Read The Corfu Trilogy Online

Authors: Gerald Durrell

The Corfu Trilogy

BOOK: The Corfu Trilogy
8.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

PENGUIN BOOKS

The Corfu Trilogy

Gerald Durrell (1925–95) moved from England to Corfu with his family when he was eight. He immediately became fascinated by the island’s natural history and spent much of his time studying the local wildlife and keeping numerous, and often unusual, pets. He grew up to be a famous naturalist, animal-collector, and conservationist.

Durrell dedicated his life to the conservation of wildlife and it is through his efforts that creatures such as the Mauritius pink pigeon and the Mallorcan midwife toad have avoided extinction. Over his lifetime he wrote thirty-seven books, went on dozens of animal-collecting trips and presented numerous tv shows. He founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in 1959 as a centre for the conservation of endangered species – of which his wife Lee is still Honorary Director. He was awarded the obe in 1982.

The Corfu Trilogy

My Family and Other Animals
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives
The Garden of the Gods

GERALD DURRELL

PENGUIN BOOKS

PENGUIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London
WC2R 0RL
, England
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell,
Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre,
Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), cnr Airborne and Rosedale Roads, Albany,
Auckland 1310, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London
WC2R 0RL
, England

www.penguin.com

My Family and Other Animals
First published in Great Britain by Rupert Hart-Davis Limited 1956
First published in the United States of America by The Viking Press, Inc. 1957
First published in Penguin Books 1977
Copyright © Gerald M. Durrell, 1956
Copyright renewed Gerald M. Durrell, 1984
Portions of this book appeared in
Mademoiselle

Birds, Beasts, and Relatives
First published in the United States of America by The Viking Press, Inc. 1969
Published in Penguin Books 2004
Copyright © Gerald M. Durrell, 1969

The Garden of the Gods
First published by Collins, 1978
Copyright © The Estate of Gerald Durrell, 1978, 2003

All three books first published together as
The Corfu Trilogy
by Penguin Books 2006

1

All rights reserved

The moral right of the author has been asserted

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject
to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent,
re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s
prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in
which it is published and without a similar condition including this
condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

EISBN: 978–0–141–91113–7

My Family and Other Animals

To My Mother

Contents

THE SPEECH FOR THE DEFENCE

Part One

THE MIGRATION

1
THE UNSUSPECTED ISLE
,

2
THE STRAWBERRY-PINK VILLA

3
THE ROSE-BEETLE MAN

4
ABUSHEL OF LEARNING

5
ATREASUREOFSPIDERS

6
THE SWEET SPRING

CONVERSATION

Part Two

7
THE DAFFODIL-YELLOW VILLA

8
THE TORTOISE HILLS

9
THE WORLDINAWALL

10
THE PAGEANTOFFIREFLIES

11
THE ENCHANTED ARCHIPELAGO

12
THE WOODCOCK WINTER

CONVERSATION

Part Three

13
THE SNOW-WHITE VILLA

14
THE TALKING FLOWERS

15
THE CYCLAMEN WOODS

16
THE LAKEOFLILIES

17
THE CHESSBOARD FIELDS

18
AN ENTERTAINMENT WITH ANIMALS

THE RETURN

It is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, which, by often rumination, wraps me in a most humorous sadness.

– S
HAKESPEARE
,
As You Like It

The Speech for the Defence

‘Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’

The White Queen –
Through the Looking Glass

This is the story of a five-year sojourn that I and my family made on the Greek island of Corfu. It was originally intended to be a mildly nostalgic account of the natural history of the island, but I made a grave mistake by introducing my family into the book in the first few pages. Having got themselves on paper, they then proceeded to establish themselves and invite various friends to share the chapters. It was only with the greatest difficulty, and by exercising considerable cunning, that I managed to retain a few pages here and there which I could devote exclusively to animals.

I have attempted to draw an accurate and unexaggerated picture of my family in the following pages; they appear as I saw them. To explain some of their more curious ways, however, I feel that I should state that at the time we were in Corfu the family were all quite young: Larry, the eldest, was twenty-three; Leslie was nineteen; Margo eighteen; while I was the youngest, being of the tender and impressionable age of ten. We have never been very certain of my mother’s age, for the simple reason that she can never remember her date of birth; all I can say is that she was old enough to have four children. My mother also insists that I explain that she is a widow for, as she so penetratingly observed, you never know what people might think.

In order to compress five years of incident, observation, and pleasant living into something a little less lengthy than the
Encyclopædia Britannica,
I have been forced to telescope, prune, and graft, so that there is little left of the original continuity of events. Also I have been forced to leave out many happenings and characters that I would have liked to describe.

It is doubtful if this would have been written without the help and enthusiasm of the following people. I mention this so that blame can be laid in the right quarter. My grateful thanks, then, to:

Dr Theodore Stephanides. With typical generosity, he allowed me to make use of material from his unpublished work on Corfu, and supplied me with a number of dreadful puns, some of which I have used.

My family. They, after all, unconsciously provided a lot of the material and helped me considerably during the writing of the book by arguing ferociously and rarely agreeing about any incident on which I consulted them.

My wife, who pleased me by laughing uproariously when reading the manuscript, only to inform me that it was my spelling that amused her.

Sophie, my secretary, who was responsible for the introduction of commas and the ruthless eradication of the split infinitive.

I should like to pay a special tribute to my mother, to whom this book is dedicated. Like a gentle, enthusiastic, and understanding Noah, she has steered her vessel full of strange progeny through the stormy seas of life with great skill, always faced with the possibility of mutiny, always surrounded by the dangerous shoals of overdraft and extravagance, never being sure that her navigation would be approved by the crew, but certain that she would be blamed for anything that went wrong. That she survived the voyage is a miracle, but survive it she did, and, moreover, with her reason more or less intact. As my brother Larry rightly points out, we can be proud of the way we have brought her up; she is
a credit to us. That she has reached that happy Nirvana where nothing shocks or startles is exemplified by the fact that one weekend recently, when all alone in the house, she was treated to the sudden arrival of a series of crates containing two pelicans, a scarlet ibis, a vulture, and eight monkeys. A lesser mortal might have quailed at such a contingency, but not Mother. On Monday morning I found her in the garage being pursued round and round by an irate pelican which she was trying to feed with sardines from a tin.

‘I’m glad you’ve come, dear,’ she panted; ‘this pelican is a
little
difficult to handle.’

When I asked her how she
knew
the animals belonged to me, she replied, ‘Well, of course I knew they were yours, dear; who else would send pelicans to me?’

Which goes to show how well she knows at least one of her family.

Lastly, I would like to make a point of stressing that all the anecdotes about the island and the islanders are absolutely true. Living in Corfu was rather like living in one of the more flamboyant and slapstick comic operas. The whole atmosphere and charm of the place was, I think, summed up neatly on an Admiralty map we had, which showed the island and the adjacent coastline in great detail. At the bottom was a little inset which read:

CAUTION:
As the buoys marking the shoals are often out of position, mariners are cautioned to be on their guard when navigating these shores.

Part One

There is a pleasure sure

In being mad, which none but madmen know.


DRYDEN
,
The Spanish Friar, II, i

The Migration

July had been blown out like a candle by a biting wind that ushered in a leaden August sky. A sharp, stinging drizzle fell, billowing into opaque grey sheets when the wind caught it. Along the Bournemouth sea-front the beach huts turned blank wooden faces towards a greeny-grey, froth-chained sea that leaped eagerly at the cement bulwark of the shore. The gulls had been tumbled inland over the town, and they now drifted above the house-tops on taut wings, whining peevishly. It was the sort of weather calculated to try anyone’s endurance.

Considered as a group my family was not a very prepossessing sight that afternoon, for the weather had brought with it the usual selection of ills to which we were prone. For me, lying on the floor, labelling my collection of shells, it had brought catarrh, pouring it into my skull like cement, so that I was forced to breathe stertorously through open mouth. Formy brother Leslie, hunched dark and glowering by the fire, it had inflamed the convolutions of his ears so that they bled delicately but persistently. To my sister Margo it had delivered a fresh dappling of acne spots to a face that was already blotched like a red veil. For my mother there was a rich, bubbling cold, and a twinge of rheumatism to season it. Only my eldest brother, Larry, was untouched, but it was sufficient that he was irritated by our failings.

It was Larry, of course, who started it. The rest of us felt too apathetic to think of anything except our own ills, but Larry was designed by Providence to go through life like a small, blond firework, exploding ideas in other people’s minds, and then curling up with catlike unctuousness and refusing to take any
blame for the consequences. He had become increasingly irritable as the afternoon wore on. At length, glancing moodily round the room, he decided to attack Mother, as being the obvious cause of the trouble.

‘Why do we stand this bloody climate?’ he asked suddenly, making a gesture towards the rain-distorted window. ‘Look at it! And, if it comes to that, look at us… Margo swollen up like a plate of scarlet porridge… Leslie wandering around with fourteen fathoms of cotton wool in each ear… Gerry sounds as though he’s had a cleft palate from birth… And look at you: you’re looking more decrepit and hagridden every day.’

Mother peered over the top of a large volume entitled
Easy Recipes from Rajputana
.

‘Indeed I’m not,’ she said indignantly.

‘You
are
,’ Larry insisted; ‘you’re beginning to look like an Irish washerwoman… and your family looks like a series of illustrations from a medical encyclopædia.’

Mother could think of no really crushing reply to this, so she contented herself with a glare before retreating once more behind her book.

‘What we need is sunshine,’ Larry continued; ‘don’t you agree, Les?… Les…
Les!

BOOK: The Corfu Trilogy
8.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Two in the Bush by Gerald Durrell
The Beauty of the Mist by May McGoldrick
Hooked by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes
Los hombres lloran solos by José María Gironella
Dark Dreamer by Fulton, Jennifer
Hazard by Gerald A. Browne
The Boss' Bad Girl by Donavan, Seraphina