The Forager’s Calendar: A Seasonal Guide to Nature’s Wild Harvests

Happy New Year! (It’s not too late to say that yet, despite being almost halfway through the first month of the year.) My first read of the year is John Wright’s book The Forager’s Calendar, a Christmas present from Mr Hicks. Last autumn, I took Mr H on a walk along our local canal to see how many of the blackberries I’d seen in their pre-ripened state during my solo summer walks we could pick for a pie. Sadly, the extreme summer heat had shrivelled most of the berries I’d seen. We gathered just enough for a pie. The flip side, though, was that in peering into the canalside hedgerows, we saw other things, including mushrooms and blackthorn. We came home with more sloes than blackberries, which we froze until we could pass them on to our friends who like gin.

As we walked, we talked about how, as children, we’d both been on family trips to forage for berries. I remember gathering wimberries (vaccinium myrtillus, also known as bilberries, whortleberries and blaeberries) on moorland around the Snake Pass between Glossop and Sheffield, and staining my fingers with their juices until I learnt not to squeeze when taking them from the plant. I loved those wimberrying trips, and the crumbles that resulted from them.

Wright opens this guide to gathering wild food and the things you can make from it with his own childhood memory of blackberrying which is very similar to mine. He also talks about something that I think about a lot, and more now than I did before the pandemic: the way in which we are losing touch with our natural selves.

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Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain

Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain is a scholarly tome from the team at the Hepworth Wakefield. Written to accompany an exhibition there in 2018, which I didn’t see, it attempts to position the photographer Lee Miller at the heart of the British surrealist movement in the 1930s and 1940s.

I can’t remember where I first encountered Miller’s photography. It was in an exhibition many years ago. I recall seeing solarised images she had made in collaboration with Man Ray alongside the photographs she took as a war correspondent during and at the end of the Second World War. I bought a postcard of her image ‘Portrait of Space’, depicting a landscape seen through a torn piece of netting with an empty picture frame hovering over the sky, because it made me think of Magritte. I was drawn by the framing and lighting of her images, that borrowed from the world of fashion she had experienced as a model and that also had a theatrical feel to them.

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Saving Lucia

When I plucked Saving Lucia from my To Read pile, I wasn’t expecting another time travelling novel that takes imagination and rethinks reality. I also wasn’t expecting such a slim book to be so dense with ideas and feelings.

The Lucia of the title of Anna Vaught’s book is the daughter of James Joyce, incarcerated in St Andrew’s Hospital for Mental Diseases in Northampton in 1953. One of her fellow residents is the Honourable Violet Gibson, daughter of a Lord Chancellor of Ireland and famous for her attempted assassination attempt on Benito Mussolini. Violet makes it the work of her last few years to save Lucia from the pain of life in a psychiatric institution.

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The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending concerns Tony Webster, retired, divorced, father of one, grandfather of two. It also concerns his school friend Adrian Finn, who died by suicide aged twenty-two. And his first girlfriend Veronica, her mum, his school friends Colin and Alex, and the ways they are connected through the past they shared.

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A Pale View of Hills

A Pale View of Hills concerns Etsuko, a Japanese woman living in England, and the story of her past in Nagasaki. It opens with a visit from her daughter, Niki, and a conversation about her older daughter, Niki’s half-sister Keiko. This conversation triggers a memory for Etsuko of when she was pregnant with Keiko and developed a friendship with a strange, independent woman living in a run down old cottage with her young daughter.

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The Good Journal Issue One

June 2018 seems such a long time ago. So much has changed, so much hasn’t. The Good Journal launched in June 2018, to build on the success of The Good Immigrant and provide British writers of colour with a showcase for their work. Unlike The Good Immigrant, issue one of The Good Journal has a mix of fiction and nonfiction. The writers are a mix, as well, of established and never published before.

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