How the Blog Works

How the blog works

The most recent entries or "posts" appear at the top. To find older ones, scroll down. On the right at the bottom of the page are links to older posts, which you can click on to find material posted last year, last month, etc.

Contributions are welcome and can be e-mailed to me at . Content can include 1) announcements about, or introductions to, forthcoming meetings and other events of possible interest to members. 2) Summaries of talks given at Literary Society meetings or at meetings of the Book Group. 3) Announcements of forthcoming TV or radio programmes of possible interest to readers. 4) Reviews of books read recently or in the past.

Ideally, contributions should be submitted as documents in Word format (.doc or .docx files) and pictures in the form of .jpg files but other formats, including .pdf files are acceptable.

Links can be included to give easy access to relevant material on the internet.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

"educated" by Tara Westover - a brief review

This autobiography, published last year, is very well written and I found it inspiring reading. It questions the importance of early education and up-bringing in achieving academic success. The author was born in Idaho in 1986. Her family lived in a rural area, and was dominated by her father, who was a fundamentalist Mormon with extreme ideas, even by his Mormon neighbours’ standards. Tara’s mother, also a Mormon, was a community midwife and herbalist. The state was so distrusted that the Westover children had no formal education. Conventional medical care, even for serious injuries, was shunned and Tara’s birth was not registered. Needless to say, the children were not vaccinated. Father made his living as a scrap metal dealer and builder of barns etc. He hoarded food and ammunition in anticipation of the imminent “End of Days”. In spite of this unpromising environment, and the abuse she experienced, Tara managed to educate herself, and to her credit, and that of a few academics who were open-minded enough to discount her unconventional upbringing, she got herself to Brigham Young University, enabling her to embark on an astonishingly successful academic career.

Lawrence Youlten

Facebook, a mature interpretation

With acknowledgements to Slightly Foxed and thanks to Richard Thomas for drawing this to my attention)

‘For those of my generation who do not, and cannot, comprehend why Facebook exists: I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles. Therefore, every day I walk down the street and tell passers-by what I have eaten. how I feel. at the moment, what I have done the night before, what I will do later and with whom. I give them pictures of my family, my dog and of me gardening, taking things apart in the garage, watering the lawn, standing in front of landmarks, driving around town, having lunch, and doing what anybody and everybody does every day. l also listen to their conversations. Give them “thumbs-up” and tell them I “like” them. And it works just like Facebook. 1 already have four people following me: two police officers, a private investigator and a psychiatrist.'

Janet Morgan

Friday, 3 May 2019

April 2019 meeting

Many thanks to Cindi Cogswell for this account of our last meeting:

 Bird Talk: The guest speaker at the Literary Society’s meeting on 26 April was RSPB member and ornithologist Charles Martin.   A retired grammar school headmaster Charles had gone from overseeing the conduct of large numbers of pupils in his time, to observing the assorted behaviours of many species of birds.  His enthusiasm for studying the characteristics of birds combined with his knowledge as an English teacher led to an interest in the language and folklore of birds which was the subject of his illustrated talk.   During the Anglo Saxon and Norman periods, most people were farmworkers and spoke old/middle English.  They were also illiterate and gave names to birds according to their own observations which were passed down and adapted through the oral tradition.   For example, there were several words for the kestrel which described its manner of hovering over its prey and beating its wings rapidly for about 30 seconds if there was little wind.  These names included wind hover, hover hawk, wind fanner and standgale.   Another bird that captured the imagination was the yellowhammer.  Its folk name is the “scribble-lark” because its eggs look ink marked and scribbled on.   Other names for the lapwing, suggesting its wavering flight are lap wink, also hleapan meaning to leap and hoopoe due to its shrill cries of alarm.  There are several vernacular names for the peewit such as teewhup, chewit and toppyup which sound like sweet treats.  In Devon they’re known as hornywinks for their beautiful plumage and memorable call.   The common whitethroat, known in Scotland as whishey whey beard is the warbler with its chirruping sound that forms part of the dawn chorus.  There is also the sparrow known as spadge or groundbird which was the most widespread of birds but in recent years’ numbers have diminished possible due to a decline in insects which the fledglings like to eat.  The wood thrush is known as the swamp angel, the woodpecker has been called hewhole and the magpie enjoys the titles maggoty-pie and chatternag representing both joy and trickery. Although the robin can be aggressive and territorial folk tradition presents it as a holy bird.  The red breast was considered to be a blood stain obtained when it tried to help Jesus on the cross pull out his crown of thorns.  Ravens appear in classical mythology as messengers and are currently playing this role in Game of Thrones.  They are also symbols of good fortune as well as harbingers of doom with their pitch black plumage, grating sounds and shrieks.  For Lady Macbeth the raven symbolized death while the wren ‘the most diminutive of birds’ who is Lady MacDuff would fight alone to defend her family from the owl which represented Macbeth.  Corbin from Old French means raven and Charles read aloud the gruesome 15th century Scottish Ballad called “The Twa Corbies” (2 ravens) who enjoyed the carrion from a newly slain knight.   For Elijah (1 Kings 17) after rebuking King Ahab he was directed by God to hide himself. God then commanded the meanest of creatures, the ravens to feed Elijah which they did with bread and meat for over a year.   Another bird the cuckoo which heralds the start of spring appeared to be silent this year.  Perhaps there are fewer of them.  “Gowk” is an old name for the cuckoo in northern England and comes from the harsh sound the bird makes when happy.   Around September they migrate to Asia and Africa and the young follow after their parents and are able to track them down as if they had inbuilt sat-navs.   Shakespeare refers to the cuckoo’s connection with spring and with cuckoldry in the courtship song from Love’s Labour’s Lost.  Bird migration was little understood throughout history and when birds disappeared many people thought they had flown to the moon or had hidden in mud banks for the winter.   The Greek name Apodidae, meaning footless refers to the small, weak legs of birds such as the swift who can fly as high as 10,000ft as though spiraling to the stars.  Through the Middle Ages swifts were portrayed without feet and like the martlet were used in English heraldry.  As late as the 20th century observers did not understand that these birds simply migrated away for the winter.  Recently Charles had the privilege of witnessing migration in action when swallows flew over while he was walking in the Austrian Alps.  The turtle dove which dates back to Job in the Old Testament has no link with turtles but named itself through its humming “tur tur” song.  It migrates to Africa in the winter but numbers have declined greatly since 1995.  Apart from the loss of habitat one main reason is that huge numbers are shot as they pass through France, Spain and Morocco and also when they reach Senegal.  The Wildlife Trust helps protect our wildlife but an agency like this is also needed in other parts of the world.   During his interesting talk Charles gave a panoramic view of the highs and lows of different birds which was an encouragement to the listeners to want to discover more about our twittering, feathered friends.