The Pastures Red With Uneaten Sheep’s Placentas

To celebrate what would have been Samuel Beckett’s one hundred and third birthday on Monday, Nige (whom I’ve not come across before) quoted from Watt:

“The crocuses and the larch turning green every year a week before the others and the pastures red with uneaten sheep’s placentas and the long summer days and the new-mown hay and the wood-pigeon in the morning and the cuckoo in the afternoon and the corncrake in the evening and the wasps in the jam and the smell of the gorse and the look of the gorse and the apples falling and the children walking in the dead leaves and the larch turning brown a week before the others and the chestnuts falling and the howling winds and the sea breaking over the pier and the first fires and the hooves on the road and the consumptive postman whistling The Roses Are Blooming in Picardy and the standard oil-lamp and of course the snow and to be sure the sleet and bless your heart the slush and every fourth year the February debacle and the endless April showers and the crocuses and then the whole bloody business starting over again.”

As is probably crystal clear, Watt – along with much else of Beckett’s prose – is a key text for Mr Key. It remains for me one of the funniest books I have ever read. I was introduced to Beckett by my English teacher when I was about fifteen. The teacher’s name was Dick Shone – the schoolboy joke was that, as an English teacher, he lived in a Dick-Shone-ry. He was a fine pedagogue with a talent for withering sarcasm, and I remember him with affection.


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