Austen Henry Layard
Aged just 19 and with little more than a handful of biscuits and his fiddle, Laurie Lee left the Gloucestershire village which he later immortalised in his memoir Cider with Rosie. It was 1934. An army of unemployed men were ‘on the tramp’ and across Europe storm clouds were gathering, but young and yearning for adventure, Lee embarked for Spain and walked from Vigo in the north to the southern coast, covering 20 miles a day under the merciless heat of the Spanish sun, playing his fiddle by pavement cafes and sleeping under the stars or on a bundle of hay in a roadside posada.
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning is redolent with the atmosphere of the towns and landscapes through which Lee passes, meeting unforgettable characters throughout: a middle-aged landlady transformed into a proud flamenco dancer at the first scrape of the fiddle; a drinker who has trained a sparrow to sip other men’s drinks and carry each beak-full to his own mouth. Yet this is no idyll; the first indications of Civil War are evident in the arrogant attitude of the Civil Guard, the hungry despair of farmers and the crushing power of the Church. Lee’s growing love for the country and people meant that he could not remain a detached observer and, in the final chapter, he commits himself to the struggle.
This new Folio edition, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication, is introduced by Jason Webster, who writes: ‘what you take away with you and remember long after putting the book down – is its lyricism … The sensuality of his prose is unwavering’. The spare, contemporary illustrations by Dan Haskett perfectly capture what Lee called the ‘heaving solitude of raw burnt light’.
Review by CarltonC on 5th Jun 2012
"Immensely enjoyable autobiography of Laurie Lee, mainly about walking through Spain. It starts in 1934 when he was 20, leaving his village walking to London (via Southampton and the south coast where..." [read more]