My parents never read to me when I was a child. Seriously. My mum was too busy working and my dad wasn’t the bookish type. So it was left to my grandmother, who sat me on her lap, opened the newspaper, the then broadsheet Daily Express, read the daily adventures of Rupert the Bear, following the words with her finger, and then left me to look at the headlines and the classified ads. Little wonder, then that I grew up a news junkie with a good grasp of middle right politics and the benefits of Crimplene slacks.
When I did get into reading fiction, other than the tales of those scamps Jack and Jill at school, then later Jackie with the racy problems posed to Cathy and Claire, it was heavy literature. Anyone else read all of Thomas Hardy’s novels? Or Solzhenitsyn’s? How about a good dose of Aldous Huxley, or George Orwell? A bit of Bronte? Vonnegut for light relief? Good serious stuff, hundreds of pages without a single picture except the Penguin logo.
But I didn’t realise I’d missed out on a whole tranche of stories found in the children’s section of the library. Noel had read them all to his children, but of course I hadn’t. And when you’re a grown up, well, you don’t do that kind of thing, do you?
I decided to plug my reading gap, in and among newspapers and grown-up books and have just finished Heidi, Johanna Spyri’s 1880 story of an orphan sent to live in the mountains with her grumpy granddad. Oh my goodness the story is gorgeous and beautifully written, can I confess the tears were leaping from my eyes as I read it on the flight back to the UK? Naturally I blamed the dry air in the cabin, but we know different, don’t we?
Next stop, Peter Pan. Then I think I might try a bit of Roald Dahl…….