A letter to a friend
6 May, 1997
As you will see from the top of the notepaper, I am in Naples at last after the long journey through Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the greater part of Italy. It is good to be here after breathing the overheated air of a railway carriage for so long. If I had any idea of what was in front of me, I might not have undertaken the journey. I had a foolish belief that conditions would be normal now. How wrong I was! In addition to the fact that the train was so full that half of us were without seats, there was not water for washing and it was almost impossible to get any food. If you ever do this journey, take your food and drink with you, and be certain that you have a tin-opener and a corkscrew in your pocket. I hadn’t!
My last stop was in Rome, but I was there only for a night and so wasn't able to see much. I am hoping to have a longer time there on the way back, and I will certainly get in touch with your friend at the British Embassy. He may be able to give me the name of a better hotel than the one I went to. My bed was as hard as a board and when I got up in the morning, after a very poor night's sleep, I was covered with bites from head to foot.
I have had to give up the idea of going by sea to Spain because I'll not have enough money. Even though the rate of exchange is quite good, prices everywhere are still so high that it has been impossible to do things cheaply. It has been a blow to me. I was looking forward to going to Spain. However, now I will have a chance to see more of Italy, and I'm pleased about that.
It is still quite early, and I am writing this while I am having my morning coffee and rolls at one of the little tables on the hotel terrace, overlooking the sea. I have a seat facing Vesuvius. The waiter's surprise on the first morning at seeing me down for my meal made it quite clear that this is not generally done. I have now made the discovery that most of the persons in the hotel have their coffee in bed. But it seems a shame not to get up when the weather is so beautiful. The sun is very warm this morning and there is a soft wind coming from the sea. I am getting quite sunburned and I have a great sense of well-being.
It is surprising how fertile the slopes of Vesuvius are. In view of the fact that they are formed chiefly of lava and our hard material from deep down in the earth. I see smoke coming from the mountain, and at night they sky in that direction is quite red. They say here that Vesuvius is frequently in this condition and that the experts who keep it under observation are able to see when there are signs of danger. They are probably right, but I'm taking no chances! I'm going to keep at a safe distance, and nothing will make me go anywhere near the foot of the mountain while there are signs that something is going on inside.
From where I am on the terrace, looking down on the garden with its bright flowers and evergreens, I have a good view of the warships which are at present in the harbour, and I have been watching the little steamers which go to the islands of Capri and Ischia. I haven't been to Capri but I may go there for the day tomorrow if I am feeling strong enough. Today, I am a little tired after walking about so much.
I made a friend on the journey, a French writer named Paul Fournier, who got on the train at Berne. I got into talk with him because I saw that he had a ticket for Naples, and then made a discovery that he was going to the same hotel as I was. His English is so good that I took him, at first, for an Englishman, and was quite surprised when he said he was a Frenchman.
He's not at all like one's idea of a man of letters. He is a tall, fat, red-faced man with glasses, and his hair is getting thin on top, though he's only in the middle thirties. Looking at him, you would say that he was probably a business man with a limited outlook, but he has one of the best minds I have ever come across. He has a ready tongue and a great sense of humour, so his company is a pleasure.
Fournier has been here before and has an interesting circle of friends. Last night he took me to see a man who is teaching at the University. He was in the United States for three years, being trained as a teacher of psychology, and his bookshelves are full of American and English books. He is writing a book on the psychology of crime, which he is hoping to get out this year. In the war years he naturally got out of touch with the work which was being done in other countries, and he was interested in the news I was able to give him, in answer to his questions, about developments in this field in England.
This man's brother has a position at the Museum and he is going to take me round one day. I had been reading the very detailed account of the Museum which is given in my guide-book, and, to my amusement, he took me for an expert on early Italian works of art ! Another friend of Fournier's who does the music notes for a Roman newspaper, is to take us t see the Opera from his box on Friday. So, you see, I am completing my education.
Fournier's Italian is not as good as his English but it is much better than mine. He has been teaching me and, by degrees, I am learning to say the things which are needed for getting about, though my not infrequent slips are still a cause of great amusement to your friends.
I went for a walk yesterday in some of the back streets. The houses seem tall because the streets are narrow. They all have shutters to keep out the sun and a number of them are painted some light colour. The general effect is bright and pleasing, but the streets are shockingly dirty and the smell of the drains is overpowering. Much of the house waste is put out into the streets, and naturally there are flies everywhere. I am certain that it is very unhealthy. Very little air gets into these streets, and Fournier says that is the middle of the summer the houses are like ovens.
These Italians of the South, with their black hair, brown eyes, and dark skins, have a great attraction for me, specially the younger ones. It is strange that, though clearly they have a taste for bright colours (as one may see from the pictures and ornaments in their churches), such a number of them go about dressed in black. They have a natural love of music and are never tired of hearing the simple songs which are so dear to them. They seem happy and carefree, and though, when they get angry, they are sometimes very violent and cruel, normally they are laughing and good natured. They are all very kind to babies, but, unhappily they do not have the same kind of feeling for their horses and dogs. Do the men and women of any other country have our English love of animals?
Here's the waiter coming to take my tray away. It's time for me to go and see if Fournier is awake, so I'll come to a stop. Are you able to make out my handwriting? It seems to get worse every day. I'm unable to get used to these Italian pens. I'll get this letter off to you before I go out if the hotel porter has a stamp. How are you? Give my love to Alice.
Read Carefully, this are some sentences of the text, and here is the explanation form them.
The five further international words which come into this Step are: coffee, hotel, lava, opera, and terrace. In addition, the two international names, Embassy and Museum, and another international name of a science, psychology, are used.
Dear Frank,: Dear in front of the name of the person one is writing to is the normal way of starting a letter. Naturally, if the person to whom one is writing is not a great friend, one does not make use of his first name but says Dear Mr. Jones: . The forms used in a business letter or a letter to a person one has never seen are Dear Sir: and Dear Madam: (see Step 43.)
Notepaper: A short letter is a note. Paper for writing letters on is notepaper.
Breathing: Taking breaths. In addition, one may be said to be breathing air, smoke, or whatever one takes in by breathing. The 'ea' in breathing. is said like the 'ea' in leaf and the 'th' like the 'th' in the.
Have undertaken the journey: One undertakes something when one makes a decision to do it, makes oneself responsible for doing it. To undertake to do something or to undertake that something will be so is the same thing as giving one's word about it.
Opener: Instrument for opening tins. (American: can opener)
Corkscrew: Instrument for taking corks out of bottles. (Bottle opener)
My last stop was in Rome: One makes a stop in a place when one is there, or living there for a time. 'Stopping (but not stopped) has a sense taken from this ( making a stop).
Covered with bites: The hole or mark made by a bite (insect) is a bite.
From head to foot: This form is commonly used in English, though 'from my head to my feet' would not be wrong.
The rate of exchange: The rate at which the money of one country may be exchanged for the money of another.
Coffee and rolls: A small cake of bread is named a roll. Sometimes it is like a roll in form.
Overlooking: Having a view of from a higher position. Another use of he word was made clear in the note on overlooked (Step 35).
Facing: Having one's face or the front looking in the direction of.
Surprise . . . at seeing: Give attention to this way of at for pointing at the cause of a feeling such as surprise, pleasure.
It seems a shame: Something which is a cause of shame or is wrong or to be regretted is said to be a shame.
A soft wind: by an expansion, parallel to that of hard, soft, not violent, with little. But take note that, unlike hard, it becomes softly when the sense is not violently.
Sunburned: Burned, made brown by the sun. It is used only of the skin. The damaged or changed colour caused by the sun is sunburn.
Well-being: Healthy condition, general comfort.
The slopes of Vesuvius: The side of a mountain or any land which as a slope is a slope.
Taking the chance: One takes a chance when one does something in which there is danger or which may not have the desired effect.
The foot of the mountain: the expansion of sense by which foot is used for the base of certain things is a very natural one. Other common examples of this use are foot of a tree and foot of a page.
Evergreens: Trees or plants which keep their green leaves all the year.
Steamers: Ships which to by steam-power, steamships.
I haven't been to Capri: To have been to is to have gone there and come away again.
Made a friend: When one gets a new friend, one makes a friend.
Took him . . . for an Englishman: Wrongly had the idea that he was an Englishman. Take note of the complex words Englishman (Englishwoman), Frenchman (Frenchwoman) and Dutchman (Dutchwoman). For persons of most other nations, there are no such complex names, a man or woman who is Russian being generally talked of a Russian, and so on (see front of book).
A man of letters: The word letters is used for the field of writing as an art, and a man of letters is a writer of books.
In the middle thirties: A person who is between thirty and forty is in the thirties, and so on.
Limited outlook: Frequently, as here, limited (narrow).
A ready tongue: To have a ready tongue is to be a good talker, quick with the right answer, and so on.
An interesting circle of friends: A circle persons is a group with common interests. Such persons frequently make a circle round the table.
A book . . . which he is hoping to get out: To get out a book is to get it printed and put on the market. See note on worked out (Step 33).
Out of touch with: The opposite of in touch with.
Detailed: Giving details.
Guide book: Book giving details of interest about a place.
Another friend of Fournier’s: Fournier's is here a word of the same sort as mine, yours, and so on. Because a form such as my may not be used with a, the and so on, when an owner-form and any of these other words are needed in relation to the same word, of and of the mine forms is put after it, a friend of mine, this cat of yours.
From his box: A box in a theatre is a division like a small room for a group of persons watching the stage.
Completing: Making complete. There is no -er form of complete.
By degrees: Slowly, step by step.
Infrequent slips: In- is commonly used before frequent in place of un- . A slip is an error such a might be made by a slip of the pen.
Back streets: The back streets of a town are the less important streets, specially, as here, in the poor parts of it.
Shutters: A shutter is a board or other structure for covering a window to keep out light, heat, cold, and so on.
Painted same light colour: Painted so that they are some light colour. Take note of this form of statement, which is common in English. Like examples are : washing the dress clean , kicking the door shut , stamping the fire out.
Overpowering: Overcoming anyone by physical force is talked of as overpowering him, and things such as smells are said to be overpowering when their effect on the senses is very strong.
Carefree: Free from care, troubles.
They do not have the same kind feeling: As we have seen, the general rule is that
Do the men and women of any other country: Questions and not-statements with have are
Do the men and women of any other country: Formed without the help of do. Do is commonly, thought not necessarily, used as a question, however, when the question or the not-statement is (a) about a general condition; common to a group, as in these examples, or (b) about a regular condition (as in Do you have more authority when he is away? We do not have room for friends at weekends.) In addition, questions and not-statements using have in any but its root sense have to be formed with do. For example, we say, did you have a look? I did not have a swim yesterday. Or, did he had the house painted? He did not have his arm broken.
Handwriting: Writing (or the sense of marks produced) by hand, a personal way of writing.
The hotel porter: The man at the door of a hotel and so on, who gives attention to the needs of persons coming in and going out, is named a porter.
A stamp: When a stamp is talked of without making it clear what sort of stamp it is, it is generally a sticky stamp for putting on a letter.
Yours ever, : Yours ever or Yours, are forms commonly used for ending a letter to a friend. Yours with love, may be used in letters to persons of the same family or very dear friends, and Yours truly is the form normally used in business letters and so on.
The sense of the complex words good-humored and red-faced is clear without a note.
1. In which of these examples would the question or not-statement commonly be made with the help of do?
(a) Women haven't good handwriting.
(b) Had not the dogs a fight yesterday ?
(c) I haven't the right guide-book.
(d) Has he a good knowledge of French?
(e) Have you your meal at five every day?
(f) We haven't the same box for the Opera as we had last night.
(g) They hadn't the shutters washed.
2. Writing your letter in Basic, give a friend your latest family news.
3. Give another word or words having the sense of:
(b) Base (of a mountain)
(c) Narrow (views)
(d) Be watching
(e) Not frequently
4. In every group of statements there is one word which will make all the statements complete. Put in the right word.
(a) The builder is ready to _____ the work.
We _____ that they will be safe.
I _____ to give you half the profits.
(b) The horse is having a _____ on the soft grass.
He hadn't put enough butter on this _____.
The _____ of cloth in the window is for a coat.
(c) It was a little room _____ the street.
You are _____ an important fact.
(d) I will be _____ there for more than a week.
The _____ has come out of his tooth.
He saw that the train was _____.
(e) The earth is _____ after the rain.
She gave the cat a _____ blow with her duster.
There was a _____ sound at the door.
5. Make these statements complete by putting words in the spaces:
(a) At first we _____ the cloud _____ a mountain.
(b) _____ degrees he got _____ _____ touch with his old friends.
(c) Some writers _____ a book _____ every years.
(d) My surprise _____ seeing my friend was even greater than my pleasure.
(e) The young man had no chance to get into talk with her because her mother kept here _____ observation all the time.
6. Make statements using these words:
7. Give the answers in Basic:
(a) Who did Martin say he would get in touch with if he went to Rome again?
(b) Where was Martin writing his letter and what was he doing while he was writing it?
(c) Why did he have to give up the idea of going to Spain by sea?
(d) What did he say it was to take on the journey?
(e) Who was the man with whom he got into talk on the train and what was he like?
(f) What did Martin say about Vesuvius?
(g) What gave amusement to Martin's Italian friends?
(h) Why did the man at the museum take Martin for an expert on early Italian works of art?
(i) What facts did Martin give about the Italians in South Italy?
(j) What did Martin have to do before he sent the letter?
(k) To whom was he able to give news of England?
(l) For what reasons did the back streets of Naples seem to him unhealthy?