Albert told me that he has been unwell. “I’ve been unwell, you know, confined to barracks! I catalogued all my books… well, two shelves anyway. Spanish Literature and the Mystics to the left and Latin and Early Church to the right. Travelogues on the bottom.” He bought another George Borrow; he said it already had a place on the shelf waiting. He loses his gloves in the shop and when he stacks his book to leave, he has picked up somebody else’s purchases. He says it is his own fault because all he can think about these days are the Spanish writers.
A couple were walking along the shelves, talking about the opera. She kept saying: yes, yes… but this one here…
It is very quiet. A bus load of visitors across the road are all looking at the sky, and then they one by one climb back onto the bus. Except for one lady who is arguing with the bus driver.
David told me about Clive James, Barbara Hanrahan, Alan Moorhead, Jerome K. Jerome, Jean Rhys and Patrick White and then he purchased another biography of Anais Nin that I wanted for myself. I look at him reprovingly and he says: well, it’s too late now.
And a couple buying mysteries tell me that the weather just will not brighten up.
It is raining. Still the lady across the road argues with the bus driver who is hunched against both her and the rain.
There are some young people kneeling in front of the self-help books. They have the Bhagavad Gita and Jonathon Livingston Seagull on the floor side by side and they are talking to each other about them in low voices. They have left their rucksacks by the door of the shop and another customer, a regular gentleman who only reads political biographies tells me that the bags people carry around these days are very odd. He is cheerful because he has found a copy of Alistair Cooke’s America and he thinks that now he will branch out. The young people are all standing up now and motionless, gazing into books with open mouths, the rucksacks are forgotten. I ask them later where they have travelled from and they tell me they are from Crafers.
I am asked for Catcher in the Rye, The Hobbit and anything by Garth Nix. I am told cheerfully that rainy hours are for reading.
When I go next door to the bakery it is full of ambulance officers, all in uniform and all eating furiously as they stare out at the day.
Back in the front room, visitors are all staring silently at the shelves. A boy, about 14 says YESSS and then he is holding a Patrick Rothfuss book (The Wise Man’s Fear) in front of his sister; she shrugs and refuses to look at the book.
I go back to the counter and I can continue to read a short story that I like called The Day Begins by Morris Lurie and I am reading it twice and then again because it is fabulous, although I am not sure why. I don’t read short stories but now I do.
There is a man here from Singapore. He he has found Hemmingway, Thoreau, Pearl S. Buck and Ralph Waldo Emerson. He tells me his home is in Singapore where he is a chemist and in Singapore people must really concentrate to be still and take a breath. And so he will put these books on his shelf and look at them. He has no time to read. In Singapore there is NO TIME TO READ. But this literature puts the humanity back in him. Daily life takes it out and these books can put it back in. Literature shows that we are all the same and there is no single answer. Sometimes there is not even the time to just look at things. That he is staring at things but not looking at them. He told me he is caught in work, caught in family, caught in trying to pay the bills and caught in aging parents and not quite knowing what to do.
In my car park (in the rain) when I am going home, there is a magpie on the galvanised iron fence and it sings a few small notes, it does not mind the rain.
Sculpture “Rain” by Ukrainian artist Nazar Bilyk