Omitted From The Talking Book


Yesterday evening, Becky, who with Ian also stayed overnight with Flo and Dillon, was hunting in the library for James Joyce’s ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’. She had been listening to it on the radio. I knew where it was, but it was inaccessible at the moment. This morning I moved items blocking the passage and brought it out for her. This is my Folio Society edition of 1965, with illustrations by Dodie Masterson. The coloured drawing is on the front cover board; the black and white ones are full page pictures in the text.

This book, in its slip case, has followed me around for more than half a century. Purchased only five years after I left Wimbledon College, a Jesuit grammar school, it contains descriptions of a Catholic child’s upbringing with which I could identify. Beginning in the language of a very small boy, my recollection of Stephen’s bed-wetting and how it is warm and comfortable at first, then goes cold, was an example of such reminiscence. Becky tells me that this has been omitted from the talking book version. I was happy to present her with the slender volume.

Dillon, hailing from South Carolina, had never seen ponies roaming free before. Becky therefore offered to drive him and Flo on an equine foray. I accompanied them to Burley and back via a somewhat circuitous route. On the way to the village  we encountered a number of ponies on the moor. They mostly seemed rather young, and less inquisitive that we would expect from older ones, as they went about the business of eating grass and gorse. Interestingly, they were very tolerant of Scooby’s attention.

We stopped at Burley where the young couple explored the witchy and other tourist shops. The fudge outlet was popular. Becky’s experience was so hilarious that at this point I hand the keyboard to her.

‘I noticed a bag of Marmite Fudge and on hearing the surprise in my voice the lady in the shop asked me, tentatively, if I would like to try it.  There was a long pause before I weakly said yes.  She sliced a very small piece off the block and then said, “Oh no you won’t want that much”, cut it in half and finished her sentence, “because it’s hideous.”  I popped it in my mouth and just looked at her.  Speechless.  “It’s interesting.” I said politely.  She replied, “I think it tastes like you’ve accidentally poured gravy all over your apple crumble.”‘

As we left the village, our guests were treated to the classic pony traffic disruption. In this they were assisted by a partial road closure furnished with temporary traffic lights. A string of the animals trooped across the road. One turned back to the other side to sample some tasty looking ivy dangling over a fence. This creature couldn’t make up its mind which side of the road was more attractive. As the lights changed from red to green no further progress was possible until it had stopped crossing and recrossing the tarmac.

This evening Jackie, utilising all her new cooking appliances, produced an excellent roast chicken meal, including Yorkshire pudding, roast and sweet potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, manges touts, sage and onion stuffing, and tasty gravy. Jackie and Ian drank Hoegaarden, and I drank Chateauneuf du Pape 2015


  1. Now Derrick, Jackie at work in her new kitchen is surely worthy of a dedicated post…….. ??

    Marmite fudge!! I think Becky was incredibly polite and can well imagine the trader was fairly accurate in her description. but I think these things have to be tried – I thought peanut butter and chocolate was a silly idea until I tasted it 🙂

  2. Such lovely illustrations in your volume, Derrick. The pony photos are wonderful, and Becky’s story is so funny.
    It sounds like Jackie is in her glory now able to use the kitchen for such a dinner.

  3. You made me laugh. I don’t like it when they shorten things in books. Love the illustrationes and the Marmite fudge. I like Marmite but probably not like that.

  4. I like the pictures of the ponies roaming wild instead of being on the road but I love the idea of their ruling the traffic.

    I am tempted to put honey on my vegemite on toast to see what that might taste like but I resisted the temptation. It would have been fun to bring back some of that fudge to give to friends 🙂

  5. this was the first book the Textiliste made me read to ‘improve’ my reading material when I was 19; it proved to be a feature of my reading ever since and her eye for what works for me is uncanny – as for Marmite fudge… no, just no…

  6. That book is a treasure, Derrick. I own two fine copies, but neither is illustrated. It irks me to think that particular reminiscence was omitted from the audio book, because that surely means later parts are as well. Thanks for sharing the illustrations with us.

  7. Yaaaay, Jackie! 😀

    I think someone has to go back to the drawing board with the marmite fudge!

    Thank goodness the ponies didn’t take exception to that silly pup walking right behind their back feet. Talk about a death wish! 🙂

  8. That was an interesting tour to the land of free ponies and Maritime fudge. Jackie seems to have regained full control over her territory!

  9. It is always good to see the ponies! I love the description of the Marmite fudge tasting. 🙂

    Glad Jackie is enjoying her new kitchen! Give her my best. 🙂

  10. Enjoyable reading Derrick, your book has now been noted for my future requests at my library. Your Marmite block sounds intriguing, here in Australia we normally have Vegemite on toast for breakfast, and in some cases Marmite, it is an acquired taste and heavy in yeast, don’t think your country has access to this unique Australian culinary delight. Cheers.

  11. A story and a meal – yum! I’ve just been reading about a girl’s convent boarding school where Southey’s the Inchcape Rock had the dramatic climax ‘Oh dear! It is the Inchcape Rock!’

  12. “Stephen’s bed-wetting and how it is warm and comfortable at first, then goes cold, ” …and probably smelly

    Yorkshire pudding with chicken? My dear old dad made the best Yorkshire puddings ever, and always cooked in the fat, in which he’d roasted the beef. I’ve never had any success with my YP’s :'(

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