Road Rage

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It’s hot this morning. Everyone is moving slowly, respecting the heat; we aren’t used to it yet.

There are some people with an elegant dog on a lead outside my shop, and they are trying to get to the bakery. But a passing car has stopped at the intersection, and as the walkers approach, two dogs in the back seat of the car look out and go stiff with rage. The back window can only fit one head, but both dogs mash themselves into the window seat. First they are motionless, eyeing the footpath dog with shock and fury. The footpath dog has reared up, ears stiff, scenting battle and possible glory. He lunges suddenly and twists his owners into a sudden plait of legs, shopping bags and disappointment. The traffic has stopped. The intersection is blocked. The car inches forward, the back window framing the dogs as they scream, strange squashed barks. The footpath dog splashes urine, (a warning?) the owners are outraged, yanking and hissing, and nobody can escape. Tensions climb. Footpath Dog is now dancing a slow mad polka on his hind legs, the owners pulling him into my doorway. The car dogs are braying their contempt at this pathetic dance. One of my hanging balloons comes down in the hot wind and Footpath Dog bounces into the air, quivering and upset, he loses ground.  But the traffic is moving, at last, at last, and the car dogs are swept around the corner, their heads blowing like flags, still shouting abuse. The Footpath Dog subsides, sighing and disappointed.  The owners go trembling toward the bakery.

Artwork Road Rage by Mike Holzer

Generous, joyous, wonderful

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Alan came into the shop today to pick up some books. He wanted to talk about The Death and Life of the Great Lakes (which he saw on TV last night).

Alan has a book in which he copies down carefully all the books he wants to read. The list includes authors, publishers, dates, and significant quotations. He reads these out to me. When he has finished all these books, he will find more titles listed in the back of them. Then he will come back again with another list. He said he’s on an endless journey of thinking. These days though, he needs a sleep every now and again as well. Then he wakes up and is off again. He found four good books today. All history. He loves history – all that going back in time, looking at what happened. Twice he left and came back with something he forgot to tell me. Again to recommend a certain book to me. Again to lend me a book worth reading. He is generous, joyous, and wonderful.

Artwork by Peter de Seve

Loren and Adam’s kids

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Loren and Adam’s kids, with their astonishing names and unconfined attitudes! They love to read. Who knows what place they’ll end up in – Tibet, or Strathalbyn, doesn’t matter, it’s where your face is that counts, up keeping watch over the universe or contemplating the feet of the blue tongue lizard. They love to read. They rise and rise, an aching existence of looking a little bit further and seeing around corners, and never coming to the end of things. Always good when they visit. Always good.

 

Uncle Don

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Just turned eighty. He said in photo one, he is fifteen, in photo two, he is half full.

In my stories of him, I remember the country, the heat, and the Cadbury chocolate blocks, the big ones (happiness).

There were cousins, strawberry fates and crabbing (somewhere).

So important, the memories and stories.

He just told me one of his stories:

When he was fifteen, he left school. He was forced to stay till fifteen. His mum (my Nanna) said, ‘Well you’re going then, and don’t you come back.’ She gave him ten shillings, a pack of cigarettes, one change of clothes and a new pair of R. M. Williams boots. Stirrup boots. He said, ‘My dad tried them on. I saw him in the hallway there, trying them on, reminded him of the bush you see.’

I remember his dad, my grandfather. His garden captured in rectangles, the vegetables obedient, the bizarre horse radish unkind to my mouth. There was a pool. It was a water butt, a tank overflow, waist high and diabolically beautiful. I played there with a set of plastic animals that I helped across the terrifying water to another place. In the shed nearby, my grandfather, a bushman and miserable in the city, worried pieces of wood into new smooth pieces, a pony, a seal, a round thing that clung to my small hand like an impossible, silken enchantment.

So my Uncle Don went off to Gulnare. On a property, there was a fine horse called Lady Claire, and my Uncle was given her foal to break in –  Dr Penney, he was called, after that Maralinga bloke, William Penney…

That horse would come to a whistle, no matter where he was.

He sewed wheat bags and fenced, one quid per mile if hilly, eight shillings and sixpence when not. He worked all day till it got too dark to see.  Then to the pub with a whole quid, ‘That bought a meal and four bottles of beer to take home, and change in my hand.’

‘I was a rich man.’

Bought himself an Austin 7 with my Nanna going guarantor, and she said, By God, Donald, don’t you let me down.’

My Nanna was a silent person. When I played on her back lawn, near the unkind horse radish, when I build small houses with cardboard and blankets with the livid, galloping imagination of the lonely child, she would approach silently, and leave at the entrance to the realm, a dish with five white peppermints and a glass of fizzy.

Well, my Uncle flipped the Austin 7. And that was the end of that!

But not the end of the stories. There is never an end to the stories; I just have to worry at everyone, and turn them into the impossible enchantments that they actually are.

 

 

How to play golf

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Find equipment. Divide and separate. Even though there is a good wide acre, every swing will shave a cousin’s ear, which neither will notice. Place hands up, hands down, hands anywhere, and aim delicately.

Ignore parental advice. The white ball is everything. Muscles, feet, dinner and yesterday, all blur.

Noah can imitate a professional stance quite well. They both like the grass. The ball, when hit successfully, makes a rich white click and causes them to stop still and swallow.

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This bookshop is crazy

Glueck/ Geahnt hatte er es schon lange

Two young people, a couple, consulted their phones, looked at lists, and asked me to help them find the books they wanted. They wanted Sigmund Freud, Hilary Mantel, and Gone with the Wind. They made a stack with The Penguin History of the World on the bottom and their wild evening party plans on the top.

‘Tonight’, they kept saying to each other.

But they didn’t leave; they kept looking, unable to stop thinking. ‘Man, this place is crazy, we should go, do y’have Jonathan Swift?

Later, at dusty three o’clock, an old man told me that we have to get kids off computers. ‘They don’t read, they don’t want to learn… always doing things they shouldn’t. What about those game stations and drugs? How do you keep your shop going?

He turned around and turned around and found his wife in her bright orange coat reading Bring Up the Bodies, and said, ‘Come on, we’re going home.’

 

Artwork by Gerhard Gluck

Dark outside, not cold

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Dark outside, not cold. We’ve had rain and all night the garden was drinking. This morning, it just lay there.

Robert came into the shop this morning, furious because his friend had a joint when he was 16 years old,  and now at 60, can’t get a job. He said the government has ruined this country. I am glad he came in. I always feel better, adjusted and balanced, whenever Robert visits. It is a calibration of sorts. I forget what is valuable. Now I remember again.

A lady bought The Blind Assassin, Caleb’s Crossing, The Awakening, and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

A man told be about Charlie Chaplin. His wife said, ‘Come along, that’s enough of Charlie Chaplin.’

I was advised to read History of the Rain. I ordered a 1902, first edition copy of Ethel Turner’s Little Mother Meg. This is for Lily, an eleven year old collector with a discerning eye for vintage. Scott raced past but didn’t come in, although he grinned evilly through the door. Someone hit their head on one of my hanging balloons and said, ‘Damn these decorations. Where’s the bakery?’

The sun’s out. The next person will tell me about it.

The next person is Robert, back again and who never notices the weather anyway, so I get to tell him about it. He says he’s waiting for the government to start taxing us for it!

 

 

How many, maybe twelve

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

It’s not often so many readers visit me at once. But this group came in, swooping, nodding. Young people reading. Oh happy Saturday.

Swaying, hoping and asking the shelves…. ‘Have I read this?’

Stooping and thinking, shaking heads, no, no. Not that.

Magnificent sunlight conducts the outside of the shop. But is irrelevant. It can stop trying now.

One girl has piled books up, carries them around, keeping order with her chin.

There is a phone conversation. Giving directions. Head back outside (not happily), and shout to someone in the street (fool!)

The rest of the group enter.

Then more.

Diary of a Nobody, Inkheart, Treasure Island, John Steinbeck, Eoin Colfer, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Black Beauty, Kidnapped, wondering, hissing… ‘You already have that.’

‘How many teeth does an Aardvark have, who knows that?’ Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, The Lost Necklace of Amber or something like that. Someone has lost a water bottle. The light on the darkened windows of the parked cars outside the window dazzles and hurts. Sherlock Holmes. Anais Nin. D. H. Lawrence, Eric Carle.

‘I love Anais Nin. And Harry Potter.’

Somebody is called outside because they have too many books. There is a brief, respectful silence.

Enid Blyton, Laura Ingalls….. ‘What’s her other name?’

Are you getting this?

Pride and Prejudice.

‘Do you have Tarka the Otter?’

‘Do you have the sequel to Sweet Thursday?’

They move and murmur, gather and turn. Read on knees, in silence. Gather up the chosen volumes, phones, a scarf, a sister, a book that will  help them read Proust, and slowly everyone is leaving. It is the end of the day and they leave, file out, eyes like jewels.

 

Illustration from The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Errol Le Cain