Next to Nature: A Lifetime in the English Countryside

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Next to Nature: A Lifetime in the English Countryside

Next to Nature: A Lifetime in the English Countryside

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Still, he seems to have been regarded with enormous fondness, each month introduced by a famous friend of 'Ronnie', ranging from Rob Macfarlane through Rowan Williams to Maggi Hambling. To become a subscriber to Slightly Foxed: The Real Reader’s Quarterly Magazine, please visit our subscriptions page. A nature diary, a reflection on changing rural life over the period from the Second World War, and a commentary on a deeply dedicated man of the church. From here, Blythe spent almost half a century observing the slow turn of the agricultural year, the church year and village life in a series of rich, lyrical rural diaries. Beginning with the arrival of snow on New Year’s Day and ending with Christmas carols sung in the village church, Next to Nature invites us to witness a simple life richly lived.

I cannot fault the quality of the writing, but the endless references to the Bible, sermons and church life generally, although they may form a huge part of Blythe's life today, have very little to do with the dramatic change we have seen in the countryside, even since Akenfield. All the charm, wonder, eccentricity and vigour of country life is here in these pages, and told with such engaging directness, detail and colour . Blythe's observations of nature are as unforced as breathing, and his descriptions are precise, celebratory and unexpected .

And thus does Ronnie himself become the same as his beloved George Herbert and Thomas Hardy: a companion through the tragedy and beauty of human life and a witness to a world charged with the grandeur of God.

This was a 2022 Christmas present, signed by the centenarian author, now no longer with us, alas, having died in January of this year. I would not normally select anything with a religious theme but this warm and transparently kind man reminds me of chapel in my Dales upbringing. The Hogarth Press where I’m working, is in the heart of the literary world, with authors coming in all the time. To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average.

Beginning with the arrival of snow on New Year's Day and ending with Christmas carols sung in the village church, Next to Nature invites us to witness a simple life richly lived. he lives with a deep, authentic sense of wonder * TLS * Some of the most beautiful and precise prose in modern English . I was rather taken in by a glowing review in The Guardian by Patrick Barkham, whom I rate very highly, and the involvement of Richard Mabey. I started this in March, and was playing catch-up until October, but really it would have worked much better read month by month; it's only a shame that there isn't quite an entry per day.

Better to have this in hard copy and flip open to some pages every now and then throughout the year. The structure is perfect, compiling Blythe's columns from the Church Times by date, but not by year, so that we read through the circular time of the natural and ecclesiastical year, without altogether knowing where we are in a linear time that seems far less significant out in this little patch of the old rural England, where any self-respecting village needs something to hang dreadful stories on; Borley Rectory was just down the road, and "This was a Mabey walk to rival his walk with me to Wormingford Mere where, although I don't like to boast, we have a dragon. Shortly after the end of the Second World War, the Royal Society of Literature took out a long lease on a white stucco Bayswater house, formerly the home of General Sir Ian Hamilton, leader of the. John Clare covertly reading in a field crops up more than once, as also Jesus' epitaph for John the Baptist; a little repetition is perhaps inevitable given the structure of the book, though I suspect not solely because of that, given Blythe's occasional admission of parishioners catching him out.Poignantly, he turned 100 in November 2022 and died just two months later, so this book and my careful reading of it through the year are both tributes to his long and faithful life, much of it lived in an old farmhouse in Suffolk. The 103 third parties who use cookies on this service do so for their purposes of displaying and measuring personalized ads, generating audience insights, and developing and improving products. These times are so worrying with such terrible suffering and poverty,we pray and hope for better times but this book is a wonderful read. This book was with me for most of the year that's passed, and I know I'm going to miss those safe and reassuring words of his which may be worth a revisit sometime.

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