I am soon to face one of my first enforced retirements, the ensuing decades will have many, but this is one of my favourite jobs. I am to become surplus to requirement, a savage axing due to the relentless march of a child’s developing intellect. My book at bedtime work will be no more. A short time ago, Roald Dahl was irretrievable beyond guesswork around what the illustrations of Quentin Blake portrayed. Then, the letters on the page started to take shape, this was no longer impenetrable code that only an adult’s superior mind could translate. The delight of reading about old women with “a puckered up mouth like a dog’s bottom” was accessible to him on his own. The act of reading simple phrases about a town mouse and a country mouse did not require a scrunched up face and overt concentration. After the first colour coded reading stages, there is a burst of momentum, the scales drop from the eyes, and all the books of the world will soon be available and comprehensible.
How my wife must wish this skill had been mastered during the Thomas the Tank Engine phase, oh how she loathed reading of machiavellian trucks and diesel engines.
How joyful it is to see all the family individually immersed at night-time, eyes wide with fascination and excitement as the minds of authors sketch out and fill in new worlds for us. In each brain, a different drama.
If we swapped books, we would still not have the same character’s faces, rooms and gizmos, the same words creating different landscapes and sideshows. What face will I draw for the greasy, halitosis exhaling headteacher? What will the portraits of each page be when my son gets around to reading Ubik (and he will, his father will rule with a rod of iron, just briefly, at some point in our family book tower).
On holiday, a phrase I have guilt in writing due to some image of being work obsessed that I feel duty bound to project, I read for pleasure. I always read for pleasure, but there is often a secondary task of filleting the book for information required for some show I want to create, or a hurried education in a subject we are going to investigate on The Infinite Monkey Cage (series 10 finished, but Christmas special in December). My reasons for reading The Shock of The Fall, The Man in the High Castle and Post Everything (Luke Haines second memoir of frustration, inebriation and composition) were entertainment, I didn’t even have to hold a pencil and a marker pen as I turned the pages (though I did, just in case).
I’d rather read about life than have to live it, though I try to do both.
My son, so recently on books that be summed as “Run, Jim, Run. Catch, Tim, Catch. Jump, Sally, Jump”, now benevolently tires his eyes with David Walliams’ books of demon dentists and boys in dresses. I would tell you more, but he doesn’t let me read over his shoulder.
There’s more to life than books you know…
The worst horror story? Surely it must be owl eyed Burgess Meredith, ready to read the books of the world in a post apocalyptic world, and then… his glasses falling to the ground and shattering (The Twilight Zone, was that a Rod Serling story?)
There are myths that warn of curiosity and education, punishments for Prometheus, serpents forced to crawl on their belly for fruit persuasion, if you really want to be a Wild One like Brando, be a rebel with a library card (late openings may differ).
TV lays it all out for you, sit back, disengage, reading is an activity. (and with 20% of your energy being used up by your brain, maybe it is slimming too).
off on tour as usual – west country, east country, north country and all over, starting in Croydon. Details HERE
new 3 hour long DVD of nonsense HERE