(from A Travel Journal)
(TUNIS—IN THE GREEK RESTAURANT)
in the Greek restaurant we ordered dilemmas.
I had one with lemon.
in Africa we shot enigma (which, in Africa,
only foreigners trouble to call "enigma",
everyone else, quite unselfconsciously, calls them
on the lakes, near the coast, fed by the massive
Victoria Falls further inland, we saw the graceful
long-legged prones; & then, more difficult to see
but quite easy to catch, & calm once you held them
in your hands, the smaller supine. They provide
the imagery for much of the poetry in those languages
for their soft sad eyes & the softness of their
feathers. Tourists, on the other hand, only know
the prone, whose silhouette, in postcards, especially
against the lake at dawn or dusk, is readily available.
It is April.
We drove across Sudetanland in Robert's
Irrational—something like the bigger
Wilys utility panel-van of the late 50s
but made in Africa by a Dutch firm, &,
curiously, with the 'British' name—the
four of us & Robert, who drove, & an
American who was a photographer, who wasn't
going very far.
We left the American &
Robert at the coast & bought a car (an old
Renault) & made good time, & in reasonable
comfort, though we felt a little cramped
after the Irrational.
At the border we saw passion fruit.
six months later, as we recrossed the border, there were
biros. Everywhere! eating the passionfruit (that had,
meanwhile, ripened). They even hung from the vines, &
further on they were all along the cane-&-rope
bridge, that hung above the ravine, & refused even
to budge—as we made our way across. In fact, as
we crossed, as the bridge swung with our weight, their
chirruping became even louder & more insistent & filled
the whole valley, whose trees, beneath us, were full of
them, invisibly. The sound was as of an aviary.
They are bigger than, but very like, finches, & are called
by the natives bic bic. On the bridge, they were perched
along the handrails, almost 'shoulder to shoulder', & would
not move as we crossed.
(A STRANGELY EXOTIC LIFE)
It was funny, that one of the most exotic things
was in the little village, near the border, where
Robert & the Irrational were to meet us & pick us up;
& where we stayed fully four days, as he had had
trouble with the truck (the roads were bad after the
summer rains)… funny, that one of the most exotic
sights was that of a Life magazine in the village.
A single copy. It was offered to us & we all read
We loaded the supplies—all that Robert & his
wife would need for most of the next six months—
into the truck, & enjoyed the trip, inland this time,
as Robert drove us back. This trip had been for us
an excuse to see more of the country, but at
Mfuwa, aside from getting Robert's supplies & some
parts he had ordered for the truck, we booked our
airline tickets. (A charter truck would take us,
next time, to the coast.) For Robert & Joan we got
an extra case of white wine. It was Portuguese,
inexpensive, & very good. A gift.
in the little Greek restaurant, back at the coast,
where we'd sat that morning, we sat again, waiting out
the time to our flight, we again ordered dilemmas.
Thus rounding our journey off—as it was Robert,
in a letter, who had first told us of the restaurant
& how to find it.
That first time we had been
wondering what our hosts would be like. & now,
leaving, we of course thought of them.
(A STRANGE LIFE)
When we returned, before I got—seriously—back
to work, I visited Tony in his studio, near where Jill
& I live (& where I myself had once worked—I'd given
the studio up, for the trip, rather than pay rent). I
tell you this because it was only a week after I'd got
back, & it reminded me of Africa—Tony had somehow
got hold of a grisaille. He had it in his studio, tied
to a perch by a very fine chain. It was only small but
expressive & carefree—in a quiet, subdued sort of way.
It was funny to arrive home & find this little piece of
Exotica, even here, in Paris.
An artist friend of Tony's, he said, had one in New York.
Outdoor Pig-keeping, 1954 & My Other Books on Pigs
Pig Farming. Methods Of
was a book I wrote in 1945
tho what I knew then of
pig farming you may wonder. It is
a human enough activity.
I mean ‘universal’—did they have
pigs on Easter Island, the New Guinea
highlands, did the Maori? Virgil
knew about pigs, tho I associate him, more,
with bees, my Latin education centering
on a limited number of texts—
bits of Caesar’s Gallic Wars
or Punic Wars (“Carthage delenda est”?)—
& not much else. Virgil. Ideas of
pig farming might be innate. (?)
Where do correct ideas come from?
“The head, boss.” Pigs pretty much
know what they want (isn’t that
often thought to be the problem,
the thing held against them?),
give it to them. “Long pig” was somehow
special dark knowledge when I was
a schoolboy, I mean the term.
A human dish. (No one else ate it,
except the odd lion or tiger—
as a one-off: humans also
protect their own—better probably not
to eat them too often.) But, to return
to the term, “long pig” implies knowledge
of “pig plain” sure enough. It seemed
insulting, to me, back then—to the idea
of the human & humanity & I didn’t like
to utter it. I remember once
someone telling me of an abandoned
hippy farm where they’d been producing
heroin. The pigs were fed
on scraps & excrement
& were squealing. Addicted.
Apparently the noise was horrible. I did,
at some time, sleep near where a pig
—or pigs—squealed all night. I can’t remember
now whether it was simply very affecting
or whether it was specifically because it sounded
human. It was loud, incessant & frightened.
I can’t remember where or when. An
abattoir. In 1945
I had not read Virgil. I do know that.
It seems we’ve passed this way before. In
‘another life’ I may have been a pig farmer:
I see me, late at night at a plain kitchen table
writing Pig Farming, Methods Of. It’s
electric light—tho it could do with a stronger
bulb. I write it in a child’s school exercise book.
My only daughter has died? It’s hers, hardly used,
& I turn it round & start at the back?—or maybe
continue right on from where she left off.
She had been studying & had written amo, amas,
amat etc. The vocabulary list begins with
“agricola”—farmer. As I see it the farmer
does not become especially sentimental about
the exercise book. He may have done, must
have done, at some time since his daughter’s death,
but now he writes. Perhaps he writes with
extra care because it is her book. Perhaps he writes
because it is her book. He has not written
anything else before. He writes now
because she is gone. She was the future
& he was content to work to see her through—
to her adult life. But now she is gone
he must make something else. He is a widower.
I was brought up by my own father,
alone, me & my sister. We kept dogs & cats
& pigeons, a horse. No pigs. Anyway,
there it is, & it has my name on it, 1945—Pig Farming,