r dige

More favourite things.

Some years ago a relative, knowing of my interest in British flora gave me three field guide books from the Readers’ Digest Nature Lover’s Library series, covering British Birds, Wild Flowers and Trees & Shrubs.

They became immediate favourites and I have learned so much from them. In fact I still do.

With that in mind it was odd both that I never came across any other titles, or even considered that more might exist.

Three months ago, out of the blue, I found a copy of Butterflies and Other Insects of Britain, which I had to have even though I have butterflies and moths covered reference book-wise.

And then, during the Christmas hols Little Boots and I found Animals of Britain during a book-wombling expedition around local charity shops.

I was pleased to have what I knew would be a decent reference book and one to add to others in the series. Little Boots, curiously was also pleased with it. I soon learned why. Towards the back it has a section on animal footprints.

And LB reckons to have good tracking skills.

Personally I’m not so sure but, whatever the reality, it’s an unusual ability for a nine-year old to profess to have.

As for me – I’ve some tracking of my own – there’s sixth and final book – Waterlife of Britain – I must have it.



The week before last week, as the Christmas holidays petered out, I picked up, from a local charity shop, Slow Coast Home by Josie Dew.

Humorous travel books are pretty much a genre in their own right and I do own a fair number of them. Consequently I was a touch surprised not to have heard of the author, who has a number of books to her name. Even more so as she seems to be quite well known, particularly in cycling circles; certainly in the book people keep recognising her. I’m currently about a third of the way through it, although on the page Josie hasn’t got very far in her journey around the British coast.

Whilst on a visit to a wartime museum in the Channel Islands she writes of a display including some rather patronising instructions to housewives on the timings for Hay Box Cookery. Although plainly something culinary I had no idea what this actually was. But by astounding coincidence the same day that I’d read that, I bought this book, purely because of the look of it’s cover and the fact that it was in practically mint condition.


The 1958 second print of a 1953 book by Jack Cox, “Editor of Boy’s Own Paper”, Camping For All is an absolute hoot. A good deal of it reads as being very Cholmondley-Warner , but there are some things of interest, both historically and for those who like to camp in a rather more basic fashion than most do in these gadget-ridden times.

All that aside, it also told me what a hay box is and how to make one – though I don’t suppose I ever shall. Basically it’s exactly what it says – a box (made from wood) that’s filled with hay and is used to keep a lidded cooking-pot of food warm (or hot even) for an extended period. The book describes it as a 2ft box constructed from 1/2 inch pine, with a tightly fitting lid held shut by a hasp. It can be lined with felt, but must be “Lined generously with newspaper, then a nest of old hay is made” This must be old dry hay as new damp hay might spontaneously combust. “The nest is made so that a dixie or cooking pot full of hot cooked porridge or stew can be placed directly in it from the fire covered with a hay-newspaper lid and then the wooden lid is closed firmly. The food will keep hot in a good well insulated hay box for 24 hours and longer. Even used to keep supplies of hot water available during the day.”

Apparently “It is a first class method of preparing porridge overnight.” Gruugh!

It seems like hell of a thing to take on a camping trip in a decade when car ownership was far from common. I have visions of it being lashed to a luggage rack on the back of a motorcycle sidecar.

All very Wallace and Gromit.

hay box


Quite some time ago I realised that I was not going to be able to stop buying gardening books.

So, to try and at least restrict the amount of purchases, I only buy certain categories. 

One of those is books by the late Graham Stuart Thomas. 

Yesterday I picked up a copy of his Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos. 

It’s a whopper, running to nearly six hundred pages and weighing almost a kilo and a half, which is 3lb, 2oz in old money. 

Of course size isn’t always everything, but this is Graham Stuart Thomas we’re talking about added to which it was a bargain, coming in at about a pound a pound.



One of the things I love about second-hand books is their history.

Usually that takes the form of a dedication, writing in the margins, or perhaps something unusual tucked into the pages, maybe as a bookmark, or just to keep safe.

This book* I bought yesterday was clearly once tied up with a bundle of others and the sun has left the mark of the string on the cover.

For some reason I love it more than if the book was unblemished.

*It is The Biology of Fungi, Bacteria & Viruses – Greta B Stevenson for anyone who might be interested.



I’m not usually one for impulse purchases, except plants of course, but when I saw a print in a local charity shop I had to have it.

It’s titled Magnolias and is by Stanley Spencer, although I didn’t realise that until after I’d acquired it.

I bought it solely because I love it (plus it was a bargain at four quid), although I’m now wondering whether I did subconsciously recognise the artist’s style.

Whilst I do like what I’ve seen of his work, I wouldn’t call myself a fan, by any stretch of the imagination. I once went to see his work in the Sandham Memorial Chapel, near Newbury. The whole of the inside is covered with paintings depicting the conflict in Macedonia during World War One. It’s pretty amazing, and made quite an impression on me – not least of all because my great-grandfather was seriously wounded in that particular theatre of war.

But enough of sad thoughts, there’s are more pressing concern – where to hang the thing. The other half doesn’t like it, it’s quite big at 2ft square and there’s not much wallspace in the “office” (i.e. small bedroom).

That, I guess, is the sort of hazard you get with spur of the moment decisions.