A family's ill-fated outing

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A family's ill-fated outing
A family's ill-fated outing

Another book has been published by Gerald Darrell, about whom in 1995 the Times wrote: "He was the first to wake up the world to what is happening to our environment, and his books and television programs contributed to the creation of several new generations of naturalists and conservationists".

The collection "The Outing and Other Similar Rants" contains anecdotal excerpts and previously unpublished stories about animals and unusual life situations, some autobiographical, others frankly fictional, brought together by the author's sparkling sense of humor. At the center of this adventure is the Darrell family's ill-fated outing, designed to cheer up and make our most grumpy readers smile!

Gerald Darrell (1925-1995) was an Indian-born British writer and naturalist known as the founder of the Jersey Wildlife Trust (later named after him) and the Jersey Zoo. After his first expedition to Africa in 1947, he visited Paraguay, Argentina, Sierra Leone, Mexico, Mauritius, Madagascar… For his services to natural sciences, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire. His brother Lawrence, one of the great modern English writers, encouraged him to describe his experiences, and as a result, Darrell created twenty books that enjoyed stunning success worldwide.



This year, March and April proved unremarkably warm and dry for England. Farmers, surprised by this unusual situation that prevented them from declaring bankruptcy due to an early cold, began to gather in groups and discuss the dire consequences of the drought. Those who had told us in autumn that the magnificent harvest of strawberries and mushrooms was a harbinger of a hard winter and an even harder summer, now claimed that the abundance of strawberries and mushrooms promised a wonderful spring. To top it all off, the forecasters – those paid Munchauseners – predicted an extremely hot period from April to August. Naive English people were so excited by these predictions that many of them went to extremes by slathering themselves in beach oil and going sunbathing. Even if one walked the length and breadth of the seaside town of Bournemouth, where we then lived, there was no way one could find a pair of swimming trunks or a parasol, even if one offered astronomical sums for them.

The members of my family, all passionate lovers of the sun, seemed to blossom under the beneficial influence of the heat. They began to quarrel more, to sing more, to eat and drink more, to argue more, for outside in the garden the spring flowers were in the midst of their luxuriant and fragrant bloom, and the sun, despite its pale yellow color, radiated a strong and pleasant warmth. Of the whole family, however, mom was the one who really got excited about the favorable weather forecasts, mostly because she listened to these forecasts on the radio.

That was all the difference, Mom thought-the difference between reading your horoscope in a women's magazine and getting information about your future from a real gypsy on the front steps of her wagon. While the war was going on, the British government, including Churchill – when he had no other commitments, he lived in our radio set for the sole purpose of keeping my mother informed of the progress of hostilities and the danger of a German invasion. They always told the truth, and more importantly, they won the war. Now, of course, there was no war, but the honesty of the people who lived on the radio was still impeccable. When she heard farmers talk about thousands of head of cattle dying of thirst, about water ponds drying up, anonymous doctors explaining how to protect yourself from sunstroke, cosmetic experts giving advice on how to get a tan without tanning, Mom reached for the natural conclusion that we are in for a heat wave that will make even the equator look like part of Alaska.

– I thought of a great way to welcome Larry, she told us one morning over breakfast.

Larry, who had been absent from England of his own accord for the past ten years, would be visiting briefly to attend another book launch. Although she had soon received a letter from him in which he expressed his disgust at the thought of returning to this "nasty island," my mother was convinced that her son longed for the sights and sounds of "good old England" after all these years of exile.

– That who wants to meet him? Leslie asked as she took a generous amount of marmalade.

“Leslie, darling, don't talk like that,” Mom said. – It will be so nice to have the family reunited after all these years.

– Larry is always causing trouble, my sister Margot called. – He's so annoying.

– I wouldn't say he's grumpy – Mom tried to defend him. – It just looks at things a little differently.

– You mean he wants everyone to agree with him, Leslie didn't fail to point out.

– That's right, Margo added. – Always thinks he's the one.

– He's en titled to his opinion, honey, said Mom. - That's exactly why we fought the war.

– So we can all agree with Larry? asked Leslie.

“You know exactly what I mean, Leslie,” Mom replied harshly. – Don't try to confuse me.

– What idea do you have? – asked Margot.

– Well since it will be extremely warm… – started mom.

– How do you know? – interrupted Leslie in disbelief.

“I heard it on the radio,” Mom announced, crushingly, as if she were talking about the Delphic Oracle. - They said on the radio that an unforgettably long period of high atmospheric pressure awaits us.

– I'll believe it when I see it, said Leslie gloomily.

– But that was announced on the radio, dear – explained mom. "It's not just a rumor." The information is from the Ministry of Aviation.

– Well, I don't trust the Ministry of Aviation, said Leslie.

– Neither do I – agreed Margot. “Not since George Machmon was allowed to become a pilot.

– He became a pilot? Leslie asked in disbelief. - So he's blind as a bat and drinks like a fig.

– I don't see what George Machmon has to do with the ministry's forecast, protested Mom, who couldn't get used to her family's tendency to change the direction of the conversation unexpectedly.

“George must be there now,” Leslie guessed. – And I don't believe his weather forecasts at all.

“It's not George,” Mom said firmly. – I know his voice.

– What idea do you have? Margo asked again.

– Well, since the Air Ministry says the weather is going to be beautiful, Mom went on, I think we should take Larry to see the English scenery at its best. He must have missed him. I remember when your father and I used to come back from India, we always went for a drive outside the city. Let's ask Jack to take us on a picnic with the roll.

There was a brief silence as the family considered the proposal.

– Larry won't agree – Leslie finally called. "You know what he's like. If he doesn't like it, he'll start making a scene." You know it.

– I'm sure he'll be very happy - said mom, but it was obvious that she wasn't quite sure anymore - my big brother's ability to make scenes had been measured in her mind.

– I thought, let's surprise him! Margot suggested. – We'll put the food and other stuff in the trunk and just tell him we're going for a walk.

– And where are we going? asked Leslie.

– To Lulworth Bay, said Mum.

“It's not a short walk,” objected Leslie.

– But if he doesn't see the food, he won't know, Margot announced triumphantly.

– After an hour and a half of driving, he'll start to get suspicious, Leslie observed. – Even Larry.

– We'll just tell him it's a surprise in case he comes back, Mom announced. "Still, we haven't seen him in ten years."

– Ten peaceful years, Leslie corrected her.

– They weren't calm at all, said Mom. – We survived a whole war.

“I mean calm without Larry,” Leslie explained.

– Leslie, darling, you shouldn't talk like that, not even in jest – Mom scolded him.

– I'm not kidding, Leslie assured her.

– He's hardly going to make a fuss about the outing on the occasion of his welcome, Margot interjected.

“Larry can make a fuss about anything,” Leslie replied with conviction.

– Don't exaggerate – said mom. "When Jack gets home, we'll ask him about the roll." What is he doing now?

– I guess he's taking it apart into its component parts, Leslie guessed reasonably.

– He really pisses me off! Margot complained. – We bought this damn car three months ago and it's been disassembled for most of that time. I get a kick out of it. Every time I ask to go out with her, her engine ends up scattered all over the garage.

“You shouldn't have married a mechanic,” Leslie said. - You know what they are. They feel the need to disassemble everything they see. Manic Wreckers.

– Then we'll ask him to try to assemble the roll for Larry's sake, Mom concluded. – I'm sure he'll agree.

The Rolls in question was a lovely 1922 car that Jack had seen lurking shyly in some country garage. She needed a wash, her paint was peeling, but she was still a high class lady. He had bought her for the impressive sum of two hundred pounds and brought her home in triumph, where under his tender care she blossomed and was named Esmeralda. Now her body dazzled the eye with its luster, her walnut dash was perfectly polished, and there was not a speck of oil on her engine. It had an outside step, a sunroof that folded back in good weather, a glass partition between the front and back seats that could be raised so the driver wouldn't hear your criticism of the working class, and best of all – a strange, trumpet-like telephone apparatus through which to shout orders to the driver. The feeling was as exciting as owning a dinosaur. Both the front and back seats fit four people and there was still plenty of room left.

It had a built-in walnut drinks cabinet, as well as a trunk that looked capable of holding four sea chests or a dozen suitcases. Such a car was worth any extra expense, and so, by some unknown means, Jack had procured a fire-engine horn that made a deafening "Ta-ta, ta-ta!", and was therefore only to be used in critical situations. Otherwise, the ordinary horn was used - a black rubber ball making a sound like a well-mannered sea lion. It was good for beckoning the old men onto the footpaths, while the fireman's horn could force a double-decker bus to swerve into the ditch to make way for us.

Just then Jack came in to have breakfast. He was in a vest and covered in machine oil. He was a man of medium height with curly black hair, bulging light blue eyes and a nose that any Roman emperor would be proud of. It was indeed a nose of class; a nose you can't ignore; a nose large and imposing, which would have warmed the soul of Cyrano de Bergerac; a nose which, with an artful change of different shades of color, worthy of the envy of any chameleon, heralded the cooling of the weather, the opening of the pubs, and other important events. With such a nose, a person can appear arrogant, as well as hide behind it in times of danger. He could be proud or comical depending on the mood. Once seen, this nose could never be forgotten - just like the platypus' beak.

– Aha! Jack said, his nose twitching and turning a bright red. – Do I smell fried fish?

– It's in the kitchen so it doesn't get cold, said mom.

– Where were you? Margo asked quite unnecessarily as his grease stained clothes clearly showed where he had been.

“I was cleaning Esmeralda's engine,” Jack replied also needlessly.

He went to the kitchen and returned after a while carrying a plate of two roasted fish. He sat down at the table and began to dissect them.

–I can't understand what you're doing so much with this car, Margot said. – You're forever taking her apart.

–I knew a guy who was very good at roasting fish, Jack turned to me, deaf to my sister's complaints. "He would put them on their backs and somehow pull out all the bones at once." Like the strings of a harp, you know… I still can't figure out how he does it.

–Is it damaged? – asked Margot.

–Anything broken? - replied her husband distractedly, staring at the fish as if he wanted to hypnotize them.

–The role – explained Margo.

–Esmeralda? - Jack was worried. – Is it damaged?

–That's exactly what I'm asking you, Margot said. – You really make me angry!

– She's fine, Jack replied. – Beautiful machine.

–She would be lovely if we went out with her sometimes, Margot remarked wryly. "She's not very pretty when she's standing in the garage with all her insides spilling out."

“You can't say the guts are out,” Jack countered. - The entrails are inside. They can't be out.

–God, you really piss me off! said Margo.

–Enough, sweetie – Mom interjected. -If Jack says there's nothing on her car, then everything's fine.

–What's up? asked Jack, puzzled.

–We're going to take Larry on an outing when he comes, explained mom, – so we thought it would be nice to go with the roll.

For a few seconds, Jack considered the information, chewing.

– That's a good idea – he finally said to our surprise. “I just tuned the engine. It wouldn't hurt to try it out. Where are we going?

– To Lulworth, said Mum. – It's very beautiful there.

– Plus there are some high hills, Jack enthused. – That's how I'll know if the clutch is OK.

Delighted that the rolls would be ready for the picnic, Mom ecstatically set about the preparations. As usual, the food was quite sufficient to satisfy Napoleon's army during its retreat from Moscow. There were curry eclairs, fruit cakes, meat pies, ham pie, three roast chickens, two large loaves of homemade bread, sponge cake, syrup cake, brandy biscuits and kisses, not to mention the three types of homemade lutenice, a variety of sweet, cookies and strudels. Piling all this on the kitchen table, mom called us and asked worriedly:

– Do you think it will make it?

“I thought we were just going to spend the afternoon at Lulworth,” said Leslie. – I had no idea we were emigrating.

– Mom, the food is too much! Margot exclaimed. – There's no way we'll be able to eat it all.

– Nonsense. When we were in Corfu, we took twice as much - Mom objected.

– But in Corfu there were usually twelve or fourteen of us – noted Leslie. - There are only six of us now.

– It's like the Red Cross sending a country in distress two years worth of food supplies, Jack said.

– It's not that much – mom defended herself. "You know Larry likes to snack." Besides, we will be by the sea, and the sea air sharpens the appetite.

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