History of Influences – Pt 1
My history of influences from a written perspective started at an early age. I have vague recollections of learning to read at school but there are two things that stand out clearly; some books with pirates in and some small books called Ant and Bee.
I saw one of the Ant and Bee books in an Oxfam shop commanding an extreme price a couple of months ago. There’s an unofficial site which shows them being reissued. The author was Angela Banner.
It all seems so long ago but I still remember them with fondness.
The next influence was Alfred Bestall and the Rupert annuals. Even today, I still love the way the stories were illustrated and the ‘chunk of prose’ / ‘short rhyming verse’ approach. I actually own several of the original Bestall annuals. It was a magical, separate world but still part of our own. The front covers, the end pieces, the image at the end that bled into the white page, the magic painting. All these are visual elements but they complimented the stories perfectly; The Englishcountryside, Eastern magicians, travelling circus people, a sense of readiness for adventure. Bestall’s biography by Caroline G. Bott is a fascinating insight into the illustrator.
Bestall took over from Mary Toutel in 1935 with his first story, Rupert, Algy and the Smugglers up until his last known drawing in 1985.
Another great series of books I read around this time were the Enid Blyton Famous Five series. I had most of them in red hardback. As with Rupert, it was the English countryside setting and adventure that inspired me. Cornish names, camping, islands to explore by boat and people up to no good. I remember reading them, under the bed covers at night by torch as clear as day. Titles like Five Go To Smuggler’s Top, Five On Kirrin Island Again, Five On A Treasure Island still stir excitement.
I read Arthur Ransome‘s Swallows & Amazons but not a this time, much later, as an adult. It had that same feel of adventure.
I also had a set of encyclopedias, each one a different colour for a different subject. I poured over them, page by page and some of the information must have stuck!
A few years later I was given some books on the second world war by a neighbour who was in the Air Force. These had details of tanks and planes and one bit that sticks out in my mind is the way a sniper hides his body behind a tree. Don’t know why. Just does.