Wednesday, August 10, 2005

On a hot summer's day

To paraphrase a saying usually attributed to the overseas' Chinese: you can take the boy out of England, but you can't take England out of the boy.
We have all experienced the perfect English summer's day - even if we were on the other side of the world.
Mike Molloy, quoted above, mentions Edward Thomas' poem Adelstrop. I don't remember if I was ever exposed to that poem at school. But it is a poem I read at some time. Later, much later, I had what best can be described as an Adelstropian moment without recognizing it as such. A bite of a Proustian petite madeleine cake that set in train remembrance of things past -- except that, unlike Proust, I hadn't a clue what in the past I was remembering.
That quasi-Proustian event occurred while travelling on a dilapidated, half-empty train. I hadn't planned to be on the train, but I'd hitchhiked from Penang a good way up the Malaysian coast, had run out of rides, and was entering an area that had a somewhat lawless reputation. At one point, the train came to a stop at a railway halt, just short of the Thai border. We sat there in the tropical heat of a late afternoon with the fuss of insects and hissing of the train, the moment filled with a warm, peaceful stillness while 'no one left and no one came'. Until a nagging feeling, a sense of déjà vu, tugged my mind. Then the train lurched forward and we were gone. At that time, I wrote down the name of the place, but the notebook was lost long ago.
Many years later, I came again upon the poem. It was only then I finally recognized the already seen that had fluttered through my mind on 'a hot summer's day'. Ha, Adelstrop! Since when Malaysia has now and forever been the Cotswolds of the tropics. Like I said: you can take the boy out of England, but...
Anyway, I have linked to the Edward Thomas poem and in doing so learned there was more to the poem than I ever imagined or knew: Adelstrop.

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