Another rainy day, another epic battle. I was still at Primary School and visiting my Mum’s house for the weekend. None of my friends were playing out so I’d turned my bed into a scene from World War Two, and was well into the desperate defence of a beach somewhere, when my Mum came in. She was holding a brown paper bag in one hand and a five pound note in the other.
My Mum probably came into my room half a dozen times in all the time I lived with her so I knew this was something important. I sat on the edge of the bed, ignoring the small avalanche of plastic soldiers, and waited. Holding out the objects she asked me to choose which one I wanted. Five pounds was a lot of money to me. My pocket money at that time was 10p per week. Imagine what I could buy. Sweets. Comics. More soldiers. I felt light headed.
I looked at the brown paper bag. It was a rough rectangle, about the size of a toaster on its end, but other than that unfathomable. What could it be?
Mystery bag or five pound note? What would you do?
I took the mystery bag.
Inside were brand new paperback books. 8 of them. The Adventure Books by Enid Blyton. There were no books at my Gran’s house and the ones at school were dog eared and smelled funny – besides reading at school was a good way of getting beat up.
I can’t honestly remember how I felt but within minutes I was reading them, emerging myself into another world; meeting new characters; sharing their adventures. It was the one of the greatest gifts I ever received.
Soon came The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; Dune and the Adventures of Conan the Barbarian. Countless books followed; countless worlds; countless characters. Each night I would curl up in bed and read another chapter. I still do. To this day, one of my greatest joys is to buy a new book. I love the weight of it, the smell, the clean pages. Most of all I love the anticipation of what it will contain, until the moment I open it up and step into something wonderful.