In which I show off my admittedly terribly puny collection of Footrot Flats books, and admit that my childhood had some terribly stereotypical Kiwi elements. I’m still getting used to the idea that not everyone had pet lambs growing up, or had to help with the docking.
I haven’t really re-read Footrot Flats for a while, despite carting these few books around with me for ages (and my little Dog toy is now so old that his head falls off from time to time, and he’s blue rather than black). It always feels to me that it’s a very Kiwi sort of comic. That a lot gets lost in translation if you’re not used to farms that run down to the sea, and eels living in creeks and wild pigs in the hills among the punga and manuka, and the problems of rugby season coinciding with lambing season. I think every country has their own quirks and familiarities, things that you’re so used to as you grow up that you just sort of assume everyone else is, too. For me, reading about small town America is still a strangely exotic thing.
And childhood is such a curious thing to re-encounter. I can re-read books I read as a kid, and I go back into the book’s world very easily. It’s fun and beautiful and wonderful, but it’s also not my childhood. That’s a very rare thing to find again, but somehow Footrot Flats does that for me. It takes me back to collecting mussels from the rocks on the pebbly beach below the house, and the chooks that laid everywhere but the hen house, and the smell of the damp dark manuka wood after rain, when you’re straggling through the bush in your jandals for some unknown reason (probably either trying to find the pet lamb that the dog used to lead away into the hills when we were out, or because I was Adventuring). It’s all snippets – we left New Zealand on the boat when I was seven, and I’m not one of those I-can-remember-what-we-had-for-lunch-on-my-fifth-birthday type people. But even snippets are precious.
How about you, lovely people? Where did you grow up? What books or comics or movies bring that back to you, the scents and sounds and feel of it? Let me know below – I’d love to know more about you!