Holiday reading for a novelist? Well, novels of course but not necessarily or exclusively. At the moment, I am reading about the best extant pieces of an eighteenth century French silversmith and I have learned that ‘masterpiece’ was the piece that an apprentice made to demonstrate his readiness to assume the title ‘master’. I always thought a masterpiece was the best piece of work in a craftsman’s whole output. Refinements to knowledge like this are always useful. Another example! Yesterday, I learned that dairy bulls are more aggressive than beef bulls because, when they are brought up on the bottle, they think they are human. And, when their physical attributes prompt them, they regard humans – not other bulls – as the creatures they need to dominate. I don’t know what I shall do with these tidbits of information, gleaned in a deck chair. But I shall certainly do something.

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