Becoming a bookworm

by MJM

Memories of my early childhood seem very uncluttered, simple, uncomplicated. I grew up in the early 60s. My parents had moved out of London to Broxbourne into a newly built house on Bell Lane. Unlike my current home stuffed full of belongings and furniture, my memories are of a sparse room, a couple of second-hand armchairs, a circular cane chair and rectangular coffee table (now probably a design classic). No fitted carpet in those days instead a highly prized white bound rug. 

My sister arrived on the scene when I was three. Born upstairs at home with the assistance of a midwife, reminiscent of the books and TV series, “Call the Midwife”. Mrs Riggs, the kindly mother of a friend of my mum’s, looked after me downstairs. I remember distinctly tidying my mum’s needle workbasket, a strange activity for a 3-year-old considering the dangers of scissors, needles and pins but with the allure of the colourful cotton reels.

While my father worked in the city walking across the park to Broxbourne station each day, my Mum looked after us girls. I have memories of walking to the Hoddesdon Health clinic holding on to the Silver Cross pram to pick up milk or special orange juice. My Mother loved reading and from the earliest age she took us to the library. At that time what became Lowewood Museum was the library. It was always a special place to visit. I have a distinct memory of the cool stone staircase winding up to an area with bookcases. I don’t remember there being vast numbers of books for children like today, but still remember the feeling of excitement of taking a couple home. The attraction of visiting the library was enhanced by the circular stone fishpond and aviary in the garden behind. We loved to spot the goldfish swimming in the dark water.

Memories of shopping involved visiting individual shops. I remember the smell of the butchers shop in the parade of shops in Broxbourne, a combination of sawdust on the floor and the hanging carcasses. I did however have a morbid fascination with the rabbits and pheasants hanging outside. My favourite shop however was the bookshop on Brocket Road. A tiny shop stuffed floor to ceiling with books and run by a man who did magic tricks. It was here my parents bought me the book that turned me into a bookworm, “Little house in the big woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I still have it on my bookshelves today.

At the age of 7, we moved from Broxbourne to just over the Essex border to the village of Roydon. Unlike today the village had a greengrocer, Co-op, butchers, post office with gift shop, hairdressers and newsagent as well as a school and police station, everything within walking distance. Everyday we walked to school with Mum, fending off with her shopping bag, a gaggle of geese from Temple Farm grazing on the green.

Summer holidays seemed long and sunny and for me the highlight was being allowed to walk along the footpath to the village hall twice a week where the Essex library service ran a library from big bookcases in one of the rooms. Little did I know at that time that books would play such a big part in my life and future career.

This page was added on 24/06/2020.

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