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.

24 comments:

  1. Today, blogger is not letting me upload any pictures. Hey Ho...

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  2. At least the relative didn't bowdlerise the book... or perhaps they did and Thomas Turner was so very despicable that white wash didn't stick. In any case, it sounds like an interesting read that I shall have to look out.

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    1. It is the historical details which I like - everyday little things about Georgian life which are not mentioned in history books.

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    2. P.S. Send me your address and I will send you the book. You know my email?

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    3. I don't know yours, no. Oh, and the follower problem is now fixed.

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  3. I too find reading very soporific; a couple of chapters is usually enough. Oh for a village house for twenty quid.

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    1. I think you have to remember how much that would equate to now, obviously. Having said that, houses were considered necessities not investments, up until fairly recently. When I first moved to Bath in the early 70s, I could - and should - have bought a three-story Georgian terrace house for about £1000: now closer to a million.

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  4. I only read in bed because I associate reading with falling asleep. If I read during the day I get sleepy and want to nod off.

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    1. I want to nod off during the day without sleeping.

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  5. Men of a certain age do seem to nod off at the slightest thing Tom. The farmer will hotly deny he has fallen asleep even when his newspaper/pen etc. falls to the floor with a crash.

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    1. Oh well, at least he isn't going out and womanising at The Young Farmer's disco I suppose.

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  6. I joined the plugged in generation in the eighties, when I discovered weaving for eight hours was well accompanied by music or books in my ears. The first business van I bought had to be retrofitted with a tape and CD player so I could listen to books as I drove. I listened to my copies of Tolkien until I wore them out, finding new bits I'd missed or misremembered. I eventually donated my extensive collection to the library, a small down payment for being able to download millions of recorded books onto an MP3 player smaller than a little box of matches. I think I may leave instructions to be cremated with it.

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    1. I always thought you were part Hobbit, Joanne.

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  7. I am fascinated that there continues to be an audience for radio plays in Britain, and that you so often mention your own listening. Here radio brings only news and music. There are a few programs on NPR, the so-called public station, but anyone who follows them does so via podcasts. No one listens to the radio at home anymore.

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    1. This is why it is so important to save the BBC - especially from bastards like the naturalised American, Murdoch.

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  8. I do love Outnumbered so I will look forward to that. I always read in bed before I go to sleep. Now I'm middle aged I find I just can't read as much as I tend to bid off quickly. I rather like the image of you being read to at night....

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  9. That was supposed to say " nod off quickly"

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    1. Bidding off quickly sounds a bit rash - the auction of Somnambulia.

      Yes, the image of an elderly prostitute reading to me scares me a little.

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  10. I rely on reading to put me to sleep. Which works when I got to bed but never seems to work when I usually wake up between 2am and 5am and can't go back to sleep. I love books on CD/tape also and have a few here, and borrow others from the library. Good for long trips too.

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    1. Judging from your last post, I am surprised you get any sleep at all.

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