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Black Lamb

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Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.

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Archive for the 'Darrel' Category

The censor

You can't be too careful with the wrong sort of book

June 1st, 2016

BY ANDREW DARRELL

In the endless search for someone else to blame for my own mistakes, I have only recently hit on the idea of blaming the novels I was encouraged to read when I was young. I realize now that at high school when I should have been reading hard-headed realists like Borges, Kafka and Genet — healthy reading for any teenager, I reckon, especially Genet — I was wasting my time on the sentimental twaddle of the likes of Evelyn Waugh or E.M. Forster, and among the youngreadercontemporaries, Iris Murdoch or early Angus Wilson. These degenerate hangers-on around Bloomsbury just reinforced in me so many of the silly and self-harming attitudes that were already widespread enough in the England of the Sixties and Seventies. Their prudery, snobbery and arrogance led me to waste, absolutely waste, at least four years of my youth — and it’s all their fault, and none of it mine.

Because of them, it never even crossed my mind to study anything useful at university. It wasn’t that I ruled out the possibility of doing law or economics, subjects that would really have suited my cast of mind: the notion just never entered my head. The careers advisory woman at school at some point, I think, mentioned the words “accountancy studies” in my presence, and I must have laughed rudely in her face. Instead, I read Music — which means history of music, listening to the stuff, not playing it — selected as a subject for reasons I had pondered carefully, as I thought.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Black Lamb Review of Books, Books and Authors, Darrel | Link to this Entry

A taxing situation

April 1st, 2007

BY ANDREW DARREL

The Italian government has recently adjusted some of its income tax regulations. As a result, according to Corriere della Sera, at one level of income at least, single people now have to pay three times as much income tax as those of their fellow citizens who are married with a couple of kids and a dependent spouse.

This strikes me as just a bit unfair. Unlike many of my friends and acquaintances, I have no objection to paying taxes, and probably, Italy being the country it is, I could get away with paying less than I actually do. But I consider them an essential part of civilized life. Though some of what I contribute to the commonwealth gets wasted, most of it is still spent on really useful projects like confining my neighbors’ children during daylight hours to places of education. I can also put up with the idea that I might be subject to a bit of discriminatory taxation, up to a certain point — but to have to pay fully three times as much as a married person is too much.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Marriage Issue, Darrel | Link to this Entry

Spots

March 1st, 2007

BY ANDREW DARREL

I think I saw myself on the metro the other Sunday morning.

I was on my way to work, not fully awake yet, and at the stop after mine an old man got on and sat across from me. He was in his late seventies, I would say, and at a first glance seemed quite smartly dressed, in a greenish tweedy jacket and blue silk tie. Further inspection, however, of the type that you have time for on the metro, showed that everything he had on was covered in stains. They looked like old food stains on clothes that had been washed or dry-cleaned several times since the original accidents, so that the stains themselves had faded away and lost the vividness of the original beetroot or ragù — but they had not disappeared completely.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Darrel | Link to this Entry

Twenty-one!

November 1st, 2006

BY ANDREW DARREL

People talk a lot of nonsense, if you ask me, about the supposed differences between men and women, and one of the principal sources of muddle, as far as I can judge from what I see on morning television, is that too few people understand what a generalization is. “The people in group A are on average taller than the people in group B” is regularly interpreted as meaning that every member of group A is taller than any member of B. Until recently the Italian government was capable of concluding that since men, on the whole, in psychological tests, demonstrate themselves to be more strongly predisposed to use violence than women are, then all Italian men should do military service — unless they know someone who could pull strings to get them out of it — and no women may. I wonder if they need to spend more time teaching statistics in high school.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Smoking & Drinking Issue, Darrel | Link to this Entry

Degraded acoustics

March 1st, 2006

BY ANDREW DARREL

The composer Wolf, it is said, was always changing apartments. Supposedly he never stayed more than three months in any one place, not until the syphilis began to make itself felt and he had to be locked up. His reasons for moving included all the usual ones: not being able to pay the rent, hating the landlord, hating the wolf.jpgfurniture, with maybe also a hint of a desire in his little way to imitate Beethoven, who was also a frequent mover. Wolf being a composer though, in his case as in Beethoven’s, I would presume the distraction of noisy neighbors must have contributed a lot to any impulse to move on.

There was a time once when I started to worry that I might be behaving too much like Wolf, and that it might be for the same fundamental reason — that I too was bonkers. When I last lived in Rome, in the Eighties, in less than three years I moved flats five times, in a city where many people live in a single flat all their lives. I’ve scratched my head but the only other person I can think of here who has lived in more than two apartments is Anna Maria’s dreadful brother, who isn’t mad maybe but is extremely nasty. I don’t worry about the question now, though. The anxiety passed when I moved on to another country, and found other things to worry about.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Television Issue, Darrel | Link to this Entry

Angelus ad virginem

December 1st, 2004

BY ANDREW DARREL

As I grow older I find that what the experience of Christmas has lost in intensity, it has made up for in duration. When I was a little kid, Christmas day was the most exciting day of the year, but the excitement and pleasure only lasted from bedtime on the 24th to bedtime on the 25th. For some reason, the earlier preparatory activities never really stirred me. Nativity plays and singing Christmas carols at school were fun, but not more fun than other things we did at other times of year. Making decorations with my big brother and sister was a bit nerve-racking because of the high standard of workmanship they required, and became something of a chore. I wasn’t allowed responsibility for decorating the tree until I was already in my teens, by which time the activity had lost its capacity to thrill. Only the Day itself was special, and once it was over, it was over. Maybe eating cold turkey and pickled onions in front of the TV on the evenings of the 26th, 27th, and, if we were lucky, the 28th could prolong the excitement a little – but not much.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Christmas Issue, Darrel | Link to this Entry

Italians and Turks

September 1st, 2003

bicyclethief.jpgBY ANDREW DARREL

I read in one of Rome’s new free newspapers a couple of weeks ago that some survey had found that the Italians are the unhappiest people in Western Europe. The article didn’t specify how the institution that conducted the survey chose to measure unhappiness, or how they got around the difficulty of defining unhappiness consistently for speakers of more than a dozen languages, or whether they had considered how willingness to declare oneself unhappy might vary from country to country. It just made this assertion, and left its readers to glow with secret pride.

That Italians assess themselves as especially unhappy shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has paid the least attention to what they say about themselves in their films and novels.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Movie Issue, Darrel | Link to this Entry

Civil War

June 1st, 2003

BY ANDREW DARREL

In the late Eighties and for much of the Nineties I lived and worked in Saudi Arabia (KSA). Life there was for the most part pleasanter and easier for westerners than we are usually prepared to admit, but it was not entirely without hardships. charlesiNotoriously, we couldn’t buy booze or bacon — many people regard not being able to get hold of those two as a hardship — but it was also very difficult to lay our hands on books. His Majesty’s Customs made it so difficult for bookshops to import them that in the end they just didn’t bother, and private individuals trying to bring them into the country were liable to have wait for what seemed like hours at customs while every book was inspected — the cover not the contents, though. The result was that we tended to read what came our way.

Two of the books that came my way in that period were Veronica Wedgwood’s The King’s Peace (1955) and The King’s War (1959), her account of the Civil War (the civil war of the 1640s), a period of history that I had passed over fairly rapidly and negligently at school and had not seen anything in to draw me back later.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Book Issue, Books and Authors, Darrel | Link to this Entry

Author profile

December 1st, 2002

Andrew Darrel grew up in southern Hampshire and South London. He left the UK in 1978, initially intending to spend only a year or so abroad, making his living temporarily by teaching English as a foreign language. He never really took to teaching but found he enjoyed living abroad, so he never went back home. Twenty-one years later, thanks to the generosity of King Fahad ibn Abdulaziz, he had saved up enough to be able to give up teaching, and indeed to give up full-time work entirely, for a while at least. In those twenty-one years he had worked in different parts of Italy and in Egypt and Saudi Arabia; he had spent a year-and-a-half studying in Portland, Ore., and had stayed for various periods in self-declared tax exile in central Spain. At the beginning of 2000 he returned to Rome, and is still there, working part-time in a high school library and a bookshop, and talking all the time about moving on to somewhere better. His Black Lamb column is called Roman Annals.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Darrel | Link to this Entry

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