But a recent tweet from Mat Tobin, accompanied by a photo of a clearly much-loved and vintage Ursula le Guin, made me think about just how much I do, however, love the tanned pages of an old book: the papery dustiness of a volume that has sat on a shelf for years, but that once upon a time had been taken down and read and re-read, squashed into a bag, lost on a train, sat on a cafeteria table, or all of these and more, is irresistibly redolent of a romantic past.
Two neon-pink sticky labels are still present from when I selected poems to set for a song cycle. One of them made it to the final cut; the other, The Beechwood by Andrew Young, still languishes here. Looking again at the latter poem, I can spot the lines that originally caught my attention and which sum up the whole 'story' of the cycle I eventually wrote:
And yet I never lose the feelingThat someone close behind is stealingOr else in front has disappeared;
I won't remove those sticky labels. They are part of that 'someone close behind'.
Day 8: Yum Yum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Viking Kestrel, First American edition, 1985)
The Ahlbergs understood children's minds and humour in a way that I don't think has ever quite been matched by any other author or illustrator. Their books are always playful and I particularly admire the way they avoid any hint of arch irony that could so easily creep into their narratives.
|The sadly absent |
In Yum Yum, each double page spread has a set of two or more cut outs that can be mixed and matched between the slots on the page. So the reader can enjoy swapping the robot's tin-can-and-springs breakfast with the little human's boiled egg. But of course that's the tidy grown-up way of exploring the book. Children swap the foods all over the place so the children's birthday party spread is filled with plates of worms, the dog gets a lime jelly, while a gruesome monster enjoys a box of liquorice-allsorts.
I am lucky that my copy has all the cut-outs present; all but one - the final page's slot is empty. 'Ice Cream for You' is missing but to compensate, there is an extra birthday cake slotted into the party scene. I like to think that two children both owning the book once decided to swap their cut outs - one preferring ice-cream to cake. Perhaps, out there somewhere, there is another copy of Yum Yum with two sundaes. Maybe it's your own!
Day 9: Best Stories of Church and Clergy ed. by Christopher Bradby & Anne Ridler (Faber, First edition, 1966)