‘Hey lady, you okay?’ Someone pushed a tissue into my hand as fat tears slid down my cheeks and splashed onto the table below.
2007. Laos. Travelling alone. Reason for the sobbing? Loneliness? A dodgy hostel? Missing the monks’ procession at dawn by only five minutes dammit?
No, the cause of my sadness was reading the final chapter of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens whilst sat in a café in Luang Prabang. The owner of the cafe I was in tried to mop my tears whilst simultaneously waving me out of the café in case I upset the other customers.
What did I learn from this? Choose your reading place carefully. Now every time I reread that book, I save it until summer when I can safely curl up in the reading chair at home and savour the pain and beauty of the ending without having to worry that I may scare small children with my anguished sobs. If you have never tried the book, and you enjoy a timeless tale of love and sacrifice and true goodness, then grab a Kleenex and brace yourself.
‘The reading chair?’ I hear you ask. Oh, yes. After many false starts with large sofas, small sofas, beanbags, garden loungers and patio chairs, I have finally found my Sanctuary. A big, squashy, brown leather club chair by a sunny window. A baseball glove of a chair that provides complete comfort, is low enough to allow easy reach to a cup of tea, and is wipe-clean in the event of said sobbing or a jammy doughnut incident.
And the whole experience is made quite magical due to the fact that it is the summer. Summer reading is no-guilt reading, when you can sit and read for hours without thinking you really should be doing something else. Having the time to read is one of life’s blessings. It is allowed. And if you are a teacher it is probably part of your job description anyway. Performance Management target No1. – keep up to date with literature. See?
Piled up next to my chair is a world of colour and magic and emotion. I am setting myself a target, to read some classic children’s books that went unnoticed when I was young – Black Beauty, What Katy Did, The Railway Children – and to read Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and finally A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, to capitalise on my love of the drama of the French Revolution.
Think I’m going to need a bigger box of tissues.
Julia Etheridge, Coventry Primary English Consultant