An occasional Lent series:4

Back in late ’84, in my first term as a student, my dad sent me £10. That was quite a sum then (I am sounding like ‘Grandpa Joe’). I wanted to spend it on something: not just add it to general ‘spends’. Actually, as a student I was frugal and probably spent more on tea than booze.

So I thought and thought and then realised that what I really wanted was a copy of ‘Lord of the Rings’. Someone at VIth form used to affectionately call me ‘Gollum’ and I used to like ProgRock: which would be nowhere without mythical beasts, LOTR references and absence of real, human emotions. So, I was curious.

The thing is, I did not just want any old copy, but three books; in a slipcase. This was ‘living’ to me: I could be a proper adult. I have read these three books in their entirety several times since then, the last time only a few weeks ago. Although I care for books (don’t get me started on people who break book spines straight away), after 30 years they are battered. More so, since my 10 year old son in a bid to feed his ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Hobbit’ obsession, borrowed one. He does not care for keeping books in pristine condition.

When I got married, it was almost the only ‘serious’ novel I had ever read, apart from those school had compelled me to read. Even now, I open the books from time to time and smell them (this is strange: I am not sure that anyone else does this...) and am still reminded ‘A la recherche du temps perdu’ (possibly the first Proust reference I have used in mixed company) of what that time felt like.

The thing is, I could easily replace them, lulled into a false sense of consumer need by advertising. Maybe I could get a Folio copy or something more pristine with quality, matt white pages? I could display them on a coffee table to display my good taste and innate, understated, quality.

Lent is a time to resist lies like that: display your battered, uncoordinated books and use them for what they are meant for- reading, not aspirational lifestyle accessories.

Ok…I could put something deeply meaningful here…

But it is September 22nd:-

‘I don’t know half as well of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.’

Although last week at a Covenant Service I did use as an intro what Frodo Baggins said as he took the Ring, and deciding to take a journey that was fraught with danger and with no guaranteed outcomes…

‘I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way’….

..which I thought was a good metaphor for Christian living….

But today- it has to be ‘Happy Eleventy First, Bilbo’

(and if all of this has passed over your head, then you are much the poorer)


The first of- probably many- quotes from Lord of the Rings.

This one from the introduction (p26) of the Unwin 1981 edition.

It refers to books of genealogy that Hobbits found fascinating:-

‘and all but Hobbits would find them exceedingly dull. Hobbits delighted in such things, if they were accurate: they liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions.’

I know of people like that….