Tuesday, 15 September 2015
I've just pulled my battered old copy of Cider with Rosie down from the shelf. It was a present from my mum for Christmas, 1971, and it has been with me ever since, in my college room at university, through all the grotty cold-water bedsits and flats when I first started work and lived out of boxes. It has that musty vanilla smell of old books. 'Recalling life in a remote Cotswolds village nearly forty years ago,' it says on the cover ... but I've owned the book for rather more than 40 years. I've always loved the pen and ink illustrations by John Ward that so perfectly caught the mood of the book.
I can't remember what else we did that Christmas of 1971. I was just too young to be going out. (By the following year I'd acquired my first boyfriend and a taste for Babychams and Snowballs with a maraschino cherry. I'm still partial to a maraschino cherry!) But I do remember on Christmas evening we settled down to watch Cider with Rosie on BBC2 ... I'm not sure we even had a colour telly, if we did it would have been a great novelty. And that's the version - with Rosemary Leach as Laurie's mother - that stays in my mind after all those years. (I've just looked to see if it's on YouTube and it is, but over-dubbed in Russian! I watched a few minutes of it and it's exactly as I remembered it.)
And now I've just finished watching the new BBC adaptation. (This time with Samatha Bond as Mother, some very good children, and the voice of Timothy Spall as the elderly Laurie Lee.) I'm not saying it's not good but somehow it lacked the warmth of the original. There's some irritating tinkering with the story. (I'm pretty sure that in the book there was no romance between Laurie's sister and the WW1 deserter in the woods. And nor did Laurie witness the murder of the brash ex-pat who was flashing his cash in the pub.) And - of course, this is my own fault - but it's a completely different experience watching television on-line, stopping and pausing to check e-mails or Google something entirely unnecessary. We didn't even have a video in 1971. So we sat around the television, mum in the armchair, kids on the sofa, arguing over the big purple nutty ones in the Quality Street ... and if I'm still around in 40 years time, that'll still be the Cider with Rosie I remember. Not the one I watched this afternoon.