She had thought the open sea would be flat

“She had thought the open sea would be flat, like a mirror or a coin. But it had colors and shapes, turning green or black under approaching storm. Sometimes it was red and purple and silver and white gold. It had sharp hedges. It had its tempers, its blue spells, its fits of laughter.”

Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar, The Map of Salt and Stars
Painting by Michael Steirnagle

Australia in the 20th Century

A man came past the door with two books in a basket on the front of his gopher. He wanted to sell the books. One was called Australia in the 20th Century and the other one was a book of photographs.

I already had the first one and I didn’t need the second, so I said, ‘thank you, but no’.

He was sad and looked it. Then I felt sad. Then he suddenly took off in the gopher and called back to me, ‘we all have our troubles’.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths

“Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

William Butler Yeats
Painting by Tomn Dubbeldam

Young readers check the weight and shape of a book

This is what young people do when they are choosing a book.

They don’t just read the title and note the author. There is much more going on than that . That alone is far too mere for today’s young readers. Who, of course, don’t read because they are always on their phones.

Young readers turn a book and hold it flat in the palm of the hand. There is information to be gained by doing this. They weight the book up and down. I have seen them do this while looking away into space.

They consider the back, the front, and sometimes, the extreme edges of the volume. Young people are not pressed flat by time (yet). They apply fingertips to pages and corners as though seeing into the writing this way. They purse lips and breathe energy into decision. One girl folded her hands under her chin and clenched them tightly. Staring at a volume placed at an angle to catch two kinds of light.

‘Bitch, I’m getting this.’

The friend agrees without looking. She has her own dilemma. A hardback copy of The Virago Women Traveller.

Sometimes they consult information via iPhone. They look from phone to book, screen to page, text to text. Ah… not so different after all.

They whisper, Anne McCaffrey died in 2011.

They assess something by holding a book by the spine with just two fingers. They turn their face from side to side to get at every sensation. They place fingertips on titles. It’s as though they are handling holy things.

After a busy Saturday, it’s gone quiet again

But that’s ok, it’s usually the way. Days like today give you time to sit and think and notice what’s actually going on. So far this morning has yielded the following:

Four old men, clearly friends, lean against a ute drinking water out of a water pig, one of those old foam ones. There is one cup, so they share it. One man wants to go to the bakery but is advised against it. They have biscuits in the cab.

When I look up again they are sharing scotch fingers around, shaking crumbs out of their sandals and saying that the town has come a long way. One man is staring into my front window.

Inside, a lady says that her library is alphabetical-  it’s A to Z, but her friends says hers is purely aesthetic. ‘Matthew Reilly is put here and Harry Potter is there. It’s about how they look.’

Her friends says, ‘That makes sense. I get that.’

‘I can’t have sets that don’t match, and I can’t have stuff without dustcovers.’

‘Mine are lined up in order of publication.’

‘You’d think that in a bookstore where we find everything alphabetically, we’d have that in our homes too.’

‘Nope.’

‘I know.’

Then they go into the back room. The old men have walked past my door toward the bakery. Guess they changed their minds.

Someone has parked in front of them and I can  hear a lady yelling, ‘You keep locking it. What are you doing? Stop locking it. Dickhead.’

And inside the shop:

‘Girl, this room will eat you alive.’

‘Is that Celtic or something?’

‘I think so. I saw it on my Tik Tok feed.’

‘The bee keeper community is strange.’

‘Maybe.’

Brenda rings for Wild at Heart for her granddaughter and I say, ‘Good to hear from you again’, and she says, ‘Oh I’ve been in hospital, not complaining though.’

A man pumps hand sanitizer all over his shoes but doesn’t notice.

Outside the old men are back with hot coffees, which they drink leaning against the ute and talk about the truck across the road – at least I think they are because they keep pointing at it and nodding.

Inside the shop, the ladies are still collecting:

‘Oh my God.’

‘Calm your farm.’

‘Look at this. The first one I got from a discount bin. It was a hard read.’

‘Russell Brand and I don’t see eye to eye.’

‘He’s a bit of a douche canoe, but I love him.’

Lorna rings me for James Herriot, second hand, please.

The ladies are leaving. The old men are climbing back into the ute.  The shouting lady has returned from the bakery with paper bags and cans of coke.  Walks quietly because she has no shoes on. The truck is gone. There’s a four wheel drive here now and the owner is walking around and around it, tapping the bumper bar with his keys.

Sarah goes past but doesn’t come in.

The man tapping the bumper bar is now talking on the phone right next to my door and saying, ‘Someone’s been at this.’ He listens for a long time to whoever’s on the phone and then hangs up without saying anything. Then he gets back in the car and drives away.

What happened on February 10th, 2022

A lady cycling past the door this morning slowed to get a better view of the cat in my window. But she slowed down too much, wobbled, and fell against the door with a shout. Everyone was startled, especially me. But she righted and kept on.

An old lady browsing in the front room said, ‘Golly.’

Someone rang for a copy of Mrs Kelly by Grantlee Kieza. Someone rang for Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods.

Kerry came for thrillers: anything he hasn’t read yet and bought two that he has read.

I did some good solid shelving. Put everything in the correct order and neatly because Callie is coming tomorrow. Rearranged the windows, and a lady walking past said into a phone, ‘There’s a cute old place here selling books you’d like’.

Dictionary Chris rang for Sophie Morgan books. Alan came in and said someone was break dancing and fell out of their gopher near his house, and they had to call the ambulance. Then he went over to Woolies to get gravy.

Removed another spider from the front room. Two tradesmen went past with about 10 paper bags of bakery food each. Now I’m hungry.

A teenager bought a Complete Shakespeare, a Complete Sherlock Holmes, and a Beatrix Potter Treasury.  She said (with relish) that her room at home is a library.

I sold out of Morgan Taubert’s My Goblin Therapist. Must message for more. A lady put her head in the door and said the balloons are pretty.

Redid the front shelves so they look refreshed and popping. Sarah came in and said she used to have an orange van and that we shouldn’t listen to the ABC. She said Tales From Wandin Valley is one of the best books she’s ever read. We looked it up online and found a copy on Ebay for 7 British pounds. She said she knew it was going up in value.

Ordered two Francis Spufford books and 3 Christopher Fowler books. Looked online for a copy of People of The Book for myself but then found one in my own shop. Lucky.

Deb got her gopher stuck in my doorway doing a three point turn. She was telling a friend about a hip operation and not really hurrying. So nobody could get in or out.

Sarah, returning from Woolies just then, couldn’t get through, and said (loudly) there were too many people standing about and the bakery needed to sweep up all the mandarin peel. Everyone pretty much dispersed then.

I cleaned windows and stacked shelves quietly for the rest of the day, and when I was packing up, someone asked me if I wanted a small dog, which I didn’t, so they took it back across the road again.  

The huge atlas I never thought I’d sell

The lady who bought it could hardly carry it out. I had to help her get it out of its box. It looked new like they always are. Expensive and hardly used. And beautiful. She laid it out on the counter and said she loved a good atlas but didn’t know why.

She said it’d hardly been used.

When she opened it, I could smell the pages, that undisturbed flat creamy paper smell and she placed both hands flat on the pages holding each one down by its stomach.

‘Phiritona Pereruela’, she was reading things out loud.

I was looking at the atlas upside down.

‘USA Los Angeles. Isn’t this amazing.’

‘Himalayas and Ganges Plain. This is amazing.’

‘Le Rose to Leasburg Dam. Imagine all of this.’

Her husband and her friend came out and looked at her looking through this huge book: The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World Twelfth Edition. He said, ‘Surely you’re not getting it.’

She close it with a huge swoosh.

‘I’m getting it.’