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Saturday, 1st October, 2005

Sheila Wright's new book "Drinkstone School and Village: A Suffolk History" which we are publishing under our Greenridges Press imprint is now printed. The book will be launched on Sunday 6th November, between 2.30 and 5pm in the Memorial Hall at Drinkstone, near Bury St. Edmunds. All welcome!

Whilst on the subject of launches "Tales of the Cut" by Carl Leckey MBE, a former Port of Liverpool tugman and British Waterways lock-keeper, will be launched on Friday, November 4th at the Salt Museum, London Road, Northwich at 7 pm. Please contact us if you would like an invitation to the event.

"Kingsthorpe - A royal manor explored" by Tony Horner, about a village on the outskirts of Northampton will be launched on November 12th at 12 noon in St Aidan's Church meeting room. The church is in Manor Road, next to Thornby Drive, Kingsthorpe. Again please contact us if you would like an invitation to the event.

While we have been in France this summer Anne staged another exhibition of old photographs of the commune. The book we produced of the photos in last year's exhibition was very well received and this year we were lent over 300 photos, some video and the school records from the 1860s onwards. Because of the success of last year's exhibition this year's had a higher profile with an advance private viewing for the "great and the good" - from the Député downwards - accompanied by bubbly and nibbles.
A busy period at the Expo
A busy period at the Expo.

Some detailed study going on
Some detailed study and debate going on
The exhibition was on for 6 days and rarely closed at the official closing time, due to the interest expressed and the time visitors spent looking at the material and naming people in the photos.

We have become founder members of a local group dedicated to researching and recording the history of the commune. In July Anne joined the learned Société des Sciences Naturelles, Archaeologiques et Historiques de la Creuse (founded in 1832) whose archives in Guéret contain 20,000 fascinating items and we have been going over on Wednesday afternoons to do some research. Our area is steeped in history and is particularly rich in gallo-roman remains - there is even a theory that a Roman road went right through our garden - and we want to do our bit to get this recorded.

We have had several lots of visitors over the summer, both human and animal. For the latter group we would note a new Bull by the Back Door who came with his wives and children. We do like the local custom of having complete families of cattle. They were followed by the horses, who are favourite animals of ours. They are very friendly but also very big - we estimate at least 15.2 - so you have to be careful. The foal was pleased to come for a chat and even when they moved to another field would come when called. She is growing rapidly and is going to be heavy, when she canters across to greet you the ground shakes!
A new bull by the back door
A new Bull by the Back Door

Three horses and the foal
The horses and female foal.
It has been generally hot and dry this summer and so feed and water has been in short supply and hay was having to be fed in early September. In keeping with village tradition that it has never dried up our lavoir continued to overflow. One local lake nearly dried up completely and we counted eight herons standing in it taking advantage of the very restricted space left to the fish.

Tuesday, 12th July, 2005

We were very sorry to hear from her daughter, Alison Lord, that Kath Lord has died at the age of 91. Kath's heart condition worsened soon after her birthday in April, and following a number of weeks in hospital, she died yesterday morning. Following a stroke many years ago Kath lost the power of speech and we hoped that the publication of her book "Pinafore Street" in a small way meant she could speak again. It was a pleasure for us to produce her book and we will miss seeing her when we call in on our trips over to Spalding.

Monday, 6th June, 2005

It is with great sadness that we have to record the deaths of two of our authors, Nellie Osborne and Austin Hughes, in the last week. Elizabeth Ellen "Nellie" Osborne, author of "Nellie's Story" and a contributor to "Mid-Cheshire Memories" died last Monday after finally losing her courageous fight against leukaemia which had lasted many years.
Austin Hughes, author of "Diesel Taff", was taken ill a couple of weeks ago and died in hospital in Crewe where he has lived for many years. He, too, had been in failing health in recent times.
It is ironic that their books were launched within a few days of each other in April 2000 and they have died within a few days of each other. We know that they both got a great deal of pleasure out of their books being published. We have always regarded them as our friends and it has been a privilege to have known them both. We will miss them very much and extend our condolences to their spouses and families.

Sunday, 29th May, 2005

The launch of Roy Clinging's book, "Cheshire Folk Songs & associated traditions" went very well this afternoon. It was held in the large function room of The Olive Tree public house, at Kelsall, as part of the annual Chester Folk Festival. The field next door was the setting for the main marquee and a craft fair, and was crammed with the caravans and tents of those camping overnight. Other places in the village were also being used as venues. The whole site was thronged with people enjoying themselves and there was a really good atmosphere.

The launch event started at 4pm and those present started to queue immediately for their books, which complicated things slightly as the 'sales bit' was supposed to come at the end! Nothing daunted, to the sound of the piano music of the accompanying practise-audition CD, Roy signed all the required books and chatted to the purchasers. Then he went on to perform some of the songs featured in the work, and also talked about their origins. Jack and Anne then added their short speeches about Léonie Press and the story behind the publication of the book.

Musician Andrew Nixon of Hartford was there with his family and both Roy and Anne thanked him for his work transposing the handwritten music for the songs into print, and for producing the practise-audition CD, which is designed for folk singers who prefer to learn their music by ear.

Roy Clinging signing a book for Ken Bazley
Roy Clinging signing a book for Ken Bazley.

The Witchmen Morris Dancers at the Chester Folk Festival
The Witchmen Morris Dancers at the Chester Folk Festival

It was particularly nice to see Ken and Gaynor Bazley there (of "Tales from a Sporting Life" fame) through whom we had met Roy Clinging in the first place, and Tom and Sue Hughes. Tom is education officer at The Salt Museum and is always enormously helpful to us with our local history books. Our next launch will be Carl Leckey's book "Tales of the Cut" at the Salt Museum on Friday, November 4th at 7 pm. Sue is museum and education manager at the Grosvenor Museum in Chester. They both once worked at Prescot Museum, where we got to know them via "Tales from a Sporting Life". Small world.

Afterwards we watched some morris dancing and were particularly struck by the famous 'Witchmen' with their hypnotic music, blacked-up faces, black and amber jackets, and pheasant feathers in their black top hats, who represent the testosterone-fuelled world of "pagan" morris! Anne looked them up on the internet later and they have a superb website www.witchmen.com (well worth a visit). The middle-aged men, with their grey beards and black skin, looked almost aboriginal and their throbbing music went back to the dawn of time.
The Witchmen Morris Dancers
The Witchmen Morris Dancers attract a good crowd for their performance on the Olive Tree car park.

Thursday, 26th May, 2005

We have just collected the copies of Roy Clinging's book "Cheshire Folk Songs & associated traditions" from the printers in St Helens and are getting ready for the launch on Sunday at the Chester Folk Festival.

We returned last week from as nine-week stay at our home in France where, in addition to working on books by Roy and Carl Leckey, we also managed to get a lot of DIY done. We took up the rotten oak floorboards in our old atelier (a 27ft x 13ft room on the ground floor that was designed as a salon in 1880 but never used as such) and found a very old stone floor underneath. This had been broken up by the 19C carpenters who had put down joists for the floorboards on top of it. We took off the trapdoor leading to the cellar and Jack isolated the entrance with shuttering. Then, after the arrival of three strong male engineering friends from England, we had three and a half cubic metres of readymix concrete delivered to create a new floor. The friends then got interested in renovating our derelict donkey-stable. This involved taking off the roof to gain access to the caved-in loft, dropping the remains of the loft onto the ground and removing all the materials, then putting on a new roof using the original old tiles and 600 matching old tiles which we bought from a builder friend nearby. When 'the chaps' had to go before the job was completed, it was finished off with the help of our dear friend Craquette, who used to be a professional roofer. Now we have the most glamorous and possibly over-engineered donkey shed in the Creuse. (Readers who remember the "Three Greybeards" from "The Bells of St Paradis" will have met two of our friends, the other one also has a grey beard – and is a folk musician...)
Grey beards on the donkey stable roof
Three visiting grey beards on the donkey stable roof...

The Finished Donkey Stable
and finally, a stable fit for the Queen of the Donkeys!
Sunday, 20th March, 2005

"En Gard" by Alistair Scott and Sandy Thompson, and "Keeping the Dream Alive" by Jan Bevan were launched yesterday. We attended the "do" for "En Gard" at Crescent Arts, The Crescent, Scarborough, which was a very interesting setting in the basement of Scarborough Art Gallery. In adjacent rooms were fantastic works of conceptual art by Sabine Jeanne Bieli inspired by thread on the loom (the exhibition is on until 23rd April) and in the room where the actual launch was held there was an enormous cast iron kitchen range and a printing press built in 1843 and still in use. We thought that it is very unlikely that any of our current equipment will be usable in 160 years!

We were made very welcome by the artists who run the place and would like to thank them for their assistance – they are doing a very good job in a most unusual building. It had been built as a posh house in Regency times by a solicitor and property developer who had been behind the construction of the whole elegant crescent. Radio York have studios next door, so we were pleased to be visited by one of their senior journalists, who interviewed the authors. She has promised to let us know when the piece will be broadcast.
Alistair and Sandy signing books
Alistair and Sandy signing books

Crescent Arts, Scarborough
Crescent Arts, the location for the launch of En Gard
The launch was very well attended and we sold lots of books. Alistair, Sandy and their family provided a superb spread, with one eye on providing a quick lunch for colleagues from the local B&Q where they have been working over the winter. The person who had travelled the longest distance was Lisette, who has had a house in the village where the book is set for more than 30 years, and who lives in Switzerland. She had just had a hip replacement operation and had discharged herself from hospital – against doctor's orders – in order to attend. You can read about her in one of the chapters of "En Gard", which describes her legendary tomato salad.

Jan Bevan's launch went equally well at the France Shop at Canterbury, where people came from all over the country to support her. The book is due to be featured in the local press and she hopes to go on BBC Radio Kent shortly. Caroline at France (Canterbury) stocks all our Francophile books and a large range of other books, maps and items of interest to the Francophile.

Monday, 7th March, 2005

We have just come back from a wonderful fortnight's stay in Southern California with our son Alex and his wife Michelle, who are living there for a year or so. Things have been frantic since we launched our two French books, "19" and "Mathilde" late last year. We have been desperately busy doing "En Gard" by Alistair Scott and Sandy Thompson, "Keeping the Dream Alive" by Jan Bevan and "Souvenirs de St Dizier la Tour", which should all be ready this week. We have had them printed by a firm in London after nearly nine years of doing all our printing ourselves. This means that we don't have to spend large amounts of money on buying more printing equipment to keep up to date with all the latest technical developments and also that we can order reprints while we are in France.

The first two books will be launched on Saturday, March 19th. If you would like to come to the launches, "En Gard" will have its send-off at Crescent Arts, The Crescent, Scarborough, from 2-4pm, and "Keeping the Dream Alive" at the France Shop, 29-30 Palace Street, Canterbury, during the morning. The St Dizier book will go on sale in France when the local mayor decrees a suitable date!

We have also been decorating the house – which has been crying out for some TLC for years while we have been doing up the house in France, Jack's late mother's house next door, our son Alex's two houses in Cheshire and Anne's auntie's house in Lincolnshire... We just didn't have the heart to start again at 13 Vale Road but things were getting very shabby. Now we have very posh Zenith Staybrite double-glazing at the front and "made-over" rooms inside.

Our next project is Roy Clinging's "Cheshire Folk Songs and associated traditions", which will be launched at the Chester Folk Festival on May 29. Our neigbour Andrew Nixon, a professional musician, has transcribed the music which will go with each song. Roy Clinging is a fulltime performer who sings and plays the concertina and guitar. He is wellknown on the folk scene and has produced two CDs. He has his own pages that you can visit on www.folkmusic.net/royclinging

After this in November we will be launching "Kingsthorpe: A royal manor explored" by Tony Horner and "Tales from the Cut" by former tugman and lock-keeper Carl Leckey, whose previous book "The Angels of Mons", about soldiering in the First World War, was published in New Zealand.

Anne has decided that she will have a sabbatical next year and only produce her own work.

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