Thursday 23 September 2010


84 Plymouth Grove in Manchester.

Cross Street Unitarian Chapel.

Elizabeth Gaskell

The Reverend William Gaskell
Elizabeth Gaskell's grave in Knutsford, Cheshire. Knutsford was the original inspiration for Cranford.Elizabeth died in1865 whilst visiting a house she had bought in Holybourne in Hampshire, about a mile north of Alton and three miles from Chawton where Jane Austen lived. She was 55 years old.Her body was brought back to Knutsford for burial.


  • 14.) Your Gaskell Library – Links to MP3′s, ebooks, audio books, other downloads and reading resources available online: Janite Deb -Jane Austen in Vermont
  • 15.) Plymouth Grove – A visit to Elizabeth Gaskell’s home in Manchester: Tony Grant – London Calling

Wednesday 22 September 2010

This is London

Looking South.


Marilyn and Emily

Charing Cross Station and Hungerford Railway bridge.
Looking North East and the National Theatre in the foreground.
The Eye and County Hall
Beneath The Eye
Looking East. "You can wait all day for a bus and then six come at once."
That's an old joke. Transport in London is excellent.Bus stops these days have electronic screens that keep you up to date with where the buses are and how much longer you have to wait.
The tube and trains are very good too.
If you come to London get yourself a travel card at any rail station. It will cost about £6. You can use it all day up to midnight and travel on buses, tubes and trains around London. It's a great system.

One of the four engines driving the wheel
Looking North West
Looking West
Looking North East
Looking North
Looking East. The building under construction is called The Shard. It's meant to, eventually, resemble a massive broken shard of glass.
Inside the capsule
Getting on board

On Saturday I took my first flight on, The London Eye.
I've not been on, The Eye, before, although my wife, Marilyn, and all my children have, on various occasions.
I decided to take a flight this time because I didn't have to pay anything. I know that sounds mean but it does cost £11 an adult. The very long queues have also put me off.

One of my daughters, Emily, has a Saturday job at Chessington World of Adventures, a sort of cut price, Disneyland, a few miles from where I live in Surrey. The company, Merlin, that own Chessington, also own, The Eye. Emily was able to get herself, Marilyn and me, a flight for free with her staff card.
If I'd known what it was going to be like I would certainly have paid my £11 and queued up long before now.It is well worth the price. It was amazing.

Here are some pictures of LONDON!!!!!!!!

A few basic facts about London. It is 2000 years old.It is approximately 26 miles across North to South and approximately 26 miles across East to West. It is changing, adapting, developing and growing all the time. It is like a massive living organism.The population is anything from seven million up to twelve million, depending what and where you decide to start counting.London is made up of towns, villages, cities,countryside, parks and rivers. All life and all creativity goes on here. It is totally AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday 16 September 2010

The 6th June 1944 D Day THE BRITISH BEACHES

Troops under fire on Sword Beach and the Regimental sergeant major keeping them in check.
Under fire
First landings on Sword
Destruction on Sword at the end of the first day.British troops beginning to move inland.

More troops moving inland. Taking the fight to the Germans.
Gold beach. You can see dead and dieing in this picture.
Gold Beach landings.
Aerial view of Sword Beach on D Day
On D Day, the 6th June 1944 the British and Canadians landed on Sword and Gold beaches whilst the Americans landed on Utah and Omaha beaches.

Here is an account by wireless operator I. G. Holley of the Royal Hampshire Regiment
describing landing on Gold Beach.

The long line of beach lay ahead and immediately behind hung a thick pall of smoke as far as the eye could see, with the flashes of bursting shells and rockets pock-marking it along the whole front. We had the word from the Suby (the Royal Navy Sub Lieutenant commanding their LCA) to get ready and the tension was at its peak when we hit bottom, down goes the ramp, out goes the captain with me close behind. We were in the sea to the tops of our thighs. Floundering ashore, we were in the thick of it. To the right and left the other assault platoons were hitting the beach. Mortar bombs and shells erupting the sand and the ‘breep – brurp’ of Spandau machineguns cutting through the din.

There were no shouts, everyone knew his job and was doing it without saying a word. There was only the occasional cry of despair as men were hit and went down. The beach was filled with half-bent running figures – from experience, we knew that the safest place was as near to Jerry as we could get. A near one blasts sand all over me and my radio set goes dead (during a quiet period later on, I find that shrapnel has riddled my set, and that also a part of my tunic collar has gone). A sweet rancid smell is everywhere, never forgotten by those who smell it – burnt explosives, torn flesh and ruptured earth.

I. G. Holley - wireless operator, 'B' Company 1st Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Virginia Woolf's Diary

The plaque commemorating Virgina and Leonard Woolf and their Hogarth Press.
The front door. Some very famous people crossed this threshold.
Hogarth House, Paradise Road, Richmond upon Thames

I've been reading Virginia Woolf's diary recently.As far as diaries go it is a perfect piece of writing, a great diary to read.It's clear and has a smooth effortless quality. She makes you feel that she is actually talking to you. You feel as though you are there with her.

Unfortunately, she was an elitist and looked down at the majority of humanity. She had the bad habit of making people feel small and ignored. Her close associates and friends were all academics and the leading lights of society. She had been abused and so damaged in her childhood. You can understand why she was the way she was.

From 1917 she lived at Hogarth House in Paradise Road, Richmond upon Thames, with her husband Leonard Woolf.There they set up The Hogarth Press, named after the house.

Hogarth House is four miles from where I live on the other side of Richmond Park. Yesterday I cycled to the park, chained my bike to the fence in the car park at the Kingston entrance and then jogged through the park into Richmond.

When I got to Paradise Road I took some pictures of Hogarth House. What fascinated me after reading Virginia's diaries, were the people they had to dinner and who had crossed that threshold into that house.

Some who visited on numerous occasions, were Sydney and Beatrice Webb, the social reformers, Duncan Grant the artist, Lytton Strachey the great Victorian biographer, Gertler, Clive Bell, Roger Fry the art critic, Katherine Mansfield, who was a great friend of Virginia Woolf's, Vita Sackville West, another intimate friend, T.S. Elliot, Aldous Huxley and Maynard Keynes, the world famous economist.He was a close friend of both the Woolfs.Very often these people would come down from London by train to Richmond Station and walk up the road to Hogarth House.

Aldous Huxley and T S Elliot both had their books printed and published from this building as well as Virginia's own novels. Virginia couldn't live in the centre of London, her depressions became worse in the busy city, although she often went up to Bloomsbury on the train. She and Lytton Strachey, after all, were the two main leading lights of the famous Bloomsbury Group. Her sister, Vanessa, had a house in Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, that she would stay at.

Hogarth House is now a solicitors office. If ever it needs a new tenant, a museum to the literatti of the early twentieth century wouldn't be a bad thing.People would be drawn from all over the world I am sure.

Saturday 4 September 2010


An article appeared in the G2 section of the Guardian on the 15.7.10. entitled “Read This Slowly.” It was written by Patrick Kingsley.

As a junior schoolteacher for over thirty years, slow reading to me suggests children who have a problem reading and need extra support. However this article is about all of us and our present day reading habits. Research has shown that somebody reading a lengthy online article might only get through a fifth of the article. Somebody reading the same article in hard copy would only get through half. That obviously spurred me on to read the whole of Patrick Kinglsley’s article. It surprised me how my energy levels abated towards the last few paragraphs and I had to really work at it. A little like a mountain climber approaching the peak. It surprises me too that I find myself reading sections of a novel, lets say a chapter of Northangar Abbey, and I wonder, “what was that all about?” Just lately I’m trying to compete with a friend who has told me they read Northangar Abbey in two days and that they have a pile of must read books to get through. “A pile of must read books to get through.” Aaaagh!!!That statement always sends alarm bells ringing. Why don’t I have a pile of books to get through? Am I lacking something? Am I not up to this reading lark? I seem to feel a need to devour certain amounts of words in a sitting when I do read. The thought is I’ve got to get through this quickly. I’m certainly not up to the hundred meter finalist Olympian fast readers standard though. Am I really understanding what a phrase or sentence might mean, engaging with its full weight and purpose in a text? After all the novelist chose every word and crafted every nuance of phrase and sentence for me to react and interact with. You see, to be honest, I’m not a very good fast reader. And I’m not a good slow reader. I’m a bit of a lackadaisical non descript sort of reader really. I do have my bursts of energy though. I’m getting confused now. I mustn’t lose hope.

Patrick Kingsley reports that academics say, “we are becoming less attentive book readers.” Keith Thomas, an Oxford historian complains that, he is, “bemused by junior colleagues who analyse sources with a search engine instead of reading them in their entirety.”

Our need for immediate information is affecting how we use, interpret and assimilate information. We live in a world of Twitter and Sky News where short statements and news bites without analysis and comment rule. We are not engaging with the content.

When we read something we should take time to place it alongside what we know, be able to put it into context, create knew meanings with it.

There is a backlash to this fast consuming of words. A group of academics are starting a slow reading movement. The sort of reading when you take time to contemplate, mull over, and make conclusions. Those who read novels should always have done this. It is the only way to read a novel, isn’t it?. Those who read and reread Jane Austen slowly over the years, will get a different experience each time. They will bring more experiences to their understanding as time goes by, see characters in a different light, understand situations and characters in different ways, interact with the novel in a different way each time.

This does not mean there are not other ways to read. As a teacher I have taught children to read for different purposes. Reading a history book needs a different way of reading to a novel. I would start with a question or a topic to explore. I teach the children to use the index, to find chapters, to focus on paragraphs , to scan for key words, key information and facts and teach them how to make notes. I do not encourage them to read every word, every chapter. Factual books are a resource that can be gone back to again and again for different things. Reading a novel is to experience what the author wants to say and you need to interact with every bit of it because the novel is a whole experience. When I read a flier put through my door, I look at the heading. If I want more I look further. If I read a book of poetry I will focus on one poem at a time and read and reread the poem working out a myriad of responses to it taking in it’s tone and pace, simile, metaphor and the sounds and meaning, of every last little bit of it.

So, we have to choose our method of reading depending on what we are reading. Most of us looking at Jane Austen sites are novel readers .We read Jane Austen’s novels. We should be a slow reader of Jane’s books to be able to interact fully. I know I need to learn again how to be a slow reader. Perhaps I should go back in my mind to when I learned to read, examining words, even the sounds of words and ascertain the tone and mood . I’m not sure I really notice those things as much as I should. I need to see how a paragraph works and what a chapter really does. I need to examine more closely and take a slow leisurely pace. I know I have never had that habit . When writing an essay for an assignment, yes, I’ve taken things slowly with a book and focussed on it with exhausting lazer intensity. In those circumastances I’ve read and reread but only to save my neck, get a reasonable grade, make my tutor smile, but not for me, not unconsciously, not for my own pleasurable development and understanding and relationship with the text. I’ve got that friend who is getting through a pile of books at quite a pace you see, who is egging me on. And what is sad, I’m not a very good fast reader, probably more of a jogger, but I do need to become a slow reader, again.

Thursday 2 September 2010


I don't know about you, but when I visit a place, I notice interesting, well interesting to me, bits and pieces, and get an overwhelming urge to photograph them.

Here are some photographs from Bath.

All the best,