The chocolate question

The chocolate question

A boy is presented with a new aspect of chocolate when he meets a rare species: a child who may at some point have been permitted to eat as much of it as they wanted.  He is duly impressed. “It’s got every sort of chocolate you can think of,” I went on: “soft...
Secret nests

Secret nests

In a happy childhood, such secret nests can be a place of enchantment and magic, a place to escape the grown up world for a while.  I still like the idea of cosy places in nature or in a rambling old house; where you can take supplies of chocolate and biscuits, with...
Of acorn cups

Of acorn cups

A lovely preparation for the bride of a god, including cowslip-ruby bejewelled acorn cups.  Some stole the light from glow-worms’ tails, and wove it into a necklace, and others pulled the ruby spots from cowslip leaves, to set with jewels the acorn cups that...
What makes a place secret?

What makes a place secret?

Like many children, the characters in Ransome’s books have a refreshing way of stripping things down to essentials.   ‘This isn’t a secret place,’ said the boy. ‘Any place is secret if nobody else is there.’  See another comment on the nature of secrets. ...
Dogged kindness

Dogged kindness

Vasily Grossman had a genius for writing about animals with empathy and respect, whether it was war horses and mules, or dogs.  Here he dedicated a short story to imagining the experience and mind of the first dog sent into space.  This little creature, grabbed from...
I was loved!

I was loved!

After spending most of her childhood exiled in Siberia, much of it as a half-starved orphan, Maria is finally rescued by a distant aunt who takes her in and gives her a loving home for the first time in her life. “Oh my little birdie …” my aunt would...
The urge to play

The urge to play

This excerpt from an interview with a Russian writer brought up in Siberia, due to the political exile of her parents, demonstrates the child’s deep need to play and the imagination which led her to create her own dolls, despite poverty, exclusion and general...
Of open gates

Of open gates

An image of both friendliness and security, a place where you can leave your gate open. Eventually they reached an open gate – open because in those days life in the country was so secure that a closed gate signified either unfriendliness or else that the owners...
Of radical innocence

Of radical innocence

Innocence is one of the key themes we chose for this website (here’s why), and I believe Dante backs me up.  I mean innocence and not naivety, and see it as needing a form of resilience to be maintained in a human life despite being aware of and involved in the...
Delight in small things

Delight in small things

A personage who takes delight in small things he finds on the wayside – I loved this eclectic selection of things spotted, gathered up, carefully placed and then returned to.  Even in the open countryside he retained his passion for play-things, and would carry...
Firm friends

Firm friends

The blithe and luminous boy Goldmund arrives at the school which will be his home until he reaches adulthood, and feels reassured by two new friends.  Of course, his real friendship comes later, but I liked that the trusting child sees a tree as a potential friend, as...
A day in the woods

A day in the woods

A moment when the two main characters of Bronte’s less well known novel get to know each other.  Shirley, newly arrived, proposes a day in the woods to Caroline, who knows the land and the calendar of its changes in minute detail, a mental map she is happy to...
Because love is kindness

Because love is kindness

After decades in a concentration camp, this man finds love in kindness.  After being released from the clutches of the gulag, he rents a room in the flat where she lives with her son.  Over time, he sees her kindness, and in it, beauty, and finds a period of love,...
The play of otters

The play of otters

Otters seem to be the most nuannaarpoqian of animals.  Their life skills, resilience, confidence and playfulness captivated me when I read the evocative classic Tarka the Otter, celebrated here with rich pickings of quotes and metaphors.  Another classic, Gavin...
An inmate of this active universe

An inmate of this active universe

This current and timeless phrase – with that curious ‘inmate’ alongside the energetic ‘active’ – comes from Wordsworth’s image of himself as an infant, tapping into some greater connectivity than mere wifi systems and smart...

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