by Jan Morris
Jan Morris began writing a series of diary pieces for the Financial Times in 2017, 188 of which were published in book form under the title, In My Mind’s Eye. Having got into the routine of daily musings, she has continued and this volume, Thinking Again, contains the next 130. Jan Morris is now in her early 90s. She lives in North Wales with Elizabeth, her spouse and the mother of her children. Each day she walks 1000 paces come rain or shine and writes a short entry in her diary. That is where the predictability of this book ends.
The entries are sometimes purely factual accounts of her day but, as often as not, they are thoughts triggered by an event during the day, a comment made by someone or a news item. As such, the subject matter is eclectic and often surprising. The topics are wide ranging, as you might expect from someone who has led a long and busy life. They include Quakers, Royal weddings, the nature of memory, Desperanto made Easy, pygmy goats, philanthropists, magazines in GP waiting rooms, the soccer World Cup, as well as, perhaps inevitably, reference to the Brexit events of 2018/2019, to name but a few.
She often presents quirky aspects of serious topics and sometimes addresses modest moral conundrums that confront us all in our daily lives. In amongst all this she frequently reflects back on aspects of her life, touching on the death of her father, her time as a child chorister at Christ Church, Oxford, returning there later as an undergraduate, serving in the 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers in Italy and then the Middle East as an intelligence officer, and, of course, her life as an author. A striking thing that comes across in this collection is the width of Jan Morris’s horizons and overall enjoyment of life, with a love and general enthusiasm for places and things and how she has embraced experiences.
She presents an open, interested, positive approach to life which is immensely refreshing. She loves Wales, Venice and the USA. Being a Welsh Republican she appears less fond of the English, the comments in this book relating primarily to second home-owners, an issue that has long been a bug-bear to North Walians. Overall, however, the author has a kindlily (sic) outlook on life - ‘and yes, there is such a word!’ This is a book to be kept at hand and dipped into when there are a few spare moments rather than read straight through. The entries are short but her fluent writing, her evident love of the English language and many of her thoughts and opinions, often amusing, merit a response and should be mulled over and enjoyed like a good wine. My favourite entry is day 107.
Review by Deborah Bathurst, Sherborne Literary Society