Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Flower of Gloster - book review

The Flower of Gloster
by E Temple Thurston
September 2012

Like exploring some of the significant lost canals, there are some books which I delay reading  simply because I know I will be delighted by them and I want to prolong the anticipation.

The Flower of Gloster falls into this category and it didn't let me down.

I have a special appreciation of books about canal journeys and have been overindulging in the wartime era just lately. I saw a copy of The Flower of Gloster in a bookshop in Upton on Severn ,which I snapped up along with another half dozen publications at considerable cost to my bank balance. This book was worth every penny of the £7.50 I paid for it.

Its the account of Temple Thurston's one month trip in 1911, starting in Oxford and going as far north as Solihull where the dead dogs and grime (nothing changes there then) drove him south to Stratford. At this point the Avon was not navigable so he headed south along the Avon on foot, following in the footsteps of Charles Showell and his then new book Shakespeare's Avon. This cross reference to one of my favourite books pleased me no end.

But this  bland A - B - C - D dosn't do the book justice at all. Thurston was a journalist and therefore a skilled writer. The book is therefore quality literature, even if the language is rather frlowery and verbose to the contemporary ear. A pleasing counterpoint to the clipped "Pathe News" style found around world war 2.

Temple Thurston has an eye for the detail and a keen appreciation for the world around him, but the real star of the show is the shadowy figure of Eynsham Harry who was hired, with his horse, to provide the motive power for this epic journey. Harry is one of life's uneducated philosophers, always ready with something profound to say and a character as colourful as the country side through which they passed. 

Perhaps the best was left till the last, a passage across what is now known as the Cotswold Canal, offering one of the best and certainly one of the last accounts of this passage. The Golden valley described sounds beautiful and I cant wait for this restoration to be completed.

I will say no more about this book. If you havn't read it yet and have a love for canals, it is a must. 

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