Some books are parties to which you are invited, full of friends who are there even when you have no friends.
Everyone has that book, or series of books, that defines their childhood and influences their future lives in some way. This is mine. What’s yours, and why?
When I first discovered ‘Flambards’ by K.M Peyton, I devoured the whole series, and returned to them again and again. They had everything; a strong heroine who was so real to me she was like a best friend, a hero who had his weaknesses but it still gives me pangs when I think of his sad fate, and a First World War setting – not on the front line, but on the home front – which pits the rise of automobiles and airplanes against the decline of horses and cavalry, and delves into women’s rights and the crumbling of social divisions. Cleverly, the house – ‘Flambards’ – is a mirror that reflects this era of change in Britain. Its fate is directly affected by all that is going on around it, and yet it is also a symbol for everything the heroine is experiencing. She is tied to it. It becomes her heart.
Flambards taught me, like no other books I read in my childhood, that
In which Jo gets to look after a bookshop for a whole blinking day!
What’s the first nightmare you ever remember having? The first time you woke in a cold sweat, pulling your covers up to your nose and staring around your dark bedroom, completely terrified? This was mine…
The Mr. Tickle nightmare came out of nowhere when I was about four years old, but looking back at the text, it’s hardly surprising. And now I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who had this particular nightmare.
SPOILER ALERT: This is how Mr. Tickle ends…
The previous post – ‘First Day Nerves’ is connected to this one. Both come from the same story, which will probably be called APPLEHEART.
It will be a long time before I can call it a book, and, to be honest, it’s already been stewing for a good number of years. Checking back, I wrote the Appleheart excerpt in 2014, and First Day Nerves is from 2016. It’s now almost 2018 and I have the best part of four chapters. Four years to write four chapters!?
This is what I like to call a ‘slow-cook book’, and they’re often the best. I’ll keep adding to it, and all sorts of ideas will get mixed in along the way. It should make for lots of flavour, just like a long-simmered stew!
My mother said I would regret choosing art as a career. My father couldn’t care less what I chose. He was, however, worried about Ned and drama. If he’d ever seen any of Ned’s acting; if he’d bothered to go to the school plays or the drama group productions like I had, he wouldn’t have been so worried. My brother was a natural. We were still in nappies when he began to people his world with characters from his imagination. They occasionally took him over so that he became someone else entirely. Many times, over the years, his acting made me laugh so hard I was sick, or cry until I had a headache.
As kids, we would sit together in a tent pitched in the middle of the room we shared. It was like a wigwam, but one we’d made by haphazardly stitching old sheets together and stealing bamboo canes out of the garden. Only we two were allowed in. No family. No friends. Because, inside that tent, was our own little world. A stage for Ned, a studio for me. We would sit together for hours, forgetting empty tummies and full bladders and all the boring routines of life. I had my drawing pad and my coloured pencils on my knee. Ned told me all about the people in his world. I drew them for him.
“Draw an apple for Murphy. He loves apples more than anything.”
I drew an apple for Murphy and tilted the pad.
“No. He only likes red apples. Not green ones.”
I rubbed out the apple, picked up the red pencil, and started again. “What about Mia Emilia? What does she like best?”
“Mia Emilia doesn’t like anything anymore. She’s always sad. She has a face like this.” He pulled the saddest face I’d ever seen. “And she only ever talks in a whisper.”
Diaries are supposed to be full of secrets and intrigue. Rev. Robert Shields’ diary was absolutely not one of those diaries.
A short guide to the art of curtain-twitching.