Friday, July 08, 2016

One for the books

"Whatchu reading?" My neighbour asked me as he walked by. He's a friendly, middle-aged guy I often see around the pool or the gym, and he always stops to chit-chat.

I was sitting by the pool with my book. Xena was in the middle of her swim lesson.

"You're not going to believe it." I said.

He stopped, looking really curious now. I showed him the cover of my book.

"HO!" He said. It sounded like something between surprise and delight. Exactly what I expected.

I was reading 'The Naughtiest Girl in the School'.

Yes, that book written in 1940 By Enid Blyton.

That book that I happened to chance upon because of a crazy craving Viv and I had for Coffee Club's muddy mudpie the other day. It is one of our favourite desserts, and when we crave that mudpie, we are willing to travel across the island for it. Both the branches we were aiming for had shut down (no, not closed for the day, but shut down omg), but it was not a wasted evening. We found an open-cart book sale, and it wasn't just any book sale. A book sale that pretty much felt like someone had filled up a sack with my childhood and emptied it into the carts. Famous Five. Secret Seven. Nancy Drew. Hardy Boys. St. Clare's. Malory Towers. You name it, they had it.

And... The Naughtiest Girl in the School.

My dad had bought me the book when I was maybe six or seven. He even wrote on the first page, "To the naughtiest girl in the world". (Gosh that was SO NOT TRUE -- I was always the teacher's pet and the nerd of the highest order in each of the seven schools I attended.)

Over the years, I read the book so many times that by the time it was time for me to come to Singapore, the book was in no state to accompany me. It lay in a box with other tattered and yellowed books from my childhood that my dad refused (and still refuses) to part with.

But now, not only had I found that book, I'd also found the next two in the series. And it had brought back some amazing memories. Of how wonderful boarding school used to sound, with the lacrosse and the horse-riding and the tuck boxes and the nature walks and the school meetings and the midnight feasts. Oh, how appealing the strange foods that I'd never had before sounded -- scones and sizzling bacon and potted meat and treacle and cream cheese and marmalade and golden syrup and ginger beer. Heck, she even made boiled eggs at a picnic sound mouthwatering. In later years, I had a chance to taste many of these items and to my utter dismay, most of them elicited nothing more than a 'yuck' from my taste buds. (Except ginger beer, of course. Nobody say anything bad about ginger beer, okay? Okay. Especially my all-time favourite - Bundaberg ginger beer.)

Viv hadn't been sure about me filling up our recently-Konmari'ed bookshelf with these books, but I knew I had to. He had no clue about the joy they sparked in me.

I had two big reasons to buy them.

One, I want Xena to read them some day.

Two, I want them for myself. Right now, later and forever. 


Arun said...

At some point in our growing up, our parents had a Konamari moment, and donated all our childhood books to the school library (from which they were promptly filched by various folks). My sister has a long-range program of finding and buying all the books we read as kids, ranging from the Dr. Suess, Enid Blyton, Billy Bunter and even Phantom comics.

I guess we book-readers are pretty much alike :)

Asha said...

Oh Sayesha....Naughtiest girl in the class. so many memories...i was in school where we could borrow a book a week,, I got introduced to End Blyton there. also Elizabeth. for some reason my dad, though an avid reader, disapproved of Enid Blyton. He bought me the Amar chitra kathas, naitonal boot trust books, russian authors but never Enid Blkyton. Not even on the one generous occasion when he asked me what i wanted for my birthday. this was around 1975 -76 when i was in 4th grade and parenting styles were different. i devoured every enid blyton i could lay my hands on when in school. i used to envy the punishment meted to a naughty child - bread and butter for lunch. i longed to be punished so. :-) then i grew up had kids of my own. once in 1996, when my boy was a 3 yr old, i happened to pass a raddi ki dukaan. just entered there on impulse. there was a bright red hard bound slightly tattered book which had caught my attention. and guess what.. it was The Naughtiest girl in the class. My happiness knew no bounds. he gave it to me for Rs 5/-. i cant tell u how happy i was to finally hold my own enid blyton in my hands ... and to remember the days when i craved for one. Bass, phir kya, with a vengeance i went to the bookstores and purchased the entire naughty girl series. ek ek kar ke joda hai series :-) and just like you wrote, i read the book with the same delight as i had when i was a child. during my school years, during grammar class, when we were taught letter writing, in english hindi and marathi, there would be one official letter where we had to write a letter to the Principal / Mukhyadhyapak, requesting sports equipment for the school. and i always requested lacrosse sticks. :-) Scones... for some reason i visualsied a scone as a nice crisp puff pastry like bread, shaped like a cone. when my sis moved to UK for a while in the early 2000's and asked me what i would like frm there, i asked her to get me some scones. :-) Such is the power of the written word ..o f books, of the imagination of a child and the impressions they leave on the mind which refuses to be wiped out. my taste in books is much more varied today... but I can still read the series with the same delight.

i havent commented on your blog in several years now, though i check for a post every single day.

sending you lots of love

- asha.

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SK said...

Coincidence! I was in UK last week, and got 3 Famous Five Books and read them on the flight, for old times sakes. I can sooo relate to this post! I wanted to be in a boarding school and have the same fun kids had at St Claires! I hope our children will enjoy them.

AA_Mom said...

Yay! All the books (well not Malory towers, don't know why I never found it interesting) have been introduced to my kids and it is such a pleasure to see them read and enjoy them. Lucky them! their reading menu is much wider than mine ever was. Not to mention now-a-days we have Pratham and other such publishing houses in India, so they get to read Indian culture in English, we only had ACK. oh BTW - I have now switched to reading what they read. So my current read is Charlie and the chocolate factory :)

Arun said...

Any book reviews from Xena?

newmomontheblock said...

Yes, the naughtiest girl in the class is one of my favorite books too. Sadly, in the US, I have not come across a lot of Enid Blyton books. Travelling to UK next month and hope to re-read Enid Blyton books

Arun said...

People make political-cultural issues out of Enid Blyton's books :(