Tag Archives: books

Walking the Heath

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Message from Neil Rhind:

Dear Buglers

Sorry to do a little self-promotion but Roger Marshall and I thought your followers would like to know that our Walking the Heath book is now published. There was a delay but that is all over now and copies (£7.50) can be had from the Blackheath Society , 10 Blackheath Village, SE3 9LE, or the usual outlets. Also this Saturday 21 December, from 11am to 1pm at the Age Exchange shop. Members of the Society or those who join on the spot can get a copy (only one, mind you) for a Fiver. For those slightly fed up with Rhind on Blackheath history topics might like to know they can rest until mid summer when Volume III of the Blackheath serial should be available.

It’s also in The Bookshop on the Heath (see photo).

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Bookshop on the Heath selling up

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Massively sad to hear that yet another independent shop in the village is selling up. The Bookshop on the Heath is a fantastic place. I really hope they find a buyer to continue the shop as a going concern.

Their press release is below. If anyone has any good examples of how local communities have managed to stem the exit of local businesses from their high streets, please place them in the comments.

Richard and Jasmine Platt, founding owners of the Bookshop on the Heath Ltd in Blackheath, South East London, have announced that they are selling the business in order to pursue other interests in the leisure industry.
During the past ten years, the business has won awards for excellent customer service and it has been independently rated as one of the country’s finest bookshops. From day one, it has posted excellent year-on-year profits.
There has been a bookshop in this location since 1949, making it one of the longest continually running bookshops in South London. The bookshop has become a real fixture in Blackheath Village and it has generated a tremendous local goodwill. More recently it was the setting for part of an episode of the BBC1 drama “Spooks”.
Richard says, “After a very happy and successful ten years here, we feel that the time has come for us to step back and pass on the legacy and reputation of the business to someone else. We hope that they can now also realise their dream like I did ten years ago by taking over and further developing a super little shop in a marvellous trading position. It would be lovely to think that the long tradition of bookselling could be continued by someone who shares our passion for offering fine books, maps & posters with friendly, personal service. Trade has been exceptionally good and there is also the opportunity for the new owner to develop web sales and sales of new books (children’s in particular) – areas which we have barely touched upon.”
The bookshop continues to open every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and by appointment at all other times. If you are searching for a quantity of specific quality stock or you are interested in buying the whole of this successful and profitable turn-key business, please contact Richard Platt for more details on 01526 352267 or email richard@bookshopontheheath.co.uk

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Turkey coming and going

The Bookshop on the Heath has interesting books about Turkey in its windows. Never read The Eunuch of Stamboul, but according to this blog post, looks like an entertaining read. Apparently it was also made into a film in 1936, which can be viewed for free at the BFI’s Mediatheque.

The Eunuch of Stamboul by Dennis Wheatley in the window of The Bookshop on the Heath

Book about Turkey in the Bookshop on the Heath's window

Speaking of Turkey, Blackheath’s dabbling with Turkish food has come to a close. Not a huge surprise given some of the competition nearby. It was never a great place, as many of the reviews here have mentioned. Will Cote be any better?

Fistik about to become Cote

Cote coming soon

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Books about Blackheath

Here are a few suggestions for books that are either about or inspired by the local area. For each one that you buy, I get a few pennies from Amazon that might go towards a lump of coal for Mrs Bugle…

Seriously though, please go and check The Bookshop on the Heath for these books first – the links below should be a last resort! If there are others books that I don’t know about, drop me a note in the comments, and I’ll add them to the list.

All the Neil Rhind books
The Heath by Neil Rhind
They’re the best source of historical information about Blackheath bar none. There are 2 large volumes – Blackheath Village and Environs Volume 1 covers the village and Blackheath Vale. Volume Two is almost impossible to find cheaply as it is out of print. I found it in Blackheath’s Cancer Research shop for a few pounds, but this was a miraculous discovery – it’s usually £50 or so.

There’s also a third volume, called The Heath, which unfortunately I don’t possess (yet).

Fiction

The Blackheath Seance Parlour by Alan Williams

A new addition in 2013 is The Blackheath Seance Parlour by Alan Williams. It’s a great spooky tale about two sisters in Victorian Blackheath, who decide to open a seance parlour. Highly recommended, read my full review here.

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

In terms of books inspired by Blackheath, the one that springs to mind was published a couple of years ago – A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff is pretty much exactly how it looks… Easy to read, fun, and primarily aimed at a female audience. Here’s my review of it from 2009.

Nathaniel Hawthorne - Our Old Home

Going back into time, and Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a series of sketches about living as an American in England. Called Our Old Home, it contains reminiscences of his time living in Blackheath. His novel The Scarlet Letter (although not about Blackheath) was the inspiration for the (very funny) movie Easy A from last year.

Charles Dickens makes passing mention of Blackheath in Our Mutual Friend, and also in David Copperfield, as mentioned previously on the blog.

UPDATE:
The Most Intimate Place by Rosemary Furber - a thriller set in Blackheath
The Most Intimate Place by Rosemary Furber is a thriller set in Blackheath. Looks great, and gets excellent reviews. I might try it over Christmas! Thanks to @helstweets for suggesting it.

EVEN MORE!
Some excellent suggestions from The Greenwich Phantom:
Blackheath Poisonings on DVD
Blackheath Poisonings on DVD

Greenwich and Blackheath Past by Felix Barker
Greenwich and Blackheath Past by Felix Barker

The History of Lee by F H Hart
The History of Lee by F H Hart

The Dead of Summer by Camilla Way
The Dead of Summer by Camilla Way sounds like a chilling read, set in the tunnels beneath Greenwich Park – see the Phantom’s review from 2007.

And Jennifer’s suggestion from the comments below:
A couple of duffers go to war by Geoffrey Lee Williams
A couple of duffers go to war by Geoffrey Lee Williams

Another one from a commenter:
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Stuart Weatherby
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Stuart Weatherby – set mostly in Blackheath, it’s a nice (fictional) read by a local author.

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Childrens books scattered across the library


Taken by twitter user gwithiansunset
By the way, if you’d like to stop nasty Mr Pickles from turning our empty Nationwide into a betting shop, you’d best click this link.

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James Abbott’s book

Image from Narrative of a journey from Heraut to Khiva, Moscow, and St. Petersburgh, Volume 1. by Sir James Abbott
From Google Books, the complete volume 1 of James Abbott’s book (he of the previous post): Narrative of a journey from Heraut to Khiva, Moscow, and St. Petersburgh, Volume 1.

PDF PDF Version here. Image above from the book scan (book is from 1843, so is out of copyright).

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Thomas Noble’s Blackheath poetry book

A wonderful find on eBay (starting bids at £200), this 1808 poetry book about Blackheath.

Thanks to the wonder of the internet, you can look through its dusty pages for nothing, by going to this Internet Archive page. They have a great PDF version – complete with pen and ink illustrations, or the text only version (with dubious character recognition) is here.

Blackheath illustration from Thomas Noble's "Blackheath"poem

The illustrations are brilliant, as are the footnotes – little pieces of local history, like this one (page 40):
Continue reading

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Book clubs in Blackheath

Book Club at Blackheath Village Library
Clare emailed a while back, asking if there were any reading groups in Blackheath. I knew that there was one based at the library, but couldn’t remember the details. As I went to renew a book a few days ago, sure enough on the counter was all the information that you would need –

First edition of Brideshead Revisited, from wikipediaThere’s a book club held at the library on the first Thursday of each month, between 6.30pm-7.30pm. Last month they were reading Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.

This contradicts what is written on Greenwich council’s page about reading groups – they claim that it is held at 7pm on the occasional Monday. Lewisham’s effort mentions a reading group, but doesn’t say when it is… At least it doesn’t send you there on the wrong day!

So, if you do go along, please let me know how it is, how many people are there, and whether the first Thursday of the month is the right date!

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Book Sale on Saturday 20th June

UPDATE: Please note the correction of the date below!

Amnesty International’s Blackheath and Greenwich branch are holding a Book Sale on Saturday 20th June 2009 from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm

The sale takes place at the Church of the Ascen­sion, Dartmouth Row, SE10 8BF.

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A Vintage Affair

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

Just before Christmas, I was contacted by author Isabel Wolff, to tell me that her new novel “A Vintage Affair” was set in Blackheath. She asked if I would like to receive a copy to review. I said I’d love to, but have only just got around to reading it. I should start by saying that the Bugle is a man, a bit of a geek, who usually loves sci-fi, so possibly not the target audience, judging from the cover. However, I didn’t let that put me off, and I’m glad (although I will admit to hiding the cover behind a copy of The Metro whilst sitting on the train from Blackheath to Charing Cross). Why can’t books have neutral covers? I hate the fact that I am directed to a book on the basis of machismo, or equally supposed to discount it as it has a picture of a pink frock on the front!

Anyway, onto the book – the blurb sums it up well:

It is about a textiles expert, Phoebe Swift, who opens a vintage dress shop, ‘Village Vintage’, in Blackheath. One day she goes to visit an elderly French woman, Therese, who lives in The Paragon, and who has a collection of lovely clothes that she wishes to sell to Phoebe. But there is one garment that she won’t part with – a child’s blue winter coat from the 1940s. As Phoebe uncovers the mystery surrounding this little coat, and the child for whom it was destined, she realises that her own life is is to be changed forever.

It is certainly romantic fiction, but is written in a very readable and enjoyable style, almost like a thriller, except that the primary aim is not to guess “whodunnit”, but “whichmanisprincecharming”, and “willtherebeahappyending?” It’s the sort of book that you can virtually swallow whole – definitely a page-turner, and doesn’t require much effort on the part of the reader.

The book feels as though it has been written by someone who is very intelligent, and has researched their subjects thoroughly, but is now writing about those subjects to appeal to a wide audience.

Nearly all of the female relationships in the book are firm and honest – and the friendships are struck up quickly and easily. It also contains that soap-opera fantasy whereby friends and neighbours’ doors are always ajar, and people always pop in – think Ambridge rather than London.

The vintage clothes are used as a metaphor for previously lived lives, the main sentiment in the book is that these possessions are somehow endowed with the emotions of their owners. The book made me feel as though I should pay more attention to the clothes I wear, and not just stagger around in any old thing. I’ve always been slightly suspicious of fashion as an extension of greed, rather than an expression of yourself or of art, but this book definitely puts a positive spin on how clothes can improve a person.

The characters are easy to grasp, and enjoyable, possibly with the exception of the bizarre shop assistant Annie, who, when she’s not auditioning for local rep, is making strange comments about “souks” (p193) and “Grace Jones” (p210)… But apart from this, the more emotional scenes dealing with loss, melancholy, and regret are warm and effective.

The book is crammed full of Blackheath. Many of the books mentioned on this blog previously have only made passing mention of the place, whereas virtually all of the action in “A Vintage Affair” takes place squarely within the village, with occasional soujourns to Greenwich (the view from the Picturehouse bar becomes far more picturesque than the usual view of the barbers that I recall). Everybody seems well-off enough not to worry too much about money – and Blackheath feels a little like a fantasy land from a bygone era. Of course there are also a couple of trips to some vineyards, some romping in grand houses, and up the OXO tower, but those are par for the course, yes?

A few notes about the locations:

Raffles Clothes Shop, Blackheathsistersanddaughters

Village Vintage – the shop at the centre of the novel. From the description, I imagine it being where Raffles the clothes shop is (opposite the church, see above left). However, “Sisters & Daughters” near the station seems quite a nice fit too (see above right).

Cafe Amici, near Bush House, London
Cafe Amici - I couldn’t help noticing in the author’s bio that she used to be a BBC World Service producer… Which made the inclusion of Cafe Amici (right opposite Bush House in real life) an amusing easter-egg.

Costcutters convenience store, Blackheath

Costcutters p243-244- schoolgirls, going to the same high-school prom, being held at the Natural History Museum, as the millionaire’s daughter, dreaming about buying a £245 pound dress, currently working in CostCutters on a Saturday for £45 a shift.

Clarendon Hotel, Garden
Clarendon Hotel p223- Does not get a very flattering write-up (perhaps justifiably) – Phoebe’s non-wedding reception, probably a lucky escape?

Bennett Park, Blackheath, London
Bennett Street- Clearly based upon Bennett Park, next to the station

Blackheath All Saints Church by flickr user littlestar19
All Saints Church – mostly walked past, or bonging in the background

The Paragon, Blackheath, by flickr user John.P

The Paragon – where Mrs Bell lives.

Moon Daisy Cafe – frequent meeting place – possibly based upon Montpelier Coffee Shop?

Chapters All Day Dining, Blackheath restaurant
Chapters All Day Dining p377 – Dan and Phoebe go there to toast Dan’s success.

Blackheath Halls by Flickr user John.P
Blackheath Concert Halls – Possible location for a fashion show? p382

Blackheath Society Newsletter
Black & Green – Nice name for the local freesheet newspaper that Dan works for… Not sure that any local papers around here quite manage to cover the Social Whirl so effectively though! Poetic license, I guess. p206

Author Isabel Wolff interviewed about the book here:

You can read the first two chapters here, to find out if it is your sort of book. On balance, I really enjoyed it, which surprised me!

Not all the photos were taken by me. Click on them to go to the respecitve author’s Flickr page.

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