The walk into the city of York, England, was a long one for a lad just bordering his teens. There were two routes into the city from Acomb: dark alleyways, a tunnel and a very grotty bridge but with the payoff of walking past the Railway Museum, or the more straightforward but hilly stroll through the ancient city walls and over the river. I almost always chose the hilly route. Mountains, albeit small ones and mostly in my mind, were a part of my soul even then.
The walk was a part of the greater whole, a section of the adventure in spending the money I had so carefully squirrelled away. Both routes took about forty minutes and gave me plenty of time to think about my purchasing. Whilst my Nanna and Grandad had an afternoon sleep, on the weekends I got to stay with them, this was my mantra.
York was and still is a busy city, and due to the nature of society, as unsafe as all big cities. A youngster could not make that trip anymore: a terrible shame. But when I was a boy things were different and I loved my shopping expeditions. I valued time to myself even then. And when I reached my destination ‘Claude Gill Bookshop (I think that is right-you all know my memory) or W.H Smiths’ I was ready for action.
Avoiding the hurly-burly of the ground floor, I would ascend to the upper echelons of the First floor and the comparative quiet of the Science Fiction shelves. Oh, my, and what rows of delight they were!
Choosing a book was no easy matter when you didn’t have much money. I had to weigh up a lot of variables: the cover; thickness of the tomb; whether it was part of a series and of course price. I usually ended up with a Michael Moorcock novel-Elric was my personal hero-but C.S Lewis, Gene Wolfe and Ray Bradbury also featured high on my list. How I valued that moment of decision; I lived for it. The moment I passed my money over was one of both a sense of relief and achievement. The walk back never took as long.
I still find it hard to resist the pleasure of making that choice of which fantasy world to delve into even if most are now my own. I can only pray that the children of today are never robbed of that choice. This is the reason that I write. The hope that my words touch another young child in the same way that those marvellous authors of my past touched my own. This a driving force in my work. I can only hope that in this world of fast everything and robbed youth that books still get the chance to make those formative years as wonderful as books made my own. I think we should all hope so.