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  • Writer's pictureTony Holden

Tony and Barbara – the pleasure of reading

We differ in our memories of learning to read. Barbara recalls being taught by a journalist neighbour. Tony doesn’t remember how it started but books have ‘always’ been important. We remember reading to our children and the grandchildren, as particular pleasures.


Obviously, the reading has overlapped with the writing that has been so important in Tony’s life. Early on in Barbara’s teaching and community work career she taught ‘English as a second language’ to youngsters mostly from the sub-continent.


In retirement we had: ‘RAB – recommend a book’. It ran from 2008-2013 and 2019-2021 and was fun. We asked friends to write reviews. We began: “This is an e-mail information-sharing initiative of 3 issues/ year of not more than 6 pages. Our purpose is to get some discerning recommendations of up to 250 words about books of all kinds”.


Until 2019 Tony was in a book group that met in homes and the library.


Nowadays we read the Guardian Weekly and find paper in our hands more pleasing than words on the screen.


From time-to-time Tony has read aloud as a shared experience. At present it’s Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd ‘Dear Friend and Gardener – letters on life and gardening’. We also take turns reading prayers aloud. This includes Barbara’s discovery of David Adam and Celtic spirituality and Monica Furlong on Julian of Norwich.


Then there are the books we buy usually because Tony spots one in reviews or on Facebook. Out of all the prize-winning books, let alone all those published, it’s a minute selection. But most memorably there’s been Siri Hustvedt ‘Mothers, Fathers, and Others – new essays’; Rowan Williams ‘100 poems for searching the heart’ and his books on icons; Salman Rushdie ‘Knife’; and currently, Colm Toibin ‘Long Island’.


Most weeks Barbara hears the Christian texts read in church and we often get back into reading about the Jesus of the Gospels.


So, even though in our 80’s we are hard pressed health-wise, we have {unlike so many in our troubled world} time, space, food and water, safety, and the deep pleasure of reading books – alone and together. As you know, it’s to be recommended!


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