Tag Archives: LM Montgomery

They have all been young

More thoughts on older, former child characters in books. In the Guardian article one author didn’t feel that reading about Jo March as a mother was quite as wonderful as when she was one of four young sisters. And someone else didn’t care for Anne Shirley as a mother.

I felt the opposite way about these two characters. It was a bit of a shock to find that young girls grow up and become old, and mothers, even vaguely sensible. But not all that sensible. There is still a bit of the girl in there.

Which to me is important to learn. I never knew what Mother-of-witch was like as a girl. I obviously knew she had once been one, and I have the photographs to guide me. But in some odd way I gave the girl in the photos exactly the same personality and level of maturity as the woman I lived with.

It wasn’t until I heard the story of how her older brother teased her when she was doing the washing up, that I could see how it might have been. She was six and he was twelve. She tried to retaliate by throwing water at him with the help of a jug she was washing up. Only, it slipped from her hands and broke.

And the tale of her plaits. Her father wanted his little girl to have girly long hair, but this was the early thirties and all the other girls at school had the new bobs. Her ten year older sister – always a very practical woman – cut off her plaits when their father was away, and then there wasn’t a lot he could do about it. (Whereas I had looked at her school photo and assumed plaits were what she wanted.)

So, I like having known Anne and Jo as girls, and then seeing them as women and mothers. It sort of explained to me how life works, and I felt you could always see the girl in them. Anne might be telling her own child off, but she remembers what she herself had been like. And so does the reader.

I’m very much in favour of finding out what happened after, as long as the author hasn’t lost their touch and written a dreadful book. That’s what matters, not the age of the character.

Besides, I know how childish I am, deep inside.

OK then; speaking out

Fainthearted male readers can go away now and come back tomorrow. You won’t want to know. After yesterday’s sex and Monday’s thoughts on criticising people – or not – we’ll mix the two and forget that we’re mostly about books.

I’m going to have a go at Hadley Freeman in the Guardian. I love Hadley, and she writes beautifully, with forceful and funny thoughts on all kinds of things. The fact that she’s wrong about what constitutes good clothes is something I’m willing to forgive her. The fact that she’s anti homeopathy is also fine. It’s less fine that she uses her clever, and therefore influential, writing to belittle and ridicule homeopathy.

Had I not been convinced otherwise, I may well have taken her word for it.

I was once totally unknowing about the subject too, but in such desperate straits that I grasped the straw. Had I not, then Daughter would have embarked on a very sudden diet at the age of five months. Now, it could have been the placebo effect that made me better that time. But if so, why didn’t I placebo my way to painfree ‘babyfeeding equipment’ after the course of antibiotics from my GP? I believe in them, and they had helped before. Or surely the second lot of antibiotics should have done the trick, and not had me wait until I poured sachets of caster sugar down my throat? Very expensive caster sugar, I may add.

Being quite anti anything new or strange, and fully expecting to find myself in the hands of a mad, and for some reason white-coated, scientist type homeopathic doctor, I was relieved to be sitting in Doctor Finlay’s surgery, spilling out everything about me and my life. £35 later I went home with my caster sugar, wrapped very deftly in small white pieces of paper by Doctor Finlay, and took some the first week, phoned him back, and then took the next the following week.

If that’s placebo, then I’m happy with it. Daughter should be, too, as she could continue to dine every day.

The fact that my Doctor Finlay was also a ‘real’ doctor is reassuring. I sent the Resident IT Consultant there, and he was so unwell that the good DF muttered that he ‘may sink so low as to prescribe some penicillin’.

DF took care of quickly disposing of Daughter’s food supply when the time came. I’d rather have placebo hocus pocus, than months of dribbling and discomfort. And it was straight into the world of Anne of Green Gables when DF provided something for croup. We crouped a lot for a few years, and it felt strangely literary to be getting familiar with Ipecac after all these years. Poor Offspring were easily duped and placeboed their way through not only croup, but car sickness (and if sugar sachets means less vomit in the car, that is surely a Good Thing?), the repercussions of tooth extraction (only with the second remedy tried), insomnia due to very bad tummy bug (teething powders, of all things), and even the acne responded. (SO sorry for mentioning that in public my dears.)

Mother-of-witch spent all her visits succumbing to colds accompanied by high temperatures, so I threw Belladonna at her with good results, although it never worked on me. And that Saturday afternoon when she coughed and could barely breathe? I read up and found two likely remedies, both of which I had in the house. Tried the familiar one first, being the unadventurous type, and it didn’t work. The second one did. The placebo effect works in mysterious ways.

One Spring I was boasting to another parent of the reduction in colds we had all experienced after taking Doctor Finlay’s ‘winter prevention’ caster sugar, when I started worrying about it having been less true that winter. My next immediate thought was dismay when it dawned on me that I had forgotten my September phone call to Lochgilphead (DF retired) and we had never taken any that year. Oops.

I now have half a shelf full of books on homeopathy, and I consult them whenever it feels like homeopathy is the right thing to go for. The rest of the time I’m satisfied with antibiotics and cocodamol. Oh, and I’ve paid for every single sugar grain of placebo effect myself. No such happiness as sugar on the NHS around these parts.

Hadley boasts of taking an overdose of homeopathic pills, to prove they are useless because they caused her no harm. It is possible to overdose, Hadley. You just didn’t do it right.

Still love you, Hadley. (And some of the clothes in Weekend are less horrendous, these days, btw.)

Defending Anne

The other day on the Guardian’s book blog, Sam Jordison reminisced about his childhood reading, and I was vaguely amused to find his ‘distant’ childhood was quite recent. Didn’t comment on it, as that would have been ageist, but I feel that any historical musings need to be a little, well, more historical. The 1960s, for instance, and not the late 1980s. It seems the young Sam was mainly concerned with losing his marbles. No, I’ll check that again. Losing at marbles. Slight difference.

But what I couldn’t resist commenting on (read complain) was Sam’s totally incorrect view that ‘Anne of Green Gables (is) a bore’. I’m the first to admit that Sam is entitled to his opinion, however faulty, but to be allowed (Guardian editors can be strict) to state it as a fact, was a bit much for me. And it was only as I brought the subject up that anyone else noticed. They’d all been too busy discussing the main theme of his blog, a book I don’t know, so can’t say anything about. As I feel the whole point of a Guardian blog is to get a little off topic with the comments, it was clearly high time to defend Anne.

I’ll leave Blyton alone, and Willard Price, too. Dahl and Carroll are good, but not necessarily geniuses. You don’t have to like Anne, but she is no bore. Considering how popular she is, I was shocked to find that no fan jumped in to say anything at all. Where were you all?

Plates of biscuits and glasses of Ribena? Go and get them yourself, Sam! Oh, and I’ll have a mug of Earl Grey while you’re in the kitchen. Please.

And I’m of the opinion that you can go home again. Not to Kirrin Island, perhaps, but Prince Edward Island still works for countless elderly women. And me.