Category Archives: BULAWAYO

A COUPLE OF THE OLDEST BOOK IN MY BOOKCASE


Books

Books (Photo credit: henry…)

Yesterday I enlisted the help of my char to tackle an annual task – moving the bookcase in my bedroom and vacuuming the carpet. We do a chain-relay routine where she gets down to the bottom shelf, which I cannot do, grabs a handful of books, passes them up to me, and I stack them in wobbly piles on the bed, until the shelves are empty. We then move the bookcase away from the wall, cluck over the thick layer of dust, and she wields the vacuum. I was relieved not to find any tiny mouse skeletons because that’s where Chocolat’s mice find shelter when they escape momentarily. The tiny spaces a mouse can squeeze into always amazes me.
When I’ve cleaned the shelves, and dusted the books, we then restack the shelves. I take the opportunity to weed out unwanted books (yes, there are such items, but not many) and this year I hesitated over The Mottled Lizard by Elspeth Huxley; it’s a charming account of a childhood spent in Kenya, but oh dear! The spine is torn, the pages have browned to a deep caramel colour, the cover is limp, and creased. The two giraffe have faded to a greenish-blue, it’s a sorry sight. There’s a price on the cover: 5/-. Five shillings! Can you imagine that? Inside the cover on the facing page is rubber-stamped: Rhod Price 6/-. I suppose the import charges to Rhodesia from Britain warranted the surcharge. Underneath that is another rubber stamp image, in pale red, barely legible: Carlton Exchange, Bulawayo. I have no memory of the Carlton Book Exchange, but I must have know about it, and probably used it. My eldest daughter, who remembers everything Bulawayo related, will be able to fill in the gaps for me.
The book was published by the Four Square publishing company in 1965. Although the book looks like a relic from the Boer War, it’s not actually that old.
Perhaps another contender for the title in this bookcase is one of my favourite books The Sunshine Settlers by Crosbie Garstin. The first page informs us that this edition is a Facsimile Reprint, issued by Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo 1971, of the 1935 edition. It has been slightly amended by addition of black and white line drawings by Daphne James. I remember my Dad owning a copy of the original 1935 version, which I read as a child, and loved. The book was burnt when my Mum’s house burnt down in the early 1960’s – house fires ravage family memorabilia; you can buy a new stove, you can replace your clothes, but books, letters, photos are irreplaceable. Ditto the handsome brass box, with a tortoise shell pattern engraved on the lid, and ditto the two brass urns, with elegant tall necks, decorated with an engraved pattern of curlicues and flowers, all the way from Persia, a gift from Uncle Bill who worked in the oil industry, a million years ago when the country was called Persia. Oh well …
So when the Books of Rhodesia copy came out, I pounced on it with glee, and have read, and re-read it happily over the years. It describes pioneering life in Rhodesia in the early years, just prior to the First World War. My Dad came out to Rhodesia in the late 1920’s, and life on the farms hadn’t changed that much in the intervening twenty years. Life was just as hot, dry, dusty and challenging as it had ever been, but viewed through Crosbie Garstin’s twinkling Irish eyes it was all a splendid adventure. Try and read it if you can find a copy; sorry, but I’m not lending you mine!

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Filed under BOOK STATISTICS, BULAWAYO, HUMOUR, READING