Thelma and John are regular visitors to the shop. I met them one summer when it was hot and they were concerned for their garden and worried about never finding a copy of The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico. They have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, they finish each other’s sentences and find many things hilarious, especially the illustrations of The Gumnut Babies by May Gibbs and especially the picture of the banksia man running away with a gumnut baby upside down.
John loves railway artists and Sherlock Holmes. Thelma, at the moment, loves Roald Dahl. Today John is telling me about Charles Dickens, he has read most of these books. He is telling me about Dombey and Son, which is sad, sombre and just sad. This fellow, Dombey, wanted a son to carry on the business but the baby of course is born sickly. John is hilarious; following the memories of the story in his head (Dickens used so so many words… I shouldn’t tell you anymore…I won’t tell you anymore).
Thelma and John just keep on living on, they have put down roots into the things they love. Alongside their medley of conventional health problems, their lives seeming to grow bigger, richer and deeper as they grow older and slower, telling me about their fabulous library, their fabulous family and the fabulous garden, this fabulous wine, and a fabulous shed where John has an easel and Thelma has flower pots.
Suddenly, today, a young girl appeared at their elbow as they talked to me. She had a copy of The Fault in our Stars which she wanted me to put aside for her until tomorrow when she would have some money.
Thelma swept forward, majestic, delighted and paid for the book herself and presented it to the child, who accepted it anxiously, speechless, delighted.