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A recommended selection of classics to read, grouped into three stages appropriate to age. This has been complied by Cliff C and Tim G and is just a guideline for those who wish to read more from works which have stood the test of time.

Stage 1 (14 year olds)
Stage 2 (16 year olds)
Stage 3 (18 year olds)


‘’All books are divisible into two classes: the books of the hour, and the books of all time.’                             - John Ruskin

Stage 1 (14 year olds)

Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Father Brown Stories, G K Chesterton

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

Fairy Tales, the Brothers Grimm

The Little World of Don Camillo, G Guareschi

The Jungle Book, R Kipling

Fables, La Fontaine

Tales from Shakespeare, C & M Lamb

Out of the Silent Planet, C S Lewis

Animal Farm, George Orwell

Macbeth, William Shakespeare

Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

The Hobbit, J R R Tolkien

Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne

The War of the Worlds, H G Wells

The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham

Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen

Peter Pan, J M Barrie

King Solomon’s Mines, H Rider Haggard

The Prisoner of Zenda, Anthony Hope

Tom Brown’s Schooldays, T Hughes

Three Men in a Boat, J K Jerome

The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling

The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe, C S Lewis

Winnie the Pooh, A A Milne

Tales of Adventure and Imagination, Edgar Allan Poe

Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome

Swiss Family Robinson, J D Wyss

The Inimitable Jeeves, P G Wodehouse


Stage 2 (16 year olds)

Confessions, St Augustine

Persuasion, Jane Austen

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

WutheringHeights, Emily Bronte

The 39 Steps, John Buchan

Don Quixote, Cervantes

The Everlasting Man, G K Chesterton

The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins

The Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

The Last of the Mohicans, J F Cooper

The Citadel, A J Cronin

Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens

Mill on the Floss, George Eliot

The Third Man, Graham Greene

The Kon-Tiki Expedition, T Heyerdahl

Three Men in a Boat, J K Jerome

Poems, John Keats

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

That Hideous Strength, C S Lewis

The Betrothed, A Manzoni

Le Petit Prince, Saint-Exupery

Hamlet, William Shakespeare

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, H B Stowe

The Importance of being Ernest, Oscar Wilde

Screwtape Letters, C S Lewis

Gulliver’s Travels, Robert Swift

The Lord of the Rings, J R R Tolkien

Black Beauty, A Sewell

Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain

Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle

The Time Machine, H G Wells


Stage 3 (18 year olds)

De Bello Civile, Caesar

The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins

The Divine Comedy, Dante

Middlemarch, George Eliot

Murder in the Cathedral, T S Eliot

Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy

The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

Iliad, Homer

The Four Loves, C S Lewis

The Fair Maid of Perth, Sir Walter Scott

Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

Poems, A Tennyson

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

A Handful of Dust, Evelyn Waugh

Poems, W D Yeats

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Orthodoxy, G K Chesterton

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare

Lorna Doone, J D Blackmore

The Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius

The Life of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell

David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

Moby Dick, H Melville

Dr Zhivago, Boris Pasternak

The Aeneid, Virgil

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

Odes, Horace

The Republic, Plato

Odyssey, Homer

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, R L Stevenson

Let’s see if we can get a handle on why precisely the issue of global warming and climate change has come so much to the fore in recent years. Without having to pass a judgment on what is being claimed, perhaps we can get a better understanding on where so many scientists and politicians are coming from.

 I remember while at school in the early seventies how we were being warned that the earth was being dangerously cooled. For more than thirty years temperatures across the world were falling. Packed ice was thickening in Iceland and changes in migrational patterns were being observed widely.  So, thirty years hence, where is the new ice age? Has London yet been buried in snow? By the end of the seventies global temperatures were on the up again and no more seemed to be heard.

 I can recall the harsh winter of 1962/3 and my family has a photograph of a milk float surrounded by deep snow outside our window. During the eighties I always seemed to wear wellington boots to work for at least a few weeks in the winter. Since then I have never had the cause to do so. We all know how the Thames in London used to ice over and people could ice skate on it as shown in the paintings of Pieter Bruegel. The last time that was to happen was in 1813.

 Everyone can agree that the climate is constantly changing. Modern scientific methods of calculating temperatures from the past from tree rings to ice cores give us masses of new information. In the 1980s scientists observed how surface temperatures were once again rising quickly and the headlines were soon full of ‘the greenhouse effect’ and ‘global warming’.

 The part played by the earth’s atmosphere in trapping the heat radiated by the sun and stopping it bouncing back into space is called ‘the greenhouse effect’. Only some gases would contribute to this effect, the most important of which is water vapour, responsible for 95% of the vital ‘greenhouse’ protection. Nitrogen and oxygen are at zero, CFCs at a little more than this, nitrous oxide and methane at less than 1%, and carbon dioxide (CO2) at 3.62%.

 It is important to realise that CO2 only makes up 0.04% of all the gases in the earth’s atmosphere yet is crucial for life on the planet. A little less than 200 billion tons of CO2 enters our atmosphere each year, with only 3% coming from human activity e.g. from burning fossil fuels. By comparison, 57% is given off by the oceans and 38% is emitted by animals, us included. Plants then absorb CO2 by photosynthesis turning it into oxygen to sustain all animal life.

 Scientists would generally agree that for thousands and thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution the levels of CO2 had not risen above 280 parts per million in the atmosphere.  The burning of fossil fuels by man led to a theory that too much CO2 was building up in the atmosphere, greater than the amount the oceans and plants could deal with. The earth’s natural regulatory system was being thrown out of kilter. Within decades the waters would rise after the ice melts, deserts would expand and temperatures would rise and rise. The phenomenon of global warming was upon us. 

 At this stage of our understanding of the global warming story, we have reached the end of the 1980s. Suddenly, the phenomenon was the accepted truth and was even assumed as self-evident. Scientists were ‘overwhelmingly’ at one on this. The United Nations set up an intergovernmental panel on climate change (the IPCC) in 1988. At the same time a senate committee in the USA debated the question, chaired by Al Gore. Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth were delighted to find their environmental issues going up the agenda. Huge amounts of public money were now being pumped into research on global warming.

 So, calls were soon to be made to drastically reduce the human production of CO2 in order to stabilise the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. Or face an increase which would be greater than any in the last ten thousand years, it was claimed. Only dramatic action would suffice. The future of our children is at stake. But critics would say that computer models were not adequately taking into account natural variations. Were predictions based on firm science? Or were these just the arguments of the oil and tobacco industries trying hard to galvanize popular opinion away from global warming realities?

 By the mid nineties the headlines would concentrate on the balance of evidence tipping towards proof that humans were influencing the rapid rate of global warming. Any uncertainties over the role played by natural variations in the climate took second place. New political fallout comes about at the time of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. Would efforts to restrict CO2 emissions prevent the Third World’s economic growth and thus stop them from catching up with the developed world? With the economies of India and China growing so fast, with heavy industry at the fore, wouldn’t they soon be major CO2 contributors?

 The shift which resulted from Kyoto was one away from the use of fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil towards ‘renewable’ energy sources which did not emit greenhouse gases, like solar, wave, wind and hydro power. Awkwardly for many, nuclear power is ‘carbon free’. However, opposition focussed on the toxic waste. Overall, though, Kyoto brought a global consensus that the planet needed saving urgently. Yet, even if all the emissions targets set were reached, by 2050 the temperatures around the world would only reduce by 0.05oC.

 Were scientists the world over really agreed that we were not just seeing natural variations in temperatures which were cyclical over a very long period of time? Did human intervention suddenly cause a dramatic rise? Weren’t glaciers always retreating and advancing? Whatever the answers are, the prevailing orthodoxy on global warming is such that few politicians will challenge it. Can man actually do anything to avert a ‘catastrophe’? Would cutting back on all man-made greenhouse gases stop the danger?

 That the earth had warmed over the course of the twentieth century is generally agreed upon scientifically. Equally, there is consensus that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen in two hundred years from 280 ppm to over 380 ppm. The rise in the latter coincides with the industrial activity of man. So, if man suddenly puts this into reverse, would it do anything to affect the former – would global warming reverse too? Had not the accepted ‘Medieval Warming’ period come without a rise in CO2?

 There is the sun, and there is the cloud covering of planet earth. Greenhouse gases make it harder for heat from the earth to escape back to space. But what is the main source of that heat that warms the earth if not the sun? Dark patches can be spotted on the surface of the sun, associated with magnetic activity, and usually over 1,300 are recorded annually. At the height of the ‘Little Ice Age’ in the seventeen century only 50 or so were recorded. An Austrian physicist, Victor Hess, won a Noble prize in 1936 for discovering ‘cosmic rays’ bombarding the earth from exploded stars. It was subsequently discovered that sunspot activity caused ‘solar winds’ throughout the solar system which determined how many of these cosmic particles reached the earth. When the magnetic force from the sunspots is intense, cosmic rays are deflected from the earth and when low, many more get through.

 More recently it was seen how the cosmic rays relate to the cloud cover in the lower atmosphere, so central to the global climate patterns. In 1991 two Danish scientists discovered how throughout the twentieth century there was a big increase in sunspot activity. Soon after, others saw how the extent of cloud was related to the intensity of cosmic rays hitting the earth. We are now on another path which does not see CO2 as the only cause of climate change.globalwarming__4_-400 Research in 2005 concluded that the more cosmic rays enter the earth’s atmosphere, the more clouds are likely to form and cool the earth. The more solar radiation deflects the rays, the less clouds are able to form and the more temperature rises.

Could the activity of the sun be the real culprit? Or is it indeed man who tips the balance?

Stop the globe - I want to get off!


Who Is He?

The Blue Man who comes first is Charlie. Everyone else is Cliff in various disguises.



admit1a12 Angry Men is one of the finest suspense films I have ever seen. Tightly wound, unpredictable and densely atmospheric, Sidney Lumet's debut is a milestone in minimalist filmmaking. A flop in its initial release (despite its almost non-existent budget - $343,000), it was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

A 12-man jury is sent to begin deliberations in the first-degree murder trial of an 18-year-old slum kid who is accused of stabbing his father to death. What at first sight appears to be an open and shut case, because of the defendant's weak alibi - a knife he claimed to have lost is found at the murder scene; a nearby woman says she saw him do it and an old man heard screaming and saw him flee the building - instead turns into something much more intricate. Eleven of the jurors instantly vote guilty; however, Juror #8 says that there is still a lot of room for deliberation - the accused might indeed be innocent. He then must convince the jurors that beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant is guilty.


With the exception of some of the earlier scenes and the ending, the whole film is set in a claustrophobic New York jury room during the hottest day of the year. The location, partly due to the fact that it was based on a play (and indeed, there are many stagey elements to be found in the film) solely serves to excellently augment the intensity and suspense that is crafted by the director. One would have thought that the scenographic limitations could, one way or another, harm the film, or make it tedious. Needless to say, those assumptions would be totally wrong, because 12 Angry Men is a film that turns its restraints into its most superlative assets. During its entire running time, there was not a moment where I was not compelled by what was going on, where the constant debates between the men did not interest me; rather, the film gets you hooked from the very beginning - but it is as the opinions on the culpability of the kid are altered that the grip gets tighter and tighter. It strikes me as amazing (and odd) that the film remains thoroughly captivating, even though all but three minutes of it was filmed in the same room. 12 Angry Men is what cinema is all about - acting. It is the all-male, twelve men cast who, with their fleshed-out characters, different psychologies and varying ideas, keep the film afloat. The film, no doubt, is an ensemble piece at its core - and an astonishing one, at that - whose actors, surprisingly, were mostly not incredibly experienced prior to the making of the film, though the painstaking rehearsals did last a fatiguing two weeks. At the end of the film, one really feels as though we got to fully know each and every one of the men who occupied the room; their feelings, opinions, sensations, philosophies on life and what not. All are magnificently illustrated here, and the script by Reginald Rose uses them all to point out and analyse human weaknesses. We get to know where they work, their background stories, where they're from and their personal prejudices. They are all nameless (except for the two who introduce themselves in the film's final scene), yet that does not keep them from being exceedingly well drawn.

Juror #8, superbly played by Henry Fonda, is the only person who stands firm and does not change his opinion. He's a liberal, an individual who thinks that, despite all the given evidence, the death of the kid can still be avoided. As he persuades the weary jurors to rethink it, the psyche of each one slowly flourishes until it fully emerges and becomes visible for the viewer. Juror #1 (Martin Balsam, who played detective Arbogast in Psycho) is a high school sports coach who'd rather keep things in order than stir up a conflict; not even once in the film does he make a useful point, however. Juror #2 (John Fiedler) is the bank clerk with the bizarrely squeaky, almost Porky Pig voice; at the beginning, he's a little doubtful about the entire thing, but eventually decides to speak out after remembering some pivotal evidence that was nagging him, thus making some very good points. Juror #3 (a towering Lee J. Cobb), a hounding big man, thinks that the kid should be put to the chair. According to him, every single thing that came out in that courtroom says he's guilty. He's also the one who, like Juror #8, stands true to his opinion until the very end, if only for more than personal reasons. He's the angry man, and refuses to believe that there is any chance of the kid being innocent. Juror #4 is played by E.G. Marshall, a just man and a good observer, who clearly follows the evidence but in the end realises that it's completely the opposite; Juror #5 (Jack Klugman) a mumbling and sensitive man who was also born in a slum background, thinks the kid should not be getting the prejudices he's obtaining, because he knows what it is to live in such poverty. Juror #6 (Edward Bins) is a man willing to listen to everyone's opinions, with an ability to recognise his own strengths and weaknesses and to defend the insulted, such as Juror #9 (Joseph Sweeney), the older man out of the bunch, who possesses a strange skill to reflect upon the facial aspects and temperament of some of the witnesses; he makes his comments with clarity and unrivalled attention to detail and often gets shouted at by Juror #7 (Jack Warden), probably the most reluctant of the men; he wants to get out because he has tickets to a baseball game and every once in a while throws wisecracks at the people he thinks inferior to himself. Juror #10 (Ed Begley) always makes his remarks in a more than menacing manner - he's a bigoted man who doesn't care about the viewpoints of others. Juror #11 (George Voskovec) is a polite European watchmaker who migrated to the United States, with a fine way of speaking and a fair treatment of the people there; he thinks the Western system is a sham. Finally, there is Juror #12 (Robert Webber), an advertising executive. Familiar with meetings of this sort, he cannot contain his pride and tells the people next to him just how wonderful his job is.

One of the main messages of 12 Angry Men is that the judicial system (at least the one that in use then) is flawed. It criticises it with subtlety, while at the same time cleverly exploring the dialogue and motives. In such a small room, so many things can occur, so many things can be said - and the life of someone depends on them. Pride, jealousy, fury, frustration and prejudice all emerge in this film, and it seems as though it's inevitable. However, the film underlines all this by saying that sometimes oversimplification of methods is a bad thing; just because there is some apparent evidence doesn't mean he or she is really guilty. Through a careful investigation of the facts, the impression of the guilt of a person can easily be reversed, thus making us think that, in fact, he is not culpable. The very tag line of the poster sums up how judicial workings can often be catastrophic: Life is in their hands - Death is on their minds!

If there ever was such a technically flawless film, then this is it. Boris Kaufman's dazzling cinematography, with its prolonged takes and constant close-ups, makes a particularly astute way of using  black and white to strengthen the growth of the plot. You will notice that, at the beginning of the film, eleven out of the twelve men are wearing dark costumes (mainly suits), save for Juror #8, who wears a light summer suit, which is most likely much more appropriate for the time the film is set in. As the film progresses and Juror #8 convinces the rest of the jury, it is clearly visible that each of them takes off their dark jackets to reveal light shirts underneath. The concept of using tone to hint at light (as in good, open-minded/narrow-minded) and darkness (as in evil) is further on backed up when the majority vote leaps from guilty to not guilty. At this precise moment, a thunderstorm begins outside and it becomes much darker, forcing them to turn on the lights inside. So at this point the jury room and those inside it have become lighter than the ones outside. The idea continues at the end of the film, as it culminates with all of them wearing light colours, and as they leave the courtroom they can be seen carrying their jackets instead of wearing them, as though they've left their prejudices behind. This is an extraordinary piece of symbolism that is put to great effect in the film and helps to fortify it even more.ANryMen_2-400

The tension that is weaved in the film is incredible. Because we don't know whether or not the kid is truly guilty; because we, like the 12 men, are not aware of whether what's being said is the truth or not, the more unexpected it gets. The film does not spend time in showing us the trial beforehand - rather, it opts for showing us what we have to see: the 12 men battling it out, and at the end it is us who have to decide if they have been just, regardless of whether the kid is guilty or innocent. As the course of the film went on, it is said that Sidney Lumet gradually changed to lenses of longer focal lengths, so that the backgrounds seemed to close in on the characters, creating a greater feeling of claustrophobia and, besides, the close-ups became even more continuous. This was said by Lumet in Making Movies where he discussed the visual strategy of 12 Angry Men. ‘In addition,’ he writes, ‘I shot the first third of the movie above eye level, shot the second third at eye level and the last third from below eye level. In that way, toward the end the ceiling began to appear. Not only were the walls closing in, the ceiling was as well. The sense of increasing claustrophobia did a lot to raise the tension of the last part of the movie.’ For the last shot of the picture, he says he used a wide-angle lens ‘to let us finally breathe.’

The men's sweat can almost be smelled, their confusion can even be touched; all the situations in the film remain plausible yet ever fascinating, and at the end everything is masterfully tied up. 12 Angry Men is a film so unique and special; it provokes, it criticises and it explores. Almost forty years later, its power to enthral is intact and the questions it raises are still as timeless. Visually unmatched, it is an engrossing and profoundly engaging film that rightly deserves its place amongst the best of all time.

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Copyright (c) 2017.  Kelston Club & Study Centre. All rights reserved. Updated Jan 09 2018