But in this post I want to talk about Mrs A’s Indian Gentleman by Dawood Ali McCallum. This book is set in Swindon, written by a chap that lives in Swindon and is even dedicated to Swindon.
And, with a central character that is my namesake – how could I not love it?
I heard about this book via this year’s Swindon Spring Festival – which of course, thanks to Covid-19, had to decamp as much of its output as it could to the virtual world.
Now, that’s clearly sad and terrible. But – on the other hand – it does mean that you can still watch and listen to the delightful Dawood Ali McAllum speaking to Matt Holland and talking about his book – described by him as ‘faction’. A mix of fiction and fact set in WWII.
I love the bit on Dawood’s talk where he describes how the book is dedicated to:
1. Swindon: a place which embraces, adopts, adapts and survives. 2. Swindon Central Library 3. Hachette, India 4. The Swindon Spring Festival
How could I not take him and his book to my heart?
Where the action is
I’m about halfway through the book now and I’m loving it. It’s a lovely read. It’s full of gentle humour and it’s so great reading street names and buildings and so on that we’re all familiar with.
Much of the action takes place Inside – and the Queen’s Tap, the GWR Railway Village and the Mechanics’ Institution loom large in the book. As does the GWR Park or Faringdon Road park – gratingly spelt Farringdon. I’m trying to let it go as I’m so enjoying the book. And I’m sure you will too.
Following the incorporation of Old and New Swindon in 1900 innovative women stepped up to the plate; women like Swindon born suffragette Edith New who challenged political conventions and Emma Noble, Swindon’s first female councillor, who campaigned to improve living conditions in the town.
During two world wars Swindon women worked in the railway factory in jobs once considered beyond their strength and endurance …
… The story of Swindon women includes artists and actresses, political activists and social reformers and the ordinary women who worked in the factories, raised their children and made a difference.
Previously published as The Woman in the Lake, the novel’s plot is set in the dual timelines of present day Swindon and Georgian London. It revolves around three women and an evil gorgeous golden gown. Lady Isabella Gerard has a love-hate relationship with a stunning new gown, an unexpected gift by her unloving, abusive husband.
And the ‘See Alsos’ – but not also rans!
Like I said at the top of this post, there’s an awful lot of wonderful output BY Swindonians about so many aspects of Swindon and Swindon life.
So what follows is a very few more not covered in this and the previous post. Not because they’re not worthy – they absolutely are.
Richard Wintle, known to many Swindonians as the man photographing Swindon’s history through the decades, has been busy! As you’d expect for a press photographer, Richard has a VAST archive of photographs. And he’s put some of them into a book: A Picture Is Only the Start of The Story.
NB: Not only Swindon of course. Richard’s work took him far and wide.
See one extract from it below:
In Richard’s own words:
Surrounded by my archive of about four million film-based and digital images, gathered over more than four decades of press photography in Swindon, I’ve discovered connections that run through the archive that weren’t obvious at the time.
In the book I reveal the connection between the Magic Roundabout and the Seekers pop group. And the connection between a Eurovision Song Contest entrant and a flight over the North Atlantic. I show how a work experience boy saw history made, as well as the story behind finding an unknown Swindon pop idol.
Then you’ll see how come there were twelve winners of a Miss Thamesdown competition.
During the book’s meander I explain too, the pictures we took that were published at the time but can’t be published now.
A Picture Is Only the Start of The Story takes you on a voyage. A voyage of picture stories covered by Calyx Picture Agency. The journey traveres the decades, linking the protests, as the Railway Works closed, to Honda announcing it closure.
Richard Wintle: Photographing Swindon’s History, meanders through a series of interesting links as it wanders the modern-day Swindon story. As it goes it visits many events and places. At the same time it explains some of the technological changes to the industry during and the back stories associated with the agency.
“Richard’s life as a press photographer gave him with an excellent vantage point to document major local events.Drawing on his vast archive of images, Richard has created a truly unique book, capturing local life in a way unlike any other publication “The Local Studies team, Swindon Libraries
5 Swindon Books to Read Now – and yes two of them are mine … to pass pandemic purdah time
So, we’re in the grip of the Coronavirus pandemic and at best are faced with a prolonged period of social distancing. Or at worst, lockdown, as we have at the time of reading.
So here’s five of the MANY Swindon books out there, fiction and non-fiction, written by Swindonians, with which to pass some fruitful time. Well, in fact, the title’s a bit of a cheat. Cos it’s four books and a DVD!
If you haven’t got them on your bookshelves now (and you might but not have read them) then head to the shop in Swindon central library as soon as you can. That said, some of the books included are available on mail order.
So – in no particular order:
1. A Swindon Wordsmith – George Ewart Hobbs
By Noel Ponting & Graham Carter
‘George Ewart Hobbs’ vivid writing provides us with a unique and brilliantly observed insight into everyday and so-called “ordinary” life in Swindon a century ago.
When we’re not on lockdown you can find Secret Swindon in our central library and Waterstones in Swindon. I have some copies, so if interested contact me on my Born Again Swindonian Facebook page – link below – or via this blog.
‘As the industrial revolution and the coming of the railways transformed the Wiltshire countryside Swindon women were on the front line of change, shaping the new industrial town and transforming the old market one.’
It’s a great read is this one.
5. Railway Town: Martin Parry
Okay – so this isn’t a book it’s a DVD. I bet some of you have got DVD players gathering dust. Dig them out!
The blurb on the book’s back cover tells us that George Ewart Hobbs deserves a place in the hallowed ranks of fellow Swindon writers, Alfred Williams (see Secret Swindon for some information about him) and Richard Jeffries – see also Secret Swindon and Swindon in 50 Buildings.
Our man Hobbs was no exception to the general Swindon rule: for over half a century he worked as a Great Western Railway engineer.
That aside, he wrote prolifically – largely in weekly columns for the Swindon Advertiser.
This book then is more than an account of his life and times. It also, as the title suggests, republishes some of his works. Including articles about religion, philosophy and more.
As the book blurb says: ‘George Ewart Hobbs’ vivid writing provides us with a unique and brilliantly observed insight into everyday and so-called “ordinary” life in Swindon a century ago.’
John Stooke’s new book, Last Orders, is launching at Swindon Central Library at 11am on Saturday 19th October. You’ll be able to buy the book in the library shop after the launch.
About Last Orders
Last Orders is the result of four years of meticulous research by John – and hours spent writing in The Blunsdon Arms. Well it would have to be a pub where John worked wouldn’t it?
Some of the book’s proceeds are going to support Swindon Women’s Aid.The charity will receive a direct donation of £3 from each £10 selling price.
The book runs to 400 pages, includes 800 images and is an impressive heritage record of Swindon’s best known disappeared alehouses.
Natasha Moyles, spokesman for SWA said, “We at Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service are delighted to have been chosen as the beneficiary of this fascinating project. It is a continuing challenge to raise adequate funds for the essential work we do locally. Initiatives such as John’s enable us to continue to help more victims of domestic abuse within Swindon”