As someone who has always loved books and reading one of life's great pleasures is being able to buy pretty much any book I want, and more or less as many books as I want. Space is a problem which keeps the spending under control, because whilst I'm quite comfortable with the idea that I have books I might never read (though I do intend to read all of them eventually), I also like to have space to move in, so some restraint is neccesary.
It's exciting to always have an interesting choice of things to read as well, definitely something for every mood, but it also means there isn't much time to re read old books. Looking back the thing that defined my childhood reading was the seemingly endless time which I had to do it in, and the number of books I read and reread.
This winter has given me two excellent opportunities to revisit old favourites (the release of The Scarlet Pimpernel from Oxford World's classics was the other one) and the Twitter read along of 'The Dark is Rising' from midwinters Eve to twelfth night.
I didn't read the chapters on the days they were set; though there's something attractive about the idea of spreading the book out over real time I'm not disciplined enough for that kind of thing. Even so, starting it at midwinter definitely added something to the atmosphere of the book, especially as the weather was obligingly cold and threatening. It was also more fun than I expected to follow some of the threads of conversation on Twitter. I'm not great at joining in with things like this (work gets in the way and I get distracted) but there were some great questions to think about.
The one that intrigued me most was about the two mentions of bread and honey that Cooper makes. Why does she do that?
I loved the whole Dark is Rising sequence when I first read them, fascinated by the Arthurian mythology and the way they were embedded in the landscapes of Cornwall, Wales, and the Thames Valley - all exotic locations from my point of view. Some of the old magic has rubbed off, which I think is partly to do with the age of the book. The Dark is Rising is the same age as I am, so it was disconcerting when it felt particularly old fashioned, but I've given a copy to my godson and I look forward to hearing what he thinks of it.
Meanwhile that bread and honey... It wasn't something I'd thought much about, or picked up on at all beyond a desire to eat bread and honey, before I read that question. I can think of a few reasons that Cooper might have had for it, but the one that appeals to me most is the way those flavours are a link across the centuries. Fresh bread and golden, sticky, honey. As much a treat now as it has been at any time for a thousand years or more, and something that you can share with the characters, eating along with them.
Actually if you're reading 'The Dark is Rising' through midwinter there are other things you can eat and drink with it - mince pies, and punch come to mind, as do bacon and eggs. Mince pies and punch have a more evocative history, speaking more of ritual and tradition, than bacon and eggs do, but still. The emphasis on food like this (things that are both treats but also foods we take for granted) took on a particular resonance when I realised that Cooper must have grown up with rationing when fresh bread and mince pies, never mind plentiful bacon and eggs, couldn't be taken for granted.
And that's what I sometimes forget about the pleasure of re reading; the new things you discover in familiar books and the unexpected paths they send you down.