Children’s books buy one, get one free for half-term

treehouse6I know it’s Thursday already, but there are still two days of our offer on children’s books!  Our books are cheap anyway – children’s fiction is mostly 60p-90p – but even better when you can get twice as much.  Bring the kids in to browse and stock up on a bit of reading; or they can sit in the treehouse and read for a bit while you browse for your own books – a good half-term activity in itself, and excellent value for the children’s pocket money.  We have lots of books in at the moment, and a few more boxes of children’s books to unpack today, so do come and have a look.  It’s windy – the market is cancelled – but we’ll be wind-free, and you may even be lucky enough to catch Nick Cave playing on the CD player.

nick hs2

Ness by Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood: first thoughts

nessAnyone who knows me well knows that Robert Macfarlane is one of my favourite authors.  I mostly read fiction, but I love nature writing, and especially since reading his book The Old Ways, which has become one of my favourite books of all time – previously only fiction took my top five slots!  Any new book by him is anticipated with huge excitement chez Victoria.  Ness was published late last year, but I can’t afford to buy new books so didn’t get it straight away; however, my local library is brilliant at stocking nature books, and I have just managed to borrow it from them.  Hooray for libraries!  [Please support all libraries. -Ed.]

A few nights ago, unable to sleep, I read it out loud in one sitting (it’s only about 80 pages, including illustrations – more on that in a moment).  I was stunned by it.  It’s a book to read several times and absorb, and I have only read it once, so these are very much first thoughts.

The Armourer leads a sort of ritual in a derelict concrete building known as the Green Chapel.  He calls on The Engineer, The Physicist, The Botanist and The Ornithologist to advise as they plan to set off a missile, WW-177A.  As they plan and deliberate, five beings are approaching the Chapel: it, he, she, they and as.  The natural world approaches the Chapel and the human plotters are met by an unexpected challenge.

This goes in no way to conveying what the book is about or what it is like, as I have no skill with words, unlike the amazing Robert Macfarlane!  He is professor of English at Cambridge as well as a lover of and expert on the natural world, and in his other books these two worlds are beautifully fused; this is a different fusion, a poetic imagining of the clash between our technological aspirations and the power of nature.

Alongside his beautiful words and imagining are illustrations by the great Stanley Donwood – I am assuming they are drawings rather than prints.  The two have collaborated in the past, but this is the first book where their words and images have equal emphasis.  Stunning black and white evocations of the Green Chapel, the environment and the hagstones that are part of the story.

So: a description of the book rather than a review.  It moved me and left me still unable to sleep (!) but more because of its power than anything, though it is disturbing.  But not bleak.  Nature is ultimately more powerful than humans’ desire to destroy it: a message for our times.

A better review when I’ve read it a couple more times!

Radio Abbey

radio abbeyDo you all know about Radio Abbey?  It’s Kenilworth’s own radio station, broadcasting 24/7 on the internet from the Kenilworth Centre in the heart of our town.  There is a growing band of presenters with music for pretty much everyone, and new presenters joining all the time.  It’s a local radio station but the shows can be enjoyed by anyone anywhere in the world.  There are currently people in 38 countries listening in!

I present two weekly shows: one is BookFolk, which (as its name suggests!) about books and folk music, though I play a broader range of music than just folk.  It aims to highlight new music from the folk and acoustic scene, but I also take the opportunity to play vaguely related music that I love – what’s called Americana, older folk and acoustic music, and my heroes Bob Dylan and Nick Cave.  I also talk about books, about book-related news stories and issues in the book world, and am expanding that to talk a bit about films and art as well.  My other show is called Old School Disco, and I play the kind of music we used to hear at our school discos in the 70s and early 80s (which of course includes music from the 60s and even a bit of rock and roll).  There are also shows featuring Northern Soul, classic and prog rock, local contemporary musicians, LGBT+ anthems, classical, pop going back to the 80s, house music, big band and swing, jazz and blues, and some shows that play an eclectic range of all sorts.  Lots of shows are available via listen again on the Radio Abbey website (which is soon to be revamped).

The station is entirely run by volunteers, and its only income comes from sponsorship.  At the Tree House, we are going to start to raise a bit of money to support it – particularly to buy new music for the station.  So I will have a pile of cards where you can write any song requests, and if you feel able, throw some change into a nearby jar to contribute to the fund.  We’ll also be doing some fundraisers, including an Old School Disco inspired dance night.  We always have charity tins, and I like to change those from time to time, so this year, we will make Radio Abbey one of our promoted charities.  And when I get my oven replaced, I’ll try and provide some little home-baked goodies to tempt you to part with your spare change!

The station has really grown over the last year, and is a wonderful resource for the town.  We are happy, as presenters, to give shout outs to things going on locally, we are trying to support the major events that happen in the town, and we’d love people to take it to their hearts and help it get bigger and stronger all the time!  There are also lots of available daytime slots for new presenters – contact Holly Hewitt at the Kenilworth Centre if you’re interested.

Next up for us is a day of broadcasting for Valentine’s Day.  Some of us are less keen on the whole concept of this day than others, so expect some more cynical responses as well as plenty of love songs!  Tune in from 8am on Friday 14 February – yours truly is presenting the first two hours, and there will be plenty of melancholic numbers as well as some happy stuff!

BookFolk is currently on Monday afternoons from 1-3pm, and Old School Disco is on Tuesday evenings from 6-7pm.  Send your requests!