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I recently wrote that I had no recollection of ever seeing my Father reading a book and asked the question, "Was Dad a reader"? My sister Phyl replied in the positive and told an amusing story that is worth retelling. Because I can picture the living room of our old family home so vividly and can still visualise our Dad sitting and relaxing in his well used armchair, I am going to use my story tellers licence to tell the tale in my own way. I have worked out that this event must happened in the early 1950's.
Dad was sitting in his chair in the same position he was always in and what I always thought of as his secret draw was within easy reach. I remember at a later date peeping in what we all knew was dads private draw, it was what the comedian Michael McIntyre would describe today as a man drawer. It contained a copy of a football pools coupon, a pack of playing cards and his cribbage board. There was an old wallet, full of yellowing newspaper cut outs that were of importance to him and a couple of old photographs. There was his seldom used mouth organ, he never called it a Harmonica, and there was what looked like a miniature bottle of whisky. I knew it was in fact made of candle wax and it had been part of the contents of a Christmas stocking given to him some years earlier, I can still remember his pretend annoyance when he found out his anticipated whisky treat was only a Bl**dy candle. The drawer also contained all sorts of man things like his smokers knife and a box of Swan Vesta's matches, plus there was his much used tobacco tin and, of course, his trusty pipe.
As Dad sat in his chair, engrossed in the book he was reading, his daughter Phyl asked him what the book was about? Dad slowly looked up at her and her siblings as he closed the book, "It's an adult book, and not for youngsters like you to read", he informed them as he placed the book amongst the other items personal to him and closed his private drawer. He was probably aware that he had made them curious by his comments but he said no more, save he was going for a walk, which he did. Once they were certain their beloved father had left the house all hell broke loose and, according to my sister Phyl, the siblings almost came to blows in their desire to be first to get their hands on the forbidden book. They became aware as the battle raged of the sound of something tapping on glass and, as they all turned towards the sound, they saw their grinning father standing in the garden and gently tapping on the window. He had caught them all out and, as you have probably guessed, there were no naughty bits in the book!
The above memory is one my sister Phyl told me about and it happened when I was still at Primary School. My input hopefully helps you to visualise the room it occurred in and of the mystery that Dads private drawer always held. It also shows how my fathers sense of fun influenced all of his many children. This next memory, also involving a book, was probably triggered by the above story, it concerns he of the big smile and jutting jaw, my much loved brother Bob!
The year was 1960 and much was spoken about in the press about the book, Lady Chatterley's Lover, and should it be legally published?. My brother Bob heard of a place where the, at present, illegal book could be obtained under the counter and, because forbidden fruit is sometimes hard to resist, he decided to buy a copy. Bob would have been twenty six years old at the time and working for Sherwin and Olivers, the optical engineers. During his lunch break Bob went to the source of illegal supply and, having paid the high price, he received his illicit purchase wrapped in a brown paper bag. Later that evening he cycled the five miles home with the book safely tucked in his saddle bag and, having eaten a hurried meal, he removed himself from the company of the rest of his family and found a private spot. With the brown paper bag swiftly discarded he then began to read, what a curious nation was still waiting to read.
I have often wondered how many pages into the book Bob was when he began to realise something was amiss, where the heck were the forbidden parts that the news media had complained so much about? I can imagine his growing disappointment with the contents of his illegal and expensive copy Lady Chatterley's Lover until he once again looked at the book cover. What he saw made his strong jaw drop, for what he saw clearly said, Lady Loverley's Chatter, and not, Lady Chatterley's Lover. I suspect Bob knew instantly he had been duped as had tens of thousands of mugs from all over the land, who had been parted from their money in this ingenious way. I must confess to thinking good luck to the enterprising person who thought of this simple scam that understood human nature so well. I only know of it because a laughing Bob told me. I can still recall the multitude of chuckles as the clientele of Shamley Green's two thriving pubs heard him tell them of it too. Over the years I suspect my hero brother has had more enjoyment from the Lady Loverley book than he ever would have had from the Lady Chatterley best seller!
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