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”

A kind review

Professor John Sullivan of Liverpool Hope University has sent me this kind review which he wrote for the Spring 2020 issue of Networking, an English Catholic education journal: Did Jesus go to school? By Roy Peachey (Redemptorist Publications, 2019) Pp.149; £9.95. This is an engaging, down-to-earth, original, wise and spiritual book about parents, children andContinue reading “A kind review”

Slow Education: an extract from ‘Out of the Classroom and Into the World’

A lecturer in the department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge once told me that the question she is most often asked is, “How long did it take you to learn Chinese?” Her reply to this unanswerable question was always “I don’t know, because I’m still learning.” Much the sameContinue reading “Slow Education: an extract from ‘Out of the Classroom and Into the World’”