Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Corsets and Crinolines

The Ruby family have had one of those winters where we seem to catch everything going, sometimes more than once. It all started on November 5th, when, a few hours after the firework display, TR was sick. It's continued in that vein pretty much ever since. Roll on Spring, I say!

Today, three out of four Rubies are tucked at home, feeling too ill to do much of anything. Whether the smallest Ruby will stay healthy, or whether he's just biding his time, well I guess we'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, there may be a global recession but I like to think that we're keeping the paracetamol, bathroom cleaner and throat sweet economies buoyant. Want to buy shares? Unsure where to invest? You heard it here first!

Today the Mouse suggested that she and I watch the film version of Little Women and so we sat on the sofa together and shared tears and laughter along with the March family. The Mouse is a big fan of Little Women. She's read the abridged 'Usborne Stories for Girls' version and even attempted the original version, although she came unstuck rather at one of the long sermons. I remember my mum reading me 'Little Women' and 'Good Wives'. I think I was around nine or ten at the time. I then went on to read 'Jo's Boys' myself, which was a cunning trick my mum often played with books that were a little difficult for me: read me part of them and then leave them tantalisingly within reach, knowing full well that I'd be unable to resist the next installment. She's a clever one, my mum.

At eight years old, the Mouse is already something of a book worm. She reads almost constantly, which obviously I am delighted about, although when she's reading instead of getting ready to go somewhere, I am sometimes tempted to commit the sin of agreeing with the Louisa M Alcott quote, “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.” She also seems to have acknowledged the universal truth that, when you are too ill to do much of anything, a good sob on the sofa, to a nice period drama, is just what the doctor ordered.
Today she is too ill to read but is wise enough to know other ways to quench her continual thirst for
stories. After the film version of Little Women, she asked to listen to the audio CD of Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Little House in the Big Woods'. We are listening to it now, as I type. I just caught the line, 'And that was head cheese!' which, if you're interested, is some edible dish made from a pig's head. Can't say I fancy some at the moment.

Fun with a pig's bladder.
At the Mouse's age I was a book worm too. What impresses me about her book addiction is that the Mouse has plenty of other activities to distract her from reading, whereas I had pretty much nothing else to do. I often wonder if I would have been so immersed in a culture of reading and stories, had the usual distractions been available to me. As it was, not only was I a child in the technology-lite seventies, but I spent two years of that childhood living in a remote outpost of what was once the British Empire. We had no television, no toyshops: only playing outside in the surf... and books. I used to save up my 50c weekly pocket money until I had enough money to visit the book shop. Then we'd all take the twelve mile bus or LandRover journey together and I'd buy books in the English book shop: bliss! I remember clutching the book to me, cherishing it's 'new book' scent and desperately wishing-away the twelve mile journey so that I could finally start my new book. It sounds idyllic, doesn't it?

Tropical beaches, tropical diseases and a whole lot of reading.

On the downside, we fell ill there too, only with more exotic, tropical diseases: dengue fever, dystentery - that kind of thing. On one occasion I caught some illness that laid me low for two whole weeks. I had a high temperature and was delirious with it on occasion. A good friend lent me the box-set of Little House of Prairie, which I read avidly and thus begun a life-long love affair with the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Stuck upstairs in my room, while life carried on downstairs without me, I became completely immersed in Laura's world. In my delirium, Laura's pioneer life and my remote island existence merged, to the point where I began to hallucinate and, on one memorable occasion, ran downstairs in my underwear (it was too hot for pyjamas) and raved incoherently about jack rabbits. 'Jack rabbits! Jack rabbits! On my bed! Pa, shoot them - shoot the jack rabbits!' is apparently what I shrieked at everyone, to the undying amusement of the rest of my family. To this day, I remember being indignantly bundled back off to bed by my parents, who were both almost helpless with laughter.

Well, I'm not advocating becoming so immersed in literature that you can no longer tell the words on the page from the thoughts in your own head, but I am glad that the Mouse knows, already, what it is to lose yourself in a good book.


  1. My favourite instalment, it reminds me of me...(without the Jack Rabbits!)