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Showing posts from February, 2011

Saki in Singapore

The obvious choice of reading for a trip to Singapore must be Rudyard Kipling, one of the writers associated with Raffles Hotel which is named after Britain’s colonial administrator par excellence and founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles. I hadn’t got any Kipling with me, but I had got some Saki (Hector Hugh Munro). This seemed to me a decent substitute as both authors are associated with British colonialism. They were contemporaries; both were born in British colonies - Munro in Burma and Kipling in India; both endured unhappy English childhoods away from their parents; both returned to the land of their birth when they were adults; and both wrote original and exotic short stories – though only one of them was brilliant, and that was Kipling. However, it was Saki’s stories I had with me: The Chronicles of Clovis (1911) and Beasts and Super-Beasts (1914). The tales are often cruel, and not only because they are set in a world insensitive to the suffering of other creatures whe

Eminent Victorian

For they stood in one of the famous wood and common lands of Southern England – great beeches towering overhead – glades opening to right and left – ferny paths over green turf-tracks, and avenues of immemorial age, the highways of a vanished life – old earth-works, overgrown – lanes deep-sunk in the chalk where the pack horses once made their way – gnarled thorns, bent with years, yet still white-mantled in the spring: a wild, enchanted no-man’s country, owned it seemed by rabbits and birds, solitary, lovely and barren – yet from its furthest edge, the high spectator, looking eastward, on a clear night, might see on the horizon the dim flare of London. I think this is a lovely description. I particularly like the sense of history on the landscape, the “old earth-works, overgrown” and “avenues of immemorial age”. It evokes for me coming across the grassy remains of mine shafts or pits for washing ore in the lead lands near Charterhouse in the Mendips, or stumbling on the embankment o