Childhood Reading! | The Hospice of St. Francis

Childhood Reading!

I have many happy memories from my childhood of reading stories with my parents and younger brother. There is something very comforting especially during these uncertain times, to think back to cosy evenings tucked up in bed eagerly awaiting that nights story.

As a mother now myself, I take great joy in the nostalgia and familiarity of some of those stories and being able to share them with my daughter feels quite magical. 

When my daughter was born, along with many other beautiful gifts, books were a common theme. Many of these were the classics that I remember from my own childhood that seem to somehow have a timeless quality to them. Stories such as ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’ and ‘Paddington Bear’ to name a few. Revisiting these stories has been very enjoyable and triggers memories of where I perhaps first heard them be it at school, our local library or at home. One of the greatest things about being a child and having stories read to you, is that often the reader adds their own artistic flare, be that putting on voices, or animated gestures. This often stays with you and certainly in my case, you find yourself replicating some of these mannerisms in your own story telling.  

Beatrix Potter was always a popular choice and one that never gets old. When I was small someone gave me a collection box set, which I still have and now sits proudly in my daughter’s bedroom. I have always been attracted to books that look visually inviting with illustrations that draw you in. Beatrix Potter was a fantastic artist and her paintings perfectly captured the charming characters she wrote about. At this point my daughter is too young to fully understand the little tales but having the illustrations to point to and describe means she is able to enjoy the stories in other ways.

During lockdown, my parents (like many of us) had been having a clear out in the loft. When I was last able to see them, they bought over various items they had been storing for me, amongst the collection of items was a stack of children’s books from my childhood that Mum had obviously kept for future grandchildren. One of the books was called ‘A Pig Called Shrimp’. I was instantly able to recall the story and decided that I would read it to our little girl that evening. When bedtime came, we cuddled up bottle and book at the ready.

A Pig Called Shrimp: 

This is the tale of a sweet little pig called Shrimp, who forms an unlikely friendship with a very arrogant and often rude ram called Gabriel. Shrimp is a keen swimmer and everyday visits the local river for a dip, this is where he meets Gabriel who also visits the river daily but only to stand and admire his own reflection in the water.
One day Gabriel notices something floating in the water, far in the distance. He instructs Shrimp to fetch it so he can inspect it. Shrimp is tentative as he is only small and it’s a long way to swim but he wants to please his new friend who wasn’t impressed with his hesitation, so he jumps in. 

When he gets back to the bank of the river, Shrimp is exhausted. The floating item was only a branch, Gabriel was disappointed. 

The next day Shrimp didn’t come to the river, nor the day after or the day after that. Gabriel felt irritated that he had no one there to admire his glorious coat or listen to him talk about himself. He asks some birds if they knew where Shrimp was and they revealed that he is quite poorly and getting worse by the day. 

The ram decides to see for himself and walks to the farm. There he sees a very small, pale little Shrimp, shivering under a pile of hay. He suddenly felt terrible for making the little pig fetch the branch from the water and realised he cared for the pig dearly. 
He leaves the farm, finds a gorse bush and begins charging back and forth and in and out. Pulling great chucks of wool from his glorious coat. He then instructs the birds to take the wool from the bush to Shrimp to keep him warm. 

Gabriel’s coat was no longer glorious and his reflection no longer pleased him but somehow that didn’t seem to matter anymore. Shrimp recovered well with the help of Gabriel’s coat and he and Gabriel remained good friends for the rest of their days. 

I had forgotten just how lovely this tale was and I felt quite emotional reading it. That evening I had my weekly video call with my friends and I told them about the book and how it was one of my favourites as a child and how special it felt to be able to share that with my own daughter. The next day they all messaged to say that they had liked the sound of the story so much that they had each ordered a copy for their own children.

Four best friends reading the same story to their four little girls and although they can’t see or play with each other at the moment, there is still a small connection made. That felt like a very special lockdown moment.

By Charlotte Gilks, Deputy Manager, Chapter Two