Forty years of bedtime stories

My son Tom, born in 1977, was part of an early generation of children to be brought up on top-notch picture books. Puffin Picture Books, at £1.25 each, were an affordable treat for all of us. We didn’t tire of reading him ‘The elephant and the bad baby’, or ‘Not now, Bernard’, or anything illustrated by Quentin Blake or Allan Ahlberg.

The books we all loved were passed on to Elinor, then ten years later, to Emily.

Then they were carefully packed away for years. Elinor (aka Fanny the Champion of the World) married and had twins. Out came the boxes of books for Alex and Ben to enjoy.

Then these books, some almost as old as Tom himself, came full circle. His son William is enjoying them as much as his dad ever did.

Last night, this is what William picked to have read to him. Though there’s no need really. He knows everything off by heart.

A broken resolution

I only made one New Year’s Resolution this year, which is one more than I usually make.  This year, I would not buy any more second-hand books from charity shops – my main sources for all kinds of serendipitous purchases – till I’ve read almost every unread book on our own shelves.

Well, that worked.   It’s January 13th and I’ve just spend £3.75 on this little lot, culled from the charity shops of Ramsbottom, just up the road from where Ellie lives.


Ramsbotton is a post-industrial once-upon-a-mill town, a nice little market town with a whiff of artsiness about it. It has a cute little heritage railway: you can catch an East Lancashire steam train on high days and holidays.  There are lots of independent shops, great coffee shops and restaurants. As a side-line, it does a fine line in charity shops with book departments that are a cut above the average, and I spent a happy hour or two browsing this afternoon before the boys came home from school.

Ramsbottom seen from snowy fields.

I’m in Bolton this week because on Monday Ellie had her second operation, her mastectomy.  It went well, thanks, and she’s recovering at home.  Her dad and I  took turns to manage-a-patient and manage-a-dog and manage-the-twins .  The worst job is definitely getting the boys up in the morning.  They’re just like their mum used to be when she was 11.