ONE of the pleasures of old age – though I heartily recommend it to the young – is reading again books you read and enjoyed years ago.

This is particularly enjoyable in the fix in which the human race currently finds itself, when we are practically forbidden to socialise for fear of disease.

The aforementioned human race, to which, as G.K. Chesterton once remarked, so many of my readers belong, has been in this situation many times in the past and got out of it eventually, though not without high cost in the form of wealth and early mortality.

But in today’s world books are cheaper relative to other goods than ever before, and many of us have more leisure time to fill.

Books read in your youth are old friends you have lost touch with, and reconnecting with them gives that sort of pleasure.

Some authors have in effect made a world of their own; one such is Ernest Bramah who never went to China but was an expert in life in old China and wrote books about Kai Lung, a travelling story-teller who made a modest living sitting under the village mulberry trees telling tales of even older China.

One quote which has always stayed with me is about two young ladies who met a handsome young man in a wood, and took to their heels “...uttering melodious cries in order to conceal the direction of their flight.”

Another was Angela Thirkell who adopted the world of Barsetshire from Anthony Trollope, and was one of many authors of the 1920s or 30s in whose world you dressed for dinner, and if you didn’t have servants you were one; their quite unconscious snobbery gives the present-day reader another layer of delight above that which the author meant to give us.

Those who were unwise enough to include prices add yet another level; Lord Peter Wimsey happily spent no less than 12 shillings and sixpence on a bottle of wine, and £2,000 on the finest new house for 30 miles around.

The servants in these books were mostly figures of fun rather than main characters (though Angela T. had them performing with the nobs in ancient Greek plays)

Of the detective story writers, I think Margery Allingham was streets ahead of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers (why so many women in this genre?) I loved all her books, though The Fashion in Shrouds was much too long in my opinion — I believe any author who writes a book of 500 pages has been too lazy to edit it down to a reasonable length, and should be chained to his/ her word-processor and whipped until it’s down to, say, 250.

Compton Mackenzie’s books about the Hebrides in wartime, Whisky Galore and Keep the Home Guard Turning are an absolute joy.

In the spy genre, the Quiller books of Adam Hall (aka Elleston Trevor) and the Charlie Muffin stories of Brian Freemantle, though quite different from each other, are superb.

My quote in the last article on freedom of speech was from George Orwell and is inscribed, so I am told, on the walls of Broadcasting House.

Now who wrote: “The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means!”