BOOK REVIEW – The Undelivered Mardle, by John Rogers. “A Memoir of Belief, Doubt and Delight”. 158 pages, hard back, published by Darton, Longman & Todd at £12.99, with a foreword by Ronald Blythe..


  The Undelivered Mardle - John Rogers     John Rogers   Oct 2012


A “Mardle” is a talk of local interest. The people of Letheringham had asked Rendham resident John Rogers to deliver such a talk to them at their ancient priory church. Early on the day he was to drive to Letheringham to give his Mardle, Monday March 26th 2007, John was struck by a severe heart attack that took him to Ipswich hospital and quickly on to Papworth. It is no small achievement to survive a heart attack in your 70s and then write your first book – and a moving, heart-warming, fascinating and informative one at that. But he felt a compulsion to do so.

“I didn’t know whether to aim the book at believers, or non-believers”, he says, so I chose neither”. The result is his undelivered Mardle (it has been given since, by the way).

To say this handsome little book, with its evocative cover drawing by John’s successful artist daughter Lucinda Rogers, is about a church, the church, spirituality and the search for faith and truth, is perhaps to remove it from the reading list of doubters and non-believers, which is a great pity. It is finely observed, beautifully written and exceptionally interesting.

Sometimes  writers will say they feel the spirit of other writers looking over their shoulders as they work. I can think of two, albeit a rather disparate pair, who would have approved as, looking over his shoulder, they regarded John Rogers’ script. The great “retro” Englishman John Betjeman would have heartily approved of his knowledge of the story and structure of a church and its physical and spiritual place. A tap of on the shoulder, too, from the once Poet Laureate, for the elegance and style of the writing. Patrick Leigh Fermor, I would wager, would like the cut of John’s literary jib and the passages of erudite description transposing into a personal encounter, or a reminiscence. Suffolk-bound the narrative may be, but John comes across as a true traveller.

You may sit round a table with John Rogers enjoying good food and a glass of Burgundy, with happy inconsequential chatter, when suddenly he will pose a question touching upon one’s deepest beliefs and thoughts. Like the book it is done with a gentle smiling style that draws forth consideration and response. Read “The Undelivered Mardle” and I will wager it will make even the most cynical among us think about life, our present place in the world and the human spirit.

A gift for all seasons…..for many reasons



No matter if you’re Suffolk coast born and bred, an occasional visitor, a part-time resident, or like me a Patrick-come-lately to this lovely part of the world, I have a book before me that everyone should have. Buy one as a gift and I promise you will either keep that one for yourself or buy a second one.

“An Artist in the Garden” subtitled A Year in a Suffolk Walled Garden, published this year by Full Circle Editions is a beautifully designed and printed hard-back, priced at £25.00 that makes a nonsense of the slightest thought that books might be replaced by Kindles, I-pads or tablets various. It is more than a colourful, well written and evocatively illustrated book, it is a delightful possession, a pleasure to pick up from a side table to riffle through whenever you want a breath of our countryside. Its pages can both inspire and inform the gardener and the history lover. It is a small mine of information for the generalist country lover and it has more than 50 seasonal recipes that are all worth trying – see one example below.


Books these days, especially those concerning themselves with “leisure” seem to be compiled by an army of contributors, editors, designers and publishers and often the credits at front or back are as long as those for a film. There’s teamwork at the heart of An Artist in the Garden, but it’s a small one of complementary creative people devoted to the task. Suffolk artist Tessa Newcomb conjures up time and place, bringing alive the changing moods and seasons through clever vignettes. Jason Gaythorne-Hardy contrives to produce a text that both flows happily and imparts a not inconsiderable amount of knowledge.

There are others who have contributed, among them the author’s mother Lady Cranbrook, who, to quote the book’s dust jacket is “The current chatelaine of Glemham House; President of the Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival and tireless campaigner for locally-produced food and the countryside. Caroline and her family have kept this two acre kitchen garden in full working order- a garden that has sustained up to 40 people continuously for almost two centuries”.

Full Circle have done full justice to the artist’s and the writer’s work. It is a lovely thing to have and a worthy addition to the burgeoning shelf of their publications. For full details visit

Where to buy “An Artist in the Garden”

You can, of course, go on line and buy this book at a reduced price, as you clinically can millions of others.  You can also buy it direct from the publishers, which as they are a small group is in a good cause.   However, I am one of those people who love bookshops, and the delights of browsing and chatting with the invariably interesting people who run them.   We are exceptionally fortunate in having close at hand a superb specimen of its kind.

Aldeburgh Bookshop

Aldeburgh Bookshop, at 42 the High Street Star is more than a treasure trove, an Aladdin‘s Cave or a gem…  it is an institution.  I almost used the word beloved of those unbriefed commentators who “did” the Jubilee River Pageant for BBC Television:  icon.   But it’s, alive and lively as well as comfy and browsy.   Beats Amazon any day.  Go!

Star telephone 01728 452389


Recipe from “An Artist in the Garden”

This recipe, contributed by Claire Bruce-Clayton, is one of four for the month of February. The other three are: Caldo Verde, a simple and robust Portuguese soup; Wood Pigeon Sausage Rolls; and Baked Apples.

Leek & Potato Gratin

This is one of those satisfying, heart -warming dishes which is perfect for supper on a cold night or to return to after a brisk winter walk. The following recipe will feed six hungry people.

6 large main crop potatoes

4 or 5 large leeks

A good wedge of Stilton

2 generous handfuls of shelled walnuts

150g of butter

1 mug of breadcrumbs

Peel the potatoes, slice thickly and boil for eight to ten minutes, so that they are tender, but still holding their shape. Drain them.

While the potatoes are cooking, wash, slice and sauté the leeks with butter and seasoning until tender.

Butter a baking dish, cover the bottom with a layer of potato slices, then a layer of leeks, walnuts and some crumbled blue cheese.

Repeat the layers, lightly seasoning each of them. Finish with the cheese and scatter breadcrumbs over the top.

Cook in a medium (180C) oven for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

I love the crunch of the walnuts in this dish, but if you wish you can add a few chopped and sautéed rashers of streaky bacon instead.