What a wonderful review of Ships and Sealing Wax and Many Things, Roger Paine’s new collection of naval yarns and intriguing local histories and customs of Sussex.
What a cornucopia of a book! In its seventy odd chapters we are led through the passions and fascinations of the author. In the first section we take to the high seas, to be battered by rogue waves in one chapter, before we struggle our way to Malta in 1942 under unrelenting air attack in another. We sail board the Titanic, spend X-mas in the Royal Navy, are introduced to Oscar, the ship’s cat of the Bismarck and see the greatest naval battle of them all, Jutland, through the eyes of a Sussex teenager. Some chapters are inspired by the author’s personal recollections of the navy, a service that he obviously retains a huge affection for, others come from his own deep knowledge of the maritime world.
Once we are done with the sea, we come ashore and enter a different world entirely. We are introduced to the author’s love of poetry, both through his own work and that of some of the greats of the genre like Betjeman, Browning and Keats. This leads us on into the gentle rolling green hills and valleys of his native Sussex, which we get to taste through some of his favourite parish churches. It is a part of England with deep historical roots, and those ancient structures are mirrors to the past, reflecting each cultural change in their very fabric.
This is a collection of the writings of a man who I have never met, and yet I feel I have grown to know through the medium of his book. It is very open and welcoming, the book of a man who wants to share with us. We learn of his enthusiasm for poetry, his love of the English countryside, his abiding interest in all things nautical and his gentle humour. What perhaps comes through most strongly is also his pride in all matters local to his beloved Sussex.
This is a book to savour, to dip into and enjoy. Each chapter takes no longer than five minutes to read, and all can stand alone. Have it by the bed or next to the kettle, ready to consume another slice with your next mug of coffee. — Philip K Allan is an author the Alexander Clay series.