Tin Bath, Numb Reading and Cold Loo

With the coming of central heating, much challenge and pleasure left the art of reading. When a child in the 5Os, there was nothing but a tin bath which, once a week, we dragged in front of the coal fire, filling it by kettles for family sudsies (residual stink for other six days? Well, I didn’t notice) and a wooden hut of an outside toilet at the end of a long backyard path – a phenomenon that no doubt helped the stink stakes! Also, reading in bed for most of the year was an artful interchange of one hand out of the bed until it got too numb with cold, then using the other to prop up the latest Enid Blyton (and, later, Charles Dickens), till you had to give up and abandon both hands to the body warmth of the inner bed. This cut back on the reading time before dozing off during those evenings when parents put kids to bed extremely early (no doubt something to do with a lack of telly). But, believe me, the reading experience was enhanced. Fiction worlds conjured up against the odds seemed more real, somehow. No insults intended, but much of the independent press provides challenging odds in the cold winters of folding, delay, unfulfilled promises etc, thus, for me, making the writing experience more positive and thus valuable when, despite everything, you’re finally published. I once compared the American independent press to surfing. With mixed success, riding the multitudinous waves of uncertainty and of lurking simultaneity across a vast ocean of Opportunity. Bit different from a tin bath.

Published Zene #14 1998

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