Formerly frequent commenter jamessal (don’t judge him, he’s got good excuses for his absence of late) was so excited by John Fowles’s prose in Daniel Martin that he sprang for a copy for me, which I have begun reading, and I too find the writing enthralling. The novel starts off in Dorset in 1942, and the protagonist, “the boy,” is helping the locals harvest the wheat; his job is to stook it:
Clutching a sheaf in the right hand, just above the binder twine, never by the twine itself, then moving on to the next sheaf, picking that up in the same way in the left hand, then walking with the two sheaves to the nearest unfinished stook, a stook being four pairs of sheaves and a single “to close the door” at the end; then standing before the other sheaves propped against each other, lifting the two in each hand, then setting them, shocking down the butts into the stubble and simultaneously clashing the eared heads together. …
The boy sets the first two sheaves, the founders, of a new stook. They stand, then start to topple. He catches them before they fall, lifts them to set them firm again. But old Mr. Luscombe shocks his pair down six feet away, safe as houses. His founders never fall. He smiles lopsidedly with his bad teeth, a wink, the cast in his eye, the sun in his glasses. Bronze-red hands and old brown boots. The boy makes a grimace, then brings his sheaves and sets them against the farmer’s pair.
At one they break for lunch:
They sit beneath the ash, or sprawl; out of the dish-cloth, white with blue ends, a pile of great cartwheels of bread, the crusts burnt black; deep yellow butter, ham cut thick as a plate, plate of pink meat and white fat, both sides of the bread nearly an inch thick; the yellow butter pearled and marbled with whey, a week’s ration a slice.
Thic for thee, thic for thee, says doling Mr. Luscombe, and where’s my plum vidies to?
I had no problem with “thic,” clearly a dialect form of “this,” but I was stopped in my tracks by “plum vidies”; I checked the OED and Google Books without result and was just about to post a query here in my desperation when I read a little further and realized that Mr. Luscombe’s phrase was just his version of the narrator’s “Pelham Widows” from a few lines later: “Beauty of Bath, crisp and amberfleshed, with their little edge of piquant acid. Still Primavera’s, thinks the boy; and much better poems than bruised and woolly Pelham Widow. But who cares, teeth deep in white cartwheel, bread and sweet ham, all life to follow.” But what are Primaveras and Pelham Widows? Anybody know? Also, jamessal is “curious to see how well known he is to your readership, and how well regarded,” and so am I; any Fowles fans out there?