Another treat for lovers of Adrian Bell to put alongside A Countryman’s Winter Notebook, which we published in 2021. A Countryman’s Spring Notebook is our second seasonal selection from the weekly column Bell wrote from 1950 to 1980 for the Eastern Daily Press catches beautifully the arrival of Spring in the East Anglian landscape he loved and knew so well. Each essay is a little masterpiece, a fleeting moment captured with a painterly eye and the down-to-earth observation of the farmer Bell became after he left his fashionable life in Chelsea shortly after the First World War – an experience which produced his much-loved farming trilogy, Corduroy, Silver Ley and The Cherry Tree.
All of Bell’s writing started with minutely observed daily details recorded in manuscript notebooks which he kept for most of his life. Weather, farming notes, history, personal reflections, all went into the notebooks which are rather like an artist’s field sketches. Indeed Bell was always drawn to artists, and two of his greatest friends were John Nash and Alfred Munnings, painters who lived in Suffolk and whom Bell often joined on their sketching trips.
Adrian Bell had no time for ‘literary’ writing. For him the authenticity of the experience was the thing, and to that was added the magic ingredient which makes the essays so individual – the ability to ‘see more than scenery in the scene’, which he learned both from his painter friends and from his years as a farmer. In capturing what he called ‘the inconsequences of life’ he gave the ordinary things he observed a timeless quality, and the little essays compiled in A Countryman’s Spring Notebook are as fresh now as when they first appeared. Read one every morning and it will set you up for the day.