World Book Day

Barry Griffiths

One question am asked is what did you do with your days whilst in Jimmy's. Well apart from the usual round of DWP appointments, sorting out some personal issues and going for walks around Cambridge what do you do when the majority of what you have is time? In the days when you had to be out from 9.30 to 18.00 how to spend the days was a constant battle. Whilst waiting to head back for one of Jackie's lasagnes (she was the cook back then, legendary lady), after doing window shopping for things that couldn't be afforded (well not yet) the library became the hangout of choice.

Cambridge library offered a plentiful supply of distractions. With the BFI, free internet (which if you asked nicely got extended by the library staff) and a vast array of books, both fictional and non fictional, there at your literal fingertips. Certainly for my time in Jimmy's the library became a must for the daily schedule (especially in January when sitting out was never an option). I'd usually get there around 10 am (still too early for most students to turn up). spend an hour or so pacing the aisles searching for something to keep my mind busy, then with one of my most valuable assets of that time, my library card, I'd check out a book to lose myself in.

It was my purple patch with books and one I never lost. It provided me with an escape that I have enjoyed to this day. Over lockdown it has provided a further boost to moments as an alternative to the Netflix approach to spending time. So with International World Book day today I'd thought I'd canvass around to see how books and what books have inspired those around me, residents, staff and volunteers alike. I certainly have no desire to return to those days spent wandering around Cambridge (as diverting as it was) but I am thankful for the opportunity to re-discover a liking for a relatively inexpensive way to pass the time. Below is a selection of books and authors in no particular order.

JD Salinger - the catcher in the rye…..a proper account of misunderstood youth and culture.

Harriet Tubman…..The road to freedom. She was born into slavery but as year went by she brazenly and successfully led hundreds of African American to freedom through the underground railroad. She suffered a brutal up bringing but there was a strength about her that was unshakeable.

John Steinbeck. His descriptions really bring to life the realities of economic hardship and the nonetheless rich and valuable lives that people can lead in spite of it. The Grapes of Wrath is probably the best example of this but I would recommend anything that he has written.

One of my favourite books is by Isabel Allende it is called The Infinite Plan. The novel follows the protagonist, Greg Reeves who's his father is a self-styled preacher who wanders the American West with his family in a caravan during the 1940s, preaching.

Top one is The Magus by John Fowles, its so clever and baffling and interesting. It's about magic and arrogance and love. I must have read it 20 times, and I always find something new in it.

Make your Bed: Little things that can change your life by William H McRaven.

The one that springs to mind for me is The Outrun by Amy Liptrott, It is about the authors recovery from Alcoholism and how going back home to the farm she grew up on helped her with the recovery and the joys of discovering the nature all around her helped to heal her.

My very favourite classic is Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe and Boling the Frog by Chris Brookmyre.