Things people say when they walk past my bookshop

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What’s in there do you think? Parents say this cheerily to small children and then fall over their mistake.
Keep going, just keep going. Spoken in urgent tones by friends who don’t read to friends who do read.
Look at this Frank, look at this pretty place. Said to husbands who look across the street instead.
Like video shops these places are, won’t be around for long either. Comments by people who won’t be around for long either.
Is this the bakery? Every tourist.
I hope you are taking part in the Tour Down Under display otherwise I won’t bring you doughnuts or coffee or anything. Said by my friend, Zoe, who works at Incredible Minds around the corner when she brought me an iced mocha.
Where’s the bakery? Every tradesman.
I love this place, they had Black Beauty and one of the Ella Diaries, number five. Children say this in various combinations every day, leaning against the glass and looking though and shading their eyes from the glare of so many choices.
Pointless sort of place, everyone reads online now. Older people predicting the future.
Is it open? People who look through but can’t see if I am there because the open sign is in their way.
I used to put in computer systems though. This place should be in a computer system, be easier that way. A man who stood outside for a long time and told his friend that my shop needed a computer system.
I’m not even going to think about going in there. Retired men who want to come in.
You’re not going in there. Wives of retired men who want to go to the bakery.
This place won’t be here long. Kindly passers by who hopefully can’t foresee the future.
I’ve never been in here, we should go in one day. Frequent visitors to Strathalbyn who never come in.
We are allowed to park here mate so get the fuck out the way. Motorcyclists who park outside my shop and take up the whole space so no cars can get in.
This is bullshit. Motorists who wanted that same car park.
Is it ok if I bring my dog in? Everyone who wants to come in and also has a dog.
I wish that I had this many books in my room, I would put them all over the place same as this because I love this. Children who look through the door and stop to open it a little way and put their flower faces against the gap and call through to me.

Photography by Doreen Kilfeather

Pontoon

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All our kids jumped off that pontoon.
And it’s still there, moored in the middle of the bay, animated during the day, motionless across the evening when all the kids have logged off and gone back to the caravan park.

The pontoon was heavy, the water was green and cold and deep, and the games had no form, the platform had no rules; it was just get out of the deep, get on to the float and then get off spectacularly. It was about hurling muscle and energy and seawater into smoky, bubbling patterns. To get up, there was a metal ladder, to get off there was just the edge- then the plunge into the marine and someone else’s foot giving you a blood nose and everyone saying it wasn’t even them.
All the parents sat on the shore and wondered if they should get in, wondered if they would make it out to the pontoon, wondered if there was still ice in the esky, wondered if it was too early for a beer, wondered where the sunscreen was. They were just realizing that the days were starting to go fast, never realizing that these kids would have their kids and bring those kids to the same bay, that same pontoon, that life buoy still nodding generously for the next version of campers, parents and kids and eskies.

Photography by Paul Cullen ( thanks Paul, for this great photo of all our kids! )

 
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Heat

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Thursday is too hot to open the shop. I stay home and Max comes to visit and although the heat floats around the house in soft, ticking waves he is unconcerned, he enters the drift delighted and he will find the tap, the hose, the sand, the stones, the buckets, regardless of advice. And so we sit out in it, enfolded and silent and the garden is falling, losing its height under the staggering weight of heat. Even the galahs, normally rummaging through noise and conflict, sit in lax groups, speechless, their black eyes stare down at us in amazement.
Max has made a pond with a peg and three shells and cold water. The hose, which was a melting length of green confectionary is now cooled. The tap, its head and mouth tipped with boiling metal is now tranquil. The bricks leading to the sandpit, slabs of unconcerned strength, are now watered and calm. Max has a tiny horse, a tractor and half a tennis ball and he works on in the shadows, mixing water with his treasure, adding cold cakes of wet sand, squatting beneath the shimmering surface of the morning, blending bliss with heat and altering my definition of the day.

British Tits

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I made a window display after Christmas and lined up the books in an amusing way by accident. Many people stopped to comment. Some leaned back and leaned in and read and re read. Some people have taken photos. One boy said to his friends: omg, look at this: British Tits or something. Is that what it says? But his friends have walked by.
One lady said: oh well, that’s a funny old set of books.
One man stopped and pointed, he tapped the glass over and over and his laugh split in pieces and dropped all over the footpath. But his friends, one with a walking stick, had moved on.
One lady rode her bike across the footpath and stopped at the window and took a photo of the display.
Some older teenagers lingered there, and all worked hard to say the funniest thing. One boy said that his tits had thrush and his friends looked at him politely but without enthusiasm.
One man parked his motorbike and took ages to stow his helmet, fold his jacket, haul out his bag, find his wallet. He stood packing things in and out and regarded the display impassively. Then he went to the bakery.
A child said: look at the cat.
On man said: British Tits to his wife, twice, and she looked at him and didn’t smile.
Two old ladies together read out the titles and looked at each other and laughed like anything. One of them said: what’s wrong with Australian tits. Her friend leaned back and laughed about sixty years of life easily up into the sky. They walked away arm in arm and triumphant.
Some high school aged students, two boys and a girl walked past and one boy read the title in surprise. He read it out loud but the other boy didn’t hear and the girl raised her shoulder against the joke and so he could not continue it.
One man roared out: British Tits to nobody and nobody responded and he continued on to the bakery.
Sometimes I feel as though I am on a houseboat. And life gently gulps past the window, removing and returning, on and on, and never really stopping, not even for British tits.

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These will last one week

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They are standing very still, this couple who came into the shop in the early morning and she examines the books leaning first on one leg, then the other, still, always still. She holds one book against her waist and reads the back of another. He says something and she looks up at him, stares at him, doesn’t answer, they stare at each other. She looks back down at the book she is holding. He rocks on his heels and whistles a little. She has raised a stack. He looks at her as though she were raising hell and he looks proud, he looks at me to see if I have noticed that life today is a masterpiece.
When they came in, she came in first. She plunged into the books, into the choices, leaving the bright summer day outside easily and gliding in without looking at me. I thought she scanned the perimeters of possibility within a few seconds and favourably too because her face went from holiday to intense. Maybe he recognised the flags because he squared up and rocked on his heels and made ready to carry the world.
He carried some of these books over to me, set them neatly on the counter and looked at me and said: this isn’t all. And they’re not for me because I’m not that clever.
Then he went to retrieve more and suddenly he appeared backwards through the second doorway, just half of him because he was leaning sharply back and he said again: that’s not all. That’s not all – and those books for her will last……ONE WEEK.
When she came out to pay for the books, he was already stacking her world into his arms. And she looked at him with her head on one side, considering something and then they left, and she was leaning closely in with her arm across his shoulders so that they could not get through the doorway easily and had to jostle and wedge and they are nearly dropping the books and he is saying: don’t worry, I’ve got ’em.

Bathrooms

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There is a white ute parked directly outside my shop. And there are three tradesmen who have climbed out and are standing together, all of them checking their phones, and all of them looking up and around for the bakery. One of them carries a can of coke and a set of ear muffs, and he turns and walks to my door and shoulders his way in, he is still reading his phone. Then he realizes a mistake. He says, ‘Oh fuck, sorry mate!’
His friend, still outside, says, ‘You fucking idiot, that’s not the bakery.’
His other friend, who is on his phone, pauses to inform the others (by pointing) where the bakery is. The tradesman who entered my door gives them both the finger (rather magnificently, because he bends his knees and arcs with both arms and the earmuffs and the coke) this fingered insult over the whole earth and especially over them. He says, ‘But I do need a book, I need the next Game of Thrones before the rest of that shit comes out on screen.’
His friend says, ‘Man, you are not John Snow. You are, like, just a dickhead’.
And the tradesman (who is now John Snow) says that he is John Snow, and that he can read.
The third tradesman puts his phone in his pocket and says, ‘I’m eating now. You two bathrooms can just stay here.’
And then they all move toward the bakery; three friends, John Snow, dickheads, bathrooms, whatever.

Brother to brother

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Noah has a full agenda at the moment: it is summer, he is nearly two, his eyes and mind are booked up from wake to sleep with things to consider. But baby Finn is still unhooked. He gazes and grazes and dozes and every so often, Noah’s divine features swim into his view and slide into focus. The intensity of this experience organises itself across his face; his eyes widen and climb toward Noah’s eyes, the baby muscles of his face stretch to allow the new happiness a way out, his teeth are not yet hatched, there is just a line of pink gums. His feet expand and point toward heaven, which is Noah.

Noah leaps off the earth

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Noah is up on the big bed. When he arrived up on this new exhilarating surface that dips and falls and floats mountains all about him, his muscles suddenly grew eyes. The first dive plunged him a possible ten miles and the cushioned landing told him that he might now fly. So he did.

Gravity stepped kindly to one side and allowed him to drop and leap, spin and swim in a flightless, effortless baby way for which had had no words except “bang”. He tackled pillows and cushions head on, fell backwards, lunged up from his back to his feet and forward in a delicate, balanced arc, exploring the physics of his own weight, correctly predicting the next fall and timing it accurately with a shout: bang.

There is a collision of head and elbow and Noah rises with one hand held out, acknowledging the grandparent injury and then already wading forward into the next operation, arms raised, his bones warm with cooperation and his fingertips feeling the edges of the air and informing his shoulders of the next plan.

But then, eventually,  it is time to get down.  He surrenders his feet to the old rules of hard floors once again, walking stoutly, rolling slightly because he is not yet two, lifting his feet at shadows, printing the ground with care and precision because he is not yet two and staring down at his new knees and his new feet that are no longer buoyant and that are not yet two.

The couple who kept on telling each other to leave

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Which they did, the entire time they were here in the shop, we should leave, are you done, I’m done, can you try to finish, we have to go,  but they couldn’t leave, their eyes were caught, over and over again, on Lolita, on Mona Lisa: A History, on Justin Cronin, on A History of Leisure travel, on A Catcher in the Rye, on The Narrow Road to the Deep North, because each catch came with another story, another narrative that they first told each other and then repeated to me. When she laughed, she stood on tip toes and leaned backwards, and he would say, yes that’s it. Then he said: well, thank you for your kind, kind, kind thoughts and thank you very much and soon to see you again and then he wrenched the door nearly off its hinges, left it floating in the warm street and they marched away together, she was reading aloud her biography of Charles Darwin as they walked, he was nodding and saying yes, yes, that’s right…

Eugen Spiro, Reading Outdoors, 1936

No, you’re wrong

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You’re wrong, that’s a bookshop. It’s a bookshop.
There is a couple at the bookshop window and they seem exhausted. The man, after they had parked had let their little dog out of the back seat when he wasn’t supposed to, and his wife was greatly offended. She said; You let Addi out, Peter, you let Addi out! He said: sorry, sorry, sorry, and then she told him to stop rushing her and to forget about the Sydney to Hobart as it was mostly a lot of nonsense anyway.
The man had parked next to my shop thinking that it was a map shop and he smiled in a radiant kind of way through the window. She continued to tell him that he was wrong. He said that he knows a map shop when he sees one and this was one, a shop that had stuff that gives you an idea of how to get on. Then he said that he might look wrong on the outside, but he was not. But his wife had moved away and did not hear him. He kept looking through the window and thinking his correct and dazzling thoughts anyway. Then she came back, and they looked through the window together and he said: see that wood cat? And she nodded and they moved on, toward the bakery, serene.