Invisible Pleasures by R Pollard

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Invisible Pleasures by R Pollard

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Van der Kiste
Reviewed by John Van der Kiste
Summary: From memories of wartime London and evacuation to Devon, to travelling the universe from Greece and Istanbul to Casablanca and Kuala Lumpur, Pollard has lived and loved to the full, and this memoir is a fine living testimony to both. He ends with sharing some interesting thoughts on life (and it has been a very full one), birth and death. A very lively read from start to finish.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 576 Date: April 2016
Publisher: Matador
ISBN: 9781785890796

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Roger Pollard has lived and loved to the full, and this memoir is a fine living testimony to both.

His first memories in the opening pages are of his father being turned down for the Royal Air Force because of poor eyesight, joining the Home Guard, and sending the author, his mother and sister from their London home to a farm on the edge of Dartmoor when the Luftwaffe began its deadly work on the capital in earnest.

To borrow part of Dickens' phrase, it seems to have been 'the best of times' for the next few years. In spite of the world situation, he had an almost idyllic childhood. We are told that none of them as children feared the war, for their young minds were 'incapable of imagining a future that did not spring from the present moment in which [we] remained cheerfully alive.' The innocence of childhood is a wonderful thing. Then there are bittersweet memories of adolescence and boarding school, before the liberation that arrives with becoming a young adult, living in London during the early 1960s (just before it started to swing), and then travelling the world – from Appledore in Devon, to Casablanca, back to Blighty via Guildford, next stops Mount Athos, Austria, back to London, Beirut, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. It must have been a very well-stamped passport.

Throughout what becomes an almost dizzy merry-go-round from one location to another, from a carefree life to the start of his career as an architect, he conveys the excitement of discovery, self-discovery and awareness, young love and lust, and above all the insatiable thirst for adventure. There are some delightful flashes of humour, such as a quest for cheap accommodation in Turkey and confirmation with the landlord that it was completely free. He only learned a bit later that it was free – of vermin. Also guaranteed to raise a smile or more is the anecdote from Malaya of the eccentric old Sultan of Johore stopping in his official car one night to answer the call of nature, and losing his false teeth to a stray dog who was delighted to find such a plaything at his feet. And should I mention the time he caught sight of the body of a bright yellow canary in the Serpentine, and pointed it out to his girlfriend. Only then did he realise that it was not a deceased bird but a discarded condom. We all make mistakes.

This lively book is rich in international colour, reminiscences of romance and fleeting love affairs, mingled with snapshots of far-flung locations, the pre-globalised universe before the advent of mass tourism and the end of that tantalising air of mystery which still hung over them. The pleasures of living are indeed sometimes invisible, but still to be savoured to the full.

It all ends with a thoughtful postscript written about forty years later, with philosophical musings on how birth and death may be similar to sleeping and awakening, on what constitutes self, is it a curse or a blessing, on the forces of good and evil on earth, and on the instinctive will to live. It forms a peaceful ending to the often celebratory chapters that precede it. Mr Pollard has led a full life, and he has done us a service in sharing so much of it in these pages.

For more entertaining memoirs by Brits of long-distance roaming from different perspectives, we also recommend Half a World Away: Searching for a Gap Year Travel Adventure by Alistair McGuinness, and Never Mind the Bullocks: One girl's 10,000 km adventure around India in the worlds cheapest car by Vanessa Able.

You can read more about R Pollard here.

Buy Invisible Pleasures by R Pollard at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Invisible Pleasures by R Pollard at

Buy Invisible Pleasures by R Pollard at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Invisible Pleasures by R Pollard at


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