Monday, 26 April 2010


I am busy editing Douglas Philipson's memoir of the bobbin mill at Sparkbridge. Sadly, Douglas died some years ago and I am having to do a bit of research to make sure I have understood the details of a working mill correctly. Luckily, English Heritage have preserved the Stott Park Bobbin Mill near Lakeside and opened it to the public. ( It is the only one of its kind. I went over there last Monday. It was a beautiful day, the mill looked just as it does in this photograph. Visitors are given a guided tour and shown the old machinery still in operation. It really is worth a trip and I was particularly pleased to discover that the Sparkbridge Bobbin Mill book will be a valuable contribution to the history of bobbin making in the south lakes. There is very little available on the subject and Douglas's memoir, as well as being technically detailed, paints a fascinating portrait of the everyday lives of the people who worked there in the early days of the 20th Century.

Friday, 9 April 2010


Irvine Hunt's novel for children (and adults too!), The Drover's Boy, is loved by everyone who reads it and we have had some really good reviews. The most gratifying compliment of all however, came from a parent at Croftlands Junior School in Ulverston after Irvine visited there to talk about The Drover's Boy and his life as a writer. She has given us permission to quote from her email.

'Just wanted to write and thank you for giving your reading at my son’s Junior School this week. My 10 year old son, Sam, has no interest in reading whatsoever, as he believes it to be "stupid and boring"………. So, imagine my surprise this morning when he asked me for the money to buy your book! Even more surprisingly, when I told him that I had no cash on me he took the money out of his piggy bank and is buying it himself! This really is a remarkable turn of events, so I would like to sincerely thank you for whatever you said or did that has aroused this interest in reading. Long may it continue!'

It's lovely to find an email like this amongst all the day to day stuff in your in-box and wonderful to think that Irvine's talk has made such a difference to a child.

School visits vary. Success depends on good preparation by class teachers beforehand. The Drover's Boy, with its tale of Cumbrian geese drovers in the early 20th Century is an excellent subject for a talk. The children love to hear about the battles between Henry and Torse, the cantankerous Irish drover. They particularly enjoy the practical jokes Henry plays on Torse. Cumbria Magazine, reviewing The Drover's Boy this month, suggest it is a must for school libaries.

Friday, 26 March 2010


I am pleased with the review in February's Cumbria magazine of Gill Nicholson's poetry collection Naming Dusk in Dead Languages. It is quite short but I sense the reviewer really has read all the poems and this is a genuine response. Here it is.. and you might like to know that the next Poem and A Pint will be at Greenodd Village Hall on April 10th. The guest poet is Emma Jones, currently poet in residence at the Wordsworth Trust.

'There is an uncomfortable edge in Gill's words about the passing of time, nature and relationships that sets you thinking about your own life situations. That's the mark of good poetry which, I gather, is enjoying something of a renaissance in Cumbria. It's not easy reading but you won't fail to be stimulated - maybe into going along to one of this poet's regular 'A Poem and A Pint' sessions.'

Sunday, 21 March 2010


Spring is in the air and a great time time to launch Handstand News. My aim is to keep you up to date with forthcoming publications and share local book chat. Your feedback and comments will be most welcome.

I am devoting most of my energy at the moment to the Sparkbridge Bobbin Mill manuscript. It was written in the 1970's by the late Douglas Philipson. It is a subject about which I knew very little and it is proving fascinating. The typescript was sent to me by Douglas's daughter in Canada. She tells the story of her family's connection with the Mill on the Crake Valley website. Click on this and go to Local Interest/Personal Messages and 'From Spark Bridge to Ottawa'. It makes lovely reading.
I went to Sparkbridge to research some background material. The pub, The Royal Oak, has a dozen or so photographs of the Mill on the wall. The friendly landlords introduced me to a lady in the village who had worked there and kept a marvellous scrapbook of photographs and memorabilia. Its this sort of thing that makes publishing so enjoyable.