Tag Archives: Pushkin Press

The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos (transl. Sam Taylor): Tailor made

Cover imageDavid Foekinos’ The Mystery of Henri Pick marks the beginning of a collaboration between publishers Pushkin Press and Channel 4’s Walter Presents, a streaming service which provides a good deal of my TV entertainment with its subtitled European drama. Even without that, I’d have been interested in this book whose blurb promised a novel about people with ‘a deep love of books’. A young editor, the rising star at her publishers and newly in love, takes her boyfriend home to meet her parents and discovers a library devoted to rejected manuscripts.

Convinced of their brilliance, Delphine has fallen in love with both Frédéric and his first novel which, sadly, has resoundingly flopped. He moves in with her, working on his second book from their bed while her career glitters ever more brightly. Delphine takes Frédéric to meet her beloved parents in Brittany on her annual holiday, visiting the library for rejected manuscripts set up by a reclusive librarian, now dead, and still maintained by his assistant. They pick their way through the many manuscripts left by authors who’ve faced umpteen rejections, excited by the discovery of The Last Hours of a Love Affair by Henri Pick. Delphine tracks down Pick’s widow, persuading her to overcome her incredulity at the idea that her husband, far too busy at their pizza parlour to read, should not only have written a book but one which Delphine clearly considers a masterpiece. Delphine takes the manuscript back to Paris to publish which she does to much acclaim having convinced her publishing house that it should head their spring list. Before long, Pick’s novel is a bestseller, his widow and their daughter find themselves on TV and Crozon is firmly on the French literary map but not everyone is convinced. Jean-Michel Rouche, a journalist whose career is on the slide, smells a rat and spots an opportunity.

He still felt the same shiver of pleasure at reading a novel before the rest of the world

Foenkinos’ novel is pleasingly anchored in bookishness, gently satirising the publishing world in what turns into a literary detective story whose playful style reminded me a little of Antoine Laurain’s novels. The effects of sudden fame on a small town are neatly explored: a marriage is rejuvenated while cracks appear in another; memories are revisited and a love story revealed. The narrative bowls along, its nicely tension taut. I wasn’t entirely sure about the ending but this is a spoiler-free zone – I’ll leave that up to you to decide. All in all, the perfect inaugural title for this joint publishing project: a mystery in translation, echoing the many crime series streamed by Walter Presents, which comes with references to Pushkin, the publisher’s name. And I gather there’s a film of Foekinos’ novel, too.

Pushkin Press: London 2020 9781782275824 288 pages Paperback

Wild Swims by Dorthe Nors (transl. Misha Hoekstra): Smart, astute and funny

Cover ImageI first came across Dorthe Nors when I read her novella, Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2017. Her crisp, plain style coupled with an undercurrent of humour hit the spot for me. Wild Swims, exemplifies her rather idiosyncratic style, its apparently simple stories offering their readers much to think about.

Comprising fourteen pieces, each just a few pages long, Nors’ collection is prefaced with the advice ‘You can always withdraw a little bit further’, which seems entirely appropriate for out current covid-19 predicament and sets the tone nicely for what’s to follow. Many are stories about people disconnected from others either by design or circumstance, some of them longing to break out of their isolation, others glorying in it. In a Deer Stand a man wonders if his disparaging wife has called the police as he sits nursing what could be a broken ankle, contemplating another chilly night in a remote deer shelter. Manitoba sees an ex-teacher, divorced and living alone, who feels besieged by the teenage campers in a nearby field, wishing he could withdraw still further from his neighbours’ pity and inquisitiveness. Sometimes the dislocation is internal: in By Sydvest Station two friends collecting for charity get more than they bargained for but while one is shocked the other is oblivious as her partner’s cruel remarks replay endlessly in her head.

Several of the stories are unsettling, the most disturbing of which is the striking Honeysuckle about a man’s attraction to a young woman whose blindness lends her an odd absence, her face only coming alive during sex. Its counterpoint, On Narrow Paved Paths, treats death with a pleasingly light humour as Alice bustles around her dying neighbour who’s convinced he has a long life ahead of him, congratulating herself on a job well done after the funeral. My favourite, Hygge, is the tale of two old people, one of whom despises the other’s designs on him, whose black humour belies its title.

I’ve picked out just a handful of the most striking pieces but it’s hard to think of a dud in the entire collection. Funny, dark and often a combination of the two, these are quietly brilliant stories, admirable in their spare brevity, full of astute observations and just disconcerting enough to leave you turning them over in your mind. Best pay attention, small details can be telling yet easily missed.

As usual with the best short stories, quotable passages abound but here’s a small sample to whet your appetite:

Those long afternoons with flat fruit drink, peppermint candies, and Aunt Clara, who no longer fit her teeth  Hygge

Whatever he did, and even what he thought, haunted her. She read signs in offhand remarks, she researched his past, his possible sorrows. The Fairground

Years ago, a psychologist she’d gone to had told her that, when she met a man, she should avoid being so cleverPershing Square

They don’t understand that he’s alone either. It’s a pity he can’t find someone, they think. But the person that you pity is a person in your power.  Manitoba 

If you’re keen to get your hands on a copy of Wild Swims, you can order one direct from Pushkin Press. They’re a small publisher who will, no doubt, be struggling in these difficult times.

Pushkin Press: London 2020 9781782275503 128 pages Paperback

Ten Small But Perfectly Formed Publishers Who Will Post Books to Your Home

One of the very few silver linings to the coronavirus is a reported upsurge in book sales. We have booksellers, publishers, warehouse staff and posties to thank for getting hard copies to us, despite risks to themselves. You’re probably in the habit of browsing your local bookshop or maybe buying from online booksellers but small publishers are currently struggling to keep their heads above water and many of them sell books direct to the public. Below is a list of ten Cover imagewho, at the time of writing, will mail books to you – some also sell ebooks – together with links both to them and to reviews of a few reviews of their titles on this blog. They’re all publishers with interesting lists to explore. I hope it goes without saying that I’ve nothing to gain financially from this post. Just trying to do what little I can to help some excellent publishers in extraordinarily difficult times.

Eye/Lightning Books not only have a great list of both fiction and non-fiction but they’re offering 30% off plus free shipping to UK customers who use the discount code THANKS. They’re also offering bundles of books that will help see you through the long haul plus ebooks of their six bestselling titles at less than £1 a shot.

My recommendations: Good Riddance, An Isolated Incident

Myriad Editions are another favourite of mine and they, too, have an offer to tempt you – 25% off together with free shipping in the UK if you use the MYREADATHOME discount code.

My recommendations: Magnetism, North Facing, To the Volcano

Pushkin Press offer a wonderfully varied list to peruse: lots of interesting fiction, classics andCover image non-fiction together with children’s and YA books.

My recommendations: Liar, Bird Cottage, Browse

Peirene Press specialise in translated novellas, an excellent way to explore other cultures without leaving the house, and they donate 50p to charity for every book sold.

My recommendations: And the Wind Sees All, Faces on the Tip of My Tongue, Her Father’s Daughter

Salt Publishing hail from Norfolk, a place dear to my holiday heart. They publish excellent contemporary fiction, well worth a look.

My recommendations: Good Day?, Flotsam, The Museum of Cathy

The Indigo Press published one of my books of last year. Their list is short but what I’ve read Cov er imagefrom it has impressed me.

My recommendations: Silence is My Mother Tongue, An Act of Defiance

Reflex Press also have a tiny list which includes one of my books of last year, the beautifully jacketed, Witches Sail in Eggshells

Époque Press publish a handful of titles, two of which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. They’re currently taking pre-orders for their new title to be published later in the year

My recommendations: El Hacho, The Wooden Hill

Influx Press have a longer list which I’ve yet to explore in depth but I’ve included them because they’reCover image the UK publishers of the brilliant Percival Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Poitier which has me in tears of laughter last week. Review to follow soon.

And Other Stories are last on my list but only because they’re currently selling only ebooks and subscriptions. They offer a varied list of mostly translated fiction with a few English language novels and some non-fiction.

My Recommendations: Theft, Love,

Janet over at From First Page to Last has a useful list of independent booksellers still posting books which also includes a few publishers. Happy to hear of any favourite small publishers you’d like to help keep afloat, and remember, no matter how grim things seem, there will always be books. Keep washing your hands…

Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship

Cover imageRegular readers will know that I’m not one for words like ‘charming’ and ‘delightful’ – smacks too much of tweeness for me – but when I read the pitch for Isabel Vincent’s Dinner with Edward, they immediately popped into my head. Another one was ‘Christmas’, but that’s the old bookseller in me. Vincent’s book tells the story of her friendship with the nonagenarian Edward who cooks delectable dinners for her in his New York apartment.

Vincent has recently moved to the city, taking up a position on the New York Post after years as a foreign correspondent, bringing her husband and daughter with her. Living in Toronto, far from her father, Edward’s daughter has asked Vincent to look in on him, telling her of the promise his beloved wife Paula extracted from him to continue living after her death. Intrigued and tempted by Valerie’s descriptions of her father’s culinary prowess, Vincent calls in to be met by a dapper Edward who welcomes her into an apartment filled with delicious cooking aromas. So begins what is at first a weekly dinner date, replete with an immaculately prepared cocktail followed by several courses. Edward is both a wonderful host and an accomplished cook – inventive dishes prepared from carefully selected ingredients, wine perfectly matched, jazz playing quietly in the background. These two console each other – one who has lost the love of his life, the other whose marriage is crumbling – with food, appreciation and conversation, continuing to do so over several years until their meetings grow less frequent as Vincent finds herself in love and Edward’s health inevitably begins to fail.

You’ll have realised from the first paragraph that I found this book a delight. Hard not to use the word ‘heartwarming’, another word I tend to avoid, when describing the way in which Edward and Vincent rescue each other. Her account is arranged around the meals they share, beginning each chapter pleasingly with a menu. I’m sure Edward approved – the short interview at the back of the book tells us that he lived to see the hardback edition published in the States. Vincent unfolds his, and Paula’s, stories alongside her own as Edward introduces her to his repertoire of delectable lovingly perpared delicacies.

The secret is treating family like guests and guests like family

He’s very much the urbane New Yorker, seeing Vincent as something of a project. She begins to look at life a little differently, always leaving his apartment happy no matter how difficult things have become at home or how challenging at work. A lovely book, then. Almost as soon as I started it, I was struck by what a great movie it would make. I’d go and see it for sure.

Pushkin Press: London 2019 9781911590262 223 pages Hardback

The Outermost House by Henry Beston: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod

Cover imageHenry Beston’s The Outermost House is something of an American nature classic, an account of the year he spent living on a beach near Eastham, Massachusetts not far from the very tip of Cape Cod in the 1920s. This new edition comes with charming illustrations by Pete Smith who also designed its beautiful jacket.

An ambulance driver in World War One, Beston was a writer of fairy tales who decided to build himself a two-room summer house on the five acres of beach he bought in 1925, making sure to include a fireplace and an oil-fired stove. At the end of what was to be a two-week stay in September 1927, he decided to live in Fo’castle for a year, observing the rhythms of nature in this remote often harsh yet beautiful place. Apart from weekly tramps to the local stores for fresh supplies, occasionally helped by friends, and nightly calls by the coast guards as part of their patrols, Beston had little contact with other people but never felt lonely. From marvelling at the glorious night sky, with none of the light pollution that most of us hardly notice obscuring his view, to having his feet tickled by a shoal of fish on a nocturnal walk through the sea, to watching the comings and goings of migratory birds, Beston had much to occupy his year which ends fittingly with a night spent sleeping, albeit rather fitfully, under the stars

The Outermost House comes with an introduction by Philip Hoare which neatly sketches in details of Beston’s life, adding Hoare’s own description of the beach on which Fo’castle stood for a decade after Beston died until it was washed away by a storm in 1978. Beston’s reverence for nature and its importance to humanity is clear from the outset. Although there’s no mention of religion, there’s something of the spiritual about his attitude which resonates throughout the book.

Nature is a part of our humanity, and without some awareness and experience of that divine mystery man ceases to be man

Beston writes lyrically about the world around him, his awe at the land and seascape’s grandeur clear from the outset.

Solitary and elemental, unsullied and remote, visited and possessed by the outer sea, these sands might be the end or the beginning of the world  

The language and cadence of his writing transports you to Cape Cod with its crashing breakers, bird cries and shifting sand dunes. The book is studded with gorgeous word pictures, lovely descriptions which are a product of writerly skill and keen observation.

Silvery grey-green all summer long, in autumn it puts on gold and russet-golden colourings of singular delicacy and beauty

One of the most effective passages is Beston’s description of the sound of the sea, the constant yet changing soundtrack of his year

I listen to the rushes and the bursts, the tramplings, and the long, intermingled thunderings, never wearying of the sonorous and universal sound  

I fell in love with this timeless, beautiful book, as you can probably tell. Impossible to read it, without thinking of climate change. There were man-made hazards in Beston’s day – he describes futile attempts to rescue birds from oil-spillages – but such incidents seem almost trivial given what we now know. Beston ends his book with the exhortation:

Do no dishonor to the earth lest you dishonor the spirit of man  

Relevant then, and even more so now.

A Nail, A Rose by Madeleine Bourdouxhe (transl. Faith Evans): Stories about women

A Nail, A Rose is introduced by Faith Evans who first translated Madeleine Bourdouxhe’s stories thirty years ago after meeting the author then in her early 80s. Evans puts the eight pieces comprising this collection in their historical, political and stylistic context, explaining that in the main they were written in the shadow of the Second World War. Bourdouxhe was a feminist writer whose work was much praised by Simone de Beauvoir yet it sank into obscurity until the recent reissue of both La Femme de Gilles and Marie. It’s these spare, striking novellas that made me want to read this collection which spans the years between 1944 and 1985.

Bourdouxhe’s stories are about women. In the eponymous piece, Irene walks home through the blacked-out night shocked by news that her love affair is over. Alarmed at the sound of footsteps behind her, she rounds on her assailant with surprising results. ‘Anna’ evocatively captures the loneliness of a humdrum life, as a woman speculates about her counterpart across the road whose chignon is secured with four nails. ‘Louise’ captures the longing to escape servitude even from the kindest of employers whose act of generosity wins her employee the attention of a man she thinks she loves but finds herself distracted by thoughts of friendship with Madame. Perhaps the most overtly political of the stories, ‘Leah’ sees a woman take decisive and dramatic action when the strike action she’s been covertly working towards is thwarted. In ‘René’, the most fantastical of the stories, a hairdresser’s encounter with an unusual customer evokes a reaction that will overshadow his life, leaving him forever unsatisfied. The final, autobiographical piece, ‘Sous le Pont Mirabeau’ follows a woman who has just given birth as she flees the war, encountering the kindness of strangers and longing for the normality of peace.

Bourdouxhe explores themes of resistance, sexuality, love and the ennui of everyday life in this striking collection. Some stories are more political than others but all are about the lives women lead, their thoughts, wishes and desires. Bourdouxhe accentuates her stories’ apparent simplicity, writing in clean, vivid prose:

Being with Nicolas was just like being with the two tables, the sofa and the radio (Anna)

Love, it’s all the same in the end – it never offers anything new (Anna)

She had a daughter; but though a child might give warmth, a presence and a reason for living, she couldn’t offer relief or help of any kind – she was more of a tender burden (Louise)

Summer was slowly dying. Tomorrow it would be autumn, a long succession of days, and after that a whole lifetime to come (Louise)

Evenings were still, and nights full, light and starry, the sky at peace: in this area, nights had become human again  

He shrank into the distance, getting smaller and smaller until distance overtook him and obliterated everything

These are powerful stories. Much is left unsaid, much for the reader to infer, yet Bourdouxhe’s careful economy of style conveys more in a single unadorned image than a paragraph of overworked flowery prose. What a treat for modern readers to have her work revived.

Bird Cottage by Eva Meijer (transl. Antoinette Fawcett): An English eccentric

I don’t have the necessary patience for bird watching. My father spent hours observing them from the large picture windows of the house I grew up in. Perhaps that’s why I was attracted to Bird Cottage when I first saw it in the Pushkin Press catalogue. Eva Meijer’s debut novel is based on the life of Len Howard whose work Meijer first encountered when she was writing her dissertation. Aged forty, Howard threw up her life as a violinist in London and took herself off to Sussex to pursue her lifelong passion for birds, determined to devote herself to researching their habits.

Born in 1894, Howard was the youngest of four children. Her parents held regular soirées to brighten the boredom of life in rural Wales, distracting themselves from their often fractious marriage. A talented violinist, Howard made her escape to London where she lived for many years before turning her back on her long affair with an artist and the gossip-ridden orchestra she’d played in, using her inheritance from her father to buy a cottage in Sussex. Here she conducted her research for forty years having long thought that observing birds in their natural habitat would yield the results that laboratory investigation could not. Quietly, patiently, she got to know the great tits who lived in her garden, opening her windows to them and welcoming them into her house, feeding them and naming them. She wrote articles for countryside magazines eventually winning a degree of celebrity as the author of several books filled with anecdotes derived from her observations. Throughout her decades in Ditchling she defended her birds against all comers. When she died in 1973 Howard left her property to the Sussex Naturalists’ Trust.

I’d not heard of Len Howard before reading Meijer’s delightful novel but as you’ll notice this is a translated work: in her time Howard’s books – Birds as Individuals and Living with Birds – were well known, themselves translated into many languages. Her research methods were often disparaged by scientists but her work clearly had popular appeal. Using simple, clean prose, Meijer lets her subject tell own story, weaving through it observations of Star, one of Howard’s favourites. It’s a striking way of illustrating the bond which forms between the two through Howard’s patience and the intelligent, trusting response it elicts. Poor Star has her ups and downs, losing several partners, fighting off territorial incursions and eventually falling foul of the neighbour’s cat. Howard was a remarkable character, a formidable defender of her beloved birds, whose writing found a hugely appreciative audience. I’m only sorry that Bird Cottage did not become the sanctuary after her death she’d hoped it would.

Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (transl. Sondra Silverston): Truth will out

Cover imageLook at that jacket. Isn’t it tempting? It was its premise that attracted me to Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s novel but I can’t ignore that cover. Not only is it eye-catching, it fits the book perfectly. Set towards the end of a Tel Aviv summer, Liar tells the story of a young girl who becomes caught up in a scandal after an exchange between her and a fading reality TV star is misinterpreted then seized upon by a media hungry for sensation.

Seventeen-year-old Nofar is working the last few shifts of her summer job at an ice-cream parlour, preparing to face her final year in school. In walks Avishai Milner, sore from being turned down for yet another gig. He snarls an insult at her after she corrects his speech, pursuing her as she dashes out. When he touches her arm, she lets out a resounding scream which unleashes all her long pent-up frustration drawing the attention of passers-by who think the worst. Milner finds himself charged with attempted rape while Nofar is bathed in unaccustomed attention. Two other people know what really happened: one is a deaf-mute beggar the other is Lavi who’s watched it all from his bedroom window. Both Lavi and Nofar are suffering the appalling awkwardness of an adolescence unblessed with beauty. Unable to find a way to talk to Nofar with ease, Lavi decides to blackmail her. Over the course of two weeks, Nofar becomes the darling of the media, entangling herself further in deceit. Meanwhile Milner is in turmoil, the detective on the case thinks she hears a deaf-mute muttering, Nofar’s beautiful sister finds herself no longer the centre of attention and Lavi falls for Nofar. With the trial looming, Nofar realises she’s painted herself into a corner.

Gundar-Goshen smoothly shifts perspectives between characters telling her story from the point of view of Nofar and Lavi while weaving the backstories of more minor players through her narrative. No one, it seems, is entirely truthful: everyone is guilty of bending the truth one way or another. Gundar-Goshen’s characters are just like us: each has their own agenda; they mean well but truth is sometimes inconvenient. Her observation is merciless:

A deaf-mute beggar stood beside them, hand extended, and they pretended to be blind 

Her depiction of adolescent self-consciousness excruciatingly accurate

Nofar lived in the world as if she were an uninvited guest at a party

All of this is delivered with a smartly knowing wit leavened with compassion. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable novel with a clear message: lies tend to lead to a deeper deception that can only end in tears. Rare for a lesson in morality to be delivered with such acuity and style – rather like that jacket.

Browse: Love Letters to Bookshops Around the World edited by Henry Hitchings

Cover imageThis is the kind of book I’d have had stacked up at till points back in my bookselling days, aiming it squarely at the Christmas stockings of the bookish. It brought to mind Jorge Carrión’s Bookshops which I reviewed here a few years ago but Browse is much more of a book to dip into. Henry Hitchings’ introduction recalls some of his own bookshop experiences setting us up nicely for the essays to come, each very personal.

Htichings has rustled up contributors from around the world from Ali Smith to Dorthe Nors, Yiyun Li to Ala Al Aswany. There are fifteen essays in all, some entertaining some more sober, all interesting to the anoraks amongst us. I enjoyed each of them but should you need your appetite whetted here are some of my favourites beginning with Ali Smith who volunteers in her local Amnesty International bookshop where the bits and pieces of people’s lives found in the books they donate tell her as much about the locals as its eclectic stock.

Alaa Al Aswany recalls his signing at a Cairo bookshop on the eve of the 2011 Tahrir Square occupation and his realisation that his country’s plight was far worse than he’d thought.

Pankaj Mishra pays tribute to the erudite owner – infuriated both by well-heeled customers demanding discounts and ignorant sales reps – of Fact and Fiction, a small bookshop in South Delhi which he first visited in 1989, acknowledging Ajit’s formative influence on him.

Bukinist in Chernivtsi, Ukraine is one of the many second-hand bookshops in which Andrey Kurkov conducted his fruitless search for a The Ballads of Kukutis under the indulgent eye of its owner, used to an ‘eccentric urban bibliophile, always searching for something that doesn’t exist’.

Daniel Kehlmann takes us to Dussman, a bookshop I fell in love with on my last trip to Berlin, with his amusing conversation between two writers, one singing the praises of Dussman to the other as a model of the popular idea of Germany: neat, ordered and staffed by knowledgeable booksellers who restrain themselves from forcing their own taste on their customers.

Bosnian writer Saša Stanišić offers a witty piece about the anxiety of finding a dealer to feed his habit in his new home city only to be approached by one who introduces him to all manner of ‘substances’.

I’ll leave you with Ian Sansom’s memories of working at Foyles in the ’90s when Christina Foyle still ruled the roost and Danny La Rue lived above the shop. Sansom left after two years, although he jumped rather than waiting to be pushed as so many Foyles booksellers were in those days, just before their employment rights kicked in. I wonder if the new Foyles, now under Waterstones’ wing, will have strategic piles of Browse, artfully displayed next to tills.

States of Passion by Nihad Sirees (transl. Max Weiss): A tale of old Aleppo

Cover imageNihad Sirees is Syrian which is what attracted me to States of Passion with its promise of a glimpse into the world of old Aleppo. Poor Syria is less often in the headlines these days despite her destruction grinding on relentlessly. First published in 1998, Sirees’ novel spins a tale of love, passion and jealousy amongst the female musicians, dancers and singers of 1930s Aleppo, many of whom prefer to take their pleasure with each other.

Our self-deprecating narrator is an administrator for an agricultural bank who seeks shelter from a terrible storm while out assessing farmers for loans. He’s admitted grudgingly to an elegant mansion in the middle of nowhere by a manservant, then greeted effusively by Ismail’s master eager to tell our narrator his story. For five days and nights as the rain beats against the windows, Shaykh Nafeh tells his tale and our narrator becomes riveted, desperate to know how it ends but increasingly worried about the strange noises he hears in the night. Nafeh fell deeply in love with Widad, a young dancer in thrall to the powerful Khojah Bahira who conceived a passion for Widad just as she did for her mother. With the help of a sympathetic go-between, the young couple conducted a covert affair until Bahira found a way to break them apart. What happened to these young lovers, and why is Ismail so determined to prevent our narrator from hearing his master’s story?

Our narrator begins his story with a multitude of protestations about his lack of qualifications for the job, casting doubt on his reliability before going on to unfold this story of passion and jealousy expertly. There are stories within stories in Nafeh’s discursive narrative which begins when Syria had recently negotiated its independence from Paris in 1936. Set against a backdrop of wealthy Aleppo, there are vibrant depictions of all-female societies of musicians, dancers and singers who perform at weddings and for audiences of women who share the performers’ passion for each other, married or not. Syrees has a nice thread of suspense laced with humour running through his narrative as Ismail’s behaviour becomes increasingly baroque in his attempts to prevent our narrator hearing the end of Nafeh’s story. It’s a tale well spun, offering a glimpse of a culture about which I knew nothing and would like to know more. An introduction would have been the icing on the cake.

That’s it from me for a week or so. H and I are off to Norfolk for a spot of walking and probably some reading.