Under a Broad Sky, Ronald Blythe, Canterbury Press
Another year, another Roland Blythe book. This is now the eighth in the Word from Wormingford series, by my counting, making quite a row on the bookshelf, not to mention his other works, including the recent The Time By The Sea, which recounted his younger years by, yes you guessed it – the sea, in Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast, where he met, worked with and befriended Benjamin Britten, the English composer. Under a Broad Sky shows more than the usual interest in his white cat, and more comment about friends and villagers dying, betraying his age (now 90 or thereabouts). It seems something of a back-handed compliment to say of the elderly that they’ve still got it, so it would be more decent to simply say that this new book displays his usual gentle wit, acute observation and mastery of English history and literature, much of it grounded in personal experience, even if it is simply a description of a visit to an acclaimed, long-dead writer’s grave or house.
He is full of information about the landscape and a vanished way of life, and at other times contemplates the garden (and its never-ending but pleasurable jobs) or the weather. His writings in these (public) diaries are always infused with enthusiasm for life but a calming, wise and often bemused outlook. Of friends’ lack of TV due to aerial problems he jokes that yet they survive.