When I was eight years old my mother got ill.
Nobody told me that her illness was life threatening, but you know.
I had a much older brother and a distant father. My mother was the only dependable warmth between me and the world. It was a terrifying time.
I took refuge reading the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. The central character of the Famous Five for me was George. A tomboy girl with strong emotions.
George was an only child with a distant father and, in one of the early books, a mother in quarantine with scarlet fever.
I was lucky. My mother regained her health and lived for another twenty five years.
It’s easy to look back as an adult, with pop psychology in hand, to understand why the Famous Five books were, and remain, so important to me.
But even if I couldn’t articulate the reasons, the strong emotions (that I can barely contain while writing this) would remain.
And I honour those strong emotions by displaying my Famous Five collection wherever I call home. (In the photo above they are also topped by a bowl made by my mother in a pottery class a few years after she recovered.)
And the colour of the books, that specific shade of sun-bleached red, is also with me when I make decisions about the other objects I bring into my home. I have lived with red doors and red table napkins. I smile now as I glance in the corner and see my red vacuum cleaner.
Homes aren’t just about re-sale value, northern light and a dishwasher. Homes are also about living amongst the objects that connect you to your past, your memories, your goals and your true self.
My collection of Famous Five books may seem unimportant to others. That doesn’t matter at all. They are in my home to remind me everyday how reading can transport and transform us, and that the child in all of us never really goes away.
If you’re also a Famous Five fan, you’ll enjoy reading Amber McNaught’s article ’35 things we learned from The Famous Five’. When I say ‘enjoy’ I mean laugh hysterically and wonder what permanent damage your childhood reading has done to you.