Review of the reads – October 2022
A Brick on the Head by Peter Waite
The title of this memoir refers to the author’s peculiar ‘baptism’ around the age of three, when helping his father collect bricks for his Waddington business. It is one of many anecdotes from a life firmly rooted in Lincolnshire but eager to follow a path of adventure.
Boomer’, Waite captures the hard graft, the making do and the lessons learned from a previous generation that allowed his own to thrive. Waite’s early ambitions to serve in the Royal Navy, however, were dealt a blow when he failed the medical, but he was soon drawn to civil engineering before later beginning his own successful textile firm in Nottingham.
His busy working life has been matched by a colourful social life and now retired he shares entertaining stories from days as a gigging musician, ski trips and sailing vessels chartered with friends across the world. Waite does not claim to be a Lincolnshire explorer on a level with Flinders or Banks – his is a story of humble beginnings, high aspirations and plenty of drifting and disappointment. But his experiences are shared with an appealing sense of curiosity, camaraderie and a seafarer’s way of drawing the reader in.
Those who grew up in Lincolnshire in the 1950s and 1960s will recognise much in the social picture that Waite paints, from school days to the types of characters encountered and the opportunities for broadening horizons. Whether joining the Sea Cadets Club of Lincoln, or doing business in Finland, the memories blend humour and pathos, exploring themes of love and loss.
That early blow to the head is mirrored in an accident when the fortysomething Waite is sorting out a roll of fabric in the warehouse of his textile firm. Crashing down to the hard ground and concussed, Waite must come to terms with the recent death of his father and his own adult life circumstances. It is a reminder that each ordinary life has its extraordinary patterns.
Published by Matador, Price £10.99
Lincoln: The Postcard Collection by Alan Spree
Not only a record of Lincoln’s past but also the history of a form of communication now seldom used in an age of mobile phone and internet communication. This collection of postcards shows some of the typical scenes that were used for sending messages from the city in a bygone age.
There are photographs and illustrations, monochrome and colour images and some seasonal views, as with Potter Gate Arch in the snow. They capture a city of industry and of worship, with several churches photographed here long demolished. Some postcards document important changes such as the introduction of motor buses in 1901 and special occasions such as the visit of King Edward VII to the Royal Agricultural Show in 1907, while even the more unassuming Greestone Steps – the home of many cathedral cleaners in the 1600s – have become synonymous with Lincoln and is now a more exclusive area.
The postcards depict businesses and fairs long gone as well as the buildings and monuments that remain today, providing a sense of continuity in a rapidly changing world – the face of the city below hill now being transformed further to accommodate a growing student population.
Covering the major landmarks, with an extended section on each aspect of the Cathedral, still the most magnificent sight in Lincoln and much of the surrounding area, Alan Spree annotates each image with a short description for historical insight. The book is prefaced too by an overview of the city’s history from the first century BC to the Second World War for added context.
There is no apparent order to the images – no sense of taking a trip from uphill to the lower High Street for instance, and some reproductions are of better quality than others, but this makes for an evocative map of life in Lincoln with a sense of getting away from the noise and crowds in the quieter scenes. One view of Castle Square is simply captioned ‘A bit of old Lincoln’ – but even in the most everyday scenes there is plenty of historical interest.
Published by Amberley Publishing, Price £15.99