And he reads to them, as he does every night, as if watering them, as if turning the earth at their feet. There are stories he has never heard of, and others he has known as a child, these stepping stones that are there for everyone. What is the real meaning of these stories, he wonders, of creatures that no longer exist even in the imagination: princes, woodcutters, honest fishermen who live in hovels…It is as if there is only a single hour, and in that hour all the provender must be gathered, all the advice offered. He longs for the one line to give them that they will always remember, that will embrace everything, that will point the way, but he cannot find the line, he cannot recognize it. It is more precious, he knows, than anything else they might own, but he does not have it.
from Light Years by James Salter
Picnics. Summer colds. Day after day of perfect weather. Falling leaves even in July. And now, August, and the weather has changed. The sky is white, the evening air cool. Today’s adventures were low key: the Post Office depot to pick up a package; the supermarket; the car wash; some baking. I love their excitement at such small things. Complimented on their good behaviour at the supermarket check-out, T said, ‘Well, I’m normally at school, so I don’t usually get to come here.’
I’m auditioning books for our holiday. Light Years has proved too good, and, though I planned to stop after a couple of chapters, I can’t put it aside. T is worried that no matter how many books we take it will not be enough: ‘Well,’ she says, ‘I easily read three or four books a day.’ And it’s true. We talk about the girl we once met on the ferry, a little older, with a teetering stack of books in her hand. When I jokingly asked her whether that would be enough for the six hour crossing she smiled and showed me her Kindle at the bottom of the pile.
When I read the lines above as I was drinking my coffee this afternoon, I thought of the fairy tales that T is filling herself with from Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales. We started it as a read-aloud, but I couldn’t keep pace with her insatiable appetite for them. I keep seeing her entranced by it in various lovely looking reading spots around the house and feeling slightly envious. I’m hoping that I’ll get my hands on it again at some point.
So, as a replacement, after lunch, under trees in our garden, in the park, at various National Trust houses (oh my, thank goodness for NT membership!), we’ve been reading King Arthur retold by James Riordan: dragons, swords, destiny and betrayal — their amazement that The Sword in the Stone is just the beginning — and they’re lapping it up.