Tag Archives: preston

Cold Bath Street – A. J. Hartley

A ghostly story, set in Preston, read for book club. I really liked this story. I enjoyed the local setting – a real novelty. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set so firmly in a place I’m familiar with. I liked the ghostly premise, and found the story page turning. However, many at book club didn’t quite take to it as kindly. I felt like it was people who were really into this genre considered it a bit light – possibly a YA ghost story. I didn’t get that at all, but then I’m a massive wimp and probably couldn’t cope with anything more scary!!


The cover of the book is stunning. I noticed the creepy face in the clouds fairly early on, but there’s also a creepy figure next to the boy and I didn’t notice that until book club. It’s done using a shiny overlay and it was great that it took a while to notice.


I can’t separate out the fact that I enjoyed the story and really liked that I knew the locations involved. I know the streets around Ribbleton, Avenham park, the Harris Museum and Art gallery, the Miley tunnel, and of course Cold Bath Street.


It’s a tiny street near the University

My favourite painting from The Harris Museum is even in the story.


Pauline in the Yellow Dress by Herbert James Gunn


Aaaahhh Pauline!

This also nicely shows how beautifully illustrated the text is.  The illustrator is Janet Pickering.

So what is the story about? A boy dies. He gets trapped in limbo. Or The Bardo as I might like to call it since reading Lincoln in the Bardo (jk but that book is ace – do the audiobook though). There are NOT NICE things in this limbo. The living world can be accessed. Sort of, but it’s hard. Mystery and thrilling things ensue.


book club

Also worth a mention, I found it a little jarring that the main character is called Preston. It just felt a little weird. Overall though, I enjoyed Cold Bath Street. It’s a genre I have almost no experience of, and I think a great introduction to it.

The Hidden Man – Robin Blake

I would never have chosen to read this book in a million years, but book club chose it, and so I dutifully read it! A mystery concerning 1700s Preston… yey.


From the back of the book:

The year is 1742, and the people of Preston are looking forward to their ancient once-every-twenty-years festival of merriment and excess, the Preston Guild. But the prospect darkens as the town plunges into a financial crisis caused by the death of the pawnbroker and would-be banker Philip Pimbo, shot behind the locked door of his office. Is it suicide? Coroner Titus Cragg suspect so, but Dr Luke Fidelis disagrees. To untangle the truth, Cragg must dig out the secrets of Pimbo’s personal life, learn the grim facts of the African slave trade, search for a missing civil was treasure, and deal with the machinations of his old enemy, Ephraim Grimshaw, now the town’s mayor. Cragg relies once again on the help and advice of his analytical friend, Fidelis; his astute wife, Elizabeth; and the contents of a well-stocked library.

I’ve already said this is not the type of book I would normally read. I don’t care for 1700s Preston finance at all, and I hear enough about the damned Guild living here. It’s also full of grumpy old dudes. Clearly, the Preston connection is why book club chose it, and I did enjoy the fact that that places and street were familiar – this hasn’t happened with many books I’ve read (in fact, I can only think of Michael Hurley’s The Loney that comes close). There’s a sweet map on the inside cover too:


I found this book alright. I quite enjoyed it, and if the subject matter, or book type, is more your thing, you’d probably really like it. Some of the things I did like were finding out some of the history of this time period.

I liked the character of Fidelis the best. The younger doctor is a bit quirky, and utterly confident with it, and I did like this. The descriptions of how he eats meals methodically were joyous for me.

I also thoroughly enjoyed some of the northernness of the phrasings:

‘No,’ he declared with emphasis. ‘Folk like their gold and silver too much. Change it for paper? They’ll like as change a clog for a cloud.’



Cragg’s wife is a clever, amusing woman. Throughout the novel she is reading a novel herself and this is a great little side story. The other women characters don’t come off so well, for example…

From her clothes she was evidently very poor but her poverty did not conceal the other notable fact about her: she was extremely pretty.

The two most noticeable things about her, however, were first that her face and figure were strikingly beautiful,

mmm yeh.

This book will probably well suit fans of historical mysteries, fans of Preston Guild, and people who love a bit of finance in their mysteries. I’m not wholly converted!

Martin Creed Exhibition – Harris Museum and Gallery, Preston.

Art is great. I’m no expert, and I think a lot of it is total BS. But it’s all still brilliant. It’s become particularly brilliant since I’ve been taking my children to art galleries.


neon excellence.

This Easter week we went to a Martin Creed exhibition at The Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston. There were paintings that looked very simple (like my 4 year old daughter could have done them), a line of cacti,  a light going off and on in a room, a video of people with different disabilities, unaided, getting across a zebra crossing, and a video of people making themselves sick on a floor (ewwww). Immediately we had a conversation about what is art. Everything can be art. My son, who is 6, said ‘art is creativity’ and I felt a bit smug. A bit ‘good job done’.

The next day my daughter asked me why some people have legs that don’t work. I didn’t realise at first that she was thinking about the zebra crossing video from the previous day. I got the link when she sat on the floor and started trying to move herself across the kitchen using her hands to lift herself back a little bit, like one of the people from the video. She was narrating it all, talking about it being difficult, wondering what could make someone’s legs not work, thinking about wheelchairs.


small child fascinated by videos of people being sick.

I never expected my children to mention what they saw again. We didn’t spend a lot of time there, and we certainly didn’t try and read all the descriptions. Just mooched about having a look, wanting them to just know these things exist and art isn’t just realistic looking paintings and sculptures. I think art should make you think, and this did just that.

The exhibition is on at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston until 3rd June.