On this hot, humid, and overcast morning I set off by my usual route for lunch with Norman in Harlesden. I was very sticky by the time I reached Colliers Wood.
A heron landed in a tree in Morden Hall Park before taking off, no doubt aiming for the river Wandle. On the trail joggers were taking their exercise. One, a young mother, was, one-handed, pushing her toddler in a three-wheeled buggy; although I stood aside when approached by a couple, it was clear one would have to drop back. I speculated which it would be. I was right. It was the woman. She certainly looked the fitter of the two. I hoped this was the reason. A fisherman was unravelling his line. Deen City Farm (posted 16th. May) was filling up, probably because at last it wasn’t raining.
On the Underground there were constant announcements warning of the congestion expected during the forthcoming Olympic games. A busker (see 14th. June) was playing an accordion at Green Park.
Norman fed me with gammon, all the trimmings, and a fruit flan. We shared a bottle of Cona Sur 2008, a superb full-bodied Chilean pinot noir, purchased in Morrison’s, which I had given him for his birthday. He gave me a couple of CDs which I will unveil on Saturday, my birthday.
His pedestrian street, as many others in The London Borough of Brent’s NW10, now has allocated residential parking occupying exactly half of the not over-wide pavements. In 1966, when I learned to drive I had been taught that it was an offence to mount the kerb in a motor vehicle. The kerbs in these roads have not been dropped, so, at least in Brent, this is apparently now legal. An elderly Somali gentleman was feeding a vast flock of pigeons in Preston Gardens (that’s a tiny street, not a park). Fortunately Flo has grown out of breeding several generations of them on her Mitcham balcony. On the way up to Neasden underground station two cyclists sped past me on the footway, one displaying the crack in his bum.
On the tube I finished reading J. Meade Falkner’s novel Moonfleet. This late nineteenth century work is a marvellous tale well told. It is at least equally good as those of the better known Robert Louis Stevenson. When she knew I was about to read it, my friend Heather commended it. She did not exaggerate. The theme of smuggling features as a decoration to the front cover binding of my Folio Society edition, and the header photograph above displays the spine of the book in its customary slipcase. The description of Elzevir Block and John Trenchard’s, albeit brief, ordeal in the hold of a Dutch prisoner ship bound for transportation and a life of slavery, reminded me of the horrors of Alex Hayley’s ‘Roots’ and Robert Hughes’ ‘The Fatal Shore’. This latter volume is a history of the origins of modern Australia and desperate plight of those transported in the convict ships.
Had I had more confidence in my teenage abilities, and had my parents been able to send me to art school, I may well have taken up book illustration. As it was, I needed, on leaving school, to go straight to work. I also thought I’d never make a Charles Keeping, a John Bratby, or even a Beryl Cook, all of whom have illustrated Folio books. My first annual salary was about £340, the bulk of which I handed over to my mother. I kept enough back, however, to be able, upon seeing an advertisement for The Folio Society, to sublimate my desire to illustrate by joining this book club. Fifty two years later I have a large collection of beautifully illustrated, imaginatively bound hardback books, printed on good paper which doesn’t turn brown, with suitable typeface and font. All these elements are carefully selected to be in keeping with the original writing. Younger, budding, illustrators are encouraged by an annual competition. Michael Manomivibul illustrated ‘Moonfleet’. Maybe he is one of those. I have the Society to thank for many works of which I may otherwise have no knowledge, and for pleasurable editions of numerous others.
I finished reading the abovementioned ‘The Fatal Shore’ on Christmas day 2007, on the plane to Perth, where I spent a couple of days with Holly’s delightful and most hospitable parents and brothers before being driven to a winery in the Margaret River area of South West Australia for the wedding she shared with Sam. I had a far more comfortable journey than had the early transported convicts.
By coincidence, just after his own birthday this March, Norman shared with me an excellent bottle of wine his niece in Queensland had sent him. This had originated in Margaret River.