Great Meadow: An Evocation
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Employing both the language and lucidity of the young boy that he evokes, the actor turned author, Dirk Bogarde, presents us with a charming recollection of his childhood. From 1927 to 1934 he lived in a remote cottage in the Sussex Downs with his sister Elizabeth and their strict but loving nanny, Lally. For the children it was an idyllic time of joy and adventure: of gleaning at the end of summer, of oil lamps and wells, of harvests and harvest mice in the Great Meadow.
With great sensitivity and poignancy, this memoir captures the sounds and scents, the love and gentleness that surrounded the young boy as the outside world prepared to go to war.
First published in 1992, this is one of Bogarde's latter memoirs.
snow and frost. ‘Oh good!’ said my sister. ‘So you can buy one too. There’s a little round thing with a funny mouse in it, and you have to get the glass balls into its eyes. It’s a penny too. You’ll love that.’ The next day was pretty good because there was a thaw in the night, so that made it all right for our father and mother to be on time. I mean the O.M. would be able to get up the lane. So we all went out, well wrapped up with scarves and Wellingtons and gloves and everything, and stamped
about at the end of the muddy lane between 2 o’clock and 3 o’clock, as our father had promised to be there, and Mrs Daukes kept running down her path and said we’d all perish from the cold but she never asked us to come into her parlour and that was because Mr Daukes was probably still unconscious with his bad head and bandages everywhere. So Lally said. And then, just as it was beginning to get dusk, because we had got past the shortest day, we saw the headlights, the little ones, of the O.M. as
threepence when she had got it for nothing in a cracker. Girls are really quite rotten sometimes. Because it was so hot we had only cold for lunch. Lally wore short sleeves, so you could tell how hot it was because she never would have worn short sleeves in the house, not ever. It was going to be ham and potato salad and lettuce and half a tomato each. And there was a bottle of Heinz mayonnaise, only a titchy one, because my father didn’t like anything in bottles, except if it was to drink, so
post, and it skipped off into Great Meadow and so did he. And I just sat. It was a really rotten morning. Then I heard Lally coming down the path. I knew it was her because she was singing ‘Moonlight and Roses’ quite loudly. I knew she was singing loudly so I’d hear and have time to wipe any snot away, but there wasn’t any. I don’t blub so anyone can see. So that was all right. ‘Well, so that’s where you’ve got to!’ she said, as if she didn’t know all the time, because she could have seen me
pretty fed up with going down to the Star to telephone and up the garden to sit in a hut with a view of the orchard and an inquisitive hare. And they both laughed together, and I heard the clatter and chink of the plates and forks, and wandered up to the top of the garden myself. With the spade. After I had dug the hole, not very far away from the privy on account of all the carrying, I got the big pole ready and marked the place with a branch, so we’d be able to see it in the light of the