I loved reading as a child. Story books in particular. We never had a television so had to entertain ourselves when we came in after a long twilight of playing outside with our friends. Books were my escape from a family life which was often tense and stressful. Every Christmas I received a new copy of the ‘Girls own Annual’ – a yearly hardback album full of stories, puzzles, and pictures. I loved them and treasured them. Apparently, they fetch a lot on eBay if you have some in your attic.
And then there was dear old Rupert Bear in his tartan trousers and matching scarf. I loved his red pullover. He was around from the 1920s but I fell in love with him in the late fifties as I was growing up. He came in a comic strip form which I really enjoyed. He had amazing adventures and I often imagined that I was sharing them. I suppose I was in a way.
Ah, and Noddy and Big Ears and PC Plod. Enid Blyton at her best. I adored Noddy and his little yellow and red car. I loved his friends and the adventures they got up to, only to be admonished by a kindly PC Plod. I was appalled when as a student teacher in 1969 we were told they had been removed from the syllabus as Noddy and Big Ears shared a bed. Hmm. I don’t really think they got up to much mischief, but then who would know. He’s now a sort of cultural icon and has returned to our bookstores.
Enid Blyton continued to enthrall us as we devoured the Secret Seven and the Famous Five. As children, my friends and I dreamed of being able to go away without parental supervision and catch wicked spy rings or smugglers in the very act of smuggling pirated goods. They seemed to manage quite well camping, and must have had some adult supervision as they cooked basic meals and had a “jolly good time”. A real form of escapism as I was confined to my little bedroom and bed with its pink candlewick bedspread. I dreamt of caves, tunnels, abandoned castles, and windswept clifftops. None of which were in my immediate vicinity.
And then there were the fairy tales. Gruesome but compelling tales of misogyny and the subjugation of women – not that I knew it then. It was the magic, the wonder, the princess gown, the prince on his white horse, the treasure, and the castle turrets. Children were cruelly abused and abandoned, elderly women were cast in the role of kindly godmothers or wicked witches. A man chopped open a wolf’s belly and grandma stepped out. Gruesome indeed, but utterly compelling. I still love them.
And then in my teenage years, anything I could get hold of. Trashy teenage magazines offered a world of purchases I could not buy, any novel I could get from school or the library. They all fostered my passion for reading and the escapism it often brings. What books do you remember from your childhood days? Do you still have any of them?