'Home looks nice. Allus does though, don't it? Perfick'
And so the Larkins - Pop, Ma, Mariette, Zinnia, Petunia, Primrose, Victoria and Montgomery - return from an outing for fish and chips and ice cream one May evening. There, amid the rustic charms of home, they discover a visitor: one Cedric Charlton, Her Majesty's inspector of taxes.
Mr Charlton is visiting to find out why junk-dealer Pop hasn't paid his tax - but nothing's that simple at the Larkins. Mariette takes a shine to 'Charley' - as Pop calls him - and before long the family have introduced the uncomplaining inspector to the delights of country living: the lusty scents of wild flowers, the pleasures of a bottle of Dragon's Blood, cold cream dribbled over a bowl of strawberries and hot, hot summer nights.
In fact, soon Charley can't see any reason to return to the office at all . . .
H. E. Bates was born in 1905 in Northamptonshire. He worked as a journalist and clerk on a local newspaper before publishing his first book, The Two Sisters, when he was twenty. In the next fifteen years he acquired a distinguished reputation for his stories about English country life. During the Second World War he was a Squadron Leader in the R.A.F. The Darling Buds of May (1958), the first of the popular Larkin family novels, was followed by A Breath of French Air (1959), When the Green Woods Laugh (1960), Oh! To Be in England (1963) and A Little of What You Fancy (1970). His works have been translated into sixteen languages. H. E. Bates was awarded the C.B.E. in 1973 and died in January 1974.