I was in London the other day. It doesn’t happen often so I thought I’d make the most of it. What do most people do when they go to London? Go shopping, of course!
I however, was standing in the queue outside The Natural History Museum, staring up at the breath-taking Victorian Gothic building replete with gargoyles. As the dark clouds scudded overhead the thought suddenly came to me – Here be monsters! I had an odd feeling, a shiver that had nothing to do with the breeze, my chest was a bit fluttery (not just because of two coffees.)
It took me a second to realise what it was – I was excited! Yes, proper-old-fashioned excited. Why? Cos I was going to see dinosaurs, real, live (well, dead – being the skeletons of) monsters. I was sans small child but that didn’t stop me. Bobbing about from one foot to the other, silly smile on my face, I shuffled into the darkened exhibition hall with the primary school groups. (I highly recommend it, except, if you’re a gent, prepare to get some funny looks instead of some poignant ‘childless lady’ smiles)
It was fab – there was a giant triceratops and a tyrannosaur and a diplodocus: just the sight of their looming thigh bones and snappy teeth sent a seven-year-old shiver of delight through me. They even had a mechanical T-rex that moved in an incredibly convincing way, pawing and chewing, rolling its eyes and then roaring – Shriek!
As adults it’s easy to become unimpressed by the things we used to love. But I can tell you there’s no better way to connect with your inner child than in a dark room with dinosaur bones and creepy sound effects.
Spurred on I went next door to the V and A and looked at the medieval objects, bibles and triptychs and paintings and the displays of armour and weapons and authentic clothes that looked for all the world like stage costumes – especially the teeny tiny little doll shoes. After a long hiatus my schoolgirl fascination with history was smacking me in the face again, in front of the triptych martyrdom of an obscure saint and a whopping big broadsword!
Never a ‘ponies’ and ‘flower fairies’ kind of girl I was into history and adventure when I was a kid, Treasure Island, Robin Hood, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, pulp versions and classics, full of plucky explorers, fortune hunting cabin boys, wronged knights and disguised princesses on quests.
It’s easy to forget the simple pleasures of a good old swashbuckler or action romance when we’re all sophisticated and adult. But this week I’ve dug out my Robert Louis Stevenson and old videos of Robin of Sherwood and had a fab week re-adventuring with pirates, outlaws and gentleman explorers.
So here’re some suggestions to get you re-discovering your kid-kicks in adult disguises. Go on, read one right now, or I’ll tell your mum you kicked me in the shin and stole my packed lunch!
Walking with dinosaurs? – Jurassic Park, of course!
Forget the movie, the original novel by Michael Crichton has much sharper teeth and an adult undertone while still packing on lots of oohs and aahs, before the running and the screaming…
‘Brandy for the parson, baccy for the clerk…’
It’s got to be JM Faulkner’s smuggling adventure Moonfleet, technically the YA cross-over of its day. Darker than it’s big daddy Treasure Island but with enough shipwrecks and swash to buckle your land lubber legs.
Ooh, something for the laydees!
Pull up your carriage at Jamaica Inn – Daphne Du Maurier was drinking deep of the cup of Gothic melodrama (or something stronger!) when she wrote this unashamedly old-fashioned bodice ripper. Plucky heroine Mary Yellan is at the mercy of the blackguard cutthroats at the last place on Bodmin Moor you’d want to stop for a quiet pint.
He who sets his foot upon the path of vengeance, first dig two graves!
Murder, torture, revenge, prisons, pirates, conspiracies, corruption, the occult, sex, and devil worship! It’s got to be The Count of Monte Cristo. Banish all thoughts of ‘one for all, and all for one’ high jinx in Dumas’s other novel. This one outraged the society of the day. Strictly for grown ups.
What larks boys!
Duellist, lover, coward, cad and hero! Says it all really. It’s Flashman in The Flashman Papers by George Macdonald Fraser. Tom Brown’s old nemesis dives head first into the Napoleon era and what tremendous fun it is! Countries will fall, bosoms will heave, readers will chortle!
Come on then, tell me which books excite the big kid in you – quickly though, I’ve got to be in for my tea soon.