If my Mum was my biggest reading influence when I was a child, then my Gran would have to come as a close second. My Gran has always been a big library user (being a librarian herself), and keeps a record of all the books she has read in an address book, filed alphabetically by author. She has page somewhere in that address book with a list of all the books she has given me for birthdays and Christmases – she began my love of Agatha Christie and fuelled my obsession with Odo Hirch. Some of the picture books she used to read to my sister and me when we visited had been read to my Dad when he was young, and some had been read to Gran my by Great-Nan. I especially remember multiple readings of The Story of Ping.
Yesterday my Gran, my sister Annabelle and I visited The Book Affair, a wonderful second-hand and antiquarian bookshop. I’ve talked about visiting The Book Affair before, but it was my Gran who noticed that the shop had moved around the corner from her. I will talk more about our visit and what I bought another time, but I will tell you about one of the books I bought – Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. Now, I’ve never read Winnie-the-Pooh, or any of Milne’s other books about Christopher Robin and his friends, but I have strong memories of listening to Now We Are Six and When We Were Very Young on tape in the car when driving with my Gran. We used to listen to the poems and count chimney pots whenever we were driving. So when I saw Winnie-the-Pooh while exploring the bookstore with my Gran, I knew I had to buy it.
When I told Gran so much later, she recited her favourite poem from memory:
Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
God bless Mummy. I know that’s right.
If I open my fingers a little bit more,
Mine has a hood and if I lie in bed,
Oh! Thank you God, for a lovely day.
Little boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
After visiting The Book Affair, we went back to Gran’s house and played Chinese Checkers and drink Bickford’s Lime Cordial – just like we did when we were little. It was lovely. Gran then pulled out some old books for me that she thought might be on the 1001 Children’s Books list, including The Story of Ferdinand and Struwwelpeter. Struwwelpeter had been given to my Grandfather’s sister (my great-aunt) from Father Christmas is 1931. I’ve mentioned before that I love old books because of all the history that has been soaked up between the pages, but there is something even more special about an old book that has your own history in it, your family history in it. It is a book that is thrice as special to me now.