book about a schoolgirl detective, I just had to read it. Luckily, the publishers and NetGalley obliged and I got an advance proof copy.

When Justice Jones’ mother dies, her father, a criminal barrister, sends her to boarding school on Romney Marsh. Her first sight of the forbidding building makes her think it has ‘potential for murder’. As she’s never been to any school before, the rules, the terrible food and the cold are a shock to her. But almost as soon as she arrives, she learns that there’s been a death in the school which seems to have been hushed up and she’s on the case. I needed several clues before I was able to set the story between the wars. Justice finds that she’s hopeless at lacrosse but advanced in Latin, thanks to her mother's teaching. Some girls are snobbish and hostile but she chums up with nice Stella and with Dorothy, one of the servants, who will both help in her investigations.

As winter creeps on the cold intensifies, snow sets in and the school is cut off from the outside world. Justice doesn’t know who to trust when there’s another unexplained death. Why are so many people wandering about the old building in the night? Could even the charming yet scary headmistress, Miss de Vere, be involved? There are more murder attempts and it takes all Justice’s resourcefulness and courage, with the loyalty of her new friends, to discover the criminal at work in their midst. It helps that she’s read all her father’s murder cases and her mother’s detective novels.

I see this book is recommended for fans of Enid Blyton, presumably because the school has four towers, for I can see no other connection. Justice is far more like Flavia de Luce than any of Blyton’s heroines. If you enjoy Robin Stevens’ Wells & Wong mysteries, you’ll love this. It’s a genuine school story in the classic mould but with a brilliant twist. It’s out on 2nd May and I recommend it highly to all lovers of both school and detective fiction.

Apr. 13th, 2019


Wot a lot I got

I’ve recently rediscovered the joy of stamps, after ignoring them for a long time. So, I’m very busy sorting and mounting large numbers of stamps I’d forgotten I had. As a result, I needed a new album and bought one on eBay. Whenever you buy from a stamp dealer, the postage is made up of stamps which are old but still valid, as long as they are decimal and the values added up properly. I’ve got a lot of old mint stamps myself but seldom use them because so many stamps would be needed to make up the current rate. You can see above that my seller managed to get twenty-five stamps on his parcel (and to have them beautifully cancelled). I’m preserving this, as the highest number of stamps I’ve ever seen on piece. I don't think it's a record, though.

Apr. 9th, 2019


March books

The Property of a Gentleman, Catherine Gavin
The Missing Sister, Dinah Jefferies
Teddy: her Daughter, Anna Chapin Ray
Spella Ho, H E Bates
Who Killed Dick Whittington? E & A M Radford
The Case of the Haven Hotel , Christopher Bush
The Case of the Housekeeper’s Hair , Christopher Bush
The Deans Move In, Kathleen Fidler
Family Afloat, Aubrey de Selincourt
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