Rationed sweets and Viking poetry – it must be John Simmons

Joining us on the blog today is John Simmons, a 26 co-founder and one of the Big Brains behind the 26 Treasures of Childhood project. This is an exciting week for Mr Simmons. He’s got work on show at the brilliant Other Worlds exhibition in Oxford’s new Story Museum, but best of all he gets to answer our questions….

What object are you writing about and what were your first thoughts when we told you?

Relief. I lost my ration book many a long year ago and I’m getting hungry. Yes, my object is a ration book – two actually, one for food, one for clothes. This brought back a madeleine moment of going with my dad to the sweet shop when sweet rationing ended in 1953 (I think). “You can have whatever you want…”

No, not John Simmons. It’s Proust, enjoying a madeleine moment

What lost object from your own childhood would you like to own again, and why?

My football boots from the game when my primary school (St Clements on Drury Lane) beat our big, nasty rivals Copenhagen Street. I scored the first goal in the first minute, and we won 6-nil. Magic. I need those boots to bring it back.

Hop into my time machine and it will take you back to one specific hour of your childhood – where and when do you want to go, and why?

My ninth birthday in our flat when my mum gave me The Wind in the Willows. My primary school teacher had read it in class for weeks. I loved it and asked my mum for my own copy. My first book, written in by my mum, still my best treasure. I’d like to thank her for a lifetime of reading and writing.

Can you surprise me with one unusual fact about your childhood?

My best friend at primary school was Kamwal Mehta. His dad worked at the Indian High Commission in Aldwych, two minutes from school. I used to visit Kamwal to play at the weekend and loved the empty offices and canteen we used to explore. No security guards and cameras then.

What’s the earliest thing you can remember writing?

I must have been about ten when I wrote “Ulf the Viking”. It was a poem inspired by Rosemary Sutcliff’sbooks, particularly one called The Shield Ring. A terrible poem, I’m sure, but it shows how reading and writing feed into each other.

A page from an “uneventful day” in Rosemary Sutcliff’s diary

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