Dr Dolittle’s Post Office by Hugh Lofting (1923)

28 February 2012

Reading Daisy chapters from ‘Dr Dolittle’s Post Office’ at bedtime.

I loved these books when I was her age. I remember the thick, well-thumbed plastic covers of the big hardback copies I borrowed from the village library. Hugh Lofting volunteered for the Army and served in France from 1916, before being wounded and invalided out in 1918. He began writing the Dr Dolittle stories in letters to his children. Apparently, he was inspired by the fortitude of the many horses and mules he saw in France. Cf ‘War Horse’, the film of which is out now. And cf Elgar’s heartbreak at the killing of so many poor horses. A book about Elgar and the war takes a famous sentence from a letter of his as its title – Oh My Horses! Elgar, the Music of England and the Great War. It was a common theme at the time.

‘Dr Dolittle’s Post Office’ on Amazon

Elgar’s Great War music

2 February, 2012

Radio 3’s composer of the week is Elgar, focusing on his compositions during the Great War. I’m helping my son with his homework project about the battle of the Somme. I’ve been reading extensively around the Russian Revolution which was a direct result of the Great War. And on my walks I’m reading the poetry of Edward Thomas who only started writing poetry in 1914 and was killed by a German shell at Arras in 1917.

All these thoughts, poems, stories and impressions I bring to each of the war memorials by the churches in the villages I walk through, many still bearing their November poppy wreaths, worn and tattered. They’re partly what shadowed, haunted and spooked me in the empty grey woods outside Capel, and especially in one long desolate clay muddy field which I had to trudge across as the mud sucked and pulled at my boots and the puddles spread out on all sides and the winter air burned my cheeks and I became almost afraid. A tiny tiny echo of what other men saw and felt in four long murderous years, and then in the many ruinous wars which followed the Armistice.

Unfortunately, none of these fascinating programmes can be listened to again (presumably for copyright reasons), but the BBC web pages still have the track listings for Elgar’s compositions during the Great War – The Elgar page on the BBC’s composer of the week website. Well worth tracking down on YouTube, or even buying. Over the week the BBC explained and played all the tracks on this rather obscure CD – Elgar: War music.

A muddy field near Capel in Surrey

A muddy field near Capel in Surrey

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