Today, I spent a stupid amount of time searching the garage, the attic and the cupboards for a lost box of comics that I last read twenty years ago - just because I wanted to. I didn't find the comics but I did come inside to write this piece about finding lost loves, in this instance lost stories.
When I was a child my mother would read a story about two children, a boy and a girl who jumped through pools into different worlds and were able to go between one another's houses through an attic door. There was also a piece about a magic ring. That's all I could remember of the story. Somewhere along the way I began to think that those pools were swimming pools or that is what my child mind interpreted the pools to be and that was how I remembered it. I only thought to Google the book last year when it popped back into my head. I found it immediately.
It turned out to be quite famous.
The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. I bought the book. I read the book and apart from the swimming pool imagery I was pretty accurate about the story. The children live in a terrace of houses and their homes connect with a door in the attic. When they go through the door they enter a study of the crazy uncle who has a tray of magic rings. They are transported to a different world arriving through a pool in the forest. It is through these pools that they discover new lands (lands that will later become Narnia) and it is these pools that bring them home. Good story.
Harder to find was a story I used to loan from the library over and over. I knew it had a crazy aunt, it was set in Ireland, she wore a cape, had a big car with a runner board, there was something about mushrooms and the children came from London to live with her and that one of the words in the title started with G. I knew also that it had been a film that I had seen one St. Patrick's Day many moons ago. For years I have Googled the pieces of information in vein. I contacted the national radio station and a radio talk show hoping they would ask the audience. When they wanted me to go live on air I chickened out. I didn't want to sound ridiculous looking for some crazy book about a crazy woman I had read a long time ago. I thought about looking up newspapers for every St. Patrick's Day during the nineties to search the television listings but stopped myself.
Now perhaps I got better at Googling or perhaps the www got better at storing information but in any event last year I found the book. I bought the book after much searching as it is not in print.
The Growing Summer by Noel Streatfeild set in West Cork, Ireland. It does indeed feature three London children who go to live with their aunt for one summer in a ramshackle house near Bantry. She is completely nuts, does wear a cap, does have a large car and there is an entire chapter dedicated to mushrooms! It was also a television film. So I had not imagined it. It wasn't as good as I remembered it when I read it recently but it still has sentimental value for capturing my imagination as an eleven year old.
The final epic search was for a series of stories about a girl who wanted to be a knight. She had a twin brother who wanted to be a monk. Their father was sending her to a convent and the boy to the castle. They switched places and the girl trained to be a knight. Again it took me years to find the books but this time a bolt of lightning hit and I remembered the girl's name - Alanna. After that it was easy to find.
Song of the Lioness Series by Tamora Pierce which tells the story of Alanna and her journey to train as a knight while hiding the fact that she is female. Along the way she falls in love with the prince and he discovers her secret. Pre Harry Potter, Twilight and all that's in between it was a great series of books.
Now I'm on a new mission to find Mandy & Judy comics from the early nineties. I had a lovely stash of them but somewhere along the way they were either thrown out or got misplaced. I have kept some of my favourite Judy pocket books. Looking at them I realise now why I loved reading so much and why I was so eager to write.
I have grown up with a wealth of literature. My childhood was filled with magical, epic tales and serials like the girl comics. They were a great way of enriching a young persons learning and reading ability. Some of that is lost today. The innocence of those comics is gone, which is a pity because from memory (and it turns out my memory is pretty good on story details) there were some excellent stories in those comics. I would love another opportunity to revisit those reads. Google hasn't given up it's information on the Mandy & Judy yet but give it time. Determination will win out by the end of the next decade I might have found the comic issues I want ;)
If anyone knows how to source Mandy & Judys from the nineteen nineties PLEASE DO TELL and we'll give Google a rest.