Still Looking Back

I hope you liked last week’s book review on The Stone Book Quartet. A couple of people have said they’re interested in reading it, and I’ve already lent my copy out, so that’s a good start. At the moment I’m reading SPQR by Mary Beard. It’s a history of ancient Rome, which potentially could be quite a stuffy subject, but Mary Beard makes it come alive. She’s one of the liveliest and most engaging historians we have, and I’ll be reviewing SPQR on this blog in a few weeks.

It’s nice to see the nights getting lighter. Photographers talk of the golden hours, that  hour or so just around dawn and  sunset, when the light’s perfect for taking pictures. I’m hoping to be able to get out and make the most of this summer to get a good stock of pictures for future photo essays. I’m not sure about the dawn bit though, getting out of bed early isn’t one of my accomplishments.

Earlier this week, for one of my future photo essays, I was out along the route of the railway that ran from Malton to Driffield. The line’s been closed for 60 years now, but the old tunnel entrances and some of the line’s buildings are still standing. I think it will make a good photo essay: nature taking over where the railway used to be. My maternal grandfather was a railway man and my dad started out his working life making steam engines, so I’ve got a family attachment to the railways, as well as a sentimental one.

I might have said this before, but I can’t help getting drawn back to the past.  This Friday’s post, will be a glimpse back to the days of World War One. I’ve found some fascinating documents kept by my grandfather, Edward Fernley. They’re an interesting insight into the war, both for combatants and civilians. I’m lucky that these papers have survived, it’s not always the case. For example I know that my maternal grandfather, Wilfred Bradley, served in the navy, but unearthing his story will be a harder task. But it’s one that I’m determined to see through to the end.

I hope you enjoy this week’s post on on Friday, until then take care.



3 Responses

  1. John M says:

    I like Mary Beard. I’ve not read her stuff, Unfortunately I seem to have a shortage of time in my hectic life, and when I do get a moment, I am found either particularly lazy or on the lash with you; or both.

    I have watched her on the telly and love her passionate take on history.

    I recall being appalled when Adrian Anthony (A. A.) Gill made disparaging and misogynistic remarks about her in a review of her TV series “Meet The Romans” in 2012.

    I’ll not speak too ill of him as he died last December (2016), but suffice to say, he made no reference to content and focused solely on Mary’s appearance, despite being no oil painting himself. Seemed a bit vacuous to me. Her response to his quite shocking sexism cloaked as wit was peach.

    She said… “What an odious little twit!… It seems a straight case of pandering to the bloke-ish culture that loves to decry clever women, especially ones who don’t succumb to the masochism of Botox and have no interest in dying their hair… Throughout history there had been men like Gill who are frightened of smart women who speak their minds”. She went on to say she felt happy enough in her own skin not to bother with hair dye and make-up, and admitted to having “big, tombstone teeth” and an “uncompromising double chin”.

    “I’m every inch the 57-year-old wife, mum and academic, half-proud of her wrinkles, her crow’s feet, even her hunched shoulders from all those misspent years poring over a library desk.” She pointed out that Socrates looked “a mess” but had “something valuable to impart”.

    “I’m nowhere near the towering intellect of Socrates, but at a lower level that analogy could apply to me.”

    Hear-hear to that!

    Of course, None of Mr Gill’s petty, schoolboy-bully, name-calling (oh, I said I wouldn’t speak ill of him didn’t I…) detracts from her erudite and enthusiastic delivery of a wealth of fascinating historical revelations. An hour with Mary on the box is always a well spent hour indeed.

    Perhaps I should have a closer shuftie at her written work as well; when I get time.


    • Dave Fernley says:

      You’re right about AA Gill’s view on her, and her response was spot on. We need more broadcasters and writers like Mary Beard. What she’s great at is making ancient history relevant. I’m sorry our lashedness prevents you from reading. Perhaps the next time we get together we ought to drop the drinking part. Earl Grey and improving books?

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