For a few years during my childhood my mother accidentally went out with a man who thought that sending me to boarding school was a really good idea. From the age of nine to thirteen I spent most of the week wondering who I would be going to spend the weekend with, as the man also thought it was a good idea to live in France leaving me unable to see my mother for weeks at a time. It was down to a handful of relations and school-friend’s families to look after me from Saturday to Sunday during the school term.
My grandparents lived fairly close to the school and occasionally my grandfather would rescue me for the weekend in his little white Mini, but this meant two days of keeping myself entertained as grandmother was riddled with Parkinsons disease and watched soaps like Coronation Street and grandfather spent most of his life in the garden shed with a soldering iron and a collection of ham radios. A weekend with the grandparents was a welcome relief from the monotony of prep-school, but it wasn’t exactly exciting. There was nothing else to do but read.
Behind my grandmother’s large upright chair was a cheap glass fronted bookcase that housed a collection of weathered old paperbacks. Lining the shelves were a pot-pourri of romance novels featuring horses, countesses or heists, the occasional Agatha Christie thrown in for good measure; hardly the tales of adventure suitable for an overactive nine year old. Apart from a few collections of short stories, there was nothing of any interest whatsoever. By short stories I’m talking about The Pan Books Of Horror Stories, selected by Herbert Van Thal. They were interesting.