Well, OK, not everything. I mean, I did go to school. It's just that as I was walking into Forest Hill today (I know, such a glamorous lifestyle), I heard a starling sing and it reminded me of the Enid Blyton Nature Lover's series; she describes his "song" as gurgles and gasps, splutters and wheezes. I still have the books. I loved them. How I longed to go on country walks with Uncle Merry, and rambles with Zacky the Gipsy. I read the books avidly, learning about birds, trees, plants, reptiles. Out I'd go trying to find the things Blyton wrote about. We were a bit short on mountain hares and fallow deer in Radlett, but I had a damned good look for them all the same. So, little success on my own rambles, but the series did inspire in me a love of natural history books, and of nature itself.
And, of course, I read the Famous Five, and the Secret Seven. Again, out I'd trot to try and build a den in the woods, or set up camp at the bottom of the garden. I wanted to solve mysteries, have adventures, explore new things. I read the Mystery of… books. I can't remember the title but in one of them, the children go behind a waterfall and find a secret place where the mystery is solved. To this day, I have a fascination with waterfalls and at the first opportunity, I will try and make my way behind one. Here I am doing this very thing in Jersey (a long time ago). Note that I did not try this when I visited Niagara Falls - although I did do the touristy behind the falls thing. Not the same at all. But still good.
It's amazing really that one author has been so influential in shaping my imagination. Yes, of course she was hugely prolific, but it's not just that. There was something in her words that spoke to me, opened up a new world, made me want to live that life, both inside and outside my head. From a writer's point of view, this is an incredible achievement. It's why I write, I think. I want to write stories that fuel such excitement and wonder, both for myself and for others. What a gift! But analysing what it is that captivates is nigh on impossible. It's not just the subject matter, it's not just the choice of words, the characters, or the setting. It's not even right place, right time writing. Perhaps it's an authenticity; writing about the extraordinary or the unknown with a sense of reality. After all, I was never going to get to Narnia however many wardrobes I went in, but I could have an adventure, couldn't I?
Anyway, whatever it was that worked the magic, I will always hold those books in my heart. And, who knows, there may still be adventures ahead.