Looking back at my reading habits before I left for a new life in Bristol, I wonder how I began to enjoy writing at all. At the age of ten and a half, my reading experience was mostly that of plastic model kit instructions, six illustrated volumes of WW2, guide books and local newspapers.
I had a fleet of plastic sailing ships along my windowsill: The Victory, the Santa Maria, the Great Western and the Golden Hind. I followed every line of instruction meticulously.
The six, red, embossed WW2 volumes occupied me for many hours. Whenever I visited a castle or other historic monument I was allowed a guide book to read. Other sources were comics and film publications such as ‘Picturegoer’. Whenever relatives visited us for a holiday, as we lived on the South Coast of the UK, I was given amazing books about the Royal Family. I still have all of these.
In junior school, my first encounter with anything pertaining to be literature was the wonderful ‘The Railway Children’. Each Friday afternoon, the class would sit in silence while the teacher brought out a large square of wood with a speaker in the middle and we listened to the weekly installments of this classic novel.
Did I possess an actual book of fiction you may well ask? I was given ‘The Iron Pirate’ by author Max Pemberton. The volume’s blue cloth cover was illustrated by a giant battleship plowing its way through rough seas. This volume disappeared before leaving for Bristol.
Happily a few years ago I spotted a copy for £1 in an antiquarian bookshop. Joy, oh joy, to be reunited with an old friend.
So there I stood waiting on Worthing Central Station, waiting for the cream and red Brighton to Cardiff train, a train which would literally transport me into the world of literature. Bristol waited.