I’m trying to commit to writing a post a fortnight. This one is now a day overdue but hey! Life happens I guess. On the plus side I have been making good progress with my latest WIP. (‘Work in progress’ for those who aren’t blessed with automatic understanding of writerly shortcuts)
Anyway to get to the point I was in York the other day and had time to kill so I dropped into Oxfam book shop to browse.
The very first bookcase I looked at held ‘vintage’ books. Aside from feeling a bit put out that books from my childhood should now be vintage those packed shelves brought back the memory of my own collection with the intensity of a gut punch. I was instantly full of excitement and anticipation at seeing those rows of brightly coloured, hardback spines but also a feeling of sadness.
I’ve always collected books and I started when I was four when my mum took me to buy my first ‘grown-up’ book which was The Wishing Chair, by Enid Blyton.
My books were kept on a bookcase in my bedroom (which I shared) and I used to regularly take them all off the shelves to count them, like a miser counting his hoard. I wrote the number of each book in the top right hand corner of the front page and declared my ownership by writing my name in each one too. Sacrilege I know but at the time they were my property and I wanted that ownership marked so that it was beyond contention.
I loved that collection. In a constantly growing family those books were some of the rare things that were solely mine and, as none of my siblings liked to read as much as I did, I had no competition when it came to books and I didn’t have to share them.
Shortly after I turned eleven and when my collection was about 18 books short of reaching 200, we were forced to emigrate and I had to leave most of them behind. As any bibliophile can understand, it broke my heart. I loved those books. They weren’t just my possessions, and my escape but they were part of me. Part of who I was.
So when I saw the bookshelf in Oxfam I experienced a kaleidoscope of feelings: coming home, finding a part of myself, being reunited with old friends.
I bought two books, Mr Pinkwhistle by E. Blyton and Adventure Stories also by Ms Blyton.
And I sat down and skim read them.
Adventure stories was still a great book. Cousins uncovering spies and doing their heroic bit was wonderful. Sadly though Mr Pinkwhistle was no longer the same seen through the eyes of the adult me. Society has moved on so much, I have moved on and I have to say I found it downright sinister. Totally icky in fact.
The only things that brought back some of the childish joy for me were the wonderful illustrations. So simple and gentle and full of movement, there’s a wonderful freshness and innocence to them that still resonates with me. I remember what a temptation they were for us and how many of them were coloured in with crayons.
So those books were rather like being at a party and bumping into old, old friends. Some you still have much in common with and you pick up where you left off but others…it can only be a joy when you can say goodbye.
Nowadays I have a new bookcase, several in fact, choc full of books that give me just as much joy and that are mine, all mine but I’ll still go into that Oxfam and browse those ‘vintage’ books. You never know, among those old, old friends I might chance on the odd, consistent diamond.
What about you? Do you have memories of old books? What did your childhood books mean to you? Did you have favourites?