The Hearing Trumpet, by Leonora Carrington (Penguin Modern Classics). This was a funny little read. Written by the surrealist artist Leonora Carrington (who was once rescued from a Spanish asylum by her old nanny in a submarine) it is the story of ninety-two year old Marian Leatherby, who lives in the back room of her son’s house with her two cats and red hen. How she got to be in Mexico we never find out, but she longs to be rescued and taken to Lapland instead.
Her friend – the imaginative Carmella, who likes to write letters to random people imagining what they might be interested in – gives her a hearing trumpet one day, and with it Marian discovers she is to be sent to an old peoples’ home. Not what one would think is very exciting premise for a novel, but then it gets weird and utterly wonderful. I don’t want to give too much away, as that would be rotten – one of the things I enjoyed so much about the book was not knowing where things were going, and at only 150 pages, there isn’t much I can tell that isn’t plot. Instead, I’ll give you a wee quote.
As usual I ate lunch in the kitchen and went to my room to comb Marmeen and Tchatcha, the cats. I comb the cats every day in order to keep their long fur smart and glossy and to reserve the hair I get off the combs for Carmella, who has promised to knit it into a jumper when there is enough. I have filled two small jam jars with the nice soft hair. It seems a pleasant and economical way of having warm clothing for the winter. Carmella thinks that a sleeveless cardigan is a practical garment for cold weather. I have been four years now filling the two jars so it may take some time to get enough wool to make a complete garment. It might be possible to weave a little llama wool with it, although Carmella says that would be cheating. Rosina’s cousin once brought me the present of a simple Indian spinning wheel. I have been trying it out on cotton waste and spinning nice useful ropes. By the time I have enough cat’s wool to spin I shall have learnt enough to spin fine yarn. This is an enterprising occupation and I must say I would be fairly happy is I did not feel so much nostalgia for the north.
How could you resist?