Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated March 2013

Letters to the Editor

From Chris & Penny Morton

As northern hemisphere winter comes to an end, Tassie bushfire season is nearly over, but there is the occasional breakout. One fire did threaten friends' homes about ten minutes' drive north of us, but no homes lost, thanks to our marvelous volunteer fire fighters.

We hope all prospective delegates are firming up plans to visit Lonely Planet's '7th most desirable world's capitol'...on-line registration opens in only two months!

The presentation schedule is virtually full, but a stand-by presenter might be a good idea.

John Anderson is doing a great job with the conference web page, which has all the details for October. It will be spring Down Under, so the weather somewhat unpredictable, with some rain showers, probably a rainbow or two and a wide range of temperatures...we'll expand on that later.

Don't forget, when booking rooms at The Old Woolstore, to mention you are attending the Nevil Shute Conference, so as to get our special bed and breakfast rate.

Chris and I are most grateful for the invaluable guidance and support we're receiving From Laura Schneider and John Anderson, both old hands at conference organisation. A daunting undertaking, we couldn't possibly be doing it without them!

Till next month, cheers From Chris and Penny

From Julian Stargardt

It's been a while since I sent anything in, it's lunchtime here in Hong Kong and I was just rummaging around looking at things connected to Shute when I came across this post From 2008 about his yacht Runagate:

As of 2008 it was owned by a retired fireman in Newcastle, UK who was restoring it. Of course this may not be news to anyone now but while rummaging about I saw something that indicated the last news of the boat was From 2000 so I thought this might help....

From Charles D

This book gives more credit to the engineers and scientists of WWII than we have seen in some time.

Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War,

by Paul Kennedy  - Random House 464 pp.

From Richard Michalak

I noticed in the article below that Cowdray Hall is in Midhurst, West Sussex and "Midhurst" was, as I recall, the property Joe Harman and Jean lived on.

Perhaps Shute's mystery fiance of 2+ years (while at university) lived in this area.

I visited Cowdray House and it is the most idyllic representation perfect English countryside.

In the details on the Nevil Shute website Cowdray Hall is identified as the probable location for Arner Hall at Under. The picture in the Timeline shows the ruins of the old hall, but this was rebuilt in the mid-Victorian period and by the time of 'So Disdained' any references would really have been to the new 'Cowdray Hall'.

I was doing some research in the area when it was mentioned that the Hall had recently changed hands - so I tracked down the details as there is some interesting historical detail there.

Another piece in the jigsaw !

From Henry Howe

Just read the current newsletter [while our ND blizzard howls outside]; fascinating as always - opens the door into the world of NS, that I first discovered when I was about 17 and stayed up all night to read On the Beach for the first time. I followed the link and then read the quote From cover of MGM/UA Vintage Classics video -- and, as a Shutist, was "surprised" to read about the submarine "Sawfish"[??] instead of "Scorpion" - and speculated that the writer for MGM had, perhaps, not read the book OR watched the movie? [There actually was a [diesel powered] U.S.S. Sawfish, launched in 1942 -the year I was born - but I am still around and the Sawfish was scrapped out in 1960].

I am on my second round of collecting the NS books; had most of them but lost a good part of the collection in the 1997 Flood that resulted in the evacuation of Grand Forks ND; have restored about half of the collection, partly through finding sales of withdrawn books From School and public library collections [when books stop being checked out, there is a tendency to decide they should go away - logic that extended to a really nice [and lightly read] edition of On the Beach as well as a book by Mark Twain. I found a copy of Slide Rule [- fascinating!] at Dusty Books in Wales, and continue to look. Unfortunately, newer is not always better when it comes to librarians selecting new books [and some other things in life, as politicians selecting disastrous wars].

I put the dates for The Rainbow Connection in my calendar, and have promised myself to consider this opportunity to visit Australia, but moreover to meet with people that I may have more in common with, than many casual acquaintances that I have known for years.

Thank all the Shutists who have shared their time, insight and talent in keeping open this doorway into other time[s] and place[s] - e.g. the world and people reflected and depicted by NS

From John W. Cooper

Recently shown on the public TV station in the United States was the following program:

PBS NEWSHOUR, 20 Februry 2013

Scottish Island Discovery Digs Up New Information About Neolithic Religion


JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: the unfolding mystery of a huge and exciting new archaeological find. It's all happening on a group of islands off the northern tip of Scotland.

Jeffrey Brown reports.

JEFFREY BROWN: Drive across the windswept, almost treeless landscape of the Orkney Islands, and you will see sheep, cattle and farmland. But it won't be long before you come across an ancient standing stone, or two or three.

The islands are littered with a collection of world-famous archaeological sites. There's Skara Brae, a superbly preserved Neolithic hut settlement, Maeshowe, a chambered stone tomb, built so the midwinter sun shines along its low entrance hall, and the Standing Stones of Stenness.

But now, nearby, a site recently unearthed site to top them all, the Ness of Brodgar, a vast temple-like complex, one of the most important Neolithic discoveries in Europe that may provide new insight into Stone Age religious practice.

NICK CARD, Ness of Brodgar: The Ness of Brodgar is kind of an archaeologist's dream site. What we have is a complex of structures the like of which we have never really seen before in Atlantic Europe, buildings of scale and complexity and architecture completely enclosed within this massive walled enclosure. It's just spectacular.

JEFFREY BROWN: Nick Card heads up excavation at the site for the Orkney Research Center for Archaeology. He was in Washington recently to lecture on the work. We spoke in the Gallery of the Society of Woman Geographers surrounded by photos From the islands.

NICK CARD: It was the focus for activity of over 1,000 years. And I think through that thousand years, its purpose, its meaning, its function would have changed. But I think it did have a religious function, as you know, perhaps reaching out to the gods, to the deities that these people believed in.

JEFFREY BROWN: The site dates to around 3300 B.C., well before the construction of Stonehenge some 700 miles to the south.

It was the Neolithic or late Stone Age, a time of transition From hunting and gathering to farming and settled communities. In more modern times, as this painting From 1855 shows, the site was essentially hiding in plain sight, under a huge mound of earth.

NICK CARD: This mound, I live just up the road From it. I have driven past it hundreds of times. And, yes, you always thought, this has got to be natural. It's too big to be artificial.

JEFFREY BROWN: So you were driving past it all these times, all these years and you thought, maybe something is going on, but you had no idea?

NICK CARD: Exactly. And then just over 10 years ago, this has all changed.

And what has been revealed is this totally unique site.

JEFFREY BROWN: How did you feel the first time you realized that? Were you excited, or did you feel like a bit of an idiot for driving past it for many years? Excuse me.

NICK CARD: If I felt a bit of an idiot, I can assure you that all the other archaeologists in Britain probably felt the same, because it is one of those archaeological meccas that everybody comes to see at least once in a lifetime.

JEFFREY BROWN: In fact, the site was stumbled upon accidentally by a local couple who wanted to plant a garden. When they hit upon a notched stone slab, archaeologists were called in.

Since that first discovery in 2003, the dig has steadily expanded, revealing a walled complex of large ceremonial structures. More than 20 have been uncovered so far, and geophysical tests show they're only the tip of the iceberg.

NICK CARD: When you see photographs of our site, it looks huge.


NICK CARD: But that trench, our biggest trench only covers 10 percent of the site. The site itself covers the equivalent of five soccer pitches.

JEFFREY BROWN: The ness, which means headland or promontory, stretches along two bodies of water and is sandwiched between what's left of two ancient standing stone circles. Card says the location is no accident.

NICK CARD: I think that the whole landscape, when you stand in the middle of the ring at Brodgar, you get the sense of being in the middle of this huge natural amphitheater created by the hills all the way around and then the water on either side.

It's a unique landscape, a very special landscape, and no doubt had very special significance to our Neolithic ancestors.

JEFFREY BROWN: Card points to clues that this was a special ceremonial site: a beautifully polished stone axe, stone mace-heads carefully placed, grooved pottery and even painted walls.

NICK CARD: It wasn't kind of floor to ceiling, you know, magnolia. It was specific colors in specific places. And again we're finding this the first evidence in Britain for -- that some of the pottery was painted. So suddenly this monochrome world that so often the archaeological record presents to us has transformed into this kind of psychedelia.

JEFFREY BROWN: But mysteries abound as to the exact nature of the place, including why, after those thousand years of activity, it all came to an end. Archaeologists were stunned to find that the site had been filled in and that underneath lay the bones of hundreds of cattle, possibly the remains of a huge feast.

NICK CARD: Cattle, hundreds of them.


NICK CARD: It's one of the biggest barbecues in history.

JEFFREY BROWN: Why one last whatever you want to call it, barbecue, and then closing the place?

NICK CARD: Roughly, when this was happening, you get the introduction of the first metalwork, bronze. And with bronze, the introduction of bronze, you get changes in burial practice, changes in society. There seems to be much more emphasis on the individual, rather on the wider community.

The kind of social structures that made the ness possible and kept it there at the kind of pinnacle of Neolithic society was suddenly eclipsed.

JEFFREY BROWN: Card hopes to find more answers and more objects when the digging resumes this summer at the giant Ness of Brodgar complex.

From Richard Michalak

Apologies if this is old news but there is an excellent Harry Watt documentary on Youtube called Target for Tonight.

All about Bomber command.

With real people being Shute characters in real settings.

Perfect for anyone reading any of the war novels.

The accents and manners are marvelous

Editor: Thank for that Richard, I had never seen it, so to me it isn’t old news. Wonderful


Here in the Netherlands it is still winter. We even had a lot of snow last weekend. Everybody is longing for spring.

See you all next month.