Escape with a bad book

3rd June 2005 at 01:00
When I was aged seven, I had to go to hospital for a couple of days. To make this more palatable, my parents bought me a Corgi Toys Holmes Wrecker Truck (with twin cranes and a forward-tilting cab) and a copy of Enid Blyton's Five Go Off In a Caravan. It was my first real book.

The boy in the next bed kept throwing his furry donkey at me. I kept throwing it back. He thought it was a game. I thought it smelled as if he had urinated on it. Lying on my side with the thumb of my right hand keeping the book open, I became one with the story. I was right in there, Julian, Dick, George, Ann, Timmy the dog and Gregor.

Stevenson, when he wrote Kidnapped, might have tried to emulate the scene where Dick hides on the caravan roof, but he didn't come close. Literature, eh? When it's raining wee-soaked donkeys, you can escape in a good book.

There have been two lasting consequences of my Blyton experience. First, I always have a book on the go, sometimes worthy, more often entertaining havers in which the Masons try to stop the hero discovering (through clues left in the works of Picasso) that quantum mechanics can predict the Second Coming.

Second, I have an irrational belief that the moors hold secrets. Ghost trains, secret passages, tunnels, baddies' hide-outs - no Five book was complete without some or all of these elements.

A year ago, I dreamt that I had walked along a farm track near my house. As I crested a hill, I looked over the moorland and saw a strange, low building. My pre-teen self took the helm, melded Enid with paranoid science fiction, and knew that weird things were going on there.

A few weeks later, I cycled along the farm track. When I crested the hill I saw nothing unusual save for an anemometer on top of a tall mast. It was another year before the low building appeared, as part of the massive Black Law windfarm complex. It wasn't overly similar to my dream, which had probably owed more to a passage in a Des Dillon book than to precognition.

I was far from disappointed. Here is a positive, engaging use of technology. I like my real-life science that way.

As to fiction, I'll relax and enjoy the nonsense. Have you ever noticed that physics became uncertain round about the time surrealists and abstractionists started up in art? I'm sure there's a clue linking all this to the true meaning of the Book of Revelations buried under the Covenanter's Monument on Black Law Moor.

Gregor Steele bought Five Go to Smuggler's Top with the 36d gift voucher he received for his only school sporting success (second in the primary 5 sack race).

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