Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Spending my Days with Dinosaurs and my Evenings at the Royal Court

By K. Taylor, Aurora ON.  Spending my days with dinosaurs and my evenings at the Royal Court. We’re only starting out, but already I’ve spent this summer with some pretty shady characters. I’ve developed a taste for plotting and intrigue; backstabbing and even a touch of regicide. I’m actually stuck in Tudor England as it happens. Having just made my way safely through the Wars of the Roses (and we thought our political rivalries were bad!) I am absolutely sucked into court life and am now following the dangerous path of Henry VII. You might not remember him but I bet you’ve heard of his son Henry VIII, the one with all the wives.

“What I do remember is him telling me, laughing, that his big fear was that he would run out of books to read …”

Luckily, the series of books are written in modern English so I haven’t gone all Shakespearean on my family and I don’t need Coles Notes to understand what‘s happening. But the language, though deceptively simple, is as all language; as complex as the plots one king weaves against another. Words fascinate me, I’m in awe of their power. It astounds me that with a well-placed verb here and a cheeky adjective right over there I am completely drawn in to the colours, the textures, the sweaty fear of five hundred years ago. It’s pretty cool when you think about it.

In the pages that spill the lives of the Tudors like orange juice on the breakfast table I’m reminded of the power of books. The ideas they hold, the knowledge and how dangerous they have been considered over the years. It seems unfathomable that by printing or reading the wrong words one could have one’s head chopped off but it happened. Though perhaps not in 21st century Aurora.

I shift, somewhat reluctantly, from the Tower of London and back to my own life. Someone has to deal with that orange juice after all. Later I shall skip back even further in time, to the age of the dinosaurs as my daughter reads to me from her own library book. the choppy words spoken carefully in her sweet, clear voice; a wrinkled furrow appearing between her eyes as she concentrates.

In a quest for a simpler, calmer life I’m reclaiming my love of the written page and cutting back on the screens. I know, I know; devices are awesome. When a friend loaned me her tablet I must have spent five minutes just dragging my finger across the screen, watching the page slowly turn under my touch like a cat watching a goldfish. It was cool. And no, I don’t get out much.

But there is just something lovely and familiar about a good book in hand. The crinkle of that plastic cover they put on all library books, the weight of a hardcover propped against my knees. I love the needlepoint bookmark that my aunt carefully sewed and sent over from England, and I love the soft yellow light of my bedside lamp; warm and inviting.

“When a friend loaned me her tablet I must have spent five minutes just dragging my finger across the screen, watching the page slowly turn under my touch like a cat watching a goldfish.”

My grandfather, raised on London’s gritty streets back in the twenties somehow developed a love of books. I wish I’d asked him how he went from the rough and tumble docks of the east end to the educated (ahem, snobby) man I knew. But I never asked and now it is too late. What I do remember is him telling me, laughing, that his big fear was that he would run out of books to read; that there was a finite amount of the magic, that there would come a day when it would all run out. The delight in losing oneself in a story, was intoxicating and he feared the end of the journey.

He would never have worried if he’d seen the libraries of today; all those free books, and all ours for the taking. Or borrowing for three weeks.

Regular library visits have always been something other people did. But with boundless determination I have fit it snugly into our weekly routine this summer. As I say I’m aiming for simple and a visit to the library definitely fit’s the bill. Books are a bit like home-baked cookies I think, if they’re not in the house you don’t necessarily miss them; but when they’re sitting right in front of you, how can you resist?

And so right on schedule we make our way to the Aurora Public Library. We scour the shelves, gathering a hodge-podge of tales that stretch from my Tudors to spy mice and soccer. My daughter happily finds another dinosaur book, we shall read that tonight; snuggled together on the bed, her pajamas soft as she nuzzles in, the hairs on her head tickling my nose as we cuddle up tight. Who could resist?

With arms loaded we head to the counter where the kids check out their books, my seven year old proudly passing across her very own small plastic credit card. The woman at the counter asks if the kids have signed up for the Summer Reading Club. They have. A short stop at the little café (a Nanaimo bar seeming a deliciously small price to pay for a week’s entertainment) and we step back outside into the July sun.

I could say more, but it’s a gorgeous day, the water from the backyard pond tinkles and there’s a Muskoka chair in a shady spot waiting for me. Besides, the king and I are smack in the middle of a rebellion, and I really must get back to it.

K. Taylor
Aurora, ON


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