Recently, my brother sent me some photos of us when we were small. I loved looking through them, but seeing my six-year-old self was an odd experience. That smiling, goofy, posturing child with wispy hair, long white socks and much-loved Snoopy sunglasses has little in common with me.
I spend my days looking after my baby, holding down a responsible job and running a home. That chubby-cheeked little girl’s days were spent exploring the world at nursery, playing games in the garden and dreaming of the day she might own a Sindy house.
But there is one interest that still unites us, that gap-toothed girl and I. Both of us are never happier than when we are curled up somewhere quiet and cosy, somewhere nobody can find us, utterly lost in the universe of a book. Some of my happiest memories of childhood are not memories at all but stories. Mallory Towers, the Chalet School, Nancy Drew, the Famous Five: these were the stories that kept me company when the real world was just a little too scary.
These days I get less time to read. And it’s harder to hide away when there’s an eight-month-old baby depending on you. But every so often, I still manage to creep into a quiet room, switch on the lamp, tuck my feet under me and let a writer – maybe a contemporary author, maybe someone who died many years before I was born – sweep me away.
No, I don’t recognise much about that little girl from long ago. But I think she’d be glad to know that even in the big bad grown-up world, she will always find joy in a book.