9/31 – Hazel

9/31 – Hazel

In 1986 around Easter, I was staying with a friend overnight. Her mother had taken out a few videos for us, asking us to watch “that bunny film” with my friend’s younger siblings.
The siblings were something like three and five. We decided we’d not tell them about the videos at all, but send them to bed. We almost didn’t watch the “bunny film”. We were eleven years old, far too old for cartoon bunnies. In retrospect, not letting those two kids watch Watership Down with us probably saved them from serious mental harm.

An hour and a half later, my life was transformed. As soon as I was home, I dug out my mother’s copy of the book – which I’d stared at in the shelf for ages; she’d never read it – and read it pretty much straight through. It was the book of my life. I thought I’d never read anything that good. The adventure, the mythology, the stories of El-ahrairah, the humour, the way the story flowed. (Five years later, there was The Silmarillion.) But until then, I was madly in love with a leporine. I must have drawn something like a hundred pictures from the book back then. Hazel was my hero.

A year later, on holiday in England, we saw rabbits at every turn of the road at night, I got the book in English, read it though I was missing about half the words but didn’t care, and I fell in love with England. That love, especially for the language and the countryside, has never gone away.

And all because of that bunny film.

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