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E.S. Turner shocks the sensitive

E.S. Turner, 20 August 1992

Quartered Safe Out Here: A Recollection of the War in Burma 
by George MacDonald Fraser.
Harvill, 255 pp., £16, June 1992, 0 00 272660 2
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Tyrants and Mountains: A Reckless Life 
by Denis Hills.
Murray, 262 pp., £19.95, June 1992, 0 7195 4640 0
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... in Bucharest made famous by Olivia Manning (he even said ‘What ho!’ three times in Reggie Turner’s ineffable Shakespeare production). Detaching himself to Egypt, he joined the Army and was commissioned on the General List. So began an often convivial wartime career as liaison officer with the Poles, with whom he served in North Africa and Iraq and ...

Short Legs

E.S. Turner, 24 January 1980

Eminent Edwardians 
by Piers Brendon.
Secker, 255 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 436 06810 9
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... Who prizes objectivity? Not Piers Brendon, who has had enough of long ‘photographic’ biographies and is all for ‘the irradiation of an epoch by means of sharp biographical vignettes’ in the Lytton Strachey tradition. ‘The camera’s lens reflects verisimilitude,’ he writes, ‘whereas the prism of the artist’s imagination refracts truth ...

Manners maketh books

E.S. Turner, 20 August 1981

Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners 
edited by Elsie Burch Donald.
Debrett, 400 pp., £8.95, June 1981, 0 905649 43 5
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... If the Knight of Glin, the MacKinnon of MacKinnon and the McGillicuddy of the Reeks did not exist, there might be less need of books of etiquette. These veterans of Debrett’s Correct Form (where they rubbed shoulders with Midshipman the Duke of Loamshire, a difficult guest to place at table, especially with admirals present) are back trailing their dignities in Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners ...


E.S. Turner, 1 December 1983

Just William, More William, William Again, William the Fourth 
by Richmal Crompton and Thomas Henry.
Macmillan, 215 pp., £5.95, October 1983, 0 333 35848 1
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... children for adults, but child readers, both boys and girls, took over and the author had to go easy with butts like the Society of Ancient Souls and the Society for the Encouragement of Higher Thought (the Twenties spawned endless cults, from Couéism to Eurhythmics). Some truly excruciating literary poseurs arrive to stay in William’s village, among ...

Dear Sir

E.S. Turner, 15 May 1980

The Henry Root Letters 
Weidenfeld, 156 pp., £4.50, March 1980, 0 297 77762 9Show More
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... produce a warm glow in the hearts of ordinary folk everywhere’. If Henry Root has done nothing else, he has exposed the mealy-mouthed subservience to which a regard for public relations has reduced so many in authority. What has become of the dignity of office, never mind the insolence of office? Why do public figures take outrageous insults lying ...


E.S. Turner, 1 October 1981

Nella Last’s War: A Mother’s Diary, 1939-45 
edited by Richard Broad and Suzie Fleming.
Falling Wall Press, 320 pp., £9.95, September 1981, 0 905046 15 3
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... In a storeroom at Sussex University lie the records of Mass-Observation, an organisation of anonymous people-watchers which in its heyday ran into much criticism. Some of its supporters made large claims for its methods and findings; respectable journals hailed a new form of social research, while others jeered; Evelyn Waugh complained of ‘pseudoscientific showmanship ...

Zero Hour

E.S. Turner, 29 September 1988

The Berlin Blockade 
by Ann Tusa and John Tusa.
Hodder, 445 pp., £16.95, June 1988, 0 340 41607 6
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... The last Dakota to fly supplies into Berlin in 1949, at the end of the Soviet road-and-rail blockade of that city, was inscribed with one of those apt Biblical references which the Services (usually the Royal Navy) seem able to conjure up at will: Psalm 21, verse 11. The verse reads: ‘For they intended evil against thee; they imagined a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform ...

Catchers in the Rye

E.S. Turner: Modes of Comeuppance, 3 August 2006

Rural Reflections: A Brief History of Traps, Trapmakers and Gamekeeping in Britain 
by Stuart Haddon-Riddoch.
Argyll, 416 pp., £40, April 2006, 1 902831 96 9
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... A multi-volume Anthology of Huntingdonshire Cabmen (‘sure to be the standard work on the subject’) was a running gag in J.B. Morton’s ‘Beachcomber’ column in the Daily Express. Compare and contrast, as the examiners used to say, with the anthology of Wednesfield trapmakers which occupies more than a hundred pages (with 70 more pages of non-Wednesfield trapmakers) in this extraordinary compendium, or ‘mine of information’, disarmingly entitled Rural Reflections ...


E.S. Turner, 11 June 1992

Sunny Intervals and Showers: Our Changing Weather 
by David Benedictus.
Weidenfeld, 162 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 0 297 81154 1
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... on their regular business? Why not send up the equivalent of thousand-bomber raids from the East Anglian bases on this heroic mission alone? Sleep on ...


E.S. Turner, 16 July 1981

An Ensign in the Peninsular War: The Letters of John Aitchison 
edited by W.F.K Thompson.
Joseph, 349 pp., £15.95, March 1981, 0 7181 1828 6
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... young ensign? He was the third son of William Aitchison, who had an estate at Musselburgh, East Lothian. Only with reluctance did he agree to enter the Army and allow his father to purchase an ensign’s commission in the Third Regiment of Guards, later the Scots Guards. At 19, he served in the siege of Copenhagen and two years later sailed with his ...


E.S. Turner, 3 July 1980

Friends of the Earth Cookbook 
by Veronica Sekules.
Penguin, 192 pp., £1.95, April 1980, 9780140463026
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Hedgerow Cookery 
by Rosamond Richardson.
Penguin, 250 pp., £1.95, April 1980, 0 14 046358 5
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Jane Grigson’s Cookery Book 
by Jane Grigson.
Penguin, 606 pp., £2.50, April 1980, 0 14 046352 6
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Cooking with Vegetables 
by Marika Hanbury Tenison.
Cape, 284 pp., £9.50, May 1980, 0 224 01597 4
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The Home Gardener’s Cookbook 
by Clare Walker.
Penguin, 362 pp., £1.75, April 1980, 0 14 046353 4
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Natural Baby Food 
by Anna Haycraft.
Fontana, 123 pp., £1, April 1980, 9780006358565
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... escapes from the garden in the past, is not very nice. Who wants to eat fat hen when spinach is easy to buy?’ Not for her the Emerson definition of a weed: ‘a plant whose virtue has not yet been discovered’. This dismissive attitude will not worry Rosamond Richardson, whose Hedgerow Cookery carries on the tradition of books with titles like How to ...

Great Thoughts

E.S. Turner, 7 May 1981

The Macmillan Treasury of Relevant Quotations 
edited by Edward Murphy.
Macmillan, 658 pp., £3.95, August 1980, 0 333 30038 6
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... for it needs winnowing of a great deal of chaff (quite apart from contemporary drivel). Who else, for instance, would bother to quote this pensée on the subject of the Sabbath: ‘Why is Sunday such an empty day, anywhere, city or country?’ It is by Katherine Butler Hathaway, one of 40 entries from her Journal and Letters of the Little ...

Earls’ Sons

E.S. Turner, 20 October 1983

The Man who was Greenmantle: A Biography of Aubrey Herbert 
by Margaret FitzHerbert.
Murray, 250 pp., £15, September 1983, 0 7195 4067 4
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A Classic Connection 
by Michael Seth-Smith.
Secker, 184 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 436 44705 3
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... generation Margaret FitzHerbert says that their inheritance from the Empire-builders was ‘an ease around the world, and an infinite self-confidence. Following their knightly imaginations, wandering across the face of the earth, they had no axe to grind. Theirs was, briefly, an age of chivalry, soon to be laid at rest in the trenches ...’ We are talking ...

Educating Georgie

E.S. Turner, 6 December 1984

Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor 
by Anne Edwards.
Hodder, 462 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 340 24465 8
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... What can Anne Edwards tell us about this business? Unfortunately she knows no more than anybody else and can only ask a string of questions. Eddy, first-born of Edward and Alexandra, the ‘dawdly’ flaccid prince with the long simian arms and the prominent collar and cuffs, armed with the potentially damning knowledge of how to disembowel deer, must be ...

A Potent Joy

E.S. Turner, 4 July 1985

Hitler’s Rockets: The Story of the V-2s 
by Norman Longmate.
Hutchinson, 423 pp., £13.95, May 1985, 0 09 158820 0
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... fell on Chiswick. It was ‘the weapon you never saw coming’, but in fact some observers on the East coast occasionally saw the vapour trails of V-2s rising from the launching sites in Holland (an experience akin to that of hearing the Ypres guns in the earlier war). Those Londoners who endured the rockets well remember how the impact preceded the sound of ...

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