Monday, 19 March 2012

Richards on suburbs

I mentioned The Castles on the Ground (J.M. Richards, 1946) in my last post. Here’s how it starts.

1 The Englishman's Home

Ewbank'd inside and Atco'd out, the English suburban residence and the garden which is an integral part of it stand trim and lovingly cared for in the mild sunshine. Everything is in its place. The abruptness, the barbarities of the world are far away. There is not much sound, except perhaps the musical whirr and clack of a mowing machine being pushed back and forth over a neighbouring lawn and the clink of cups and saucers and a soft footfall as tea is got ready indoors. There is not much movement either: a wire- haired terrier lazily trotting round the garden in a not very hopeful search for something new to smell, and the pages of a newspaper being turned and refolded by some leisurely individual in a deck chair. It is an almost windless day. The leaves of the Virginia creeper (ampélopsis veitchii) which climbs the rough-cast wall just behind the window of the best bedroom hardly stir, and even the birds only hop—and flutter a few feet in the air, and hop again— along the ornamental ridge of the red-tiled roof.

Perhaps a tradesman's van is making its rounds. Perhaps at this moment, on the other side of the screen of privet hedge and may and laburnum which separates the garden scent of new grass cuttings from the warm peppery scent that radiates from asphalt pavements in summertime, the baker's boy is halting his cart. In another moment he will push open the low wooden gate with its embossed copper name-plate on the rail, and will carelessly let it swing to behind him as he strides up the gravel path with his basket of loaves on his arm. But this is only the tradesman's entrance, and the faint squeak of the hinge and the sound the latch makes as the gate swings back will not be very disturbing...

Richards wasn’t writing about my suburb -- definitely southern, Teddington or Twickenham, perhaps.

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