The older I get the less attractive the prospect of lying on a beach for hours on end and roasting in the sun seems to be, so this summer we shall be mostly travelling the country making as much use of our National Trust membership as possible. And while I’m shuffling along yet another dark Tudor corridor somewhere with the foreboding portraits of grim-looking ancestors glowering at me or scoffing my way through endless cream teas in secluded courtyards I shall take time out to read Michael Bloch’s biography of James Lees-Milne (John Murray), the man who, for several years during and just after the second-world war, was responsible for saving, and acquiring for the Trust, many of its most valuable houses and properties. He was also the most celebrated and accomplished diarist of his time – waspish, uncompromising and merciless. A hero.
It would be fanciful to think that I could undertake my grand tour by train but I’m hoping that the reasons why I can’t and won’t will be entertainingly laid bare in Eleven Minutes Late : A Train Journey To The Soul Of England by Matthew Engel (Pan). Engel is described on the dust jacket as half-John Betjeman and half-Victor Meldrew so I’m hoping for something curmudgeonly affectionate. I always have a several music-related books in the pile that tower in my study and the two I’m picking for the next few weeks are John Adams’ autobiography Hallelujah Junction and The Blue Moment : Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue And The Remaking Of Modern Music by Richard Williams. Williams somehow manages to be my favourite writer on both music and football; his knowledge on both subjects is astounding and his command of and ability to impart that knowledge in such an easily digestible way and in such staggering volume is awe-inspiring. I’ve never been one for detective novels but I’ve so enjoyed the Swedish TV adaptation of Henning Mankell’s Wallander stories that I’m very tempted to try the printed versions. They might be more suitable for winter reading though; I shall see. If we get the summer we all undoubtedly deserve there will surely be a day or two when I can put up the creaking deckchair in the garden and lose myself in the latest re-printed memoir issued by the good folk at Slightly Foxed magazine. Michael Jenkins’ A House In Flanders would seem to be the perfect summer read.