Tag Archives: Noel Streatfeild


Willow_Bird_House_2Earworms, those songs that drill down into your brain and just won’t go away.  Today I have had a little birdhouse in my soul  and in an attempt to move it on to a birdhouse elsewhere I put on this  .  Old I know, but I do know more of the words and I like the philosophy.  Now I have a free electric birdhouse flying free in my mind.  Not a great result.

However, it did get me thinking about the book that becomes the bee in my bonnet. Is it possible for bits of books to worm their way into your mind and take over for days at a time?  I don’t mean quotes, they are too specific.  That is the equivalent of knowing all the words and being able to sing the entire song from beginning to end complete with instrumentals.  No, I mean a visual of a scene that lodges just behind your eyes and occasionally blurs your sight.

One of my first wordworms was from Noel Streatfield’s autobiography A Vicarage Family .  The scene at the end of the book when John comes home from the war and meets Victoria in the garden.  The death of innocence.  It was the beginning of my fascination with World War One.  From the military strategies (I read Clausewitz On War in my early twenties, followed rapidly by The Seven Pillars of Wisdom ) to the personal testimonies both published and in the stacks at the Imperial War Museum and National Army Museum.

This was followed by Render Unto Kaiser.  I don’t imagine anyone outside South Africa has read this.  I went to work in The Transkei in 1981, I was 18.  I was naive and full of hope and optimism.  I left full of hope and optimism but it was tempered by reality, by poverty, by death and by a realism that my white, middle class, western ideals were not necessarily appropriate nor shared.  The book holds the distinction of being the only one banned by the Matanzima brothers.  Hardly surprising, it is an eloquent expose of a puppet regime.

The next was The Poisonwood Bible , to be honest the entire book reverberates around my head on a regular basis.  I think I bang on about it probably rather too much.  It is my favourite book, my desert island book.  It is both a tragedy and a beacon of hope.  I reread it on a regular basis.  I cannot let it go and it won’t let me go.

There is clearly a war/suppression theme going on for the final wordworm comes from River of Time by Jon Swain.  If the First World War fascinated me then the Indochina wars gripped me.  I watched every film (both good and awful), read every book, devoured every documentary and can still remember watching the news reports as a child as my father patiently explained who everyone was.  The chapter when he leaves his girlfriend to return to Phnom Penh knowing he cannot stay away is both heartbreaking and at the same time, for me an idealistic young girl who wanted to change the world – downright bloody fantastic.

So now I look at my own book (s).  Is there anything there that could worm its way into a reader’s mind for life?  Timesmudger – sadly not.  Dorothy, well there I hope there is.  She is in my mind all the time.  I can’t shift the bugger.  But will she hold the same power over anyone else?


Nostalgia, books, puffins and even a competition

According to second-hand booksellers our appetite to revisit the books we read as children is as strong as ever.  However, we want the same edition we read first time around.  If we read  Stig of the Dump in 1973 we want the puffin edition that was out then, we do not want to read the very same book in the 1980 cover.  How, ridiculous.  But is it really?

I have kept many of my childhood books, but by no means all of them.  I live in a huge house but even we would have had problems if we had to find homes for every book I had ever owned. During the seventies I lived in Notting Hill Gate, and on the corner of Hillgate Street and Uxbridge Street there was a cavernous second-hand book shop.  It was more of a second-hand book shed but I loved it.  Last time I looked it was a trendy delicatessen.  I preferred it as a book shed.

The chap who owned it bought and sold books by the yard.  I would pile up all my 2/6 (later 12 1/2 p) Puffin books, he’d give me a price and then I’d spend it buying  more books from him or from a stall in the back of one of the covered   markets halfway down the Portabello.  Over the years I must have bought and sold several miles of books.

I kept a lot of childhood books, but every now and then I have a yen for one that slipped through the net.  The Family from One End Street (plus the subsequent Further Adventures of … and The Holiday at Dew Drop Inn) by Eve Garnett and A Vicarage Family by Noel Streatfield were recent examples.  I can buy all three books in their most recent incarnations, but I want the editions I read as a child.

This one

one end streetand this one

vicarage family  So I completely understand why people won’t just buy the current edition off the shelf.  It’s not just a book, it’s part of your history.

As part of my leaving gift to the school I am leaving I have bought some books for the newly refurbished library.  I asked for  suggestions and had a fun morning with Eileen at The Bookcase choosing modern fiction for teenagers.  Then I got home and thought over the books that were my go to books when I was young.  There was not much in the way of books for teenagers in those days, we tended to leap from Noel Streatfield to John Wyndham and Morris West in one leap.  As my father bought hundreds of books I just started on his library when I outgrew mine.

The more I flicked through Google, the more I realised how these books had shaped me, shaped my own preferred writing style.  Some of them I still read.  So, in addition to those above, here are a few of my childhood favorites.  What are yours?

Princess-and-the-Goblin and all the subsequent books

heidiand Heidi Grows up and Heidi’s children.  I wanted to marry Peter.


the entire series of


Not for reading – but this was a well-thumbed book as a child – and with my own children.


and finally

blackbeard  There are so many more, just a taste of my favorites.

I had two of these too:

BADGThe white one and a black one for being a member of the Puffin Club for four years.  I still have them both.

SNIFFUP! (I’ll send a prize, I’ve no idea what, to the first person to respond correctly to that!)