Monday 25 March 2013

Mata Hari

The Heart of Wales Line's mascot cat inspecting the track

Not for the first time this winter - or is this supposed to be spring? - West Wales seems to have got off lightly with the weather. So I walk over 30,000 steps recorded on the trusty pedometer during the weekend (evidence above and below) as well as enduring an icy swim in the outside pool at the gym (the wind had blown the covers off).

But all that takes just three or four hours and, encouraged by a drought in watchable telly, I find time to read another modern novel which features a walk-on part for Sigmund Freud. This is William Boyd's Waiting for Sunrise, more an Edwardian Biggles adventure than a psychological thriller.

Indeed the Freud stuff is fairly superfluous in an improbable plot involving trench-coated spies and far too many Mata Hari-style femmes fatales - I lost count and almost gave up when the hero's mum...but, hold on, I better not say as you might want to read it yourself.

It gives nothing away about the plot to say that the hero bumps into Siggers in 1914 in a Viennese coffee house (where else?) and tells him he is a patient of a (fictional) English psychoanalyst practising in the city. Freud recognises the name and mysteriously refers to him as his "other Englishman". This is not explained anywhere else in the book so I assume it is a reference for the benefit of smart alecs who know about the early history of psychoanalysis (such as the readers of this Blog) to the only English-speaking member of Freud's circle, namely (the real) Ernest Jones.

But the in-joke fails because Freud would never have referred to Jones as English - not just because he was in fact Welsh but because Jones ceaselessly reminded Freud of the difference, even comparing the Welsh to the Jews (Freud and many of his circle being Jewish): Freud routinely described Jones as Welsh. A small point but symptomatic of a rather lazy book - Boyd has lost form.

In spite of the bad weather the wild garlic is abundant - pick it while it's tender