Sunday, 20 December 2009

Book Review #1 - A R Dance - Narrow Marsh - Arundel, Nott`m, 2008

Narrow Marsh is an excellent historical novel that tells the story of it`s two main protagonists whilst also telling the story of the Industrial Revolution and it`s effect on the people of Nottingham.

Too harsh a critic might easily find fault with this remarkable book. Certainly, the plot is not especially ground-breaking, there is no great depth of characterisation and on occasion the dialogue is a little unconvincing.

Such criticisms would miss the point entirely. The story of the book`s star- crossed lovers serves as a `hook` on which the author hangs the major events of the day - the Luddites, the development of the `back to back` slums of Nottingham, the  Pentrich revolution and  more. The story is not only about the characters Mr Dance has created, but about a particular time and place. It works as a piece of fiction, but also it works as a piece of  social history, telling us abut the impact of the dawn of industrialisation and it`s effect  on  local people as they are faced with decisions which may change their lives for ever. 

Having played devil`s advocate briefly, I should also point out that, had the author portrayed the characters as a collection of introverts, forever musing on their own motivations, then the story would have been ruined and probably completely unrealistic. It should also be said that any overly authentic rendering of dialogue would have been well-nigh incomprehensible to the modern reader and would have required copious footnotes to render it intelligible. 

Leaving aside the specifics of the Midlands in the 1800s,  as the author has commented, the book is "about the spirit of human resilience and hope", adding "that is always with us, wherever we may choose to look". Couldn`t have put it better myself ! I very much recommend this book and look forward to more from this writer.

NOTE - As is well known, we do stock a selection of books relating to Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, plus many titles from small publishers etc on a variety of topics (see our shop at . We do not stock the works of A R Dance for purely practical reasons -   experience has shown us that  anyone looking to buy books of this sort either deals with the publisher direct through their web site or buys it from a shop. With that in mind, I shall be selfless and tell you A R Dance`s books Narrow Marsh and The Chilwell Ghost : A New Investigation are available from I gather the site may be down for maintenace for a short time during December 2009, but should be back online again without too much delay. 

AFTERTHOUGHT - If anyone`s misguided enough to want to read more book reviews by me, I`ve recently reviewed 2 books, In Battle for Peace by W E B Du Bois and Agents Of Peace by Albert E Kahn at

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Rambling Through Adversity ?

That`s enough local material for a while, time for something national.

The Ramblers (nee The Ramblers Association) has been through troubled times recently.

Detractors of the organisations` Chief Executive, Tom Franklin claim that he and his peers failed to monitor expenditure at the Ramblers` central office in London, and then resorted to panic measures on realising that the organisation had serious money worries. 

For his part, Franklin now claims that the organisation has been affected by  the recession and has had to "adapt accordingly" (Walk Magazine , Winter 2009) , though he fails to make it clear to members that this `adaptation` involves job losses and office closures.

However the situation has come about,  his rather secretive approach has allowed  rumour to flourish, and has made accurate informaton hard to find. It does seem that certainly the Scottish Office and possibly the Welsh office are scheduled for closure, with attendant job losses, and that the Campaigns section has been reduced in size. Many have queried the logic behind these measures, particularly given that the Scottish office had delivered an increase in membership, and that the organisation`s reputation for effective campaigning is a key part of its` appeal. By Franklins` own admission, most Ramblers members are not active in their local group, which must surely imply that they hand over their hard-earned dosh to support campaigns.

Suggestions that The Ramblers HQ will move away from London, which appear in various online forums, may well prove to be spoofs, possibly intended to annoy Tom Franklin, who is regarded in some quarters as having a regional bias.

Be that as it may, there are some positives. In Scotland, some prominent members are engaged in fundraising in an effort to save Ramblers Scotland. The Ramblers Wales website gives no indication of any equivalent moves there, but may be worth checking out as the situation progresses.

Nationally, the organisation is celebrating a hard-earned victory as new legislation is finally giving the public access rights to almost the entire British coast, something it achieved by working closely with official bodies and with other members of Wildlife and Countryside Link, an umbrella body comprising The Ramblers, The Open Spaces Society and many others. It should be said in fairness to Tom Franklin that this success, which The Ramblers had been aiming at for over 50 years, came to fruition during his period of leadership.

Turning to the future, The Ramblers is now joining forces with the John Muir Trust, The National Trust for Scotland and The Mountaineering Council for Scotland to oppose the proposed Beauly Denny powerline which would put a 138 mile line of 600 mega-pylons  through the heart of the Scottish highlands. Other activities willl include promoting the Get Walking Keep Walking website and launching a Manifesto for the Walking Environment. Again, it`s only fair to give Tom Franklin some of the credit for this very worthy work, particularly given that he has had to perform his duties whilst coping with a great deal of hostility and criticism, not all of it well thought out.  

While it`s right that we should think of those staff members who certainly have lost their jobs through no fault of ther own - anyone who`s ever faced redundancy will surely sympathise with them -  there seems hope  that The Ramblers as a whole will prove resilient in the face of adversity.


The Ramblers Manifesto -

Ramblers Scotland -

Ramblers Wales -

Wildlife and Countryside Link -

John Muir Trust -

National Trust Scotland -

Mountaineering Council of Scotland -

Walk Magazine -

Get Walking Keep Walking -