There's a tree in the next road over that's often full of magpies and sometimes jays. I like jays. They remind me of the Splinter Birds in Rebecca's World by Terry Nation. The splinter birds are extinct at the beginning; they're an almost mythical species of birds with long beaks who can be called upon to remove splinters from fingers. It's been a while since I read Rebecca's World (Memo to home: Can someone bring it when you next see me? It better not have gone in the great book clear out.) but I remember bits of it very clearly, especially the illustrations; Rebecca with her long curly hair and long ruffled dress with pockets, the shiny Mr Glister. At a time when I was far too scared to watch Dr Who, I think I read a Dr Who novel I found in the school library because it was also written by Terry Nation. (I wonder what it was?)
I still love fantasy stories. Not everything, but well crafted novels which draw you into a parallel or surreal world. Gormenghast, The Never-Ending Story, The Box of Delights, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (though probably the former more than the latter), Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams. (I think a taste for HHGG probably helped me survive years of male-dominated physics lectures and practicals. If you share geeky humour, you can fit in by being an honorary bloke.) I briefly considered doing an MA dissertation on Neil Gaiman and Hope Mirlees' Lud-in-the-Mist but decided I didn't really know enough about either.
I'm fond (possibly too fond) of escaping into books. I didn't like 'teenage fiction' when I was younger because it was to much like real life. I wanted my books to be unreal worlds, to take me away from the life I knew. In the last few months, I've gone back to that feeling. I've been avoiding serious hard work books (i.e. anything that might be relevant to my MA) and instead reading silly ones, detective stories, fantasy, children's books. Anything to escape. I don't know if that's a good thing or not.
Footnote: While googling to find some explanatory links, I found this page which suggests Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris as a similar book. Er, how, exactly?