The Book Thief
Here is a photo of the book I stole:
I was ten years old and due to leave my primary school for secondary school. This was the only thing I couldn’t bear to leave behind (since my friends were all coming to secondary school too). Ironic, don’t you think, that it’s a hymn book? Already feeling a victim of God’s sublime sense of humour, I just noticed, as I was taking this photo, that the Scripture reading is the one the priest chose for my baptism last year.
As you can see in the photo I didn’t choose a pristine copy. This was not a spur-of-the-moment theft, this was pre-meditated larceny. As in “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, the custodian of this book may very well have let me have it if I had asked, seeing my desperate need, but I didn’t ask. I chose the most raggedy copy I could find, reasoning that the school ought to replace it anyway. In this way it didn’t feel like theft. I was doing the school a favour in fact!
And why couldn’t I bear to part with this book? It wasn’t the scripture. It was just that I couldn’t imagine leaving behind the songs. I’ve always had a deep love of music, and I was always trying to learn to play different instruments. As a ten-year-old though, all I had access to was a recorder (which used to be the standard instrument in Welsh schools, as the tin whistle is here in Ireland) and my own voice. Unfortunately, I don’t have a particularly good singing voice and I was also terribly shy. When I played recorder on the school stage I would mime because I was too nervous to play properly. I even mimed in the school choir when we competed in the Urdd Eisteddfod. But that didn’t stop me playing in private. Often when I sang, and later when I played my electronic keyboard, it would move me to tears. It connected me to some higher reality, something I was missing in my life, something which I now suspect was of the heavenly variety.
Two of my favourite Welsh songs are about singing. There’s “Calon Lan” which I’ve featured on my blog before, and there’s what I’ve always called “Canaf yn y bore” (see photo below). My Welsh is incredibly rusty so I’m using Google Translate here. It seems to think the first verse means “I sing in the morning for your care, through the dark walnut. You have seen me.” but I’m pretty sure that’s wrong. 😀 It’s definitely about singing in the morning anyway.
Here’s the tune: