Terrance Dicks

A spate of drafts covered this one over, so although less topical now than it would have been at the time, it is with great sadness that I write about the recent passing away of one of the icons of Doctor Who literature.

A prolific writer of a plethora of books, for many he was best known for his work on Doctor Who, for which he novelised sixty-seven of the TV scripts. Dicks did more than just write the books, he was script editor of the television show, as well as writing and producing.  His stories and direction added some subtle slants to the series with social and political stories.

For all the memories of the show – and there are many – it is to the books that I fondly remember getting out of the library, repeatedly.  Looking through the Target covers, I picked out Doctor Who and the Daleks, The Three Doctors, and The web of Fear.  Two of which were written by Dicks, as well as Meglos which I picked up in a book sale for the bargain sum of 20p.

Now having amassed a complete (I think) set of the novels, it seems fitting to pick one to read soon.  There is plenty to choose from so I will probably pick a random title and post something in due course.

Friday Night at the Royal Station Hotel

Inspiration failing me of late, instead of writing anything vaguely original here is a poem from Philip Larkin, which I recently came across in his collection, High Windows.

Friday Night At The Royal Station Hotel

Light spreads darkly downwards from the high
Clusters of lights over empty chairs
That face each other, coloured differently.
Through open doors, the dining-room declares
A larger loneliness of knives and glass
And silence laid like carpet. A porter reads
An unsold evening paper. Hours pass,
And all the salesmen have gone back to Leeds,
Leaving full ashtrays in the Conference Room.

 

In shoeless corridors, the lights burn. How
Isolated, like a fort, it is –
The headed paper, made for writing home
(If home existed) letters of exile: Now
Night comes on. Waves fold behind villages.

* Image found on Pixabay

The Library Book

Whether brand new or steeped in history, real or imagined, libraries feature in everyone’s lives.  In memoirs, essays and stories that are funny, moving, visionary or insightful, twenty-three famous writers celebrate these places where minds open and the world expands.

Public libraries are lifelines, to practical information as well as to the imagination, but funding is under threat all over the country.  This book is published in support of libraries, with all royalties going to The Reading Agency’s library programmes.

Fetishes, a (natural) death, streakers, and the occasional ram raid by an old lady on a mobility scooter, libraries can sometimes be dramatic places to work, although in the main, peaceful citadels of book worship.  The Library Book, is a celebration of our best free institution, long may it continue.

As books of this nature usually are, this tome ends up being a mixed bag, my favourite essays were the personal reminiscences of libraries from writers such as, Susan Hill, Stephen Fry, Hardeep Singh Kohli, and Val McDermid, to name a few. Even so, many of these memories take on a similar vein and as such are probably best enjoyed over a lengthier time than the two days in which I flew through this book.

The insights featured are mainly focused on British libraries, which makes it as much of a nostalgia trip, as it is a quirky insight into our national character. There are plenty of interesting facts on offer too, for example, during World War Two, a disused tube station in Bethnal Green was turned into a library during the blitz so people could distract themselves with a good book.  Perhaps surprisingly the readers were most interested in Plato’s Republic, Burton’s the Anatomy of Melancholy, as well as Schopenhauer, Bunyan, and Bertrand Russell. Continue reading “The Library Book”

Library Lives

The day after I gathered my previous library pile (see last post), I went to my other local library to have a look at their collection.  The last time I visited was probably sometime during the late 80’s.  A lot had changed, the main theme – as across all libraries – being more space to manoeuvrer, and sadly as a consequence, less book choice.

It’s still incredible value to be able to take out mountains of literature with no cost whatsoever, and although many libraries have closed or at best contracted in recent years, I find myself extremely lucky to be able to source such quality books whenever I wish.

I took a punt on the books left and right (above), as I hadn’t heard of either but wanted to bulk out my pile.  When it came to the Barnes offering, again an author I haven’t read before but one I was at least aware of and have seen several bloggers cover before. Continue reading “Library Lives”

Library Life

The last time I took books out of the library they had those slips in a special pocket inside the front cover where the date of each time the book was taken out could be seen, and frequently was smudged with the ink of the stamp.  A lot has changed since then but my quest for free books remains undiminished.

These days I can have twenty-four books in my possession at any one time, and keep them for a month.  There will be lots more benefits to discover when I get around to it such as ordering specific books from other libraries and other things no doubt, but at the moment I am happy with my first haul, which over two days (and two libraries) came to thirteen books, six of which are in this post.

Although I was surprised not to find more books by staple authors like Charles Dickens, Patrick White, and Jules Verne – all of which I had a hankering to read – and also finding the history sections almost entirely focused on British history, there was nonetheless a good selection to be explored. Continue reading “Library Life”

The Secret World of Polly Flint – Helen Cresswell

As soon as she arrives in Wellow, Polly Flint knows there is magic in the place. And she should know, because she is an unusual girl who can see things others can’t. She seems to be able to call up a village that had disappeared from the face of the earth – and the people who lived in it, as they slip in and out of time.

Helen Cresswell was a staple of my childhood back in the day, this book, and Moondial were both wonderful and their accompanying TV shows were just as compelling.  Not only did Helen Cresswell  create compelling stories but she was a local author, and set this story in the grounds of Rufford Abbey, a place I last went to last Christmas, and had at least three school trips to, as well.

The story is crammed full with so many wonderful ideas, especially for the minds of children. There is a feeling of history, tradition passed down – the inherent idea of magic that lurks behind so much of it – and of the weight of time and our participation in it.

Time plays a huge part in the book, both as a barrier, and a contributor to the sense of dislocation felt throughout, but also to the passing of days and the rhythm of the seasons. It seems as important for Polly to understand what isn’t there and exists, as it is to interpret what is present and can be seen. Continue reading “The Secret World of Polly Flint – Helen Cresswell”

UK RED

Whilst helping students get sorted for their studies, I had the good fortune to stumble upon a great resource called UK RED, that will interest anybody who has a curiosity in reading, it’s history and the myriad contexts that make up the rich fabric of our cultural experience.

From the about page:

UK RED is an open-access database housed at The Open University containing over 30,000 easily searchable records documenting the history of reading in Britain from 1450 to 1945. Evidence of reading presented in UK RED is drawn from published and unpublished sources as diverse as diaries, commonplace books, memoirs, sociological surveys, and criminal court and prison records.

UK Red captures the literary experience as told by everyday readers.  The search options are comprehensive, covering century, socio-economic group, whether the source is from a reader, listener, or reading group.  It even goes so far as to check through translations, publishers, etc.  The choices allow the reader to go deep into history for study, or just for curiosity.  The room for context of a particular book to a specific group of people at a specific time (and also the changing opinions of society over time) can be fascinating.

Poet Letitia Elizabeth Landon spoke of her experiences reading Robinson Crusoe: Continue reading “UK RED”