Aged 27 I was a bullish, loud-mouthed printer working for the English Folk Song and Dance Society in Camden Town, London. Newly married and ambitious to be a publisher, I wanted as many people as possible to be able to hold what I had printed and published. I was knee-deep in revolutionary politics, so I decided I would do arty stuff to offset the dry realm of economic and political verbiage that I was awash in.
I bought an old book of prints of the bridges of the River Thames, made printing plates and printed off a new version of the book. All blessed by my employers who liked me aspiring beyond machine-minding.
In my holidays I jumped on my little 125cc Velocette motorbike and went up and down the Thames Valley selling the book at shops from London to Oxford. And loved it. Alas, amidst all of this joy my mother died. And I was lost and remain diminished by her going.
I had all of this flood back into my mind simply by picking up The Big Issue book put together by our talented books editor Jane Graham. Letter To My Younger Selfis a brill book. I opened the opening story and read my own letter. The best bit of advice I gave was “love yer mum and dad”. They may not be here forever.
I do not mean this to make you grim about the mouth. But to remind us all how temporary is the world we live in. That we need to treasure the living ones who made us, something I did not do, throwing away the dozens of letters, for instance, that my mum sent me when I was banged up.
The coronavirus, galloping about the place, reminds us all also just how insubstantial and perilous are our universe and our universal supply networks. Building an economy based on the fact that supplies will be cheaper thousands of miles from us is shown up for the perilous reality it could be. Not to mention the health risk to the young, the old and the infirm brought on by this emerging epidemic.