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Ïðèìå÷àíèÿ

1

The title contains a pun, since the chanter deals with the customs of the country in two senses of the word:

(1) the way things are done by most people in a given country, its usual practices;

(2) the department of the government service that collects import duties, i.e. taxes paid to the government on imported goods (Sp. aduana).

2

The pronoun she is sometimes used with the names of countries and towns.

3

jacaranda tree – a South American tree with hard brown wood (called rose-wood from its fragrance and widely used in cabinet-making)

4

palo borracho (Sp.) - borracho tree, another species of South American trees

5

a suicidal streak – an inclination to suicide

6

Land-Rover – make of car; a car able to move across the fields or country, not following roads, a cross-country car

7

feminine pulchritude – female beauty; using long bookish words of Latin and Greek origin, the author makes this phrase sound ironically pompous

8

the Argentine (or the Argentines) – another name for Argentina, now slightly archaic and therefore sounding more dignified

9

a cross between the Parthenon and the Reichstag – resembling at once the Parthenon, a world-famous, temple of Athena (on the Acropolis at Athens), and the building of the Reichstag (i.e. the former German legislative assembly) in Berlin

10

in the bowels – here within, in the innermost part

11

The verb weave (Past Ind. wove) is here used figuratively, implying that the movement of the car resembled a shuttle carrying the weft-thread across between threads of warp, in the process of weaving.

12

to the best of my knowledge – as far as I know

13

warming to my work – here getting more and more angry and excited

14

de hand – Josefina's pronunciation of the hand (she asked the author to thrust his arm out of the window, giving a warning that she was going to turn). Josefina's knowledge of English is far from, perfect; the author occasionally reproduces some peculiarities of her pronunciation and her chaotic order of words. These deviations from the rules of grammar in the speech of non-English characters (Dicky de Sola, Luna, Coco and others) are easy to recognize and need not be specially commented upon.

15

screeched to a shuddering halt – suddenly stopped or halted with a screech

16

animal! (Sp.) - you beast! (Note that in the Spanish language exclamation and interrogation marks always appear not only at the end, but also at the beginning of a sentence or phrase, in inverted form.)

17

to meet our Maker (i.e. God) – a euphemistic paraphrase for to die

18

amidships – in the middle (of the ship), a naval term hero used figuratively

19

blurry – Josefina's pronunciation of bloody (a vulgar equivalent of damned); the words shock the author as being highly unsuitable for female conversation

20

Anglo-Saxon expletives – here strong language (oaths in English are mostly of Anglo-Saxon origin)

21

his… eau-de-cologne-encrusted brow – a solemn allusion to Seiior Garcia's habit of lavishly using eau-de-cologne

22

ante – Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), the author of the great Italian poem Divine Comedy, its first part being Inferno (Hell)

23

the numbing effect – here the paralyzing effect

24

tapir – a hoofed hog-like mammal of tropical America and the Malayan peninsula; tapirs have flexible snouts; feed on plants

25

gone wrong – here a bit disproportionate, somewhat unusual in appearance as far as elephants go

26

The author makes ironical use of a military clich'e.

27

Jacquie – the author's wife (short for Jacqueline)

28

Claudius ['klo:djos] – one of the Roman emperors (41-54 A. D.)

29

en route [a:n 'ru:t] (Fr.) - on the way

30

Great Dane – a large short-haired dog of a breed of massive size and great strength

31

French window – a glazed folding door that serves as a door and a window, opening on to a garden or balcony

32

dinosaur ['dainaso:] – an extinct gigantic reptile

33

what with the Aduana and this bloody tapir… – this emphatic construction is used when enumerating the various causes of one's distress, embarrassment and the like

34

the Queen Mary - one of the biggest Atlantic liners

35

to put one's mind to something – to direct one's thoughts towards it, to set one's mind on doing something

36

simpatico (Sp.) - nice, pleasant

37

fur seal – a warm-blooded, fish-eating animal, found chiefly in cold regions; fur seal is hunted for its valuable fur.

38

elephant seal – a species of seal, so called on account of the shape of the male's nose which resembles an elephant's trunk, and also on account of its elephantine size (the male measures as much as 5.5 m in length and weighs up to 3.5 tons); now almost entirely destroyed.

39

to warm to somebody – to begin liking somebody hotter by and by

40

to win somebody over – to make somebody take a liking to you, feel friendly towards you

41

to decide somebody – to cause somebody to come to a decision

42

Darwin, Charles Robert (1809-1882) – the great English naturalist, founder of the theory of evolution. In 1831-36 he made a voyage round the world on board the Beagle. The results of his observations of animals and plants, made during the voyage, were described in the naturalist's journal, The Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle.

H.M.S. – His (Her) Majesty's Ship, a ship of the British navy

43

covey – here a group, a party (the word is generally used to designate a family of partridges)

44

deer-stalker hat (or cap) – a cloth cap with a peak before and behind and two ear-flaps; it is often called a deer-stalker for short

45

prenatal posture – the position of an unborn baby in the mother's womb

46

Tres Arroyos ['tres e'roies] (Sp.) - Three Streams

47

the Pampa (or Pampas) – the extensive treeless plains of South America

48

eucalyptus tree – a tree of the myrtle family; most of the trees of this genus are important timber trees, and some secrete resinous gums (e. g. the Australian gum-tree)

49

like leprous limbs – like the arms and legs of people affected with leprosy, a chronic infectious disease characterized by a thickening and ulceration of the skin

50

estancia (Sp.) - farm, estate

51

carunculated – covered with caruncles, small hard outgrowths

52

electric-blue – a steely blue color

53

oven-bird [Avnba:d] – the popular name of various South American birds which build dome-shaped oven-like nests

54

blank-faced – here inexpressive, lacking individuality

55

tattoo [ta'tu:] – a continuous tapping or knocking

56

!Hola! (Sp.) - Hullo!

57

sanitary arrangements – a polite way of speaking about a lavatory

58

stone – measure of weight used in Great Britain (6.34 kg); the plural form is unchanged

59

Chelsea – a district of London on the north bank of the Thames, with many gardens, including the London Botanic Garden

60

buenas noches (Sp.) - good evening

61

?Hablo con la patrona? (Sp.) - Am I speaking to the hostess?

62

?Si, si, se~nor… que quiores? (Sp.) - Yes, sir, what is it you need?

63

he puffed and undulated her way down to the kitchen – puffing and undulating, she made her way to the kitchen (note this construction, often resorted to by the author when describing different sorts of movement)

64

monochromatic Martian landscape – the author evidently has in mind standard descriptions of the planet Mars encountered in science-fiction books

65

country – here ground

66

nodded off – fell suddenly asleep

67

Scotch = Scotch whisky

68

dust-devil – a mass of dust whirling rapidly round and round in cylindrical or funnel shape

69

I ever dream = that I ever dreamed of (i.e. imagined). In the next remark the same verb is used in a different meaning: 'to see in sleep'.

70

introduction – here a letter of introduction, one that introduces a person to friends or acquaintances of the writer

71

in a… reptilian manner – like a serpent or a lizard

72

to make out with something (colloq.) - to get along, be satisfied with something

73

crow's feet – wrinkles at the outer corner of the eye

74

to sum up somebody – to form a final opinion or judgment of somebod

75

?Si, si, como no? (Sp.) - Yes, yes, why not?

76

forlorn – here sad

77

lilting (said of a melody) – swinging or flowing rhythmically

78

joie de vivre ['3wa de 'vi;vre] (Fr.) – joy of life

79

cacophonous – unmelodious

80

T. B. ['ti:'bi:] – short for tuberculosis

81

in a body – all together, as one man

82

moth-eaten-looking – old and decrepit, looking like an old rag eaten by clothes-moth

83

When speaking of airplanes, the English sometimes use the pronoun she, as in the case of ships.

84

wind-sock – a canvas cylinder or cone flying from a masthead to show the direction of wind

85

came into their own – here got down to business

86

the plane bumped and shuddered to a halt – bumping and shuddering, the plane came to a halt (cf. note to p. 7)

87

their equine charges – the ponies in their charge, the ponies they had been holding back (Durrell is fond of Latin adjectives of this type as opposed to the simple-sounding English nouns: compare horse and equine, cat and feline, pig and porcine)

88

banshee – according to Irish and Scotch beliefs, a spirit whose wail gives warning of death in a house

89

Trafalgar Square lions – the four bronze figures of lions, which lie with their heads thrown back, and fore paws stretched out, decorating the corners of the quadrangular base of the Nelson column in Trafalgar Square, London

90

magenta – a brilliant crimson color

91

scrunched our way – made our way noisily grinding the gravel under the wheels of the car (cf. note to p. 20)

92

to switchback – to follow a zigzag route in a mountainous region

93

peon ['pi:on] – in Mexico and Spanish South America, a laborer, especially one working to pay off a debt

94

bombachas (Sp,) - wide trousers

95

asado (Sp.) - a sheep roasted whole

96

manana (Sp.) - tomorrow

97

headwaiter – chief waiter at a restaurant, generally wearing a black suit and a snow-white shirt-front; the author compares penguins to head waiters because of their coloring, and also because of their peculiar shuffling gait

98

biscuit-colored – of the characteristic light-brown colour of biscuit, i.e. porcelain after the first firing and before being glazed or painted

99

guanaco [gwar'neikou] -a wild llama ['la:ma] of the Andes with reddish-brown wool

100

finger – here the breadth of a finger (about an inch), a measure generally used when pouring drinks

101

hora los pinguinos (Sp.) - presently (you shall see) the penguins

102

to pock-mark – to make numerous marks or scars like those left by smallpox; to dot

103

pigmy (or pygmy) – any person, animal or plant abnormally undersized, a dwarf

104

fallen arches – flat feet, feet not normally arched, with the arch weakened; a professional disease with waiters

105

debutante I'debjuta:nt] – a girl making her first appearance in society, especially (in England) a girl presented to the king and queen at court

106

outsize – too big for one

107

wattle – a fold of loose flesh hanging from the neck of some birds, i.e. turkeys

108

nerve – self-control, courage

109

jig-saw puzzle – a picture pasted on board and cut in irregular pieces with a jig-saw; one has to fit the pieces together so as to make the picture (common children's game)

110

to negotiate – here to get over, to surmount (often said about fences and other obstacles)

111

tummy – a nursery and colloquial word for stomach, belly

112

to get the worst of the climb over – to have done with the most difficult part of the climb

113

to throw one off balance – to make one lose one's balance

114

all-in wrestling match – a general struggle

115

to run the gauntlet – as a punishment, to run between two lines of men who strike the victim as he passes

116

to regurgitate – to bring (partly-digested food) from the stomach back to the mouth; to get one to do something – to make one do it

117

in no uncertain fashion – without hesitation or doubt, in a determined, resolute manner

118

from stem to stern – from the front to the back part of a ship, throughout the whole length of the ship; here throughout the whole length of the bird's body (another instance of a naval term used ironically; cf. amidships on p. 8)

119

minute [mai'nju:t] – very small

120

pandemonium ['paendi'mounjem] – a scene of great disorder and confusion (as in a place inhabited by all the demons)

121

digestive reverie ['reveri] – a quiet, thoughtful state during the process of digestion

122

Vacanttum – probably Vacant-tum (my), empty belly (the word looks amusingly like a biological term of Latin origin)

123

the product of an unhappy home-life – a clich'e of modern sociological writings, here used ironically

124

melee ['melei] (Fr.) - a confused fight

125

air-pocket – a seeming vacuum in the air causing the aircraft to drop some distance; it produces a very unpleasant sensation of sinking stomach

126

nifty (U.S. slang) - here quick, nimble

127

to qualify for – to give a right to

128

a diaphanous garment – a transparent one, one through which the contours of the body are clearly seen

129

mammary development (cf. below chest expansion) - ironical paraphrases for size of the bust

130

a companion piece – the second of a pair, a thing that matches or complements another (here the author means a picture whose subject would match that of the one he discusses)

131

to be out to do something (colloq.) - to seek, to aim at doing something, taking great pains with it

132

much of a muchness (colloq.) - very nearly the same

133

mate (Sp.) – an aromatic beverage prepared in South America from the leaves of the Paraguay tea plant

134

via – by way of, through, as in "from Exeter to York via London"; here used jocularly

135

breath-taking – so striking as to take one's breath away, make one breathless with astonishment and admiration

136

boleadoras (Sp.) - a form of weapon used by the Paraguay Indians, the Patagonians, and others in South America. It consists of a rope or thong with balls of stone or metal attached to it. When used, it is swung round the head by one end and then hurled at an animal so as to entangle its limbs.

137

passing – here disappearance

138

Margate – the favorite seaside resort of London holiday-makers

139

left-overs (Amer.) - remains

140

esto, una (Sp.) - here's one

141

to pull somebody's leg – to make fun of somebody

142

to get one's own back on somebody – to take one's revenge

143

armadillo [ama'dilou] – a burrowing animal of South America, with a body encased in bony armour, and a habit of rolling itself up into a ball when in danger

144

castanetted their beaks – made a sound like a pair of castanets with their beaks

145

thumb-smudges of cloud – the author compares the clouds visible here and there in the sky with smudges of paint left on a canvas by a careless painter's thumb

146

to shrug something off – to dismiss it with a shrug of the shoulders

147

back-breaking potholes – holes in a road fit to break one's back when driving over them

148

had played me false – had failed me, had deceived me

149

what I took to be the male of the herd – the animal I took for the male guanaco (a guanaco herd consists of a male, several females and some baby guanacos)

150

a pair of… lorgnettes (Fr.) - a pair of eye-glasses usually held by a long handle; when using them, a person generally has to tilt back his or her head

151

terrier – a breed of dog, usually of small size

152

anthropomorphic – here partly human, partly animal; the word is generally used when describing human-like traits or actions of animals, not vice versa, as in this case

153

biscuit brown – see note to p. 32

154

rather a lark (colloq.) - very funny

155

rocker – a curved piece of wood on which a rocking-horse (children's toy) is mounted

156

discretion is the better part of valour – a saying which means that it is unwise to take unnecessary risks

157

bichos (Sp.) - animal

158

aternity ward – a ward in a hospital where women are taken Care of during and after childbirth

159

elefanteria (Sp.) - a place favoured by elephant seals

160

I shivered my way into a half-sleep – shivering, I tried to sleep, but succeeded in falling only into a half-sleep

161

my cocoon of semi-warmth – my covering which protected me against the cold but did not give real warmth

162

a nerve- and spine-shattering experience – an experience that racked your nerves and could easily break your back (note the literal and figurative meanings of shatter, which come into play simultaneously)

163

creaming waves – waves with white froth resembling whipped cream

164

moving plate = moving picture: the word plate is here used in the sense of 'a thin sheet of metal upon which pictures are engraved, and from which impressions are taken', 'an impression printed from such a plate and used as an illustration in a book'

165

the fat was scalloped into folds – the author means that the fur seals' necks were adorned with scallops of fat, i.e. with a series of pleats or folds resembling the edge of a scallop-shell, sometimes used as ornament on the hem of a dress

166

beery face – a puffy face, betraying the effects of beer-drinking

167

Humpty Dumpty – the hero of a nursery rhyme, a person with a short round figure, shaped like an egg. Lewis Carroll chose him for one of the characters of his book Through the Looking-glass (sequel to Alice in Wonderland). The world-famous illustrations for Carroll's books were made by John Tenniel (1820- 1914). In his picture of Humpty Dumpty seated on top of a wall, the artist brought out, in a most expressive manner, the conceit and arrogance with which Carroll endowed this personage.

168

frogman – an underwater swimmer equipped with long rubber shoes like a frog's hind feet

169

Balinese dancers (of the Bali Island, one of the islands lying east of Java) are famous for the grace and elegance of their performance

170

rumba (Sp.) - a Cuban Negro dance; a ballroom dance imitative of this folk dance

171

russet – reddish-brown

172

was a constant state of nerves (colloq.) - was in a permanent state of anxiety

173

Presbyterian – a member of the Presbyterian church. Presbyterians formed the right wine of the Puritans, the English variety of Calvinists who preached love of virtue, pure living, and self-restraint

174

was a wife short – missed one of his wives

175

dropsical-looking – looking swollen as if they had dropsy, a disease in which watery fluids collect in the tissues of the body

176

to feint – in box, to sham an attack to deceive the opponent by diverting his attention

177

one's elders and betters – persons deserving respect because of their age, experience and social standing

178

star-gazing – being in an absent-minded and dreamy state, like a person studying the stars (from the noun star-gazer 'one studying the stars to foretell the future')

179

balloon animals – toy animals made of rubber balloons filled with air

180

cr`eche (Fr.) - a public nursery where children are looked after while their mothers are at work

181

to dump (colloq.) - to deposit without ceremony, to let fall in a mass or a heap (usually applied to rubbish or coal)

182

The author means that he had plenty of character and determination, which amply compensated his small size

183

to lollop off – to walk off in a clumsy manner

184

Note the author's tendency to replace one of the words in a stock phrase, thus producing a humorous effect (cf. "as fast as his legs would carry him")

185

cummerbund (Anglo-Indian) - a waist sash

186

rumbaed towards it – moved towards it as if dancing the rumba

187

siesta [si'esta] (Sp.) - a short sleep taken at midday or in the afternoon, especially in hot countries

188

ploughed his way through them – forced his way, moving with difficulty among them, like a plough turning up earth

189

anatomy – the author's usual ironical synonym for body

190

life-giving nourishment – a humourous paraphrase for milk matching the high-flown verb to imbibe (synonym for drink)

191

a free drink – a drink for nothing, at someone else's expense

192

to negotiate – see note to p. 35; here this verb acquires an ironical ring, since Oswald has to overcome a living obstacle

193

in one's depth – in water not too deep to touch bottom (ant. out of one's depth)

194

pekinese (or pekingese) ['pi:ki'ni:z] – a small Chinese dog with short legs and a pug nose

195

none of them seemed any the worse – evidently none of them suffered from the ill effects of their swimming lesson

196

would hump themselves down – would move down, proceeding with the help of humping their backs (cf. the description of the elephant seals manner of movement on p. 78)

197

Elizabethan ruff – a kind of collar worn in the 16th century, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It was made of white material, stiffly starched and standing up in folds touching each other

198

maypole – a high pole decorated with ribbons, flowers, etc., set up in the open for dancing round on May day, the first of May, celebrated in England as a spring festival

199

belly-splitting charge – the leap taken by the old bull in charging the young one, which ended in his hurting his belly (note the author's device of alluding ironically to current idiomatic expressions, here to side-splitting laughter or ear-splitting noise)

200

bulbous – shaped like a bulb, an enlarged, spherical termination of stem in certain plants, such as the onion, tulip or lily

201

cul-de-sac ['kulde'saek] (Fr.) – a passage or street with an opening at one end only, from which there is no escape

202

tinamu (or tinamou) [ti'na:mu:] – a South American bird resembling a quail (a game bird of America, Europe, Asia and Africa, also called partridge)

203

Darwin's rhea – a South American three-toed ostrich

204

school crocodile – a long line of schoolchildren walking by twos

205

to pace, v. t. – to set the pace for another rider or runner in a race

206

bonnet – the hood protecting the engine of a motor-car

207

windfall – an unexpected piece of good fortune (literally, something blown down by the wind, especially fruit)

208

sea-front (or water-front) – a street or a part of town facing the sea; Bournemouth – a popular English seaside resort

209

Tierra del Fuego (Sp.) - "Land of Fire", a group of islands separated from the south end of South America by the Strait of Magellan. Its farthest point is Cape Horn.

210

The verb to fret is used here in its special, architectural meaning: 'to decorate with pattern carved in relief.' The author means that the stones were irregular in shape, but irregular artistically.

211

with a jaundiced eye – here suspiciously, with some irritation (from the noun jaundice, a disease accompanied by yellowness of the skin and of the whites of the eyes; figuratively, a stale of mind in which one is spiteful, irritable or suspicious)

212

to make the best of a disaster – to try and got along as best one can, in spite of a disastrous state of things.

213

trippers (from trip 'a short journey') – people on an excursion; the word is often used contemptuously (e. g. "at week-ends the beach is crowded with noisy trippers")

214

abandon, n. - careless freedom

215

Turkish bath – here a building where Turkish baths are taken. A Turkish bath is a hot air or steam bath followed by soaping, washing, rubbing, kneading, massaging, etc. Added to the dropsy and the quiet concentration of chess players, the atmosphere of a Turkish bath helps to convey the impression of complete inactivity and sleepiness.

216

the Leaning Tower of Pisa ['pi:ze] – one of the famous sights in Italy: the white marble bell-tower, 178 feet in height, which leans 14 feet off the perpendicular.

217

the Acropolis – the citadel of Athens, Greece, situated on a hill about 250 feet high and richly adorned with architecture and sculpture (especially in the 5th century B.C.)

218

barrage balloon – one of a series of balloons used to form a barrier against enemy planes.

219

stop-watch – a watch with a hand that can be stopped or started by pressing a knob on the rim; a stop-watch is used for timing a race, etc.

220

rather him than me – I wouldn't do it; let him, if he likes

221

there was quite a colour variation – there was a considerable variation in color (note the current colloquial construction with quite a)

222

algae (sing. alga) – the Latin name of a large group of lowly organized plants, including the seaweeds and similar weeds found in stagnant or slow-flowing fresh water

223

to take to the air – to go suddenly up into the air

224

to show oneself to advantage – to allow to see one at one's best, in such a way as to bring out one's strong points

225

he animation of a group of opium smokers – no animation at all (opium smoking has the effect of reducing the smokers to a state of insensibility); cf. the Turkish bath simile on p, 75

226

concertina - a musical instrument with hollows, resembling a small accordion

227

morale – the mental state or condition of a body of men, especially of an army; the word is generally used in the meaning of 'high morale', i.e. courageous, determined conduct despite danger and privations

228

gargantuan – enormous, gigantic (from the name of Gargantua, a giant in Rabelais’ book Gargantua and Pantagruel)

229

the final straw – the last straw, the final circumstance that makes the situation unbearable (the allusion is to the proverb ("It is the last straw that breaks the camel's back")

230

maggots – the larvae of a cheese-fly (or cheese-mite), a small mite infesting cheese

231

twilit, a. - dimly illuminated, as by twilight

232

to rev up – to cause the engine to run quickly when first starting (the word was first used as a colloquial abbreviation of revolve)

233

Jujuy [d3u:'d3ai] – the northernmost province of Argentina, with a capital of the same name

234

Sophie – the author's secretary

235

to minister unto (or to) – to give aid or service; to look after

236

to make tracks for a certain place (colloq.) - to go directly towards it

237

precious (colloq.) - very (cf. pretty in a similar use)

238

lassoo ['laesu:] – variant of lasso, a long noosed rope of un-tanned hide for catching cattle, etc.

239

pernicious anaemia – lack of blood, unhealthy paleness. This introduction of a medical term into an elaborate paraphrase describing the faint electric light is highly typical of Durrell’s verbal humour: he likes to spice his descriptions with scientific-sounding words.

240

buenas noches (Sp.) - good evening

241

she twitched and mumbled her way into sleep – she twitched and mumbled until she fell asleep; she fell asleep twitching and mumbling

242

all twenty stone of her – the whole of her enormous person (the author estimates the woman's weight at about 20 stone, or 127 kg: see also note to p. 19)

243

Here we find an interplay of the two meanings of the verb crown: the hat actually crowned the woman's head, and the expression to crown this means 'to give a finishing touch to the whole'.

244

this breath-taking horticultural achievement – a reference to the woman's hat decorated with an abundance of artificial fruits and flowers

245

at a saucy angle – at an angle that gave her a smart, stylish and slightly impertinent look

246

a lavaflow of chins – a great number of chins resembling a stream of lava flowing from a volcan

247

buenos dias (Sp.) - good day, good morning

248

to hoick out – to lift or hoist, especially rapidly or with a jerk

249

to let her sex down – to fail in upholding the glory of her sex

250

to qualify – here to modify a statement, to make it less absolute (the word is generally used when speaking about a severe or unpleasant remark)

251

short of jumping out of the window – except jumping out of the window

252

terrific (colloq.) - most wonderful, thrilling

253

magnum ['maegnam] – a bottle containing two quarts of wine (2.25 liters)

254

tarmac – here a part of airfield covered with tarmac (short for tar-macadam, a layer of broken stone mixed with tar, used as road-surface)

255

old world – old-fashioned

256

hydrangea – a bush with large clusters of white, blue and pink flowers

257

praying mantis – an insect of a kind that holds its forelegs in a position suggesting hands folded in prayer

258

a coffee = a cup of coffee

259

medialunas (Sp.) - small cakes of half-moon shape

260

mudguard – a metal cover for the wheel of a motor-car, to stop mud as it flies up

261

media hora (Sp.) – literally, the middle hour, i.e. a break for rest in the middle of the day

262

molar – a molar tooth, a double tooth with a wide surface

263

Herculean task – a task requiring the strength of Hercules, like one of the Twelve Tasks (or Twelve Labors) of the famous hero of Greek mythology

264

on the last leg – in the final stage

265

by and large – on the whole

266

Durrell compares the country covered with cacti (pi. of cactus) to a typical surrealist landscape (e. g. one by Salvador Dali, Spanish painter, leader of surrealist school), where you can see all sorts of strange, distorted plants, gigantic cacti among them.

267

largesse (archaic) – a generous gift bestowed by a great person

268

foyer ['foiei] – here hall

269

prot'eg'ee (Fr.) – a woman who is under the care of another person

270

en route (Fr.) – on the way; here during the trip

271

to look somebody up (colloq.) – to pay an informal visit to somebody, to call on somebody

272

The author means that the woman, her son and the rest of the family were all so stout that, standing side by side, they looked like the front of a huge building made of fat.

273

that lay cupped in a half-moon of mountains – that lay surrounded by a semi-circular range of mountains, as if in a cup

274

viridescence – greenishness, the adjective viridescent being a bookish synonym for green

275

parakeet ['paereki: t] – a long-tailed bird of the parrot family, of small size and slender form

276

sloe-coloured – the color of the sloe, small, blue-black, plumlike fruit of blackthorn

277

bloom – the grayish powdery coating on various fruits, as the plum, grape, etc. and on some leaves; this word, applied as it is to sloe-colored human eyes, is highly appropriate here

278

nave – the part of a church from the inner door to the choir; it rises higher than the aisles flanking it and is often separated from them by an arcade

279

riot – here abundance, profusion, great quantity

280

gin-and-tonic – the usual mixture of gin (a strong alcoholic drink made from grain) with some tonic, i.e. stimulating beverage (e. g. Coca-Cola)

281

the usual run – the usual collection

282

!Que lindo… que bicho mas lindo! (Sp.) – How beautiful… what a beautiful animal!

283

humming-birds – a group of very small, brightly colored birds with a long, slender bill and narrow wings that vibrate rapidly and make a humming sound in flight

284

station-wagon – a motor-car with folding or removable rear seats and a back end that opens for easy loading of the luggage, etc.

285

exuding good-will and personality – trying his best to look friendly but stern (the noun personality here is used in a combined meaning of 'personal charm' and 'strength of character')

286

a red-fronted Tucuman Amazon – a red-breasted parrot of central and South America

287

acquisitive – greedy, betraying the wish to acquire the parrot

288

to play one's trump card – to make use of one's best weapon (or argument) for gaining one's end

289

?Como te va, Blanco? (Sp.) – How are you, Blanco?

290

Madre de Dios (Sp.) – Mother of God, the Virgin Mary

291

hijo de puta (Sp.) – son of a whore

292

?Como te va, como te va, que tal? (Sp.) – How are you, how are you, how are you getting on?

293

estupido, muy estupido (Sp.) – stupid, very stupid

294

to run to earth – to hunt down, to find by search

295

guan [gwa:.n] (Sp.) – a large game-bird of Central and South America

296

onomatopoeic – imitative in sound (in linguistics the term is used to indicate a word formed in approximate imitation of some sound, e. g. tinkle, buzz, etc.)

297

to go – here to assume

298

Lorito – the common Spanish name for a parrot, the same as Polly in English

299

gringo (Sp.) – a foreigner, especially an Englishman or an American: a term current in South America

300

coral snake – a small, poisonous snake with coral-red yellow and black bands around its body, found in the south-eastern United States and in subtropical America

301

Old School tie – a necktie with a special pattern worn by former pupils of some particular English public school. The habit of wearing this kind of tie is to the author an indication of an excessive respect for one's social position, a sort of snobbery which he finds (together with the tie itself) revolting: see also p. 165.

302

a dewy-eyed expression – a very innocent and gentle one (dewy is a poetical word for eyes wet with tears)

303

Geoffroy's cat – a variety of wild cat discovered by Estienne-Louis Geoffroy (1725–1810), a famous French zoologist

304

seraphic – angelic

305

to leave somebody to his own devices – to allow him to do as he likes

306

tyro ['taierou] – a beginner, an inexperienced person

307

gato (Sp.) – a cat

308

chico gato montes (Sp.) – a small mountain cat

309

conundrum – puzzling question or problem; a mystery

310

with fourteen Martians in tow – followed by fourteen imaginary inhabitants of the planet Mars

311

loco (Sp.) – mad, crazy

312

tabby – the common type of domestic cat, grey with dark stripes (the name is usually applied to a female cat)

313

takes the edge off his potential viciousness – makes him less vicious. Literally, the expression means 'to make blunt': e. g. to take the edge off a knife; but it is also widely used figuratively, meaning 'to make less sharp or keen: e. g. to take the edge off an argument.

314

Lifemanship – the art of living, of coexistence (a word coined by analogy with penmanship 'the art of, or skill in, writing')

315

outboard engine (or motor) – a small internal-combustion engine with a propeller, fastened to the stern of a small boat and producing a loud noise

316

debauched (from debauch, v.) – dissipated, given to intemperance (as excessive eating or drinking)

317

by virtue of your grasshopper-like activities – owing to the way you keep rushing from one place to another (again Durrell chooses an elaborate, scientific-sounding mode of expression, with by virtue of and activities)

318

frond – the usual name for a palm leaf (or that of a fern)

319

you could do worse than go and investigate – you might just as well go and investigate

320

the time off – here a leave of absence

321

to get into one's stride – literally, to begin walking with long and measured steps; figuratively, to be carried away in some process (e. g. of talking)

322

semi-inebriated – half-drunk, half-intoxicated (a bookish word)

323

to sport – here to wear or exhibit, especially in great quantities

324

Durrell means that the wagon-driver's moustache was allowed to grow without any hindrance, as plants are in a nature reserve.

325

blancmange (Pr.) – a sweet jelly-like dessert made of a starchy substance and milk, sugar and almond

326

mucha agua (Sp.) – much water

327

in next to no time – very quickly, almost instantly

328

to play a fish – to let a fish tire itself out while hooked by tugging at the line

329

que pasa? (Sp.) – what has happened?

330

nafta no hay (Sp.) – there's no fuel

331

our nether regions – the lower part of our bodies (nether – jocular for lower, under, as in nether garments)

332

in his shirt-tails – without trousers, in his shirt only (this humorous expression is a cross between the two idiomatic phrases:

in one's shirt-sleeves 'without a coat' and in one's tails 'in full dress, in a dress-coat')

333

to roar into life – to come to life with a roar (an engine roars when being started up)

334

water hazard – here an obstacle in the form of a river (the term comes from golf, where the word hazard means 'any obstruction in playing a stroke, including bunkers, traps, ponds, roadways, etc')

335

apron – here a shield made of some hard material and placed below a dam or across a river-bed to protect it from damage by water

336

purchase – here a mechanical advantage, a fast hold

337

to nose – here to push or move with the nose or front forward

338

to stall – of an engine, to stop working (from overload, etc.)

339

Fairy Godmother – a good fairy from fairy tales, who appears quite unexpectedly at the very moment she is badly wanted and helps her god-child out of trouble (e. g. in the tale of Cinderella). Being a fairy she can appear in different disguise, hence the authors description ("heavily disguised…").

340

took in our predicament in a glance – understood at once our awkward situation (in a glance = at a glance)

341

An ironical reference to the Duke of Wellington's (1769–1852) military preparations before the battle of Waterloo (1815), where his army defeated Napoleon

342

to quarter – here to pass over an area of ground in every direction in search of game (the word is usually applied to hunting-dogs)

343

bibulous – addicted to alcoholic liquor, to drinking; in this roundabout way the author describes invitations to differ-ent drinking-parties

344

jardin zoologico (Sp.) – a zoological garden, a zoo

345

the well of the house – a shaft in a building or between buildings, open to the sky for light and air; airshaft

346

yellow-naped macaw [me'ko: ] – a large, bright-colored, harsh-voiced parrot of Central and South America

347

Brazilian rabbit – a burrowing rodent of the hare family, smaller than most hares and having soft fur, long ears, and a bobbed tail (the rodents are characterized by constantly growing incisors, or cutting teeth, adapted for gnawing or nibbling; on this group of mammals see also p. 119)

348

agouti – a rodent of the guinea-pig family, the size of a rabbit; orange-rumped – having an orange-colored rump, i.e. posterior (including the buttocks)

349

nervous breakdown – a state of extreme depression

350

patio ['paetiou] (Sp.) – a courtyard or inner area open to the sky, common in Spanish and South-American architecture

351

accoutrement – personal outfit or equipment; when used in the plural, the word generally means military outfit

352

to relieve – here to make less monotonous, to brighten

353

canary-yellow – a light yellow color, like that of a canary bird, a small yellow song bird, native to the Canary Islands, Madeira and Azores

354

to take kindly to something – to get easily accustomed to something

355

capybara – the largest of now existing rodents, a tailless, partially web-footed animal that lives in and around lakes and streams in South America

356

unlikely – here not likely to be met with in this family

357

The author has in mind the well-known reconstruction of an ancient horse skeleton. The ancient horse had five toes; four of them were in time reduced and disappeared.

358

a hump-behind – a behind with a hump on it (a word formed by analogy with hump-back)

359

ague – here fit of shivering

360

nightcap (colloq.) – an alcoholic drink taken just before going to bed

361

at the crack of dawn – at break of day, very early in the morning

362

to fan out – to spread out in several directions (in fan-shape), a word usually applied to the movement of troops after a breakthrough

363

seriema – a crested Brazilian and Argentinean

364

coatimundi [,kouti'mundi] (or coati) – a small, flesh-eating mammal of Central and South America, resembling a raccoon (see the next note), but with a long flexible snout

365

raccoon – a small, tree-climbing, flesh-eating mammal of North America, active largely at night and characterized by long, yellow-black fur, black masklike markings around the eyes, and a long, black-ringed tail

366

M.I.5 – in England, the section of Military Intelligence which deals with matters of State security

367

ocelot ['ousilot] – a large wild cat of North and South America, with yellow or gray hide marked with black spots

368

to date – up to that time

369

council rubbish dump – the place in a city where rubbish is deposited (the word council here means 'local administrative body of a city, town or district')

370

flotsam and jetsam – worthless things, rubbish, trash (originally, flotsam was a term of naval law, meaning wreckage found floating on the sea, while jetsam meant goods thrown overboard to lighten a ship in distress)

371

the point of no return – a poetical paraphrase for death

372

character rendering – here personal remarks, personalities

373

fifty-fifty – equal, even

374

marquee [ma:'ki: ] – a big tent with open sides, especially one used for outdoor entertainments

375

professional – here a professional actor, one belonging to the theatrical profession, often called colloquially the profession (especially among actors)

376

puma – a long-tailed, slender, tawny-brown animal of the cat family, found in North and South America (also called mountain lion)

377

that bad (colloq.) – in such a bad state

378

trestle-table – a table made up of movable planks supported by a pair of trestles, special wooden frames consisting each of a horizontal beam with diverging legs

379

heel-taps – here the rhythmic sound made by the heels of the dancers

380

they had sung themselves from the heavens back to earth – they had passed the peak of their singing enthusiasm, which sounded like heaven to their listeners, and began to relax, as if coming hack to earth

381

vampire – in folklore and popular superstition, an evil spirit which enters a corpse that leaves its grave at night to suck the blood of sleeping persons; hence vampire bats – several species of tropical American bats, which live on the blood of animals

382

Luna's godfather – i.e. Luna himself, the man after whom the puma was named, as children are often named after their godparents

383

charmed – seemingly protected from harm as though by magic

384

collared peccary – a pig-like mammal of tropical America, about three feet long, greyish, with a white collar and sharp tusks

385

to have a soft spot for somebody – to have a weakness for somebody, to be unreasonably fond of somebody

386

an Eton collar – a broad, white linen collar, worn with a short black coat of a pupil of Eton college (an old public school for boys from privileged classes at Eton, near London)

387

retrousse [re'tru: sei] (Fr.) – turned up at the tip

388

I allowed her the run of the place – she was allowed to run free all about the place

389

ambrosial – delicious, fragrant like ambrosia (the food of the Gods and immortals in Greek and Roman mythology)

390

out of this world– a current expression meaning 'heavenly', i. e. 'not belonging to the ordinary world'

391

gourmet – a person who is expert in the choice of food and wine

392

to make sure of something – to act in such a way as to be certain of something (as here, to do everything to prevent the puma getting out of the cage)

393

Pegasus – in Greek mythology, a winged horse which sprang from the body of Medusa at her death. With a blow of his hoof he caused Hippocrene, the fountain of the Muses, to spring from Mount Helicon; he became therefore the symbol of poetic inspiration. Durrell thinks of Pegasus because of the queer shape of the horses' saddles.

394

By using the word-combination bony steeds, Durrell creates a comic effect. The adjective bony looks and sounds much like the old poetic word bonny (or bonnie) meaning 'beautiful, handsome' and well-known from Scotch popular ballads, where it often went together with the poetic steed for horse.

395

to press-gang – to force into service, from press-gang, n. – a group of men who round up other men and force them into naval or military service

396

earth-shaking – Durrell uses the word ironically, meaning that their conclusion was anything but original or unexpected

397

epiphyte ['epifait] – a non-parasitic plant that grows on another plant but gets its nourishment from the air, as certain orchids, mosses, and lichens

398

orchid ['o: kid] – an epiphyte plant often growing on trees; its flowers, especially those of tropical varieties, are of very bright colors

399

liana – any luxuriantly growing woody tropical vine that roots in the ground and climbs around tree trunks

400

sure-footed – not likely to stumble, slip, or fall

401

macabrely – in a macabre, i.e. horrible or ghastly way

402

gooey (sl.) – sticky as glue

403

as I ducked and twisted my way – as I made my way twisting and ducking (by twisting the author means that his path in the undergrowth changed its direction all the time, and by ducking, that he had to jerk his head or the whole body downwards to avoid the blows of the branches)

404

toukan, or toucan – a brightly colored, fruit-eating bird of tropical America, distinguished by a large, down curved beak

405

fungi – any of a group of plants, including mildew, molds, mushrooms, rusts and toadstools that have no leaves or flowers, and reproduce by means of spores

406

Venetian glass – fine glassware made in or near Venice

407

The author means that the gloomy and sinister landscape would have been a suitable place for the meeting of the three witches in the opening scene of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

408

anti-coagulant – a substance that prevents coagulation of blood

409

ticks – a large group of wingless insects that attach themselves to the skin of men or animals and suck their blood

410

birds of a feather flock together – a proverb which means that people with the same characteristics or tastes gather, assemble together

411

to stalk – to get close (usually to game) cautiously and noiselessly, without being seen, heard, or winded; the figure of a stalking Red Indian is familiar from numerous American works of fiction (e. g. novels by James Fenimore Cooper)

412

tree-snake – a variety of grass-snake, a small non-poisonous snake, having a very beautiful coloring of yellow, green and black with metal gleam, and living in trees and brushes

413

dropping (usually pl.) – dung of animals

414

lovesick swain (poet.) – a country youth hopelessly in love, so much in love as to feel sick or unhappy

415

boudoir ['bu: dwa: ] – literally, 'a place to sulk in', from Fr. bouder 'to sulk'; formerly, the name was applied to a lady's private sitting-room or dressing-room, now it may mean any small private room, or even, as here, a bedroom (usually ironical)

416

Here we find an interplay of the two meanings of the noun extremity:

1) pl. 'the hands and feet';

2) 'an extreme measure'.

417

The author speaks of this part of his anatomy as if it were some sort of food, like, say, "frozen leg of mutton" (note the absence of article).

418

Scott, Robert Falcon (1868–1912) – English naval officer and explorer, leader of two Antarctic expeditions, in the second of which he reached the South Pole (18th January 1912). Scott himself and the rest of the Pole party perished on the return journey.

419

overdraft – a withdrawal of money from a bank in excess of the amount credited to the drawer; the amount withdrawn in excess

420

the National Debt – the result of different credit operations of the state to get money necessary for meeting the expenditures which are not secured by the national income

421

rabies ['reibi: z] – an infectious virus disease of the central nervous system in dogs and other flesh-eating animals; it can be transmitted to man by the bite of an infected animal and is characterized by choking convulsions, inability to swallow liquids, etc.; it is fatal if not treated immediately (also called hydrophobia)

422

a rake-off (U.S. slang) – a commission or profit, especially when received in an illegitimate transaction

423

a whole-time job – a job that takes up all your time

424

The author means that the sum amounted to a fantastically big figure, reminding one of what a light-year stands for (a distance of approximately 6,000,000,000,000 miles that light travels, in one year). The Astronomer Royal – the Royal Astronomer Society in England.

425

there was nothing for it – there was nothing to be done

426

pigeon-toed – with the toes turned inwards

427

by the hour – for hours on end

428

scent gland – a special kind of gland of certain animals, as skunks, coatimundis and others, producing a substance with an offensive smell; it serves them for marking their territories and as a means of defence

429

having… hoisted the coatimundi equivalent of the flag – having marked his territory to show that it was occupied (this is what a hoisted, i.e. raised, flag usually shows)

430

within range – a military expression, where range means 'firing range', 'range of a shot'

431

to lord it over somebody – to rule over somebody, to act in an overbearing, dictatorial manner

432

Durrell invents this name in imitation of other children's games.

433

let alone – not to mention, to say nothing of

434

douroucoulis – genus of monkeys, the family of capuchin: a South American monkey with a whitish face and a hoodlike crown of black hair

435

a stick of rock – i.e. of rock candy, hard sweetmeat made of sugar

436

nothing loath to leaving – quite willing to leave

437

aviary ['eivjari] – a large cage for keeping many birds

438

fly-blown – full of flies' eggs and larvae; hence dirty, contaminated

439

cabinet – a case with drawers or shelves to hold (or house) small objects of art, jewels, etc.

440

unicorn – a fabulous animal resembling a horse with a single twisted horn, chiefly known from its heraldic representation (facing the lion) in the British royal arms; Piccadilly – a fashionable street in London, between Haymarket and Hyde Park Corner

441

 are not two a penny – are not too common, are not so easy to find. The expression comes from a street-pedlar cry, preserved in the following old nursery-rhyme:

Hot-cross buns!

Hot-cross buns!

One a penny, two a penny,

Hot-cross buns!

442

The words care of (or, in short, c/o) are placed on the envelope before the name of the person who is expected to transmit the letter to the actual addressee (for instance, if the latter is staying in his house).

443

sleeper – any of the parallel crossbeams to which the rails of a railroad (the track) are fastened

444

the train crash of the century – the most sensational train crash of our age; of the century has become quite a catch-phrase: in the newspapers one reads of the murder of the century, of the museum-robbery of the century, and even of the winter of the century (said of an unusually cold winter)

445

a Western film, often called simply a Western (the same as a Wild West film) – in U. S. A. cinematography, a motion picture about the adventures of cowboys or frontier men in the far West of the United States during its so-called "early period of lawlessness", i.e. the beginning of the 19th century

446

cowcatcher – a metal frame on the front of a locomotive to remove obstructions from the tracks

447

The author spent the earlier part of his life in Greece, hence his knowledge of the language.

448

to run to earth – here to find after a long search (a hunting term used jocularly; cf. other instances of its use on pp. 99, 121)

449

forty-odd cages – more than forty cages; the word odd when mentioned in round numbers, means 'additional to a whole'

450

to come into one's own – to start performing one's duties

451

to doll up (colloq.) – to dress carefully and stylishly or showily

452

Martin Fierro – an epic poem by Jose Fernandez, a well-known poet of Argentina

453

Bosun ['bousn] = boatswain, the ship's officer who is in charge of the crew, the boats, rigging, etc.

454

pale into insignificance – become insignificant, seem of no importance

455

full of beans (sl.) – full of energy, lively, brisk, vivacious

456

to husband – here to economize, to spend thriftily

457

the Great Fire of London – the fire that destroyed the most part, of London in 1666

458

beautifully appointed – very nicely furnished

459

at the double – at a run, at double speed

460

a whacking great shot (sl.) – a very big dose

461

kill or cure – here a remedy that would either cure a patient very quickly or kill him

462

for all I knew – as far as I knew

463

allergic to something – having an allergy, not able to stand something (allergy – a hypersensitivity to a specific substance, such as certain foods, dust, etc., or condition, as heat or cold, which in similar amounts is harmless to most people)

464

she's right out – she has passed out, i.e. lost consciousness

465

terrific (colloq.) – wonderful, magnificent

466

"hostesses" – a euphemistic name for the local prostitutes

467

port of call – a harbour where merchant ships discharge and take in cargo; figuratively, a place regularly visited by someone

468

to stand someone a drink – to treat to a drink

469

carnavalitos (Sp.) – gay songs

470

pobrecita (Sp.) – poor thing

471

she never looked back – she never returned to her previous bad state

472

by leaps and bounds – very quickly, with very rapid progress

473

porcine – pertaining to or characteristic of pigs (cf. equine charges on p. 27, feline tribe on p. 121)

474

The Pit and the Pendulum – a story by Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849), American poet, critic and prose writer. The main personage who tells the story was sentenced to death by the Spanish inquisition and thrown into a dark dungeon, where he lay bound hand and foot, with dozens of rats running all over his body.

475

to pull somebody round – to cause somebody to recover from an illness, to save

476

despachante (Sp.) – a Customs official who is in charge of dispatching, i.e. sending off goods

477

We had twenty minutes to go. – We had twenty minutes at our disposal.

478

stop press – the latest news inserted in a special-column of a newspaper after printing has begun


STOP PRESS [478] | The Whispering Land |



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