Sometimes events have unexpected side effects. For instance: I recently had my house re-carpeted. This meant I had to pack away all loose items, my collection of cat memorabilia, and oh woe – the bookshelves. The Carpet Man took one look at the overloaded shelves, shook his head, and said We can’t move those – too heavy. You’ll have to pack them away and then we’ll move the empty bookcases. Fair enough – I knew how heavy they were. Amazing how sheets of paper within cardboard covers have such a cumulative dead weight. But they do.
So: Clement came into my life. His day job is working for the window cleaners who come once a month to clean my windows (note: I don’t wash windows or cars; I’m too short to reach. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.I engaged him to come and help pack the books. He’s a skinny little Malawian, who works all the hours/days that he can, in order to send money back to his family in Malawi; speaks beautiful English and works with vigour. In a couple of hours the job was done, the boxes stored in the spare bedroom, and every flat surface covered in towering stacks of books. We ran out of boxes, so we got on to Plan B. Just love Plan B. I noticed Clement eyeing the books with interest, and offered to lend him a novel, which he took with alacrity.
New carpeting duly installed, I arranged for Clement to help unpack the books, which we speedily did. We pretty much just shoved them into shelves, and left it at that. Since then I have had a delightful time re-arranging them into themed shelves – novels, travel, poetry, cookery books (I discovered a brand new Jamie Oliver which I don’t appear to have even opened let alone read or cooked from; I have a vague memory that I won the book in a competition). My Tarot books have been packed into suitcases and banished under the spare room bed. Right now I’m not in the mood.
My Buddhist books have returned to their previous shelf in the bedroom. I’ve made a mammoth pile of fat, oversized books and stacked them on top of the case, behind the bedroom door. What’s there? Dombey & Son (I keep meaning to …) . The Gary Snyder Reader (wilderness, eco-Buddhism) Shantaram , Collected Short Stories of the World – 2 vols, IQ84 ( a Murakami triumph) The Collected Saki (that bitter twisted wit) a Georgette Heyer Omnibus (comfort reading when I’m in bed with ‘flu) The Alexandria Quartet (I really DO want to re-read this). And so on. I tend to be put off by very thick books, but usually enjoy myself once I pluck up the courage. A good case in point is The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, a historical mystery/romance, featuring the French Impressionists – I couldn’t put it down, and read ‘til I was cross-eyed.
I chucked more books into the Diabetes SA Donations Box. They’ve done well out of my recent housekeeping efforts. The comic novels I dusted off and stacked together. I have a weakness for them, for which I make no apology. We all need to laugh a great deal more often.
Then there was a big, dusty pile of magazines with the word ‘KEEP’ scrawled on the covers. Sorting through those I came upon a trove of The Lady . I paged through one after breakfast this morning, and enjoyed the wide variety of articles that are seldom found in other mags, which tend to focus on health, beauty and self-improvement. At one point I subscribed to The Lady, because I so enjoyed the cosy time-warp feel and look of the mag, it was like being back in the late 50s to mid 60s. And then the mag appointed a new, young, hot-shot MALE editor (big mistake!) who revamped the format and image, gave it a bright new look and turned it into a facsimile of every other magazine on the market, missing the point entirely. The whole point aboutThe Lady was the fact that it wasn’t trendy, that it had a lot of black and white pics and illustrations, that it was old-fashioned. So I cancelled my sub and went off in a huff. As a wise man I know often says, in his Tennessee twang: “If it ain’t broke, don’t tinker with it.” Too right.