It's not just a book thing!
by Di Digard, Features Editor, Guernsey Press
Five go to Kirrin Island
RAF Gutersloh, Germany. 1963. Some Forces kids don’t like the life. Upping sticks every three years, new schools, friends left behind, new ones to make. That was me: a self-contained child whose safe haven was a large armchair in which to curl up and enter more agreeable worlds. Enid has come in for a bit of stick since, but she knew how to talk to children, and the Famous Five were friends you never had to let go. I devoured every book, learning how to spell by osmosis, and romped to Grammar School on English results.
An isolated base in the Cotswolds was our next home and with a head full of Enid and a much younger sibling to entertain, I took to storytelling. A Petite typewriter, delivered by Santa, was the most exciting gift I’ve ever received and soon I was writing and illustrating Cuckoo Times, a hand-drawn comic starring a bird in a frock. A nine-year-old ‘journalist’ in tartan slippers, I bashed out stories based on life in a two-storey, tastefully accoutred alpine clock. The habit stuck and here I am, 40 years to the good in a career I’ve loved.
Other memorable reads? In my early 20s I enjoyed the work of the Mitford sisters plus the letters and diaries of Evelyn Waugh – as a snapshot of a world of privilege in the years between world wars, they’re unbeatable. Try Jessica Mitford’s Hons & Rebels as a starting point and ignore this from Nancy, who famously quipped: ‘I have only ever read one book in my life, and that is White Fang. It’s so frightfully good I’ve never bothered to read another’.
Set in the 1950s, Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls evokes memories of an Ireland that had barely moved on when I lived there in the late 60s. It was her first book and is also the first of a delightful trilogy.
A final favourite, but cast the mediocre 2003 film from your mind. Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun should be required reading for anyone planning a holiday there. Beautifully written, it accompanied me to Cortona several times, introduced me to Renaissance art and is 100 times better than any guidebook.