Book Review: A Lake District Christmas compiled by Alan Cleaver

I bought A Lake District Christmas as a Christmas present for hubby. Cheekily I began reading it before he did, but he finished reading it first!

We both enjoyed the varied content including snippets from newspapers compiled from the local archives as well as extracts from the writings of famous Cumbrian residents.

I was particularly impressed by the writing skills of Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, a gentleman remembered in connection with the founding of the National Trust. Here he described ice-skating at daybreak.

While most of the content is from times past there is also a recipe for snow pancakes, provided by a living person. She gave a demonstration, which was broadcast on BBC Radio Cumbria before Christmas.

The book is a well-designed hardback. Its cover bears the words: A Lake District Christmas Tales and Traditions of Cumbrian Yuletides Past. It is published by Inspired by Lakeland.

Fashions in handwriting

This post is a change from a book review. I have not been spending as much time reading recently, because I have embarked on a voyage of discovery. From the comfort of my home I can explore the past. Have you guessed? I am researching the family history of various branches, particularly my mother’s maternal line and both lines of my mother-in-law. I have made more progress with the latter as people had more varied and less usual names.

I like to look at the original transcriptions of census records. Enumerators copied the information from the forms filled in by heads of households. Some of the writing is almost indecipherable. Typed transcriptions are available. Often some of the details have been omitted or incorrectly transcribed.

A contents page fom a school project on the history of books
An example of my earlier handwriting. Notice how upper case T and I were written.

At school I was taught cursive writing. I didn’t find it easy to write neatly using this style. I held my pen too tightly and tried to write too quickly. In my teens I changed to italic script. However, many of the records are written in the style I was taught. Some capital letters are quite different from most of the fonts we are familiar with today.

An older style of writing was copperplate. It is a very even form of joined-up writing. Many historical documents were written in copperplate.

I have managed to deduce what some of the indecipherable words were by looking at census records for the same families at different times. What I jotted down as ‘Renul Maker’ turned out to be Pencil Maker. Pencil-making was an important industry in the Lake District. There is a pencil museum in Keswick, where the history of he local industry is presented.

But back to fashions in handwriting. By the time my children were learning to write, the style chosen was much rounder than earlier generations had been taught.

Styles of handwriting are also different from one country to another. In the past I used to correspond with pen-friends in France and Germany. Their style of writing was different from that taught in English schools. Where our n and m had arches theirs had gullies like our u.

How were you taught to write? Do you still use the same style of writing?

Book review: An Engagement with Nature by Jacob McAtear

Photo of An Engagement with Nature by Jacob McAtear
Photo of An Engagement with Nature by Jacob McAtear

An Engagement with Nature by Jacob McAtear has the description ‘Short Nature Writing Stories about Landscape, Wildlife and Animal Encounters in the English Lake District – Ideal for Bedtime Relaxation, Meditation and Mindfulness’ on the cover. Inside the subtitle is Nurture your Mind.

I won this well-produced paperback book in a Twitter competition. Jacob McAtear’s description of a particular British bird had to be connected with the correct species. I have to admit that I worked my way through a bird-spotter’s guide to find the one that matched the detailed description!

My first impression of An Engagement with Nature was good and only improved when I opened it and found a quotation from William Wordsworth, and the author’s black and white photos introducing each short chapter.

While the book is recommended for bedtime reading, I read it at almost any time of day except bedtime. Vivid pictures are painted in words of the author’s walks through the Lake District landscape. The sights and sounds and, in just one case that I noticed, the smells are described.

I have not walked in all the areas of the Lake District included in this book, but the descriptions took me in my imagination through diverse countryside. I was reminded of my own ascents of Scafell longer ago than I care to say.

The vocabulary used sent me to a dictionary several times. Had I been reading this at bedtime, not knowing what a word meant might have kept me awake! The Cumbrian usage of clag meaning mist is not explained. The word means mud elsewhere in the country.

Birds, a spider and red squirrels are some of the creatures encountered on the walks. Jacob McAtear has studied the habits of these creatures and obviously has the patience to observe them carefully. Readers, who are interested in walking in the Lake District, and those who have enjoyed country walks in the past, will find interesting information in this book.

An Engagement with Nature by Jacob McAtear is available from Amazon as a paperback or Kindle edition, having been published using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).