You can live so many different lives through the power of books.
BOOKS! I bloody love them. The smell of them, the feel of them, the weird and wonderful covers.
I love a colourful picture on the front but equally I love a dark cover with nothing but the title and author embossed in gold. Oooooh mysterious.
Hardbacks definitely always feel and look special, but paperback is without doubt easier to read.
And I am torn over whether or not e-books are for me. On the one hand, numerous books all stored on one slim, lightweight device, literally there for you at the touch of a button – wow! On the other, I know I’d miss the joy of owning the physical pages. My bookcase would be empty and that thought makes me sad. Maybe I’ll come around to it one day. Just not one day soon!
I have my Mum to thank for my love of books. She would always read me a bedtime story. And we’d often curl up on an armchair together with a book while my older brother and sister were at school. I must have been tiny but I remember it vividly.
Some of our favourites were by the wonderful Shirley Hughes. Her stories are full of mischievous children and her illustrations are unique. If you have kids in your life and aren’t familiar with her work, get on it my friends!
Dogger is an absolute fave. A little boy called Dave loses his favourite soft toy, Dogger, at the Summer Fair. Poor little dude is heartbroken, I mean, we’ve all been there and it cuts deep. His big sister Bella saves the day, and I think maybe that’s why I love it so much. Her baby brother’s happiness is more important than her own, she is without doubt an out and out hero.
Other Shirley Hughes classics were the Alfie and Annie Rose stories and her illustrations for Dorothy Edwards' My Naughty Little Sister. A few years ago Mum and Dad surprised me with a print of an Annie Rose drawing for Christmas. I was speechless, I still don’t really believe I have her even though I’m looking at her right now hanging on my wall.
Then recently, my boyfriend surprised me with a signed book. What. The. Shit! I am one lucky girl!
And as for My Naughty Little Sister, I’ve been trying to get hold of the complete set of those stories for years. But no joy, booooo. If anyone ever happens to come across the complete collection, please let me know. You’d be my favourite person forever. I’ll buy you cake. And diamonds.
Enid Blyton was another fixture in our house, starting with Noddy and Big Ears. I remember one story with goblins that still haunt my nightmares today. They were a-holes.
Talking of Noddy brings me to my Nan. Who was hilarious if not slightly bat shit crazy. Whenever we visited her, we’d go for a walk in her village and stop at a beautiful thatched cottage. Nan told us it was Noddy’s house. But that wasn’t enough. Noooo. She’d walk through the gate, up to the front door and knock until the homeowner answered.
“Is Noddy home?”
He must have had some social life because he was never home once. Always out living it large with Big Ears and Tessie Bear every time we knocked. Absolute player.
As we got older we of course moved to The Famous Five. Loved the stories and sniggered every time Mum said Dick. My nephew started reading these a few years back. Babysitting one night I was reading him a couple of chapters while he cartwheeled and roly poly’d on, over, off the bed over and over again. I mean, why was I even bothering? But when I said it was time for bed, he had so many detailed questions and theories. He’d listened so hard and absorbed so much whilst self-training for the Olympic gymnastics team in his bedroom. I was so impressed that I read him three more chapters.
And that’s the joy of books, that you do become absorbed. You feel connected to the world on those pages and you want to know more and be a part of it.
I wanted Mrs Pepperpot to be my neighbour, to see her shrink to the size of a pepper pot and hear about her adventures.
I wanted to go to boarding school at Malory Towers and be friends with Darrell and Alicia.
And I definitely wanted to go to Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches with Mildred and Maud. Long before J.K Rowling introduced us to Hogwarts, there was already a generation of children dreaming of a school of witchcraft and wizardry thanks to the brilliant Jill Murphy.
No childhood reading is complete of course, without Roald Dahl. I think these were the first books where my reading obsession really took hold. I remember getting through Matilda and The BFG during a one week holiday to Spain. It was the first time we’d gone abroad and I was 11. Led in the sun (well sun creamed up, don’t you worry), with a cold drink and the magical, twisted world of Roald Dahl.
I’ve tried to make sure I always have copies of my childhood favourites, because they feel like a part of me.
In recent years, life, in particular work, has been so busy and so full of stress that I lost the time and space to read like I used to. But this past year, particularly since taking redundancy, has given me that back. And oh my, what a gift. I’d started to forget, but never again.
If you can, find the time to grab a book and delve in. It doesn't have to be fiction if that isn't your thing. History, science, whatever it may be. It takes your mind to a different place, away from whatever is happening today. Fiction or non-fiction, it learns, it imagines, it grows, but in a way that allows the other parts of your mind and your body to rest. It can feel indulgent but, for me anyway, it's essential self care.
Books are back baby and they’ve helped me feel like me again. They really are magic.
Lyds, out x