When Just William got me in trouble



Is laughing aloud while reading a book akin to a form of madness? — like talking aloud to oneself? .

As a child I read everything I could lay my hands on. Heaven was going to the library on a Saturday to change my book. It was there at the Junior Centre in Half-Way-Tree, that  I discovered William.

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This is what Wikipedia says about the William series:" The Just William series is a sequence of thirty-nine books written by English author Richmal Crompton. The books chronicle the adventures of the mischievous schoolboy William Brown."

I spent many a happy hour in company with William and his pals, laughing at their hilarious antics. Recently, I re-read one of the books and wondered why  I found them so very funny.  But, I was a colonial child. The things that happened to  children in British  books were more real than the things that happened to me in Jamaica. I had no problem rambling over the English countryside with William and his friends. I happily had tea with scones (I didn't know what that was, but no matter), and other 'delicacies'.(There were probably cucumber sandwiches too.)  I wasn’t reading any books about Caribbean children anyway, except in the prescribed reading books for the colonies. 

Here’s how William got me into trouble. Every Sunday afternoon I had to take a nap after lunch, since I had to attend night service with my mother. The nap would prevent me falling asleep during the night service and not hearing the sermon — which could mean I was bound for hell. My mother was very strict.

One Sunday, an older cousin, Gwen, was visiting for the day and since she was bored and didn’t have to nap, I gave her a William book to read.  Very soon, she was laughing at William’s antics. My mother came into the room and sternly ordered me to go to sleep and stop giving Gwen jokes. I tried to tell her that I wasn’t giving jokes, but she would not listen. Gwen was probably ashamed to admit that a book could be so funny and didn’t support me. (Is laughing aloud while reading a book akin to a form of madness? — like talking aloud to oneself???)

After my mother left, Gwen continued reading. For a while she only giggled softly, but eventually, one of William’s outrageous antics caused her to snort very loudly. This time Mama brought in the strap and I got a licking for disobedience. My feelings hurt more than my flesh. Gwen quietly left the room, without the book. She was probably afraid of the strap reaching her, too.  She still didn’t confess that it was the book causing her to laugh.  My mother would not have believed her anyway. These were the days when a child was often sent to read a book as mild punishment for idleness or mischief.

The ‘good old days’ anyone?

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