The rural landscape of John Phillpott’s boyhood has changed irrevocably over the last half-century.The elm – that celebrated ‘Warwickshire Weed’ of folklore – has been lost to disease, urban sprawl continues apace and motorways now disturb the tranquillity of fields that once knew only the sound of cattle, birdsong and the rumble of the farmer’s tractor.But paradise lost? Not quite, because the river flows on through the valley as it has done for millennia, the rook ‘parliaments’ can still be seen high overhead and the bells of the church that has stood on the hill looking out over the Swift Valley for a thousand years still call out to the faithful.Beef Cubes and Burdock is an affectionate glance over the shoulder back to a time when the pace of life was still dictated by the rhythm of the seasons rather than the touch of a computer keyboard.
I was of aware of John from his articles in the Worcester News and enjoyed his style of writing. Beef Cubes and Burdock will appeal to most boys whose childhood was spent predominately in the 1950's, as it transports you back to a more innocent age where children just played and made their own entertainment and adventures. So many parallels to my own childhood sent on the Malvern Hills; a great read!
Alan Wallcroft (former Editor of the Bromsgrove, Droitwich Spa, Redditch and Alcester Advertisers).
EVERYDAY life in the countryside, as well as the city, has changed considerably, some might say dramatically, over the years, which is why a new book looking both lovingly and wistfully at the way it was more than half-a-century ago in a small village is a welcome addition to bookshelves.
Many of the adventures of yesteryear, the changes over decades, are irrevocably lost in the mists of time, although there are pockets in suburbia but more likely in quieter rural areas, where it might still be possible to glimpse what life must have been like in the 1950s for a young boy.
Beef Cubes and Burdock: Memories of a 1950s Country Childhood, is exactly that.
Written by Worcestershire journalist and author John Phillpot, it is a collection of stories from the days of his boyhood growing up in the village of Churchover, near Rugby in north Warwickshire.
And it’s one I can, and I am sure many others of a similar age, will find they have great resonance with as many of the adventures and escapades of yesteryear also happened to those of us who grew up in the city.
Phillpot says: “The rural landscape that I knew back in the 1950s has changed irrevocably over the last half-century. The M6 cut through the parish in the late 1960s, and the inevitable development soon followed, urbanizing what had hitherto been rolling farmland.
“The book is both a lament and a celebration of a vanished rural idyll. It also serves as a warning that when we cover the countryside with concrete and tarmac it is lost forever.”
Those of us who are former city dwellers can appreciate his feelings having lost green areas too with spreading development on the outskirts where ‘our gang’ also used to go armed with nets foraging for sticklebacks and other species along the Dingles on the edge of Birmingham, woodland adventures, and soapbox races too in contraptions comprising old wooden boxes, planks, and pram wheels!
But there is no way, even back then, that I could have sampled a cobbled beef cube and a swig of burdock together! Pass the lemonade, please…
Life was slower back then, we made our own fun keeping fit out in the fresh air and got by without computer keyboards and games.
It’s an affectionate glance over the shoulder to how it was in a more innocent age - but times do change. However, the author, on his occasional pilgrimages back home, knows what still remains. His much-loved River Swift. But here again, much water will have flowed beneath its bridges…
Some references to people and places are perhaps a little repetitive at times but it doesn’t diminish the warmth of this pleasant read or the author’s love of the characters who helped shape his early life, and his love for the countryside - his own place of paradise - and its pursuits, and thoughts too of one Maureen Gardner!
This magical tale of a 1950s childhood in rural Warwickshire is an indulgence for those of us 60/70 year-old somethings who more than occasionally find ourselves railing against 20th century life. But it is nonetheless a heart-warming and beautifully written memoir that captures the essence of a world focused almost entirely on the simple pleasures to be found in nature, the seasons and the vivid imagination of short-trousered boys given a playground of unrestricted countryside lanes and fields.
If you want to discover - or remember- what it was like before technology marched into our children's lives, Beef Cubes And Burdock will lead you up the garden path and deliver an unashamedly nostalgic and affectionate glimpse into a vanished age. John Phillpott peppers his reminiscences with slices of the history of his home county and finely drawn sketches of the characters who made his beloved village of Churchover his haven. The overwhelming desire for that childhood idyl to be preserved bubbles through the book as clearly and strongly as the river which flowed past the bottom of the author's home and which continues to comfort and inspire him. This is indeed a trip down memory lane and a reminder of what has been lost.
YOU don’t have to be a son – or indeed a daughter – of the county of the bear and ragged staff to enjoy this affectionate look back to a world that has vanished.
You don’t even have to have been born, like the author, in a village but the experience of a 1950s childhood is a great advantage. For it is this decade, when the summers seemed always hot and the winters endlessly cold and snowy, that John Phillpott revisits with precise detail.
Netting sticklebacks and newts and wondering why they failed to survive when brought home to live in an unused fish tank or old tub in the garden. Unwrapping the silver paper on an Oxo cube and savouring the delight within. Did you suck or nibble on the contents?
Beef Cubes and Burdock is his own reminiscence of growing up in the Warwickshire village of Churchover at a time when life was simpler and both carefree and car free. Children then had a boundless freedom to roam that sadly was not later afforded to their own children and certainly not to their grandchildren.
Disappearing from the house after breakfast and back in time for tea, this was perhaps the last hurrah of childhood proper before television, computer games, Wii and tablets became the nation’s child-catchers. Playing games of cowboys and indians, trying to outwit the local bobby – the long arm of the law then inevitably rode a bicycle – building campfires, climbing trees, constructing dens, observing nature in all its wondrous forms; this was the age of innocence that was the 1950s. John Phillpott brings it accurately back to life.
I brought this for my Dad, he was engrossed with it. Seems to have evoked many happy memories from his childhood in Birmingham. Now he has passed it to others in the family.
If you grew up in the 50s and 60s - but not only - then this nostalgic tale of growing up in rural Warwickshire will act as a necessary antidote to a world gone mad. A time when children were free to roam and create their own adventures. A portal into another world.....
John Phillpott writes about his childhood in rural Warwickshire in the 1950's. He has a gift for describing a time and place and way of life now almost gone forever, and for invoking memories of your own childhood, if you were lucky enough to have grown up in those simpler, if less affluent and materialistic times. I can really recommend this nostalgic read.
A wonderfully evocative book for those of us who had the privilege of growing up in the 1950s. It captures the endless days of fun and adventure of a boyhood spent out of doors in a small village in the beautiful Warwickshire countryside, when the only restriction was to be 'back for tea’. It's a collection of heart-warming tales about a gang of schoolmates enjoying the freedom of fields and woods, rivers and streams and playing on almost traffic-free roads. It recalls the adventures, games and hobbies of that bygone age with such clarity that you find yourself reliving it 60 years on. The author takes us through the seasons, often enjoyed in the company of a countryman who lived opposite him, with a wonderful description of a simple village Christmas, before the baggage of today’s consumerism. It very much reminded me of Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie, an innocent age we’ll never see again, but relived on every page of this wonderful book; a tome I will be dipping into for many years to come.
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