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Lisa Nola: Listography - The Game


Chronicle Books 6th July 2016


From the creative minds behind Haikubes and Zombie Cribbage, this fresh twist on the bestselling Listography journal series makes list-making a fun party game. Players draw a card from the deck, start the timer, and create lists based on fun and thought-provoking list topics. When the time runs out, they share their lists and score points according to the number of similar and unique answers, all with the goal of being the first around the board. With three hundred prompts and different answers every time, this game inspires creative thinking and entertaining conversation.OBJECT: Write lists to become the Master List Maker. Sometimes you want the items on your list to match other players, sometimes you don't! The first player to reach the end of the game board is the winner.For up to 6 players.Ages 12 and up.


An amazing package from Chronicle Books - a board game based on the bestselling Listography journal series. Making lists is a particularly fun thing to do, and this game will keep its players occupied and entertained for hours. Comesplete with playing pads, list cards and a board, etc., etc. Superb!




A D Gristwood: The Somme (and The Coward)


Casemate Classics


Two World War I classics: The story of a British soldier enduring the battle in France and a novella starring a man who takes drastic steps to escape the Great War.

The million British dead have left no books behind. What they felt as they died hour by hour in the mud, or were choked horribly with gas, or relinquished their reluctant lives on stretchers, no witness tells. But here is a book that almost tells it. . . . Mr. Gristwood has had the relentless simplicity to recall things as they were; he was as nearly dead as he could be without dying, and he has smelt the stench of his own corruption. This is the story of millions of men—of millions.” —H. G. Wells

In The Somme and its companion The Coward, first published in 1927, the heroics of war and noble self-sacrifice are completely absent, replaced by the gritty realism of life for the ordinary soldier in World War I and an unflinching portrayal of the horrors of war. Written under the guidance of master storyteller H. G. Wells, they are classics of the genre.

Based on A. D. Gristwood’s own wartime experiences, The Somme revolves around a futile attack during the 1916 Somme campaign. On the battlefront, Tom Everitt is wounded and must be moved back through a series of dressing stations to the General Hospital at Rouen. Few other accounts of the war give such an accurate picture of trench life, and The Spectator praised Gristwood’s “very effective writing,” calling The Somme “a book which anyone who was not in the War should read.”

The Coward concerns a man who shoots himself in the hand to escape the chaos during the March 1918 retreat—an offense punishable by death—and is haunted by fear of discovery and self-loathing. Together, these works offer a vivid, immersive view of the First World War and the suffering it inflicted on the men who fought it.


A large number of books has again arrived at the back end of the month, in the last few days, and I simply don't have time to do them justice in this issue - but hey ho! They will all appear in the next issue, including the first four titles in Casemate's Classics series, the first of which is pictured above... See you 1st August, then...






  July 1st: 100th Anniversary of the Somme...


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Going back in time - to the fifties (and the sixties) - part 4

We've just had the annual cheeserolling festival in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, on the end of May bank holiday, which used to be known as Whitsun. I've recounted in the past that throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, the only thing that would have kept us away from going to this would have been bad weather. The Bank holiday weather this year on the North Norfolk coast was the worst I can remember, with a severe depression coming in off the North Sea and covering us with fog, gale force winds, described by the weather forecasters as "a stiff breeze", and a month's rain falling in just one day, just two days after the Bank Holiday. In 1976 we set off for a two-week holiday on 7th June, travelling from Stevenage, (our home town at the time) to Poole, in Dorset. Overnight there was about four inches of snow, which started to melt as we began travelling, and was gone by the time we reached our destination. Whilst we were on holiday that fortnight, we saw a halo around the sun and 1976 turned out to be the hottest summer on record - we had a glorious time!


But bad weather in the 1950s was a big deal for us. Although we lived in a semi-detached villa, one of many hundreds of thousands that sprung up in Britain through the 1930s, the era of the family motor car had not yet arrived, at least, not in Brockworth. It was so rare to see cars in the village that my friends and I used to jot down number plates in little notebooks, with details of what the cars were for evaluation and comparison purposes. Austin A30s were common, as were Morrises and Standards - my uncle Eddie had a Standard Vanguard, a beautiful car with a curved back - very elegant! We didn't have a car until 1960, when my Dad arrived home with my uncle, towing a Morris 8 tourer with four doors and running boards. It was green. They pushed it across the garden - it was a large garden - and up the gentle slope into the corrugated iron garage my Dad and my uncles had walked through the streets from my Gran's house. It was the most thrilling moment of my life, seeing that car coming down our drive and going into our garage. We had a car! It would take several months of stripping down and rebuilding before it actually went, and when it did finally start, Dad had a spare battery secured to the running board because the dynamo didn't work properly, so there was no danger of being stranded somewhere with a car that would not start. I can't remember if he ever repaired or replaced the dynamo, but we went everywhere in that car, even from Brockworth, Glos, to Ramsgate, Kent, for our annual fortnight's holiday in 1961. Our car arrived painted green and with the number plate BAD785, but was pretty soon hand painted in Dad's favourite colours, yellow and black. Had he chosen yellow and red, it would have been a dead ringer for Noddy's car. I have a small B&W photo of our actual Tourer somewhere, but finding it now would take more time than I have right now. Talking of car number plates, I remember travelling to school on the bus until 1959, when I started cycling, and as we went up Eastgate, I happened to glance down at the top of a bus stop next to the shops, and seeing a discarded number plate beginning AAA, and thinking to myself that surely that had to be one of the very first number plates issued... Probably not, but it's what went through my head at the time, and it was there until we left Gloucester forever in 1963.


By the time it got to 1963, when we left Brockworth to go and stay with relatives in Southend on Sea prior to our final move as a family to Stevenage New Town, Dad had replaced the Morris Tourer with a Standard Eight similar to the one in the picture, but beige. Two of our neighbours bought brand new Ford Anglias in1963 - one was a teacher, the other a civil servant. Dad was Chief Tool Engineer at Rank Precision Industries in Mitcheldean, in the Forest of Dean, which would have been a 15-20 mile journey each day - that Morris 8 four-door tourer made that journey and back home every day for the best part of two years, then went to a young man living further along our road in Brockworth while we had the luxury of the Standard Eight. I started this piece by saying I was going to continue my reminiscences about living in the 1950s, and I got slightly diverted, but this time it is mostly about cars.


These are the things I remem

ber most clearly about cars and lorries in the early 1950s, but in the context of everyday living... On weekdays, before I started school (so I would have been four years old, in 1950), there was Mum, me and the radio: Listen With Mother, with Fauré's Dolly Suite, and stories later in the day on Children's Hour about Larry the Lamb and Dennis the Dachsund in Toytown (although this was a different Toytown to the one created by Enid Blyton for Little Noddy). Dad went to work, running down to Ermin Street, invariably chased by a small white dog, to catch the works bus which picked up from the stop near to the main gates of the Gloster Aircraft Company's factory, where he had worked in a reserved occupation during WWII. After the war he went to work for Rank's. Jean, my elder sister, had left for school, catching the bus going in the opposite direction up the hill to the little primary school in Shurdington. I would start there when I was four and a half years old. They had not yet built Brockworth New County Primary School, that wouldn't open until I was five, in 1951. The buses were, without exception, Bristol Omnibus Company buses.


So, there was just Mum and me. The milkman, Mr Eldridge lived next door to us. He had a small Morris delivery van parked on his drive, and I remember once accompanying him on his round, but only once. Maybe I wasn't very good carrying milk bottles... His garage had been converted into a cold room, a kind of giant refrigerator, where he stored the milk that was delivered to him ready for his rounds the following day. During the day, on various days of the week, a small variety of vehicles would pass by or stop at our house. The postman, in a red Morris van, stopping to bring Dad's latest Companion Book Club selection, or my Children's Book Club selection... the dustcart, one of those with comparments either side that slid up so that the dustmen could unload the contents of our bins into it... the coalman, with a flatbed truck, driven by a man who was covered in coal dust from head to foot... the fruit and veg man, Mr Kennedy, with a horse and cart... the drinks lorry, where we bought a week's supply of fizzy drinks: lemonade, cherryade, cream soda, orangeade... the brand name was Corona. We usually bought half a dozen bottles to keep in the pantry, and they were supposed to last a week, until the next time the Corona lorry came around, but invariably it would run out, especially in the summer months, and we would end up buying bottles of Tizer from the shop at the end of the road. Other things I remember buying from Mr Ellis's shop were toothpaste, which in the days before plastic tubes, came in a round solid block; you wet your toothbrush and then rubbed it on the block until you had enough to clean your teeth with. Gibbs Dentifrice, it was called, and I think it came in more than one colour - I preferred the pink one.


During the 1950s there were very few cars in the streets of Brockworth. Looking back, it seems that my entire family on my mother's side, upped sticks from various parts of London and moved to Brockworth, probably in 1937 or thereabouts. Dad's family stayed in Hornchurch. Mum was one of seven children, of whom six, including her, were still alive when I was born in 1946. Sadly, the census records for 1921 are still languishing on someone's desk somewhere - a national scandal as far as I'm concerned - almost a century later and we still don't have access to anything past 1911 - consequently we can't look at records for family members from that era. Brockworth in those days consisted of a huge council estate to the East, and a smaller estate of private houses (to rent at first, and later to buy - we bought ours in 1960) to the West. On the southern side of Ermin Street (the old Roman road) there were much older houses.


The two main streets of the private estate where we lived were Boverton Avenue and Boverton Drive. We lived in Boverton Drive, and at the top of the road where you turned left into Court Road (leading to Brockworth Court and the church), lived the oldest of the Kimbers, my Mum's eldest brother, my Uncle Bill, his wife Aunt Grace and their two children, Brian and Peter. They were both older than me, but both went to the Crypt Grammar School, and it was this that influenced my parents' choice for my secondary schooling. Meanwhile, in Boverton Avenue, my widowed Gran lived in an identical house to ours, together with Uncle John and Uncle Ernie, neither of whom were married. Gran kept chickens, and geese, and had a red border collie. Almost opposite Gran's house lived her sister Grace, my great aunt, and her husband, Great Uncle Ernest, who encouraged me to listen to music from a very early age, and gave me a load of 78rpm records of old bands like Jack Hylton, Al Bowlly and so on. The youngest member of my Mum's family was Uncle Les. He lived with his wife Grace, and his seven children, in the next village along the road, which was Hucclecote. My sister and I would often walk down to see them, taking things Mum had sorted out to help this large family, returning with a huge bag full of American comics, including my beloved Tarzan comics. I don't know where Uncle Les got them from, but there were loads of them: Superman, Batman, Suberboy, Popeye, Film Fun, Tarzan, etc., etc. Thus began my love affair with American comics and in particular Tarzan of the Apes, something that has stayed with me as I discovered first the original Tarzan adventures, and then, much later, when I was in my twenties, Burroughs' other works, including John Carter of Mars, the Pellucidar series, the Venus series, etc., etc.


If Uncle Les introduced me to American comics, it was my great uncle Ernie who introduced me to the popular music of the 1930s with those 78rpm records. My favourite Jack Hylton 78 was "That was a cute little rhyme, sing us another one do", although they obviously didn't sing the many obscene limericks that made up this hilarious song; the band chorus always started to sing "There was a young lady from Ealing, who had a peculiar feeling", but bandleader Jack stopped them before they got any further! I discovered the lyrics some years later from one of my reprobate uncles. My aunt Cicely lived in Brockworth too, and when she married Uncle Owen (a kindly but strange, cadaverous, almost skeletal man), they lived in a council house in the eastern council estate. This council estate straddled both sides of Ermin Street, and on the southern side, there was a cinema which served not only the estate, but also the rest of the village. It was old, but functioned perfectly, and was known affectionately as the flea pit (weren't they all?), and the programme changed four times a week. All of the films it showed were more than six months old - if you wanted to see the latest blockbuster, you had to go to the Odeon in Kings Square, in the city, or the Regal, which I think was in either Northgate or Southgate. The flea pit was where Uncle Owen worked, as a boilerman. I have never been able to work out if the boilers he stoked for 8-10 hours a day provided heating for the whole of the council estate, or for some other complex near to the cinema that I never knew about. He always ended his shift looking as though he'd spent the day delivering coal! They were a lovely, loving couple who always looked after me when Mum or Gran were not available, and I often walked up to their house after school until it was time to go home.


They had a vast collection of paperback books, Irwin Shaw etc., including many pulp fiction books, and they were quite happy for me to read them even though they were probably not suitable for a young teenager! It was while I was waiting there until it was time to go home one afternoon that I picked up a copy of TitBits magazine and discovered the first chapter of the serialisation of Angelique, Marquise of the Angels, a story that enthralled me, being similar to one of my favourite classics, of which I had a Regent Classics copy: The Three Musketeers. The difference was in the fact that Angelique centred on the adventures, sexual and otherwise, of a young girl, Angelique - The Three Musketeers was good, brilliant in fact, but Angelique was sensationally good. And it was a Pan Major book, which meant it would be readily available to read in full without having to wait for the rest of the serialisation. Just look at the beautiful young lady on the front cover of the first Pan Major edition... My friends at school in 1957 would not have understood my love of this book, neither would they have understood my need to read my sister's School Friend and Girls' Crystal comics and annuals as well as my Lion and Tiger comics and annuals. I loved to read about girls as much as I loved to read about boys. Enid Blyton's adventure stories always had a mix of both sexes, as did Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine Club stories. I simply loved to read - stories about the Le Mans 24-hour race, with unprincipled bounders trying to sabotage our hero's car were absorbed as readily as The Silent Three in The School Friend comic.


For me they were just stories. One of my favourite children's authors, Eric Leyland, even had older teenagers of both sexes driving around the country in a car, just as I imagined I would do in a few years' time. I was never that enamoured of motor bikes or mopeds and scooters. I was always prepared to make the transition straight from bicycle (mine came from Currys in the Oxbode, opposite Bon Marché, a four speed BSA with drop handlebars) to car, even if it meant waiting another year. The transport revolution went on in Gloucester quietly and unnoticeably. Gradually the streets filled up with cars, Dad started to build a garage attached to the side of the house - I remember us taking delivery of the bricks and breeze blocks at the top of the drive, by the wrought iron gates he had made, and helping him to carry them down the garden to the concrete hard standing he had prepared on which we would build the garage. My uncle Eddie always had a car, my Uncle Ernie was an insurance agent and always had a car. My great-uncle Ernie had a very old Austin A35 tucked away in his garage which never saw the light of day until around 1959, when we borrowed it to go daffodil picking in Tewkesbury. A few neighbours had cars, and by the time I started cycling the seven miles to school, when I was thirteen years old, in 1959, there was a fair amount of traffic on the roads. All of the cars were either black or beige, or in the case of the Ford Anglias I mentioned earlier, maroon and grey.


I shall finish this month's reminiscing with a brief review of a book I picked up for 50p at a charity shop in town. I was attracted by the subtitle of the book, Ready Steady Go: Growing Up in the 1950s and 1960s. The book is by Chris Tarrant. I've never liked him - he's another of those very annoying people like Noel Edmunds who seem to find humour in the discomfiture and humiliation of others. The book is dreadful - the boring black and white photo on the front should have been a warning to me - there is no colour inside, unlike every other 1950s/1960s book, an era that was saturated with colour, and this book can only afford black and white photos. That aside, Tarrant's narrative is totally personal, and doesn't give a balanced view of those decades. One comment that stuck in my mind refers to a programme I regularly listened to on Sunday afternoons, and loved: Movie-Go-Round. Tarrant finds the concept of listening to a radio programme about movies hilarious and stupid at the same time. I find it perfectly logical - we didn't have a TV whilst we lived in Gloucestershire. We left Brockworth in 1963, settling in Stevenage New Town in November of that year, and as a Christmas treat for us in our new flat above the hardware store we'd bought, Dad rented a TV from the Rediffusion shop in the parade. Right through the 1950s and the early 1960s, TVs were by no means commonplace, and we listened to Movie-Go-Round, presented by Peter Haigh, in order to get an idea of what was worth going to see at the cinema. It's not that different to listening to the music from Gladiator or Lord of the Rings on Classic FM months in advance of the films being released, and as someone who regularly listened to radio plays throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, it was entirely logical and hugely enjoyable to be able to listen to soundtrack excerpts from films we might see a few months later on a devoted radio programme. I've now thrown the book away - Chris Tarrant and I have as much in common as me and David Cameron - I wouldn't be surprised if, like Bruce Forsyth, Tarrant is a tory supporter. His eyes tell me he's not someone I would like in person. On refection, I could have bought a small chocolate bar with my 50p and derived far more satisfaction from it, although the charity would not have benefited... More next month - on entertainment in the 1950s and 1960s.


1st July is the one hundredth anniversary of the first engagements of the Battle of the Somme. This issue has a few books on the Somme from Pen and Sword - many more to come. I hope you enjoy this issue. It's been a pleasure to write the editorial and to compile the book announcements!


Footnote: As I'm writing this piece my little border collie bitch Holly is lying at my feet, as always when I'm working on the laptop. Yesterday we received the devastating news that she was diagnosed with liver cancer and may not be with us much longer. We spent most of yesterday crying our eyes out. I just wanted to share with you the fact that she is the most loyal, faithful guardian we have ever had. She's just eight years old, no age for a border collie, no age for a family pet, really. Every day with Holly has been a joy - full of life (still full of life), chasing rabbits, deer and foxes, eating whatever came her way (she lives for her food!) and making us laugh at her antics, admiring her beauty, stroking her, petting her, loving her. Our other border collie, Skipper, who is ten years old, had a malignant tumour removed from his eye four weeks ago. We can only think that Holly didn't want to be outdone, as always, she had to be top dog, from the moment we brought her home from a farm near Fakenham. I feel sick while I'm writing this, but we go into taking pets into our homes with our eyes open, and we promise to look after them to the best of our ability. We knew we would be without her one day, it's just too soon. Holly, we love you. We may have days, weeks, or even a  few months together. However long that turns out to be, you will be the most loved border collie in the world...



The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its eighteenth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.