Letters to the BV Editor September 2021


In the August Letters, P Bone of Shaftesbury took me to task for saying I prefer Plain Salted crisps to any other flavour (see the Random 19 July issue), declaring that Smoky Bacon and Prawn Cocktail were the only correct answers to that question. Even just reading of those flavours made me turn pale, but for the sake of the scientific method, I sampled both. The Smoky Bacon reminded me – and not in a pleasant way – of the Bac-os Bacon-Flavored Bits that used to be served at salad bars across my native USA. As for the Prawn Cocktail – I draw a veil over my reaction.

However, PB has perhaps sensed that I was not entirely truthful in my original reply. The only thing that could cleanse my palate of those crisp flavors was tortilla chips (plain, lightly salted, of course). I far prefer them to crisps. Maybe that’s the American coming out in me again.

Or, maybe they just do things differently up in North Dorset.

Tracy Chevalier
Piddle Valley

(NB – If you missed Andy Palmer’s August column, you may wish to click & read it here before continuing. A hornet’s nest was stirred)

As ever I enjoyed reading Andy Palmer’s article in the August BVM, not least about the delights of Mappowder Village Hall events (cannot remember why I missed the curry night – and there are loads of proper china plates in the corner cupboard in the kitchen if you had looked Andy, rather than use paper ones).
Yes I agree Thomas Hardy is not the author whose works should be the first books you grab if you are feeing a bit depressed. I dont agree with him being a mysoginist though – his works do spell out a few home truths to his Victorian middle-class readers about the subordinate position of women at that time, and the double standards operating even more then than now. Hardy the feminist?
And thanks for the plug for The Emporium Andy, just one of our four excellent “charity” shops in Stur busily recycling once loved goods.

Cllr Pauline Batstone
Sturminster Newton

Despite being a Thomas Hardy fan of old, there are times when the author’s relentless pursuit of misery does rather crush one’s spirits.
For Andy Palmer to single out the story of Tess as an award winner in the category of Wretchedness is fair, and one could go as far as to say that despite using every means at his disposal to lay bare the hypocrisies of Victorian society, Hardy could just be the Morrissey of the mid to late 1800s, without the blunt rudeness.

Matthew Coldicutt
Hardy Country resident

This is the first time I have felt compelled to write in about an article in a magazine.
I thought Andy Palmer’s article decrying Hardy for being a ‘little bit miserable’ was refreshingly honest but perhaps reckless living as he does in Hardy’s Vale.
My main concern, being Mr Palmer’s neighbour, is that offended Hardy fans don’t target our house by mistake.
Maybe I’ll put a sign up, ‘Mr Palmer resides next door’?

Derryl Darling
(Location withheld for Ms Darling’s own safety…)

Rather than write in the royal ‘we’ as if I represent the entire Thomas Hardy Society (though as the Secretary and general dogsbody perhaps I might get away with it!), I am writing in the capacity of a sometime Hardy academic and an all-the-time lover of Hardy’s works.
Your article asking why Hardy is so popular produced more than a couple of smiles across my visage, but I do wonder exactly how much of Hardy’s oeuvre Mr Palmer may have perused?
I grant that Tess of the d’Urbervilles is not one of Mr Hardy’s chirpiest novels, and Jude the Obscure is indeed a tad bleak – one critic summed it up as follows: one cousin marries a bimbo while the other marries a rather misguided teacher. Bimbo does a runner, teacher grants a divorce so that the cousins may marry, cousins don’t marry but have offspring, one of whom turns up on the doorstep claiming to be from cousin #1’s marriage #1. Being a rather miserable little chap he proceeds to kill his half-siblings and then himself. Cousin remarries returned bimbo, other cousin remarries deluded teacher after a still-birth, cousin #1 coughs up blood and dies, cousin #2 spends rest of life self-flagellating.
Divorces 3, Deaths 5.
I ask you, what is not laugh-a-minute about this plot?

Alas it seems to be these rather tragic stories that are most loved by Hardy readers, instead of those containing his dry wit and genuinely lough-out-loud moments, such as the novels The Trumpet-Major (the character of Festus Derriman is a creation of comic genius) and The Hand of Ethelberta. Or the short stories such as ‘The Thief Who Couldn’t Stop Sneezing’.
The subject of Hardy’s poems include drinking cider, dancing and flirting. Indeed his poem ‘The Ruined Maid’ is utterly hilarious; so much so that the Dorchester Town Crier Alistair Chisholm adapted it to a male perspective, calling his version ‘The Roué’, which is, if anything, even funnier than Hardy’s original!

Mr Palmer, I only hope that your good self and your plethora of devoted readers do not conflate Hardy’s supposed miserableness with those of us from the Society who are his mortal representatives on Earth! We’re actually an ok bunch who quaff vast amounts of cider, partake in barndances and other general silliness, and engage in lively debates on social media, where we ask such pressing questions as: ‘if you could sit on a bench with any Hardy character, who would it be and what would you say?’
(My own answer – I would ask Marty South from The Woodlanders why she didn’t give Grace Melbury the enormous slap she deserved)

I encourage you and your readers to come and join our convivial community and attend one of our events. I can’t guarantee that you will drink cider, dance or flirt, but at last one of the three will inevitably be engaged in!
Dr Tracy Hayes


Just to say I very much enjoyed the latest issue of the BV – but I don’t THINK (I may be wrong) that the first of the ‘Readers’ Photographs’, though lovely, is Compton Abbas church?

C Owen
I spoke to Benn Churchill the photographer of the image in question, and he confirmed the picture features St Mary the Virgin’s church, Compton Abbas. Ed.

I was surprised that you gave so much space in your magazine to the vandals who created that crop circle near Okeford – you mention that it cost the farmer

£600 in lost wheat. Do you not think you’re glorifying willful destruction which will only encourage more lost crops?
Name withheld

It was a story of public interest and our stats show that a huge amount of readers spent a lot of time on those pages – probably due to the high quality photography.
We took great care to dicuss the issue regarding the agricultural and financial damage, and the illegal access and trampling issues; hardly glorifying it. In the same issue we also reported on an incident of alleged illegal hare coursing – balanced discussion is not glorifying. Ed.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:

More like this

County Show gives £10,000 to new Emergency Department

The Dorset County Show has generously donated £10,000 to...

Letters to the Editor May 2024

Regular readers will have noticed the absence of election-focused...

Pupils race to raise: Miles for Mosaic mission gains momentum

A wave of enthusiastic energy is set to sweep...

Small hands making a big impact

Bingo halls to community calls – Shaftesbury’s Rotakids, a...