"Hi John, as an English teacher, I spent far too long worrying about a worthy book to represent my vast library (I read a lot more before I became a teacher!) then in the end, I decided to settle for the one story that has meant most to me throughout the life... the story of Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man. Pictured is the Omnibus volume which collects the complete run of early Spidey stories by creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, plus a crystal art Spidey that my son made for me. 'Nuff said, as Stan would say. Happy New Year! Rol." Just what I was after, not so tricky was it?!
Alyson Mac is making up for lost time - "Hi John, I'm sharing pics of my two favourite collections which really make up a whole 'thing'. I am an avid collector (some would say hoarder) of all sorts of things but these two are up there with my most precious. For my book, I'm sending you the entire set of books published by local author Jane Duncan. The titles make the books sound a bit twee but they are anything but, dealing with social issues of the day. She was a big cheese back in the late '50s/early '60s but still has many fans who collect her books. I am one of the few who has the whole set (I know this as my other blog is dedicated to her and the part of the world she is from); the first being purchased at a Brownie jumble sale when I was around 10 and the rest from second-hand book shops and slightly nefarious means (I once "lost" a library book so paid my dues to complete my collection). I reread them all in sequence every so often and as they are all semi-autobiographical (her character is Janet) I find it uncanny how similar her life has mirrored my own, only 50 years earlier: an only child to a family who lived in rural Scotland, went to University then worked in offices before getting married and made writing her secret hobby ahead of getting seven of her manuscripts, some sight unseen, published in later life when her circumstances changed and she needed to earn some money. I have published an awful lot online in later life but sadly it hasn't earned me much - tho' I did get paid by the BBC for my recent stint on the radio."
"For my artefact, I present to you the Buffy Library complete with collectable figurines. We often used to watch the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer when DD was young but when the series ended in 2003 we decided to buy the entire set of DVDs and watch all 144 episodes in order as a family. We became fully invested in the Buffyverse and have books, T-shirts, and trading cards too. A short time after the series stopped airing on TV, when DD was around 10, we spotted a large box on a shelf at the end of an aisle in Poundstretcher, where the marked-down goods can be found - it was the Buffy library and it was on sale for only £5. Having done a bit of research it would now change hands for around £600 on eBay even without any of the figurines so a good return on our investment although we would never sell it. As for the figurines they were all ripped out of their packaging as soon as we got them to put in the library which means they have lost a lot of their value but we wanted to make it a living and breathing display (although two of the characters are vampires who don't breathe) rather than an array of sealed boxes. Anyway, again I've written far too much but this is the artefact I am most fond of in the house and it sits proudly on the sideboard in our living room. Visitors sometimes do a double-take and wonder why we have a toy on display but of course to us, it is so much more than a toy. And that completes my submission for January. Looking forward to seeing what everyone else comes up with. Cheers for now, Alyson." Thank you so much, Alyson. It all makes perfect sense. Just the sort of trinkets I'd expect to see in Mac Towers.
My friend The Swede has come up with the goods again - "Published in 1961, 'The Goalkeeper's Revenge' is a collection of short stories from the pen of Bill Naughton, who was born in County Mayo, though raised from the age of four in Bolton and each of the 13 tales bristle with adventures inspired by his early 20th Century Lancastrian childhood. The book was originally read to me and the rest of my classmates when I was a very young lad by a superb teacher, who brought the fictional world and characters to life so vividly that when I flick through those same pages over half a century later, I still read the words in his voice." Want a copy!
"The decoupage vase is older. Significantly older. If I possess anything that can be described as a family heirloom, then this is it. I can vaguely remember Mum trying to tell me about its history once or twice, but of course at the time I wasn't interested at all. Now that I'd love to learn chapter and verse about it, there's no-one left to ask. The only facts I do know are that it came through my maternal Grandmother's side of the family and once belonged to my Great-Grandmother, which takes it back at least as far as the mid-19th Century. That it has survived all those years intact is some sort of miracle and that it has now landed in my care is quite daunting." Is this the vase Kier Starmer is currently holding whilst walking across his ice rink?
"My favourite book is an old Winnie the Pooh book but I can’t find it! However, these make me laugh (but you probably can’t use them)." Of course I can, Jo!
And my artefact - "Here's my fave BMX, I rescued it from the tip and did it up, not sure what it is but think it's a Mongoose." I'll take your word for it Rob! Loving the Autogas pump.
Bendy Ben: "Too many things in my house to be photographed!! But this is one that always gives me a Proustian rush! A Space Lego board from c.1993/4." Thanks, Ben. It's like one of those 'Ask the Family' photo questions! (Ben promised me a book but I fear I may have frightened him off. Sorry, Ben - back to normal next month.)
The delightful C from Sun Dried Sparrows: "Hi John, There were teddy-bears almost as big as me, luxurious plush ones a small child could get lost in, ones with fancy bows round their necks...and there was this one. No taller than a pint bottle, with short yellow fur and a sewn-on pink bobbly nose, I fell in love with him, perched on the shelf in the toy shop. It can only have been down to magic that, a few weeks later, the little lemon-coloured bear somehow ended up wrapped in paper and tucked inside the pillowcase at the end of my bed one special December night...Pippaluk, my first teddy, loved and cuddled to threadbare, burst-stuffing condition has had three nose transplants and was once at serious risk of losing an eye, but I've kept him for 56 years. It seems only fitting that I should picture him with my favourite childhood book too. Equally as loved and tatty, 'A Tale of Tails' is a gorgeous picture book that I was given in 1965 when I was two, full of beautiful animal illustrations by Garth Williams. I remember exactly how it felt to enjoy these images as a child, how every creature took took on a different character and came to life. Just as Pippaluk did. Happy New Year! C x" Perfect, C. Just perfect.
K has come up with three entries this month! "I’m taking advantage of a quiet house to send a couple of offerings for the January photo challenge. First up is 1923 novel The Ripening Seed (original title Le Blé en Herbe), the first novel I read by Colette, courtesy of my then-girlfriend in the mid-late 1990s. I subsequently bought my own copy, a reprint from 1969 with a gorgeous cover. It’s not Colette’s most famous book (that’s Gigi) but it’s the one I keep coming back to. Juxtaposed with Colette is the Caribbean and a culinary staple, West Indian Original Hot Pepper Sauce, which I was introduced to as a teen. It still burns but I love it!"
"I read lots of music autobiographies and one of the best in my opinion is What’s Welsh For Zen by John Cale with Victor Bockris. Released in 1999, my copy is the limited edition loose leaf box set, designed by the brilliant Dave McKean. It’s an absolute nightmare to read but a rare example where product, art and anecdote combine perfectly. I had the opportunity to see John Cale perform live this year and it was every bit as incredible. Attaining a similar level of perfect synchronicity is Hifi Sean & David McAlmont’s album Happy Ending. It was my first purchase as a Last Night From Glasgow subscriber in Dec 2022 and it’s a beautifully packaged double album in glorious yellow vinyl. The music within is revelatory and I’ve played and played and played this album in the twelve months since."
"My third offering and a bit of a cheat is one of two books that I received this Christmas (the other being Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto), the cliche being that my favourite book is always the one I’m reading right now. So, here’s Pete Paphides’ autobiography Broken Greek with “friend”. I have no idea what this is supposed to be, but Mrs. K saw it on a Christmas market stall last week, liked it and it’s now decorating Casa K. Again, I’m sticking with the cliche that your favourite object is the one you last bought so, tat or not, it’s in! Best wishes, K." I don't know where to start, K. You've certainly put a lot of thought into what matches up with what! Thank you. And I know you'll enjoy PP.
Charity Chic: "Hi John, the book I am currently reading. Musings on bonfire Britain - both horrendous and hilarious in equal measure. My artefact is my Charles Rennie Macintosh bookmark." (You say the bookmark was the subject of its own blog, CC - do send the link.)
And as Mike Yarwood used to say at the end of his shows "And this is me."
Magnus Mills is one of our most underrated authors. I come back to 'All Quiet..' often and can't begin to explain the feeling that comes over me whenever I turn its pages. On the back of reading so many reviews that compared him to Kafka, I went away and read Kafka. So another thing to thank MM for.
My artefact is a set of Beatles autographs. No, of course they're not real. Well they are in as much as you can quite clearly see the napkin behind the glass surrounded by the frame with four signatures on it. They cost me a tenner, twenty five years ago (the frame a little more). And they're both leaning on my guitar.
Thank you, again, for playing along. What I've particularly enjoyed this time around is everyone coming up with something new. As in, you've all gone around your homes looking to take a brand new photograph; whether it be of something old, new, borrowed or blue. (It's a theme we may return to). I'll post February's PC in the comments section below in a few days. Take care, J.