BB

As a boy, I loved the books of Denys Watkins-Pitchford (who signed off his writing as ‘BB’ after the size of shot used for shooting geese) so when I saw that there was a small exhibition of his ‘Life and Works’ at Lamport Hall, across the road from where he had lived as a boy in the Old Rectory, I set off to have a quick look.

It was a sunny day, the last of June, and the Buzzards were circling, and some were hovering, high above me as I drove through the green countryside with the oilseed rape now green (and going brown) as all its flowers were lost, and the wheat still green, as it was only hinting at turning golden.

The prettiness of Northamptonshire is a well-kept secret.  Many of the villages are every bit as attractive as the Cotswold tourist traps – more so really, as they don’t have the tourists! The local stone is warm and gives the buildings a very welcoming air, although you should not judge simply by appearances as this stone emits  more than its fair share of cancer-producing radon gas.  It’s a dangerous life in rural Northants. Those townies don’t realise how tough life is out here in the country.

Lamport Hall is very pretty. Parking was provided outside the exhibition in the courtyard of the stable block and I hope every visitor is greeted with a low-flying screaming party of Swifts as I was.  The exhibition is free, and is open 10-4 each day until and including Sunday.  If you are quite local, like me, you should certainly pop in and have a look, or if a massive BB fan, you won’t be able to keep away.  There are some of his and others’ paintings, some books, radio scripts and information about BB’s life.  BB’s own paintings are not exactly to my taste but many really like them a lot.  I preferred  ‘A successful left and right’ by Chris Coles which was on view here.

Driving away, I remembered reading Brendon Chase at, I guess, the age of about 12.  I think I probably wanted to run away and live in the woods with a rifle and a fishing rod but although I did have a rod, I didn’t have a rifle – that was probably what stopped me.

I can’t remember his writing that well, it was a long time ago, but I do remember that I devoured his books and they must all have come from the school and local libraries because I don’t have any to hand.  I’ll have to get Brendon Chase out of the library and see what impression it makes on me these days.

I meandered back home and it was a day of big skies; the clouds seemed piled high in fluffy bundles rather than pressing down on the land. The sky above me felt enormous and the land seemed small.  It was a day for looking up at Buzzards, Swifts and clouds.

For some reason the following verses, almost correctly remembered, from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam came into my head; ‘The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on, nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears shall wash away one word of it.  And that inverted bowl we call the sky, whereunder crawling cooped we live and die, lift not your eyes to it for help, for it crawls impotently on as thou or I‘.  I guess it was the ‘inverted bowl’ phrase that was triggered by the blue sky with white clouds which seemed to dominate the gently rolling Northants landscape in a perfectly firm but friendly way that afternoon.

I chose my route home with some skill and more luck and avoided seeing anything very ugly although I caught a glance of the edge of the Weetabix factory out of the corner of my eye.  There were some wind turbines to look at but they were very beautiful.

Finedon, the parish of ex-Communards Rev Richard Coles isn’t that pretty but it certainly isn’t ugly. And the sun was shining, so everything looked good in the sunlight – and with all that sky giving us headroom.

And I passed Nene Park (pronounced ‘nen’ not ‘neen’ in these parts), once home of the once-mighty, Rushden and Diamonds football club – those days seem so long ago.

And then I was nearly home to check e-mails and do a bit more writing.

BB always included the following in his books:

The wonder of the world
The beauty and the power,
The shapes of things,
Their colours, lights and shades,
These I saw.
Look ye also while life lasts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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16 Replies to “BB”

  1. A couple of years ago I managed to pick up a copy of Wild Lone (now long out of print). The story, illustrations and descriptions are all brilliant. I really don't know how he's not recognised more.

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  2. I had an old & battered ( & very much treasured ) copy of "The Little Grey Men" as a child. I haven't thought of it in years, I wonder if I still have it somewhere... That exhibition sounds wonderful, sadly its not in my neck of the woods. Lovely blog Mark, it made me smile

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  3. Hope you sent in the swift records to the rspb's swift survey and/or your county bird club Mark - it is so easy not to (and I'm a big culprit here myself!). Trawling through records of swifts in this county (as collected by the county bird club) I realise just how few tell you which properties swifts are nesting in. Most are of the "10 swifts over Ambridge" type and very very few specify house or building name and number - vital if you want to follow up by contacting owners and pleading with them not to exclude swifts in any future renovations.
    On another tack, a local chap I know used to be a great friend of BBs and they used to move purple emperor eggs around from wood to wood, trying to spread the butterfly (and without telling anyone what they were doing!). This would be frowned on today of course but it may well explain why PEs are present in that Northants wood you saw them in last year, the name of which eludes me this morning.
    Nick
    ps And yes, I'm in that weird group of folk who, some years ago now, collected fresh horse manure and took it to the wood hoping to lure a PE down - with great success as it happened. Superb creatures!

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    1. Nick Bee - yes, it is widely assumed in these parts that BB had a lot to do with the Emperors being in Fermyn Woods. They should be flying now and I am trying to find the time to go and see them.

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  4. "The prettiness of Northamptonshire"

    It's not called "The Rose of the Shires" for nothing. I once got trapped in the Moreton Pinkney triangle, for want of a road that led somewhere.

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  5. I so enjoy it when you write in H.V.Morton mode. Good it is still possible to choose to take a route without seeing the 'other' England.

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  6. Marvellous stuff, Mark. 'Brendon Chase' was one of my most dearly cherished childhood books, and it still reads well today. Funnily enough I was reminded of it last week when reading the latest 'British Wildlife' and its piece about ancient oak trees - some of which are hollow.

    As one of you earlier correspondents says, 'Wild Lone' is a properly beautiful book. BB wrote movingly of the countryside; and his illustrations in 'Wild Lone' were his very best, I think.

    As an aside, I always wondered if the Night Heron in 'Brendon Chase' would have passed muster with the BBRC!

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  7. The site that I think is the real Brendon Chase still exists and is still fabulous: Yardley Chase not far from Northampton. A bit of Northamptonshire untouched by modern agriculture. Have you ever been? - if not, you should!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yardley_Chase

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  8. So pleased you visited the 'Life & Works of BB' exhibition staged by the BB Society. If anyone is interested in finding out more about BB or becoming a member please take a look at www.bbsociety.co.uk

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