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Humorous fictional memoir – “Floreat Etona**” (set in Windsor)

18th January 2020

The Secret Diary of Boris Johnson Aged 13 1/4 by Lucien Young, humorous fictional memoir, narrated on audiobook by Jon Culshaw, set at Eton (Windsor) in the later 1970s.

Humorous fictional memoir

Jon Culshaw, who is known for his wonderful impersonations of the rich, famous and ludicrous (famously through Dead Ringers on BBC R4), calls this “memoir” “deliciously funny and highly impudent“. It is, and after all he is the narrator of the audiobook. So if you are a Johnson acolyte or a devotee of the British Public School system, then avert your eyes now and find something more edifying to read.

Cartoon from the book

The inspiration for this book came, of course, from the wonderfully popular secret diaries of Adrian Mole series, penned by Sue Townsend back at the turn of the 21st Century. Adrian might have had eyes only for Pandora, Boris (who started out life at Eton as Alexander) has had his head turned by Rubella, who frankly couldn’t give a toss about him. This early rejection came to be a formative experience, denting the carapace crafted by this carefully coiffed and tousle-haired dilettante.

His diary entries chart his daily life, his innermost thoughts (you really don’t want to know the workings of this self-referring mind), and interspersed with the odd limerick. There are cameo appearances by David Cameron, he of the ‘ham’  complexion (of course there had to a porcine reference), beardy Jeremy Corbyn (who apparently attended a Peruvian Weaving Circle), and the Gigglemug (look it up, it’s intended ironically) of a Victorian Jacob Rees Mogg, all get a look-in. Corbyn obviously didn’t attend Eton but he was promoting workers’ rights in Windsor and the two happened to meet. The voice of each character is perfect.

And that is in part the trouble / the brilliance of this audiobook. You are likely to forget that you are in Lala Land as it all feels just a tad too credible. Jon Culshaw’s voice becomes the voice of Johnson, with the wheedling and whining, the self assurance, the pomposity and the swaggering persona of a sprouting young man who already has lost his kind side. You will learn new words along the way – find out what glabrous is – and you will learn the age old terms used at Eton, with a smattering of Latin.

And I cannot close without mentioning Johnson’s “go to” sustenance. The Curly Wurly chocolate bar, an iconic snack of the 1970s. It’s of its era.

Photo: The British Pedlar

Yes, it is puerile, it is funny, It is also sobering because so much of it just COULD be true. Why did we feature it on TripFiction? Well, it gives a humorous peak into life at Eton, that esteemed college in Windsor where the young men float around in gowns and traditional attire. It’s an elitist anachronism to which so many still aspire. It remains a slice of life in England.

There are drawings and cartoons in the book itself but I would favour the audio book because it is immersive, so well rendered and I found it entertaining. Ave atque vale* (Catullus)

Tina for the TripFiction Team

* Hail and Farewell

** May Eton Flourish

Catch Lucien Young on Twitter and Jon Culshaw on Twitter

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