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.




  1. I too have bulging books – but since the advent of my kindle – I’m getting rid of them – mine mostly go to the prisons – I am always shouted down by ‘real book’ lovers, but Im only interested in the words, not the vessel!


    • Good on you for donating unwanted books to a good cause. I mean: how many of the books on our shelves will we re-read? I mean REALLY?? Not many, I’ll bet. I donate mine to the annual Diabetes SA book sale.


  2. Loved reading this, Alison!


  3. Wow, Alison , your tale has struck a chord. I need to trim my tomes and their less weighty cousins. I’ll definitely be contributing to the Diabetes book sale. And Clement has sparked my interest. Visibility is becoming a problem as my windows await attention. I need to plan.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Eileen Turner

    I love this, Alison. And I can empathise with it totally. I did a spring clean in the room with the most books, during which I put aside many books. Sadly, I also returned them to their original space on the bookshelves! No-one wants them. I think that I shall have to go to specialist organisations to get rid of them The advent of smartphones/tablets/ laptops and computers means that no-one needs to have actual reference books. We do have Recycling boxes in the parking areas of all the Supermarket stores, but I find it difficult to put books into it even when I have tied them up in plastic bags!

    I need a Clement in my life, too and also a char! It is difficult to get down on the bathroom floor to clean the shower base etc. Not too difficult to get down. But definitely very hard to get back up1

    All for now, Alison. Keep the despatches coming. I always enjoy them. Lots of love Eileen


    • Lovely to hear from you Eileen. It’s a real problem these days, disposing of sets of encyclopaedias and the like. However, I’m sure charities operating in the Third
      World could use them. & I’m equally sure Google (what would we do without it?) will help you ferret them out!


  5. I had the same experience when I moved home recently, except I went all the way and got rid of the lot, replaced them with an e-reader and love it


    • Oh no! horrors! ALL of them ? you’re a braver man than I, Gunga Din! Could not do that – am not a fan of e-readers, although I can see they do have their merits.


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