Sunday 6 November 2011

Time-Torn



A weekend of sunshine lets me get the bike out for a spin around the Swansea corniche followed by lunch al fresco in the marina - it could easily be Biarritz except I make do with a bacon bap instead of a plateau de fruits de mer and a pot of tea rather than a crisp sauvignon blanc. Not that much like Biarritz then.

Later, on a walk back inland, I discover a curious fungus (not edible) on a dead tree which appears to offer stereo sound (picture below).

Meanwhile in the long evenings since the hour change I've been reading Claire Tomalin's Thomas Hardy The Time-Torn Man. I recommend it as she makes the old melancholic come alive and doesn't bore on with too much literary criticism like so many biographies of writers.

I like Hardy's poetry best and struggle with his novels ever since reading the Woodlanders which starts with 40 pages describing how to whittle sticks in order to make hurdles (whatever they may be). I think the idea was to convey the tedious monotony of country life for the poor and in that it certainly succeeded but at some risk to the reader's patience.

I was reading how Hardy twice interviewed veterans of Waterloo in preparation for a project (the unreadable Dynasts epic) when by chance I heard on the radio that an actress called Norrie Woodhall who knew Hardy well has just died aged 104. It is surprising how closely linked we are to events which otherwise seem distantly historical. Sometimes these links matter, for example in the case of Marshal P├ętain who infamously persuaded France to surrender and collaborate with Hitler: as a child he had been enthralled by the stories of an ancient uncle who had also fought at Waterloo (in 1815 for heaven's sake!) and taught him to hate the British...