22 MARCH 1957, Page 24

Those Were the Days

IT would be difficult—indeed, it would be almost impossible—to recognise in Maurice Wiggin the author of In Spite of the Price of Hay (Phoenix House, 16s.), a meandering, whimsical memoir, the ruthless, fanatic, penetrating television critic of the Sunday Times. Yet they are one and the same man. Perhaps Mr. Wiggin's conscience is troubling him on behalf of all the sponsors of give-away shows he has so mercilessly slaughtered. For in these leisurely pages he has hardly an unkind word to say about anybody. He yarns at us (almost, but not quite, until we begin to yawn at him) about his childhood and youth, about Bloxwich and Birmingham, playing truant and getting on in journalism, with plenty of pauses for homespun philosophy of a those-were-the- days variety. He is, alas, capable of writing sentences like this: 'We scrapped the old-fashioned throttle levers and manufactured a highly ,unreliable twist-

grip control, on the lines of the racing grips which were just coming into vogue among the top men, and which had the vice of repeatedly jamming the bowden cable at the nipple and leaving the engine to race its heart out, uncontrollably, on full bore.' At such times Mr. Wiggin is in danger of becoming a full bore himself. But on the whole he manages to convey to the reader some of his own nostalgia for the vanished days before, in 1939, the world tame to an end.