The best bits from

Read Watch Listen Whatsapp Group

What our friends, and friends of friends, are up to culturally...


A Shropshire Lad - BC

May not be everybody's cup of tea - but I enjoyed these renditions of Houseman's A Shropshire Lad set to music by Butterworth. The songs sound difficult to me (but I am no expert) - I especially enjoyed the last two, but it is invidious to make a choice really. If you want the lyrics, you can find them here.

Red-billed Leiothrix

aka Chinese Nightingale - EM

Have you seen/ heard it already? Vocally dominant Asian songbird ‘could change sound of Britain’s dawn chorus’ - The Independent

The Assassin's Cloak - KE

If you buy one book this week make it this one. It’s wonderful, as each day has different diary extracts from across the ages. I’ve had this copy for about 8 years, yet still find new things - or have forgotten!!

BC: Love that Tolstoy entry! Puts Anna K in a whole new light. Bought my copy of The Assassin's Cloak, on your recommendation, years ago. Love it. Good loo-side book! Although can mean you spend longer there than you should!

PH: Wow, Tolstoy being a bit of a drama queen and John Rabe's entry. All very interesting!

PW: Looks like a great recommendation! I've just ordered it as a present for a bibliophile!

GD-S: Bought it years ago /great for a guest room. Other excellent diaries are darling Parson Woodforde, James Lees-Milne and Chips Channon

Examples - from June 7th

Click on the texts to read them

Tolstoy - Proud of himself

Rabe - Denazified

Woolf - Horror

Cocteau - The Windsors

A Bit of Psychology - BC

Really interesting if you're into this sort of thing (obviously!). Conveniently divided up into 30 sections - as per the original R4 programmes. I was familiar with the early experiments and theories, but then after about 12 chapters, the material was mostly new... must be my age!

Wagner in Leeds - PW / CW

Catching up on this busy site! I loved the Famous 5 and all Enid Blyton’s books, spent my 2/6d pocket money on a new one every week (that’s 12.5p to you Portia!) Rather differently, saw the opening night of Wagner’s final opera, Parsifal, at Leeds Grand Theatre last night, stunning. I’m tempted to go again, if anyone is minded to go? Not everyone’s cup of tea, I know! NB The theatre was very nearly bulldozed in the 60s!

Click photo to see larger image

Andrew Marr’s The New Elizabethans - SW

I’m watching BBC 4 Andrew Marr’s The New Elizabethans. I've watched 2 - excellent - informative and entertaining!

Back on Topic - PH / BH / CC

I read this book a couple of years ago and loved it! Quite different, but great definitely recommend. [From the site] `'A truly original literary creation: funny, touching and unpredictable. Her journey out of the shadows is expertly woven and absolutely gripping' - Jojo Moyes / `'Original [and] unexpectedly funny' - SUNDAY TIMES / `'As perceptive and wise as it is funny and endearing... Warm, funny and thought-provoking' - OBSERVER / `'A narrative full of quiet warmth and deep and unspoken sadness... Wonderful and joyful' - Jenny Colgan, GUARDIAN

Then It Got a Bit Silly - KL / VL et al

[See final sentence in post below.] At the moment I’m reading Where’s Spot, Dear Zoo and Five Go to Kirrin Island. Guess it must be Half term.

It was at this point there was a significant exodus from the Whatsapp group!! [Ed.]

Helpful Bookmark - KE

The BBC did a wonderful serial of The Brothers Karamazov. Sometimes easier to listen to than read. My parents copy of War and Peace had a bookmark that told you who all the characters were, with nicknames and all, which was a great easy reference as it is quite complicated !!!!!! More books should have that. At the moment I’m reading Where’s Spot, Dear Zoo and Five Go to Kirrin Island. Guess it must be Half term

Think these might be like the ones you're referring to. [Quick Google Search by Ed.]

Literary Reality - CC / HS

Well to bring everyone down to literary reality I suggest you read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen. Great and enjoyable read.

Try Dostoevski - even better than Tolstoi! - GD

Let's not have a debate on the spelling (or rather the transliteration) of these names! Even the titles are different. Perhaps Elena can give us the definitive answer!? [She goes with the Oxford World's Classics.]

Lessons from Russian Literature - BC / MN

Suggested by... me ... on behalf of somebody else!! It's a shame that there are spoilers in this book. (There have to be really!) Does that mean that we have to read all the Classics of Russian Literature before enjoying this book?? Just finished Gogol's Dead Souls (which is MUCH funnier than it sounds!! Described by some as the Russian Pickwick Papers - sort of), but not sure I can face immediately diving into, for example, Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita!

[From] The answers to some of life's biggest questions are found not in trite self-help manuals but in the tough-love lessons explored in Russian literature. Here, Viv Groskop delves into the novels of history's deepest thinkers to discover enduring truths about how we should live.

China - WE

I have just started Edward Rutherford’s China. Loved his Sarum and Russka books.

Coventry Cathedral - BC

Interesting programme - BBC FOUR - on the building of Coventry Cathedral in late 1950s... probably best to view from the start or on catch up.

[Few days later] Still recommending this especially to any architect's I might know. Kenneth Clark on the font was a highlight for me. And then the French village which made the Sutherland tapestry.

Click image to follow the link - It might still be live

Persian Lessons - BC / JH / AB

A Nazi concentration camp drama with a difference. Shocking to get glimpses of the guards enjoying themselves in their time off; also interesting to be presented with the tensions between the Guards - and their petty jealousies. I've got about 30 minutes still to go, but have very much enjoyed it so far. (As far as such films are 'enjoyable'.) Just watched the rest of the film. The ending is very moving, but no spoilers...

Click image to follow the link - It might still be live

The Slow Road to Tehran - VL

J has just given me this. Rather poignant that he bought it the same day that Dervla Murphy's death was announced as her Full Tilt was a fabulous book about her mammoth bike ride to India.

The Sign of (The) Four - BC

Enjoyed this old favourite... a bit of easier reading to go along side Gogol's 'Dead Souls'. [Much less serious than the cover would suggest!] Don't know why this Holmes story is sometimes referred to as 'The Sign of THE Four' but it is! Bit of a mystery. Need a good detective on the job!

The Cazalet Chronicles - PW

Immersed in the Cazalet chronicles most recently (loved them) and now the biography of Elizabeth Jane Howard, fascinating times.

The Reckoning - SW

Three episodes - sooooo interesting - Christopher Marlowe’s death/murder!!!

Click image to follow the link - It might still be live

The very first contribution - KE

I’ve just watched a nice film called Dream Horse about a group of Welsh people having a race horse and am enjoying a book called ‘ The Four Winds ‘ by Kristin Hannah about life on the plains after the depression and the flow of people to California. Also have just read Lark Rise to Candleford again and loved its slow pace.