By Tymon Smith for The Times:
Like all confused 30-somethings, I blame my parents.
If they hadn’t insisted on not having a television in our house until I was 12, or if they hadn’t been so committed to reading to us every night for more than a decade, I could have been a tenderpreneur.
Instead, I’ve devoted my life to books, reading and writing, to the point where friends dread having me over for fear of what I might say about their bookshelves. A potential partner’s looks count just a bit more than her book taste.
My two younger sisters and I were raised on books – first my mother’s picture books and later the comforting tones of my father reading to us, only to be occasionally interrupted by my mother popping her head around the door to correct his pronunciation. I learnt to read too quickly for my age when I arrived in first grade, thanks mostly to the preparation I’d had from my family story time sessions.
Soon my sister and I were those annoying kids who were singled out for special and unwanted attention by our teachers as examples to everyone else for our reading ability.
Reading The Hobbit in Grade 2 will do that to you. By this time I was borrowing books from my class prefect and found myself deeply involved in the antics of Willard Price’s adventure series The Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew, not to mention Enid Blyton’s works.
All of which was encouraged by my parents to a degree – it did not always make my father happy to see his children lying on the floor, their noses stuck in their books on sunny days out in the country when we should have been having adventures of our own.
However, with the introduction of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series, my sister and I found ourselves bundu bashing to our hearts’ content as we tried to re-enact our favourite scenes from the books beneath the burning sun on our plot on the banks of the Crocodile River.
Our youngest sister was cruelly excluded from these romps and spent her time creating a “fairy garden” comprising a circle of stones, all under the spell of a rock she named Aslan, after the lion in the Narnia books.
By the time television arrived in the Smith household we were all well on the way to developing our own particular reading habits and tastes. So, when reading nights were replaced by TV dinners, we were fine – still stealing whatever time we could to read late into the night and at family and religious events, where we were supposed to know better.
While these days my parents might like to spend much time complaining about the divergence between who I am and who they thought I would become, at least we can all agree and be comforted by the fact that, to paraphrase some Frenchman whose name my father would mispronounce and turn into a rude word; I read, therefore I am.