Jeremy James - The Tippling Philosopher

Merlin Unwin Books £12.00
ISBN 1-873674-74-0

First of all, before you read any further, there is nothing about fishing in this book, but if you live in rural Britain, you will have met most of the characters and as a collection of stories, it is irresistible.

Researching this book might have been tough, but I can see that once you had the idea, it would be hard to resist the challenge of propping yourself up against the bar in a variety of country pubs, listening to the crack until going home time and then forcing yourself to do it all over again the next day. And the one after that, and the one after that, until they all blur into one and you wake up behind a hedge, unsure of your whereabouts and even your name. Which is how the characters in The Tippling Philosopher lead their lives, the tales weaving around the challenge of farming, running old Landrovers, dealing with EU regulations and rubbing along with cranky neighbours. The stories are told in a kind of bastardised vernacular which has more than a touch of Damon Runyon to it, but is none the worse for that; and all the stories are scorchers, bar the one about the rabbit.

A couple of things that struck me were the almost total absence of discussion of field sports, a subject dear to most countrymen’s hearts; and the comment in the foreword that country characters are disappearing – they aren’t – they have just moved up here to Durham. I seriously enjoyed reading The Tippling Philosopher and it would make a great present.