Well, I’m a reader, of course. One of my favourite picture books (Guji-Guji — do you know it?) starts with an egg — a big, odd, unexpected egg — rolling into a nest. And the caption is “Mother Duck didn’t notice. She was reading.” The picture shows beautiful, homely Mother Duck, glasses perched on nose, sitting high on her pile of eggs, book open in front of her. That’s how to nest, I thought. We could be friends. The next time we see Mother Duck with a book, she’s reading to her babies — ducklings one, two, three, and a fourth, who just happens to look a lot like a crocodile. She doesn’t have a book in any of the other pictures, but I like to think that while Guji-Guji is working out how to save the duck flock, she’s tucked away somewhere, watching her other babies sleep, reading herself into calm and clarity.
I’m not too picky about what I read; the main thing is to have something to catch my eye. It could be a cereal packet, a shampoo bottle, a sign on the train, one of the Cat’s books, a magazine, a novel, a travel guide, something with heft — it doesn’t matter too much what, as long as there’s print and something approaching sentences. And there are lots of places to read. The breakfast table is perfect, or would be if everyone would be quiet and the radio was off and there were no lunches to make. So, actually, that’s not such a good option, except for every now and then, when I get up early, earlier than the children, and sit in the sun and drink my coffee and read. And I do read at breakfast anyway, but it doesn’t work so well because my ears stop working and then I miss what people are saying, but it’s like there’s a sea rushing in around me, and sooner or later a wave breaks through and I am pulled out of the words and into the plan for the day or a request for water or a geography game or a cuddle. Which is nice too.
Or it might not be the breakfast table. The bathroom is good, and bed, and the sofa. A library is a real treat, and one of the best is a café, quiet, light, peaceful, my sister on the other side of the table, coffee at hand, no need to talk. Standing at the kitchen bench works well, and if I’m careful I can make it look like I’m cooking, or eating afternoon tea, or organising drinks.
And the boys look to be readers too, searching out their own inner worlds, learning rhythm, and texture, and thought. The Cat took to it early — a duck to water, so to speak — but the Rabbit has made a more sidelong approach, taking time to warm to each book, to absorb it piecemeal, in slow, broken morsels, before relaxing, body snugged into mine, each key word warm and waiting on his tongue, as we tell each other a story.