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4.0 out of 5 stars Gazing upon Lord Hereford's Knob, 30 Jan 2014
This review is from: Tales of the Country (Paperback)
"Nobody had warned us that the countryside was full of flies, not to mention moths built like prop forwards, with big, leering faces." - from TALES OF THE COUNTRY

"Will called around with a(n) ... American wildlife photographer of considerable renown ... (who) was visiting him because he wanted Will to take him to Tupsley Quarry in Hereford, where Will knew a pond in which hundreds of frogs were frantically mating. They asked if (my son) Joseph and I wanted to go with them, which we did, of course. It was a weekday and I had work to do, but the opportunity to watch 900 bonking frogs doesn't come around all that often." - from TALES OF THE COUNTRY

TALES OF THE COUNTRY by Brian Viner follows that venerable tradition of intrepidly moving to an unfamiliar clime and then telling the rest of us stick-in-the-muds all about it. Some such accounts are better than others; in the former group, I've previously discovered: A Year in Provence, Extra Virgin: Amongst the Olive Groves of Liguria, and Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia (The Lemons Trilogy). I've never come across one about relocating to New Jersey.

As the book begins, Viner and his wife Jane are living in North London and contemplating a move to rural environs. After a false start or two, they manage to sell their city residence and relocate themselves and the kids to the hamlet of Docklow in Herefordshire to occupy a venerable old manor house within sight of Lord Hereford's Knob, a local hill.

The best feature of Viner's narrative is the humor used to describe their coping mechanisms when faced with the unique challenges of their new environment. Of course, that's pretty much theme of all publications in the genre and it's only the amount of charm in the telling that distinguishes one from another. And Brian's particular charm is the relaxed, self-effacing nature of his humor also found in a previous travel essay, Cream Teas, Traffic Jams and Sunburn: The Great British Holiday.

Since I've often day-dreamed about moving to Great Britain (and London in particular), it was surprising to learn that Viner's corner of rural, green and temperate England is infested with flies - ("cluster flies, which lay eggs in the soil and live on worms"). Really? One usually associates swarms of flies with some wretched, sun-blasted Third World refugee camp on the border of a civil war-torn country where factions are fighting over slit trench naming rights. Say it ain't so, Brian! Perhaps I should reconsider New Jersey.

By the author's own admission, there's not much happening in Docklow and its surroundings (except the bonking frogs). Therefore, since the family's purchase of the manor house (called "Docklow Grange" in the story) also included three holiday cottages, it shouldn't be surprising that much of the book deals with the management of, and the guests staying in, those cottages. Indeed, I finished TALES OF THE COUNTRY determined to vacation at the place before I age to the point of torpor. Well, at least take the first step anyway ‒ searching for it on the Web (where it can be found under "Docklow Manor"). I guess I'll have to pack a flyswatter, though.

Since my opinion of a travel essay increases proportional to the strength of the desire it compels in me to either visit or avoid the place, then TALES OF THE COUNTRY is a worthy success.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Jun 2014 16:31:38 BDT
Wonderful review. Thank you. Perhaps I'll bump into you when I visit Docklow Manor myself.
Margaret, Tasmania, Australia

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jun 2014 18:05:30 BDT
Marg,

Thank you! See you there for a cuppa.
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Joseph Haschka
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