What I read in March 2019 (Part 2)

I have not yet finished reading all the books I received at Christmas. The book I am reviewing here is one gift I have read – The Ordnance Survey Puzzle Book: Pit your wits against Britain’s greatest map makers by Ordnance Survey and Dr Gareth Moore.

This is a fascinating book. There are puzzles based on 40 maps. I have attempted all of them and failed to score 100% on any! (I didn’t spend enough time checking and double-checking my answers in some cases. In others my general knowledge was not sufficiently general.) There is history, general knowledge, cryptic clues and obviously geography and map-reading. I looked at the first puzzle with the person, who had chosen it for this keen puzzler. It is possible for two people sitting side-by-side to see the maps. Some of the questions involving counting would make an interesting activity for a grandparent and a child of junior school age, for instance.

I found some of the maps particularly interesting as they are of places I have passed through. The Whipsnade Lion is a landmark I have spotted many times from Virgin Trains West Coast line. Because it intrigued me I found out about it online. I was delighted to see it on one of the maps. The background to each map is very interesting and a history of map-making and of trig points provided me with new information. (I enjoy learning new things.)

This is a book I shall revisit and perhaps introduce to other family members. The kind of questions set in the book could be the basis of family activities using maps they may already have. I remember being introduced to Ordnance Survey maps by my father. One of the things he taught me was how to fold them! Anyhow, I have been interested in maps and puzzles from childhood. A good choice!

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What I read in March 2019 (Part 1)

I have already reviewed The Shepherd’s Life. When I took it back to the library I borrowed Lonnings and Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine.

The authors of Lonnings: A walk through Cumbria’s ancient trackways, Alan Cleaver and Lesley Park, are two of my acquaintances. This is an unusual book in that it has been hand-made (or should that be hand-crafted?) by Alan Cleaver. I read its 64 pages in a single sitting. It is well-researched, well-written and includes photos and verse, some in dialect. I intend to make a note of the locations of some of the lonnings with a view to exploring them. Some lonnings are similar to holloways. I have a post about holloways among other things.

Hand-made book with ribbon bookmark

Alan Cleaver is very entertaining on Twitter – @thelonningsguy.

By contrast Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman is fiction. It is a gripping story. I could hardly put it down and returned it to the library two days later having read it from cover to cover. There are slight similarities with other books I have read. I was reminded of Margaret Forster’s How to measure a cow and a book by Josephine Tey I read a very long time ago, possibly Miss Pym Disposes, but I am not quite sure.

The other book, which I have finished reading is Evelyn Underhill’s Prayer Book, edited by Robyn Wrigley-Carr. This was a book I failed to win on Twitter. However, when I saw a copy, it was so attractively produced that I bought it. I have been using it in my quiet times over several months. (There are 160 sections including at least one prayer.)

Book with end flaps

Although the editor has modernised some of the language, I found that much of it was still rather dated. The prayers had been collected together more than 75 years ago. There are some beautiful, familiar prayers, but the language would still be difficult for most young people. This is a book to give to an older person or for an ordinand to study. I shall return to it to find the prayers, which I knew in my youth and some which I particularly liked that were new to me.


The Shepherd’s Life 

This book is being treated to a post of its own for various reasons including the fact that it is the only library book I have finished reading in March so far.


I began following @herdyshepherd1 on Twitter a few years ago. I probably heard about his account from the magazine, Cumbria Life, where he was writing a regular column. I thoroughly enjoyed his Tweets and the associated photos. He managed to keep his identity a secret for a long time.

When this book was published it was also serialised on Radio 4. I remember listening to some of it. I have only recently laid my hands on a (hardback) copy, which I found fascinating. I had borrowed a later book The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd from the library. It complements the first book, although it can be read without having read the earlier book.

The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District is autobiographical. It is well-written and explains a lifestyle which the majority of people in towns and cities know little about. Reading it after Burning Secrets, I discovered how flocks had been built up again following the devastating outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease.

The author, James Rebanks, used his Twitter account wisely and built up a huge following before his books were published. Having followed him on Twitter I am aware of some events which happened to him (or his family) after those included in the book. It is a bit like fitting a jigsaw puzzle together.

He was the shepherd I mentioned in a poem I wrote, March.

I consider this to be a very important book and recommend it. (It won one prize and was short-listed for two others.)