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For Love And A Beetle - A Tale of Two Journeys, by Ivan Hodge with Petronella McGovern (New Holland, £9.99)

It was 1961, the year the Berlin Wall went up. Wide-eyed Kiwis Ivan and Beth Hodge had come to the end of a 14-month honeymoon in England and couldn't afford the air fare home. But at £439, a Gulf Blue VW Deluxe Saloon Beetle was just within their means. So they piled their shopping on the roof rack, took a ferry to Europe and drove to Calcutta, finally making it to Auckland by cargo boat.

Cut to contented family life, daughters, a career in insurance and a comfortable retirement, yes? Well, sort of. Except that the little car (cue in theme tune from The Love Bug) remained in the family, cared for by Ivan's parents. So when the idea of a second honeymoon came up 35 years later . . . You could probably write the rest yourself. Actually, Ivan got a Canberra-based scribe to help him with that bit - just in case you were wondering how Beth translates into Petronella.

A Traveller's History of Scotland, by Andrew Fisher (The Windrush Press, £8.99)

In 1995, Michael Forsyth took over at the Scottish Office and attempted to give the Tories a more acceptable face. And not just a face, either. For when the film Braveheart opened in Stirling, Forsyth turned up wearing a kilt kilt

Knee-length, skirtlike garment worn by men as part of the traditional national garb, or Highland dress, of Scotland. It is made of permanently pleated wool and wrapped around the wearer's waist so that the pleats are in the back and the flat ends overlap in front.
. Before long, he was upbraiding up·braid  
tr.v. up·braid·ed, up·braid·ing, up·braids
To reprove sharply; reproach. See Synonyms at scold.

[Middle English upbreiden, from Old English
 Scottish youth for not knowing enough about the history of their own country. They hadn't, it seems, read the first edition of The Traveller's History of Scotland.

Perhaps they were misled by the title, which does rather suggest that this is a primer for foreigners and therefore not to be touched with a 12-foot pikestaff pike·staff  
1. The shaft of a pike.

2. A walking stick tipped with a metal spike.


1. the wooden handle of a pike

 (see Battle of Bannockburn The Battle of Bannockburn (Blàr Allt a' Bhonnaich in Gaelic) (June 24 1314) was a significant Scottish victory in the Wars of Scottish Independence. It was the decisive battle in the First War of Scottish Independence. ). In fact it's essential reading for anyone who can't see beyond the kilts and bagpipes bagpipes
Noun, pl

a musical wind instrument in which sounds are produced in reed pipes by air from an inflated bag

bagpipes nplgaita sg

 of invented tradition, and all the more useful in this updated edition, which continues the story as far as the inauguration of the first Scottish parliament since 1707.

Big Snake, by Robert Twigger (Phoenix, £7.99)

How do you seek out a snake in the Malay jungle? Use your nose, of course. The smell you're after, says Twigger, is "a distillate dis·til·late
A liquid condensed from vapor in distillation.


a product of distillation.
 or variant of the smell of the reptile house, muggy mug·gy  
adj. mug·gi·er, mug·gi·est
Warm and extremely humid.

[Probably from Middle English mugen, to drizzle; akin to Old Norse mugga, a drizzle.
, frowsty frows·ty  
adj. frows·ti·er, frows·ti·est Chiefly British
Having a stale smell; musty.

[Origin unknown.
, a hint of bad breath, meaty, sweaty, not pungent but there, heavily there".

And why look for a tubular reptile in the first place? The spur in Twigger's case was something he came across on the internet. The Roosevelt Prize for capturing a live snake longer than 30ft had not been claimed since 1912.

There was something else, too. Twigger was about to get married, and the man who had won a barrel of awards for his account of a year spent learning aikido aikido: see martial arts.

Japanese art of self-defense. It employs locks and holds and utilizes the principle of nonresistance to cause an opponent's own momentum to work against him or her.
 with the Tokyo riot police needed a quick adventure. All sounds terribly macho, like one of those TV programmes where men in shorts wrestle with wild animals and shout a lot? Don't worry. Twigger is a poet. He wears spectacles and lives in Oxford. With his wife.

Kibbutz kibbutz: see collective farm.

Israeli communal settlement in which all wealth is held in common and profits are reinvested in the settlement. The first kibbutz was founded in Palestine in 1909; most have since been agricultural.
 Volunteeer, by Victoria Pybus
(Vacation Work, £10.99)

It was once described as "the purest form of communism". But the 21st-century kibbutz runs motels for tourists and floats its shares on the Tel Aviv stock market. So what happened to the ideals of common ownership, co-operation, equality and democracy?

Perhaps that's another book for another day. If you want to get out there and write it, or just escape for six months to what can still be a relatively-socialistic micro- culture (expect to work a six-day, 48-hour week), Kibbutz Volunteer is an invaluable jumping-off point. It actually doubles as a working traveller's guide to the whole of Israel, taking in the more capitalistic cap·i·tal·is·tic  
1. Of or relating to capitalism or capitalists.

2. Favoring or practicing capitalism: a capitalistic country.
 settlements known as moshavim , as well as archaeological digs, conservation, tourism and au pair work. A change is as good as a rest.

Secrets of the Stone Age, by Richard Rudgley (Century, £18.99)

History, says Rudgley, is just the tip of the iceberg tip of the iceberg
n. pl. tips of the iceberg
A small evident part or aspect of something largely hidden: afraid that these few reported cases of the disease might only be the tip of the iceberg. 
. Delve down into the vastness of prehistory and you don't need intervention from Atlantis or outer space to explain the wonders of ancient Egypt. The pyramids were simply the product of a build-up of skills that began way back - "way back" being a lot further back than you or I were taught at school. For our Stone Age forebears weren't as primitive as we take them for, says Rudgley, and even ancestors of the Neanderthals went to sea on rafts.

Fascinating stuff, and what's more, the evidence is there for the traveller to see - megalithic meg·a·lith  
A very large stone used in various prehistoric architectures or monumental styles, notably in western Europe during the second millennium b.c.
 temples in Malta, ice-age lunar calendars in Hungary and flint axes from Norfolk that demonstrate how, even in Paleolithic times, humans were fascinated by fossils. You saw it on TV, now here's the hardback.

On the Missionary Trail, by Tom Hiney (Chatto & Windus, £17.99)

The square-rigged whaler WHALER, mar. law. A vessel employed in the whale fishery.
     2. It is usual for the owner of the vessel, the captain and crew, to divide the profits in just proportions, under an agreement similar to the contract Di Colonna. (q.v.)
 that slipped down the Thames and out to sea on the evening of the day that Napoleon died, was bound for Tahiti. The ship would be away for three years. Yet two of its passengers, a stout Yorkshire philanthropist and an Isle of Wight Noun 1. Isle of Wight - an isle and county of southern England in the English Channel

county - (United Kingdom) a region created by territorial division for the purpose of local government; "the county has a population of 12,345 people"
 vicar, were away considerably longer. For these two Georgian gentleman had undertaken a task so perilous that the story of their odyssey reads more like fiction than fact. Their job was to report on the state of various Christian missions that had been sent from London to the far corners of the globe some years previously and had not been heard of since. Faith drove them to the other side of the world, and the things they found when they got there almost beggar belief.

Champagne, by Maggie McNie (Faber, £12.99)

It wasn't always bubbly - little more, really, than a greyish wine with a little gas trapped in it, on account of the fermentation continuing after bottling. A novelty brew - and a cloudy one, too, since that ongoing fermentation left a nasty yeast deposit. Who would have thought, in 1690, say, that this stuff would catch on? The story of how a downmarket little wine was painstakingly developed into the crystal-clear substance we know as Champagne has more twists and turns than a wine waiter's friend. In fact, given more stylistic latitude than this excellent series of Faber wine books permits, McNie could probably have written another Longitude. With blind monks, ingenious widows and any number of exploding bottles, she certainly has all the ingredients. As it is, her relatively sober retelling of the tale leads nicely into an exploration of the Champagne region - its people, its climate and, most important, its great vintages.

Fred Dibnah's Magnificent Monuments, by Fred Dibnah and David Hall (BBC BBC
 in full British Broadcasting Corp.

Publicly financed broadcasting system in Britain. A private company at its founding in 1922, it was replaced by a public corporation under royal charter in 1927.
, £11.99)

Easy money for BBC Worldwide, I thought. A straightforward spin-off from the TV series in which the bespecta cled, cloth-capped former steeplejack stee·ple·jack  
One who builds or maintains very high structures, such as steeples.


a person who repairs steeples and chimneys

Noun 1.
 from Bolton ("Britain's favourite steeplejack", says the blurb blurb  
A brief publicity notice, as on a book jacket.

[Coined by Gelett Burgess (1866-1951), American humorist.]

blurb v.
, as if we have so many to choose from) gives us the low-down on a few buildings that take his fancy. In reality, though, this "guide to impressive buildings and monuments in the UK" turns out to be not such a bad idea after all, since it drives a welcome strimmer Strimmer

Trademark an electrical tool for trimming the edges of lawns

Strimmer® ncortacéspedes m inv (especial para los bordes)

 through the historical associations that can often obscure a structure like a bad case of ivy. There are more than 400 sites here, with an introduction to each category. It's a good selection, too, ranging from megalithic circles to the Millennium Dome, from the Ribblehead Viaduct to the Channel Tunnel, and from a Roman stronghold in Northumberland to the extraordinary artillery fort that the Victorians planted on the seabed one mile out from Portsmouth Harbour.

The Elusive Truffle truffle (trŭf`əl) [Fr.], subterranean edible fungus that forms a mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship with the roots of certain trees and plants. The part of the fungus used as food is the ascoma, the fruiting body of the fungus. , by Mirabel Osler (Black Swan, £6.99)

In Umbria, I once tasted an omelette made with eggs that had been in brief contact with minuscule slivers of truffle. Incredible! The stuff actually lived up to its hype. If only the same could be said for the subject of this book (it's not about truffles, silly). Osler has fond memories of Traditional French Cuisine - cooks who won't plan their menus until they have been to market, and so on. But these days, it's mostly microwave and boil-in-the-bag. There are exceptions, of course, and in this beautifully-written and illustrated book, Osler sniffs 'em out.
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Date:Mar 4, 2000
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