‘I’m saving it up to take away on holiday,’ is a familiar refrain to many authors. You smile gratefully when told this is the fate of the book you have recently written but wish they had said instead: “I couldn’t wait to read your new book and put everything else aside to finish it the week it came out.”
However, I must plead guilty to saying the same dread words to author friends. After all, the luxury of being able to read a whole book, start to finish in a day or two, is an exquisite holiday treat. The mind has been emptied, concentration improved but… where is the perfect place to read in summer?
Childhood memories of trying to get comfortable – and stay warm – on a British beach have left me with a permanent dislike of sitting on a sandy beach. Sand gets everywhere, in feet, clothes and books, or else dogs and children come and drip water on you until, shivering with cold, you retreat indoors. A hot Mediterranean beach is little better as the search for shade means you are constantly moving, tilting, juggling sunglasses on top of reading glasses and pulling hats down, up and around. The new breed of deck chairs, with a pillow attached at the top, looks pretty for an English country garden and is an improvement on any upright garden chair nonetheless, not the perfect position for an all-day read.
But here in Crete, strung between the shade of two sturdy carob trees, I have found the perfect answer… a stripy, linen hammock which gently swings in the breeze. No one who tries it can stay awake for more than 20 minutes, but the sleep doesn’t last much longer than that either because the wind shakes a carob or three in your lap or a herd of goats with cowbells will do the same and you continue, refreshed. Reading a book in a hammock is one of life’s great luxuries.