The written word provides me with many things. Sustenance, knowledge, comradeship, heartbreak, solace, agony, ecstasy, joy and escape. I devour, with a fervent hunger, books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, Facebook posts, everything. The only exception to this has been when I was going through chemo. I only read two things through the entire eight month treatment process. The first thing was a text-book on breast cancer which my surgeon gave me after I asked him one too many tricky questions. I read that book cover to cover, sinking deeper into the mire of my disease with every word, which seemingly rendered me completely incapable of setting my mind to reading anything else. That text-book, like the cancer itself, took me over.
The second thing I read whilst I was in the depths of the disease was a children’s book, called Mr Chicken Goes to Paris. Hugh was 4 at the time, and quite obsessed with this book, which tells the story of a giant, top-hat wearing chicken who takes up his friend Yvette’s invitation to visit Paris. Every night I’d read the story to him, and he would try out his French accent repeating words like ‘bonjour’ and ‘magnifique’, and then ask me, every single night, if we could go to Paris. I would always say yes, of course we can, and then once he was asleep, get into the shower and cry until the water ran cold because how could I go to Paris with my boy if I was dying?
Then slowly, gradually, I started taking my life back from the claws of cancer, and with it came my love of words, and of reading. Rediscovering my love of words lead me to rekindle my love of creative writing, right here on this blog. I always wrote stories as a child, I wrote poetry as a teenager (and had some of my work published in an actual book), and then did two degrees in English Literature. But then, unleashed into the real world, I had to turn my love of words into earning money, which involved learning to write in very technical ways. My first ever ‘proper’ job was working in a publishing house (where one of my tasks included walking the managing editor’s dog), and all of the things I’ve been employed to do over the past twenty-something years have involved writing, but not the sort of creative writing that makes me feel vital and excited and free.
At the same time that this blog has re-opened my own mind’s eye to focus on writing, my now seven-year old boy has also started to bloom as a reader and a writer. Under the gentle guidance of his wonderful teacher Mrs Mackenzie, along with constant encouragement from Dave and I, Hugh has developed a love of reading which sees him having three novels on the go at the same time. He has favourite authors (and authors whose work he doesn’t like), makes up alternate endings to books once he’s finished reading them, and talks about what book characters would do in real life contexts. All this fills my heart to bursting, and I am keenly aware of our shared genetics. Then he tells me that he loves reading more than ice-cream, and I realise that as similar as we are, we are also very different. I’m still proud of him though – enormously so.
This week he brought home a book review he did for assessment. I’ve included picture of it below, but as seven-year old boy handwriting can be hard to read, I’ve transcribed it here. Word for word, no editing, no embellishment, no fixing.
Banging! Pursuing! Tricking! Elizabeth is the main character from ‘The Paper Bag Princess’ by Robert Munsch.
Elizabeth is all dishevelled and has tangled hair. She wears a dirty, old, paper bag and a bent crown perched on her head like a bird’s nest.
She wears a dirty old paper bag too, because the Dragon burnt all the sterotypical princess clothes.
Elizabeth thinks things and she does them correctly. She is very ingenious, so she can find the dragon and outsmart the dragon. I think Elizabeth should get a thank you or a well done from pitiless, vain Prince Ronald. Elizabeth made the right choise by not marrying Prince Ronald and did not accept Ronald’s poor behaviour so she could be joyful and free. Elizabeth is a character that stands up for herself.
My boy, the child of my heart. My word, oh, my word.