29 March 2003

A child's book

This isn't a Peter Pips story but it is pure nostalgia so maybe it's allowable?

In 1943 when I was seven, my brother Peter and I were packed off to our aunt at Overton in north Hampshire for a month or two. I think our mother had to have an operation. Our uncle was a gamekeeper for Portals the banknote paper people and we had a great time helping the beaters on pheasant shoots, picking bluebells and generally running riot. Uncle had a copy of a Boy's Own Paper Annual that he may have had as a present as a boy. We pored over it with delight spending much time studying the pictures and reading the stories. When we left they gave us the book and we treasured it. Then, some years later, the book went missing and since then I have been looking for it. With the advent of the internet I thought that I might have a good chance of tracking it down. I contacted many booksellers without success. Then, feeling fully recovered after an op. last August, I decided to try to find the book in the British Library and yesterday Anne and I took the train to Euston and walked the short distance to the Library. It's an impressive place isn't? After having some trouble with the very clunky computer system we ordered a bunch of the volumes and sat back and waited at our desk. Oh joy, the fifth one, volume 45 of 1923, was the one I was looking for. I recognised every picture and I found the hairs on my neck tingling! When we got home to Northampton I checked on the internet and found a bookseller in Cromer who had a copy for £16. So now I wait with happy anticipation for the postman's knock on the door.


  1. I can think of all sorts of childhood reading that would have a similar effect on me, Jim. Copies of the Eagle, of which I only remember Dan Dare's adventures; an obscure comic called the Rocket, which briefly came and went; a few issues of Young Elizabethan, which I read in the children's section of the public library; ... Somewhere on my shelves is a copy of an old SF mag, with a title along the lines of Amazing Stories, which I found maybe 10 or 12 years ago being sold from a street vendor's stall at Cambridge Circus; I'd read the same issue as a kid at my uncle's home in Reading. The cover showed a picture of a man and woman adrift in space as their rocket-ship plunged to destruction. They wre wearing skimpy swimsuits and goldfish bowls on their heads, so realism was not valued highly in this particular genre ...

  2. I have now had a chance to browse the BOP annual and it has been really enjoyable. The articles are so evocative of the age, the twenties. Here are a couple of instances.
    There was a 'Hobbies' page. November 1922 had a design for a pump for a model steamer. It started-
    "Those boys who possess a model steam-boat, or who contemplate making one, will be a trifle bothered about the business of a pump, no doubt. It is a well-built model steamer that does not leak at the propellor shaft, and no matter how well built, if the weather is rough, the boat is bound to take a quantity of water aboard.....
    ....to the boy who knows how an oscillating cylinder works, the picture will explain itself. To others, a little explanation is needed....  
    [Well, even after sixty years, the picture doesn't explain itself and the further explanation is quite dense! I suppose what I am saying is that maybe we expected more of our teenagers in the twenties?] Another item in the same hobbies section included an article on 'Making an electric kite'.
    It starts- "Would you like to possess an 'electric kite, or in other words, make yourself a kite capable of flying to a considerable height and drawing down to the earth the free electricity from the atmosphere in visible form, so that it can be seen flashing and sparkling like a miniature lightning storm?  It is very readily done, and forms a most amusing and instructive thing..."
    It goes on in several paragraphs to describe the venture and then finally, maybe after the editor has seen the contribution at a late stage says
    "Simple and easy as this sounds, you must be careful in flying such a kite-- particularly in thundery weather. At all times, the string ought to be passed over an iron or metal railing after leaving the hand, and it should never knowingly be flown when thunder is near"
    Times change don't they?   jim 

  3. oops the picture didn't come out, let's try again,   jim  


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