27 JANUARY 1956, Page 31

Femme Fatal

Nina Hamnett was once in Ireland, she decided to pay a visit to the enchantingly lovely Blasket Islands, but when she arrived at Dingle, which is on the mainland opposite the islands,

she decided not to go because, as she tells us, the islands 'looked bleak and publess.' 1 do not know how a distant island has to look to appear publess to someone on the mainland but anybody who has read and enjoyed Miss Hamnett's new book would appreciate that gifted lady's reluctance to set foot on territory where indeed there might be no pubs to welcome her. Throughout this dis- jointed, lackadaisical book we are conducted to numerous hostelries, but whether we are with her in Ireland or in France we invariably find ourselves back on the next page at the Fitzroy Tavern in Soho which acts throughout the book as a kind of focal point from which expeditions set out and whither they lead one back. I am delighted to find Miss Hamnett so bright and sparkling today, because chance took me once, years ago, on a visit to Alesteir Crowley when he was busy pronouncing some form of magic anathema against poor Miss Hamnett whom he was suing at the time for alleged libel. Incense burned and magic words were being uttered with great solemnity and I am very pleased to think that one awful curse did not have too bad an effect on this resilient lady. Miss Hamnett is still a very gifted artist as the illustrations of her work in her book, many of which were done only a year ago, will prove, but she seems more proud of the fact that she was able to discover a 'new method of killing Sunday afternoons' than of all her delightful drawings. She found out that after the pubs close on Sunday afternoons it is possible to take a river boat from Westminster Pier to Greenwich and that these boats are fully licensed all afternoon, so backwards and forwards she used to go on Sundays enjoying every minute of the river trip and giving her readers equally great enjoyment with her description of them. My only complaint about this entertaining book is that there is no index and that Miss Hamnett's French quotations are invariably incorrect. I can bear 'pommes saute,' choucroute gond,' but not, as on one occasion, 'a le' instead of aft! I am tempted to describe this amazing lady in retaliation as a femme fatal. Nevertheless, I am already looking forward to her next book of reminiscences.