"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."
"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 ..."
'... 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.'
'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.
' ... 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.
'... 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.
Season of Mists and Bronchitic Church Mice
(Under the Apple Boughs)
The swifts that had rushed the village skies at dusk, screaming like an ambush, swooping the length of the High Street, ringing the church tower and back again, had mostly gone now. And the wheat was cut and the straw baled under trees stained with the first colours of autumn, and the marauding smoke of stubble fires drifted across fields.
And we woke to September, and spiders' webs glittering on hedgerows and rough pasture, the air above the valley tarnished with the first mists of the season, lingering on into mornings of muffled sunlight, field mushrooms and dew.
Harvest fattened the barns of the valley, and in his study in the eighteenth-century vicarage, where the bronchitic mouse wheezed and sang behind the wainscot, the vicar sat over his sermon of thanksgiving as the churchyard limes began to turn. The church above the reaped fields shining with the praise of a roster of village woman, the starched altar linen burning in stained-glass twilights, ready to receive the gifts of the year.
And on still nights, the flight call of redwings could be heard again, wintering flocks of them moving across the valley, and swallows and martins and the last of the swifts barbed the telegraph wires above the High Street, waiting to depart.
And in his coal yard at the bottom of the hill, George Perry took delivery of the first tipper loads of winter stock, watched by the usual audience of small boys. George, shovel in hand, prowling the growing heaps of coal and coke, on the lookout in the noise and dust for buried boys and short measure.
The church was decorated with corn, its barn-like silence lifted with the voices of children singing. The tins of food they'd brought to school, to be distributed afterwards to the old of the village, piled gifts stacked around the altar, with offerings from village gardens, and allotments and kitchens, and the gift of bread.
The trees turned, the bronze of the sheltering field hedge oaks, nailed and armoured against all the weathers of the valley, to rust, the wood below the village to russet and brown, copper, red and gold. And summer was an old lion now, going down, the wounds of autumn in his side.
The horse chestnuts in the grounds of what was once the squire's house grew ragged with decay, the great domes a splendour in their ruin, their summer shades holed now and letting in the weather. The spiked fallen fruit, plundered by squirrels, and generations of village boys for that one conker which, threaded with string and armoured in vinegar, would raise them to glory, split and gleaming among the gathering leaves.
The valley burned and crackled with autumn, rich with the bounty from its trees and brambled lanes of berries, and the rotting windfalls in orchards, the elder bushes hung with feeding blackbirds and starlings, and sparrows fluttering for insects on hedges of flowering ivy, and jays on the acorns. And other worlds among the hedgerows and growing litter of leaves, hedgehog nests and wintering beetles and caterpillars, and toads snug in mouse holes, scurrying bank voles and the chattering of harvest mice, and the pin-fight squeals of shrews.
And in the wood below the village, where a lone robin sang, sweet, sad needles of song falling, food was gathered and buried, and a badger sniffed the air, and bottom-first dragged more bedding into its sett, making it up for winter. While above us on the hills of the valley, the first calves of the season butted at the milk of their mothers, and tractors, flying their lines of starlings and gulls, crawled soundlessly, harrowing the burnt stubble for the winter ploughing, the autumn flocks of lapwings gathering over the turned earth.
There were days of rain and winds from the sea, the blown fluffy fruit of rosebay willowherb and wings of sycamore scattered on them. And still, clear days smelling of autumn, the air sharp with a memory of winter and sweetened with decay. Days when no leaves seemed to fall nor animal stir, a kestrel, hunting the slopes of the valley, hanging endlessly in the sky, the mornings harsh with rooks above the horse chestnuts, their damp-throated cries drifting up through the village.
And the post mistress, after the first frost warning, put out more water and extra fat and nuts for the birds. And lagging them with bits of old carpet and bracken from the lanes, tucked her fig trees up for winter.
Fog and rain, and the rot of more frosts, and autumn ran now like a damp fire through the valley, leaves withering and falling before it. Drifts of them shining in morning mists along the roadsides, kicked and scuffed through by children on their reluctant way to school.
And days when the sun shone, a whisky-gold light falling on the wasted woodland, smoking like wreckage in the still, ruined silences. Days that sent the village men out armed with spades into gardens and allotments to break the soil for manure and the spring sowing, and fires burned in dusks when robins sang and the smoke of leaves scented the air.
The windows of the post office and shop bristled now with fireworks, boxes of sparklers and bangers, Catherine wheels, skyrockets and shower-bombs, fat with the gaudy explosive promise of bonfire night, and gangs of children plundered for firewood and totted at village doors for clothes for the guy.
The lights burned in the village hall for rehearsals of the pantomime, the home-made wine and photography competitions, the slimming, craft, dance and table tennis clubs, the keep-fit classes and WI lectures on dried-flower arranging, baking and jam-making, and new things to do with apples. The nights frost bright and shining with autumn under slender translucent moons. The skies above the valley piping with the movement of more flocks from the north, and the clamour of wild geese carrying winter on their wings.