I wanted to call this blog: ‘Inside of a dog’.

It comes from the quotation by Groucho Marx:

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.

Unfortunately it had already been taken, which made me a little sad.

I like it because it’s funny.  I also like it because it is true.

When I was growing up, I lived in the countryside. Our village had three street lights, a pub and a church.  The nearest shop was two miles away.  It was the Nineteen Seventies.  I remember a lot of time spent wearing brown nylon and enduring power cuts.  I spent a fair amount of time having to amuse myself.

That’s where books came in.

Books absolutely transformed my life.  Once I had discovered how to read I was never without a book, and they really were friends to me.  I cared passionately about the characters I read about.  I read books over and over again.  I was sucked into the stories I read to such an extent that I could forget my own reality.

I was lucky. My parents read voraciously, and supported my reading.  They never moaned about spending money on books, even though money was quite tight for a few years.  We regularly visited the library, and we spent a lot of time at rummage sales and car boot sales where I was allowed to spend my money on as many second hand books as I could get hold of.

I was also lucky in that my parents never censored my reading.  All the bookshelves in the house were available to be rifled, and I was never made to stay in the confines of the children’s book section of the library.  At the age of eleven I was attempting to read Kafka.  It didn’t go very well and I got extremely bored of it, but my parents never tried to stop me.  Or when I discovered James Bond and Agatha Christie the same year, and Alistair Maclean the year after.

I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on with equal attention and passion. I have never stopped.

There is always at least one book in my handbag.  I will not buy a handbag that is too small to fit a book in. There is nowhere I do not go with a book in my hand.

Because of this I have had the great good fortune to grow up literate in the best sense of the word.  Reading opens doors of the imagination, and minds, and opportunities, and the possibility to see, hear, feel, touch and taste things you could not otherwise dream of experiencing.  It is like the best drug in the world.

My reading has given me a confidence I could not have gained anywhere else, and I truly believe that it is something anyone who is willing to open their eyes and mind to can have too, and it is something that I want for my children.

And I am working very hard to make sure that I create every opportunity for them to have it.