Journalism

Reading

March 10th, 2004

I grew up in Accrington, a northern working class town, with nothing to its name but a football team and a collection of Tiffany glass.

I was adopted by Pentecostal evangelists, who wanted me to go onto the Mission fields, to save souls.

My mother believed I had been given to her by God, but when she was cross with me, which was often, she used to wipe her hands on her full length apron and say ‘The Devil led us to the wrong crib.’

My mother didn’t want me to be influenced by THE WORLD, (it was always in capital letters), and she was deeply suspicious of books. I loved books, and I began to buy them secretly with my pocket money, stashing them in between my mattress and its base.

Anyone with a single bed, standard size, and a paperback, standard size, will know that seventy-seven can be accommodated per layer. My only worry was that my mother might notice her daughter’s bed was rising visibly.

One night, when I was sleeping closer to the ceiling than to the floor, she did notice, and pulling out a corner of DH Lawrence, she demolished my nocturnal library, and threw the books, one by one, into the back yard.
She burned them.

I recovered by memorising books. Books can be destroyed, but not their message or their energy. I learned early that what can’t be found, can’t be taken away; I hid my books inside me.