Yesterday, or perhaps the day before, I thought to myself: “Where did all my childhood books go?” and quickly decided to assume that my mum had sold them all at a book sale – that’s what she did with all the Enid Blyton books, I know.
Today I was waiting for Princess Mononoke to come on Film4+1, having missed the start of it on E4. I was only ten minutes late, but last time it was on I missed the start and then had problems understanding the plot, so I decided to wait for the repeat. I flicked through the channels and Back to the Secret Garden was on Five. My copy of The Secret Garden was from a cereal box offer where you got that in with a few other books if you saved up the tokens and sent off the coupon. I knew I still had that, it was on my bookshelf in all its battered glory. I thought I’d managed to save just that one, because it was my favourite, but I didn’t understand why I hadn’t kept Tom’s Midnight Garden or Charlotte’s Web either.
After watching Princess Mononoke, which is pretty good, by the way, although I wish they’d hurry up and repeat Kiki’s Delivery Service too because it owns my heart, I went upstairs to tidy the top of one of my wardrobes.
Oh the joy of tidying your room, then undergoing intellectual development enough to eradicate some memories, then, several years later, tidying your room again. I found such treasures. The rest of the cereal-box books, some cartoons my best friend Claire drew when we were at school (mostly of us and our role-playing game characters), more books, some crappy CDs, and more books.
My week was made by the finding of Flying Pig To The Rescue, which is an pretty obscure children’s book which I completely adored and kept re-reading long after it was too basic for me. It’s about a pig who can fly but nobody knows except his sister, and he adopts a superhero guise in order to save a satellite and the ozone layer. It’s absolutely full of really bad pig-related puns, even the names of the characters are pig-puns.
I also found my pretty battered copies of Matilda and Harriet The Spy. I remember that when I read Matilda I spent ages trying to see if I could move objects with my mind. I reasoned that although my family weren’t evil, I was clever and was bullied at school so that should be enough to make me telekinetic. No such luck. I had to content myself with imagining what I would do with those powers. Harriet The Spy started off an absolutely massive obsession with spies. I decided I wanted to be a spy when I grew up, and collected any book on spies and code writing that I could find. I started scribbling notes in notebooks about everyone I knew, and tried to cover a miniature notebook in orange, green and yellow bits of tissue and sugar paper in a camouflage pattern – I have no idea why I thought this was essential. I also wished someone would notice me and send me to a psychiatrist, although I had no idea what they were for. When the film came out I was excited, but once I saw it was very disappointed. I expected the film to be exactly like the book, and they left so much of it out! It disturbed me that they could do that, and I read the book several more times in a row to try to wipe out the incorrect version from my memory. That film is probably the reason why Michelle Trachtenberg annoyed me so much when she turned up in Buffy!
I also found several Jacqueline Wilson books. Oh yes. I too had the dreaded “Jacqueline Wilson phase”. I’d say that 90% of British females go through the “Jacqueline Wilson phase” in their late pre-teen years and early teens. It takes hold of you and there is no escaping it until it has run its course. It starts when one of your friends recommends you one of her books. Or when everyone else in your class is reading her books, so you think you should too. Or one of your relatives buys you one. Or the librarian suggests them. You start and for a while you’re obsessed, but then you get bored and move on to more mature fiction. Wilson’s books are good for what they are, edutainment for angsty kids, but they’re not the sort of thing you treasure forever as an adult. Although they deal with issues that affect children pretty well, they still manage to be quite shallow (I say this, and I cried at Double Act! It was the bit when Ruby was ignoring Garnet and being really mean, they’re twins, so naturally before that argument they did everything together, and I thought it was so horrible to poor Garnet). I think it’s because they’re not realistic enough – there is no swearing or sex in Jacqueline Wilson novels, even between adults, and there is always a happy ending. So I have a whole pile of these to shift onto BookMooch or the charity shop. Or perhaps I shall keep them for when my female cousins go through the phase. Although I think I might cling on to The Illustrated Mum, Girls Under Pressure and Girls Out Late, because the TV versions were actually quite good. Or The Illustrated Mum was. Girls In Love was pretty bad, what with the goth stereotypes being taken to the max – classic ITV scriptwriting there – but the guy who played Russell was kinda hot and it did have Olivia Hallinan, later of the fabulously weird Sugar Rush in it.