Thursday 2 June 2011


What a beautiful day.  The showers of the last week have made me appreciate sunny days again.  Richard brought his mini-digger and has been widening the drive again; the gravelled area, for those of you who have been here.  The big heap of aggregate is nearly gone and we will have as much parking area as we want in another day or two.

That isn't to say that the drive is nearly finished.  That's going to take ages.  The Sage loves a project, but he's not so good at finishing one.  Planning and putting into action is what he's good at, but then he gets bored and wants to move on to the next thing.  I'm more of a plodder.  I am not spectacular, but I stick at it, once I've started.

Dilly is feeling quite well, but she hasn't had the easiest time.  In medicine, as in so many spheres, things go in fashions and in cycles.  The latest anxiety is clots.  Since her first two babies were born by Caesarean section, the third had to be, and this time she has had to have blood-thinning injections for a week afterwards, which Al has administered.  However, she's had quite a lot of bleeding from the wound.  It transpires that this is not at all unusual, if you have blood-thinning medication, but no one warned her, so it was very worrying when it first happened and they called a paramedic in to check her.  It builds up in a sort of blister and then pops - you can imagine how scary that is.  It is still happening, though less, and her final injection is tomorrow, so hopefully it will clear up after that.

Luckily, everything is absolutely fine with Hadrian and he is a tranquil and cheery baby.  I've only seen him awake but not feeding a couple of times, and hardly held him at all, which is a bit tough on a doting granny, but my time will come, no doubt, probably when I should be busy with other things.  Squiffany and Pugsley have gone to spend the night with their other grandparents, which they were very excited about.

I listened to A Good Read on Radio 4 the other day, I turned on the radio on the way home from Dave's and it was part-way through the programme.  One of the selected books was A High Wind In Jamaica, by Richard Hughes.  I read that, some 45 years ago, because it was a set book at school, and I hated it.  But I've always remembered it fairly clearly, which means it must have been ... well, memorable.  I suppose I should read it again and see if I admire it after all, these many years later.

What I remember is, there was a group of children and a great storm.  I remember a description of a short fat black woman losing her footing and being bowled over and over by the wind.  I remember the children having a discussion about sorting clothes for the wash and someone saying they could be sorted by each person's smell (and Emily thinking, dur, of course), and a mention that you should never ride a horse bareback for fear of catching ringworm (this was in Jamaica, then, not necessarily now or anywhere else).  They were all sent back to England for safety and were captured by pirates - who had not expected to find themselves saddled with children.  John, a boy I liked, leaned over too far (they had landed somewhere and gone to a theatrical show of some kind) and he fell and was killed.  Emily was the main character and I didn't like her at all.  The pirates caught another ship and a man - the captain - Dutch, perhaps? - was in a cabin with her and he spoke to her in a foreign and gutteral tongue and she was so frightened that she hit or stabbed him and killed him.  Shocked, the pirate captain dropped her overboard, but she was rescued.  Later, they were captured and brought to justice, and she was asked about the death of the man, and she remembered the incident and cried, and it was assumed that she had witnessed his murder.  The pirates were sentenced to death.  At the end of the book, Emily, with the surviving children, went back to England and, if a group of little girls was watched playing, it would not be possible to pick out Emily, who was just like all the others.

That's as I remember it, anyway.  Odd, that I recall all that, and didn't like the book or the story.  Of course, my memory may be at fault - there were a couple of incidents mentioned in the radio programme that I haven't said, although they did trigger my recollection when I was reminded.  Can anyone tell me whether I should remain with a memory of a book I didn't like, or else return to it and appreciate it after all these years?

Other books I had to read at school and didn't like were Redgauntlet, by Sir Walter Scott, and Nada, the Lily, by H. Rider Haggard.  I remember nothing, not a word, of the former.  I thought the latter was horrid.  There, the narrator was obliged to put his hand into fire as a test of his honesty.  He was lying, but endured the torture and so was assumed to be telling the truth, but he had a withered hand for the rest of his life.  At the end, Nada was walled up in a cave and Umslopogaas, her lover, was too injured to move the stone and they died there together, touching hands.  I have never read any Rider Haggard since, I thought it was horrid and gruesome.  This is slightly awkward, as I know his granddaughter (whose name is Nada) and some of her family, and can hardly say so. However, since I remember the book, it was evidently better written than Redgauntlet.  I've never read any other Scott either, not even Ivanhoe, although I enjoyed the dramatisation as a Sunday evening serial when I was a child.


Imperatrix said...

Oh, I just had to comment on this. As a teen I saw an old movie called High Wind in Jamaica on television once, and was so smitten by this bittersweet story that I then read the book. The movie was better, in my mind. But I still remember it fondly.

Here in the US all kids of my generation had to read Red Badge of Courage about the (US) Civil War. Blaaaaaaah. Talk about dreary and depressing and no positive ending (or so *I* recall).

Funny how books hit us hard when we read them, and then years later we can only remember the echo of the feeling but not the reasoning behind that feeling.

(Random aside, I adored Rumer Godden's Episode of Sparrows when I read it at 13. It made me cry, it was so good.)

kippy said...

I can't remember any required fiction reading in school (U.S.) except Grapes of Wrath. I have always been an avid reader. Starting with animal stories and then as I got older, reading classics. The Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden is fondly remembered. I've read and enjoyed Ivanhoe at least three times and think you might enjoy it too.

Dave said...

As a young person I read a lot of both Haggard and Scott. Well, actually I read most of the fiction books in the library.

I've never read A High Wind In Jamaica though, and now I needn't bother, as you've told me the whole story.

Dave said...

Ooooh. There's a picture of The Sage in the (online) EDP today.

Z said...

Indeed there is, Dave. It will be in the local paper, too.

I read Rumer Godden, but neither of those books. I was a voracious reader, but just put off by the wrong books by those specific authors. And the people on the radio spoke of disturbing undercurrents that a child wouldn't have picked up High Wind - I didn't, but maybe there was a subconscious awareness.

Unknown said...

I read, and enjoyed, Ryder-Haggard at school. Good, dramatic, and very readable stuff. I read qite a lot of Scott a few years later. If you remember that he is writing only a year or so after Jane Austen, he seems very Victorian. I suspect I might find him heavy going now. I loved Dickens at school, and read all of it. The earlier ones are infinitely the best (Sketches by Boz and Pickwick Papers) with the exception I think of Our Mutual Friend. His characters are so real. The same is true of Jane Austen (who is my favourite writer). Her people, too, are so very real (Miss Bates in Emma - there's still a Miss Bates in every English Village). There's too many to think of from Wodehouse to E.F.Benson. I think perhaps I'm waffling on. But thank you, Z. You've made me think.

The Boy said...

Very little baby holding? With ours we would shove them into the hands of any willing and some unwilling visitors just for a break! You should demand your grandparently rights!

You know, I know I read Redgauntlet too, but equally can not remember a jot other than I read it. That is quite unusual for me. Ivanhoe though, that was a jolly good read.

Christopher said...

I'm so glad to find an agreeable, cosy forum in which there's no shame attached to admitting to never having read any Sir W. Scott. If you should happen to mention Meredith, Galsworthy, Henry James or even 'Sapper' McNeile or Dornford Yates in my company I'm afraid I would look more than usually vacant, too.

I looked in Midi Libre this morning, but I couldn't find any photos of The Sage.

Z said...

The subject of the article involving the Sage is one I've heard all too much about in the past few weeks, and I'll spare you.

There are some authors who appeal at a certain age of the reader, I think. And a keen teenage reader will get through some pretty heavy stuff that one might be disinclined to tackle for the first time later.

Hadrian was awake this morning, so I've had a cuddle.

Blue Witch said...

I too was forced to read that book. Unlike you, I didn't remember a word of it. I think I can probably remember the names and authors of all the books I studied in English Literature at O and A level though. Not the plots, mind.

Will the Sage be training as an amateur militiaman now?

Z said...

I remembered it because I disliked it, I forgot Redgauntlet because I was bored by it!

I trust not. The thought had occurred to me and I've explained quite clearly just how damn silly they'd look if they did.

Anonymous said...

I have to confess that I did not read one of the books you mentioned. I tried a German version of Scott's rhymerie (romantic, Grimm brothers, "folk", etcetc.), but, well I tried.
Nice mugs. :)

Z said...

I am not surprised, I have read a few books by German writers, in translation, but very few. And not many translate well in any case.

Rosie said...

I once read a story at my English grandmother's house. It was about a black foot sticking out from underneath a bed. I never found out what the book was but I still dream about that terrifying foot...arrrggg.The power of words!

Min said...

Oh, Richard Hughes ... I, too, had 'A High Wind in Jamaica' inflicted upon me at what must have been about the same age. But I went on to discover 'The Fox in the Attic', which was wonderful; really his best work, although out of favour these days.
The film of 'High Wind' referred to starred a young (a VERY young!) Martin Amis as one of those feral, shipwrecked children who probably inspired (if that's the word!) William Golding's depiction of same in 'Lord of the Flies'.
Scott? I know, I know ... but his narratives work well if read aloud by someone with thespy ability.
Have enjoyed browsing your blog: thank you!

Z said...

Hello Min, your comment has been languishing in the moderation box and I've just found it. Sorry. I've never heard of 'The Fox in the Attic', I'll look it up. And I didn't know that Martin Amis was a child star!

Thank you for commenting, I'll drop in on your blog and browse too.