John Masefield, Victor Hely-Hutchinson and Forgetteries by Enid Richemont

I have a very active Forgettery. We all have one of these - a place where we store idealised images, like an album into which we post nothing disagreeable or upsetting. The perfect summer is always in there - the blue skies, the flowers, the lavish picnic without squabbles, sweat or wasps, the turquoise pool into which perfect children jump and splash quite noiselessly, the perfect affair between a couple of unbelievably beautiful people with sungold skin - remember those two? Thought it would never end, but it did. Endings have no place in the Forgettery, though, so it doesn't show.

Most people have lengthy summer sections in their Forgetteries - after all, who wants winter, unless you ski, and even then, things look better when the sun is shining, don't they? I, however, am a winter person. I like a bit of drama in my weather, and I enjoy the cold and seeing my breath clouding in the air, and the pleasure of coming into a warm house afterwards, books, TV, and maybe a whisky or two? Winter sunsets are stunning - that's one of our recent ones over North London up there, pure gold.

I recently began watching old episodes of THE BOX OF DELIGHTS (more on that to come), and then, after stopping and starting, frustrating amber weather warnings for the snow that never happened, a half a dozen small snowflakes fluttered down, inspiring the usual jokes about 'snow on the line' and the incompetence of our Transport services (how much better they coped in Switzerland and Norway, and as for Moscow...) Then, my God! It did snow, and hasn't stopped since.

At present I have a seriously dodgy ankle, so I daren't venture forth on slush or ice. My Forgettery winters didn't include things like cabin fever, and the inability to go out for a walk. They didn't take into consideration not being able to trudge up to my local supermarket to replenish my supply of the above-mentioned whisky - all neatly air-brushed out. And yet - oh, such beauty - the strange tracery of the bare branches of my silver birch thinly outlined in white, one or two of its very last Autumn leaves now hanging like baubles. My patio table has grown a perfectly rounded white lid, and a small sempervivum in a pot has acquired a neatly formed ice-cream topping. So am I tempted to open my Forgettery and bask in summer's warmth? A little, yes, until I spoil things by remembering the invasion of ants in my kitchen and the fly that wouldn't stop buzzing but couldn't be swatted, so for me, winter still wins hands-down.

And so to THE BOX OF DELIGHTS, first dramatised by the BBC aeons ago as a radio drama for children, and then again in the 80s as a TV production. For me, this story has always been the essence of Christmas, with its very English snowy winter, the cathedral choir, the nasty fake clergymen with their terrifying underworld, the Punch and Judy man with his magic box which he entrusts to young Kay Harker, thus making him a target for the evil ones - if you don't know this book, written by one of our greatest poets, then you're in for a treat. For me, though, it was the music that accompanied the productions: "A Carol Symphony", that was unforgettable and haunting, so I finally tracked down the composer - the now little-known, but once, briefly, quite famous Victor Hely-Hutchinson, a child musical prodigy from South Africa, who, following an illustrious career, died prematurely, during the harsh winter of 1947, aged only 46. There's a splendid article about him on the Web, written by his son, if you want to know more.

As this blog won't appear until December 28th, I can only say in retrospect that I hope you all had a totally wonderful Christmas, and to wish you a peaceful and creative New Year.
My latest book: ONE HUNDRED WISHES, comes out early in 2018. It's published by Franklin Watts at Hachette.


Dennis Hamley said…
I agree. The Box of Delights is wonderful, one of the greatest fantasies ever written - and in some ways the real precursor of Harry Potter. Like you, I presume, I first met it memorably on the radio on Children's Hour. Yes, Enid, 'aeons ago' is only too true! I enjoyed the 80's TV version too. But I didn't actually read the book until I was an adult who had been provided with a full lit-crit armoury - and I found it marvellously satisfying. My only criticism was that at the end, we found it was all a dream, which I've always thought of as a silly cop-out and certainly and unexpected failure of nerve on Masefield's part. A ploy to which children's authors of the past were often fatally attached.

Hely-Hutchinson't Carol Symphony is marvellous - and still takes me back to teatimes by the fire with the wireless on listening to that marvellou scene where Kay Harker meets Herne the Hunter asnd watches him turn into a stag as he gallops away.

By the way, they is a stage production on now at Wilton's Music Hall in Whitchapel, running until some time in January, which I saw brilliantly reviewed. I can't go because of my hospital date on Jan 4th, so I must hope that it goes on tour. It could be a great experience. If ever BoD is filmed, there could be some GREAT CGI.
Penny Dolan said…
Thanks for this post and for the glimpse into your (Box of?) Forgetteries, Enid. Hope your ankle is stronger soon.

Dennis, I'd heard about the Wilton Music Hall production and had daydreams about going, but London's usually an overnight trip from here. Meanwhile, all good wishes for your forthcoming op.

(No snow here in this part of Yorkshire, other than a flurry a week ago.)

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