After a recent meeting at the Oxfam bookshop about my storytelling sessions, I allowed myself a quick browse of their children’s bookshelves. Fifteen minutes later, I was staggering home under the weight of several gorgeous discoveries, one of which was a book that made me literally squeeeeeeeeal with glee.
‘My Book of Country Life’, published by Frederick Warne and Co., Ltd.
This is the kind of book that my sister and my cousins saw in the little upstairs sitting room of our Aunty Molly (technically a great aunt, but we never called her that) and which we’d sit and pore over, accompanied by glasses of fizzy Ribena and slightly soft crisps (Aunty Molly lived with her sister – our granny – and neither of them were particularly observant of the recommended ‘use by’ dates on certain products…).
Given that we used to skip around singing about being ‘country girls’ (my male cousin didn’t join in with this bit, I hasten to add) and imagining we lived a similar sort of life to Milly Molly Mandy, this book would have been adored by us all had we known about it then. However, this book belonged to someone else at the time, as yet unknowing of its place in my future among my prized loft treasures. It seems as though it was always destined to be a prize though, as upon opening the book I came across this inscription:
It was clearly a Sunday School prize for June Rose… in 1940! You can feel the history of the book in each page and it makes me quiver with excitement. Mum, who was an historian and archeologist prior to becoming a drama teacher, used to tell us on every visit to a new place that we should look up, as glancing above street level often reveals more about a building than a casual eye-level glance. She would also insist that we stop on each worn stone step to imagine the thousands of people over hundreds of years who had also trodden there.
I feel a similar way about second hand books, especially ones of such an age as this beautiful example. Just imagine all the people who’ve read it before me and who’ve shared happy moments among its pages. I haven’t yet had a chance to read the *whole* book in detail (I was too impatient to blog about it to do that), so I’m simply going to share some of the pictures with you and to let you know that I’m savoured every thick, soft page and crying happy tears over each of the full colour plates. I pass on my sincere thanks to June Rose, whoever and wherever she may now be, for passing this book into my hands. I promise to treasure it always.
The opening page: