The Loud Halo by Lillian Beckwith

 The Loud Halo cover

The Loud Halo by Lillian Beckwith was first published in 1964 and it’s the third book in her Hebridean series. These books are comic novels set in the village of Bruach where ‘Miss Peckwit’ has gone to recover from an illness, she had been a teacher in the north of England. Life on a remote and primitive Scottish island is very different from what she has been used to. There’s no indoor plumbing, actually no plumbing at all, no running water just a well and the toilet is a shed with a big bucket – if you have a man strong enough to lug it out. Lillian makes do with two earth sheds which she takes turns at using and seems to think that’s hygienic enough.

By this time Lillian has been well and truly accepted by the locals and is even speaking some Gaelic. The books are stories of her encounters with her neighbours who all seem to be eccentric. There’s Kirsty who treats her poor brother like a slave and she steals her neighbour’s crops with no conscience involved, her neighbour ends up having to move.

More and more tourists are arriving, despite the midges and they are turning out to be good business opportunities for the locals. Quite a lot of this book deals with the things that the islanders get up to in order to get money, including the government assistance which they all seem to be on, there’s also an awful lot of boozing going on. I had a feeling that life on the island was beginning to lose its charm for Beckwith and indeed at the end of the book she has packed up and the villagers are seeing her off at the station. She did write some more Hebridean books in later years though.

It was a wee bit of a Miss Buncle situation – if you’re familiar with that D.E. Stevenson book you’ll know that Miss Buncle wrote a book about life in her own village which became very successful. The trouble was that all of the characters were far too recognisable and none of them was happy at being put in her book!

This book is a good light read, a glimpse back to the days before everyone on the islands had all mod cons. By the time I went to Skye for the first time in 1970 the locals even had freezers which I was very impressed with as we only had a small fridge with ice box at home. Our old friends who had gone back to live on Skye again after a five year sojourn in Glasgow had a freezer in their living room, it was one of those sliding lid ones and thinking about it I think it actually said ‘Wall’s ice cream’ on it! Anyway, I still have a few of these Beckwith books to read so I’ll continue with the series at some point in the future.

Dolly Dialogues by Anthony Hope

Dolly Dialogues cover

I decided to read Dolly Dialogues by Anthony Hope for the comic novel category in Back to the Classics Challenge 2019 which is hosted by Karen of Books and Chocolate.

This slim book has 144 pages consisting of 20 short chapters which were originally published separately in the Westminster Gazette. The book was first published in 1994 and it is really quite funny with some laugh out loud bits.

Dolly is a young flibbertigibbet who soon changes from Miss Dolly Foster by becoming the wife of Lord Mickleham who is wealthy but rather boring. Her husband’s mother and sisters disapprove of his choice of wife, not that that bothers Dolly.

Dolly has had lots of romances with various young men and Sam Carter is one of them and her marriage doesn’t hold her back from having him as a close friend and according to her mother-in-law – indulging in ‘romping’ with him. This is a fun comedy of Victorian manners.

Augustus Carp Esq. by Himself

This book was first published in 1924 and it’s the spoof autobiography of Augustus Carp who lives in Camberwell,London. He’s a humourless, religious pedant and a bufoon. A ghastly character all round really who resorts to blackmail to get on in the world but never sees his own behaviour as bad.

It is funny but I think it’s one of those books which is best shared with a friend(s) and read out aloud. There’s an introduction by Robert Robinson, the book was a family favourite, he was introduced to it by his father and it became a sort of touchstone for them, something which they communicated by.

It’s like a nasty version of Diary of a Nobody, the difference being that Mr Pooter is a harmless likeable chump, the opposite of Carp. The book has illustrations by Marjorie Blood who was also a cartoonist for Punch.

The author of the book was a mystery for years but it was discovered after his death that he was in fact Sir Henry Howarth Bashford an eminent Hampstead doctor who eventually became Hon. Physician to King George VI. He wrote numerous professional works but Augustus Carp was his only foray into comic fiction. He died in 1961.