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Opinion

As the days get darker, let the light in with a good book

It’s Bookshop Day on October 3. And it feels more important this year than ever

There is a page in The Tiger Who Came to Tea that remains alive and resonant for many people.

As you know, just after the tiger has been round and eaten and drunk everything, even all the water from the tap, the dad comes home. Given the situation, there’s only one thing for it. Eating out!

(I’ve always liked the father’s well-tailored checked suit, incidentally. Though that’s not the relevant takeaway here, I grant you).

So, out they go, on to a street where the dusk is gathering and the lights in the shop fronts glow and the street lamps are just coming on. The genius of Judith Kerr is understanding what this moment means to a child. The family are heading out! They’re breaking the norm and in that half-light there is promise and excitement. It jumps from the page.

It’s this very real sense of innocent joy that stays with so many of us, the part we look forward to sharing with our own children.

And it’s this page that I thought of last week with the new Covid restrictions.

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The restrictions signal a literal darkening. Lights off and everybody out from any bar or restaurant by 10pm. There is something foreboding and of the puritan about that. It got worse for Scottish students as they were confined to halls – no respite!

Tied with limits on meetings with others and of anybody crossing the threshold of your home, a potential six months of this feels like a heavy load.

In truth, many of us don’t stay out so late so often any more. But the idea that silence falls, particularly as nights close in, is the kicker.

It could be time to get a new copy of The Tiger Who Came to Tea and busk it from there

If it has to be done, it has to be done. We just need to find something to lighten the load. And I don’t mean staying home and drinking through the day.

It’s Bookshop Day on October 3. Around 1,000 bookshops across Britain have signed up. It’s a way of focusing attention on smaller retailers and getting people into them. This is a very good idea. And it feels more important this year than ever.

The hammering the high street is taking is hard. If we can help by supporting local bookshops, particularly as deliveries from Amazon will compound the hurt, then we should. At The Big Issue we’ve long banged the drum for libraries and small bookshops. These are places where the imagination can get on a trampoline and head ever upwards. They supply vital literacy support and provide escape and brighter futures.

Also, they have books. Many people took to social media during the summer lockdown to say that they had tried to read more, but couldn’t focus. Maybe now that the nights are longer and the alternatives shorter, it’s the time to find the book for you and dive in.

Every week in The Big Issue we carry recommendations and lesser-known treats for readers.

And if you don’t want to start there, it could be time to get a new copy of The Tiger Who Came to Tea and busk it from there.

The pages carry joy.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue

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