Great books to wake up with

10th October 2003 at 01:00
It's the October Week and time to get down to some serious reading in the mornings before the rest of the family gets up. In term time, I tend to get down to some non-serious reading before the rest of the family gets up but holidays are usually an opportunity to go beyond the crime section of Carluke library.

During the summer I sat on the patio of our Majorcan apartment and read A Scots Quair while the hotel workers prepared the pool for the day ahead and barely awake holidaymakers (none of whom were German) brought towels down to reserve their sun loungers.

I enjoyed Sunset Song and Cloud Howe. I didn't dislike Grey Granite but thought it was "OK and Scottish", which I fear is enough for some people in the country to tag it as "a great work". Two things drew me to A Scots Quair. One was a recommendation from a colleague. Another was that Sunset Song was, and doubtless still is in some places, a set text for Higher English.

I could not help wondering, as I read, what my reaction would have been if I had been asked to tackle such a novel when I was a pupil. I have been a voracious reader since I was seven, yet I fear that, as an S5 student, I would not have engaged with a book that I now see has such merit.

I wrote around a year ago of how I finally got round to rereading Pride and Prejudice, having loathed it with a passion that I could barely articulate when it was foisted on me as a 16 year-old. I enjoyed it second time round, as my English teacher predicted I would.

A couple of weeks ago a fellow physicist suggested that I read Henryson's poem The Cock and the Jasp. I tell you I was that cock but I am gradually scraping through the midden to find the jasps, in the form of pieces of literature or music, that I was content to ignore in my younger, cockier days. Not that finding them is going to stop me liking Inspector Rebus or the Proclaimers, mind.

I often think that physics teachers have it easier than our English-teaching brethren and sistern.

First off we're an elective subject and second we can usually whip out some sort of piece of experimental apparatus to stimulate and motivate. Not that we don't cast plenty of jasps before cocks ourselves.

But English teachers can take solace in the knowledge that, while some of their charges will doubtless read for pleasure during the holidays, not that many will do physics for fun.

Gregor Steele wants The House with the Green Shutters for Christmas.

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