Thank you Michael Bond

I’m supposed to be editing my thesis, and yet here I am trying to hide my tears because of the death of a man I never met. Michael Bond has died, and I am beyond words and yet words are what I turn to. How do you express your grief? How do you express your grief when you know that it will never, remotely, hit the kindly grace that Michael Bond hit in every sentence?

You begin, perhaps, by saying thank you. It is a simple sort of thing to say and yet one that I keep coming back to over and over again.

Thank you.

Thank you Michael Bond for your stories; for Olga Da Polga, Monsieur Pamplemousse and for Paddington. Thank you for your genuine and kind and warm and rich stories that defied their apparent simplicity to cut deeper, deeper than anybody may have ever expected.

Thank you for marmalade sandwiches. Thank you for making children the centre of your stories, thank you for trusting that that story was worth telling. Thank you for bears. Thank you for overly ambitious guinea pigs. Thank you for Pommes Frites. Thank you for honesty. Thank you for gentleness. Thank you for seeing the best in people, whoever they might be.

Thank you Michael Bond.

We were so very privileged to have known you.

Image result for sad paddington bear

There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us

Books speak.

I was reminded of this week when I picked up my old copy of Antonia Fraser’s Marie Antoinettebiography. My copy of this is worn; tired, quietly greying, and brim full of those blunt edges where the corners have just rounded off over time. But I love it. Every time I pick it up, I’m reminded of the place I got it from: Vaux le Vicomte.

Château de Vaux le Vicomte, France. Main entrance

(Photo: Wikipedia)

I have other books that do this to me. On my shelves right now is a well-read edition of Lord of the Rings.  It came from New Zealand*. Middle-Earth itself. To be precise, it came from here. I picked it up (with one of those cow bars of chocolate that Milka does), went and got myself a cocktail, sat just here –

– watched the sun set and drink my drink and have my choccy bar and contemplate becoming a Hobbit for ever.

Another book of mine that has an indelible image slam-printed onto it is my copy of Tom Tackles The Chalet School**. I was studying film production on a short course in Auckland and, on a day off, my friend and I decided to hit Devonport in Auckland. She hit the beach and I nerded out in the bookshops. I had been collecting the Chalet School books for aaaages and they’re not the easiest books to pick up when you’re broke and a thousand other people like you are doing the exact same thing.

I went into a bookshop (which I can’t find on Google now which makes me sad), and it was there.

In. The. First. Bookshop.

A pristine paperback copy of Tom.

In my budget.

Reader, I almost cried.

So yeah, I find books gorgeous. I find them magical and mystical and tear-inducing. My mum has a Dairy Cookbook that was the first cookbook she ever bought and I flick through it and see the recipes I remember from childhood, and the stains and burn marks that pattern my mum learning to cook.

‘Cause with some books, depending on where and how you get them, you don’t just get the one story. You don’t just get the story inside the book.

You get the story of yourself as well***.

* This might be also the perfect point to mention – New Zealand? Love to move back there. Would do so in a heartbeat. So if you’ve got a children’s literature collection, or a library that needs looking after, or a shed that needs squatting in, you let me know yeah?

** Tom Tackles The Chalet School. Oh dudes, this book  = amazing. Pash o’clock!

*** Proust. Madeleines. Looky here.