I caught Scarlet Fever when I was 11 and reluctant to remain in bed, I commandeered the living room sofa where I remained enwrapped in a crochet-squared blanket. My Aunt Bridie brought me a box of books her own children had outgrown, a full set of Bancroft Classics.
There were 48 of them, all abridged but nevertheless a meaty read and I got through a good chunk while wrapped in that crochet blanket. Within a few months I had read all of them.
They were the books that forged my reading taste and not only did I hang on to every word but each hardback cover boasted a beautiful printed scene and I would gaze at them long after I'd finished reading.
I arrived home from school one day to find they had gone. My mother told me: "But you'd finished reading them and they take up so much room." Grief didn't quite cover it.
Years passed and the books were forgotten until this year. I found 2 volumes in a broken cardboard box beneath a flea-market stall. They cost just 10 pence each. As soon as I picked one up, memories and emotions became so thick it was like brushing away a thick cobweb that entangled me. I recaptured one of the few happy memories I have of childhood and reconnected to a Godsend that shaped my future.
I found another in a Whitby antique shop and one recently in my local olde worlde bookshop, it was lying on a wooden spiral staircase. My mission is to find all 48 BUT not via the internet, that would be too easy. I prefer the hunt, rummaging around in dusty places, the thrill of knowing I have a mission whenever I got to somewhere new.
I look at my 4 old books and see beyond what they meant to me. Recapturing youth? Yes, but there is a deeper connection and I will call it my 'midlife crisis'. There's a greater significance and I can't quite yet put my finger on it.
|My Needful Books|