Saturday, 6 February 2016
An antique book review
H.I. has just told me that there is talk of an 'Outnumbered' Christmas special being made. Another reason to look forward to Christmas (this must break some sort of record).
My old pen-friend, Nick Warburton, told me a few years ago that 'On Mardle Fen' had run its course, and it would be pot-boiling to write another series. I know what he meant, of course, but I would like a fresh series so much that I would be prepared to finance the production myself if I had the resources.
I now have every episode of every series either on disc (sent to me by Nick himself) or bought as an audio download. I bought an old iPod just so I could lie in bed listening to them, which is what I did last - stormy - night. They transport me, and transportation is what I crave the most these days.
The first thing I said to Mr Warburton about Mardle Fen was that I liked it so much that I fell asleep within about 5 minutes of the beginning of each episode. Luckily, he took that as a compliment.
My big nocturnal problem is that I cannot read in bed. I get a couple of paragraphs in, and the next thing I know is that it is the time when most ordinary people are getting up to go to work. For this reason, I usually only read at the kitchen table these days, but even that doesn't always stop me from falling asleep.
I am thinking about buying an even older bit of technology - a disc Walkman - so I can listen to audio books in bed. Either that, or I could employ a prostitute to pretend to be my mother and read to me whilst sitting in a chair as I drift off. She would have to be as old as my mother would be now though, because I am at an age where I find middle-aged women attractive, and need to read more books.
Miraculously, I have just finished reading a book, and the last few pages were read in bed without falling asleep. It was 'The Diary of a Georgian Shopkeeper', by Thomas Turner. It is his diary and he was a Sussex shopkeeper at the turn of the 18th century, as the title sort of hints at.
Like the typical British shopkeeper of today (or the rural, English ones) he was a despicable hypocrite who - when not utterly drunk - went from public house to public house, searching out drunkards to either chastise or press-gang into the fledgling Navy. Sundays mornings were spent in church praying for forgiveness at his drunkenness, and the afternoons getting drunk and playing cards.
He was sycophantically enamoured of the aristocracy, and would travel miles on foot just to be close to them at race meetings, etc. later noting in his diary that nothing could be finer than to be in the approximate company of Lord so-and-so, or The Earl of wherever.
He paid 4 shillings and sixpence to sit on the church vestry, thereby increasing his status in the community. I had forgotten that in those pre Welfare State days, rural churches supported the poor, either with cash hand-outs, the building of almshouses or the creation of Workhouses.
One entry describes how the vergers decide to buy a house for one broke local man - for a colossal £20 - because it would, in the long run, be cheaper than the parish supporting his huge family in perpetuity. You see, the house they financed was in a different parish, so it was £20 well spent to offload him and his brood onto a different church. Cunning.
I almost laughed when I read the blurb on the cover of the book, which compares him to Samuel Pepys, then I realised that the diary was edited and compiled by a direct relative of Turner. This may explain why I had never heard of him until I found the book.
End of book review - 200 years too late.
Posted by Tom Stephenson at 05:25