Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Alan Clark Diaries

Although it's been in print for 15 years (15 years! Where did the time go?) I've never read the Alan Clark diaries. However, yesterday I was caught in a downpour and ran to the nearest charity shop, where I saw a paperback edition of the Diaries on sale for £1.50. I need a book to dip into while I sit with my youngest son as he watches CBeebies. Clark's acerbic memoirs seemed the perfect choice.

The good thing about towns like Lewes is that you get a better class of cast-off. Most charity shops I've encountered sell an uninspiring selection of romance and thriller books, with clothes that you wouldn't even wear to paint the bathroom ceiling. In the charity shops of Lewes I can buy shirts that make me look unobtrusively patrician and browse a fiction section that is far superior to any branch of WH Smith (at the moment I'm reading a first edition hardback of Carol Shields' wonderful Larry's Party, bought for £1).

I have already read most of Alan Clark's Diaries (Volume One), which is either a tribute to the book, or the sheer tedium of being with a small child. One of my favourite anecdotes is about the legless World War Two flying ace, Douglas Bader. Apparently Bader was asked to take part in a debate at a respectable girls' school and at some point during the proceedings, recounted one of the times when he was shot down over the Channel:

'...And my engine was on fire, I had two of the fuckers on my tail, one fucker was coming up at me from the left and there were two more fuckers about a hundred feet above me waiting for...' (At this point the headmistress panicked and interrupted. 'Girls, as of course you all know, there was a type of German aeroplane called the FOKKER.') But Bader: 'I don't know about that. All I can tell you is that these chaps were flying Messerschmitts'


depesando said...

He was loathed and detested by all who knew him, a snob and bully - his reputation allowed him to be tolerated and his bad behaviour was excused at all turns. In the camp he had a man to carry him around who he treated as a slave. After the war he rang him at home - the man was flusterd to hear his voice and assumed he had called to thank him - but in fact had only called to see if he had brought his spare wooden leg back, on being told he hadn't - he just said 'You Cunt" and put the phone down.

Steerforth said...

Well I'd heard that he wasn't particularly charming, but I didn't realise he was that bad. I hope he got woodworm.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Alan Clark on the other hand was most charming - he even came to my friend Jill's funeral (she was the protester killed by a lorry at the Live Export protest in Coventry in 1995) and supported an end to the Live Export Trade in Britain.

Sadly this evil trade has since re-started - as if the foot & mouth fiasco happened for nothing to demonstrate that transporting food animals in terrible conditions is not a good idea for them (or us) & you would have thought also contravenes any joke of a Govt Environmental policy.

Oliver said...

I am also a blogger from East Sussex, based in Lewes, and have also, coincidentally, blogged about The Alan Clark Diaries, which, like you, I found enthralling.

I read the first book a couple of years ago while I was on a very boring course.

It kept me alive that week!

Clark was refreshingly honest. He wrote exactly what he felt and apparently did not care about the consequences. A rare gift!

Very good blog, by the way. I will follow it with interest - and put in a link to you from mine, Oliver's Poetry Garret.

Best regards, Oliver