Missing London town during lockdown: Memories of London (Edmondo De Amicis, 1873), An Excursion to the Poor Districts of London (Louis Laurent Simonin, 1862), Absolute Beginners (Colin MacInnes, 1959) and In Our Mad and Furious City (Guy Gunaratne, 2018)

Facebook threw a joyous memory my way the other day: a jaunt I made into London with an almost 7 month old Rufus in February 2018.  I took Ru to the blitzed-church-ruins-turned-into-public-garden of St Dunstan in the East, where his dad had proposed to me almost a year to the day before he was born,…

Nurture through nature: Eight Master Lessons of Nature by Gary Ferguson, Where Poppies Grow: The British Soldier, Nature, The Great War by John Lewis-Stemple, and The Invention of Clouds by Richard Hamblyn

‘We can’t go there. It’s full of drug dealers.’ Thus laboured my beloved’s worn refrain whenever I suggested we explore the mysterious woodland at the top of our road. It took a pandemic, and the dawning realisation that we had exhausted all other fruitful walks within a one-hour radius during the first lockdown, for the…

The Diary of a Georgian Shopkeeper by Thomas Turner (1754-1765)

It’s unclear why Thomas Turner (1729-1793) – shopkeeper, churchwarden and overseer to the Parish Vestry, aka a semi-Big Cheese – decided to keep a diary at the age of 25, and why he abandoned it upon marrying his second wife eleven years later. I wondered if he, in a brief 18th century equivalent (given Georgian…

What exactly does one read during a pandemic?!

I had hoped to restore a bit of humour to Bronte’s Page Turners, given my recent focus on subjects as heartening as depression and immortality, but then BOOM: along comes a pandemic like Covid-19, and like most people I am navigating an ever-present readiness to sob and howl What. The. Actual. Fudge. Yesterday evening, as…

Poems as refuge: In The Pink by The Raving Beauties (1983)

‘Poetry has become divorced from our lives. We no longer feel part of the great oral and written tradition of myths and legends in which so many things were once protected and preserved. Nothing protects us, our minds, bodies and spirits are freely raped in the age of atomic suicide. The eternal truths of language…

My sure solace: books, depression and me (#properjolly)

Last year, over the summer, I experienced a period of major depression. It hit me like a juggernaut, comprising of a familiar crash in confidence but also, less familiarly and far more worryingly, a crash in identity. I had no idea who I was anymore, and struggled to visualise myself as a meaningful human being,…

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

The End We Start From is a ‘cli-fi’ novel, set in Britain as flood waters close over London, and written from the perspective of a woman who has just given birth to her first child. Most parents will concede that the first year of parenthood is the hardest year of one’s life, its balm being…

Kurt Cobain: 25 years on

It’s hard to believe that it was twenty five years ago that I ran out of my parents’ bedroom crying melodramatically that ‘Kurt Cobain’s dead!!!’ after emergency tele-communications from a school friend on a Spring Sunday morning (oh for the days pre-internet/mobile phones, when such shattering news could be delivered so personally).  At 13, my tribute…

Armistice 2018: Beyond the Glass by Antonia White (1954)

Set in the twenties and the last in the ‘Frost in May’ series, Antonia White’s semi-autobiographical account of a young woman’s descent into madness after an intense love affair with a soldier too swiftly follows a failed marriage includes the following haunting scene appropriate for this poignant Sunday. During High Mass, requiem is being sung…

Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

I began reading Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe with low expectations. Can a woman who voluntarily renames herself Fannie Flagg be trusted to write a great work of literature? Can a book which inspires a film starring Chris O’Donnell be anything other than pure schmaltz? I won’t fannie about (sorry). Yes, Fried…

The Blunders of Our Governments by Anthony King & Ivor Crewe

A significant proportion of maternity leave involves navigating Rufus’s perilous bowel activities –  flying poos*, ‘poonamis’, and good old-fashioned leakage – and, although prompting Conradian cries of  ‘L’horreur! L’horreur!’ and constant fear of having undetected baby poo about my person, I optimistically maintain that such vicissitudes keep me limber for a return to Her Majesty’s…