Stories for me have always been an escape. At first it was those written by other people – I slid into them when things in the real world became overwhelming. I can map my childhood through The Secret Garden via A Town Like Alice. As a dyslexic child who struggled to read, I listened endlessly to story tapes from the library, and my tastes were dictated by what was available.
I used the story tapes to block out the small unhappinesses of my life – my loneliness at school, my mother’s long illness. She was one of the first sufferers of ME and for years struggled with exhaustion and depression, plotting her energy levels and despair on graphs, visiting doctor after doctor with increasing desperation. My father, tired himself from a full-time job, often had to look after three angry and confused children. It’s only decades later, as a mother myself, that I can begin to understand how difficult that time must have been for both of them.