NOW here’s a little puzzle for you. The Remains of the Day is one of my favourite novels. Yet I’ve never read it.

How can this be?

Well, back in the day when I worked in London, I used to raid the audio books section of Kensington library to keep myself awake driving home to Salisbury in the early hours.

For two or three nights, this one had me spellbound.

Imagine my reaction when the cassette tape (yes, it was that long ago!) snapped, just ten minutes from the end. Not quite a motorway meltdown, but not far off!

I had to look up what I’d missed on the internet, which wasn’t quite the same.

So when I heard that the Playhouse was hosting a new adaptation, I was really looking forward to a long, luxurious wallow in this wonderful tale of woe. All the way through.

And I wasn’t disappointed. My daughter-in-law and I were quite tearful by the end.

It was always going to be a huge ask to turn this much-loved, painfully English tale of class, repressed emotion, and regret for the road not taken, in which so much of what matters is left unspoken, into a play that would stand on its own two feet.

I felt sure that Barney Norris’s delicate touch would do it justice. And I was right.

He found an unexpected, gentle humour in the exchanges between the protagonists, butler Mr Stevens (a heart-rending Stephen Boxer) and housekeeper Miss Kenton (Niamh Cusack).

This is where he consistently excels, in the close, poignant portrayal of individual relationships in a way that can find you holding your breath to make sure you don’t miss anything.

But this time he also managed to fill the ‘in between’ time on stage, the less intense interludes, more convincingly than he did in 2017’s Echo’s End, and the multitasking supporting cast were excellent.

I was struck, as we were surely meant to be, by the dismissive, we-know-best attitude of the pre-war political class towards Joe Public, which continues to this day and has had so much to do with our current Brexit trauma. Oh lord, Brexit again!

It must be an odd experience for Barney touching base with Salisbury, where many people remember him from his schooldays, and wondering what we’ll make of his work. I always look forward to seeing what he’ll do next. His third novel’s out soon, I gather.

Violins in the car park

THEY didn’t have any cake (boo!) at the Wheatsheaf in Lower Woodford when the Wednesday Walkers turned up for morning coffee with assorted mutts.

But a wholly unexpected treat came our way thanks to the charity Wiltshire Rural Music. The mobile library turned up in the car park along with a talented violinist and cellist playing everything from a tango to The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

Then the librarian got out her saxophone and gave us a solo!

What a great idea, taking music as well as books to our villages, staging concerts, workshops for schools, loaning instruments…

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