Category Archives: Lee, Laurie

‘Cider With Rosie’ by Laurie Lee

Following on from my recent read of Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning I thought I should actually get round to reading Cider With Rosie. I know I’m reading them the wrong way round but I can’t see that it really matters. I watched the BBC adaption a few years ago and I think I’ve seen one of the earlier film versions but, hey, you can’t get enough of a good thing. I was surprised to find that the novel is not told in a chronological order but is instead divided into thematic chapters, which I quite liked.

Instead of reviewing the book I wanted to share a few quotations from it that appealed to me. The first is a description of the family’s kitchen, a kitchen landscape.

That kitchen, worn by our boots and lives, was scruffy, warm, and low, whose fuss of furniture seemed never the same but was shuffled around each day. A black grate crackled with coal and beech-twigs; towels toasted on the guard; the mantel was littered with fine old china, horse brasses, and freak potatoes. On the floor were strips of muddy matting, the windows were choked with plants, the walls supported stopped clocks and calendars, and smoky fungus ran over the ceilings. There were also six tables of different sizes, some armchairs gapingly stuffed, boxes, stools, and unravelling baskets, books and papers on every chair, a sofa for cats, a harmonium for coats, and a piano for dust and photographs. These were the shapes of our kitchen landscape, the rocks of our submarine life, each object worn smooth by our constant nuzzling, or encrusted by lively barnacles, relics of birthdays and dead relations, wrecks of furniture long since foundered, all silted deep by Mother’s newspapers which the years piled round on the floor.

In the second quote, which appears near the end of the book, Lee compares how adolescents are treated in the city with the country; he says: ‘The modern city, for youth, is a police-trap.’ He then takes a rather rose-tinted view of crime and punishment in the country; it’s a wonderful quote though.

Our village was clearly no pagan paradise, neither were we conscious of showing tolerance. It was just the way of it. We certainly committed our share of statutory crime. Manslaughter, arson, robbery, rape cropped up regularly throughout the years. Quiet incest flourished where the roads were bad; some found their comfort in beasts; and there were the usual friendships between men and boys who walked through the fields like lovers. Drink, animality, and rustic boredom were responsible for most. The village neither approved nor disapproved, but neither did it complain to authority. Sometimes our sinners were given hell, taunted, and pilloried, but their crimes were absorbed in the local scene and their punishment confined to the parish.

And I may as well end with a quote from the scene which gives the book its name. Sex and cider with Rosie in the summertime.

Never to be forgotten, that first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples, and Rosie’s burning cheeks. Never to be forgotten, or ever tasted again…

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Filed under Lee, Laurie, Non-fiction

‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’ by Laurie Lee

I first read this book about twenty-five years ago when I was little older than Laurie Lee was in this memoir. It begins in 1934 with Laurie embarking on a journey from his home in the Cotswolds where he heads eastwards along the south coast of England and then towards London. He is young, clueless and naive, but therein lies the appeal of the book. The young Laurie is looking for adventure but doesn’t quite know where or how to find it. Coming to the end of a labouring job in London Laurie decides to travel abroad and when he notes that he knows the Spanish phrase for ‘Will you please give me a glass of water?’ he decides to get a one-way ticket to Spain. Arriving in the north-west city of Vigo he walks slowly southwards, with his fiddle-playing being his only source of income. By the end of the book he has made his way to the southern coastal town of Almuñécar where he stays for a while working in a hotel. However the civil war breaks out and Laurie ends up being evacuated back to Britain. The novel ends with Laurie making his way back into Spain across the French Pyrenees.

This is a wonderfully poetic book about youth and the joy of living. I decided to re-read it at this point because I noticed on the GoodReads page that it was first published on 12th December 1969—exactly fifty years ago today. I’ve tried to verify this date but have not had much luck, so I’ll choose to believe it until proved otherwise. The publication date is especially significant to me as it was also the day that I was born.

It was 1934. I was nineteen years old, still soft at the edges, but with a confident belief in good fortune. I carried a small rolled-up tent, a violin in a blanket, a change of clothes, a tin of treacle biscuits, and some cheese. I was excited, vain-glorious, knowing I had far to go; but not, as yet, how far. As I left home that morning and walked away from the sleeping village, it never occurred to me that others had done this before me.

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Filed under Lee, Laurie, Non-fiction