A Friendly Looking Lot
When I was 6 I broke my arm and had to go to hospital to have it set in plaster of Paris. All this, both the breaking and the setting, made for an eventful day. When I got home there on the table was a book, a present to cheer me up (this was 1954 when presents for a not-birthday were perhaps rarer than they are now). The book was The Bell Family by Noel Streatfeild and I have it still. It’s the story of an impoverished vicar’s family who triumph over adversity by being, basically, nicer than their odious rich relations; there’s also a cleaning lady called Mrs Gage who has a heart of gold and drops her aitches. It seems very anachronistic now, but at 6 I was a sucker for heart-warming stories about gallant, united families. And I loved the illustrations, which were by Shirley Hughes.