We had a Staffordshire pit bull terrier to look after one weekend. This was one timid dog. We had a dog of our own; Vinnie named after the famous aggressive footballer of the time.  Our dog was incensed by machinery, like the lawnmower which he would attack viciously; likewise, the vacuum cleaner. The visiting animal, the Staffordshire was badly scared by the lettuce whirler. Once it was set spinning, the £350 animal nearly had a heart attack.
I was cleaning the bathroom cabinet and in order to do a proper job I took the mirrors out and stood up against the wall. Just then this beefy dog, all muscle-bound comes waddling past it catches sight of its reflection and leaps 6 inches into the air in terror.
Another thing which struck terror into her heart was next door‘s washing line. On it hung white painter’s dungarees all flapping in the wind. The dog was sunning itself on the back step drowsily surveying the afternoon when she recoiled hair standing on end. She’d spotted the overalls  flapping eerily on the washing line and was very badly scared

 

One day during my spell at art college the tutor presented us with what was to be a novel experience. He gave us each a cine camera each and sent us out into London to film. Out on the streets I saw the main group ahead and I decided to go on my own, down a side street. My hunch was right and I started filming a bright brass plaque. It was high Victorian with many art nouveau swirls; very much in fashion then. I stood there filming for a while but then I decided I looked ridiculous filming what seemed a blank wall and went back to college with my prize. Later in the week the tutor said the films were all ready to be seen. We all crowded into a little theatre on the college premises and just after we’d all settled into our seats tutor asked “Who filmed the brass plaque?” I proudly owned up, the art nouveau treasure was all mine. He went on to describe how I’d managed to see colours blending: a London bus of bright red dissolving into golden light; a black taxicab melded into sunlight; how I’d captured the spirit of the sunny day. “This lad,” he said with an arm round my shoulder, “really entered into the spirit of the project. He kept his eyes open and instinctively knew how to use the camera to its best effect.” I could not deny it.

     

In the early days of Rock Concerts, little did the organizers; it seemed think about the provision of Public Conveniences. One Festival n the West Country, we spent an hour or two in a local pub getting in the mood. So it was I was needing a toilet quite urgently by the time of the first act. I looked around for a convenience. My friend pointed out a tent, one of several on site, which had all the characteristics of a toilet. I approached warily; someone might still be in it. It was a very small tent, and I am not a big man so I had to crawl in.
Inside there was a row of demijohns, I shouted to my friend, “Is this someone’s beer?” My friend didn’t think so and the liquid had the definite appearance of urine.  I undid my flies and squatted. It was most awkward trying to relieve myself. In fact I tried several peeing positions. I settled on one that was not too uncomfortable to hold and afforded a good flow. There was a musical tinkle throughout.
This was a music festival and before every act a flare was fired into the air to announce the start of the show. Unfortunately the flare on its downward arc landed on the tent. Now the tent must have been coated in some highly flammable waterproofing, for the tent went up in a flash. The fabric was incinerated and all that remained were a few blackened   pieces arcing their way to the floor.  I was caught in the inglorious act of squatting awkwardly and trying to pee in front of hundreds of people. Luckily I finished and buttoned myself up and walked out of the tent without stooping.

 

Cannery Row is often described as being a collection of loosely connected tales. I will argue that these episodes are not so much loosely connected, but closely entwined to make a story. There are charming vignettes of the same colourful characters throughout as Steinbeck sets the scene. Colour and life spark from every page. The narrative thread begins with Lee Chong and we first see the locale through his eyes. Facing his grocery store is Western biological, and the geography of the town is slowly defined as we are introduced to the residents of the palace flop- house who earn pin money by collecting marine samples for Doc; Starfish and crabs.
The great tide pool holds a microcosm of life that mirrors Cannery Row. The Palace Flop House is a sanctuary for ne’er-do-wells, and an egalitarian community has grown organically. The oblongs that Hazel has drawn with chalk gradually acquire beds. Neighbourhood junk is installed to beatify the Palace Flop House. And Eddie who works at the La Ida ‘s siphons drinks from the bar and brings a heady cocktail in a flagon to the boys of the flophouse.
One day as the boys were collecting samples for Doc they decide that he is hell of a nice guy and they really ought to do something nice for him. The conversation tortuously arrives at the idea of a party. The idea gains momentum and becomes the central thread of the story. And it is a well-worn  story, the story of doc’s party, but Steinbeck chose not to clumsily name it thus but named it instead after the vibrant community.
The focus shifts to a disused boiler which was used by a cannery resident and now lies in a vacant lot gathering rust and a sweet infusion of love and excitement from the nearby and Anmis Tree. The boiler then becomes incorporated into the flophouse. To finance the party Mack and Hazel collect frogs and negotiate with Lee Chong for the use of Doc’s jalopy truck. In return they promised they would get the truck fixed so that Doc could go up Carmel Valley for frogs. The going rate for a frog was five cents per creature, and frogs being such a bankable commodity, so in addition boys bargain with Lee Chong for a pint or Old Tennis Shoes whiskey on a promise.
The boys enlist the services of a genius mechanic, the mechanic of God, the St Francis of coils and carburettors, to fix the truck. With a vehicle fixed and on the road, the expedition involves the whole community. Lee Chong’s vintage truck also carrying the remnants of Eddie’s liquor, and relieves a local roaster of his mortal entity. The boys have an impromptu picnic consisting of the elderly chicken and a half-pitcher of wine.  They put the rooster on to simmer while they looked for frogs.
They are challenged by the owner of the property who the boys dub ‘captain’ and they flatter and wheedle him with talk of curing his beloved dog. The captain tells of a pond up on the hill which is hopping with frogs. He is so grateful for the curing of his dog, he cracks open a treasured flagon of whisky (his wife is away for the weekend). The boys are reluctant to taste at first but soon warm to the task. They suggest the captain decants some of the whisky into a pitcher. They are nice and mellow by the time they go and hunting frogs. The captain is happy to join them for a bachelor weekend.
Meanwhile the Doc takes s trip to La Jolla between LA and San Diego for small octopi. He picks up a hitch hiker who is alarmed at Doc’s swilling beer and gets out. The nest stop Doc orders a beer milk shake.
There are snippets of finding a body on the beach and the flagpole roller-skater; life goes frantically on in Cannery Row. Mack and the boys have a haul of frogs and use them as collateral to buy whiskey from Lee Chong’s. The whiskey was supposed to be for the party, but the boys could not resist and take a sip now and then. So much so, they have to realise their frog assets and obtain more whisky from Lee Chong. With more drink the decorating turns into a party and Doc’s laboratory and home gets slowly trashed. There are fist fights and the frogs are set free to hop around the Row and Doc’s beloved gramophone is broken.
The morning after Cannery Row slowly rouses itself as Doc returns from La Jolla to survey the damage. Outraged, he socks Mack , who racked with guilt, obligingly does not duck. Doc shrugs it off and pours himself a beer while Mack is offering to pay for the damage and also clear the mess up; Doc has heard it all before.
The boys are fed up and the community resents their treatment of Doc.  They sit on a log and watch the 4th of July parade. Mack confesses to Doc things got out of hand and puzzles what would be the best way to honour him. He slowly realises another party, one that doc actually attended, would be the answer. Cannery Row has faith in this venture as the boys try to find out the date of Doc’s birthday. Joy spreads through the community and even the sea lions feel it. The community takes it upon itself to buy Doc’s birthday presents including a selection of cats and a few girls from Dora’s parlour. The second party seems top be going the same way with fist-fights and drinks spillage.  But due to Doc’s presence it stays an enjoyable event. Possibly the boys have the experience of the first party as a guide to behaviour. The book ends with a poem which seems most unlike a filler for word count.

THE BOOK BEGINS BY SETTING THE SCENE in Darlington Hall. It was the scene of World Events before the second World War. Stevens was the butler there in its heyday. We learn the hall now has a new owner, an American who likes to banter. Stevens is uncomfortable with this conversational device and tries his hand rather stiffly. We learn he is going on a trip while his new employer is away. He denies in an off-chance moment being a butler at all. He plans to meet up with an old colleague, Miss Kenton. He admits to making unaccustomed mistakes now and thinks he may be in need of a rest.
The second part describes his journey to Salisbury and develops the characters of Miss Kenton and his father. Stevens' father was also a butler and is now showing signs of age. He dies on the job but Stevens is too tied up in World Events to give much attention his his father: Miss Kenton attends. She can be said to be making overtures to Stevens, but he maintains a stiff professional distance throughout. Their relationship  becomes subordinate to his role as the butler of the house.
The journey gives Stevens, now of advancing years himself, time to reflect on his relationship with Miss Kenton and reaches a climax by the time he meets up with her.  Has he read too much into her letter? Would she come back to a much changed Darlington Hall? She does broach the subject but he maintains a professional  distance. Afterwards he sits on a bench waiting for the pier lights to came on. Some people think this is the best time of the day. He strikes up a conversation with a lesser butler, who gives him hope for the future: not to dwell on the past, what might have been,  but to enjoy his retirement. To enjoy what's left of his life, The remains of the day.