AT MY advancing age I can think of no one I yearn to be in fiction who is not young. Alice? No, too confused and full of wry one-liners. Jo March? No, too adolescently unhappy and frustrated. Holden Caulfield? No, too mad and too lonely. Huck Finn? Not al all: too troubled by high moral decisions. Peter Pan? No, too beleaguered by childish yearnings and pirates. One of the child-bands in Lord of the Flies or A High Wind in Jamaica? Never. All of them are too involved in cruelty and what is more, symbolism.Cocky little Christoper Robin who loves animals? Hardly. Too sickly and Nannie-obsessed.

No, I want to be somebody uncomplicated, set for all eternity in the aspic of literary smiles and hopefulness, everlastingly cheerful, seeing and expecting and receiving good everywhere. I have it: I choose to be a character in a series I read with delight, over and over, when I was 8, Honey Bunch and her Sister Sue. Honey Bunch is my choice. She is chubby, blonde, cheerful, curly-haired, dimpled, helpful all around, immune to illness, injury, self-doubts, and best of all, aging. She loves her parents, her anaimals, her friends, her heighbors; she is loved by everyone in return. In all the many volumes I read she never grew a day older. That's for me.