No Place Like Home was first published in 1936. I started reading Beverley Nichols books after buying a couple of lovely old editions of his – Down the Garden Path and A Thatched Roof. I enjoyed those ones and it was when I was trying to find the third one of that trilogy on the internet that I came across this book and just bought it, not having any idea what it was about but having a fair idea that I would enjoy it – which I did.
Beverley Nichols travels from his home in England to Austria where his lack of language skills meant that he ended up spending his first night there in a sanatorium for TB sufferers, instead of a luxurious hotel. When he did get to a hotel things weren’t much better due to the strange man who was in the room next to his. I must say that it was a comfort to discover that Beverley Nichols experienced nutty neighbours, just as we did in earlier days.
By coincidence a lot of the countries which Nichols visited were the same as those visited by Patrick Leigh Fermor in his book Between the Woods and the Water just a few years earlier, but the books are very different, although neither of them comment much on the politics of the time. Obviously Nichols sets out to be amusing, and he manages it on his journey through Austria, Hungary, Rumania, Turkey, Greece, Egypt and Palestine.
I was really surprised at his description of the Pyramids of Giza as the World’s Biggest Flop because I thought that they would have been fairly unspoiled way back in 1936, but it seems that even then the place was ruined by tourist tat just a stone’s throw from the pyramids.
As a serious Christian, and by that I mean one who obviously knew the Bible well, Nichols was keen to visit Palestine – as it was then. There are some places which are probably best kept to the imagination though as almost all of the Biblical places were a disappointment. Jerusalem was basically an open sewer, so the smell was terrible.
This part of the book doesn’t have so much humour in it as he was obviously not impressed by the state of the place, but it’s the most interesting part and the saddest really when you consider that things have gone from bad to much worse for the Palestinians since 1936. At this time Jews were moving in to Palestine and setting up the first Kibbutz, financed by Americans I believe, and he did visit one, but he was appalled by it. The thought of parents not being with their children in a normal family way was horrific to him, but the squalor of Zion Vale, and the fact that they didn’t seem to realise that it was hellish, but were in fact very proud of it, was a mystery to him. Where had all the money which had been poured into it gone?
Anyway, I think this book is out of print and probably quite difficult to get a hold of, which is a shame because it’s an interesting, and at times funny read. At the end of it he has to get home to his garden because he doesn’t want to miss his daffodils blooming. It’s a common experience of keen gardeners, especially at the time of year when new things are popping up every day – if the weather is half decent – why would you ever want to leave your garden?!