Merry Christmas from Books Monthly!
  Books Monthly Nostalgia
More reminiscences of life in the 1950s...


This last month has been somewhat strange for me - after completing my course of nine courses of radiotherapy to remove a tumour from my nose, I am left in a great deal of pain, the reason being that the radiotherapy continues to work for several weeks after treatment, causing a build-up of blood inside my nose. Any attempt to remove this blood causes extensive nosebleeds, not made any easier by the fact I am on a daily course of aspirin to thin my blood following my diagnosis of angina a few years back. I have to say at this stage that the treatment was easy, painless, and no problem at all. But when I saw my consultant following the last course, on the 2nd November, she warned me that it was going to get "very messy" for a few weeks, and boy, she was right! For that reason, I am going to write a short, easy piece for this month, describing how books became my dearest love in the 1950s. Then next month I'll repeat the exercise, only this time with music. Hopefully, by the end of the year, my recovery will be substantially easier, the pain will have receded and I can start to get back to normal!

Here goes. I started school at Shurdington Primary School near Brockworth in Gloucestershire, at the age of four. I think it was because I was a fast learner, and, coincidentally, able to read - a little. Throughout my school years, I was always one year ahead of my classmates. I was chosen at the age of ten to sit the 11+ exam because the teachers felt that I was reasdy. I entered Grammar School at the age of ten, I did my first O level at the age of fourteen and the rest of them at the age of fifteen. I think it was all down to reading. One minute I was sitting on the front room floor with a Jack and Jill comic, chuckling at the pictures and reading the rhymes, the next minute I was reading a Mabel Lucie Attwell book to myself, whilst simultaneously listening to "Listen With Mother" on the radio. I don't recall much about Shurdington Primary School other than that there weren't many pupils - it was one building and a playground, and the age range of the pupils was 4-11. There was a terrifying bus ride up the hill and into the Cotswolds, and I do remember playing in the playground, games such as "What's The Time Mr Wolf", and a lot of skipping.

I don't remember being taught to read there, but at the age of five, aftre just a few months, I and my sister Jean were among the first pupils to transfer to the new Brockworth New County Primary School, which opened in 1951, I believe, and it was there that my love affair with books began.I must have been about six years old when I borrowed a book about Beethoven from the school library - it was thrilling to be able to take books home to read at one's leisure, and I believe I would have heard a piece or two by Beethoven on the radio. Someone told me he was stone deaf when he composed most of his most famous works, and I wanted to read more about this amazing man. Also at Brockworth NCPS I encountered Wurzel Gummidge (didn't like him at all); the Just-So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (what a strange name!) and the wonderful Milly Molly Mandy. Story time was every afternoon for a half hour before going home time, and Miss Paige would ask which of those three favourites we wanted to hear. She somehow made the Gummidge fellow tolerable, wonderful teacher that she was. By the age of seven I was a proficient reader, and could tackle anything. My choice would always have been the Just-So stories - they were about adventure! 

By this time, I had my own Regent Classics copies of Robin Hood  and His Merrie Men, and King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table, which I read over and over again. My route to easy access to books was simple - Dad had a few books, a whole row of  Companion Book Club titles, with a good number of titles about war. He had books by authors such as Aldous Huxley and Beverley Nichols - but there was nothing on his shelf that really interested me as a primary school boy. My relatives would be instructed to buy me books for birthdays and Christmas, so I had some handsome Charles Dickens titles, like Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. But there was a small school library, and it was from this that I selected the one on the llife of Beethoven, having heard a piece by him on the radio, which was on every day, every evening, every music programme going we listened to. By means of the radio and Children's Hour, I discovered Jennings and Buckeridge, Angus MacVicar, Biggles etc. By means of the school library and story time I discovered Rudyard Kipling. And by means of the two bookcases crammed with books for people of all ages, that stood in the school corridor and were open to the public in the village two nights a week, I had access to all manner of stories. By the time I was ten years old, I had read every library book in those two racks, discovering the delights of historical adventure with the likes of Jean Plaidy et al. And the delights of the Western, and of romantic fiction, with Rosie M Ayres and the like. I had a particular fondness for stories about doctors and nurses, I recall. And then it was time to join the public library in Gloucester city, where the worlds of older children's adventure stories opened up before me.

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The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 22nd year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at and I'll let you know where to send it.

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As this is the Nostalgia page, and it's all about what happened in the old days, I'm publishing part four of my memories of the 1950s...