As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning

Source: Laurie Lee, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971), pp. 93-94

Text: After a supper of beans and mutton, served in a cloud of wood-smoke, I was invited out into the plaza to watch a midnight ciné. Here, once again, the aqueduct came into use, with a cotton sheet strung from one of its pillars, on to which a pale beam of light, filtering from an opposite window, projected an ancient and jittery melodrama. Half the town, it seemed, had turned out for the show, carrying footstools and little chairs, while children swarmed on the rooftops and hung in clusters from the trees, their dark heads shining like elderberries.

The film’s epic simplicity flickered across the Roman wall, vague and dim as a legend, but each turn of the plot was followed with gusto, people jumping up and down in their seats, bombarding the distant shadows with advice and warning, mixed with occasional shouts of outrage. The appearance of the villain was met by darts and stones, the doltish hero by exasperation, while a tide of seething concern was reserved for the plight of the heroine who spent a vigorously distressful time. During most of the film she hung from ropes in a tower, subject to the tireless affronts of the villain, but when the hero finally bestirred himself and disembowelled the villain with a knife, the audience was satisfied and went to bed.

Comment: Laurie Lee (1914-1997) was a poet, novelist, screenwriter, best known for his first volume of memoirs, Cider with Rosie. His second volume, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, covers his travels across Spain in the mid-1930s.

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