By Norman Lewis

Publish 12 months note: First released September sixteenth 1985
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With dry, laconic wit, Norman Lewis recalls his transformation from stammering Welsh schoolboy to worldy clever, multilingual sergeant within the Intelligence Corps, at the cusp of turning into a author. With a peaceful, observant gaze from the beginning, the younger Norman strikes from Spiritualist mom and dad in Enfield to reside with supremely dotty aunts in Carmarthen, whose baking of a weekly cake to feed the jackdaws supplies the booklet its identify. Escaping his eccentric kin via marrying the daughter of a Sicilian affiliate of the Mafia, Norman made a residing as a marriage photographer and by way of dealing in cameras, whereas restoring and racing Bugattis for excitement. the following we see his first trips in Spain, Cuba and the Yemen and a wartime spent in Algeria, Sicily and Italy, all of which acted as an apprenticeship for his profession as one of many 20th century’s maximum commute writers.

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There is something perverse in the fact that the task of making the world a happier place required us to stop having fun. I was opposed to all forms of art that had no worthy political message, opposed to sport as an irrel­ evant distraction, and against most other forms of leisure on the grounds that they probably involved having to make small talk with Tories somewhere along the line. But although we were dedicated to making the world a better place, we never actually did anything constructive to help this happen.

I was not yet a member of the party and could take no part in the contest. But as an observer I felt like one of those girlfriends who stand on the edge of fights in pub car parks shouting, 'Leave it, Gary! Stop it, all of you! ' In July there were riots all over Britain. No effective protest to rising unemployment was coming from the infighting Labour Party – it seemed as if the petrol bombs were the only voice the growing underclass had left. As far as this nineteen-year-old was concerned the most effective opposition to Her Majesty's Government came from The Specials who with impeccable timing got to number one with 'Ghost Town' just as Toxteth and Brixton were burning to the ground.

I surmised that if the people of the world had the human equivalent of what these lucky free-range hens had had, then we could all live together in a happy non-violent egg-laying paradise. ' 'Oh yes – it's worth paying the little bit extra just for that. . ' Politics ran through everything. Any conversation would be diverted on to the problems of capitalism and the Tightness of the left's cause. Some young men are obsessed with a football team, some are obsessed with a rock group; I was obsessed with socialism.

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Jackdaw Cake: An Autobiography by Norman Lewis


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