Over The Bridge

In 1955, when he first essayed into the world of autobiography, Richard Church was already a well established author.

At birth, in 1893, he had entered a world of gas lights, lamplighters, muffin men, horse drawn cabs, solid-tyred bicycles. His first eight years overlapped Queen Victoria’s last.

Living near enough to walk to The Mall, young Richard witnessed the queen’s coach in her diamond jubilee procession of 1897 and four years later her funeral.

His life therefore heralded a new millennium and all the changes that went with it.

As befits the poet the writer was, his splendid descriptive prose of flowing, resonating, language is so beguiling as to render it beautiful for itself, quite apart from his sensitivity to his memories.

He writes honestly with considerable insight into the family relationships in the family of four, including his beloved parents and brother Jack. Despite flaws, imbalances and darknesses we are in no doubt of the joy in the household. Church’s analyses of all their personalities are candid and credible.

I won’t attempt to prĂ©cis the work, but so say that his depictions of the London of his time, including starting of in Battersea and move to Dulwich resonate strongly in the Londoner in me; tossing up sycamore leaves and watching them gyrating and rocking to the ground we all played helicopters, except that Church had no word for them when the flying machines had not yet been invented; the five year old’s magical awe when, provided with his first spectacles, he could recognise sharp detail in the world around him, is palpable.

This acutely myopic and sickly child gained access to a Convalescent cure because his father gained access to the Civil Service Medical Officer who made the referral which strengthened the boy despite it being a traumatic wrench over the residential period.

The drawing which appears on the book jacket is of The Author in Later Life by Robert Austin, R.A.

The author’s philosophy of life is woven into this first volume of autobiography. It is enough of a recommendation that as soon as I have posted this, I will open the next one.