Diary by Hugh Casson (Macmillan. f8,95) WHAT qualities make a good diary so attractive? The illusion created for the reader of experience shared, of a friendship gained. or of an invitation warmly extended to be party to the writer's private deliberations and conclusions, anxieties and happinesses, come high on the list.
Sir Hugh Casson is so successful on this score that, the diary concluded, I found myself a little huffy not to have had an invitation to his surprise seventieth birthday party for "250 or so of our dearest friends" (May 22) and having to overcome an impulse to t e phone Lady Casson for reassurance over the results of his cardiac tests (December 22).
The diary radiates a goodtempered warmth. and that quality of ordered awareness that stems only from a widely cultivated sensibility. "Nice to be surrounded by such energy. enterprise and optimism" he remarks after dining with four young architects in Lahore and it is just these qualities that inform his own year. For the President of the Royal Academy life is glittery; visits to Buckingham Palace, to Windsor Castle, banquets. speeches, galas. But they are only one facet of a staggeringly full years as a practising architect, a lecturer. television performer, member of innumerable committees and commissions; as an affectionate husband, father and grandfather; as an anxious housemover or enthusiastic party-goer.
His architect's eye (backed-up by his draughtsman's skill, as shown in the evocative and witty drawings and watercolours. which decorate the text) records predominantly the appearances of things wherever he goes, from Mrs Thatcher 's white crepe-dechine rose to the Sainsbury Centre at Norwich, from Hetty the old blind labrador walking straight through a tray of paint and down the carpeted passage of the Casson's new house, to the St Pancras Hotel "glowing as pink as a lampshade in early morning horizontal sue: The most visual of diarists. Also one of the most grateful: the good fortune of his full, successful life is often and disarmingly acknowledged, as after a Covent Garden gala he says: We leave about I I p.m.. lucky and happy". , The diary form lends itself to a series of dazzling vignettes. Elizabeth Sodestrom singing Tchaikovsky songs in the train from Glyndebourne: "Erect and beautiful in that violently rocking coach, she sang alone to me until the wheels echoed and rumbled over the Thames and we came to rest in silence on Platform 13".
At a Royal wedding "a cameraman's bloodshot face peering beneath a thicket of lilies, experiencing disbelief at a rebuke from an official: 'Get back please your breath will brown the blossoms' ".
Or Bernard Ashmole lecturing in an over-equipped American theatre: "He inadvertently pressed a lectern button, there was a secret whirring noise and a dance floor descended slowly in sections over his audience", A happy, civilised. funny book — a lovely treat in an overshadowed world.
French False Friends by CWE Kirk-Greene (Routledge and Kegan Paul. 0.95).
ROULETTE in French can mean a dentists drill. False friends are familiar to every schoolboy and here we have an excellent guide for readers, writers and translators which is perceptive and amusing, all the way from fat to farter.