Resting, Reading and Recuperating

One of the horrors of old age that I have observed is that at a certain stage people stop reading. My father, despite everything, is still hanging in there. He’s never been a massive reader but he’s always done crosswords and puzzles and, although they may be getting simpler, he’s still doing them. This, I feel, is a good thing.

Ever since I had tonsillitis. in around 1964, and my mother suggested reading as a hobby, I have been a lost cause. She bought me a copy of Biggles of The Special Air Police and the rest is history.

I still have the book – it’s within feet of me as we speak. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if she’d bought Jane Eyre, as she later did. Would I have grown into a sophisticated professor of English Literature? Or would I have given up reading? I suspect the latter. Having been persuaded to read several classics in my early reading career I then gave them up until recently when I thought I should give them another try.

It didn’t really work out well. You may have seen my comments on this previously – that Don Quixote would be much better if it was half as long and had a murder on the first page, preferably Don Quixote himself. My feeling on a number of other classics is similar.

The nearest I’ve been to a classic in the last twelve months is  John Buchan. I’ve managed The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, Mr Standfast and The Three Hostages but I’m having a rest for now. There comes a time when casual racism wears a bit thin, even if it is authentic contemporary racism.

I moved on to Dr Thorndyke but after four of them I started searching around for some variety. Having read a book on Q Ships I’m now on Nature Cure by Richard Mabey.  Clare Pooley recommended it to me when I came out of hospital. I broke one of my normal rules and paid £4.99 for a Kindle edition, but it’s been worthwhile.

Clearly the man is marching to a different drummer, even when he isn’t suffering from depression, but it’s a relaxing and informative read. I looked forward to his account of male urology, as this is one of the points where our lives converge. He likens it to a mythical linking of his internal water with the water of the Fens. That’s why he’s known as an elegant and spiritual writer.

I have never thought of it as mystical in any of my three stays in Male Urology, I just use it as a source of broad humour. My internal water is linked to the water in my kettle.

That’s why I’m not known as an elegant and spiritual writer.

Finally,  moving back to the point. It’s surprising how much energy it takes to read and concentrate. I struggled in the days after leaving hospital, and I’m still not fully back in the swing of things. With the sort of time I’ve had on my hands recently I should have seen Nature Cure off in short order, probably in a day. It’s only 240 pages in the paper edition, which is not a long book.

I didn’t have the energy to start it for a couple of days and I’ve been doing a section each day. I still have a bit left, though to be honest I’m now able to read faster and I’m just trying to prolong the pleasure of reading.  I’m doing puzzles now and looking at the web, though still not up to full speed.

Has anybody else noticed that reading can be such an effort? Or am I just getting old?



33 thoughts on “Resting, Reading and Recuperating

  1. arlingwoman

    My mother is 87 and still reads all the time. I am going to be 60 and still read voraciously. In fact, I know I’m sick when I CAN’T read. For cool books you could try the Alford Saga by Paul Almond. There are four that I know of.

    1. quercuscommunity

      Good for your mum! This is all giving me hope.Will look at those books. I’m 59 next month – when I was 57 I was “mid 50s” but at 58 I entered “nearly 60” territory. Still haven’t managed “grown up” yet. 🙂

  2. Clare Pooley

    I agree that Richard Mabey is a strange fellow but a lot of his writing is very lyrical and he is so observant. I find Roger Deakin a similar kind of writer I find reading difficult when I’ve been ill, when I’m depressed and when I’m worried. I need to escape from boredom and my thoughts but reading takes too much effort. Reading is easy for the fit and young. I use puzzles, crosswords, logic problems and killer sudoku instead of books.

  3. Laurie Graves

    A friend just had major back surgery. She wants books that are comforting, and I brought her my copy of Miss Read’s Village school house books—a compendium of three. I’ve also got a big pile of library books—chosen by our beloved librarian—to bring her either today or tomorrow. Comforting books often are looked down on, but boy oh boy do they have their place.

      1. quercuscommunity

        Having read his poetry and his prose I can’t honestly understand why he’s best known for his poetry. The Sherston Trilogy would be one for my Desert Island list.

      2. arlingwoman

        Mostly it was his WWI poetry that was good. The rest of it isn’t anything like that. I thought the same thing when I read the Sherston books after the poetry.

  4. Helen

    When I had a major depression a few years ago, I couldn’t read…. had to start wth word searches to get my brain back into gear, something to do with concentration levels, if not energy!

  5. GP Cox

    My father-in-law is about to turn 90 in a few days and God love him, he devours books!! He says that at his age, it’s his only escape.

  6. beatingthebounds

    No, I’m with you, reading when below par is hard-work. Then again, some might say that I am also getting old! I had a Biggles phase. It was one of several. Find something that you like then read every available book. The ones I can remember from my youth: Narnia, the science fiction of Andre Norton, Tolkien, Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Rice-Burroughs, Jack London, James Herbert and Stephen King. I suppose I haven’t really changed, but know I have to wait between novels. I’ve pursued the books of Iain Banks (not the SF) and Arturo Perez-Reverte and Will Self and Kate Atkinson etc, etc in similar ways.

      1. beatingthebounds

        I know to give up when I realise that I’ve read the same passage several times and I still don’t know what it says.

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