I started Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas for two reasons, first, Aunty G told me she adored the book and second, it was short. Don’t judge me, my work has been horrendously busy and my concentrations levels are low.
So low that I read the first page in bed then fell asleep. The next morning I woke up ridiculously early and picked up the book again, only realising on my second read of the first page that the story was a play that had been written for radio. It was then that I had the brilliant idea of searching for a recording of the play and found, drumroll please, Richard Burton and a Welsh cast performing the play. So I laid back down in bed and read along with the recording.
Best. Idea. Yet.
To begin at the beginning.
Under Milk Wood is the story of a day in the life of various people who live in the Welsh fishing village of Llareggub (the name is a joke which you too can enjoy if you read it backwards) beginning with their dreams as they lay asleep.
Eventually the people of Llareggub wake and the day passes as they gossip and daydream, tease each other and argue, laugh and love and hate. Polly Garter cleans floors and dreams of her dead lover, Mr Pugh reads a book about famous murderers while his unpleasant wife berates him for breathing and no matter what else happens around him Organ Morgan has nothing in his head but Bach’s music.
Captain Cat, a retired blind sea-captain hears the voices of his drowned shipmates.
“Hold me, Captain, I’m Jonah Jarvis, come to a bad end, very enjoyable…”
The village children chant.
Girl’s voices: Boys boys boys
Kiss Gwennie where she says
or give her a penny
Go on, Gwennie.
I loved listening to this recording. The rolling, alliterative words were an absolute joy to listen to. Reading Under Milk Wood alone, at least for the first time, would not have done any justice at all to the poetic language. The story is so funny that I laughed aloud several times, but I also felt the sadness and passions of these characters.
By the end of the play I felt as if I had taken part in something bigger than me.