Mucking Around by l',4.tomi Mitchison. (Gollancz £7.50).
THE TITLE of this busy and informative autobiography seems misleading. This confident writer gives the impression of travelling. writing, making friends, talking, giving and imparting knowledge or opinions non-stop.
But all falls into place when one realises. through the Author's Note, that this, her latest book about her own life, is based on letters and diaries, from which she quotes from time to time. Such a book is likely to vary much in pace and style. Sub-titled Five Continents over Fifty Years the story is no guidebook, but a collection of remembered highlights in the writer's experiences about people and places from the Mediterranean. to Asia, Africa, America, Australia. When in Nigeria in 1957 Naomi Mitchison was asked by the GUARDIAN to cover Independence celebrations. This she does vividly and with enjoyment, "... we journalists went to show after show. Colour everywhere and proud. splendid men in kente cloths draped over one shoulder.
classical fashion. There was, however, a sad tendency to cover ladies' breasts so as not to offend the susceptibilities of the visitors. Toplessness had not yet come to Europe". Why sad? It sounds just polite to me.
On Independence Day, eight years later in Ghana, the author. on the strength of having become a tribal mother (a longer story that can be told here) manages to get out of wearing the formal clothes that were requested for end of Empire celebrations. She also secured permission to do the hauling down of the Union Jack — clearly a privilege to her.
But after all the author was in love. Among all her travels Naomi Mitchison made Botswana her chief love, and adopted cottrary. Her last two chapters -contain beautiful descriptions of scenery and human encounter in that African state.
Splendid photographs enrich the book and I would add a thank-you for the care of the author's husband, Lord Mitchison, in keeping those letters which helped to revive this mixed harvest of memories.