A lifelong passion for books

A blog piece about my love of books is well over due I think. And like many of my blog pieces its something that I have been thinking about for a wee while.

Sometimes when you love things you do just take them for granted and don’t think about it too much and books for me have been a life long passion which have been with me from a young child and I am delighted that I am able now to give something back with the work that I have been doing for the Borders Book Festival and other related projects via Bright Light Marketing. http://www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk/news/local-headlines/report_reveals_book_festival_brought_in_2_7m_cash_bonanza_to_borders_1_315811

My love of books is well-known within my family and friends.  My son when describing me in his story book at school said “mum reads all the time.  She seems to like it alot.”  My daughter is also very aware of my love of books.  On Tuesday this week I had to change my sons plans for the afternoon so I could attend my book club in the evening.  He was not best pleased and though he is gradually coming out of his famous tantrums they do occur from time to time.  The signs were there that he was about to blow when my daughter said to him

Look we have our clubs and our interests that mum takes us too.  Dad has his clubs and interests.  Mum has nothing bar her book club and she loves it so don’t give her a hard time.”

  I was very chuffed at the understanding but a bit taken a back that it was my only interest!  Till I realised that she is right the age and stage the kids are at at means that  outside my work my life is taken up with the kids which I am sure many a mum will understand. 

Books have been a passion from an early age and I devoured books as soon as I was able to read.  Enid Blyton was a particular favourite and I loved the majority of her books from Malory Towers and St Claire to the secret mystery books with the famous mint sweets.  To my favourite the Island of Adventure and of course the Famous Five.  I loved all the traditional books from the Secret Garden to Heidi and Ballet Shoes.  It all inspired my imagination and got me into another world.  As I grew older I loved the Hardie boys and Nancy Drew and used to play being her as I thought she was the ultimate in sophistication.  I then became interested in books that I had to read at school and this is when I read my all time life changing two books.  To Kill a Mocking Bird and Dr Zhivago.  To Kill a Mocking Bird key lesson which is to see things not from your angle but stepping into the shoes of others has stayed with me all my life.  I read it again this summer and still think its lessons are invaluable as we still judge people today by our own values and often fail to see how they might see things or might be feeling.  Dr Zhivago was the first historic fiction I ever read and it gave me a love of not only historic fiction but also a love of Russia which I then studied in far more detail at University when I did history and politics.  To this day I love that book set against the downfall of the Tsar and the Russian Revolution and can always get something new from it.

Studying English literature at University was for me of great interest but I went for my first love of history which I also feel mirrors literature as it is in itself a story that you can learn from.  Though University did see the change in my reading patterns from fiction to factual books.  At Edinburgh University I was often to be found in the great bookshop James Thin’s but not in the fiction department but the history and politics.  This change from fiction to fact did not really change over my 20’s as I went from studying history and politics to studying marketing at Napier at night and I have today a huge marketing library on every marketing topic under the sun as well as a very good Russian history library.  Fiction wise it was a lean point not that I didn’t read as I did 14 plus books would come with us on holiday but just that with doing so much studying I tended to read chick flick during this period.  Not that there is anything wrong with that you can’t beat it for a great escape but nothing really stands out for me in this period but this maybe is because I was so busy consuming facts.  Though in saying that and he would object greatly to being put in the chick flick genre I did read Ian Rankin continuing my interest in crime fiction at this stage and it was armed with his book “let it bleed” I went into hospital to give birth to my daughter!  It was a distraction honestly! 

This then marked a change in my reading habits.  I have continued to read facts and am still up to date with marketing books and I confess armed with a new baby I did buy baby guru books which I read avidly so I could learn how to be a mother!  Here I would say for the first time books let me down you can’t read to be a mother you just need to go with your own intuition and do the best you can for your children and no book can help you with that!  A mother’s intuition rules here!

However at this point having established my marketing career and finished my studies well for just now!  I reverted back to fiction in my reading aided by three things.

Firstly I fell back in love with books due to the Borders Book Festival.  Now I do now project work for this event and for me it is a busmans holiday as I fell in love with the event first well before working for the organisation .  The Borders Book Festival takes place each year in Harmony House in Melrose a fantastic setting on the third weekend  in June.  The setting can’t be beat in my view but that is not what I fell in love with I fell in love with reading all over again and the thrill of actually hearing and speaking to authors in a small intimate setting.  As a child I had been lucky enough to hear Michael Bond the author of Paddington Bear at the sadly now gone bookshop Smiths in Glasgow.  I can remember it all so clearly.  We went into Glasgow by train and then on to the bookshop where as well as learning more about Paddington we also got to eat iced buns.  To this day I always think of that event when I eat iced buns and Paddington is a favourite character of mine.  So now each year in June I look forward to meeting authors that I love, celebrities that I admire such as Sheila Hancock and authors I would not have read had I not seen them at the festival such as Simon Mawer who wrote the great novel the Glass House.  At this festival words as their strapline says came alive for me once more.  2010 was a remarkable year for me Borders Book Festival wise.  My daughter and I had for some time been following the story of Bo the poodle who goes back in time by the author Annabel Claridge.  Not only did we have the privilege of meeting Annabel in person but she took the time to chat with us and we then met up with her later in the summer at the Traquair fair.  For my daughter and I it was a huge thrill especially meeting her real life poodle who she bases the books on.  Her books were always vivid and real for my daughter and I but but so much more so now.

In addition to the Borders Book Festival a few years after the festival started unfortunately the famous auction shop in our village closed down in sad circumstances and it was a great blow for the village at the time.  After a while though rumours began to circulate that a new shop was going to open up and then I heard the magic words that it was going to be a bookshop.  I could hardly believe it.  St Boswells is a small village at the time with three main shops and it was to be honest one of the last things I thought would would have opened up.  But open up it did and it isn’t just any bookshop.  Mainstreet Trading is the bookshop that you just want to visit and linger in.  It is bright and welcoming and as well as the temptation of books it also offers a coffee shop with great coffee and home-made cakes.  The children’s department has won the award as being the best in the UK as it is simply superb and completely targeted at children and it is the first place you enter from the main entrance.  The adult section is great too and since it opened a few things have happened.  Our bank account regularly sees Mainstreet trading on its statements as the whole family, like the Borders book festival, love the place.  My husband has greatly extended our vast range of cookery books from its range of great and unusual cook books.  For example we have finally been able to get a genuine Spanish cook book.  The children just love the books. And I have developed and changed my range of fiction as a result as I see books that I just wouldn’t see online or might not consider.  You just can’t beat reading and taking a book in at a bookshop.  This has been greatly assisted by author events at the bookshop.  One recent one was for a new fiction author Sylvia Loch who has written a book called “The Algarve Affair” which just took me into another world and was greatly assisted by the insight that I had by hearing her speak.  She is famous in horse circles as she writes horse dressage books but this is her first fiction book.  I also heard Anne Fine speak here and though I did not enjoy the characters of her book “my precious Lulu” it certainly made me think about my own relationships.  I particularly have been made to step out of my reading comfort zone in a good way by joining the book club that takes place in the bookshop.  Mainstreet have always had a day time book club which due to work I was not able to attend.  So I was delighted but nervous when an evening book shop started.  Part of me was thrilled and part of me was worried would I look or feel stupid? Could I actually speak up?  It has been a great experience not only have I met a really nice bunch of people but I have opened myself up to a new world in my reading journey.  It is just great to be able to discuss books with others who are also in love with books.  And I am amazed each time how it has made me look at each book that we have read in a different way just like to Kill a Mocking Bird seeing it through other people’s eyes and it really has transformed my reading not to mention the book choices have also taken me out of my comfort zone.  This month we read “Sister” a thriller by Rosamund Lupton which had me hooked from beginning to end.  Previously we read the “Life of Pi” which I just would not have seen as my thing yet it was fascinating.  It has also introduced me into buying different books as each meeting we discuss what we are all reading which is why I am now reading “Room “by Emma Donoghue seeing life through the voice of a 5-year-old boy who is locked in a small room with his mother.  Again I would not have picked it up but I am so glad that I have.  It is very thought-provoking.

The third thing that has changed my reading is my children taking me back to old favourites but yet seeing them in a different light and finding new ones.  I have read to the kids since they were babies and reading has always been central to bed time and our favourite time of day a cuddle and a read.  Together we discovered joys like Duck in the Truck and My Sister among others.  Progressed as you do to Katie Morag and Maisie Mackenzie to where we are today.  Which with my son is hearing about the ever-increasing mischief that Horrid Henry gets up to who is painful but funny unlike his saintly little brother Peter and reading up about the football team that a wee boy called Luke runs who is not a skilled player but passionate about the game of football.  My daughter has many of my old favourites on her book shelf which are now her  favourites which include politically correct or not Enid Blyton.  My view is that as I haven’t become a right-wing bigot that the cynics think she creates that my intelligent daughter can see the stories for what they are great pieces of fiction that take you to a different world.  We have also discovered new books to us both such as the Great General Marchmouse the great mouse!  Or Eva Ibbotson who writes great older novels for kids whose imagination is truly superb and my daughter and I just had to finish the latest book we were reading last night well past bedtime as we had to know the end.  A shared passion and excitement.

So I have had a life time of reading and it is one of my greatest pleasures in life.  Both fact and fiction.  Fact as I learn so much and fiction as it takes me into another world and allows my imagination to soar!  So it was with great pleasure that I sat today meeting Alistair Moffat and Paula Ogilvie of the Borders Book Festival at Mainstreet Trading to discuss a book related project.  Work and personal interest combined a great combination!

Have a great weekend and happy reading either fact or fiction!

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About fionadranesblog

40 plus mum of two married with a mad cocker spaniel. Along with two colleagues run Bright Light Marketing a rural marketing agency who specialise in getting rural businesss noticed. www.brightlightmarketing.co.uk. Live in St Boswells in the wonderful Scottish Borders. Love books, walking and living life to the full here in the Scottish Borders though its sometimes a juggle!
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