On the third day of Advent, I’m asking: “Are you ever too old for bedtime stories?”
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I thought that bedtime stories were only for children who were unable to read for themselves. I knew they offered comfort and happiness as well as fostering a love of reading, but I assumed that, once you could comfortably read to yourself, they were pretty much redundant.
How wrong was I.
I should have known really when I spent hours re-listening to my favourite audio book as a child: The Wind in the Willows, read by the marvellous Kenneth Williams. (You can read my review of this here.)
I just couldn’t get enough of his fantastic vocal characterisations of Ratty, Mole and especially Toad (as well as all the other animals). They came to life in my imagination as I listened to his skillful adaptation and I still, to this day, have a copy of the cassettes (shows you how old they are – and I am!).
As I grew older, I didn’t really listen to stories; I’d read them instead. My Nana was a great fan though of Radio 4’s afternoon play and would have a lie down after lunch to listen to it (and nap, I believe too!). However, whilst at university I discovered how calming listening to the radio was and would often fall asleep listening to the Shipping Forecast – even nowadays I find it utterly soporific. Whenever I hear it now, I think of rolling waves and rough seas and feel comfortable and safe in my bed … and sleepy!
A few years after my husband and I moved in together, I suggested, one night, that we start reading to each other rather than both being in bed and reading our own books silently. Reading to each other seemed more sociable and it had the added benefit that we could share our thoughts and opinions. We started, I believe, with a Ngaoi Marsh mystery Surfeit of Lampreys and enjoyed it so much, we’ve been reading to each other ever since. Though Carl reads to me otherwise he’s asleep in a matter of minutes!
Since then, we’ve read all sorts of books together. We’ve made it through all of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, Janet Evanovich’s hilarious Stephanie Plum books, the wonderful Mangle Street Murders novels by MRC Kasasian (do check these out – they’re brilliant yet still rather undiscovered) amongst many others. We’ve discovered that some books, while brilliant in their own right, aren’t great when read aloud and we tend to prefer comedies and mysteries. We both have different tolerances for certain subjects too – I became so impatient with the narrator of a book recently that we stopped after a few chapters. I couldn’t take much more of her whining and Carl couldn’t take any more of mine. Carl, on the other hand, doesn’t have much time for ghost stories which is rather worrying as I do tend to write them more than anything!
People have always enjoyed listening to stories. Before books ever existed, people would tell tales around a fire – fairytales and fables, for example – as a form of entertainment. The modern equivalent is audio books and they’re growing in popularity, especially thanks to smartphones. People can listen to anything, anywhere.
When I tell friends and family that we read to each other, they think it’s sweet and romantic. For us now it’s just what we do. As Carl says, it’s like watching a film together or a television series. You can share your response to the text and to the characters. I find I can’t wait for the next instalment … as long as it’s a good book. If not, then I tend to follow in my Nana’s footsteps … and fall asleep.
Please do share with me what you enjoy listening to. Do you like radio plays? Audio books? What’s the best thing you’ve ever listened to? I might do some shopping on audible afterwards! 😉