Handheld Press

The Handheld Newsletter

May 2024

We have almost unpacked

Our moving in sale was a triumphant success (thank you, all!) which took us by surprise. Normally a sale like that might sell around 20 extra books: this one sold nearly a hundred. Due to our foolish timing all the orders poured in on the first days after the house and office move, in which we needed to begin summoning tradesmen and rushing off to council offices etc, as well as continuing the unpacking and the sorting and the hunting down of important missing objects. So David did all that for three days while Kate unpacked all the Handheld books, organised them into their boxroom stacks, found the packing tape, the packing paper and the cardboard, packed all the orders, hauled the bags of packages into the car and went to make friends with the Malvern post office staff. 

How wonderful it is it have so much more room for packing! For the past seven years Kate has been packing orders in her office, on a blanket box that was always too low. Latterly we also had to rent extra storage space for the office supply of books for website orders. Now all the books sit tidily in one room, and the room across the landing, the second spare room and the place where the winter bedding is stored, has a useful desk at a much better height for packing than the blanket box. We don’t know why we didn’t do this before.

New local book stalls

Plunging now into local selling opportunities, Kate will be selling Handheld books at the monthly Sunday artisanal market at The Fold organic farm and community hub, Bransford, Worcestershire, on 7th July and 4th August. Come and visit! 

Recent book reviews

The Bookseller featured Faith Compton Mackenzie’s Tatting and Mandolinata as One to Watch in early April; it went on to do the same for Sylvia Thompson’s The Gulls Fly Inland on 26th April; the US’s Library Journal printed a strong review for Rosemary Sutcliff’s Blue Remembered Hills, on 1 May; and The Daily Mail reviewed E Nesbit’s The House of Silence very positively on 3 May. It’s been quite a month. 

We also heard as we were typing this (this really is a Stop the Press moment) that The Critic magazine will be featuring Wendy Bryant’s artwork for our edition of Blue Remembered Hills in their June issue, for a feature on Rosemary Sutcliff.

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The House of Silence

By the time you read this our tenth and last Weird (and our third-last book), the wonderful collection of E Nesbit’s ghost stories The House of Silence, will be published. Kate will have given a talk about this for the Guildhall Library London, and on 22nd May she will be in conversation with Melissa Edmundson, our lead Weird specialist, who curated the collection. You can register for this free online session with Westminster Libraries here.

Handheld Press:The House of Silence

The Weird Completists’ Sale

Given that The House of Silence is our tenth and last Weird Classic, we’re keenly aware that many people might be thinking of completing their Handheld Weird collections. So let’s have another time-limited sale! 

If you realise that you have forgotten to acquire one or more of the nine other Weird Classics, you can do that at a nice and not at all creepy £2.99 discount from 15 to 17 May inclusive. Use code WEIRD when you buy any of these titles from our website, and enjoy the discount and make your bookshelves proud of you: 

Women’s Weird, Women’s Weird 2, British Weird, The Villa and The Vortex, The Outcast and The Rite, From The Abyss, Strange Relics, The Unknown and The Living Stone. 

We can’t promise but it’s possible that owning all ten Weirds will add extra cabbalic protection to your home as well. 

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What we’ve been reading

Kate has been ploughing through two big tomes back to back this month. When she finished Selina Hastings’ biography of Sybille Bedford she wrote about it here. Right now she’s thoroughly enjoying (most of the time) Tom Holland’s epic history Millennium, when western Europe was in crisis due to the assumption that the Second Coming would be round about 1000AD. Which explains a lot of odd behaviour from kings, emperors, popes and peasants.

David has had a foodie month, first enjoying the freshly-steamed A Year of Eating in Shanghai by Nina Mingya Powles. So many tasty dumplings, so little time. Then Kate passed him Pleasures and Landscapes, a collection of travel writing by Sybille Bedford, of which the tastiest bits were a tour of Italian restaurants mostly for locals, and a wine tour of Bordeaux for the privileged. Château Lafite ’66 or ’55 for lunch? Got to admire her stamina.

Garden news

Well, it’s a completely different garden. Whereas the garden in Bath was a long slice of a steepish hill, mostly laid to grass, with some borders hacked out of the clay soil and a few stately ash trees, the Malvern garden is flat, circular and composed of three parts. It had also been neglected for ten months, with a gardener coming in to cut the grass but not doing much else. The garden surrounds the T-shaped house, with the T lying on its side and the drive running N-S along the bar of the T. The garden was clearly planned by a very good gardener. When we arrived in mid-April the borders alongside the drive were blooming with white scented flowering bushes: camellias, viburnums, massive white peonies, and unsuspected clumps of Solomon’s Seal (also white) hidden by the drooping fronds of cedar branches from next door, now trimmed back.

The kitchen garden is separated from the road by a thick beech hedge, but is a lot lower since the road slopes and the garden was dug out flat. Some decades ago a large raised bed was built which we encountered filled with weeds and flattened gravel. We dug out the weeds, added some bags of compost, and went shopping at a plant nursery. We now have sweet corn, peas, mangetout, French beans, two kinds of lettuce, some doomed cucumbers (slugs are keen on them) and eight tomato plants growing there. Parked on the paths beside the bed are many of the pots brought from Bath, and some new pots of herbs donated by one of our Malvern friends. The borders of the kitchen garden are still filled mostly with weeds, but Kate has been attending to these, and we have discovered some healthy hellebore bushes, a wonderful group of white bearded iris that glow in the dusk (that white theme again) and some healthy foxgloves among the nettles, bindweed, sticky willy (cleavers or goosegrass to you) and something rampant that might be meadow rue. There is a peach tree, we think, but it’s in a bad way, also some feral raspberries and possibly some currant bushes. We need to tackle the weeds to give those a chance.

Down the side of the kitchen garden at the end of the T stem is a well established row of about 16 cordon apple trees, flowering healthily in pink and white. Behind them are more weeds and an enormous laurel hedge. Our neighbour from the other side of the hedge has already come to discuss, delicately, how we’d feel about bringing the hedge level down. David will go round soon with the hedge trimmer to decide on the level, now the birds have almost finished nesting.

On the south side of the house, running the length of the stem of the T, are two parallel stretches of lawn bending around and down past a large border filled with enormous conifer bushes that are seriously out of control, and block the view of the two stupendous pink and red camellias that screen the compost heaps. Kate has hauled away at least two cubic metres of ivy, laurel shoots, bindweed and bramble from these areas. Nearer the house it’s civilised, enclosed by lovely trees, including an even more vast Western cedar and a rowan with its own mistletoe clump. There are also large sycamores, self-seeding profligately. 

The soil of this new garden will grow anything. Bath clay was a struggle, whereas this garden is seething in fecundity. It’s going to take some getting used to. We are doing a bit of gardening (weeding and cutting back) every day: we can see the difference already.


See you in June, festooned in weeds.

Kate & David

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