July 7th, 2005

To The Ends Of The Earth

William Golding's Lord of the Flies is read in schools, but the rest of his novels are a minority taste.

Maybe this will change now the BBC has filmed his trilogy, To The Ends of the Earth.

Set on board a clapped-out man-of-war turned emigrant ship at the close of the Napoleonic era, To the Ends of the Earth is a bracing riposte to the Hornblower mythos. The cabins drip, the bilges stink and the sailors are into buggery. The characters are all flawed in unlikeable ways. The hero is callow, arrogant, snooty and unfeeling.

The film gives us the creased uniforms and sweaty faces but misses out on Golding's poetic intensity. It's less visual than the book, less cinematic. We get lots of reading aloud from journals but only odd, perfunctory glimpses of sea and sky. The book deals with sex, class and the romantic imagination; the film deals with sex and class.

I'll watch the next two episodes. But what I really want to do right now is go out and buy the novels.

London Pride

London Pride has been handed down to us.
London Pride is a flower that's free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it for ever will be.
Woa, Liza,
See the coster barrows,
Vegetable marrows
And the fruit piled high.
Woa, Liza,
Little London sparrows,
Covent Garden Market where the costers cry.
Cockney feet
Mark the beat of history.
Every street
Pins a memory down.
Nothing ever can quite replace
The grace of London Town.

INTERLUDE
There's a little city flower every spring unfailing
Growing in the crevices by some London railing,
Though it has a Latin name, in town and country-side
We in England call it London Pride.

London Pride has been handed down to us.
London Pride is a flower that's free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it for ever will be.
Hey, lady,
When the day is dawning
See the policeman yawning
On his lonely beat.
Gay lady,
Mayfair in the morning,
Hear your footsteps echo in the empty street.
Early rain
And the pavement's glistening.
All Park Lane
In a shimmering gown.
Nothing ever could break or harm
The charm of London Town.

INTERLUDE
In our city darkened now, street and square and crescent,
We can feel our living past in our shadowed present,
Ghosts beside our starlit Thames
Who lived and loved and died
Keep throughout the ages London Pride.

London Pride has been handed down to us.
London Pride is a flower that's free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it for ever will be.
Grey city
Stubbornly implanted,
Taken so for granted
For a thousand years.
Stay, city,
Smokily enchanted,
Cradle of our memories and hopes and fears.
Every Blitz
Your resistance
Toughening,
From the Ritz
To the Anchor and Crown,
Nothing ever could override
The pride of London Town.

Noel Coward.