Well, it’s Mother’s Day, and I’ve had a bouquet of roses, some rose petal handcream, a beautiful bar of soap – and The Daughters also left messages on Facebook about two of their favourite childhood books, Joyce Lankester Brisley’s Milly-Molly-Mandy, and My Naughty Little Sister, by Dorothy Edwards, reminding me how I used to read to them and ‘do all the voices’.
Simon, at Savidge Reads, must have been thinking along similar lines, because he wrote a wonderful post, thanking his mum for making him read, and it set me thinking about my mother, who says she held me in her arms when I was a baby and wouldn’t sleep, and read aloud from whatever she happened to be reading at the time – novels, plays, poems.
And, of course, she read me children’s stories (doing all the voices), including those delightful tales about Milly-Molly-Mandy, which were among my favourites (and which she also loved when she was small) , so I rushed off to find More of Milly-Molly-Mandy, which seems to have been in the family’s possession for ever and a day. I have no idea where it came from – I think my mother may have bought it in a second-hand shop. It was published by George G Harrap & Company Ltd in 1944, ‘in conformity with the authorised economy standards’. I keep meaning to look this up, as I’d love to know more about wartime publishing. There’s even a little logo of a lion sitting on open book, on which is printed: BOOK PRODUCTION WAR ECONOMY STANDARD. Has anyone else ever come across this? And if so, can you tell me anything about it?
I love this book just as much as when I did when I was a child. There are fabulous black and white drawing, by the author, and a map of the village showing where everyone lives,and a colour plate at the front, with Milly-Molly-Mandy making her bed with its green-painted ends, and the matching curtains and colourful rug on the floor. In fact Milly-Molly-Mandy Has a Surprise, where she sees her very own bedroom for the very first time is my favourite of all the stories. Her family turn the little storeroom up under the thatched roof into a room for her, so she no longer has to sleep in the corner of Father’s and Mother’s room. They decorate it with left-over paint, and Mother dyes old curtains and a bedspread to make them look like new, and they manage to keep the whole thing secret, even though Milly-Molly-Mandy helps with make-over.
It’s such a wonderful surprise for the little girl, and you just know it must have been planned and organised by her mother, who must love her very much.
When she opened the door – she saw –
Her own little cot-bed with the green coverlet on, just inside. And the little square window with the green curtains blowing in the wind. And a yellow pot of nasturtiums on the sill. And the little green chest of drawers with the robin cloth on it. And the little green mirror hanging on the primrose wall, with Milly-Molly-Mandy’s face reflected in it.
The room had ‘a little square window very near to the floor, and the ceiling sloped away on each side so that Father or Mother or Grandpa or Grandma or Uncle or Aunty could stand upright only in the middle of the room. (But Milly-Molly-Mandy could stand upright anywhere in it.)’ As a child I felt a sense of kinship with Milly-Molly-Mandy, for my own bedroom (decorated in blue and white) was up in the eaves of the house, with sloping ceilings and a tiny dormer window which opened on to the roof.
So there you are, a reflection on Mother’s Day – and a huge thank you to my mother and my daughters for their love, friendship, and our shared enjoyment of books and reading.