A Book At Bed Time
A Perfect End To The Day
For many of us the perfect way to end the day is to unwind with a good book. Just as a piece of music can inspire,uplift or take us to another place, so too can a good book, but at a slower pace, leaving us in a happy frame of mind & ready to enjoy a good night's rest.
Ever since I was a young boy & was proficient enough to read, I've always enjoyed reading a book before gently slipping off into 'the land of nod'. A book at bed time is like a bridge between sleep & dreams before we have to face whatever the next day brings
Talking To The Animals.....!
Amongst the many I enjoyed in my younger days were Hugh Lofting's wonderful stories about Dr Dolittle. Here was this amazing man that could talk to the animals in their own language, with the help of his parrot polynesia, forever heading off on exciting adventures along with Jip the dog,Dab Dab the duck,Gub Gub the pig & Too Too the owl. In fact, so impressed was the English novelist Hugh Walpole by 'The story of Dr Dolittle' that he described it as 'the first real children's classic' since Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in wonderland'.
Hugh Lofting's Background & Inspiration.....
So what inspired Hugh Lofting to write such timeless classics for 'children in years & children in heart' as he put it? Hugh Lofting was born in Maidenhead, England, in 1886, one of six children born to John & Elizabeth Lofting. He had a childhood love of animals & nature, even keeping his own 'zoo' in his mother's linen closet until she discovered it! (Interestingly in 'The story of Dr Dolittle' he has to sell his piano to raise funds, so he lets the mice that have been sleeping in it live in a bureau drawer instead). After leaving boarding school,Hugh Lofting trained as a civil engineer,doing some of his degree at the Massachusetts institute of technology, finishing it at the London polytechnic. After working in Canada & west Africa he returned to America in 1912 & married his first wife Flora Small, & settled down in New York. Their children Elizabeth & colin were born in 1913 & 1915 respectively.
World War 1 Begins....
1914 saw the start of world war 1, 'The Great war'. English Politician Harold MacMillan said he was born into a world where everything would get better & better, but "Suddenly, unexpectedly, one morning in 1914 the whole thing came to an end " . As for Hugh Lofting, he initially worked for the British ministry of information. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Irish guards (his mother was Irish), & was in Flanders & France in 1917/18. Apart from being shocked & upset at the human suffering during the war, Hugh Lofting was deeply distressed by how the animals were treated, particularly the horses.It's thought that about 10 million horses died during the first world war,& Lofting found it upsetting to see the destruction of regimental horses that had been wounded in battle. He was also greatly impressed by the bravery of the horses & mules during the fury of the battle. He could hardly write home to his children about the horrors of war or the terrible suffering of the animals, so he wrote to Elizabeth & colin about a Doctor who valued & cared for the animals, treating them kindly & doing his best to help them, something that wasn't happening in his real life surroundings at that time.
Back In The USA....
In 1918 Hugh Lofting was struck in the thigh by a piece of shrapnel & was eventually invalided out of the army. He & his family took a boat from England back to New York in 1919, when he certainly proved to be in the right pace at the right time. The British novelist & poet Cecil Roberts was on the same ship & was sitting in a neighboring deckchair. Lofting though would vanish around six in the evening to read to his son. He was asked by Roberts to show him the manuscript for Dr Dolittle. Impressed by Lofting's stories,Roberts recommended him to his publisher. When the book came out in 1920, Hugh Lofting sent a copy to Cecil Roberts along with a personal inscription.
In Search Of A Better World....
Hugh Lofting used the Dr Dolittle stories to show his readers that communication with others helps to create a better world. The idea of a peaceful world with everyone living in harmony appealed greatly to him. He realized the importance of teaching children good values & to get on with all types of people from a young age, that we all have our story to tell & a place in this world. He didn't like falseness or hypocrisy. He left behind a wonderful treasury of stories to be enjoyed by' children in years & children in heart'.
On The Radio....
'Book At Bedtime' is a long running Radio series from the BBC which offers a selection of fiction,modern classics & new writers. Each book is serialized over a period of two weeks,usually being read by well known Actors. For uk residents, you can listen to it on BBC Radio4 92.4-96.1FM ,Long wave 198. The show can also be heard on TV: sky 0104,Free view 704 & Virgin 904. And if you miss all those you can catch it on the BBC i player !
Books educate,enlighten, inform & inspire. There are certain elements, feelings & atmosphere in a book which can't always be replicated in a film, that stretch, widen & fire the imagination of all ages. They are a lovely way to bring the day to a close, & send us off into a good night's sleep filled with happy thoughts. So, why not read 'A book at Bed Time', tonight- & every night if you want!