Me and my library;Interview;Geraldine McEwan

13th August 1999 at 01:00
When I was a child we lived in the village of Old Windsor and every Saturday morning my father and I and my elder sister, Jean, cycled into town, past the castle, with our library books in the baskets on the front of our bikes. Choosing books for the next week was a great treat.

My father, who was a printer's compositor, was an avid reader and he introduced us to all the great books, for which I am incredibly grateful because they had a terrific effect on me. We began with the English classics and, as we got older, read Russian and French novels. I was thinking the other day that I would like to read Crime and Punishment again. I first got that from the Windsor library.

I remember my father used to buy my sister and me a packet of Maltesers and my mum some Liquorice Allsorts on Saturdays. The four of us would sit around the fire on Saturday evening reading our books and eating our sweets and then we would listen to Saturday Night Theatre on the radio. I went to the grammar school in Windsor and started as an assistant stage manager at the local theatre when I was 16.

The library I go to most now is in King's Langley in Hertfordshire, where my daughter, Claudia, lives with her two-year-old twins, Freddie and Arthur. The boys have been going to the library every week since they could walk and they absolutely adore it. I read to them a lot and it's lovely to see their faces when they are choosing books.

There's such a variety, which is just what children want. They are avid for different things all the time. They began with baby board books and now they like books about animals. The Berenstain Bears are very popular and the Mick Inkpen books about Kipper the dog and Judith Kerr's stories about Mog the cat. They like Postman Pat too. They get out videos from the library as well. Bob the Builder and Kipper are great favourites.

I enjoy reading. I usually have at least one book on the go. I've just read Love is Where it Falls, Simon Callow's new book about the play agent Peggy Ramsay, whom I knew, and have finally got around to Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres. I owe my enthusiasm for reading to those early days at Windsor library.

Geraldine McEwan is currently appearing in "Hay Fever" at the Savoy Theatre, London, presented as part of the Noel Coward centenary year celebrations. She was talking to Pamela Coleman

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