One Sunday morning not so long ago, I stepped out of my flat in Lyme Regis and walked down the steep hill into town. The day before, I had seen a poster advertising a book sale at the Marine Theatre and I was off to see if there were any old or unusual story books to be had.
I quickly scanned the stalls, discounting the usual book sale ballast: the musty Agatha Christie paperbacks; the ancient National Geographics; the redundant volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Still on the hunt for treasure, I noticed one particular stall that, from a distance, seemed to have a pleasing variety of old hardbacks on display.
As I approached – even before I could make out the black lettered title on the spine – a tall, dark-red, cloth-bound book caught my eye. There was something familiar about its size and distinctive colour. Surely, it couldn’t be? Could it?
I plucked it eagerly from the shelf and held in my hands a copy of the first story book I had been given as a small child: The Margaret Tarrant Story Book. I opened the covers and looked at the fly sheet: “Published in London, 1947” – just two years before I was born. Treasure indeed and mine for the princely sum of £4.
My childhood copy disappeared many decades ago and I hadn’t given it a thought for years. But when I flicked through the pages, I remembered all of the stories and how much I had loved them when I was five or six. There were two special favourites: Old Duster, the tale of a mouse who went to sea and The Faithful Knight, a story of chivalry and derring-do.
Was this where my love of stories really began, I wonder?