Friday, 17 January 2014

WHAT'S IN A BOOK?


Illustrated by ERNEST H. SHEPARD

You're looking at a book I bought back around 1977 or so.  "Big deal!" a few of you may be thinking, but I've posted it here because it reminds me of so many different moments in my life.  Of course, I've wittered on before about the associations that items can conjure up, but if I didn't return to a topic from time to time, I'd have little to write about - and then some of you might be placed in the unfortunate position of  having to find something a lot more worthwhile to do with your time than read this humble blog of mine.

I first saw this version of one of the all-time classics of literature in a magazine ad while awaiting my turn in a barber's shop one afternoon, circa 1976 or '77.  (Actually, it was a ladies hairdressing salon by the name of MARINA, which accommodated a traditional gents barber in a partitioned section at the back of the shop.)  Several weeks later,  I ordered a copy from a great place called MODATOYS in the local shopping precinct of one of my old neighbourhoods, and patiently waited to be informed of its arrival.


About a month or so later, myself and a friend decided to visit our old primary schools.  He had gone to one just around the corner from where I lived, and I had gone to another one not too far away from it when I had resided in a different part of the area quite a number of years previously.  After visiting those two schools and being given guided tours around them by their respective secretaries, we then called in upon the school we had both attended while living in another neighbourhood, the same one in which was located the toy (and book) shop referred to in the previous paragraph.

I should perhaps mention that we were only around 17 or 18, and schools were much more welcoming to former pupils - and far less security-conscious - than they are nowadays.  To once again walk the corridors and view the classrooms of our childhood was a magical thing, even 'though it had only been about six or seven years since we'd left.  Of course, at that time, those years were almost a third of our lives away, so, proportionately, it seemed like a much longer period than it would seem to me today.  (These days, six or seven years appear to be roughly equivalent to a fortnight back then.)


Anyway, being in the neighbourhood, we dropped in to the shop to enquire about my book.  Imagine my surprise to discover that they had 'phoned my house a couple of weeks earlier to let me know that the book was now in stock.  I had been out, but they had left a message with my father to pass on to me, which he hadn't.  Thanks, dad!  I didn't have enough on me, but I returned to the shop a few days later and paid for my new acquisition.

(Funnily enough, a few years later, another friend of mine relocated to England, and would 'phone me from work from time to time.  If I wasn't in, he would ask my father to let me know he had called, which he never did.  A case of parents regarding the affairs of their offspring as being too insignificant to worry about, much less remember, I guess, but it was annoying.  I only found out about them when my friend mentioned it in a 'cassette-a-letter' some time later.)


Anyway, back to the book.  Sometime back around 1985 or '86, having moved to yet another house, I bought a second copy of the same edition from a book club, and placed it alongside its predecessor on my shelf.  The later edition was slightly thinner, and had an orange cloth cover as opposed to red, but I got it in an introductory offer for about 50 pence (or less) so it was a welcome addition/spare to my collection.

So, whenever, I look at this particular edition of The WIND In The WILLOWS, there are many different things I associate with it:  The barber shop (which only recently relocated, but the separate section for gents was phased out long ago), the toy and book shop (now long-gone, alas, but it was there a good number of years and is sadly missed), the three primary schools of me and my friend (the one we both attended currently being demolished, the previous two not long fallen to the same fate), the two houses in which I lived when I obtained each copy of  that particular edition - and last, but  not least, my long-vanished youth, when I was young, strong and fit, with more years ahead of me than behind me - no longer the case, alas.


It also reminds me of my father's annoying inability to ever pass on a message.  All that history - and so much more besides - contained within the pages of one book.  Amazing when you think about it, eh?  If there are any particular books which conjure up distinct recollections of your own past, please feel free to share them with the rest of us in the comments section.

4 comments:

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Of course, I've wittered on before about the associations that items can conjure up, but if I didn't return to a topic from time to time, I'd have little to write about - and then some of you might be placed in the unfortunate position of having to find something a lot more worthwhile to do with your time than read this humble blog of mine.

That's OK, my life isn't that important to be doing something else than to read your wonderful posts!

I should perhaps mention that we were only around 18 or so, and schools were much more welcoming to former pupils - and far less security-conscious - than they are nowadays.

Lord knows the high school I went to wants nothing to do with me these days. :-(

To once again walk the corridors and view the classrooms of our childhood was a magical thing, even though it had only been about six years or so since we had left.

I'm more dismayed at mine however, what with replacing the grass in the football stadium with astroturf for starters!

Of course, at that time, six years was a third of our lives so, pro-proportionately, it seemed a much longer period than six years would seem to me today. (These days, six years appears to be roughly equivalent to a fortnight back then.)

The older I get, the shorter it seems.

I didn't have enough on me, but I returned to the shop a few days later and paid for my new acquisition.

Well thank God they didn't run out this time.

I wish I could think of a book that took up a memory in my childhood I still relate to personally, I suppose I had plenty of books but never really had one that stuck out in a time and place in my life that I wish was still there. The best I can think of is getting a copy of Chuck Jones' first autobiography "Chuck Amuck" by simply begging my mom to get me the book after seeing him on a morning news show (probably Today), sometime in 1989. We got it at Thackeray's Books, which use to be in a shopping center that no longer exists in it's present state (the book shop itself closed just before all that when Borders came to town and bought out it's employees, that place though didn't last too long either if you remember that story).
http://www.toledoblade.com/Retail/2005/02/01/Thackeray-s-Books-to-close-in-May.html

I still have that book, creases, marks and all. Too bad he never came to town or I would've had him sign it!

Kid said...

Great response, Chris - thanks. The staff had my book under the counter waiting for me, and thought I had come to collect it when I entered the shop. Of course, I didn't know it was in until they told me, but I assured them I'd be back for it in a few days, so no danger of them not having it for me.

And Chris, I'm sure your life IS important and that you have lots you could be doing, so I appreciate you taking the time to drop by.

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Thank you!

Kid said...

Nae bother.

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