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A History of English Food
A History of English Food
by Clarissa Dickson Wright
Edition: Hardcover

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarissa's passion for food is the vital ingredient in this marvellous mélange, 31 Oct. 2011
"Englishmen," Samuel Pepys believed, "love their bellies above everything else." Food historian Clarissa Dickson Wright traces the nation's changing relationship with food from the mid-twelfth century to the present day. She uncovers the changes in diet influenced by new foodstuffs (many of our current food favourites have in fact been around for centuries) and cooking methods, such as the popularity from the mid-seventeenth century onwards of grand (ie French) 'cuisine' as opposed to plain (English) cooking.

Her breadth of knowledge is impressively wide-ranging (did you know that Telford's Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was partly glued together with sugar?) and her approach is refreshingly hands-on: she has tried many of the old recipes, including those for lamprey ("so delicious that I can see why Henry I died from eating a surfeit of them"), seal ("disgusting"), rook ("not unpalatable") and calves' feet ("they make a very sticky sort of stew"), but not puffin ("they seem too cute to eat"); and seen traditional cooking methods in action ("I once remember coming across a rather unpleasant cheese made from skimmed milk which was blued by having an unclean horse harness dragged through it").

Clarissa's passion for food is the vital ingredient in this marvellous mélange in which she uncovers how "food tells us so much about the nature of society at a particular point in time".


The Book of English Place Names: How Our Towns and Villages Got Their Names
The Book of English Place Names: How Our Towns and Villages Got Their Names
by Caroline Taggart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.38

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Take a journey into England's past, 12 Oct. 2011
Take a journey into England's past in this county-by-county guide to the meanings behind the names of our towns and villages. Caroline shows how deciphering place names reveals how generations of our ancestors lived, worked, travelled and worshipped, from Viking invaders and Norman conquerors right up to the Industrial Revolution; and why so many place names have tall tales and ancient legends attached to them. Whether it is Indian Queens (was it really visited by Pocahontas?), Sixpenny Handley (not named after its perceived value), Gatwick which means `farm where goats are kept ("not any more, it's not," comments Caroline), Good Easter or Westward Ho! (the only place name in Britain that ends in an exclamation mark), Caroline uncovers many interesting and informative meanings.


The Lore of the Playground: The Children's World - Then and Now
The Lore of the Playground: The Children's World - Then and Now
by Steve Roud
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Childhood memories will keep flooding back as you flick through this well-researched and readable book, 28 Sept. 2011
For over thirty years, Steve Roud has been researching British folklore by meticulously observing and interviewing the participants. Now he has turned his attention to children's games, traditions, rhymes and rituals from the Edwardian period right up to the present day.

The intricacy and diversity of children's games, inspired by a child's limitless imagination, is astonishing. Some games are universal, such as 'tig', but even then Steve has recorded dozens of variants, such as 'one-chase-all-chase', 'Marco Polo' (tig played in a swimming pool) and 'stuck in the mud'. Others are equally widespread, like British bulldogs, hide-and-seek, cops and robbers, knock down ginger and grandmother's footsteps.

But Steve has also recorded many regional variations, such as the truce terms used by children to temporarily opt out of a game, which change from 'barley' in the North to 'fainites' in the South.

Other games are now the stuff of memory: jump diddy wacko, husky-bum, good morning Valentine and eggety budge are just a handful of the splendidly named pastimes that have kept children entertained.

Love-divining has progressed from daisy petals to chewing-gum wrappers and ring-pulls; whereas counting-out will probably always involve a simple rhyme starting 'Eeny, meeny, miny mo'.

Childhood memories will keep flooding back as you flick through this well-researched and readable book.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 15, 2012 5:50 PM BST


Gargoyles and Grotesques
Gargoyles and Grotesques
by Alex Woodcock
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.50

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A readable and well-illustrated guide to these musicians, mermaids, monsters and mouth-pullers, 28 Sept. 2011
Glowering and grimacing from church walls, gargoyles (which acted as waterspouts) and grotesques (which had no practical function) are examples of medieval carving which are often overlooked because of their out-of-the-way locations. Comical and satirical figures mingle with terrifying monsters and fantastical beasts, even depictions of violent or obscene acts. At Lacock in Wiltshire, for example, is a chained beast devouring several figures; a sow suckles piglets at Bloxham, Oxfordshire; and at Adderbury are a pair of human-headed, hoofed quadrupeds. Alex Woodcock traces the history of gargoyles and grotesques, explains their subject matters and describes the best examples, in this readable and well-illustrated guide to these musicians, mermaids, monsters and mouth-pullers that still fascinate church visitors.


Casting Off the Corsets: A Brief History of Underwear
Casting Off the Corsets: A Brief History of Underwear
by Dulcie Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Will bring back nostalgic memories of corsets, fairy belts, long johns, liberty bodices and Aertex vests, 28 Sept. 2011
A brief (ahem!) history of underwear from WI regular Dulcie Lewis, which will bring back nostalgic memories of corsets, fairy belts, long johns, liberty bodices, Aertex vests -- and not-so-happy memories of knitted bathing suits.


Surnames, DNA, and Family History
Surnames, DNA, and Family History
by George Redmonds
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Full of fascinating insights into family history research, 28 Sept. 2011
The latest advances in DNA analysis has much to offer those interested in genealogical research, particularly when combined with linguistic and historical approaches, as this scholarly yet readable book explains. It focuses on British names, tracing their origins to different parts of the British Isles and Europe, and casts fresh light on the ancient peopling of the British Isles. An overview of occupational by-names (familiar names) shows a medieval world populated by Brigendermakers (maker of body armour), Swerdslypers (scabbard maker), Swynnlibers (swine castrator) and Wandehaggers (woodman).

While the book has the flavour of an academic study, with mention of haplotypes and genetic drift, it is full of fascinating insights into family history research and genetic testing. The latter is now available commercially and many people undertaking it have a preconceived idea of where they -- or they want to -- come from; "the Vikings are by far the sexiest people to have had as ancestors" according to the authors.

Even in today's modern world, people still have a strong sense of wanting to 'belong', and, conclude the authors, "for many individuals their surname forms an essential part of who they are".


Bees in the City: The urban beekeepers' handbook
Bees in the City: The urban beekeepers' handbook
by Brian McCallum
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why the newest and trendiest buzzword is 'beekeeping', 28 Sept. 2011
For the newest and trendiest urban pastime, the buzzword is 'beekeeping'. Once seen as an exclusively rural pursuit, beekeeping has spread to city farms, urban allotments, office-block roofs and even the grounds of Buckingham Palace, as town and city dwellers discover the benefits of beekeeping -- whether it's youth workers using beekeeping to help troubled teenagers, doing one's bit save the honey bee, or the unbeatable taste of home-produced honey. The authors speak to an eclectic range of urban apiarists, suggest the best bee-friendly plants, and provide practical advice for the novice beekeeper. Bees need our help to survive, say the authors, as they show how anyone can take part in the "beekeeping revolution".


Bright Particular Stars: A Gallery of Glorious British Eccentrics
Bright Particular Stars: A Gallery of Glorious British Eccentrics
by David McKie
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars McKie has an unequalled ability to uncover the most remarkable stories in the hidden byways of our national history, 28 Sept. 2011
In the 1920s the composer Philip Warlock, best remembered for his song series The Curlew, moved to the village of Eynsford in Kent to compose, but was soon scandalising the locals with his partying, hard drinking and naked nocturnal motorbike rides accompanied by equally naked girlfriends; a visitor to one of Warlock's particularly rollicking house parties recalled that "The guests had begun the day with doses of Eno's Fruit Salts and gin, which they assured me gave the most refreshing and invigorating feeling on which to start the day". Warlock is just one of a gallery of glorious British eccentrics in this vivid and entertaining narrative from David McKie, who has an unequalled ability to uncover the most remarkable stories in the hidden byways of our national history.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 12, 2014 10:03 PM GMT


A Short History of England
A Short History of England
by Simon Jenkins
Edition: Hardcover

32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A history that is readable, gripping and almost breakneck in style, 28 Sept. 2011
"I have roamed England all my life," writes author and National Trust chairman Simon Jenkins. "For all that, until recently I did not know England, for I was not aware of how it came to be." He rectifies that oversight with this sweeping one-volume history of England, from the departure of the Romans in the late third century AD to the recent forming of the Coalition Goverment. He structures the book as a narrative, centred on key events and individuals, which is readable, gripping and almost breakneck in style (he covers over 1,500 years in only 350-odd pages) -- a real page-turner, in fact. The book is an exposition of how and why, as Jenkins concludes, "England has been a success as a country".


The Geology and Landscape of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (Pocket Cornwall)
The Geology and Landscape of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (Pocket Cornwall)
by Simon Camm
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.95

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Describes the best geological sites in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, 28 Sept. 2011
The spectacular scenery in the south-west of England is the result of 400 million years of geological change. For those wanting to know more about the ground beneath their feet, this book describes the best geological sites in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, and has a gallery of rock types that may be encountered in the region.


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