One great disadvantage of a rural childhood was not having access to the public library. There was a library of sorts at our primary school but one large cardboard box would have held all that it contained. Our teacher Cassie was horrible and we only got to read occasionally. I don't remember being allowed to choose the books either. She'd just give one to us and that was that. The only book I remember from school was The Wind In The Willows and I recall being really confused at the part where Pan appears to Mole and Ratty and feeling much easier when the story returned to the adventures of Toad.
At home there never seemed to be enough books because we all read them so fast. I usually got first go at fresh books because I was the oldest. Our mother must have noticed this. She returned one day from shopping in Ballymena with a book for my younger sister, also a voracious reader. The book Matty brought for Anne was My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara. She informed us that Anne would get to read it first, then it would be her turn and, after that, the book was up for grabs. I could hardly bear having to wait but wait I did. Matty stood firm. My Friend Flicka was the first book in a trilogy and Matty also bought the next two, Thunderhead and The Green Grass of Wyoming. Anne got first dibs on those as well. They were a terrific read and well worth waiting for.
Christmas time brought great reading opportunities. Everyone got one or two books at Christmas, usually Puffin or Armada paperbacks and these would be hidden away with the other presents. I'd search the house until I found the stash of books, usually hidden on the high shelf in her wardrobe. For several days every chance I got, I'd be up there, standing beside the wardrobe in our parent's bedroom reading hungrily, nervous, praying not to be discovered. And I never was.
Of course when Christmas Day arrived I hadn't a thing to read and I used to look jealously on Anne as she sat there enjoying her new books. Much later when I confessed all to Matty she said it explained a lot for she could never understand why I showed so little interest in the Christmas books.
It's often a thankless task being a parent. Imagine my poor mother carefully picking out my books only to see me ignore them. I hadn't even the sense to pretend to read them. I wonder would she have preferred to know then that she had reared a sneak without a notion how to defer gratification despite the lesson with the Mary O'Hara trilogy.
Sometime soon I shall explain why it is that I particularly love dusty old books.