Each day we had reading time. We’d done with trivial pastimes like kindergarten the year before. Now we were in Mrs Rowly’s class. Class one, St. Bride’s Primary, Bridgend. Suicide capital of the UK. Not that I knew that then. No, I was one of a bunch of five year olds squirming about at custom-built desks. And reading, reading, reading. Some writing, some basic maths, but reading, ah yes, reading was what I looked forward to.
Propped up, against the back of the class, there stood a book rack. Row after row of the adventures of a mouse. At least, I think it was a mouse. It could have been a kitten. Nope, a mouse. It had saucers for ears. Definitely a mouse. Pocket-size books. Big enough to feel the gravity of the story, but small enough to fit into palms that could be dwarfed by a fifty pence piece. Each book held an adventure. A techni-colour escapade of this cheeky mouse with the saucer ears. In one, he’d be driving a racing car round a track. In another, he’d be feasting with the Queen. Brave, fearless, fabulous little mouse with his loud yellow-orange coloured fur and smart button-up vest.
Each day I waited for reading time. Yes, there were rows and rows of these books. But what if I never got to read all of them? Never got to experience this mouse’s marvellous life, just one more time? One day, my younger sister came to visit, taking the grand tour of Class 1. Within seconds I’d led her to the book rack. I still remember displaying it as though it were the greatest show on earth. “Roll up, roll up, you don’t want to miss this, voyages of the exotic, journeys to the moon and back, fancy a turn as a famous rock star?, it’s all here, just step inside.”
It wasn’t long after that I found out I was leaving. On my own adventure. To this place called Africa. I never did finish reading all of those books. But I did start reading others, and they took me somewhere else, with characters who showed me the world through their eyes, their actions, the obstacles they faced. Some of these characters were fictional others men and women who’d changed attitudes, fought battles, won wars, sometimes even lost them. That mouse with his saucer ears and smart button-up vest taught me how to seek out stories. And what’s writing without story?