Dear Aunty Bridget,
I hope this letter finds you well. I appreciate that 31 years is quite a long time to wait for a thankyou letter, but nonetheless, here it is. I just wanted to let you know that the three novels you sent me for Christmas 1980 - Elidor, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Owl Service - became three of the most read books on my childhood bookshelf. They introduced me to the thrill of scary writing, and left me with an abiding fear of underground tunnels. They were also the first books that showed me the power of mixing myth, legend and a strong sense of place. One of the ideas I've been exploring in my own (heavily revised, not yet to see the light of day) novel is how a sense of place can be made up of layers of stories from the past. And I wouldn't be doing that without the seed that those books sowed in me all those years ago. So thankyou.
I didn't realise until the other day when I read this blog post that you were a Cheshire neighbour of the author, Alan Garner. It jogged my memory back to my childhood bookshelf, and to your kind gift. You may already know that Mr Garner was recently awarded an honorary degree by my employer, the University of Salford. Next time I take the kids to Jodrell Bank, perhaps we could come to visit you, and combine it with a trip to Alan Garner's home, Blackden, which is now a creative and educational centre. He really has created an amazing legacy.
You have always been a strong, purposeful person, who insists that there is a right way of doing things, and who demonstrates to others what that is. I hope you will forgive my tardiness with this thankyou letter (yours are always written by December 29th at the latest, I'm sure). And I hope you are pleased that the books you gave me took root in me and helped give me a sense of purpose too.