I liked and shared a post on Facebook this morning called “Six reasons why you should read The Princess Bride“. The original book by William Goldman (not the film adaptation) is so very witty, inventive and massively tongue in cheek. I was introduced to it by my next door neighbour Helen.
She was the oldest of five kids and about 6-7 years older than me. She babysat us sometimes when we were on school holidays and had a great collection of interesting reads in the small bookcase in the room she shared with her younger sister. I always think of Helen as my ‘dealer’, fostering a voracious appetite for reading, as well as possibly setting me on the long and winding path to a 20 year career in libraries.
On this particular day, I was sitting on the floor in her room, browsing through the titles when she reached over and pulled out one with a gorgeously hand-drawn picture of a beautiful blonde-haired woman on its cover and said, “Read this. It’s weird but funny. You’ll love it.”
As always, she was right. It was weird but really, really funny (and a little different to the movie – although this is not a movie bashing post!).
In Goldman’s telling, “The Princess Bride” is an epic work by Florinese author S. Morgenstern that Goldman’s father used to read to him as a young child. As an adult, he reads the story himself and discovers his father actually cut out large chunks of the story and only told “the good bits”. Sounds strange but it really does work.
Another literary classic Helen introduced me to was “The Hobbit”. As usual, she picked it out for me and handed it over with the advice that I might find the language a bit hard going but I really should persevere because one day I will want to read “Lord of the Rings” and this little book with a dragon basking in a sea of gold on the front cover will set up the back story.
Helen also possessed the album Jeff Wayne’s musical version of “War of the Worlds“. Anyone remember that? My clearest memory of Helen babysitting us consists of making and eating pancakes with lemon and sugar and my brother and I begging her to let us listen to ‘War of the Worlds’. We had to promise her that we wouldn’t have nightmares before she’d give in. Of course, we did have nightmares (I still can’t hear the musical yet creepy call of the martians’ “Ooohhllaaaa” without getting the shivers) but that was all part of the fun.
It’s been years since I last saw Helen. She grew up and left home then Mum and Dad moved house and the two families that had once lived so closely with kids in and out of each place lost touch for years at a time.
Although a couple of books and a musical record that was a little left-of-centre may seem like small things, they struck a chord and have stuck with me throughout my adulthood (I purchased ‘War of the Worlds’ on Google Play and listened to it whilst doing long haul on a bus through Europe last year. It still spooked me.)
And I have Helen to thank for introducing them to me. I wonder if she knows that, in some small way, she is responsible for the woman I am today?
I guess the point of this whole thing is that every person that comes into your life has something to show you, even if at the time they may seem like such little things.