Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What has Jane Austen and JK Rowling got in common? The Cotswolds.

In an earlier post I mused about where old Fleet Street photographers go after a lifetime recording the news for our breakfast table reading. Usually they follow the same passion that got them into photography in the first place. Dave Hill continues his crusade to picture the four corners of the globe and its denizens. Clive Limpkin, after years on the frontline trouble spots, crosses India to record that sub-continent for his brilliant books.

Paul Felix is another of those dedicated snappers who filled our newspapers over many years but never strayed from his first love, photographing The Cotswolds.

To celebrate his love for the area Paul has now produced a website where you can keep up with Cotswold life and experience the beauty of all its seasons.


For those outside England The Cotswolds is a range of hills in west central England, sometimes referred to as ‘the heart of England.’ It is 25 miles across and 90 miles long and is designated as ‘an area of outstanding, natural beauty.’ The name in olde Englishe means ‘sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides or a ‘wold’ and it has stunning villages with wonderful old names like Chipping Norton, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Shipston-on-Stour and Wotton-under-Edge.

It also has its share of famous names. J.K.Rowling was born at Chipping Sodbury.

Gloucester Cathedral’s atmospheric cloisters were used in the filming of her Harry Potter movies.

Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806. The historic city is reflected in her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

William Morris, one of the leaders of the 19th century Arts and Crafts Movement was greatly influenced by the Cotswold countryside. He died there at Kelmscott Manor in 1896 and the area still buzzes with artists and craftsmen to this day.

The Cotswolds abounds with medieval Castles, 16th century Manor Houses and Abbeys that survived Henry V111’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, all built from the yellow, Cotswold limestone. Oxford’s spires mark its eastern boundary line.

Paul Felix has photographed The Cotswolds life for thirty years. If you see a beautiful, pastoral scene in a book or a calendar, chances are it’s by Paul Felix and he has a huge library of pictures, old and new.

images top to bottom:

Thatched cottage in Shottery, once the home of Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway.

New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare died.

Abbey Church at Tewkesbury, reflected in the River Avon floodwater.

Yew Trees around the parish church doorway in Stow-on-the-Wold.

A field of buttercups at Broadway on a Spring day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Feeling down? You need some Chris Grimes

If, like me, you still miss the street humour of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Or the zany, mental gyrations of Spike Milligan who later morphed into the king of comedy, John Cleese. Or maybe the golden moments of Monty Python along with that brilliantly sarcastic, cynic Blackadder?

I have a cunning plan for you.

Step over and visit The First Post, Britain’s best cyber newspaper/magazine and see Chris Grimes in his latest, hilarious video short, "Knock, knock." Chris is undoubtedly in the footsteps of the masters of mirth. He describes himself here on his website thus:

“Actor, Comedy Improvisation Performer, Comedy Writer/Creative Short Film Maker, Voice-over Artist, Drama Workshop Leader and …Washing Machine Impressionist."

Yes, he plays a washing machine in a sketch on his website. He’s also Director of Wibble Films who made “Knock, knock.” No surprise then that he is a graduate of both the Central School of Speech and Drama In London and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

How many men can play Chekhov AND a washing machine! He is truly a national treasure.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My challenge during the Macmillan v Amazon wars

For all the e-book owners out there with shiny, new Sony readers or Amazon Kindles just out of the packing cases. Or iPhone Stanzas, Palm readers and plain old mini laptops, all hungry for epub fillings. You're dying to fill up those empty megabytes but are confused by the Macmillan v Amazon battle? I've set myself a little challenge suited to the financial crisis to help you get started.

I've given myself a fiver to spend and a target. I want to download 112 books for it. Easy, I hear you say. Just go to Project Gutenberg. Have you tried that?

It's an archive. It smells of dust and parchment. Half a million frayed books to wade through, with little weevils running out. That's what it feels like.

So, I hunted further with my fiver in hand.

I found Girlebooks. (not that kind of girliebooks, pervert.)

This one is run by Laura McDonald and her mum, Joyce. The website at www.girlebooks.com is a wonderful site. Laura and Joyce are dedicated to finding books written by women, mostly by plumbing the depths of Gutenberg and making them available as ebooks for free. But that's not all.

Cleverly, they find suitable paintings to convert as covers for them and they look great. They offer five or six formats for download (whatever Gutenberg offers). They are, of course, old favourite classics. Elizabeth von Arnim, Louisa May Alcott, Katherine Mansfield, etc. A great opportunity to add them to your e-reader and computer e-library. Just to dip into whenever the mood takes you. An antidote to a rainy afternoon. Or to introduce to your children when the time is right. They offer 89 of these classics.

You can salvage through Gutenberg yourself but I found it hard going. I added The Herries Chronicles by Hugh Walpole. That's Rogue Herries, Vanessa, Fortress and Judith Paris. You'll find Edgar Wallace on the same page.

That's 4 more. I added Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll for my kids and grandkids.

Next came Harlequin Books. Great offers here. It's their 60th birthday. To celebrate they are giving away 16 books to download absolutely free. How could I resist! All Detective or Romance with a big following. So, in they go.

Next, the turn of the Sci-fi brigade. Suvudu Books are offering 5 free downloads of their latest titles.

That's 110 books so far, and not a penny spent.

Then I came to ManyBooks.net run by Matthew McClintock. He has 24,461 free e-titles! It was time to stop.

In an effort to spend my fiver I went to Waterstones and downloaded The Third Pig Detective Agency for £1.

I searched on. An intriguing and, I hope legal site was cheapebookshop.com. I felt I might be slipping into one of those old naughty bookshops in Soho. Titles like Discover the 100+ Lovemaking Toys Already In Your House or An Amazing Guide to Finding A Thai Wife.

I made my excuses and turned to leave then found on offer Save Your Driving License, secrets of how to get off when the cops stop you. All about slipping out of speeding, radar guns, totting up points, etc. That seemed an investment at £2.

That's 112 ebooks for £3.

So, I have £2 left. I think I'll have a pint with that.