The Wonderland of Knowledge

When we started to gently renovate the Grove around ten years ago we found several huge boxes of old books that Grandad must have accumulated at some point in the distant past. There were some beauties, including the inevitable “Robinson Crusoe”; the rather wonderful Jennings collection, of course some Biggles, the wildly-tempting “Adventures of a Lady” and the thought-provoking “What Every Woman Over Thirty-Five Should Know”. A real mixed bag, but all beautifully bound and we decided to strew them across various bookshelves and windowsills for guests to look at if they were that way inclined.

We recently had a lovely couple in for dinner on their 50th wedding anniversary and, as one does sometimes, they started chatting to us in the dining room. They were absolutely perfect together, clearly still very much in love after most of their lives together, and they told us about their first ‘date’ (which would have been in the 1960s). He was invited for tea at her house which of course was a very formal occasion with the best china on display. However she couldn’t help but notice that he kept staring at the bookcase over her shoulder. Eventually she asked him (politely) what it was that was so interesting behind her left ear, and he asked that, was he mistaken, but was that a volume of “The Wonderland of Knowledge” in the bookcase? She said yes, it was – volume one as it happened. At which his young eyes misted over and he told her that his parents had bought him, when he was very young, volumes 2 – 12 and he had been unable to find the missing edition. Of course this meant that things were meant to be and they were married and lived happily ever after.

Fast forward fifty years and they were at the Grove, relaxing with a glass of sherry in the lounge before dining and reminiscing about their lives together; what a lovely moment. But she realised that he was no longer listening; instead he was gazing with misty eyes at something over her left shoulder. There on the bookshelf in the lounge was sitting “The Wonderland of Knowledge”, volumes 1-12 inclusive. The perfect set, and the perfect evening for a perfect couple.