Review of ‘Countrywise Three’, by Raymond Rush

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 3rd January 2005, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

COUNTRYWISE THREE

No less than 35 chapters make up this third volume by Raymond Rush, who originally wrote them over a period of many years for The Town and Country Post.

Countrywise Three is scattered with delightful and evocative sketches by Sheila Hine, a busy farmer's wife who incorporates her lifelong knowledge of the countryside into her illustrations, from wildlife to gypsies' pegs and tramps' gatepost symbols. Reading any chapter at random is like listening to a dyed-in-the-wool countryman who knows a lot more than he at first lets on, so that the reader learns of two uses for dead kingfishers, the difference between a turnip and a swede, and the fact that coach passengers used to suffer from ‘coach lag’. The author often concludes that ‘there's nothing new is there?’

As he brings his gentle humour to chapters such as Haymaking and Garden Pests, The Depravity of the Poor, or My Size 13 Boots, Raymond ruminates on the origins of dozens of familiar sayings: ‘show a leg’, ‘hangers on’ and ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’ all become clear.

The author has lived through enormous changes to country life and life in general, so is fatalistic if a little sad when it comes to progress. Amongst his thoughts on 30 years of farming and the end of the milk churn era (and Gold Top milk), he confides: ‘... every day of that 30 years several barrow loads of manure have been wheeled across the road to the midden.’

Tapping into the past with Raymond Rush is sure to jog memories, but a word of warning - can it really be that long ago that we (or our parents) lived with lino, deposits on glass pop bottles, ‘divi’ at the Co-op, blue bags, flue brushes, Valor stoves, or 10 bob notes and half-crowns?

With 128 pages and over 100 illustrations, Countrywise Three offers wonderful browsing for those long winter evenings. Published by Churnet Valley Books and on sale locally priced £6.95 (ISBN 1-904546-20-X).

Review by Julie Bunting


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