Pat Reid’s ‘My Favourite Escape Stories’

This was one of my favourite books when I was a child. I have vivid memories of Charles I’s attempted escape from Carisbrooke Castle, Oliver Philpot’s ‘Trojan Horse’ escape from Stalag Luft III and Pierre Mairesse Lebrun’s vaulting of the fence at Colditz. However, I had completely forgotten the first chapter, which is an extractContinue reading “Pat Reid’s ‘My Favourite Escape Stories’”

Heidi, the Prodigal Son, and Patience

The precious book that Heidi receives in Frankfurt contains a story which she returns to time and again: the story of the Prodigal Son. Why should this story, in particular, matter so much to her? On the face of it, the prodigal son’s experience is utterly different from Heidi’s. He turns away from his father:Continue reading “Heidi, the Prodigal Son, and Patience”

‘Heidi’ – an unschooling Classic? Part 2 – Learning to read

An important turning point in Heidi comes when in Chapter 10 “another grandmother” comes to visit Clara and Heidi in Frankfurt and shows Heidi a book: “For a moment or two she looked at it with brightening eyes, then the tears began to fall, and at last she burst into sobs. The grandmother looked at the pictureContinue reading “‘Heidi’ – an unschooling Classic? Part 2 – Learning to read”

‘Heidi’ – an unschooling classic?

There is a really interesting passage in Johanna Spyri’s Heidi where Heidi’s grandfather resists the great pressure that is put on him to send Heidi to school. “I am going to let her grow up and be happy among the goats and the birds; with them she is safe, and will learn nothing evil,” heContinue reading “‘Heidi’ – an unschooling classic?”

101 Things to Do With Your Dog – No.1

I enjoyed this paragraph (and accompanying footnote) from Antonia Fraser’s The King and the Catholics about the great historian, John Lingard: “Personal details about Lingard indicate a man of benevolence and whimsicality. As fame in his own field came to him, an Associate of the Royal Society of Literature and Corresponding Member of the French Academy,Continue reading “101 Things to Do With Your Dog – No.1”

Edmund Campion and Evelyn Waugh

The novel is the genre of our age, which means that other types of writing are often quietly ignored. How often does Waugh’s wonderful biography of Edmund Campion appear on reading lists alongside Brideshead Revisited and The Sword of Honour trilogy, for example? However, it was not all that long ago that literature meant soContinue reading “Edmund Campion and Evelyn Waugh”

On Compost, Quarantine Homeschooling, and Home Education

On digging rich earth from the bottom of the compost heap the other day, I couldn’t help but think about education. I’d been working on my compost for a long time and now, at last, when the children wanted to plant vegetables, it was ready to do some good. The work I had put inContinue reading “On Compost, Quarantine Homeschooling, and Home Education”

‘The Two Fiddlers’ by George Mackay Brown

George Mackay Brown, as I have suggested elsewhere, is one of my favourite modern authors. Standing apart from the mainstream, he wrote fiction (and poetry) that was powerful, haunting and evocative. This is also true of his books for young readers, such as The Two Fiddlers, which was first published in 1974. In this short review,Continue reading “‘The Two Fiddlers’ by George Mackay Brown”

St Nicholas Owen: Priest-Hole Maker

St Nicholas Owen was a truly extraordinary figure. Born into a devout Catholic family in c.1562, he became a carpenter, rather than a priest like both his brothers. During the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I, he created hundreds of priest-hides (or priest-holes) in the homes of recusant families around the country.Continue reading “St Nicholas Owen: Priest-Hole Maker”

C S Lewis and the spirit of Adlestrop

Something of the spirit of ‘Adlestrop’ can be found in C.S. Lewis’s wonderful novel, That Hideous Strength. As her husband drives off to destruction in a fast car, Jane Studdock takes a very slow train towards her redemption: “The smoke which our imaginary observer might have seen to the east of Edgestow would have indicated theContinue reading “C S Lewis and the spirit of Adlestrop”

On hirpling and other great words

Yesterday I reviewed George Mackay Brown’s Pictures in the Cave but I didn’t mention his wonderful use of language. Brown certainly seemed to have some favourite words: “hirpling” appears twice in the book, for example, as does “lucent”. Other great words in Pictures in the Cave include “erne” and “crepitated”. So, with a little help from theContinue reading “On hirpling and other great words”

George Mackay Brown’s ‘Pictures in the Cave’

George Mackay Brown was a great but under-rated author. Though his last novel, Beside the Ocean of Time (which I wrote about in 50 Books for Life), was short-listed for the Booker Prize, Brown never really received the recognition he deserved for his novels, short stories, poetry, or children’s books. This is a real shame becauseContinue reading “George Mackay Brown’s ‘Pictures in the Cave’”

Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims

Clyde Robert Bulla has done a fine job of making the story of Squanto, the “Indian boy” who became a great friend to the Pilgrim Fathers, accessible to young readers. The book is intended, I guess, for children aged roughly 6-10 and so both the vocabulary and the structure are kept relatively simple. Nonetheless, theContinue reading “Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims”