Staue in the old town of Rheinfelden, Germany : perhaps Mother Goose
My reading thirst was quenched by comics as I was growing up. Mum and dad would read the odd book from the library, but I was never influenced by their taste in literature. I remember the daily comics, the Dandy and Beano to name two, later there was the Topper. I think my favourite story in the comics was Denis the Menace in the Beano.
I never had actual Bedtime stories. My dad was a great story teller, and his stories were always amusing. His war experiences were quite lively. It was only when I grew older and understood more, that he told me how it really was.
As soon as I was old enough to join, mum took me to the local lending library once a week. It was an old building in a park in Bethnal Green, an area in East London where we lived at the time. I was allowed to borrow two books each time we went. I was an early reader, one of those kids that could already read when I started school at the age of five, my first official story at school being “The Cat sat on the Mat”. That cat had all sorts of adventures in the first book, but the idea was to learn what the letters were and to write.
Anyhow back to the library: by the time I was eight years old I had read through the Grimm Fairy tales more than once. I have since learnt that the original stories would not really have been for children, far too brutal. I then progressed to Hans Christian Anderson and I think they were my favourites. I read them all and often came home with the same book from the library. Funny I cannot remember reading any stories from english writers. The Grimm brothers were German, Andersen a Dane and I also read Charles Perrault stories who was French. I believe he was the inventer of Little Red Hiding Hood and Cinderella amongst other stories. Anyhow that was my beginnings into the world of stories. At that time in the 1950’s there was not much else around.
I also liked to read encyclopedias. There were a few versions available for children and I suppose I had a sort of thirst for information at the time. My favourites were the stories about the dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. As a kid I was fascinated by them.
Time went on, my brain sort of developped I suppose and I believe my first “serious” books were the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I just loved them. I think I was then around 11 years old. I sort of grew up with books and remember I was then even able to borrow four books at a time from the library. I was even allowed into the grow-up section of the library.
I often wondered where this thirst for reading came from. Mum and dad were happy with the local newspaper. Dad loved to read spy stories, murder and whatever and mum very rarely actually had a book in her hands. So I did it all by myself I suppose, although I do remember my dad having a few very old classic books that he and his sister had collected at school as school prizes. I was thrilled when he gave me Dracula by Bram Stoker to read. I was then about 11. I still have the book. Perhaps not a bedtime story, but it impressed me.
I don’t think books influenced me in any way. I have not become a brilliant detective, nor do I have a longing to visit the local blood bank and try a few samples, although I must admit I was a blood donar for many years until I became diabetic. I love reading today, and prefer to spend an evening with a book instead of glaring into the TV, although I do like to see a few good films, and am an ardent fan of the East Enders soap.