Wednesday 17 September 2014

Precious Things

I'm thrilled to have been asked by Sarah over at Mitenska to contribute to this monthly series. She asked herself, what makes a thing precious? And which precious things would she take from her home if required? So for the past week or so, as I've gone about my business here at Today's Stuff, I've been looking at my things in a different way. What do I consider precious? If I had to exit stage left in a hurry, what precious things would I want to take with me?

As I've looked and thought, I've been rather surprised at the things that I would choose, and the reasons why I would choose them. Most of them have no real material value Any value they possess is purely sentimental. They evoke memories, which in turn send me to happy places. And like a line of dominoes, they topple into other thoughts and memories that lead down a spiral of reverie (and a slight case of self indulgence too..)

I would start with my books. I have a lot of books. But there are three books on my bookcase that I would feel compelled to take with me. These three books have probably had the most influence on me as I grew up. They are well thumbed, and two are falling apart at the seams. I cherish these books as old friends. And it's not just the book themselves. It's what they represent.

Let me explain.

The first time that I read 'The Secret Garden', I was transported. I pored over the descriptions of the landscape and the way that the characters spoke. I was fascinated with the idea of finding something hidden and secret. I think I borrowed it from the library at least half a dozen times, and that Christmas there was a copy of the book in my stocking. I loved this book. I still love it.

In the book, it is a robin that shows Mary the way. I had a robin that showed me the way once. I was struggling with post natal depression after Samuel was born. I was living in commuter belt hell, with no friends or family nearby. Marc worked long hours. I rarely got dressed. It was a tough time. But there was this one morning. I was outside in the garden, and a robin was sat on the fence. He was singing. I stood and watched him for a while, and I thought to myself  'It will be ok. I will be ok' That robin was a saviour of sorts. I cannot think where I would be now if it weren't for him.

'The Rainbow' was one of the first grown up -  intellectual even - works of literature I read. It was a set text on my English Literature A Level course. There are notes scribbled all over the pages of this book. There are also my attempts at practicing my signature in there too. And some rather dubious graffitti. I thought Lawrence was the business. Forget Plath, Lawrence was the man upstairs. I used this book as an accessory to demonstrate my intelligence; casually getting it out of my bag on the bus back from college. I devoured everything that he wrote, while trying my hand at writing some angst ridden, Freudian-laden nonsense of my own.

This book, more than any other, defined the gauche young woman that I was. I read it whilst undergoing a period of experimentation and change. I flirted with all sorts; drink, drugs, fashion statements. I ditched the drugs (apart from the ciggies), became attached to cans of Red Stripe at clubs where R&B was played and discovered the ubiquitous uniform of Levi 501s and a Breton tee. I emerged from the other side of my affair with Lawrence a bit less of a duckling, with a fledgling acceptance of me, myself and I. I learnt important life lessons while studying David Herbert. I have a lot to thank him for.

I studied Classics at University. I know. Useful. It was these three ancient Greek plays that led to four years of deciphering archaic languages, learning about age old cultures and falling in love with a world glimpsed through the eyes of the ancient poets. Going to University was a massive deal in my family. I was the first one to do so. My Dad took me to Georges book shop on Park Street, and together we bought the books on my first year reading list. This was one of them. A trio of plays from an ancient world, bought for me by a man who thought I was off my head when I didn't take that job at Sainsbury's, but bought me the books, and sent me on my way towards life changing experiences, enduring friendships and a deep love of gin.

Three precious things. Three books that are a little part of the story of me.

Leanne xx

You'll find the other contributors to Precious Things over at the following blogs. Please go have a look!

Sarah at Mitenska


  1. I would have to agree, books are high on my list too. I studied classics some myself, and loved Sophocles and Aeschylus. I took a great class called Greek Myth in Literature when I was a freshman. You would have loved it; we read modern plays and looked at them through the lens of Greek myths, which we read alongside them. I loved The Secret Garden and would say it's one of my favorite books from childhood. I can't wait until my daughter is ready to read it.

  2. What a wonderful post, Leanne. Your robin story is a reminder that often it is something surprising, something seemingly insignificant, that can influence us the most. I once had an elderly gentleman approach me in a grocery store - it was at a very troubled time in my life, one where many bad things I had no control over were spinning out of control - and he said something kind to me. I can't even remember his exact words, but I remember the warmth in his eyes. It pulled me through that time, and I will never forget it.

  3. This is a beautiful post Leanne. I am so glad you saw that robin showed you the way when you most needed help. I didn't study Classics but took A level Latin (although they were not called A levels in Switzerland). I still remember my exam text, I loved the story: Apuleius's Metamorphoses. Only I knew it as "The Golden Ass". Books can evoke such powerful memories, can't they? Christina xx

  4. That's a great post Leanne. Apart from children, dogs and husband, the only thing I would take if I had to leave in a hurry would be the blanket I knitted last winter. Funny, the things that matter x

  5. What a wonderful post, Leanne. You and I have so much in common (including the post natal depression). I LOVE The Secret Garden (have you seen the film, the one produced by Francis Ford Coppola?); and Lawrence and Sophocles are also very dear to me (I loved classics at school and considered studying it, but went for literature - including Lawrence - instead.)

    The story of the robin is very moving - what a beautiful thing to share. xxx

  6. Beautifully written, Leanne - I'm feeling so glad I asked you to be part of this :)

    That young woman you describe sounds just like me, complete with the pretentions and substance-dabblings. I cringe a bit now but can put it down to finding my own way... and boy, am I glad I grew out of it eventually!

    I too had a copy of The Secret Garden (I still have it) with gorgeous illustrations, and it's been read so many times.

    As you know, things here are hard right now. I'm constantly, desperately on the lookout for that robin, or any little sign really. Maybe there's something in what the story says though: once you stop looking, the answer will appear and let you know things will be OK. In my case: that she's somewhere better.

    Thanks again for sharing this and being so candid. I'm looking forward to more of your memories.

    S x

  7. Your honesty is so refreshing. How lovely that the robin triggered healing thoughts for you at a difficult time X

  8. Just love your writing Leanne! My precious things (after family and dogs) would be my laptop - and my copy of Bambi by Felix Salten, a school prize presented to me age 10 in 1964. I still have it and love the descriptions of forest life (not the Disney version) there were very few line drawings in the book. So this is where your love of the Secret Garden is close to my experience. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to be in the open air and at heart I'm still 10 years old, lying in the grass, watching wispy clouds scud across the sky and dreaming of spring in the meadow, with the most precious of books. Words, stories they never leave us, Leanne, I shall remember yours for a while. Mary

  9. books are filled with precious memories, they weave themselves in between the words x

  10. What a wonderful post Leanne. I loved The Secret Garden as well, you have reminded me of it. I knew Georges bookshop on Park Street well too, I bought the books for my law degree there. I think I would have preferred classics to be honest. CJ xx

  11. I loved this post Leanne. Books are so precious to me too. The Secret Garden is a favourite and what a precious little robin. Thanks for sharing, Bee xx

  12. Loved this post - so thoughtful and beautifully evocative - books would be my choice too.I am a bit of a dreamer and books set my imagination on fire.

  13. I loved this post Leanne, an opportunity to learn more about you. Classics - never even occurred to me that that would be an option at Uni but of course, I was such a science geek, I could see the wood for the biomedical science!!
    I did do English A level though and also had Lawrence on my A level syllabus (alongside Fitzgerald not sure what curriculum my teacher was following!).

    I loved the Secret Garden too...I cannot wait for BigR to be old enough to enjoy it. I'll have to have a think about books for a precious things post! xx

  14. What a fabulous project to be involved in, and what a great post. You are always so frank and honest, it's one of the things I love about your blog. Books would feature pretty high on my list, too, although I know nothing about the classics, and can think that books and bookshops puncture many of my major experiences and memories. x

  15. The Secret Garden captured me too and I still love it even today. Sarah x