Learning to Read

I was born in early 1960, a child of that optimistic decade by a handful of weeks. I learned to read early and was a bookish child, living in imaginary worlds remote from the ordinary suburban house in south-west London where my brother and I grew up. My first literary world was that of the Greek gods, as re-told by Roger Lancelyn Greene, followed by the Railway Children and E Nesbit’s other stories; Narnia, although tainted with the dejection of discovering at the end that it was a religious allegory, and specifically a Christian allegory; Lucy Boston’s Green Knowe books, written in her ancient Fenland manor house and describing the adventures of a solitary boy who befriends the children of the house as they come to life from a 17th century portrait, and many others. The Lord of the Rings, which, like many, I now disdain as interminable Elvish self-indulgence, beguiled my convalescence from appendicitis. I remember my mother reading The Wind in the Willows to us as small children, stumbling over the chapter heading Dulce Domum, as much because she was unfamiliar with the Latin as she was with the entire world from which the story came, a world of whimsical reverse anthropomorphism of various types of Edwardian men of the leisured classes into creatures of the English countryside. She herself had been born in Prague in 1924 and left without her parents, as a young Jewish refugee after its occupation by Germany in 1939, first for Denmark, then Sweden, and eventually, after tortuous correspondence with the Home Office, to England in 1946. …


Barbara Rich

English barrister & mediator — specialising in disputed succession & decision-making for people who lack mental capacity

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store