The Benefits of Down-sizing

Some children imagine they’re fairies or tigers, they might have super powers or maybe they’re batman. I spent the early 1970s as a borrower. I remember being read the stories in assembly at infant school and from that moment onwards I was obsessed with the daring adventures of Arrietty and Pod, and the possibility that there ere people smaller than me, trying to get by in a giant world. I loved imagining what the familiar surroundings of my world would look like if I was tiny, and wished more than anything that I could shrink in size on demand and explore the house and garden from inch high size.

I also used to leave useful bits and bobs lying around in the hope that they might attract borrowers to our house for lifelong friendship. However, I did feel guilty about this, as I knew that there was a high probability that if they did come, the cat would get them, and I’d have lured them to a grisly demise.

I wonder whether the appeal of the tales of Arrietty, Pod and Homily had something to do with my growing up in the busy urban sprawl of East London. Street followed street followed street, and the few grassy areas were hemmed in, edged, contained. Even the park across the road from where I lived was little more than a giant postage stamp. It was lovely to live so close to the park but it took a great deal of imagination to ignore the concrete sprawl all around it. Maybe there’s something inside us all that yearns for wilderness, and maybe the only way of expanding the trim rectangular lawns and regulation flowerbeds of tiny city gardens into the wild jungles and forests of our imaginations, is to reduce ourselves in size.

Mary Norton, The Borrowers

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