Postaday2011: It has to be books …

I guess I have always been a reader for as long as I can remember and my first experience of reading was as an infant. It was that time when I was quite a good reader but still struggled over some words. I remember one word vividly and try as I might I could not work out what it was. I never asked because I think I was quite a shy child. So I carried on reading the story and using this word as I sounded it out until one day it suddenly made sense ban an a was actually banana. I don’t remember the title of that book but I sure remember struggling over that word.

According to my mother, I pestered her to teach me to read long before I went to school which I guess was pretty impressive in the 50’s. The first poem I ever remember is Christina Georgina Rosetti’s  ‘Little Brown Brother‘. I loved it so much that I memorised it and even made up music for it and still remember it to this day. I have always remembered how easy it was to learn something put to music and have used it constantly when I was teaching.

This is the poem.

Little Brown brother, oh little brown brother , are you awake in the dark? Here we lie cosily close to each other, Hark to the song of the Lark. Waken the lark says, waken and dress you, Put on your green coats and gay. Blue skies will will shine on you sunshine caress you, Waken! ”tis morning, ’tis May.

Little brown brother, oh little brown brother, What kind of a flower will you be? I’ll be a poppy, all white like my mother, Oh do be a poppy like me. What! you’re a sunflower, Oh how I shall miss you, when you are grown golden and high, but I shall send all the bees up to kiss you, my little brown brother, goodbye.

The first book I remember was a children’s book about a little girl called Bunchy. Having done a little research there was an author by the name of Joyce Lankester Brisley who wrote two novels Bunchy and another Bunchy Book in 1951 so they could well be the books . I think it was her adventures in her imaginary world that helped take me out of myself  but I am not sure if I would approve of some of the antics they were allowed to get away with those days. There was another book that I really don’t remember but it involved nature and creatures from the countryside, insects and birds and a child joining them in their life… They could have been Bunchy, I thought they were, maybe I shall never know but they sure made a big impact on me.

I was such an avid reader that it would be difficult to remember all the books I read but as I grew up I read many of the classics. Pinocchio –  the original of course. My mother still has that book along with another favourite The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley which I also adored, once again it takes a child away from the terrible realities of things. I wasn’t really aware that what was happening to us as children was wrong until I was older and someone told me it was abuse. To us that’s what life was and we accepted it back then but maybe psychologically I did seek to escape from reality quite a lot, not just in my reading but the way I really related to the characters in these books.

I read all the fairy stories by the Grimm brothers and Hans Christian Anderson. I struggled to understand the language of Dickens but I read some of his too. Gulliver’s Travels by Johnathan Swift was another one. Reading was such a big part of my life and I developed a love for books that contiued after I became a mother.

There were always books in our home and the collection started when My oldest son, David was a baby. There was an offer somewhere on ladybird books, maybe with a cereal or something, but I collected them all. I also made sure they had other books about the world around them and I am sure they will remember the books about the park, the beach and the countryside as well as the nature books and ladybird books on the weather, clouds and the stars.

Today I have quite a large library, I would call it, that includes text books, educational books, English grammar etc, dictionaries of many different sorts, non fiction books, self help books as well as novels and classics. My problem was that I fell in love with the books and never wanted to let them go so my collection grew and grew. Today I have several hundred, from Virginia woolf, Dickens, Shakespeare, The Bronte sisters, many of those I read for uni, but more modern books by CJ Sansom, Steig Larson, John Grisholm and so on have also been added to my collection.

Looking at it from an objective point of view, it might be easy to say that I used books as an escapeism from a rather brutal childhood but back then, I just loved reading.  My childhood was, just my childhood. Today I still have a thirst for knowledge and since studying literary history, I am aware just how important the classics are to us how we can understand more about the past by reading them because, like today’s writers, we write about what we know.

The books I like reading today are the historical novels, not the Catherine Cookson type, although I have read all of hers and other authors in the same style , my preference is for thrillers, murder mystery  stories but most of all stories based in medieval England. I simply loved the Shardlake series by Sansom and I can only put it down to my love of social history, however there is something that draws me to that era. I always feel quite at home when I am reading them… maybe it was a past life or maybe it was just that ability to escape into a fantasy world. Either way, it’s still a lovely warm, safe place to be and books have given me a huge appreciation of myself and the world around me, whether it be reality, fantasy, history or supernatural, I just love books!

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