"The chop of leather on oiled yellow and the breaking voice of a cuckoo calling ..."
"...the iron ghosts of winters past sent clanking and blowing round the small, log-warmed bar."
"Bill Sikes, with a black eye of dirt from a rabbit warren and ditch mud on his legs like disreputable socks clean on that morning, careless under the sudden beneficence of the day, heedless of how or why. A Just William of a dog with the sun and the high road calling, trotting ahead with that sideways rolling gait of his to meet them..."
'... I think Under the Apple Boughs should be required reading in every high school to introduce them to the finest in lyrical writing ... He sees with an inner eye what we cannot, and points it out with such delight, making you a witness to the glorious in the commonplace ... You know you have found genius when you find yourself reading it over and over.'
'For me, the touchstone comparison is Dylan Thomas’s elegiac A Child’s Christmas in Wales ... '
'Maughan truly typifies the Welsh meaning of the word Druid: seer. He sees, describes and enables us to see the magic too ...'
'Beautiful and often touching glimpses of life from the pen and the genius that is Peter Maughan.'
'A pastoral symphony ... Lyrical, descriptive, haunting at times, always beautiful. It's a religious experience reading Under the Apple Boughs, leaving one awed and blessed.'
Henrietta Bellows LaLa, (St Martinville, LA), USA, Amazon review.
'A song of seasons, a Medieval illuminated Book of Hours ... For me, the touchstone comparison is Dylan Thomas’s elegiac A Child’s Christmas in Wales, although Thomas’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog has a similar focus … But there are other names cited. Maughan specifically dedicates this book “to the memory of Laurie Lee”, Kenneth Grahame (who famously wrote The Wind in the Willows, but wrote other books of stories and essays that sing of the same loved countryside), T.H. White, Henry Williamson, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, D.H. Lawrence, George Borrow, W.H. Hudson, Richard Jefferies, Maughan writes among hallowed company …'
Dr John Gough (Australia), Amazon review.
'... Peter Maughan paints literary landscapes with a Turner palette, all shimmery light, plays of shadows, chiaroscuro and startling detail.'
Angelica Bentley, (France), A Maze of Reviews blog. Top 500 Amazon reviewer.
'... Beautiful and often touching glimpses of life from the pen and the genius that is Peter Maughan.'
Ray Nicholson, CA, Top 1000 Amazon reviewer.
'... To experience the forces and beauty of nature such as Peter Maughan describes as he leads us along his journey through the seasons is like watching a maestro wave his baton and waiting for the magical notes to permeate the senses on the first down stroke ... And as I have said before of his lyrical prose, read it to those who cannot as yet read, and I will add now to read it to the elderly, for its music will give solace and comfort.'
JoyMarie, Lover of the Written Word, USA, Amazon review.
' ... Peter Maughan, a man for all seasons, a man whose works will endear him to the ages. All his writings are classics and have earned a place in world-wide libraries. They will never be old or outdated ... just enjoyed and very loved ... every word ... every nuance. Peter Maughan is a gift you give yourself and a gift for those you love.'
Joymarie, Lover of the Written Word, USA.
'... reminiscent of an old painting or ageing photograph that somehow has magically come to life for a few precious moments ... before returning to still life or crumbling to dust. Beautiful and often touching glimpses of life from the pen and the genius that is Peter Maughan.'
Ray Nicholson, CA, Top 1000 Reviewer.
A Trip to the Seaside
We rose early one morning in summer, a spruce and shiny morning, prinked and polished with dew. And leaving the still-sleeping village behind, breasted the hill in a burst of brass from the sun, and turned towards that glimpse of the sea which could be seen between a gap in the hills of the valley, calling on hot summer days like the music of a carnival heard only streets away.
On we strode, under showers of dawn birdsong, splashing through deep-banked lanes where the sun fell in pools, a blackbird, caught napping, stuttering alarm in flight as we passed beneath it, in stern and purposeful silence, on towards the sea.
Stopping only to point with military fingers at the Ordnance Survey map, or to take with an air of half-rations a sandwich and flask-top of tea, we left the farms behind where dogs had barked and the cocks crowed as if the sun were marching past. Through hamlets and villages, arriving with the milk and the post, and out the other side, the sea running head of us, peeking and then gone again, mad as a grin, between the moving hills.
Until filling our lungs with the shell-pink smell of it, we paused on the top of the hill which runs down into the town like a play slide.The tide out, the sea waited at the end of the beach. ''There it is,'' we told each other, and rolled the air round our mouths judiciously.
Below us, the sand and deserted sea front sprawled like toys put aside at bedtime. The jumbled roofs of the town steamed through the morning haze, seagulls gliding and calling above them, and in the bedrooms of hotels and guesthouses holidaymakers drifted with the sun and sea in their dreams, buckets and spades and buoyant rubber waiting for their sleepless children like Christmas morning.
We walked down into the blue and white painted town, along early morning pavements swept and waiting, the shop blinds rolled like coloured sticks of rock, the cast on the violently cheerful posters for The Summer Show For All The Family dying on the empty streets like a club comic.
Along the front, the gulls whining and plucking at the air, a youth doused the pavement outside an amusement arcade and beat at it with a bass broom. And on the beach a solitary figure of an old woman, wearing what appeared to be a dressing gown tied at the waist with a bow of blue string, held a cluster of carrier bags in one hand, and with the other prodded irritably at the sand with a walking stick, as if to wake it up.
The smell of breakfast followed us as the sun climbed, the tinkle of the tea things from hotels and boarding houses running along the front like a genteel breeze. And in a lull of dreaming, empty sea and sand, images flickered in the memory like a What the Butler Saw machine. Pictures once seen of a Victorian beach with enveloping costumes that never touched water, and unsinkable hats in case, perhaps, they should. Of home movies showing some girl with bobbed hair running, laughing, down to the sea, and then, without turning, running back again, forward and back again, to the wound-up tune of the Charleston in some suburban front parlour. And paper hats and Kiss Me Quick, and arm-in-arm along a postwar front when the lights came on again.
And then the sea shook itself, and turned towards the town. And we made our way down to the harbour to see what boats the tide would bring in.
We walked along the cobbled quayside, wrapped in blue sea breezes like silk, the sun racing towards us, skimming across the water. Here and there a few scattered figures waited, the old men among them, home for good from the sea, weathered almost to wood, burned and aged to a single, unsayable thought as they gazed steadily at the horizon, the tide moving beneath them.
The boats came in on the flood, the thrown ropes caught and anchored, men, scaly with fish, climbing the quayside ladders as mysterious to us as divers. And then suddenly, as if blown across there from the high street, women with shopping bags were everywhere. Drawn like seagulls to the fish laid out on the cobbles, falling on the catches as they were priced, prodding and peering, some of them, landladies perhaps, holding up mackerel by the tails with an expression of something left behind between the sheets.
The horizon of the sea rose glittering with the sun, and broke over the town in a shower of light. And like a weather-clock, the doors of hotels and guesthouses opened, and holidaymakers set off for the beach as if for work in a rush hour of bucket and spades, towels, sun hats, paperbacks and oil, their children hugging armfuls of inflated dinghies, seahorses and water wings that couldn't wait, or were dressed already for the deep, small boys in goggles and snorkels, periscoping down the high street.
The blinds closed over the shops as the sun gathered and struck at the town, the streets snarling with traffic. Goods vehicles and family cars, and cars with surf boards on top nosing among them like sharks, bikers in leathers and racing cyclists with caps on back to front, caravaners and day-tripping charabances, the faces gaping behind the great bowls of glass like goldfish.
On the front, women with laughs like candyfloss and men with red braces jostled past men in orange pants and sea-going plimsolls, for gripping, after lunch, the pitching cobbles outside the Admiral Coddington or Lord Nelson, and chubby-naked infants with moustaches of ice-cream darted under trays of tea, crisps, hot-dogs, Coke, hamburgers and sandwiches, borne down onto the sands.
The crowded sea was churned white with activity, children climbing and jumping all over it like some large amiable pet. And the morning stirred and slid lazily into the afternoon in a heat haze of cooking flesh and sand, bodies turning and browned in oil, or plunging, as red as lobsters, into the boiling sea.
We took a last walk along the front, where seagulls loitered like touts outside the food kiosks and the air smelt of hot-dog onions and chips, the sound of Space Invaders from the arcades ricocheting around us. And on the strolling promenade, families and young couples went by while the old sat in deckchairs, or nodded there, old ladies in their summer dresses drowsing as if held in an embrace, stroked by memories and the sun.
And we paused again on the hill above the seaside town, and looked back at its silent, shrieking and splashing distance. The cliffs and crisp blue sky as remotely golden and impossible now as those that called from long-ago railway posters of childhood and endless summer.