The writer Gerald Durrell was born on this day in 1925 and Varia transcribes exactly the right micro-scene from Durrell’s sublime book My Family and Other Animals. I vividly remember reading this passage—I’m pretty sure I remember the couch I was sitting on, and what kind of day it was—and it’s stuck in my brain ever since.
So imagine: he’s an English boy living on the Greek island of Corfu, and one of the (many) crazy characters that inhabits it is this guy…
He had a fairy-tale air about him that was impossible to resist, and I used to look forward eagerly to my infrequent meetings with him. I first saw him on a high, lonely road leading to one of the remote mountain villages. I could hear him long before I could see him, for he was playing a rippling tune on a shepherd’s pipe, breaking off now and then to sing a few words in a curious nasal voice. As he rounded the corner, both Roger and I stopped and stared at him in amazement.
But, let’s get to the point:
This extraordinary character carried on his back bamboo cages full of pigeons and young chickens, several mysterious sacks, and a large bunch of fresh green leeks. With one hand he held his pipe to his mouth, and in the other a number of lengths of cotton, to each of which was tied an almond-size rose-beetle, glittering golden green in the sun, all of them flying round his hat with desperate, deep buzzings, trying to escape from the threads tied firmly round their waists. Occasionally, tired of circling round and round without success, one of the beetles would settle for a moment on his hat, before launching itself off once more on its endless merry-go-round.
Happy birthday, Gerald Durrell.