A Slight Obsession

My mother read us books by the fire after our baths and before bed.  We had no television.  I remember “Masterman Ready” by Captain Marryat and “Anne of Green Gables” by L. M. Montgomery.

We went to the Invercargill Library regularly, where the children’s librarian, Miss Miller, helped us to choose.  I became an avid reader and because I had read all my books before it was time to return them, I was allowed to go to the library by myself on the bus at the age of eight.

I still have some books from my childhood. Each year, I saved up 12/6 to buy the School Friend Annual.


I still enjoy children’s books, including pop-ups. The pile, top left, is mainly Tintin  – the full set.


Limited shelf space means things get a little mixed up, but here is my crime fiction collection (in the living room with a rope).  There are also some DVDs of film or television versions of books.  Gardening books are on the bottom shelf.


There’s a shelf of books about books, next to my book journals and book bags, book cards, book pencils, book marks…


There are classics – and poetry:


And just old books.  The one on the far left is a Bobbsey Twins, The Greek Hat Mystery.  Intriguing.  I have read only one of these (the poetry) but have read Little Women and The Girl of the Limberlost by Alcott and Porter respectively.  I just like the age and look.


The Girl Crusoes was a childhood book of my mother’s.  I loved it as a child, but cringe reading it now.  It’s more or less a girls’ version of The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne, which William Golding satirised in Lord of the Flies.  Enid Blyton, however, was not approved of at home, so a teacher used to lend me the books, beginning with The Secret Seven.  I try to pass on the reading bug to my students too.  Colourful bunting across the room says: READ LOTS.  Many of my books, suitable for young adults, are on flat-pack shelves in my classroom and can be borrowed freely.  Often they don’t get returned, I don’t keep a record, and I hope they are out there somewhere circulating.  Sometimes I give them to a student who clearly loves a particular book.  And anyway, there’s not room for them all at home!  I have even resorted to reading books on the Kindle app, particularly when travelling, or when it isn’t a book I would particularly like to keep.


General fiction and non fiction, are overflowing in this bookcase:


Mixtures, including Little Grey Rabbit’s house (Alison Uttley) on the top shelf:


Bed-side books, most of them waiting to be read:


P. G. Wodehouse is “balm for the troubled soul” according to Stephen Fry.  I agree.  To keep us calm, Mum and I watched the full box set of Jeeves and Wooster after the February earthquake.  Here’s a favourite piece from The Inimitable Jeeves. Bertie is saying how he doesn’t get dragged into family rows, “the occasions when Aunt is calling Aunt like mastodons bellowing across primeval swamps”.

I made this bookcase at night-class in the 80s.  It’s ugly but it holds books!


All of Shonagh Koea’s books, which I wrote a thesis on in the late 90s, are on the bottom shelf.   My father made the bookcase when he was at school.  I painted it blue in the 80s.


More New Zealand books:


There are cook-books, of course.  More often looked at than used.



In addition to books, I have a compulsion to collect book-related things.  Here are Hunca Munca from The Tale of Two Bad Mice and Rupert.  I always found the Rupert books a bit strange, but it’s the only book I remember of the huge pile of books that a boy from down the road staggered into the house with (despite mum protesting that we were all infectious) and deposited on my bed to cheer me up when I had chicken pox or mumps or measles as a child.

That looks like a home-made bookcase too; probably made by one of my brothers.


Bookends which spell BOOK (if you look closely) bought at Trade Aid.  Note Mr Pecksniff, a Dickens character from Martin Chuzzlewit, top left.


A lamp which looks like a book when it is open:


And when it is closed:


My key ring features a dog reading a book:


This painting by Dunedin artist, Pauline Bellamy, interprets the annual book sale:


And, even though I’m not a fan of garden statuary on the whole, I couldn’t resist this one of a child reading.  The staff at the garden centre, where I found him, had already called him Hamish.  I added a little plaster bookworm.


So, a slight obsession…don’t you think?

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