Sunday, 20 June 2010

There once was a dormouse...

It’s that time of year again. The delphiniums are big, blue and beautiful and the geraniums, which should really be called pelargoniums, are starting to fill the window boxes with colour.

And every year I think of the poem about delphiniums blue

and geraniums red and it makes me smile.

I’ve always loved that A. A. Milne poem. It’s called ‘The Dormouse and The Doctor’ and it began,
‘There once was a dormouse who lived in a bed of delphiniums blue and geraniums red.’
I didn’t know what delphiniums or geraniums were when I was a child but it didn’t matter. The rhythm was enthralling. Mum used to read it to me at night before I went to sleep when I was very young... which is almost the name of the poetry book. The actual title of the book is ‘When We Were Very Young’. There’s a second book called ‘Now We are Six’. I had them both. I remember some of those poems so well that I can still recite them today.
The King’s Breakfast’... I just love the way he slid down the banister,
‘Us Two’... where, of course, there was always Pooh and me,
Vespers’... I too had a blue dressing gown but it didn’t have a hood.

Anyone who has never heard of A. A. Milne or Winnie the Pooh must think I’ve gone crazy. The point I’m trying to make is how important the bedtime reading routine was for me. It was the best time of the day, the most magical, special, well remembered part of my childhood. We didn’t only read poems. Mum read stories too. My all time favourite was ‘The Caravan Family’ by Enid Blyton. In fact I loved anything by Enid Blyton and once I could read I worked my way through every single ‘Famous Five’ and ‘Secret Seven’ book many times over.

I thank Mum for creating those special times and introducing me to the wonder of poetry and prose. How sad to think that not everyone has the chance for quality time and those precious moments with a parent at bedtime. Reading to kids ought to be compulsory.


  1. I love that poem! Though I have never seen delphiniums before :) My small man won't go to bed without at least two books, and that's fine by me :)

    I loved the one about John and his raincoat: "John had great big waterproof boots on...". Fabulous :)

  2. Terrific poem :) My mom always read to us as well - there was a nursery rhyme book with the most gorgeous illustrations that I remember most vividly.

  3. Twas brilig and the slithey toves did gire and gimble in the waves ( no spell check available for this !!).......does anyone else still remember the Jabberwocky.
    I can still hear my English teacher reciting that with such glee and fun.
    My Mum read us more gentle stories - but yes I agree kids who don't have this experience are really missing out.

  4. I loved Enyd Blyton too. And what about Swallows and Amazons? That's a book I really remember from my childhood and I'm planning to read to my children.
    I'm afraid my children's bookshelves are beginning to look like mine, a bit overcrowded.
    I think schools are insisting on how important bedtime stories are, so hopefully people will do an effort.

  5. I am so lucky that I had a wonderful teacher when I was very young and a mother who also loved reading. I got lovely poetry books as presents - two of which I still have and have passed to my kids. My favourite poem was The Owl and the Pussycat!

  6. Oh Merrilee, how sad that you've never seen a delphinium. They truly are grand, stunningly blue spikes of flowers. Yes, I remember the poem about John too. He had a great big waterproof hat too I think.

  7. Hi Jemi. I think we ought to have a shared poems from childhood blog. The memories are so special.

  8. Thanks Ann for reminding me about that. All mimsy were the borogoves and the mome raths outgrabe. And there was me saying I didn't know what geraniums were. It didn't matter when we were young. It was the sounds and rhythms.

  9. I hope so too, Sarah. I never read Swallows and Amazons but it was one of Mr A's favourites.

    Hi Barbara, yet another of my favourites especially the bit about the runcible spoon. There's a theme emerging here. The more we didn't understand, the better.

  10. That's a great poem - you have to love AA Milne. And I agree - reading aloud should be compulsory. Even now, I love it when people read aloud to me. There's something so relaxing about it.

  11. I love being read to, Talli. I often rush to get to bed in time for Book at Bedtime on Radio 4 but I usually miss the end!

  12. There was a book of poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by black and white photos, that I treasured as a child. Why oh why didn't I have the sense to keep it? The poems were complemented perfecting by the photos. I recall soldiers marching over the "counterpane" of a sick little boy's bed.

  13. Hi Susan. I wish I'd kept my old books too. If you look up 'A Child's Garden of Verses' on Amazon it could well be your treasured book. It has black and white illustrations just as you describe.

  14. Delphiniums!! Thank you for that! I have them growing in my garden and didn't know that that was what they were until I saw the picture in this post! :-)

    My Dad used to make up the most amazing atories for me as a child, I even received a telegram from all of the characters on my birthsay once!

    Once I was older I read everything Enid Blyton! I was hooked.

  15. Hi Susannah. I wonder if your Dad ever wrote down any of those stories and if he didn't maybe you should write them down... if you can remember them!

  16. I also remember Vespers very well. Wasn't it also recorded as a song? Certainly remember 'They're Changing Guards at Buckingham Palace' on Children's Favourites! I also loved the Child's Garden of Verses and read them to my own children. When I myself 'was very young' we often learned and recited poems in front of family gatherings. Scary, but no doubt good for self-confidence!

  17. Agreed! It shocks me how many people don't read to their kids. I have 3 little ones and while only one is beginning to read, they certainly know that books come before toys at our house.

    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane! I think I'm ready to pull out my own volume of Milne for my kids now. :o)

  18. Gosh, Ali, reciting poems to gatherings sounds scary. I used to love learning poems by heart. I still do. And while we're on the subject of Children's Favourites, what about The Runaway Train and I'm a Pink Toothbrush? Pure magic!!

  19. Thanks for the visit, Jackee, and the Follow. I'm sure your kids will love A. A. Milne.


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