Next to Nature: A Lifetime in the English Countryside

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Next to Nature: A Lifetime in the English Countryside

Next to Nature: A Lifetime in the English Countryside

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A nature diary, a reflection on changing rural life over the period from the Second World War, and a commentary on a deeply dedicated man of the church. We don’t share your credit card details with third-party sellers, and we don’t sell your information to others. I decided to read each month’s entries at the beginning of each month of 2023, which has undoubtedly been the best approach as it has made this wonderful book last a whole year.

John Clare covertly reading in a field crops up more than once, as also Jesus' epitaph for John the Baptist; a little repetition is perhaps inevitable given the structure of the book, though I suspect not solely because of that, given Blythe's occasional admission of parishioners catching him out. There is, for example, the quotation from "Wuthering Heights":: "Hearing a climbing rose scratch against the window like Catherine Earnshaw's escape-me-never hand" - all very clever and cultured, but such endless quotations become very annoying, destroying the flow of the narrative. This was a 2022 Christmas present, signed by the centenarian author, now no longer with us, alas, having died in January of this year. The Hogarth Press where I’m working, is in the heart of the literary world, with authors coming in all the time.I’ve been reading this over Christmas along with Guy Shrubsole’s brilliant new The Lost Rainforests of Britain, and I’ve enjoyed every moment. I would not normally select anything with a religious theme but this warm and transparently kind man reminds me of chapel in my Dales upbringing.

Not that it's all hauntings, or at least not unfriendly ones; Blythe's bedroom is John Nash's old studio, and "I have lived most of my days under Gainsborough's and Constable's trees, and not figuratively; for many of them go on growing. The love of nature, the land, the creatures in the surrounding fields and trees meshes seamlessly with an encyclopaedic command of the back story to everything and the rhythms of the country churches. We are experiencing delays with deliveries to many countries, but in most cases local services have now resumed. Hope this book reaches a much wider audience than just readers who might remember Akenfield and those of us who immediately turned to the Word from Wormingford column when the Church Times landed on the door mat.Slightly Foxed brings back forgotten voices through its Slightly Foxed and Plain Foxed Editions, a series of beautifully produced little pocket hardback reissues of classic memoirs, all of them absorbing and highly individual. I think Ronald Blythe is a genius in a special, but perhaps overlooked, journalistic genre – the nature notes or country talk columns.

This book was with me for most of the year that's passed, and I know I'm going to miss those safe and reassuring words of his which may be worth a revisit sometime. I imagined him reading them by lamplight, just as I read when I was a boy, the twin wicks faintly waving inside the Swan glass. You can unsubscribe from our list at any point by changing your preferences, or contacting us directly.

a sensibility which is richer or better fed, more deeply watered and manured, more drenched in Englishness -- ADAM NICOLSON [His] minute observation of places, people and plants, his ear for scraps of dialogue and his feeling for poetry and painting make everything about those days immediate . Beginning with the arrival of snow on New Year’s Day and ending with Christmas carols sung in the village church, Next to Nature invites us to witness a simple life richly lived.

James, Holst, Coleridge are still presences, death notwithstanding, but the fields grow ever emptier of people, the villages more and more separate from their surroundings - something Blythe laments, even while being old enough to be well aware of the privations that came with agricultural life as it used to be. Mrs Woolf, wife of the manager, is a very celebrated author and, in her own way, more important than Galsworthy. Yes, among other things, it’s a paean to the quiet, diffused but real religion of rural life; but, that itself is inextricably linked with observation of life through the seasons (and, as Muslims continually point out, if more Christians actually “lived” their religion there would be wider ground for mutual respect and dialogue. Poignantly, he turned 100 in November 2022 and died just two months later, so this book and my careful reading of it through the year are both tributes to his long and faithful life, much of it lived in an old farmhouse in Suffolk.

Being with Ronnie Blythe in one of his books is like being on a magic carpet, the exhilaration of being alive, and of nature, and the world -- Ian Collins * Today Programme * Next to Nature is the perfect memorial, a latter-day Book of Hours .



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
  • Sold by: Fruugo

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