It was a normal Wednesday morning in the Shire office. I was printing out some images of Dinky toys, replying to an e-mail about letter boxes, and sipping happily from a mug of tea, made for me by Russell. It was just about perfect, although he had perhaps put in too much milk. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, the unmistakable figure of Michael Aspel appeared clutching a large, red Shire book. \'Alex\' he said, startling me so that the rest of the tea surged over some invoices, \'this, is your Shire life\'. \'Aspel, you idiot, look what you\'ve done! There\'s tea everywhere!\' I replied. A little ungrateful, because This is your Shire Life is a great honour. Aspel took me to the meeting room where a selection of Shire books were about to reveal memories of my past…

Name: Alex Clissold-Jones

The first two books waiting for me behind the curtain reveal the history of my name. Discovering First Names (SDI 289, Stan Jarvis) tells me that \'Alexander\', of Greek origin, means \'helper of men\'. Apparently eight popes have chosen this name.
I am, I believe, one of only 3 Clissold-Jones\' in the world. \'Jones\', however, is the most common surname in both England and Wales and, according to Discovering Surnames (SDI 35, J. W. Freeman), one of the first living in Wales was Walterus Jones, mentioned in records in 1279.

Hometown: Tunbridge Wells

I grew up in Tunbridge Wells, something I\'m disgusted about. It is, however, a very interesting and beautiful town, rich in history. Tunbridge Ware (SLI 130, Margaret Gill) tells the story of the mosaic inlaid ware produced at Tunbridge Wells, from its beginnings as a humble wooden bowl to help Lord North taste the waters he had discovered in the early 1600s. I remember seeing the collection of Tunbridge Ware at the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery on school trips and it is a pleasure to find photographs of the collection within the book. Especially the ornate Georgian and Regency boxes and a cribbage board with ivory inlays and bandings of mixed exotic and native woods, including red and black ebony and green oak.

School: Windsor

I was shipped off to be a chorister in St. George\'s Chapel, Windsor Castle when I was 9. It was a fantastic experience. The chapel is the resting place for Kings and Queens but perhaps the most striking visual memory for me was the huge flags that hung in the Quire. They belonged to members of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. Living members, including Margaret Thatcher, would take part in \'Garter Day\', a spectacular ceremony held once a year that attracts huge crowds in the city. British Orders and Decorations (SLI 424, Peter Duckers) features the order, established in 1348 by King Edward III, who intended to recreate the spirit of the Arthurian Knights of the Round Table. The origins stem from a formal function where Edward is said to have picked up the fallen garter of Joan, Countess of Salisbury, and to spare her blushes fastened it on to his own leg with the comment \'Honi soit qui mal y pense\' (\'Shame to him who thinks badly of it\'). This became the Order\'s motto, probably in favour of Edward\'s second comment \'doesn\'t this make my leg look nice\'.

University: Bristol

    Whilst studying music at Bristol University, I sang as a lay clerk at Bristol Cathedral. I have long been fascinated and awed by Cathedrals and Abbeys. Discovering Cathedrals (SDI 112, David Pepin) notes the unique details of each British cathedral as well as numerous photographs and illustrations. An Augustinian monastery had been founded in Bristol in 1140, from which the Cathedral was formed by Henry VIII in 1542. The first women priests were ordained there in 1994. The chapter house (with a particularly fine acoustic) is one of the most memorable in England, and the book includes a photograph of \'The Harrowing of Hell\', described as \'one of the finest Saxon sculptures in Britain\'. It was discovered beneath the floor of the chapter house after a fire in 1831.

Interest: Cricket

    As well as music, one of my great interests is cricket. I\'m particularly pleased that a cricketer graces the cover of The Victorian and Edwardian Sportsman (SLI 460, Richard Tames). It is Lord Harris, captain of Kent and England, who took four wickets in his last match - at the age of 77. I particularly like the images in this book, especially the boxers who look very amusing. It is also a reminder of a time when Britain was good at sport; at the 1908 London Olympics, we won more gold medals than all the other eighteen competing countries added together.

Cricketing Bygones (SLI 90, Stephen Green) has everything for the cricket nerd; bats, balls, buckles, hats, the title page of the first edition of Wisden, a note written by W. G. Grace, posters, cigarette cards and a Victorian toast rack made up of representations of bats, balls, stumps and bails, that I really, really want.