Part of the job description of being a mother is that you have to be organised.  Not only do you have to manage your own life, but the lives of all the other members of your family.   Like a spider at the centre of a web, you have to weave and spin the endlessly fluctuating basic needs, appointments, wardrobe and the social engagements of 4 people.  The only way I manage to do this is by keeping a kind of sacred notebook which contains many, many TO DO lists.

The problem is that fairly often I lose the sacred notebook.  At this point, in a panic, I start another list and add at the top ‘Find List Notebook!’  Because my dark secret is that I am really a total scatterbrain.

At school, this was no secret and I was labelled a dreamboat – ‘Hopeless Poppy’.  I was always having to wear the spare gym kit, which smelt faintly of mould and urine. It was humiliating, but I never seemed to learn.  My problem was that I loved reading and disappearing inside my own head.  It was my own space, as being the eldest of 5 children I was always trying to carve out a solitude that didn’t exist. I read on the loo, a great family tradition, that my son carries on to this very day.  I read in bed, late into the night, with a torch hidden under the covers and would turn up to school everyday with greeny blue circles under my eyes.  In the holidays, with my mother busy bringing up yet another baby, I would take out the full quota of 8 books from the library, take them up to my eyrie on the top bunk, and read the whole lot.  I would read at school whenever I could.  The sewing lesson was my prime reading time – it took me over a year to finish my embroidered bookmark.

My son is the same.  I watch him emerge in a happy dream from the school building, with his glasses perched at an angle on his nose.  He never has his reading record book, I never hear any news of what’s happening at school and his knack of losing uniform is quite an art.  If you give him a new book, he sits down exactly where he is, usually in the dark on the bottom step, curled over it, locked into another world. He is uncontactable. ‘Move Daniel,’ I urge him, ‘there’s no light there’.  ‘Come and sit on the sofa’.  But he doesn’t hear me.

My daughter’s relationship with reading is totally different, although of course that may change with age, but at the moment, reading for her is pure theatre.  If my husband happens to be home in time he has to audition for the job of bedtime reading.  ‘Do a pwincess voice,’ she orders. He complies.  ‘No – THAT’s not a very pwincessy voice!’ and he is banished.  Sometimes even Mummy isn’t up to scratch, and she demands that I am quiet for the dialogue, which she fills in with lisping flamboyance.

If we only knew, as children, what it is to be free, free to think and be, free from the tyranny of the lists.

  1. Josh said:

    Ha, reading! loved it at school: Wilard Price, Hardy Boys and later Stephen King.. rarely happens now and only non-fiction: Malcolm Gladwell and er.. hmm other occasional stuff.
    Our little Miss has a way to go before reading age 🙂 We’ll see which way it goes

    • I used to read Willard Price too – the girly books weren’t nearly as fun. The other ones I really liked were the Three Investigators too…excellent. Daniel now into ‘Beast Quest’ books, of which there are about 3,000.

      • Josh said:

        Hmm, I only spotted your reply to my previous comments yesterday.. must’ve missed the notifications..
        I used to read 3 investigators too. D Stollar spotted one once and somehow thought it was horror. He (and D Hipshon) were serious book police! But it didn’t stop us obviously 🙂

  2. Great post, I didn’t notice you being a dream boat at school! I’m so grateful to the author Adam Blade as he’s got my seven year old addicted to reading. Its wonderful when slow starters take a giant leap into the world of books. Is that our allotment by the way?-Nice!

    • Didn’t you? I suppose by the time I got to 6th Form I’d managed to extract my head from the clouds a little, but from 10 – 14 or so, I really was living in lala-land. Yes, it’s so great when the reading thing clicks and they’re suddenly head down, absorbed. Hilarious that I just wrote the reply to Josh re Adam Blade then read your comment. Daniel is addicted! xxx

  3. Lynne said:

    Love the post Poppy – shame I can’t get Matthew into reading at all. He’s in the top stream at school which I guess is something, but would never pick up a book to read unless I insist. Oh well, know what you mean about dream land though – Matthew is definitely one of worlds greatest dreamers. Teacher often tells me he has to bring him “back” in the class room.

  4. Rebecca Pickles said:

    Ah so lovely Pops and so true. I’m missing seeing you all! So glad we are meeting this Saturday. Matthew just brought up his birthday in conversation (no idea what we are doing!) but Daniel and Roseanna are top of his list of invitees!


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