AS I WALKED OUT ONE MIDSUMMER MORNING – LAURIE LEE.

1. I was propelled, of course, by the traditional forces that had sent many generations along this road – by the small tight valley closing in and around one, stifling the breath with its mossy mouth, the cottage walls narrowing like the arms of an iron maiden, the local girls whispering, ‘Marry, and settle down.’ Months of restless unease, leading to this inevitable moment, had been spent wandering about the hills, mournfully whistling, and watching the high open fields stepping away eastwards under gigantic clouds… (p.12)

2. As I walked, I was taunted by echoes of home, by the tinkling sounds of the kitchen, shafts of sun from the windows falling across the familiar furniture, across the bedroom and the bed I had left. (p.13)

3. But when the sun rose in the morning the feeling of desolation was over. (p.14)

4. The landlady, an old hag with a tooth like a tin-opener, (…) (p.15)

5. (…) and from the long empty face gaze a pair of egg-shell eyes, unhatched, and unrecognizable now. (p.18)

6. I was at that age which feels neither strain nor friction, (…) (p.19)

7. Even exhaustion, when it came, had a voluptuous quality, and sleep was caressive and deep , like oil. It was the peak of the curve of the body’s total extravagance, before the accounts start coming in. (p.20)

8. (…) some wore the ghosts of city suits; (…) (p.20)

9. Rattling like a dustbin, he sat down beside me and began pulling off his boots. (p.21)

10. The effect of a dozen of these, left hanging in the air, was enough to dislocate the senses. (p.22)

11. (…) but London had no centre at all – just squat little streets endlessly proliferating themselves like ripples in estuary mud. (p.25)

12. (…) meanwhile, with the half-ruin to live in, they were temporarily secure,  and the mother was slowly recovering her senses. (p.27)

13. Beautiful Cleo; she never knew what she did to me, her eyes slanting under the myrtle leaves, her coiled russet limbs like something from a Rousseau jungle, her chatter never still for a moment. But not of what I expected; never a word about love, or my hunger, or the summer night. The funeral baked meats of her father’s mind were all she seemed able to serve me. He was the one, of course, and I was not old enough to replace him. I thought her the most ravishing and wasted child in the world. (p.27)

14. He was bald, large-headed, red-lipped and corseted, and was given to abstractions, silence and reveries; (…) (p.29)

15. Mornings saw her most angry, a chain-smoking sweeper of rooms, a tousled mop in a dressing gown; then at night, after supper, she emerged in laminated gold, with silkily reconditioned hair, to engage the world in a monologue of bubbling non-sequiturs, full of giggles, regrets, and yearnings. (p.32)

16. Once the children were in bed, other sounds took over, (…) (p.34)

17. I just floated around in a capsule of self-absorption, sealed in with my own private weather. (p.34)

18. The half-finished buildings stood wet and empty, with a look of sudden death. (p.41)

19. (…) – and by the aura of incipient farewell, she used to lie in my arms in the summer dusk, struggling to save us both from sin. (p.43)

20. The drowned men rose from the pavements and stretched their arms, lit cigarettes, and shook the night from their clothes. (p.46)

21. The girls were far more self-possessed, knowning their worth on such occasions, settling plump in their chairs like bags of sweets, stickily scented and tied with ribbons. (p.55)

22. I felt once again the unease of arriving at night in an unknown city – that faint sour panic which seems to cling to a place until one has found oneself a bed. (p.75)

23. (…) the landscape seemed to have broken from prison and rolled free (…) (p.88)

24. A muddy half-hour was spent in this oafish wrangle, (…) (p.89)

25. Most of them were afraid, and lived in a social vacuum which could only be filled with violence; (…) (p.89)

26. Drink, for him, was one of the natural privileges of living, rather than the temporary suicide it so often is for others. (p.99)

27. Then the sky was an infinity of bubble-blue, pure as a diamond seen through water, restoring to life the sleepless sufferers who emerged with faces shining like plates. (p.101)

28. I walked back through the streets with a rocking head, thinking simple ironic thoughts. It was long past midnight, almost dawn, and for once Madrid seemed deserted. (p.105)

29. (…) and I could smell her peppery flesh. (p.105)

30. (…) I wanted the excitement of doubt, the satisfaction of mortality, the freedom to make love here and now on earth. (p.112)

31. Cadiz, from a distance, was a city of sharp incandescence, a scribble of white on a sheet of blue glass, lying curved on the bay like a scimitar and sparkling with African light. (p.117)

32. There were purple evenings, juicy as grapes, the thin moon cutting a cloud like a knife; and dawns of quick sudden thunder when I’d wake in the dark to splashes or rain pouring from cracks of lightning, then walk on to a village to sit cold and alone, waiting for it to wake and sell me some bread, watching the grey light lifting, a man opening a stable, the first girls coming to the square for water. (p.119)

33. I’d developed an ingrowing taste for the vanity of solitude, and Romero’s presence cut into this sharply. (p.123)

34. A few diseased-looking sheep, with ribs like radiators, wandered in and out of the houses. (p.124)

35. The men sat apart, smoking and drinking, mending a sandal or piece of harness, talking ceaselessly together with the dry throaty rattle of pebbles being rolled down a gulley. (p.137)

36. When night came, the light bulbs were dim and ghostly. People sank back into their shadows. Eyes only were visible, touched by the red of the fires, sleepily slatted like the eyes of bats. Blankets were spread on the stones, families stretched out together – the girls in the centre with the younger children. Everyone sighed and settled, curling up on their sides, talk dying with the dying fires. Then nothing would be heard but the occasional shudder of a mule, the sudden wrestling of man and wife. (p.138)

37. Blasco ate in silence, with toothless attention, his face working like a tent in the wind, (…) (p.156)

38. Fear lay panting in the street like a dog. (p.166)

39. I went and sat in a bar, feeling bereft and impotent, as though robbed of some great occasion. I’d seen those silent men and muscular stiff-lipped girls riding to a war just down the road, to a blaze of battle under a burning sky offering all the trappings of heroic carnage. That special adrenalin in the young which makes war easy, and welcomes it, drew me voluptuously towards Altofaro. Then why hadn’t I gone? It would not have been difficult. Manolo would have arranged the thing in a moment. Even so, I hung back, as from some family affair in which I still doubted I had a part. (p.169)

40. (…) and she was indulging in a public ecstacy of fury – (…) (p.169)

41. The women were skipping around me like frogs. (p.173)

42. So it had come – the sudden end to my year’s adventure, with the long arm reaching from home, (…) (p.173)

43. The captain welcomed us with a handshake like a squire at a picnic. (p.175)

44. From that seaborne distance, cut off and secure, I seemed only then to begin to know that country; could smell its runnels of dust, the dead ash of its fields, whiffs of sour wine, rotting offal, and incense, the rank hide of its animals, the peppery skin of its men, the sickly tang of its fevered children. (p.175)

45. (…) where the sun rose up like a butcher each morning and left curtains of blood each night. (p.176)

46. All I’d known in that country – or had felt without knowing it – seemed to come upon me then; lost now and too late to have any meaning, my twelve months’ journey gone. Spain drifted away from me, thunder-bright on the horizon, and I left it there beneath its copper clouds. (p.176)

47. (…) it could have been anywhere on earth – just an inscutable little cart-track, half mud, half stones, as nameless as a peasant’s face. (p.183)

48. (…) and presently he brought me some soup, which seemed to be a mixture of tar and onions. (p.184)

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