the wind in the willows

In the midst of my Jerome K Jerome gluttony (having downloaded and read so many of his books recently), I suddenly had an urge to read The Wind in the Willows [insert refusal to apologise for reading so many children’s books here]. Just as Jerome is always read in Hugh Laurie’s voice, The Wind in the Willows is always read in Alan Bennett’s voice. It’s strange as I can’t have listened to that tape for a good 18 years at the very least, but can remember every intonation and modulation of his voice as I read it now. Isn’t memory funny that way?

I loved this passage. It’s really long, so I’m putting it behind a cut, but I felt it captured my irrepressible desire to keep moving so well…

In the osiers which fringed the bank he spied a swallow sitting. Presently it was joined by another, and then by a third; and the birds, fidgeting restlessly on their bough, talked together earnestly and low.

‘What, ALREADY,’ said the Rat, strolling up to them. ‘What’s the hurry? I call it simply ridiculous.’

‘O, we’re not off yet, if that’s what you mean,’ replied the first swallow. ‘We’re only making plans and arranging things. Talking it over, you know—what route we’re taking this year, and where we’ll stop, and so on. That’s half the fun!’

‘Fun?’ said the Rat; ‘now that’s just what I don’t understand. If you’ve GOT to leave this pleasant place, and your friends who will miss you, and your snug homes that you’ve just settled into, why, when the hour strikes I’ve no doubt you’ll go bravely, and face all the trouble and discomfort and change and newness, and make believe that you’re not very unhappy. But to want to talk about it, or even think about it, till you really need——’

‘No, you don’t understand, naturally,’ said the second swallow. ‘First, we feel it stirring within us, a sweet unrest; then back come the recollections one by one, like homing pigeons. They flutter through our dreams at night, they fly with us in our wheelings and circlings by day. We hunger to inquire of each other, to compare notes and assure ourselves that it was all really true, as one by one the scents and sounds and names of long-forgotten places come gradually back and beckon to us.’

‘Couldn’t you stop on for just this year?’ suggested the Water Rat, wistfully. ‘We’ll all do our best to make you feel at home. You’ve no idea what good times we have here, while you are far away.’

‘I tried “stopping on” one year,’ said the third swallow. ‘I had grown so fond of the place that when the time came I hung back and let the others go on without me. For a few weeks it was all well enough, but afterwards, O the weary length of the nights! The shivering, sunless days! The air so clammy and chill, and not an insect in an acre of it! No, it was no good; my courage broke down, and one cold, stormy night I took wing, flying well inland on account of the strong easterly gales. It was snowing hard as I beat through the passes of the great mountains, and I had a stiff fight to win through; but never shall I forget the blissful feeling of the hot sun again on my back as I sped down to the lakes that lay so blue and placid below me, and the taste of my first fat insect! The past was like a bad dream; the future was all happy holiday as I moved southwards week by week, easily, lazily, lingering as long as I dared, but always heeding the call! No, I had had my warning; never again did I think of disobedience.’

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