Next to Nature: A Lifetime in the English Countryside
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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. I got “Next to Nature” for Christmas 2022 and started reading through its monthly collections of essays in January. It is a selection of Blythe’s regular columns for the Church Times, covering many years and arranged by month.
Not that it's all hauntings, or at least not unfriendly ones; Blythe's bedroom is John Nash's old studio, and "I have lived most of my days under Gainsborough's and Constable's trees, and not figuratively; for many of them go on growing. From here, Ronald Blythe has 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.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. I think Ronald Blythe is a genius in a special, but perhaps overlooked, journalistic genre – the nature notes or country talk columns. 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. I imagined him reading them by lamplight, just as I read when I was a boy, the twin wicks faintly waving inside the Swan glass.
From here, Blythe has 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. The melancholy ever-rolling stream of Time through dark old rooms, the tilting photographs of past incumbents in damp vestries, the melting ice in dank shrubberies, the unwanted (or possibly longed for) companion catching one up in the foggy lane, and history seen as a medieval box of fun holy tricks to poke about in, these were among the experiences of January.
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. 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. The love of nature, the land, the creatures in the surrounding fields and trees meshes seamlessly with an encyclopaedic command of the back story to everything and the rhythms of the country churches. Reading this book is to be in the company of a supremely sensitive observer who has spent a lifetime seeing and scenting nature . We should be grateful to have him and his beautiful pages, and for the privilege of spending so many ordinary and yet rare and precious days in his company -- SUSAN HILL * Telegraph 5* review * A capacious book that contains multitudes .
Slightly Foxed introduces its readers to books that are no longer new and fashionable but have lasting appeal. 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.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. 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. He brings us to his local parish churches as he preaches, reads Scripture, and sings, whether the organist has shown up or not. For more details, please consult the latest information provided by Royal Mail's International Incident Bulletin.
To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. For younger bookworms – and nostalgic older ones too – there’s the Slightly Foxed Cubs series, in which we’ve reissued a number of classic nature and historical novels. We don’t share your credit card details with third-party sellers, and we don’t sell your information to others.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. However these are minor irritations and do not detract too much from what are very rich and perceptive insights.