On Finding….Unexpected Gems

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A few weeks ago, browsing in the Oxfam book shop in Lancaster I was drawn to two books prominently displayed side by side on a high shelf. They were ‘Delight’ by J.B.Priestley and ‘Modern Delight’ which is an anthology. I might not have given them much more than a second glance but only days before I had heard a Radio 4 archive program about Priestley’s war time broadcasts and the controversy they stirred up. (The man quoted Marx! Approvingly, begad!). ‘Delight’ is…well, delightful.

This anthology of chips from the writing block of a great author lives up to its name. There are one hundred and fourteen short essays on all manner of things that have given Priestley delight. Not all of them are simple or innocent : there’s more than a little malice to be found, for example, in Frightening Civil Servants and Quietly Malicious Chairmanship; and a touch of mischief in Being Solemn About One’s Tastes and Not Going. But mostly this is Priestley finding simple pleasure in music, family affairs, smoking, remembrances of childhood, and so on. One of the most amusing, tongue-in-cheek pieces is No School Report, in which Priestley writes just such a report on himself and a frankly bad one. The anthology is beautifully re-produced by Great Northern Books and makes a suitable companion piece to the newly-compiled Modern Delight, published for charity by Waterstones.

M.J.Nelson customer review on Amazon

Each piece is short and beautifully written, but many are quite wide-ranging. All is not sweetness and light as the review above indicates and many of the pieces are suffused with a nostalgia for delights now gone. Priestley confesses to being a grumbler and a playful and acerbic wit shines through many of the mini essays. ‘Modern Delight’ has eighty similar pieces, each by a different author. It’s equally easy to read and has some nice surprises, if a little uneven, as perhaps is to be expected from a book put together for charity.

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Just over a week ago, and TBH and I were out for an evening stroll around the Cove and the Lots. As we rejoined the road, what was that ducking into the driveway of Lindeth House? A roe deer!

Sadly despite the proximity of the deer all of my photos have come out shaky.

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Lindeth House was once an old peoples’ home (and will soon be divided into ‘luxury flats’ – which seems to be a common trajectory for grand old properties). Cove House is still an old peoples’ home. Every year a Garden Party is held there. It’s a great event; the kids enjoy the bouncy castle, cakes, ice-cream and games like bat-the-rat and guess the name of the teddy; TBH buys homemade jam and plants; I liked the Burnside Brass Band and the singing of the village players, but the real excitement for me is the second-hand book stall which always throws up some unexpected prizes. This time I came away with even more books than usual, but particularly noteworthy was a small cloth-bound book called ‘The Friendly Town: a little book for the urbane’. It’s another anthology, published in 1905 and edited by E.V.Lucas the author of the essay ‘On Finding Things’ which I’ve waffled on about here before. I have the second imprint, also from 1905. It has essays and prose on a variety of topics and is a companion piece to the anthology ‘The Open Road’ – which is the one I really want to stumble across. I know, I know – I could easily find it on the internet, but – where would be the thrill in that?

You can see ‘The Friendly Town’ at Google Books

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On Finding….Unexpected Gems

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