What a great idea this has been for January, regressing to childhood, snuggled under a blanket with a book that just opens the flood gates of memory and what a wonderful time I've had with Five Children and It by E.Nesbit and a delight to be reunited with the gorgeously stroppy little Psammaed.
'Grown-up people find it very difficult to believe really wonderful things, unless they have what they call proof. But children will believe almost anything and grown-ups know this.'
How much time I may have spent
as a child hoping to find a Psammead is another thing entirely because,
yes I did believe just about everything I was told and so this book
would have been no exception. But how amazing that I can read it again
now and be so deeply embedded in the whole story all over again,
because I truly was.
How easy it is then still to relate to the writing of Edith Nesbit when she says things like
'The best part of it all was that there were no rules about not going to places and not doing things. In London almost everything is labelled 'You mustn't touch', and though the label is invisible, it's just as bad, because you know it's there, or if you don't you jolly soon get told.'
And so I was on the train and travelling to the house in
the country with Anthea, Cyril, Robert, Jane and the big nuisance baby
known as the Lamb. Off we went to dig in the gravel pit because yet
again the parents have been dispensed with, the servants are in charge
and we are all free to roam. The bad-tempered little sand fairy, the
Psammead appears out of the gravel to grant a daily wish and the fun
My favourite was the day we all asked for wings because,
'...really there is nothing like wings for getting you into trouble. But on the other hand, if you are in trouble, there is nothing like wings for getting you out of it.'
There are lessons to be learned and as Edith herself suggests, morals will slip in come what may,
'morals are nasty forward beings and will keep shoving their oars in where they are not wanted.'
all wonderfully controlled subversion but with consequences which the
children have to consider each time they make a wish which then goes
hopelessly off on a frolic of it's own.
Be warned, wishing a house into a castle is a risky business and do err on the side of caution when asking for your baby Lamb to be taken away by gypsies because this will also land you in terrible trouble that you might regret.
Quite interesting how I'm now noticing that it is essential to get the parents out of the way before the fun can begin and I know exactly how this translated when I was a child, Sunday Evensong that's how.
Once we'd shown willing at Sunday School and Church in the morning my brother and I were exempt from Evensong but at twelve (him) and ten (me) considered old enough and responsible enough to manage home alone for about an hour and a half.
I knew we'd get caught out and it was not my idea for the one in the back garden (my brother) to try and shoot arrows right over the house to the one waiting in the front garden (me).
Well I waited and I waited until breathless he suddenly appeared,
'Just come and take a look at this' he gushed and to this day I still marvel at the sight of that arrow stuck firmly to the parents' bedroom ceiling. It had somehow shot through the little open fanlight window (praise be the thing was open or this could have been much worse) and there it was a-quivering. Of course pulling it off left a great big black blob on the ceiling which neither of us thought would be in the least incriminating but of course we hadn't reckoned on the Tinker's astute powers of observation.
I think the end result was a lot of laughter but the bow and arrow was certainly confiscated and we returned to being good children for a week or so, and that might have been either before or after my earliest illicit encounter with a sewing machine, which was also a Sunday Evensong moment, but one which I'll save for another day, that was the daring 1950s for you.
I defy anyone not to find their Inner Child and roll up laughing when they read Five Children and It, some moments of pure un-adult-erated childish joy emerged as I read, and the end result is of course that I must be happy with my lot in life and I must not wish for the wool shop to be moved to my spare room...though many would argue that's unnecessary, it's already there.
Next Friday I'll share my selection for my second Inner Child reading weekend of 2009 and I can't wait to read them, have you chosen yours?