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Stories: context

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Posted by Peter Ceresole on October 24, 2017 at 11:21:51 user PeterC.

I've just been going through WH (yet) again. I usually have several books on the go, the other current ones being the memoirs of Barbara Skelton "Tears Before Bed-Time", which couldn't be more unlike AR's stories, and is great fun, and "The Auden Generation" by Samuel Hines, about the generation of English poets in the 1930s, and which covers much of the period in which AR's stories were written and take place. It covers that time in which young poets were trying to get over the fact that they had failed to participate in the Great War of '14-'18, and so failed to be able to prove themselves as their immediate predecessors had done, and felt it terribly keenly. They were also fascinated and terrified by the coming war, foretold by the rise of the Nazis and Fascists, by the Spanish Civil War, in which several of their number died, and which presented them with an existential question; what use were they, what use was their poetry?
Reading this in between bouts of the igloo in the snow, and Molly Blackett cheerfully visiting from Beckfoot all, thanks to the skill of AR, vivid and realistic, creates a completely real place and time. And it does, as we have discussed here, lead to questions like "Was Ted Walker on the planning staff for D-Day?" We know what Roger did (RAF flying instructor). How about Dick? War Office science? Radio navigation? And Susan, hugely methodical and trustworthy. Bletchley Park? Dot, Titty, Peggy- cypherines? Maybe in the middle east (that happened to Barbara Skelton- but she became a mistress of, among many others, King Farouk, who whipped her with a pyjama cord on the steps of the palace, in Cairo. I'm not sure that this would have tempted any of AR's girls) Nancy might have run a chunk of the ATS or, the nearest thing to being freelance, run her own transport/ambulance unit? Or, of course, Farouk. She was lively enough.
The point is, reading the books together does open all of them to wider ideas. Makes them all the better.

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