If Gondolas could Talk
Publication: 11th October 2022
Hit the slopes and you'll have a story by the end of the first week; take the scouts and you'll have one on the first day.
This is not a book about scouts skiing but they do inevitably appear in this collection of the unusual, entertaining and highly amusing adventures that John, his friends and complete strangers have had on the run-up to a skiing trip, on the way, and at the resort - either skiing or aprèsing - over the last twenty years and more.
There are 101 tales that are presented as an A to Z of mostly ski resorts but with a few extras such as Calais, the motorway and the snow train thrown in for good measure.
This is a book for skiers and non-skiers alike; having chortled through the whole book in one weekend I can report that one entry was so unexpected in its ending that it made me cry but most of the rest are exceptionally funny.
Definitely worth a read.
If Gondolas could Talk
Publisher: Searchline Publishing
ISBN: 978 1 8978 6468 5
British Summer Time Begins
"Do you remember when…" is how many of my conversations start with family and friends. Difficult and challenging issues may be raised but mostly they are stories that are amusing or nostalgic that are recalled to be shared and reminisced. Sometimes they are tales to be imparted, "I remember when…" I suppose such adventures can be had at work, but mostly they're when at play especially, but not exclusively, when on holiday, the long summer holiday, with new sights and sounds from being away or maybe just at home but exploring new territory and people.
In British Summer Time Begins, Ysenda Maxtone Graham has gathered together the anecdotes of over two hundred individuals, famous and relatively unknown, whom one can imagine sitting back in a favourite armchair, smiling inwardly, and composing a few lines in response to the question, "What did you get up to in the summer holidays when you were a child between 1930 and 1980?" Ask yourself that question. Are you smiling? I was and that's what made me buy this book; I wasn't disappointed.
It's not a ragtag and bobtail of a book as the stories have been woven together with Maxtone Graham's own observations in parts and then chapters. With scouting being present in many of the contributors' later formative years and beyond it is no surprise that it features or is alluded to several times. Under "Home, but nothing much planned," Maxtone Graham writes,
"I found it surprising, as a twenty-first century dweller in a city riddled with youth knife crime, that in Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons, as a reward for learning to swim, Roger's mother gives him 'a knife with a good big blade'. Knives were viewed as improving, wood-whittling or rope-cutting tools, something every boy should carry."
Under "Courses and Camps" one reads,
"For me, Scout camps were the real deal," said Alan Brown, who belonged to the 22nd Bradford East group in the late 1940s. "It was getting out into the country, up Wharfedale to Appletreewick, being out with your mates in the open air. Our Scoutmaster was great. He had two tin legs and went about in a cart - the mobility scooter of the time."
"Scout camps in Scotland were particularly bracing, the boys wearing kilts for a week."
"Because of the love of outdoors that I got from those camping trips," said Neil Herron, "I did a degree in geography at Newcastle University and my dissertation was on solute levels in Linedale in Teesside. I had one interview for Scholl Shoes but I didn't want an indoor job. I saw an ad for a labourer at Sunderland fish quay, and put it in my pocket so nobody else could apply. I did that job for twelve hours a day, six days a week, and then started a business as a market trader at Park Lane Market in Sunderland."
If anyone needs encouraging to take their scouts camping then this book, with sentiments such as the above, should more than help. In the meantime, if you can cast your mind back to an incident that happened in your school holidays and multiply by a few hundred then that is what you get in this book. It's a great read.
British Summer Time Begins
ISBN: 978 1 4087 1056 2
The Further Adventures of Horace Horrise
I'm a big fan of Richmal Crompton's Just William. This was the first book that she wrote in the series about William Brown, his quite starchy family with two maids and a cook and his friends at the other end of the scale. They were written about an eleven-year old but aimed mostly at grown-ups. Just William will be one hundred years old in 2022 but his stories are still very readable today. They offer an insight into a very different England and are extremely entertaining with William and his group of friends, The Outlaws, usually finishing each story in no worse a position than they started with a few honourable exceptions. I have been reading some of the stories to my eleven-year-old twins, boy and girl, recently and they have been enjoying them immensely. Occasionally I have to stop to explain things such as sixpennoth, blotting paper and chimney sweeps. I also have to look up the meanings of some words, most of which aren't in general usage today and sometimes I have to explain a turn of phrase such as, "…his father was addressing his mother with some heat." All of these interruptions subtract from the flow of each story.
I was pleased therefore to build up the collection of Horace Horrise short stories (ISBN 978-1897864586) by scout leader John Hemming-Clark. There are nine books in all, starting with Horace wanting to be a scout and finishing with him being invested. In essence they're William Brown in the twenty-first century with eleven-year-old Horace, a group of friends, The Ravens, a slightly potty family and a readership of mainly grown-ups. But my children love them!
The Further Adventures of Horace Horrise (ISBN 978-1897864661) has just been published. It's one book comprising four stories. Reading through them I feel that there is hope for the world. Children wandering around outside with minimal adult supervision, hardly any mention of a mobile 'phone and escapades every bit as good as William's. The stories start with a German exchange when The Ravens take charge and finish with a scout trip to Portugal with an ending that is so funny I had to read it again straight after completing it the first time.
If you're looking for a book that you can read to your children but still enjoy yourself I can recommend the Horace Horrise books although I might suggest reading through them first before doing so out aloud to the kids as, even with Horace's innocence, he occasionally says or does something that is probably not for all pre-pubescents' ears and eyes.
Scouting for Boys
For those that have yet to read this book, it may well be a little outdated in places but this is hardly surprising since it was first published in 1908. More recently it has been republished under the editorship of Elleke Boehmer who has added an introduction and explanatory notes which help the reader enormously in negotiating a maze of names, places and events that Robert Baden-Powell tosses into the text. At times it is eye-raising, "I have eaten the huge kind of lizard called an iguana. He had his head and tail cut off to enable him to go into the cooking pot, and when he was boiled and put on the table he looked exactly like a headless baby... And when we ate him he tasted just like a baby too." Occasionally it is a little uncomfortable, "Alcohol is now shown to be quite useless as a health-giving drink, and it is mere poison when a man takes much of it. A man who is in the habit of drinking wine or spirits in strong doses every day is not the slightest use for scouting, and very little use for anything else." Throughout there is sound advice, "A great cause of illness nowadays is the amount of medicine which fellows dose themselves with when there is no reason for taking any medicine at all. The best medicine is open-air and exercise and a big cup of water in the early morning if you are constipated, and a pint of hot water on going to bed." Overall it's a fun, easy read for all ages with plenty of anecdotes, rules for life and practical advice that would be to everyone's advantage mostly to follow.
Scouting for Boys by Robert Baden-Powell £8.99
The Mischief-Maker's Handbook
A book that we love as much for the drawings as the 70+ plus descriptions of ways to make mischief. Some ideas you may have come across before; others are extremely brief; some we tried, such as Mini Paper Boomerangs, didn't work very well but the chapter on noisy toys was a delight.
To make a mini boomerang that does work, cut out an L shape with each arm being 4cms in length and 1 cm wide. Smooth the edges and outer corner, hold between thumb and forefinger and flick. Keep trying until it returns!
The Mischief-Maker's Handbook by Mike Barfield £9.99
Scout Leader Badge Book
For many years there have been embroidered badges available that depict wine glasses and the like but now a parent has gone one step further and produced a book of well over one hundred badge ideas for grown-ups. Each badge includes a description and a drawing. "Why should the kids have all the fun?" the book's author asks and with this book it's not just fun that the leaders will be having, it's evenings of mayhem and madness. There is a warning in the book not to actually attempt any of the badges and having read some of the requirements we would hope that no one would be so daft as to try. A great read. Each book comes with a colour poster. Not suitable for children.
Scout Leader Badge Book by Karen Shirore £9.99
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