I have already written about books and how they have always been a major part of my life. My parents loved books. My maternal grandparents, the only grandparents I knew, loved books. My grandmother wrote a book on her life, which was published, and many short stories which were not. My mother, a visual artist, also wrote a published book. Both my father and my grandfather penned several short stories, something I didn’t know until I found their scribblings while sorting through my parent’s house. I spent many hours writing poems, diary entries and even stories for children. One of my stories was illustrated by my mother and we unsuccessfully sent it off to a publisher when I was maybe thirteen or fourteen. I grew up surrounded by bookshelves stuffed with a variety of genres, languages, hard and soft covers. Now and again there would be discussions, not whether to buy another bookshelf, but where it would fit.
My mother often read to me before I could understand those squiggly markings on each page. I have vague, sepia memories of watching the pages of Peter Rabbit books and various Golden Books, including “Nurse Nancy”, being turned while I snuggled next to her on our sofa, or in bed. Later memories of listening to “The Little White Horse” by Elizabeth Goudge, or “A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, are much clearer. I couldn’t wait until our evening meal was finished and the dishes done because that was when the next chapter would be read.
As I grew older I devoured books. I was a sickly child, more often than not confined to bed, and I spent those days and nights reading. I read all of the Famous Five series and every other book by Enid Blyton. I read all of the Lone Pine Five series by Malcolm Saville. I read the Narnia series, all of the books by Louisa May Alcott and all of the books by E. Nesbit. I was no longer relying on my mother to read to me and I re-read the books we had already perused together.
Books for me were an escape, a window to another world. I was never the most social of children and I was also quite awkward. I was also an only child and most of my parent’s friends were either childless or had children much older than myself, therefore I had to find a way to occupy myself quietly. So I read.
I read quickly. I was an addict. Even when I wasn’t sick I spent much of my time in my bedroom reading. It was not unusual for me to read ten or twelve books a day. When I had finished every book in a series I craved the next one. My biggest disappointments at the time were finding out my favourite authors had died and were no longer capable of producing books.
Now and again, when chatting with friends, we try to decide which time of our lives we would return to if we could. I don’t even have to think. I would love to go back to the time when I had nothing else to do but read.