Where my love affair with story books started for real.
For the first time, I was reading whole books and they were about the adventures of children in a real, recognizable England, which for me was my world. If I were just a little older and more grown-up, as well as more privileged — which I was taught to understand as worthier — it could almost be me.
Here were children going about with scant adult supervision, making investigations off their own bat, treated seriously and being of importance in the adult world, to which they thus laid a claim. By dint of reading the books by myself, I felt as well a private protagonism. Just going on their own by train to Cornwall was enough to grab my attention. Getting away from parents! But of course it then delivered on smugglers, travelling performers, a ragamuffin, flashing light signals, secret caves and tunnels... Cornwall was one of the very few places I had been, visiting cousins on a summer holiday. To think that this coast could hold secrets waiting to be discovered turned on all kinds of lights in me.
Of course, the series format meant that the adventures were potentially never-ending.
The magical space that children call play develops naturally with age, from pure imagination to engagement with the real world about them. For the child, the fiction is of the order of reality, insofar as it is a vision of a more interesting version of it. One that adults seem to ignore. As adults, we desire this also from books, but have largely forgotten how to read imaginatively and open the mind to creative living.