Filed under autobiography

Concubinage in Wales

Concubinage in Wales

I’ve just discovered this fascinating incident in the wonderful ‘Kilvert’s Diary’ written by a cleric in late 19th century Wales: Friday 8 April 1870 In the green lane between York and Cefn y Fedwas I came upon Smith of Wemwg hedging. He told me that a child had arrived at Pen-y-worlodd and wanted to know … Continue reading

Origin of Vampires

Origin of Vampires

Here’s a story that justifies reading outside a person’s normal area of interest. Tschiffley’s Ride is one of the great travel adventures, the sort of journey only Werner Herzog would contemplate filming. Please. Aime Tsciffley, a Swiss former teacher, footballer and boxer moved to Buenos Aires in 1920. In 1925 he set of in the … Continue reading

Ghosts of Wigan Pier

Ghosts of Wigan Pier

This is from the i paper by Dean Kirby. I was surprised to see the image of Orwell’s son. The 1930s seem so much further away than living history. Orwell is also important today with the rise in alternative readings of Britain’s colonial past.  When George Orwell was writing The Road to Wigan Pier – … Continue reading

Food and Language

Food and Language

Indian food has become hugely popular in Britain, but it was not always so. when the first immigrants from the huge sub-continent arrived, their food was too spicy for local palates. Here’s a great story from Stuart Maconie on how he discovered this cuisine, from his book Pies and Prejudice, In Search of the North: … Continue reading

Belief, Gardening and Rituals

Belief, Gardening and Rituals

My father was raised a Catholic, but when the church supported conscription in World War II and he was forced to become a soldier, he turned against it, and for the rest of his life railed against all forms of organised religion. As a result I grew up with little understanding of faith beyond singing … Continue reading

A Life Discarded by Alexander Masters

This is a book that sounded intriguing – the tagline was ‘148 Diaries Found in a Skip’. Literary giant Margaret Drabble and historian Kate Sumerscale provided high praise, but I struggled to finish it. Masters discovered the mouldy and tattered diaries in 2001, full of dense handwriting and occasional drawings which began in 1952 and … Continue reading

Harvest Home, Monmouthshire, 1796

This is from a wonderful book I’ve just discovered, The Diary of a Farmer’s Wife 1796-1797 account of a single year written by Anne Hughes who lived in the remote countryside near Chepstow, Monmouthshire. It’s wonderful as it is written in her dialect, which is sending my spellchecker into meltdown, but you can hear the speech … Continue reading

Jack London’s London Journey Begins

Against all the advice of his friends and the authorities, Jack London purchases some dirty, frayed, working man’s clothes and sets forth on his journey, with some money seemed inside his singlet in case of emergency. He bids farewell to his friends and : No sooner was I out on the streets than I was … Continue reading

The Wisdom of Alexei Sayle

The basis for a career in the arts can be incredibly varied, but comedian/author Sayle provides us with one of the strangest. Yet it seems to have worked. This is from his latest book, Thatcher Stole My Trousers: My inclination was to make important life decisions based not on what was sensible or right or … Continue reading

Cholera in Silson

Cholera arrived on the south coast of England in 1831, one of the prices paid for empire. It took decades for the discovery of how it was spread – by drinking water – and so means found to control it. This is again from ‘Old Oak’. There used to be a long line of graves … Continue reading