What a lovely find in Oxfam today. The book that was, as far as I’m aware, the first play I ever read: Willis Hall’s The Long and the Short and the Tall. A play in two acts, set in the Malayan jungle in early 1942, about a British patrol cut off by the Japanese advance on Singapore.
Now, I remember very little about senior school, and even less about the time I spent in classes going by the name of English Literature, which, was made clear, I was very fortunate to be allowed to study until I believe I was booted out due to lack of interest, no ability, and generally because I giggled a lot and distracted my class mates. Aside from; we listened to endless audio versions of Shakey’s Twelfth Night until we could bear it no more, and read Laurie Lee’s Cider With Rosie, Barry Hines’ A Kestrel for a Knave and, before all that, Willis Hall’s play.
It all came back to me about the latter as I thumbed through this stumbled upon copy. We read it out loud over several lessons. And I read the part of Private Evans because, quite unexpectedly, I discovered, probably whilst inhaling solvents, that I could do a brilliant Welsh accent. The version I picked up today looks alarmingly familiar. Only, it wasn’t from Riley High, where I fucked about trying to avoid participating in learning for three years, but from posh Wolfreton up the road. We could have had those Wolfreton kids. Poncy officer class, that lot.
Anyway, feels like I’ve been reunited with an old friend. And while I still feel aggrieved at the way Percy Percival made English Lit the dullest subject that it quite plainly isn’t, stamping on it, kicking the life out of it, grinding it into the ground, in retrospect its left its mark on me, and not all of those marks traumatic, scratchy, painful ones. I’ve scanned the pages tonight. And I remember it all like it was…. oh my god, it can’t be that long ago, surely. 99p well spent.