Virginia Barton

29 May 2013: A good book, read on the wireless, is irresistible

29 May 2013


shutterstock_114542011 (1) (800x689)Insomnia is good for reading and vice versa. Except when you end up with the light on, the book on the floor and your specs somewhere in the bed. The wireless also does the trick for the sleepless, and it’s amazing how many gripping finales end in gentle snoring. The combo, a good book read on the wireless, is irresistible.

There’s a programme I try to catch every day while prep’ing the supper – The Four O’Clock Show. BBC Four Extra is a spoken word channel for those lucky ones with digital radio. It broadcasts mainly repeats of popular programmes from its big sister, Radio Four: favourite comedies from long ago, drama serials, quizzes and the like. The Four O’Clock Show always includes a serialised story aimed at what the BBC refers to as “younger listeners”. In my latter years I find myself in this category quite often, where I can be pretty sure I won’t be startled by the content or shocked by the language. Most of the news is horrific and I now understand why a distant cousin, long dead, never listened to a wireless, read a newspaper, or horror of horrors, watched TV in all his 86 years. Psychologists say that watching the news 24/7 is bad for you and can lead to depression. I’ll second that, the headlines are grim enough.

Where was I? Oh yes, books and radio. There’s a book I heard on The Four O’Clock Show which has stuck in my mind: Corby Flood by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, publ. by Doubleday in 2005. It’s for the 7 to 9 year olds, has a rattling good story and wonderfully quirky names. I thought I’d add it to my Kindle list but it’s unavailable as an ebook.

resourceWhat I did put on Kindle is Battle Diary by Fr. George Forbes, published by St Lawrence Papers this year. This is a moving account of a Chaplain with the army in WW2. He accompanies the guards as they fought their way from North Africa through Italy to the Austrian border. It’s gripping, often tragic stuff, an almost daily diary of a humble, supremely brave Benedictine monk, temporarily in battle dress. The book has maps and lots of photos, and the paperback edition, which I also bought, has even more. An excellent present for those old soldiers in your life.

Ruth by Mrs Gaskell was on and off my Kindle within two days. Ghastly tosh. But I’ve ploughed through North and South with, if not pleasure, exasperated interest. I never met a heroine who wept so much, quite sodden is Margaret. Cranford, on the other hand, can be read over and over again.

The mean (or shall we say thrifty?) Cumbrian streak in me practically never allows me to actually buy an ebook, it has to be exceptional, like Battle Diary. Here’s a freebie oddity I am about to start reading: Eothen by A W Kinglake, the sort of book one often hears mentioned but have never read. I thought I had read it and then discovered I was muddling it with Erewhon, which I started but didn’t finish.

Battling to cope with truly horrid Spring weather and the prospect of an equally dismal summer, those of us unable to escape to the sun must take their pleasures where they can and a book, or preferably six of them, is some compensation. And if the old eyes grow dim, turn on the wireless and find something to make you laugh. Nothing like laughter for banishing a piercing wind, chill, drizzle and cloud so thick it must obscure heaven.





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