Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee was one of the best books I read last year. It’s one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for years. The in 2007 D and I had a holiday in a cottage at Wick Street near Painswick and one day we walked from the cottage to Slad where Laurie Lee used to live. We dropped into the Woolpack for a drink and had a look at the church.
Knowing what a place looks like makes reading about it much more real and so when I finally read Cider with Rosie I could easily visualise what it was like when Laurie Lee lived there as a child. He was born in Stroud (another place we visited) and moved to Slad when he was three in 1917. Cider with Rosie covers his childhood years and it is absolutely fascinating. His love for his mother permeates the book (his father had left his wife with seven young children):
She lived by the easy laws of the hedgerow, loved the world, and made no plans, had a quick holy eye for natural wonders and couldn’t have kept a neat house in her life. What my father wished for was something quite different, something she could never give him – the protective order of an unimpeachable suburbia, which is what he got in the end. (page 121)
Although they never had enough money they were happy, his mother “possessed an indestructible gaiety which welled up like a thermal spring.”
I’ve already written a bit about the book – about how village of Laurie Lee’s childhood is no more. The village was still linked to the past. It …
had not, as yet, been tidied up, or scrubbed clean by electric light, or suburbanized by a Victorian church, or papered by cinema screens.
It was something we just had time to inherit, to inherit and dimly know – the blood and beliefs of generations who had been in this valley since the Stone Age. That continuous contact has at last been broken, the deeper caves sealed off for ever. But arriving, as I did, at the end of that age, I caught whiffs of something as old as the glaciers.
There was a frank and unfearful attitude to death, and an acceptance of violence as a kind of ritual which no one accused or pardoned. (pages 104 -5)
I feel I could reach back and experience some of that way of life through this book. Slad even today is a beautiful place, set in a valley in the Cotswolds, surrounded by fields, streams and woodland.