A Boy’s War Journal

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Horses and donkeys

In days gone by, horses and donkeys were important for transport. Today in many rural settings, they can still be found performing similar functions whilst in more affluent areas, horses are a hobby and income earner through racing. They feature in fiction and non-fiction books alike. Here’s a sample of what horses featuring on covers by TSL authors:

Three books concern the Anglo-Boer or South African war on 1899-1902, two of which are non-fiction: British Military Chaplaincy and Religion in South Africa 1899-1902 and Practically Over. The third is a novel by Robberta Eaton Cheadle, A Ghost and His Gold.

Two others are children’s books – a working horse features in Towing Path Tales while The Amorous Adventures of Big Ben, a Shire horse, tells of a horse all alone in a field, his work done, finding love.

Family are the Friends you Choose is an autobiography by Marthe Kiley-Worthington who forms relationships with animals, and horses in particular, that are close to human. Ever heard of a horse in a kitchen and watching television?
Another autobiography is that by Ray Wooster, My 30’s and 40’s Childhood featuring his toy horse. Ray goes on to write about horses in his A Boy’s War Journal, a novel set in and post-World War 2 London.

Finally, John Samson’s A Donkey called Oddsock, a novel, set somewhere in Africa, tells of a donkey’s journey as he and his young master try to avoid being recruited as child soldiers.

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Ducks

Recently I was reminded of that wonderful Duck Song my husband found when our nieces were visiting quite some time back now. It made me think of other duck mentions…

Naughty little ducklings help count in On the Farm.

The Baby Cookie Monster reminds me of a duck, don’t you think?

In his war diary of 1942-1943, young Billy Palmer talks of catching duck and pheasant for food when the latter was scarce.

A slight variation on the term duck features in Tea at the Opalaco and other stories.

And of course, we have to include The Moon is Toast for all those players who went ‘out for duck’.

The image is from Twitter, 30 Dec 2016 (@leslietate) and in case you missed what it said: Anatidaephobia is the fear that somewhere in the world, there is a duck watching you.

First published 9 April 2017, updated 2024

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Ray Wooster appreciation

Ray Wooster

Ray Wooster is another of TSL’s early authors, also with a link to Harrow Writers’ Circle of which he was President when we met. Ray is also one of our authors who never typed his own stories, had a computer or engaged with social media. Ray has a very supportive family who helped with the typing and getting his texts to me.

Ray, at the time of writing this appreciation has dementia, but before this I could always rely on his quirky take on life cheering up my day. With his first royalty payment (he dealt with cheques), he gleefully told me he bought a Jaguar car – a Dinkie toy!

Ray was encouraged by his family to write his many stories down. He was a great story teller. This culminated in his trilogy since put into one book called A Boy’s War Journal. It’s essentially a what if Germany invaded London during WW2. Ray uses this scenario to set many of his own experiences of growing up in London during and after the war. Frustratingly, Ray is one of those authors who do not see a need for multiple edits of a text, not surprisingly given his school background. This put a fair bit of pressure on the editing process and although the book remains unpolished, it is a good ripping yarn – as told by Ray.
For many years, it was also one of TSL’s best sellers… Ray had a knack of getting people to buy his book without resorting to social media but he would never divulge his secret! Feedback on the book has generally been positive.

Ray’s next most popular books have been the short memoir series covering his life in the 30s and 40s, And the Baby Came Too, followed by Australia OAP Gap Year.

Less successful only in terms of sales but another good read is his Aunt Jane. Ray conceived the idea of Commuter books which we trialled – shortish stories to read on the bus or tube… he did his research first to work out demand etc, but the people he consulted, similar to himself do not purchase books in the modern way… I do recommend Aunt Jane.

Another venture was The Miller’s Boy, we ended up changing the title from Human Bondage (that’s still the title of the ebook though) as modern readers didn’t quite get the different meaning of the word ‘bondage’ – Ray’s story is historical fiction, telling the tale of a family sold into bondage to repay a debt. Another story I enjoyed reading.

Finally, there’s Michael’s Magic Motor Car – a children’s book of adventure. Another bit of fun – and a grandad features too…

If you’re after beautiful writing and prose, Ray is not the author for you. But if you’re after a good old story, well told about life in the early to mid-twentieth century, give Ray a chance.

Andrew Samson 0

Cricket

The Ashes – Cricket

I couldn’t resist. When this post was first written (June 2015) England and Australia faced each other to battle it out for the urn containing the ashes of English cricket. It has since been updated.

Cricket’s a game you either love or hate, although it seems that even within the sport there are strong opinions: you either love the 5-day test and detest 20/20 or vice versa. The one-day or limited over 50-ball game seems to be firmly in the middle, having moved up in the rankings of Test specialists. Coming to the game late, I understand those who have little time or interest in it. But there are some wonderful benefits to a day at the cricket. Think sun shine and a patch of grass to sit on (and a good book in the bag in case…).

TSL has been lucky to sign the BBC Test Match Special Cricket Statistician, Andrew Samson. With Andrew as one of our authors, we just had to feature a post on Cricket.

The most famous books concerning cricket are no doubt the Wisden‘s Cricketers Almanack. Our main interest though is novels or works of fiction, although if you’re interested in what the life of a Cricket Statistician entails, why not read Andrew Samson‘s The Moon is Toast?

Books mentioning Cricket

Prominent on the novel front is Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers (1836) and Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes (1857).

The game features on the cover of PG Wodehouse’s Mike (1909) and in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe (1982) the Ashes trophy gets stolen.

A game of cricket features in Shaka are Dead and Powerless by John Samson and a cricket cap in Ray Wooster‘s A Boy’s War Journal. Mention is made of the game in Anna Ryland‘s A Second Chance and David FerrisThe Secret Life of Creatures

Heaven’s RageLeslie Tate
Rhys’ adventures (Training a Greyhound and Urgent Pocket Money Required) – Beatrice Holloway

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Cows

For those who don’t know me, I love cows!

I think my love of cows goes back to my childhood (one of my grandfather‘s was a dairy farmer for a while) but that’s a story for another day (or couch). Cows are serene animals and their colouring and proportions just seem to fit no matter where they originate – although having said this, perusal of Beautiful Cows led to two exceptions: the Belgian Blue (disproportional) and the Charolais (too much like a sheep – another of my favourite animals).

Has anyone found the answer to this question by Bill Watterson “Who was the guy who first looked at a cow and said ‘I think I’ll drink whatever comes out of these when I squeeze ’em?” ?

Recently, I came across an article about  Cows going to Antarctica in 1933 – I wonder how they survived?

Cows and their relatives feature in numerous books. Some on my list, other than Beautiful Cows, already mentioned, include:

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young
Bringing the rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema. Although this is a Nandi tale, it has an image of a Maasai – well known for their love of cows.
A Boy’s War Journal by Ray Wooster
The Celebration Husband by Maya Alexandri
The Lake Tanganyika Expedition 1914-1917: A primary source chronology by GWAA
and various by Laurens van der Post who was a dairy farmer for some time.

And although no mention in the book, The Moon is Toast, by Andrew Samson, cow corner is a fielding position in cricket. I think the link explains why the term does not feature in the diary of a cricket statistician.

I couldn’t resist this quote by Dorothy Sayers: “Facts are like cows. If you look them in the face long enough, they generally run away”, or perhaps they just got bored!

Since first writing this post, cows have been a major part of Marthe Kiley-Worthington’s Family are the Friends you Choose

The image of the cows is from the Milk Exibition which was at the Welcome Institute, April 2023.

Have you seen?