All Around the Year by Michael Morpurgo

I have read Michael Morpurgo books for a very long time, children’s literature being a big part of earning my living, so am well-versed in his writing. He is a prolific writer and I have always felt that the quality has been a little mixed.

This book is for adults and is a diary of a year working on a farm in readiness for their Farm’s for City Children charity which Morpurgo and his wife set up. There are also photos by James Ravilious and a poem for each month by Ted Hughes and it is these that save the diary from sinking into the mud. Farming does not make for an exciting diary – it is the same things every day, especially if you are a dairy farmer, and then other work patterns over the months and then year. It is good and essential work but this is not the same as English Pastoral by James Rebank although some of the themes are the same. There is the love of the land and the animals, hard, hard work for little money and always problems to be solved and welfare issues to be dealt with.

The photos are part of the North Devon Archive: hundreds and hundreds of photos showing local people and events and a rural community’s daily life and they are so evocative of a time gone by. In black and white, making them appear even older than they are, they conjure up daily lives. I particularly like the one of Archie Parkhouse carrying ivy for the sheep and holding an old feedsack over his head for protection from the rain now made into a greetings card (!) and the picture of the children going home after cricket through a field of cows, two walking and one on a bike.

Hughes’ poetry is wonderful, I haven’t read all of them before. In August we get ‘Coming Down Through Somerset’ with the dead badger on the road, closely inspected, ‘sooty gloss-throated’ and ‘bristling wildness’ and in January the description of a gale blowing in a New Year. These are definitely worth returning to.

The proceeds of this book go to Farms for City Children.

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