Monday, 11 September 2000

Byng, Britain and the ways of cats

Listening to:

Puccini, La Bohème.

Still reading:

Byng, Rides round Britain. I’m continuing to enjoy this. Perhaps the fact that I’m a diary writer myself predisposes me to like things that are presented in a journal or diary like manner. I read two complete Tours over the weekend; one round Wales, and the other in Sussex. Byng is quite harsh about the standard of the inns in the former. He also complains about towns being ill-paved, the sort of concern that just doesn't enter into our lives these days, when the whole country is covered in a big, maintained road network. Of course, equally, it is now no longer possible to have the sorts of “adventures” that Byng managed within one’s own country.

For example, he has a bit of a moan about the fact that locals don’t know how to direct him so that he has to rely on other travellers’ accounts and potentially dodgy maps. Locals are also typically ignorant about the nature of the interesting antiquities in their region. One he mentions as having told him that something was an ancient auld thing.

From the LRB of 22 June 2000:

The ways of cats are caught well in her [Rebecca West’s] grieving letter over Ginger Pounce, a fine marmalade creature:

He ... was always very careful not to make a fuss of me, but in a cagey way let me know that he knew I was doing pretty well for him and there were no hard feelings. He had a very reserved, reluctant way of licking my hand in a way that suggested he was saying to himself: I hope to God the woman won't start to think I want to marry her.