“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”


I wrote this original post on December 30th, 2015, at the end of my first six months in the shop. I didn’t, back then, realize how valuable these days were, or how important those first customers would become. I know that these days will return, and hopefully everyone with them. But it will be different now. What is important has changed.

It is hot today. Customers are exhilarated and expansive because Christmas is over, and the Hard Work is done.

A lady who suffers terribly from insomnia tells me that insomnia is lucky, as it gives her  time to read. Her husband said that he has no time to read, never has had. He looked at the volumes of Ngaio Marsh she had set aside to buy. He said he doesn’t know where his time goes these days. She told him that it has probably gone to the pub.

A little girl asked for Harry Potter but her mother reminded her that there would be no time to read it. So best leave it.

Kerry said he can get through one thriller a night. I asked Robert how long it might take him to get through The Gnostic Mysteries and he said he will never be done with that book, even after he dies he will still be reading it. And when the government discovers his body still reading it, they had better be worried.

A little boy said he could read a Geronimo Stilton in five minutes, but his sister said that this was a lie.

I have time to think about Henry James.

Fiona picked up her order and said that there is no technology yet that can track what happens to the human mind when we are reading. It can track the activity of the brain but not of the mind.

I tried to imagine what my mind was doing when I read Darius Bell and the Crystal Bees.

Robert, who is still here, said that if the government knew what his mind was thinking when he was reading they would put the watch dogs onto him. We asked him what he is reading (besides The Gnostic Mysteries) and he said The Greek Myths by Robert Graves. This is so he can find out what’s going on in the world. Better to read The Greek Myths or Homer to keep up with things because everything in the newspapers is an insult, including the weather.

There were some new visitors from interstate. One was feeling hilarious because he’d found a copy of The Unseen Academicals, which is the Exact Book he is up to:

‘I’ve got so many books to read, so many, just so many, we are always just buying other ones. I sit there in the caravan park,and I’m just laughing out loud, it’s so funny. I will have to read for ever. I think it’s possible, that’s why we get so many. I am collecting every book by Terry Pratchett, I read them more than once and they actually GET FUNNIER.

Then at the end of the day, a small boy asked me for a Christmas book that had been in the window last week. He saw it and wanted it, and when I brought out the stories that were left he pointed to a heavy green Faber anthology of Christmas stories. His mother told him that it was a book for adults. His father told him to leave it until he was older. But he gave me all his money and whispered that it was the one he wanted. He defended his choice patiently to his parents, told them that this book would NOT run out of pages. The other books there would run out of pages. He was six years old, and he convinced them; he got his book.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard

Life is an icecream.


An earnest young woman explained to me some details of her thesis on George Eliot’s Silas Marner. She talked about rationalism and the connection to community and the spiritual climb to redemption. She said she is moving to Strathalbyn because it has the correct number of bookshops which is any number more than zero.

I remember reading Silas Marner. He was a weaver.

I was asked for Theodore Roethke: The Collected Verse and Bel Canto. I was asked to put aside some Manga books please.

I was asked for Tagore. Because his writing is so very beautiful. The young woman stood for a long time trying to find the words to describe Tagore.

Leon came by to make sure that everything is ok. I asked him about his reading and he said: well, that’s another story. As he left a woman and her mother came in and spend a long time in the crime fiction. When they left, the young woman said: I told you mum, I told you that I just go in there, in that shop, right, and I just freaking find stuff. Oh my God.

Her mum said: that is all very well but right now my hip is aching.

I was asked if I had Annie Dillard and I do. The reader said he wakes up and reads early each day. Reads until the break of day. Every day.

I am envious of the break of day reader and wished that I had thought of doing this first. Roy comes in with a hopeful list of outback novels for me to look out for. I tell him about the man who reads for hours every morning but Roy said that he would prefer to sleep.

I am asked for Faunaverse which was only published a few months ago. There is time for me to continue with Edith Wharton and to clean all of the windows and to listen to an argument that is raging across the road over a car park. One driver says: Well, you can’t park here mate, that’s all I can say so don’t be a moron about it.

I go to pay my electricity rates and feel resentful.

Peggy has sent a family messenger with some books for me and a message that life is an icecream. I ring her but she does not answer. I always urge her to wear her hearing aid but she says it is a bugger of a thing and refuses to use it, just as she refuses to wear her glass eye. But this has never stopped her from getting the most out of life. Nothing has ever done that.
















‘….or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.’


“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.”

 Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

 My first customer today is entertaining. He said : I am trying for The Lark ( Henley, T.E ) but something else got in there instead, it was The Heron (Farley, Paul ) a brilliant, brilliant piece that won’t let you EVER forget it!. So I’m starting my work again, and the book I need is The Poetry of Birds, edited by two people, can’t remember who. But at the beginning, there’s an intro, first line goes like this: Most of the poems in this book were written without the aid of binoculars. And in the book is this poem, The Heron, it’s about flight, it’ll make you laugh, it’s fabulous! Can you get me this book?

A man put his head through the door and said: mate, have you got the Yates Garden Guide? I said that I did and he said that this is good because gardening stopped him from going mental.

A lady, listening in, sympathised with him and also advised me that my shop needed more Steinbeck, more Wodehouse and also more pedestrian crossings in Strathalbyn. She said her husband would go mad if she stayed any longer but she would buy the Clive James (who is fascinating).

I told Leon that I didn’t read vampire books and he said that I shouldn’t say that to the customers. It is better to keep quiet and make sure the books are in the correct order.

I spend some time putting all the vampire books in the correct order.

I was informed that Ezra Pound did not like Henry James and that some people had thought that Henry James did all his work in shallow waters but that turned out to be quite wrong. This reader bought five of Henry James’s novels even though he had ‘no time to read at all’.

A young reader bought Paddington, remembering how happy it once made her when it was read to her as a child and looked forward to this happening again.

A new visitor commented that the passing of Umberto Eco was a huge loss to the world. He bought The Prague Cemetery, pleased to have a hardback copy as his paper back volume had broken its back. He said that Umberto Eco soared over the rest of those European hacks.

I learned that:

The Poisonwood Bible asks the proper questions and Ulysses is just one big question.

A.S.Byatt, (Possession: A Romance) did not get on well with her sister.

Stephen Fry is hil-ar-i-ous!!

That reading put you under the guardianship of the best minds, providing you made sure you looked for the best minds. Like Frank Herbert, John Wyndham and possibly Isaac Asimov.

That reading historical books was a backwards take off into the past and did I have the fourth book by Jean Auel in the Mammoth People series.

Seeing without binoculars.

The Heron

One of the most begrudging avian take-offs

is the heron’s fucking hell, all right, all right,

I’ll go to the garage for your flaming fags

cranky departure, though once they’re up

their flight can be extravagant. I watched

one big spender climb the thermal staircase.

a calorific waterspout of frogs

and sticklebacks, the undercarriage down

and trailing. Seen from antiquity

you gain the Icarus thing; seen from my childhood

that cursing man sets out for Superkings,

though the heron cares for neither as it struggles

into its wings then soars sunwards and throws

its huge overcoat across the earth.

Paul Farley