Wednesday, 10 August 2011
Wheels of Fortune
A few years back, I was browsing through some books at a jumble sale. I have no idea where it was, but I saw a book I hadn't seen since reading it as a boy. It is quite difficult to describe the flood of impressions, the sheer weight of nostalgia that this find triggered so unexpectedly as I leafed through it. As a boy, I must have borrowed it from the town library because we weren't in a position to actually buy books in those days. I must have read it once before taking it back to the library, never seeing or thinking of it again until coming across it on the bookstall.
I bought it for (I think) about 50p, took it back home and read it again. It's a simple adventure story first published in 1948, although mine is a 1957 edition. The story is set during the Napoleonic wars and comes complete with all kinds of swashbuckling adventures from smuggling to a French invasion party. The main theme of the book though revolves around Ariel, the newly-invented steam wagon depicted on the cover.
After reading the book a second time, I could easily see how it would have appealed so strongly to me as a boy. The idea of trundling along the open road in a home-made steam wagon with no other traffic, no road signs, no traffic lights. Even in those days I think this sense of freedom, this sense that all journeys should have a certain spirit of adventure made a deep and lasting impression. In fact it must have made a very deep impression indeed considering how absurdly pleased I was to come across it again after all those years.