Veteran writer Ronald Blythe’s Wormingford series is one of this atheist’s guilty pleasures. Blythe is a lay reader in the Church of England. The series collects his long-running weekly Church Times diary column, Word From Wormingford.
The pieces are mainly set in and around Blythe’s ancient home, Bottengoms Farm, near the village of Wormingford on the border of Essex and Suffolk. They provide short, thoughtful reflections on country and parish life, the natural world, the changing seasons, literature, scripture, and history. It’s all very gentle and comforting stuff. Pastoral in both senses of the word.
Blythe is a wonderful writer, mixing unpretentious prose with deep knowledge and an ever-present dry humour. Inevitably, reflecting the changing seasons as they do, there are occasional repetitions between the books, but this only adds to their charm. It’s reassuring to be reminded annual events, by definition, keep repeating each year as our planet takes its latest circuit around the sun.
When the world first went into lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, I knew exactly the sort of book I needed to take my mind off things. I turned off the news, headed straight to the Wormingford section of my bookshelves, and selected a book at random. Comfort re-reading in a time of crisis.
Thank you, Mr Blythe!
Now, take your pick…