Over the last few days I’ve shared things I wrote some time ago about lost books – books that were once loved and possessed, or perhaps possessed us as well as being loved by us, which somehow were lost. One particular book seemed irretrievably lost because I couldn’t even remember its name or author, and I wrote about it in the hope someone might read my blog and recognise the lost book. It was about a family of three children who stayed with relatives one summer. They found an old caravan in the orchard with an equally ancient car attached which had the number plate YAK. It’s no surprise that the car became a yak and towed them around in the caravan, having adventures. The second story about the same children in the book had them staying with another relative by the sea, and this one had rather sinister undertones, which almost haunted me, a horrible old woman who became a giant octopus, and little toy boats which came alive and scuttled around on their oars which had become legs.
I wrote about this several times over the years, and then one wonderful day last autumn, very unexpectedly I received a communication from a friendly and excited person who recognised the stories I was writing about and more importantly, knew the name of the book and the author! I can’t tell you how excited I was, absolutely thrilled! The book, the wonderful book was “Chowry and Idle’s Islands – Two Tales of Fantasy” by Jean Forbes-Robertson. The author’s name rang a bell, and I discovered that she was an actress, born in 1905 and dying in 1962, nine years after she wrote ‘Chowry’. I wrote back, thrilled that the book was identified, and now with a glimmer of hope that one day, i might find another copy and actually read it again after so many years.
We began a correspondence, chatting about all sorts of things, and then suddenly I had the startling communication that she had not only found the book, but had obtained a copy of it! She was now the excited one, and said how wonderful it was, the marvellous illustrations (which I had remembered so vividly) the wonderful story, the memories it brought back. Then she made a most generous and lovely offer, that she would lend it to me once she had properly enjoyed it. Now how kind is that!!
A little while ago, she messaged me that she would send me her precious copy of Chowry, and I was on tenterhooks until it arrived. Would it be quite as I remembered it, would it be as entrancing, would it be as exciting and as scary? Our friendly postman arrived with the well-packaged parcel for me, and I opened it with care. And do you know what, it was just as I remembered, but smaller, much much smaller – because of course when I last read it I was smaller, much much smaller! It is absolutely wonderful, and I was filled with such happiness, real joy! I’m rereading it slowly, savouring the story and poring over the illustrations by Charles Stewart. I’ll write more about it some time, but for now I am just enjoying it!