Wednesday, 21 January 2015

To travel hopefully......

Is to travel hopefully a better thing than to arrive? Robert Louis Stevenson seemed to think so, with his much quoted and misquoted observation. From this can be inferred a view that anticipation of an event is more enjoyable than the actual event itself. I find this a rather cynical view of affairs, although, by raising expectation to unrealistic levels, there is a danger that too much hype in advance will inevitably cause ultimate disappointment in the object of the anticipation. 
Personally, I find that anticipation is part of the event. As one of life’s enthusiasts, I can be as giddy as any kiddie about the prospect of Christmas; I can gambol like a lamb at the first signs of spring after an interminable, grim winter; the prospect of a long journey on a train hugs me like a snuggly jumper. As much as anything, the prospect of reading a new book of my choosing is one of life’s delights – one that was denied me for a protracted period just recently.
I certainly did plenty of reading during the course of my study for a degree, much of it enjoyable, but I felt bereft of the simple pleasure of choosing a book that I wanted to read, buying it and conveying it home, with all the excited anticipation that entails. The constraint of reading only what others prescribed for me for three whole years seemed like a terrible sacrifice, one not experienced throughout my adult life. Never buying a book on a whim, out of curiosity, on a friend’s recommendation, through a reviewer’s recommendation, or just for the hell of it was a bitter pill to swallow.
During my final year, with a glimmer of light at the end of a very dark tunnel, I allowed myself the luxury of buying books, on a strictly ‘no peeping’ basis, to read at the end of the course. I kept them all together on a shelf, waiting for the glorious day of freedom to arrive. My discipline was commendable, my salivating anticipation immense. And now I have resumed a lifelong habit of having a downstairs book and a bedtime book on the go. Ploughing my way through my much-anticipated selection, I find that, in this instance, travelling hopefully has not marred the arrival one bit!
To finish, here is a homely homily from Edgar Guest on what books are to us.

Good Books
Edgar Guest

Good books are friendly things to own.
If you are busy they will wait.
They will not call you on the phone
Or wake you if the hour is late.
They stand together row by row,
Upon the low shelf or the high.
But if you're lonesome this you know:
You have a friend or two nearby.

The fellowship of books is real.
They're never noisy when you're still.
They won't disturb you at your meal.
They'll comfort you when you are ill.
The lonesome hours they'll always share.
When slighted they will not complain.
And though for them you've ceased to care
Your constant friends they'll still remain.

Good books your faults will never see
Or tell about them round the town.
If you would have their company
You merely have to take them down.
They'll help you pass the time away,
They'll counsel give if that you need.
He has true friends for night and day
Who has a few good books to read.

Thank you for reading,


Steve Rowland said...

A great blog, Sheilagh. When I was at uni [back in the '70s] one of the comments that impressed me most was from the professor who said he didn't really care what kind of degree we ended up with - he would feel he'd succeeded if we all left after 3 years with a lifelong love of reading.