I love a good book. Such a simple pleasure in a complicated time. Learning from the words of others.
Our house wasn’t filled with the classics. I can’t remember if we even had a bookcase. But Mum always seemed to be reading something.
I might be slandering the old boy, but I don’t recall Dad finishing too many books. Newspapers were his go.
He’d pour over the morning paper during smoko at work. Especially the sport pages. Then after a hard day on the tools, he’d check the afternoon editions on our kitchen table.
It was there that he’d tell me whether the journos had got it right. Especially the league writers. What would they know?
I caught his love of the printed word. It wasn’t long before it was my job to buy The Sun and the Daily Mirror.
There were no deliveries in those days. Didn’t need to be. We had the trusty paperboy.
Every afternoon, he’d ride his bike down our street. A teenager with a large cardboard box attached to the handlebars. His whistle would be my cue to dash outside.
All the neighbours would be out too. From memory I was the only kid. He’d weave back and forth across the road, picking us off one by one.
I’d be shattered if that box was empty when he arrived at our house. But always careful not to say anything. Our newsagent on wheels happened to be an amateur boxing champ. He was never robbed.
Books came later. Over the years I’ve collected my own little library. It’s moved with us from place to place.
I’m not big on fiction. Biographies are my go. I love reading about the lives of others. Especially those who have a go. Or inspire. Even those we might despise.
It’s quite a mix in my bookcase. The Reverend Ted Noffs sits beside gangster Neddy Smith. Singo could be next to Dame Edna and Kerry O’Keefe.
This may surprise you, but the likes of John Cash and Dean Martin are on hand. Tom Jones too. Just up from Jack Gibson and Wayne Bennett. Even cricket kook Henry Blofeld. What a dinner party that would be.
Sporting stars, and the people who work with them, fascinate me. Especially those from humble beginnings. So many lessons for the rest of us.
Read the life stories of Lance Armstrong or Andre Agassi, and tell me you’re not motivated. Take a journey with Alfie Langer or Shane Webcke, and try not to cheer. No chance.
I’ve tried to pass my passion on to the kids. We did Fairy Tales at bedtime from an early age. Daughter One loved them. She would order repeats. Sometimes Dad would fall asleep first.
Daughter Two, however, was more for the impromptu. She liked her stories made up, not from a page. Tell me about the moon, Dad. Quite a task, especially after Friday night drinks.
Every year now, we head to the Lifeline Bookfest. For those who haven’t been before, picture the MCG covered with tables of every kind of cheap reading matter.
I head to the Biography table, and snap up a few bargains. The girls find the section for children, and battle with dozens of grandmothers looking for early Christmas presents.
Each finds favourites for a few dollars a pop. Enough to last till next time. And keep them off the i-pod, for an hour or two.
They’re a varied bunch, our fellow book fair visitors. This is an event that attracts all sorts.
Some try to get to the final page while still at the table, in the hope of saving around three dollars. Others are reading so much at home, they’re neglecting personal hygiene. Badly. They tend to get the books they want. Think of the Comic Book guy from The Simpsons.
But at least they ARE reading. Others, it would seem, don’t have time for paperbacks or hard covers. No need to, when your head is buried in Facebook or Twitter.
And that’s a shame. For all the advantages of being plugged into social media, there’s nothing like taking time out, to tackle an old favourite, or find a new friend.
To play my part, I’m taking a stand. Less Facebook, more reading.
Forget Twitter before bed. I’ll be turning pages. With a book that I can smell. No i-pad, thanks. Batteries not required. Besides, I need somewhere to put my Grade Three ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ bookmark.
You can join my campaign. Get the kids involved too. Hopefully we’ll see you at the next Bookfest. Just remember the deodorant.