The Author Peter Maughan 

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"The chop of leather on oiled yellow and  the breaking voice of a cuckoo calling ..."


"...the iron ghosts of  winters past sent clanking and blowing round the small, log-warmed bar."


"The ringing light of a full moon striking the blue frost-bright slate of the village, echoing down the headlong High Street, fading away into silences where the shadows had drifted, piled like soot ..."


Bill Sikes

"He belonged in that cupboard in the imagination of a man where the wooden swords, catapults and bent pins for fish hooks are stashed still ..." 


Under 

the 

Apple Boughs


'... I think Under the Apple Boughs should be required reading in every high school to introduce them to the finest in lyrical writing ... He sees with an inner eye what we cannot, and points it out with such delight, making you a witness to the glorious in the commonplace ... You know you have found genius when you find yourself reading it over and over.'  


'For me, the touchstone comparison is Dylan Thomas’s elegiac  A Child’s Christmas in Wales ... '


'Maughan truly typifies the Welsh meaning of the word Druid: seer. He sees, describes and enables us to see the magic too ...'


'Beautiful and often touching glimpses of life from the pen and the genius that is Peter  Maughan.' 

From Amazon reviews.


'A pastoral symphony ... Lyrical, descriptive, haunting at times, always beautiful.  It's a religious experience reading Under the Apple Boughs, leaving one awed and blessed.'

Henrietta Bellows LaLa, (St Martinville, LA), USA, Amazon review.                      


'A song of seasons, a Medieval illuminated Book of Hours ... For me, the touchstone comparison is Dylan Thomas’s elegiac A Child’s Christmas in Wales, although Thomas’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog has a similar focus … But there are other names cited. Maughan specifically dedicates this book “to the memory of Laurie Lee”, Kenneth Grahame (who famously wrote The Wind in the Willows, but wrote other books of stories and essays that sing of the same loved countryside), T.H. White, Henry Williamson, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, D.H. Lawrence, George Borrow, W.H. Hudson, Richard Jefferies, Maughan writes among hallowed company …'

Dr John Gough (Australia), Amazon review.


'... Peter Maughan paints literary landscapes with a Turner palette, all shimmery light, plays of shadows, chiaroscuro and startling detail.'

Angelica Bentley, (France), A Maze of Reviews blog. Top 500 Amazon reviewer. 


'... Beautiful and often touching glimpses of life from the pen and the genius that is Peter  Maughan.' 

Ray Nicholson, CA, Top 1000 Amazon reviewer. 


'... To experience the forces and beauty of nature such as Peter Maughan describes as he leads us along his journey through the seasons is like watching a maestro wave his baton and waiting for the magical notes to permeate the senses on the first down stroke ... And as I have said before of his lyrical prose, read it to those who cannot as yet read, and I will add now to read it to the elderly, for its music will give solace and comfort.'

JoyMarie, Lover of the Written Word, USA, Amazon review.


Available In A Kindle Edition On AmazonUK & AmazonUS 


A
mazon Reviewers:

' ... Peter Maughan, a man for all seasons, a man whose works will endear him to the ages. All his writings are classics and have earned a place in world-wide libraries. They will never be old or outdated ... just enjoyed and very loved ... every word ... every nuance. Peter Maughan is a gift you give yourself and a gift for those you love.' 

Joymarie, Lover of the Written Word, USA. 


'... one of the most outstanding pieces of literature I've ever read ... A wonderful collection of non-fiction short stories ... You'll cry along with the author over the loss of his wonderful dog, Sikes, and fall in love with everyone and everything else in it. I absolutely love this collection, and reread it frequently. It restores my faith in the art of fine writing. Each story a stand-alone masterpiece.' 
Henrietta Bellows Lala, (St Martinville, LA). 

'A splendid collection of thirteen vignettes of rural life as seen through the eyes of a writer with the soul of a poet. Peter Maughan paints literary landscapes with a Turner palette, all shimmery light, plays of shadows, chiaroscuro and startling detail. The sense of place and the natural flow of the seasons are so strong as to become major actors in his stories while his characters, whether human or animal, stand out in full three-dimensional prominence, illuminated by his compassionate humanity …' 
Angelica Bentley (Dophin, France) A Maze of Reviews. Top 500 Amazon Reviewer. 

Under the Apple Boughs is a classic ... English prose at its finest.' 
Nash Black, (USA), Vine Voice.

' ... his descriptions of people, the weather, the aromas of each season is beyond words. I felt like I was actually inside the book itself as I am a country girl myself and know exactly what each season brings.'
Pyewacket "czarnowice," (UK), Vine Voice, Top 500 Reviewer  

'... reminiscent of an old painting or ageing photograph that somehow has magically come to life for a few precious moments ... before returning to still life or crumbling to dust. Beautiful and often touching glimpses of life from the pen and the genius that is Peter Maughan.'

Ray Nicholson, CA, Top 1000 Reviewer. 


'... Maughan truly typifies the Welsh meaning of the word Druid: seer. He sees, describes and enables us to see the magic too.' 
Clarissa Simmens, (Poet of FL), United States.

'His writing style is so beautiful, one must savor each sentence ... it touches upon all your senses and breathes a pleasant warmth into one's heart.' 
Nancy of Utah, US.

'I read this book and suddenly realised that every story in it came alive and spoke of the West Country as I had lived there. I was back and smelt the lanes and fields, I heard the soft voices telling their tales and saw the villages, towns and people alive and vital as though through a suddenly opened door. The language and cadence of Peter Maughan's writing is gloriously evocative, and whether one is young or old these little gems of language can be read and re-read with the knowledge that, in his hands, the writing of true literature is not yet on its death bed.' 
FelicityM, United Kingdom.

'I began reading Apple Boughs after a particularly grueling week which was rife with heartbreak ...  Beginning the narrative was like discovering the door to the Secret Garden and walking through to find the garden reclaimed and vibrant with trees and flowers and birdsong.  For three nights running, just before sleep, I would disappear behind that gate and wander slowly with Peter Maughan through the gardens of his imagination. Our time together ended far too soon, but by the end of it I felt my soul had healed a little.'
S. Kay Murphy, On Being Simply True blog.

'... Everyday events are touchingly chronicled in this book of short stories. Life, death, and all that lies in-between. It is a treasure, the kind you read in a comfortable chair with a cup of hot tea, and after each little story is read, you close the book and your eyes, and think about it all, before beginning the next.' 
Shannon Lastowski, (The Great Midwest), Vine Voice. 

                                            Under the Apple Boughs

A journey through the seasons of a West Country year. From a valley in the iron grip of a January morning, to the first healing colours of spring cutting into the land, through summer and autumn to the voice of Nathaniel, and a Christmas Eve in his memory when it was believed that at midnight the cattle knelt in their stalls. A voice speaking of a village England that was young still when he was.







Bill Sikes


(Under the Apple Boughs)





Bill Sikes

The last morning of his life was one of sudden flawless beauty; a glittering warmed jewel of a morning, given to him as if a gift.
     He was a large, pure-white boxer dog, six stone of packed fluent muscle, pulling ahead of the two boxer bitches as usual on that morning. A dog of a dog, full of his prime, strutting it out, centre of the road like an invitation or a challenge.   
     We'd had over a week of grey skies and rain and as we took the road out of the village on that drab dawn in early May, the fields were lost in a ground mist and the wood below held the weather like a marsh.
     And then, in the lanes beyond the wood, with only a gradual, almost imperceptible, flush of warmth and light to tell of its coming, the sun gathered and rose above the brow of a hill. Rose burning in a dissolving mist, the valley steaming beneath it, the air as we walked shining like a thing newly and frailly grown.
     The climbing sun struck fire from the fields of dew, the air above them rushed with lark song, and the dogs, freed from their leads, chased after this new bright world like a thrown ball.
     Heads down after the scents of the morning, bloodhound-like in ditches and along banks, their scuts of tails an ecstatic blur, they quartered the lanes in a burst of energy as uncomplicated as a shout.
     And Sikes, wearing a black eye of dirt from a rabbit burrow, and ditch mud on his legs like disreputable socks clean on that morning, careless under the sudden beneficence of the day, heedless of how or why. A Just William of a dog with the sun and the high road calling, trotting ahead with that sideways rolling gait of his to meet them.
     He arrived at the age of six weeks in a shopping basket carried by my wife at a time when we were between dogs, and entered our world in a small explosion of savaged book covers, chewed furniture and missing, presumed buried, shoes. We christened him Bill Sikes because his Toby-jug villainous looks seemed to carry that name already, like an inscription stamped on his bottom.
     But despite what it said on the outside, his was essentially a mild disposition; a disposition that was quite prepared to allow humankind and the rest of the dog world their space, if they would allow him his. Although he would never remember a previous engagement when it came to a fight, he would never start one, and dogs intent that he should involve himself in the sport soon emerged from it wishing they had left well alone. Sikes, with the agility of the breed and the business end of his six stone, would finish it before it had a chance to get started by flipping them over on their backs, and then growling meditatively while holding them there, as if wondering which bit to chew on first.
     But they always escaped unchewed. Sikes being pulled off or trotting away, confident and quite content in leaving behind a lesson well taught.
     With old people and small animals, he was either indifferent or, if he decided to involve them in his world, mindful of his power and fanged strength. He once, presumably for the sheer hell of it, chased and caught a rabbit. Scooping it up without breaking stride, he went the full circle of a three-acre field as triumphant as a greyhound who has finally got the hare.
     And when he did trot back to us, we steeled ourselves for bloodied fur and whimperings of pain. But as Sikes opened his jaws, the rabbit, damp and bit chewed looking, and no doubt a little confused, dropped to the ground in one piece, and reorienting itself, took off, ears flattened, for the nearest hedge.
     With children he was as patient as a seaside donkey, and with adults friendly but aloof under the admiring word or hand. It was for us, the people who fed and walked him, that he reserved the works. To wrestle him off a chair or, simply so we could get in it, the bed, was to unleash a rising, bloodcurdling chorus of snarls and growls, spittle bubbling like a lubricant for those terrible, bared teeth.
     But there was of course no harm in it. Not in Bill Sikes, with his battered bowler and red-spotted kerchief tied at the throat, growling stage curses from that Dickensian underworld where all shadows are larger than life. 
     And it was, I suspect, those shadows, thrown against a backdrop of memory, that was at the heart of so much of the affection given to him in this life. Sikes was a dog who seemed to appeal to men more than women, and I believe that it was an appeal which went back to childhood and innocence. He belonged in that cupboard in the imagination of a man where the wooden swords, catapults and bent pins for fish hooks are stashed still. He was tramp, pirate, outlaw and Dick of the Bloody Hand in the day-dreaming underworld of the small boy. A half-remembered figure that beckoned outside a classroom window when the sun shone and the lessons droned, to follow, carelessly and gloriously free, Sikes on some country road forever summer.
     It was, we were told, his heart. That muscle which had given him so much boisterous life suddenly failed him. 
     We returned from the walk that morning with the sun still climbing, Sikes strutting ahead of us, swaggering through the gate as if bringing it home, a shower of bright coin over his shoulder. When he faltered, faltered and then fell.
     He tried to rise, his face a terrible and deeper shade of white, distress and bewilderment in his eyes. And the knowledge, finally, that whatever had struck at him with such dreadful force was not to be flipped over on its back this time; was not something he could trot away from, confident and content in leaving behind a lesson well taught.
     He died some minutes after we reached the vets' practice. Reviving in the car on the way there, he shouldered his way through the door of the surgery, Sikes again, centre of the road and ready for anything, out on his own with us as he was in the beginning. The hand that had struck him down, and held him there for the first time in the five, game years of his life, forgotten.
     In the reception, he jumped up and put two paws on the counter. A dog sure of his welcome, and poised there still in my memory, Bill Sikes, breasting the bar of the Pickwick Arms. Before falling back as if pushed, and lying there, still, on his side.
     Rushed onto the surgery table, surrounded by humans in a drama of attempted resuscitation, he died as he had lived. In a circle of attention, centre of the road, upstaging us to the end.



 


Under the Apple Boughs
Available in a kindle edition on AmazonUK & AmazoUS