Booking a vacation


From US Tintin website

Lisa Reiter’s latest prompt is Holiday Reads. It’s a difficult prompt if only because of the number of holidays someone of my age has been fortunate enough to undertake and the amount of reading material that has accompanied me. For those not yet familiar with Lisa’s rules this problem can be ameliorated by use of ten ‘I remembers…’ rather than a 150 word memoire. But even with this flexibility so many books, magazines, comics, poems, books on tape and CDs bubble up to the surface.

It’s been a journey, that’s for sure. After all I learned to read on holiday. Not in the technical sense of understanding the way letters formed words on the page; I suspect Mum taught me well before I can recall the process. That is only a small part of learning to read, you see.



Real learning, like real education, is not about mechanics. This was brought to my mind by a post by Norah Colvin. Norah’s post is about preparing children through appropriate education (I hope I’ve done it justice). I was given the tools but that didn’t open my mind to the possibilities reading offered. Oddly, given the underlying enmity I had for the Archaeologist in my early years (as I sought to find a place where I could be better than him), it was his efforts that pushed the door ajar.

The Happenings

The Archaeologist and I were sent to our Gran’s for the Easter holidays during the back end of the 1960s. It gave our parents a break; we loved it too, because after breakfast we were sent out and given the run of Herne Bay, a  seaside resort on the north Kent coast. We would have been 8 and 9 I’d guess. Mostly it was fun but one black spot was the daily trip to the library for the Archaeologist to find a new book or two. Jane Austen or Conan Doyle. I moaned, obviously to good effect because he worked hard to find something to shut me up. Finally it worked; nether of us can remember the title or the author after so many years but we do recall the Happenings that formed a central part to each story. From there, all I needed was a genre of my own…


Neville Cardus, courtesy of

I remember holidays with my parents always involved second hand book shops: history for Mum, natural history for Dad, anything weird or obscure for the Archaeologist and, finally, sport for me. I’d sit on a dusty floor, with the sun straining through the dirty windows, pulling Neville Cardus and Alan Ross off the shelves and, with them, I visited Barbados and Karachi, Colombo and Melbourne.

I remember saving up seven shillings and six pence from my weekly pocket money, forswearing sweets and comics, to buy Tintin and the Crab with the Golden Claws from a book shop in Canterbury. It made the annual visit to the Cathedral almost bearable for once.


I remember walking round Jersey with the Textiliste in 1980. We bought ‘Jersey under the Jackboot’, the story of Jersey during the German occupation in WW2. It was the first time I’d read about where I was holidaying while I was there and it was uniformly gloomy. I’ve not done that again (well apart for Bryson’s ‘Down Under’. Now if you don’t understand cricket or why I love it, especially when broadcast on the radio, try Bryson’s take. I couldn’t explain it better myself).

I remember driving around Wyoming and Montana with the family in the late 1990s. We left a week after the latest Harry Potter came out. While I read a chapter or two each evening (and a couple more each morning) we played the audiotape of the previous book on the car stereo (the new one took several weeks to be transcribed to tape). It was bliss, Stephen Fry voicing all the characters. Then in Jackson we found the latest HP on audiobook. We couldn’t believe it – how had this happened? We paid a ridiculous price to buy it; we could barely supress our excitement as we pressed it into the machine. Imagine our horror when we found the American version had been voiced by Jim Dale. It was like expecting Nat King Cole and getting Tiny Tim.HarryPotter_Stephen_fry

I remember a three week break in Southern Africa during which I read ten books, including Gone with the Wind. I felt so chuffed, but mostly it was about quantity. Apart from GWTW, well frankly I just couldn’t give a damn.

I remember sitting under an umbrella on a white sandy beach in Barbados and the Textiliste asking, rather pointedly, if I was planning on reading pulp the whole holiday. While I was a little miffed I did vow to include something a little more improving in my diet – and discovered that I really enjoyed Dickens and Trollope and Collins and the behemoths of the Victorian age in a way I hadn’t as a teen and twenty something. I still enjoy pulp, though.


the perfect Lord Peter Wimsey – Ian Carmiichael

I remember reading Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ on yet another trip to the States (this is beginning to feel like a travelogue). Brilliant. For the first time in my life I understood quantum physics. Neutrons and neutrinos, quark and quirky dead and alive cats, they all made sense. I told the Textiliste. ‘Tell me,’ she said. I couldn’t. I’ve tried several times to bend my brain around the sub-microscopic world and failed every time. It goes in; I know I get it when I’m actually reading it but, unlike sand from beach, the grains never stick.

I remember leaving Patricia Cornwall on a plane, dropping Stieg Larsson in a pool (I should have left him there), using the denouement to a Peter Wimsey as an emergency toilet roll in South Africa, and failing to finish Northanger Abbey while trapped in a Cumbrian cottage one wet October half term before we had to leave without it. I still haven’t finished it (does it end well, anyone?)

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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15 Responses to Booking a vacation

  1. Archaeologist says:

    It ends like this;
    ‘I leave it to be settled, by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.’

    I can only add that books can sometimes seem wonderfully inappropriate to the location. Last December I was in Singapore for the second part of the Teachers wedding. The shops were full of Christmas decorations and I decided I wanted to read something Christmassy, so I downloaded ‘A Christmas Carol’ onto my Kindle. it is really odd to be reading the most brilliant description of ice-bound London sitting by a rooftop swimming pool in a equatorial city.

    ps. I know the Tangentalist will claim that I generally live in the middle of the nineteenth century, and that is of course true, but some modern devices have their uses, if only for a convenient, if not very appetising, way of carrying all Jane Austen and Conan Doyle and most of Trollop and Dickens in ones pocket.


  2. Norah says:

    What a delightful post. I loved your travelogue/book review tour. Reading is a pleasure that can never be overrated. At least you do have something to thank the Archaeologist for! And I to you – thank you for linking to my post.
    I enjoyed the excerpt from Bill Bryson’s ‘Down Under’. I believe I listened to the whole book on cassette many years ago (pre downloadable audiobooks). I didn’t enjoy it then as much as I enjoyed listening to this bit today. Hilarious! Cricket still makes as much sense as it always did!
    I didn’t know Stephen Fry read ;Harry Potter’. Could almost make it worth listening to. I have listened to Stephen Fry read a couple of his own books; one a memoir, the other about the English language. Sheer pleasure!
    I enjoy reading Dickens and Austen; and also delve into quantum physics and history of the universe-type books e.g. Stephen Hawking. I identify entirely with what you say about understanding it while reading but not being able to explain it to anybody else. My retention works more like a colander than a tea strainer. Love your comparison to grains of sand sticking. You just can’t get rid of them – in all the wrong places.
    Thanks for a fun read! 🙂


  3. Charli Mills says:

    Fabulous recollections of book collections! Laughing so hard that you got snookered into buying an American version of Harry Potter on audiobook–even Americans prefer the British version! 😉


    • TanGental says:

      I’m always making those sorts of mistakes, failing to read some essential instruction. Like yesterday we needed a new wiper blade for the windscreen and I managed to acquire one for the rear. Just a small word ‘rear’ but I missed it!


  4. Lisa Reiter says:

    I love your remembering about Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything because that’s exactly the way my brain feels too. A great description – the bits of sand not sticking. Obviously there’s a level of understanding not sufficient to turn it into language for another’s benefit – that’s why i like writing, that not being ‘put on the spot to verbalise’ gives me time to allow those grains to fall back through the hour glass and watch them to reorganise them into something coherent!

    Sorry I am late getting to this marvellous post and your usual insertions of something graphic and hugely funny – I have never (yet) had to sacrifice a book to wipe my …. If I ever find myself in that situation – it’s you I’m going to think of first!

    The summer is fast overtaking me and I’m going to have to stop pretending I am going to keep up with it all. Lisa xx


    • TanGental says:

      I guess your offspring are at the age where their demands actually see to increase and we realise that taxi driver was a career option after all. Don’t apologize; your comments are worth waiting for and you are kind enough to enjoy the scatological side to my sense of humour. It just seems to be part of my life that such things happen to me and, if they are funny, a shame not to share..
      As to the incident in question what bugs me still is the person handing me the pages used the back and not the front of the book. I still wonder if it wasn’t deliberate… And thank you yet again for such a clever prompt. Lots of good memories bubbling to the surface.


  5. Once again you had me smiling as I read. Bill Bryson must have a fantastic research team at his disposal or be the most knowledgeable man about everything. Sorry I couldn’t be sorry about your denouement as by this time I was laughing out loud.


  6. Pingback: School Days, Reminiscences of Geoff Le Pard | Norah Colvin

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