since I left school" is the proud boast of someone I know. He lives on my regular pedalling route. His front "garden" consists of a patch of lawn in which each blade of grass is trimmed to exactly the same length. The windows sparkle. The guttering has been wiped down. The driveway and the path are absolutely clear.
Every morning he sweeps the footpath in front of his home. Any debris falling from the street trees during the day is swept up yet again.
His mother used to live in the same house. It was much the same when she was there. I once had occasion to go inside the house and the inside was much the same as the outside. Like her son she claimed (and still claims) not to have read a book since leaving school. I think they watch television most evenings.
My maternal grandmother, although not quite so houseproud, was much the same. She never read books. She listened to radio or played cards before television. When television came she watched that. Television also caused her to give up sewing although she went on knitting the sort of plain garments once designated as "tv knitting". Eventually she gave that up as well and just sat there. Sometimes she would doze off and then complain that the programme "did not make sense". She was only seventy-six when she died. Her husband, who never read either, was only sixty-nine.
My paternal grandmother kept her house clean and tidy but she sewed and knitted and crocheted endless blankets for charity. She gardened and played bridge. She did a good deal of child-minding and making of our clothes and teaching us how to do things. In between all those things she found time to read several books each week.
As she grew much older and less able to do things at quite such an energetic pace my father suggested a television set. She thought about it and then said, "No, not yet thankyou. I don't have time."
It was only when she became physically very frail that my father again suggested a television set. Perhaps, he suggested, his father could watch the cricket that way? A television set was bought.
The commercials annoyed them both so much they would only watch the ABC. They rarely watched that. My grandfather preferred to listen to the cricket - and perhaps snooze. He worked until his mid-eighties and still brought work home at night. Only failing eyesight caused him to give up his business and, even after that, he read as long as he could. He held a magnifying glass over the words to go on reading as long as possible.
My grandmother went on reading, still trying to make up for the education she had lost by having to leave school after only three years. She travelled the world by reading.
My paternal grandparents lived much longer and happier lives than my maternal grandparents. Of course I cannot say reading was what caused that but I firmly believe it was part of the equation.
Not reading, not wishing to read, is surely a sad thing? It allows us to live so many lives.