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The Death of Mungo Blackwell February 18, 2020

Posted by Phil Groom in Book Review, Books.
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The Death of Mungo Blackwell

The Death of Mungo Blackwell

Lauren H Brandenburg
ISBN: 9781782642916
Lion Hudson, 2019
Paperback, 304pp, £8.99

The Death of Mungo Blackwell is a gently humorous tale of a wealthy couple, Charlie and Velveteen Price and their young son, Gideon, who lost it all in a financial crisis, then found it all again in another world — the strange and peculiar world of the Blackwell family.

Charlie and Velveteen had it all: with Charlie flying high in a very well paid banking career, they enjoyed every accoutrement of a fashionable lifestyle, a magnificent period townhouse and family home in a respectable neighbourhood—or perhaps I should spell that ‘neighborhood’ for this is an entirely American tale—but bad investment decisions by Charlie brought them and their dreams crashing down to earth. Charlie had to find a new line of work, and Velveteen’s life as a socialite wife, entertaining and being entertained, was over. But what else could Charlie do? How could he salvage their lives, recover from their losses?

Salvage becomes the answer: ‘picking’ and ‘flipping’ secondhand goods. Think the TV shows ‘American Pickers’ or ‘Bargain Hunt’ and you’ll get the picture. But Charlie doesn’t scour the country for his picking: he discovers a town called Coraloo and its Flea Market owned and operated by the Blackwells, then moves in with the family and begins to build his new career around the Blackwells and their market.

Woven in—sequenced between and betwixt the modern day riches-to-(not-quite)-rags story—is the older tale of the Blackwell family’s eccentric and adventurous globetrotting ancestor, Mungo Blackwell, cobbler extraordinaire. Is it history or is it legend? Who can tell? But this tale informs the Blackwell family’s sense of identity and way of life, setting the scene for the modern tale’s development, for a series of comical clashes, crises and misunderstandings between them and their newly moved-in neighbours, the Price family.

Alongside this, a love of books—of Kipling in particular and of a fictional romance, The Heiress of DuMont—keeps the plot simmering along: Charlie loves Kipling and Velveteen imagines herself as Melba DuMont, the heroine of her romantic reading. Can Charlie acquire the collector’s edition of Kipling he longs for? Can Velveteen live up to the ideals she sees in Melba? And where does Granny, the crotchety old matriarch of the Blackwell family, fit into it all?

Eccentricity is the name of the game here—it would be remiss of me not to mention The Rooning, families living in camper vans as their home-schooled children play-act in the marketplace, and a longstanding feud between the Blackwells and another local family, the Tofts—but underlying everything is a deep search for meaning, acceptance and authenticity in a world of uncertainty and chaos.

The future will always be unpredictable, the past will always leave its residues, but the present—the now in which we live—is the moment to cherish, to treasure. Leaving the past behind, living without fear for the future and taking hold of each day as it arrives: that, for me, is the take-home message of this captivating and almost Pythonesque novel. Evermore unlikely twists and turns take the tale to a delightful and highly satisfactory ending: expect the unexpected as you read, enjoy and share.

As for me, I’m already looking forward to the sequel: The Marriage of Innis Wilkinson, due in October 2020.

Note: my thanks to Lion Hudson for providing a complimentary copy of this book for review.

World’s Best Ever Videos October 10, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Books.
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OK, so I’m a tad biased: this guy is waxing enthusiastic about my wife’s book, details below. He’s a Mormon, which is a bit of a bummer, but we won’t hold that against him on this occasion since he’s making the right noises. Listen and be enlightened…

Linguistic Analysis of Biblical HebrewLinguistic Analysis of Biblical Hebrew
Sue Groom

9781842271643 (1842271644)
Paternoster Press, February 2003

Unfortunately Paternoster have discontinued the book so it’s now out of print, but copies are still available via Amazon marketplace.

Meet Jesus on Thyface October 6, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Books, Christianity.
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THIS is promises to be entertaining, methinks…

h/t @simonschusterUK | www.thy-face.com | @ThyfaceJesus

Planet BB Needs You February 25, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Books, Knockabout, Watching.
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Planet BB

Planet BB - The Boys' Brigade Around The World

I confess that I know next to nothing about the Boys’ Brigade. I know that it exists and the odd snippets I hear tell me that it does a lot of great work with young people all around the world.

But the reason for this post is that my friend and fellow bookseller, David Chant, has this book coming out fairly soon. It tells the story of the Boys’ Brigade around the world and its aim is to help raise funds  for the BB in parts of the world where things are somewhat tougher than we have them in the UK: places like Africa, where organisations like the BB are a real God-send to young people.

Trouble is, David’s in a bit a trouble. He’s just celebrated his 100th birthday (born 23rd Feb 1910, according to his facebook profile, and I always believe what people write on their facebook profiles) so you’d think with that wealth of life experience he’d have life sorted. Maybe he has; but his publishers haven’t and they’re getting a tad nervous about demand for the book. Which means if you don’t put in an order for it, instead of it raising funds for the BB, David’s going to end up subsidising it. That’s gonna take a hefty chunk out of his pension, and he’s already having to subsidise his day job out of it; rumour has it the Aussies have made him take his hammock down from in the office and are expecting him to work for a living.

So do yourself, David and the world of the Boys’ Brigade a favour, please: if you’re a BB member or a fan, or know someone else who is, head on over to your nearest bookshop — ideally your nearest Christian bookshop — and order a copy.

Find Planet BB on facebook Follow Planet BB on twitter

Planet BB: The Boys’ Brigade Around The World
Compiled and edited by David Chant
9781858583334 | £12.95
Brewin Books Ltd

Prayer of the Bánfaith February 1, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Books, Prayer.
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Came across this prayer in Scarlet, Book 2 of Stephen Lawhead’s King Raven Trilogy (pp.243-244). Hope it touches your spirit as powerfully as it touched mine; even more, I hope that you can join me in making it your prayer:

O Wise Head, Rock and Redeemer,
In my deeds, in my words, in my wishes,
In my reason, and in the fulfilling of my desires, be Thou.
In my sleep, in my dreams, in my repose,
In my thoughts, in my heart and soul always, be Thou.
And may the promised Son of Princely Peace dwell,
Aye! in my heart and soul always.
May the long awaited Son of Glory dwell in me.

In my sleep, in my dreams, in my repose,
In my thoughts, in my heart and soul always, be Thou.
Thou, a bright flame before me be,
Thou, a guiding star above me be,
Thou, a smooth path below me be,
And Thou a stout shield behind me be,
Today, tonight and ever more.
This day, this night, and forever more
Come I to Thee, Jesu —
Jesu, my Druid and my Peace.

I guess it’s the idea of Jesus as Druid that connects with me most powerfully: not some majestic, other-worldly Lord of the Universe but a fellow human being on the same journey through life with me, yet one who has already touched the mystery, upon whom I can call to sustain me in my journey.

Walking with him, the veil is thinner and hope grows stronger.

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