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'