Being held up with the sale of our house prior to moving to Cheshire (or Lancashire, not absolutely definite yet……), I have had to make do with reading about the county. I was glad to see on a recent visit to Waterstones that a new guide was out in the ‘Slow Travel’ series by Bradt. This I have devoured from cover to cover. It really is a most unusual and brilliant series of guides. Written by local experts, ‘Cheshire’ was a revelation. So many out of the way places, restaurants, farm shops, attractions of all kinds that we haven’t yet visited in our trips up North. And what you quickly learn in this guide is that your probable preconceptions about the county – flat, inland, dairy farms, cheese, the houses of footballers and Coronation Street stars – is wide of the mark in many respects. Parts of the countryside are as beautiful as anywhere, there are some lovely heights to walk along and get amazing views, Cheshire has a coast (the Wirrall) which is well worth a visit. And history and industrial interest are everywhere. And undoubtedly Chester itself is one of my absolute top-favourites of small towns, more spectacular than York in both setting and what it contains. Thanks to ‘Cheshire’ I am more anxious than ever to migrate there!
Before our recent trip to Verona, I sent for the book ‘Italian Neighbours : An Englishman in Verona’ by Tim Parks. It seemed a natural for anyone visiting this most splendid of cities. But the more I got into the book, the more and more disappointed and frustrated I became, because this wasn’t about Verona at all but about the little village somewhere near Verona where Parks lives. Verona got about two mentions. Whilst it was moderately interesting in itself, it really was something that should have fallen foul of the Trades Descriptions Act. Caveat Emptor! Having fallen completely in love with Venice again ( we were only there for a few hours), we have both been re-reading the Commisario Brunetti novels by Donna Leon. ‘Death At La Fenice’ is the very first, and I have just finished it. It certainly doesn’t read like a first novel (as so many first novels do), and all of the characteristics which are in the many later novels are also present here. The emphasis on Brunetti’s home life, the pointing up of differences between how men think and how women think, the drinks and the meals, the description of place, the realistic conveying of how Venice ‘feels’, the ever=present undercurrents of Italian politics and corruption – all are just as important as the plots which are never very convoluted and therefore ideal bedtime reading. So glad we went to Venice to get us back into reading these brilliant evocations of Italian life!!!