The soft lights in the darkness of Christmas always put me in reflective mood. It's the top of the Year and looking back comes naturally. I peer over the last twelve months as if looking down a long murky slope. But more than anything I think of long-gone Decembers as the Ghost of Christmas Past sweeps by me. The family may have gone but thier gifts remain intact and are always there to hold like time-capsules of memories. Particularly poignant for me are the books I got as presents from an early age right up to our last Family Christmas together in 1977, a moment in time which now feels both unfathomably distant and fir tree fresh all at once.
Many of my books were bought by my Parents, Brothers and Sisters at Sweetens Book Shop near Winckley Square in Preston opposite Bruciani's coffee lounge. Bruciani's, an icon of Prestonian life for decades, is still brewing strong fresh coffee for it's grateful customers but like those other cornerstones of my youth, Bradies Record Shop and Thomas Mears Toys, Sweetens is no more although it would seem many other people remember it fondly online [ Su, Johnny].
I only have a few of my original childhood books but have managed to re-acquaint myself with most of those missing as they have become important to me. One of my favourites was given to me in my teens by my older brother Steve and has stayed with me ever since, both literally and creatively. The book is Terror! A History of Horror Illustrations From The Pulp Magazines by Peter Haining pictured in its wonderful dust-jacket here.
Amongst it's many black and white treasures is the haunting illustration below by US artist Hans Bok called Pickman's Model, which I have always loved. Bok had a unique style and a searing imagination. His off-centre creatures are instantly recognisable and always sumptuous and thought-provoking. Well worth an online browse if you aren't familiar with his art.
I shall select and post a few more Christmas books over the coming festive season. Maybe Santa will bring me even more this year as I have been rather a good boy!