I was reading a virtual friend’s blog recently and he was saying how he came to start collecting books. It got me remembering my most exciting find when in Hay-on-Wye a few years ago. I had already bought a few DHL – Lawrence – not the freight firm, but upon walking into the next shop I discovered the translated poems of Heinrich Heine. It is my favourite book, not only because it’s bound in red Moroccan leather – now faded – but its pages are thick parchment: a real find. Don’t care what it might be worth, I just love it, and it always sits right in front of me when I am at my desk. He inspires me.
Other books I always keep by me are big, thick ones like a Mosby’s medical dictionary, a Chamber’s dictionary, a Roget’s thesaurus, and an Oxford dictionary of foreign terms in English. Last, but not least is, The Big Book of Filth – 6500 sex slang words and phrases. You may laugh, or think to yourself, dirty bitch, but it’s been invaluable since writing about the 40’s and the 80’s. For instance, I discovered a ‘pre-dawn vertical insertion’ is not some early morning mission by the SAS.
As I have just finished writing two books set in the 40’s and 50’s, I endeavoured to use language and phraseology reminiscent of that era. I was brought up in a family where cursing was seldom used. I overheard the odd ‘bloody’ or ‘bugger’ but nothing else. I remember when I was 5 years old and had just started school. I came home having heard the word ‘fuck’ for the first time and I used it. The look on my parents’ faces was a picture. It was totally different to the look I got when I was 4 and told them I had just buried our tortoise in the back garden. Promptly my father frantically started digging it up with his hands. The problem was it was still alive at the time.
I feel I must explain about the tortoise incident before I get a knock on the door from the RSPCA. My father had told me they hibernated over the winter and had to be put in a box and covered with straw. At 4 years of age I obviously got the wrong end of the stick as when I ‘hibernated’ our tortoise I was wearing a thin cotton dress as it was the middle of July.
When my kids were little we nurtured little bunny rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, and, yes, a tortoise we named Steve McQueen as it was always escaping from the garden. I would then have to go looking for it and would usually find it halfway down the road – it didn’t half travel at a rate of knots. This happened on many occasions. Was it trying to tell me something, do you think?
I will state, here and now, I am not an animal killer. And no animals were harmed during the writing of this blog.