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Columns
Esther Lafferty is the anchor of the hugely successful Oxfordshire Artweeks festival and a keen triathlete.

Where the Grass is Greener

Esther Lafferty

We’re renowned here in Oxfordshire as a hotbed of literary heritage, the home of many contemporary authors, illustrators and publishers, and keepers of some of the finest and oldest libraries in the world. And this month, the county is literally book-ended by top-notch literary festivals, with the world class Oxford Literary Festival as a foreword and the cool Chipping Norton LitFest as an epilogue.

The wonderful thing about books is they can take you anywhere and everywhere without worrying about traffic jams on the ring road or the cost of flights, and you can travel through time or fight dragons heroically, all in the verdant pastures of Oxfordshire, without adding a single step to your carbon footprint.

It’s said that everyone has a book inside them, but I’m not sure if I do – unless it is a chocolate recipe book, and at this time of year, there wouldn’t be much room to squeeze it in with all the Crème Eggs. Chocolate is my nemesis. If I was ever written into a Marvel movie script (which I admit is unlikely because my ninja kicks can be described as average at best), then the evil destroyer of the world with whom I would battle on skyscraper roof tops would undoubtedly be swathed in shiny purple.

Having said that, I did inherit from my mum a voracious bookworm gene. Now, bookworms sound like they must be related to woodworms; but you’d imagine they’d be less dangerous, structurally, to houses. My dad, however, would have to disagree: Mum likes to keep all the books she’s ever read and, although it’s an optical illusion rather than an incredible architectural anomaly, their house gets smaller year-on-year as the shelves become ever more multi-layered.

Mum’s favourite quote, framed on the front of one of the bookcases, is from Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges: ‘I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.’ but my dad harbours darker feelings to the towering-like-Babel piles of pages, worrying that paradise will arrive sooner than it should if they were ever to tumble, leaving only his feet protruding like L. Frank Baum’s Wicked Witch of the East (though he doesn’t have the ruby slippers).

And so, whilst visiting the volcano exhibition in Oxford’s Bodleian library (surely a wonderfully unusual choice of setting for displays of uncontrollable civilisation-ravaging fire) I found in their shop the perfect present for Mum’s birthday this week – it’s a leather handbag that looks from the outside like a library but it weighs considerably less and it will fit a kindle (or two) neatly inside. I think both parents will approve, and if I‘m out with them, there’ll also be plenty of space for the Crème Eggs. And with that all in place, the world is our oyster!

- Esther Lafferty