119. Ssshh!

And on the subject of Family Planning, did you know that Marie Stopes disinherited her son because he married someone whom she considered to have ‘inferior traits’, namely poor eyesight? You did? I only heard the other day, whilst listening to an old In Our Time. It had passed me by completely, Marie Stopes being a eugenicist. Another hero bites the dust.

So often it seems that people who have Achieved Greatness, turn out to have trampled upon their family in the process. Gandhi was a bugger to his nearest and dearest, as was Dickens. Something to bear in mind when you’re next Planning your Family: avoid Greatness at all cost.  

I digress. What I had intended to say right at the start, if you hadn’t distracted me by going on about eugenics, was, talking about Family Planning, do organise, if you can, to have a cousin of the same gender, ideally about three years older than yourself. It’s an absolute winner when it comes to inheriting reading matter.

One of my golden memories, shining like a lamp-post through the Narnian mists of childhood, is a day when, for some reason, I was poorly. In those days we had proper childhood illnesses: ones that confined you to bed for weeks. None of this ‘quick dose of Calpol and back to school’ stuff.

Anyway, I’d caught something – measles, mumps or the like. I may have felt sorry for myself; I forget. But I do have a crystal clear memory of being presented with the most enormous pile of Annuals, donated by my Lovely-Older-Cousin.   Years and years’ worth: Bunty, June and Schoolfriend, Judy. The sun is streaming in through the window. The house is quiet. I am comfortably in bed with the Four Marys. Utter, complete bliss.

Perhaps it was this experience which set my default template for happiness: guilt-free, daytime reading, somewhere warm and quiet.  When I dream of the summer holidays, it’s this that I’m hoping for.

Term-time reading, squeezed in between work and sleep, is a pale, decaffeinated experience compared to its holiday self. This summer holiday – and I am still on holiday, not yet retired – this summer, I’ve wallowed in … whatever the collective noun is for detective novels. A Murder? A Red-herring? No, a Wimsey of detective novels. Also, a glorious Miss Read, where she takes an early retirement from teaching, visits Florence then becomes a writer. Amy Tan’s Bonesetter’s Daughter and David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten (proper literature, d’y’mind!) But the book which has surprised me the most, is the one I’ve had to tear myself away from this morning in order to write this blog. Unexpectedly, Northanger Abbey has had me laughing aloud.

Copyright Punch

Copyright Punch

I have read it before because some time in my second year at Uni, I had a week to write an essay on the novels of Jane Austen. It must have been a pretty swift skim, though, because it has left no trace of a memory.  Certainly I didn’t “get” the book, first time around.

This time though, as Catherine talks about her passion for Gothic novels, I can hear today’s youngsters discussing vampires. I can see younger Friends-and-Relations in the characters, and rejoice in the happy knowledge that I never have to be seventeen again.

It occurs to me that there may be other novels which I was made to read for essays and exams, that could now be enjoyed for their own sakes. It’s a shame that the summer holidays are about to finish.

Hang on a minute, though…

#NearlyAtEndOfTo-Do-Before-RetiringList #TermtimeHolidayJustBeenBookedInSorrento #MutleyStyleSniggering

Happy Birthday Pa!



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