Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Childhood memories

This month I am taking part in a 30 day photo challenge. Each day has a theme and some have proved to be lots of fun but others are indeed a 'challenge'! On Friday the theme was 'childhood memory' and, as I noted when I posted my pictures, my life here in Copenhagen is so far removed from my childhood in Middlesbrough, I struggled to find any reminders of my early years.

In the end, I had to 'create' my memories - I bought figs to make a salad and was reminded of fig trees that grew in the garden of a summer house in Egypt where we stayed as children. The butterfly cakes that I baked for friends who came to lunch on Friday were me retracing my mother's footsteps when she had baked the same cakes for many a children's party or school cake sale. Food often does take us to places and stir up memories buried deep in our past. When I was young my father would make an Egyptian dish called 'ful' made from slow cooked beans and eaten with pita bread - the smell of the same dish when I found it in a London humus bar many years later transported me straight back to my childhood. Often though these are the memories that we seek out and the flashback can sometimes feel 'staged'. More striking are the memories that take us by surprise and catch us unaware - this is what happened to me last weekend.

On Saturday I went to a school loppemarked (a 'flea market') and as this is a great place to pick up children's books in English at bargain prices, I found myself rummaging through boxes of once loved story books. My heart stopped when I stumbled upon Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever (emphasis added!).
This is the storybook that I devoured as a child and although my children do have many Richard Scarry books on their shelves, nothing compares to this collection of stories, nursery rhymes, poems and pages and pages of pictures of the beloved animal characters of my childhood: the Cat family, lowly worm, the polite elephant and others.

In the middle of the school car park as I leafed through the pages of this beautiful story treasury, the world around me stopped and for a couple of minutes I was a little girl again lost in the world of those familiar words and drawings. I recognised each page and the fondness of these early reading memories has stayed with me for days. Some of the humour that had passed me by as a child made my grown up self chuckle, for example, the story of 'Couscous the Algerian detective'!!
This book is a mighty tome of 288 pages and includes much more than just stories and rhymes to  engage the young reader and feed their inquisitive minds. I hope I don't sound too old when I can't help but say that 'they don't make story books like this any more'. I don't know of another similar single volume for children where you can turn through pages and pages about colours, the alphabet, numbers, the flowers in the garden, the instruments of an orchestra, the seasons, airplanes, boats, trucks or where a child can learn about the different jobs that people do all day, about manners and being polite, about Rome, Paris and London (and a Castle in Denmark!!) and about animals and the parts of the body. Its like a paper edition of the world wide web for little people!
I'm thrilled to have this book back in my life again - it is exactly as I remembered it and not only do I keep finding my own childhood memories within its pages, I can now enjoy sharing them with my children and hopefully pass them on so they can make the memories theirs.


  1. Kitty, what a great blog! I just scrolled through your 30 day challenge shots and they're fantastic. I loved learning about you on this blog as well. It's fantastic.

    It's so wonderful to be inspired by other photographers isn't it? We always have so much to learn and it's great FUN!

  2. I remember that book, it's fabulous isn't it! Recently a friend sent a copy of an Edward Ardizzone, The Little Girl and the Tiny Doll for my daughter, a book I had loved when I was little and hadn't seen since, and I was immediately transported back! Love the photographs too, you are very talented! Emma :)