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December 2018

Into 2019

Roger the Reader will be back in the new year. I’m having some time off and we shall be back to our fortnightly posting schedule from Tuesday the 7th of January.

Meanwhile, why not have a look at our archives, in the sidebar.

Roger the Reader wishes you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

‘The Summit Gained. Behold The Proud Alcove Crowns It!’

Cowper's AlcoveHow do I get a nice snowy photo when it hasn’t snowed here this December? I take the photo in 2010 and I don’t tell you. Er, whoops…

Mr Cowper’s Task

William Cowper published his long poem The Task in 1785 and it’s seen as his greatest achievement. He was 54. But what has the poem to do with this odd looking building in these photos, over half a mile up a narrow lane from the little village of Weston Underwood?

This Grade 2 listedbuilding is known as Cowper’s Alcove and was constructed in 1753 as a folly in the grounds of Weston Park. The park is mostly farm land now. An avenue of Limes once led back towards the village and the old, now long demolished Weston House.

Cowper's Alcove in Weston ParkThis was taken from the lane to Cowper's Alcove. The lane runs along the Western edge of the old Weston Park.

Cowper (pronounced ‘Cooper’) would rest here on his walks when he lived in Olney a couple of miles away. When he moved to Weston Underwood in 1786 he continued his walks. Many of his most famous poems were written at the alcove, including The Task. See the photo below.

Cowper's The TaskAn appropriate piece of the poem is engraved on this stone (click to enlarge)

Here’s a couple of excerpts from The Task:

From Book 1, The Sofa.

“At length a generation more refined
Improved the simple plan, made three legs four,
Gave them a twisted form vermicular,
And o’er the seat, with plenteous wadding stuffed,
Induced a splendid cover green and blue,
Yellow and red, of tapestry richly wrought
And woven close, or needlework sublime.
There might ye see the peony spread wide,
The full-blown rose, the shepherd and his lass,
Lapdog and lambkin with black staring eyes,
And parrots with twin cherries in their beak.”

From Book 4, The Winter Evening.

“Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups,
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.”

Cowper's Alcove with fisheyePortrait of the photographer as a light stand. This photo was taken in 2013 with a fisheye lens which I hadn’t had very long, and I did not appreciate just how wide an angle it could take in. I hadn’t meant to be in the photo, but there I am, holding my flashgun...

I've also written about Cowper's Alcove, and Orchard Side, the house where Cowper lived in Olney, here. That's already up on my other blog, The North Bucks Wanderer.

Well that’s it. I found a nice snowy photo for you, so this is your Christmas post. Read the excerpt from book 4 again, it’s just right for this time of year. Stay warm, stay well and best wishes for the New Year.

James Bond, Agent X653

IMG_0194There’s a couple of duplicates here, and the books are not in order. There’s a couple of books by another author. None of this matters.

A couple of weeks ago I was working in a house in Milbrook in Bedfordshire and spotted this nice row of books, nearly all 1960s James Bond Pan paperbacks. I asked nicely and was allowed to photograph them and have a close look at one or two.

I saw that the copy of From Russia With Love had the same cover art as my own 1962 copy, but I also had a look at their copy of The Spy Who Loved Me. My example of this book is a hardback, so I was interested to see this paperback's front cover.

The map on the front cover artwork shows the area where much of the action takes place, which is where you might find the Dreamy Pines Motor Court, in the Adirondack Mountains in the North of New York State. This particular Pan book was printed (if I remember) in 1969. I wrote about my hardback copy and some of its history here.

IMG_0198A Hawkey Series cover Bond novel. (See below)

Continue reading "James Bond, Agent X653" »

Policing my Christmas List

Lee Child Killing Floor

It’s December and I received my first Christmas card of the year over a week ago. As usual, it’s from my aunt Doris, who unlike me is always ready for everything in good time.

It’s time to talk about my Christmas list. My family distributes lists of the presents they’d like for Christmas, to each other. For some, it seems to be easy. I scratched my head, thought a lot, and laboured mightily. Eventually I had a list worthy of the name that I could send out.

Now this list idea has at least three advantages:

1) We get what we want.

2) We don’t end up staring at a present we don’t like or want thinking, “what the flippin’ heck am I supposed to do with this and how on Earth can I get rid of it?”

3) Going down the shops to find the gifts, a task I’m always glad to get finished, is just so much easier.

Before I start the Ordeal By Shopping, I work out my best route based on distance walked and weight of purchase, then I just go and do it. Quickly. Efficiently. Morosely. With luck, I finish the shopping in one day.

Naturally, there’s a few books on my list, and here’s a couple of them. Since I haven’t seen these books yet, I’m going to give you excerpts from previous books in the two series, to give you a flavour of the books. You can't beat a new book to read on Christmas morning.

Continue reading "Policing my Christmas List" »