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Supper with the sun in our eyes | A Countryman’s Summer Notebook

‘We were sitting in a little mill house among paddocks, having supper with the sun in our eyes: it shone straight through the open door. Copper pans on the west-facing wall blazed like some hero’s arms. The hay field outside had a rosy crest of sorrel, and the flowering grassheads glittered . . .’

Greetings from Hoxton Square where we have already begun posting out pre-orders of Adrian Bell’s A Countryman’s Summer Notebook. In this, the third volume of our seasonal quartet, Bell takes us into the summer countryside, to smell the may blossom in hedges which ‘suddenly become cliffs of white’, to linger in quiet churches, wander through country towns, and hear the voices of the craftsmen and women, the farmers and farm labourers whose lives are rooted in the Suffolk soil.

It was a countryside Bell grew to love when he became a farmer there soon after the First World War. Joining him in his wanderings is a magical experience, as it must have been for the readers of the Eastern Daily Press, who followed Bell’s regular column for thirty years between 1950 and 1980. Today his pieces have the extra element of nostalgia, for as he wanders, and relishes, and ruminates, Bell is recording a world that was fast disappearing. But he is never sentimental. His perceptions are sharp and invigorating and, as these little pieces show, his approach to the countryside was well ahead of his time.

‘Flowers and conversations are the best pleasures I know,’ Bell wrote. In these lovely evocations of summer in the Suffolk landscape, he gives us both, from his meeting with an old farmer whose words ‘were like something out of the Bible’ to the sight of daisies ‘glad as confetti in the long grass’.

Please read on for a suitably sun-drenched extract and links to other recommended reads.

With best wishes from the SF staff

Jess, Isabel, Rebecca, Izzy & Jennie

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