It’s book character dress-up day in school today. My sons haven’t entered into the spirit of it. I am quite sure that son no.2 didn’t mention it deliberately. The last few years I suggested that he should wear one of grandma’s home knits, sew an ‘R’ on the front and go as Ron Weasley. I even offered to buy an orange wig from a dollar shop. He wasn’t keen.
Son no.1 mentioned this morning that one of his more clever friends was going as Arthur Dent. Pyjamas and a dressing gown. Wearing slippers and I hope, not forgetting his towel. It helps with hitchhiking onto to alien space craft’s.
Oh how I wish I could go to school and play book character dress-ups. A young (but over-sized) Hermione. I have her hair in the first year down to a tee. And it’s naturally like that. Or or or. I could go as Aunt Fanny in the Famous Five series. Kind, stoic and always patient with Uncle Quentin. What about Mrs Twit? I could have lots of fun with that. And I wouldn’t need to brush my hair. There’s always Grandma in George’s Marvellous Medicine. I sometimes sound like her in the mornings, trying to get two teenage boys into my very small car.
I have been an obsessed reader since the age of six when I found my mum’s Famous Five collection on the bookshelf. I went from Blyton to Lewis Carrol. Alice in Wonderland, through the looking glass. Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Through the Glass Elevator. Judy Blume, until I finally fell completely bonkers in love with Douglas Adams.
I’ve taken my children on a similar journey. I read to son no.1 when he was in his cot. Alice. Later to both my sons. The Famous Five. About children who escape their parents and have adventures. Julian, Dick and Anne’s parents were shadowy figures in the background. We don’t know much of Alice’s – although her sister gets a mention.
The first Dahl I read them was The Twits. Apparently written by Dahl to do something about beards. He hated them. Mr Twit had a terrible beard, full of food eaten and hardened in its ghastliness. The awful couple were paid-back when their mistreated monkeys and a roly-poly bird used Mr Twits own glue to stick the Twit’s furniture to the ceiling. Making the dreadful couple think that they were living in an upside down world. Brilliant. I was fifteen when this book came out and didn’t actually read it until I read it to my eager sons. As a child I often wished the world was upside down and spent hours staring at ceilings and imagining it. That’s perfectly normal, isn’t it?
Then came Harry Potter. And the last series I read to them: The trilogy (there were in fact four books) of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Some people have a blanket as a comforter when times are confusing and upsetting. Some a soft toy. The first book in the series – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – was my comfort book. I have been known to wander around clutching it.
Sometimes when someone says ‘I don’t read’, I visibly shudder.
We can read fiction set in time and place. We can travel there and immerse ourselves in the culture and history of anywhere, in any time. Just by reading. It’s a kind of magic.
PS I apologise for any typos. My proof-reader (husband) is out.