Sunday, 11 March 2018

Books, books and books

Books are a major feature of my life. I am currently contemplating ripping out the fitted wardrobes in the spare bedroom to make more space for books.* I've kept lists, or even written reviews, of every book I've read in some years. Except when I didn't.

I don't, this time, have any Major Thoughts, or even Great Revelations, about books today. Instead I have a series of minor moments in my book-life.

Some people, especially those with children, will have been aware that it has been World Book Day recently. As is always the case, this involved LittleBear dressing up as a character from his favourite book. So far, so good. It also, this year, involved making a potato into a character from a favourite book. Because nothing says "books" like a potato. And it was a competition. Competitive potato-ing. Nothing says "books" like competitive potato-ing. So LittleBear and I turned  a baking potato into Winnie the Pooh-tato and a new potato into Piglet. Obviously I helped. I wielded the pipe cleaners with which to form arms and legs (and Piglet's head) and I sewed sleeves on Pooh's little red coat. But I bit my tongue, and sat on my hands, and let LittleBear do all required drawing, colouring and afixing of limbs, coats etc. And I was very proud of out joint effort.

Winnie the Pooh-tato

Then there was a display of all the entries in the school hall. And it became clear that the parents at LittleBear's school span the full spectrum when it comes to "helping" with homework. There were potatoes that were clearly entirely the work of a five-year old child. Or an adult with a Picasso-esque approach to the human form. There were potatoes that were clearly joint efforts. And then there were potatoes that no child had been allowed in the room during the construction of, that made me feel rather sad. Yes, they were beautiful, and clever, and creative. But so what?

On the plus side, World Book Day also results in LittleBear receiving a book token. And since today was Mothering Sunday, I chose my treat for the day - to be allowed a trip to the bookshop, and to be allowed the opportunity to purchase books for me. LittleBear could be persuaded that this was an admirable idea by assuring him that we would also be buying him a book. So we had a lovely time in Waterstones, and BigBear and I came away with five new books, and LittleBear with two new books. I excused this profligacy because I have a little card that gets stamped every time I spend £10 in Waterstones, and once it's been stamped 10 times, I get a £10 discount. And today was "free" £10 day, as we toppled over the 10 stamps mark**. BigBear seemed excessively keen to point out that this was not in fact a "free" £10, as I had spent at least £100 in obtaining it, but I was not going to allow the tedious minutiae of facts to get in the way of my frisson of excitement at receiving it.

The most exciting bit (for me) was the fact that LittleBear was taken by the idea of a new work of fiction, that he had not read before. Admittedly it's a rather clichéd "boy wants to be a premiership footballer" story, but nonetheless, it's a story, and not an encyclopedia of dinosaurs, sea creatures or volcanoes. We did buy a book about volcanoes as well, obviously. To maintain the momentum of having bought a new work of fiction, we started reading said clichéd football book after dinner. And carried on, and on, and on until bathtime. The tension was unbearable as Small Boy in Book faced bullying, and upset, and risk, and LittleBear clung on, desperate for a happy ending. Which is how BigBear ended up undertaking 50 minutes of bedtime reading, instead of 15 minutes, as there was absolutely no way that our LittleBear was going to go to sleep without knowing what happened to Small Boy in Book. For anyone who was concerned, there was a happy ending. Phew.

Meanwhile, I have been reading what is, I would say, the best popular science book I've ever read. It's interesting, well-written, stretches me to think without vanishing into overly technical jargon and without dumbing everything down. It's funny, it's entertaining and it's illuminating. So I shall issue forth a big thank you to my dear aunt, who recommended it to me over a year ago. I have rather parsimoniously waited until I could buy it in paperback instead of hardback. And besides which, my bookcases are all carefully crafted to house paperbacks as densely as possible, and hardbacks both don't fit and mess up my filing system. So I shall recommend to everyone else that they read "A brief history of everyone who ever lived" by Adam Rutherford. It's brilliant.

* This is not as absurd a bibliophilic step as it at first seems. The fitted wardrobes currently completely enclose a chimney. If they didn't, then the chimney could be face with books instead. I would have more bookcase space, and no longer have a pair of doors that open onto a blank, brick chimney breast. A win-win situation.

** I was delighted that the man at the till asked me if I had a new, plastic rewards card, or an old stamp card, and when I asked if I should move to the new system he said, "No, the old one's better, I'll give you another of those." Honesty from someone who is supposed to upsell you onto a scheme whereby they harvest your name, personal details, contact information and purchasing habits is a breath of refreshing air.

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