Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Formative Power of Ladybird Books

 Yonks ago, I was in one of my favourite charity shops looking for some Thomas the Tank Engine books.  Thomas was curiously absent, but there was a bag of books spilling onto the floor that I assumed were about to be put out on the shelves, and which included a good number of old Ladybird books.  

Seeing an opportunity to snap up some childhood memories before everyone else did, I chose a small selection of favourites and took them to the desk to pay.  I was then told that they were waiting to be collected for recycling, and that I couldn't have them! 

My downcast face must have prompted the sales lady to add that they get paid for them by the recycling company, which made it clear that she thought I was expecting to take them away for nothing. So after a quick offer of better money than recycling prices, I walked away with a few books to recycle in my own, hopefully nicer, way.

Today I finally got round to returning to them.  They'd spent a considerable time in a bag of cat litter, getting 'de-smellified'.  This had worked a treat, as originally they had smelt of a curious mix of stale cigarettes, musty dampness and dust.  

The books were in a pretty shabby state - stained, drawn on, torn and taped - no longer really fit for reading.

But I wanted some bunting to decorate my stall at the two vintage fairs I have coming up, so they seemed perfect for that.  

As I snipped and shaped and chose the best bits for the pennants, I became away of just how the images (all by J.H. (Harry) Wingfield) must have seeped into my mind, moulding my likes and aspirations. Just two books yielded these desirables:

Cute-sy cottages with eyebrow windows and picket fences,
Starched, linen-topped wicker baskets,
Hooded cloaks and gingham dresses...

Roaring fires and ranges, topped with steaming kettles...

Proper tablecloths and tables set for high tea...

Crockery-laden dressers...

(Not so sure about the candlewick bedspread though...)

Hollyhocks and lupins by the door...

Tyrolean costumes...

(I haven't got one though, but hey, it's never too late is it?)

 Cuckoo clocks and scrubbed wooden tables...

Spotted kerchiefs and simple meals...

(Handsome men in silly hats?)

Anything Bambi-like...

 Leaded lights and floaty curtains...

Plaited hair...

Old-style swimsuits...

Red shoes...

I think Mr Wingfield even influenced my choice of men.  Peter bears an uncanny resemblance to one of my old boyfriends!


  1. I do love your bunting, what an excellent idea to use up those old books and so vintage.

  2. Love the bunting!
    Julie xxxxxxxxxx

  3. A wonderful post, Alix. I have a large collection of ladybird books an thoroughly enjoyed seeding those images by JH Wingfield. They are great aren't they? The bunting idea is brilliant and I love the fact that cat litter gets rid off nasty smells.

  4. I think he influenced me too!! but I hadn't realised x

  5. What a great idea, and how lovely to see those old illustrations by J.H. Wingfield.

  6. What a great idea. I'm glad your nabbed them before they got recycled in to mush and made into a paper cup! Love Katie xx

  7. Great idea, they look wonderful - love the cat litter tip too!

  8. A brilliant idea1, hope you do well at the vintage fairs!

    Enjoy your weekend.

  9. I have a small collection of Ladybirds too. They just stir up so many memories. I love the illustrations.
    The bunting is beautiful (if you have any spare I would like to purchase)
    Have a lovely weekend