Inspiring Older Readers

posted on 26 Jun 2016

The joys of reading in bed

I've always thought that this modest little phrase is more redolent of indulgence than almost any other I can think of. I find it almost impossible to imagine a world in which taking a book off to bed isn't a central part of my life - some people like sport, others climb mountains or yomp through woods and fields but I like to stretch out under crisp, clean sheets and open my book.

However, as any true aficionado will know, there are different types of bed-based reading experiences. In my view the most decadent is the quasi-illicit afternoon in bed when you decide all the usual, mundane tasks of the workaday week can wait and a great story, plump pillows and a bucket of tea are the only things worth having. Opinions differ on whether these afternoons require the curtains to be closed or not - on the whole I'm a closed curtain type although I can be flexible on this, especially in the summer. The hum and buzz of the outside world going about its business is a uniquely gratifying soundscape that adds a little piquancy to  your reveries - so an open window in the bedroom is quite acceptable. As I've got older many more of these afternoons culminate in a light doze when it becomes necessary to rest my eyes - but again this is not obligatory and staying awake is perfectly acceptable etiquette.

Reading in bed at the end of the day before a nights sleep is an absolute rule of mine which can only be broken in extremis. By the side of my bed is a heap of books requiring to be read but which quite often get ignored or usurped by a new arrival that has taken my fancy.Reading before I sleep provides me with a crucial buffer zone between my everyday concerns and anxieties and my sleeping hours. Quite often the length of time I can stay awake at the end of the day is limited and only a few pages get read. I do, however, enjoy the sensation of sliding towards sleep as I read and, on occasions discovering that I had fallen into semi-consciousness and dreamed the content of the book in my hand.

Then there's reading in those times of insomnia when sleep wont come and the dawn seems a long way away. Non-fiction certainly wont do the business in these times and I don't recommend deep, existential fiction - something light and engaging will probably do the trick - but on no account should you try reading from an electronic device because it will fry your brain.

There are plenty of other issues I know concern some people - but I dismiss them as frippery. Reading in bed should be just that and not an excuse for all sorts of embellishments. Eating is certainly out, as are 'special' cushions, clip-on reading lights, book support frames of any kind and no background music. There are those quite close to me who will dispute these rules but they are quite simply wrong - it may sound uncompromisingly stoical but that's just the way it needs to be : a book, a bed and a willing reader - and nothing else ( except that bucket of tea).

I have to go now because the kettle is boiling and I've got a new book to start and a bed just waiting for me.

Terry Potter

June 2016


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