Recommended Read: A Little Aloud With Love #1
As the world rushes towards Valentines Day in a flurry of reds and pinks and heart shaped balloons we thought we'd pause for thought. Over the next week members of our Reader family will be reflecting on their favourite extracts from the A Little Aloud With Love anthology.
First up is Practice Mentor, Clare with her thoughts on Laurie Lee's Cider with Rosie.
One of my favourite things about the wonderful anthology A Little Aloud with Love is the way in which it truly encompasses the many different ways in which love might come into our lives.
My second favourite thing is that it does so with an honest heart, not afraid to reflect upon the limitations, failings and pains of love as well as those much yearned for moments of height and bliss and everlastingness. As Valentine's Day approaches, this powerful collection reminds us that we are all - whether we like it or not, I'm afraid - involved somehow in this wide-ranging, very complicated, but very necessary story called love, and that it goes far beyond the picture postcards of young lovers (although we equally need them in our lives as well!)
One of the extracts in the anthology which encapsulates some of this is taken from Laurie Lee's Cider with Rosie. The extract shows Lee remembering his mother, and we get a rich sense of not only his love for her, but also a treasured understanding of the many different loves that she experienced in her life before his own beginning. We learn that Annie Light was a romantic compelled to live in the real world, and yet despite her experiences of poverty and hardship and eventual betrayal, she still manages to keep that light of love for the world open.
Here is Lee recalling some of his mother's earlier years working as a domestic help and observing life above stairs whilst living below:
"How did mother fit into all this, I wonder? And those neat-fingered parlour-queens, prim over-housemaids, reigning Cooks, raging Nannies, who ordered her labours – what could they have made of her?
Mischievous, muddle-headed, full of brilliant fancies, half witless, half touched with wonder; she was something entirely beyond their ken and must often have been their despair. But she was popular in those halls, a kind of mascot or clown; and she was beautiful, most beautiful at that time. She may not have known it, but her pictures reveal it; she herself seemed astonished to be noticed.
Two of her stories which reflect this astonishment I remember very well. Each is no more than an incident, but when she told them to us they took on a poignancy which prevented us from thinking them stale. I must have heard them many times, right on into her later years, but at each re-telling she flushed and shone, and looked down at her hands in amazement, recalling again those two magic encounters which raised her for a moment from Annie Light the housemaid to a throne of enamelled myrtles."
Laurie Lee, Cider with Rosie
Reading the extract in the anthology with the accompanying poem To My Mother by George Barker - 'Most near, most dear, most loved and most far' - made me think about how the experience of love is much wider than the shared relationship between two people, but rather has to do with an attitude to life. I was pleased that Annie Light still flushes and glows as she recalls stories from her past when she felt lit up by the world, and I am pleased that through the telling of these early stories, her children are able to see a fuller, truer version of their mother.
It makes me sad to see when this light goes out of people's lives, when we become cynical or hard to ourselves and the world, and most especially, to the idea of love. Annie Light's husband deserted her and she could have turned embittered. Her son wonders why she didn't, why the adored could become again the adoring. But I am relieved that Annie Light keeps her spirit alive, and maybe that is what love is about, and certainly what this anthology enables us all to do.
If you're looking for a Valentines present that will bring joy to your loved one and bring you both something special to share, why not give the gift of Shared Reading through A Little, Aloud with Love?
A Little, Aloud with Love