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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

"Two middle-aged ladies in Andalusia" by Penelope Chetwode

Nowadays a tale of someone's holiday might be broadcast if the someone was a celebrity and TV schedules needed filling. In 1961 it seems that John Betjeman's wife counted as a celebrity and that therefore she could have her travelogue published.

She is one of the middle-aged ladies, the other being her horse. She embarks on a riding tour in the rugged mountains of Andalusia north of Granada. Her passions are the countryside, which must be beautiful, and the Catholic church: she attends at least one Mass every day. Almost every page was filled with her approval of Catholicism. She hates the Spanish communists because they gutted churches and she approvingly quotes a Franco fan (because Franco allegedly "never took a big decision without spending the night in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament" (Nov 27). She believes that the poor Spanish children she sees are happier and will be happier than the mass-educated relatively less poor English children back home: "Will our girls make such efficient and therefore contented wives and mothers as their Spanish counterparts who to-day can not only read and write ... but have a good knowledge of Christian doctrine and can sew and wash and iron quite beautifully?" (Dec 1). The modern world, in her eyes, is bad and the old ways almost inevitably better and decidedly more beautiful. All in all this book suggests a tremendous sense of complacent entitlement; she is almost the epitome of the benevolent (in their own minds) and patronising feudal lord.

The book is chiefly interesting for its depiction of rural life in Franco's Spain:

  • "He was a day labourer: yesterday no man had hired him but to-day somebody had." (Nov 6)
  • "When you are still in the elementary stages of learning a language your only hope is to talk yourself, to prevent people talking to you, as they are sure to introduce tenses with which you are not yet familiar." (Nov 8)
  • "Two huge pigs ... nosed me so lovingly, so trustingly, and soon their great intestines would be lying in heaps in the kitchen waiting to be filled with pudding mixture" (Nov 20)
  • "An oddly assorted mixed grill with little bits of tough steak, lumps of pork fat, three fired fresh sardines, a grilled thrush and some chips, all on the same plate." (Nov 20)

December 2018; 153 pages

Other great travel books in this blog:
Travelling in Britain:
And others:

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