Why I love Miss Read

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I love the work of Dora Saint, aka Miss Read - who wrote gentle novels of English villages, reminiscent of my childhood. Life in those villages from the post war period up to perhaps the end of the sixties was not easy, it was not soft, and the rustic haze which has been cast over it by many is not deepened by Miss Read - of course the covers of the books present delightful, chocolate box scenes, but between the covers, the poverty and daily grind find a place as well, the cruelty of the life of a child in a large, ill managed, poor family, the grease and alcohol induced ulcers of a miserable, mean spirited old man, the thankless task of trying to heat a dingy, characterless rectory ..... all of these are there, alongside the glorious downland walks, the old roses and Mrs Sinkins pinks, the tabby cats and harvest festivals.
At the moment, she is a bit of a touchstone for me. For the last few years, we have been lost in New World life ideas - all a part of our christian journey, and none of them regretted, many of those ideas have been assimilated into daily life - but the time has come to ground ourselves, to accept our own inheritance. It is no easier to capture the essence of this time and the sense of those villages than it is to recapture the spirit of the pioneers, beloved of my US counterparts! But the thing is, it is our heritage, our memory, or will'o'the'wisp to capture, not someone else's.
I am not stupid enough to believe we can live in the past (quite, though I often wish we could!) but I know I want my children to have some of the same memories I hold dear, even if they have changed. So with a heave of self into reality, they are now in Pony Club, and attend rallies that are oh so different from the ones I went to, but nevertheless, they shine with the same enthusiasm as I did, they hug their ponies the same way, they talk a convincingly accurate amount of equine nonsens!
The immages of farm and country around them should be of our farms, and our country. They do love the food that has found its way to our table over the years, the cornbread and shoofly pie, but now it's time for scones and fruit cake. It's great that because of Laura Ingalls they know so much about the Western Expansion, but it's time for Agincourt .....
So for me, more than ever at the moment, Miss Read is kind of a poster girl! She's there to remind me that Thrush Green and Fairacre are not on the map, they are in the heart, and I would like for them to be in my children's hearts, too.


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