To be honest, I'm not that taken with Laurie Lee's Cider with Rosie. I remember reading it years ago in order to help a friend's daughter with her GCSE English revision. I can't really remember anything about it now, except that there was something about it I didn't like, something I found just a little bit creepy. But anyway, the course activity asked us to carefully read the opening, looking to see how Laurie Lee had used the different senses in the description.
First read was fine, it was indeed very vivid, very evocative. But reading it again to take notes, I noticed something wrong, which I've put behind the cut. Can you spot it?
"I was set down from the carrier’s cart at the age of three; and there with a sense of bewilderment and terror my life in the village began.
The June grass, amongst which I stood, was taller than I was, and I wept. I had never been so close to grass before. It towered above me and all around me, each blade tattooed with tiger-skins of sunlight. It was knife-edged, dark, and a wicked green, thick as a forest and alive with grasshoppers that chirped and chattered and leapt through the air like monkeys.
I was lost and didn’t know where to move. A tropic heat oozed up from the ground, rank with sharp odours of roots and nettles. Snowclouds of elder-blossom banked in the sky, showering upon me the fumes and flakes of their sweet and giddy suffocation. High overhead ran frenzied larks, screaming, as though the sky were tearing apart."
It's the larks.
"Ran" of course is metaphorical but the use of metaphor stood out just enough and stopped the reading flow just long enough to make me notice that larks don't run, they hover. In one place. And they don't scream, they trill. And you usually only see one at a time. The female nests on the ground while the male hovers, defending his territory. So then the whole thing fell apart. He meant swifts of course, which do fly screaming in mobs.
I know. I should just sit down and have a nice cup of tea and forget all about it, but once I've noticed a glitch, it niggles. I know writers can't be expected to get everything right all the time. I also know that the boy Lee wouldn't have know the correct name of the birds, but the adult Lee should have done. He's supposed to be writing about this country idyll and he ought to get the ornithology right. It's not as if it's difficult ornithology if I (city born and bred) spotted the error. Of course the real problem is not the error in itself but the fact that once I've spotted a glitch like this, it casts doubt on the accuracy of all the rest.