The Playmate and the Eiderdown


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A poem of Kipling’s. It goes with the story “Aunt Ellen”, from the 1932 collection quiltLimits and Renewals.

SHE is not Folly — that I know.
Her steadfast eyelids tell me so
When, at the hour the lights divide.
She steals as summonsed to my side.

When, finger on the pursèd lip;
In secret, mirthful fellowship
She, heralding new framed delights.
Breathes, ‘This shall be a Night of Nights!’

Then out of Time and out of Space.
Is built an Hour and a Place
Where all an earnest, baffled Earth
Blunders and trips to make us mirth;

Where, from the trivial flux of Things.
Rise unconceived miscarryings
Outrageous but immortal, shown.
Of Her great love, to me alone . . .

She is not Wisdom but, may be.
Wiser than all the Norms is She
And more than Wisdom I prefer
To wait on Her — to wait on Her!

Quite who “she” is, is open to debate. I have always liked to see in this charming lady either an imaginary companion or a child’s quirky and playful imagination…

Anyway, here you can find the story – and it is of the laugh-out-loud variety. One has to wonder at the sharp contrast with another, similarly named aunt, Helen Turrell, in The Gardener…

Ah well, we’ll come to that one too, sooner or later. For now, have fun with Aunt Ellen, and the eiderdown quilt, and cars that bound marsupially with a noise of ironmongery in revolt.

Richard, Gino, Laurence, Peter


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RichardPepponeBack in the day when I spoke very little English, my first meeting with Laurence Olivier happened through the dubbed version of his Richard III, in which Richard was voiced by Gino Cervi. Now, Cervi is a fine actor, but in Italy he is mostly known for playing the earthy mayor Peppone opposite Fernandel’s Don Camillo, in the movies based off Giovannino Guareschi’s books. So… let us say that it was a trifle disconcerting to have Richard speak with Peppone’s voice.

When, a few years later, I saw the movie in the original, I was prepared to fall for Olivier’s voice – except, I didn’t. Trouble is, I have a predilection for deep, dark voices. baritones, basses. Also, the way Olivier uses his voice – while deeply individual and very forceful… well, let us say it doesn’t always help.

Then, to make things a whole lot worse, I was pointed to Peter Sellers’ parody of Olivier’s Richard – via the Beatles…

There. See what I mean by “a whole lot worse”?

Seven books I wish I had written


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BooNot necessarily my favourite books… well, some of them, yes – but for the rest… Let’s say, seven books that, for one reason or another, I can dream of having written myself.

1. Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim. Yes, yes, I know. But it’s a matter of power, depth, beauty and intensity… Continue reading

History & Stories


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HistoryIt strikes me that this particular piece of K-wisdom is a near-perfect motto for this blog…

And it’s not unlikely I’ll adopt it as such.

Incidentally, it goes very well with Kipling’s two books of “history” stories, and his other occasional foray into historical fiction. There are not many – just enough to make me wish he had written more.

Also, this would make a nice answer to the unavoidable question of Why Historical Fiction…

Were you ever asked? And what did you say?


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