Back to travelling again – plus some bookish finds!!


As I mentioned in my July round up post, I planned to go off on some minor travels this month, taking in a trip to the Aged Parent and the Offspring. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you may well have picked up that I’ve been off on the road (or train!!), and I did find travelling for the first time in two and a half years odd, but not as stressful as I expected!

Back on the trains again with a good book!!

The visit to the AP went as well as could be expected though she is not really up to going out much nowadays, and so was only persuaded out into nature for a little bit. We enjoyed getting a look at the local countryside which wasn’t quite as brown and parched as I expected; but our days of being able to travel for a few days in Edinburgh are definitely gone.

Visiting the Offspring was lovely too, as it was a few months since they came over to see us. Middle Child kindly hosted, and there *was* a certain amount of book shopping! I know the charity shops of Leicester quite well, and had some nice finds in the Queens Road Loros. Alas, the Age UK bookshop was closed after an act of vandalism (noooooooooo) but a tour of the many charity shops of nearby Wigston did reveal treasure. And a quick visit to the Maynard and Bradley bookshop in Leicester itself brought fruit too. These are the total finds:

I was very happy to find the J.L. Carrs as he’s not an author I come across often; I’ve read “Month…” of course, but had given away my copy so was happy to have this. The other title is a new one to me, and as I loved “The Harpole Report”, I’m very happy to have this kind of follow up. The Noemi Lefebvre sounded like a brilliant option for #WITmonth so I snapped it up. Henry Green is an author I’ve meant to try for ages and so I couldn’t resist this pretty edition. And the Virago sounded fascinating – again, I’ve not come across many Viragos in the wild recently! So I was happy with my finds but will definitely need to do a bit of pruning when I get home!

Yummy lunch prepared by Middle Child!

We also got out and about a bit as Middle Child is now a driver and so could whizz us around in her nippy electric car. We had a lovely time out at Wistow Maze and associated shops, countryside and garden centre, and here are a few shots of my nature encounters over the weekend!

So the visit was a lovely one, and is slightly extended in that Youngest Child returned home with me for a short visit! It was nice to get out and about again (though I was frankly stunned at the lack of masks everwhere…) – but I do now feel that travelling is now possible again!!

“From dissolution springs forth desire” @LittleToller #RichardSkelton


Beyond the Fell Wall by Richard Skelton

We have all been living through very strange times in 2020, and frankly I see no sign of things getting anything like back to normal. Books have, as usual, been my main coping mechanism – particularly while we have been stuck in place, unable to go anywhere except in our heads. And it’s been impossible to ignore the economic strain being put on smaller publishers during the pandemic, with many struggling to keep their heads above water. I have been buying books directly from them wherever I can, and one imprint I came across fairly recently was Little Toller. Based in Dorset, they publish works rooted in nature and the landscape, both new and classic; and so to support them I was happy to send off for a couple of their works. This was my first experience with them, and the books not only arrived promptly, they’re also attractive and beautifully produced works. I can see myself wanting to explore further… But anyway, let’s get on to my first Little Toller read: “Beyond the Fell Wall” by Richard Skelton.

Skelton is a new name to me; a British musician, his early work was apparently triggered by the death of his wife, as a way to come to terms with his loss. His music has been compared to Arvo Part and Eno, and his work is mostly released via Corbel Stone Press. “Beyond the Fell Wall” is part of Little Toller’s ‘Monograph’ series, and it’s a beautiful and evocative piece of work.

There is something unsettling about living beside ruins. It reminds us, perhaps, of the brevity of the human span, and the folly of ‘civilisation’ in the face of enduring nature.

It’s hard, really, to know where to start in describing this work. Composed while Skelton was living in the Furness Hills of Cumbria, it straddles the line between poetry and prose (which I often think is an artificial one anyway); and explores the landscape of the area as Skelton spends time amongst the paths, streams and, in particular, the dry-stone walls of the region. This is a land with a long history of occupation by man and animal; and Skelton’s meditations reach back into this past, drawing on folklore, myth and language. It’s a heady and beautiful mix, enhanced by illustrations by Michael Kirkman, and rewards slow, meditative reading.

Is there a glimmer, then, of something older – some remnant of profane, beautiful knowledge lodged within the wall’s foundations – in those great hefts of rock, too huge to be shifted?

The thread running through the book, as it does through the landscape, is the dry-stone wall itself. These are all over the land, constructed from stones scoured out by glaciers and deposited there in the past. Nothing holds them together apart from their careful assembly, and they are as subject to entropy as everything else which lives and dies on our planet. Skelton explores how walls came to define the topography of an area, as a human act to try to enclose and restrict. But like everything else human, they will eventually pass on…

These men never grew complacent when there was something to be exploited. These men never fell idle when there was time to kill. The hills rang with their industry, and so they, exclaiming with sheer effort, ushered their own song into being.

As you might have guessed, I absolutely loved this book. Skelton’s poetic, emotional responses and connections to the world, the landscape and its history resonated deeply; and at a moment in time where I think I am more of aware of that natural world and where we sit in it, it was also a timely reminder that humans may well eventually fall by the wayside. “Beyond…” is beautifully written, with explanatory linguistic notes at the back, visually poetic pages which draw on old English field names, and it’s a book which has the effect of pulling you back towards nature. It certainly lingers in the mind and is a work I’ll return to when I’m in need of the solace of the natural world.

Alexey Komarov / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) – via Wikimedia Commons

No line drawn, however straight, remains unwavering. All resolve ultimately weakens. Everything tends to disorder.

So my first foray into reading a Little Toller book was a real winner. Now, more than ever, we need to reconnect with nature and try to stop destroying it; books like Skelton’s are a reminder of how much we belong the natural world, are a part of it. A lovely, lovely book and highly recommended!

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