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Friday, 8 January 2021


When I was little, in the seventies in Northern Ireland, there were no bookshops anywhere near my house. We had a library, a place of reverence, a place I loved. A place, as a child, that seemed (and was to me) more important than any other aspect of civic life in the province. 

In those days, as a working class boy, my only contact with books and reading were the onerous tasks given in school; prizes given to me by church; mind blowing, valuable but short, comics and the hushed, almost holy citadel of the library, and out of those quattuor libraruea, the local library took me further across landscapes I couldn't have ever imagined existed in the minds of others. It introduced me to people who did extraordinary things; warriors who felled legions of enemies; boys who solved mysteries and travelled the world, and friends who built extraordinary things.

 And in books wrapped in covers illustrated with pictures of creatures so strange, yet so familiar, who were polite, happy, yet some had sadnesses and secrets we found out and others so deep, we knew we would never find out what they were. The Moomins really were something far apart from other books. Serious, frivolous, happy, beautiful, ominous , sad, real. And Moomintroll and his family explained their world better than those  around me could at times, explain the real, odd, secretive, tragic, sad, happy places and events around me in real life.

And Moomintroll felt safe mostly, but also at various times alienated, lonely, afraid but safe with a family who loved him. A world like the real world that no other book quite got to, but so surreal , topsy-turvy and more appealing, mesmerising than any 1950's bike trip with Four posh kids and a dog. 

The Moomins and all who were in that world, were lovely people to be with as a child. 

And I was sad when they left. 

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