The Pulley


I showed David a copy of Cultural Amnesia by Clive James and he said I was naughty because he had to have that book. After all it was Clive James. He said: Oh God, I don’t know what to do. I am chasing up Rimbaud and now you have me with the Cultural Amnesia. He said that all of his indecision comes from his sad childhood.

A lady bought a copy of Penguin Bloom and then took me out to see her own rescued magpie, perching on the edge of a basket on the back seat of the car. She said that he is blind in one eye and the family just adore him. She said there was nothing they would not do for him.

Sharon rang to urge me to find a volume of the Thomas the Tank Engine stories, all of them in the one volume. She said she is having a bad day.

Robert said that despite his weariness he will never give up the quest for history and the truth of life. He ordered a copy of Aboriginal Men of High Degree by A. P. Elkin.

A mother and her two young children were looking for dinosaur books. They said that they loved David Attenborough. The son said that he also loved dinosaurs, owls and geckos. His small sister said that she loved owls and ballet. Their mother said that there was not much time for her to read much anymore. She looked happy.

Outside the window, there are tradesmen, leaning against their car, drinking iced coffee and smoking. They are arguing about scaffolding. One says that he is sick of all this shit. Then he says he is going back to the bakery. His mates look at him and keep on smoking.

A very young woman showed me her six month old son. She bought a copy of Goodnight Owl and told me that she has just left home to make it on her own. Her pram had masking tape wound around the handles. She said she was going to read to him every night. She gazed at him the whole time, and he, with huge dark eyes, gazed back and he was smiling the whole time.

Serenity told me that she had to leave school early. Her father, who was carrying all the shopping, looked very tired.

Most days, at some time, I run into the edge of the exhaustion shelf and usually I cannot see the reason for it. It is always when I am not in my bookshop.

An old lady went outside and indicated to me through the window which book she wanted. It would have been easier for her to have remained inside and just picked up the volume from the table. It was The Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. She took it from me and said: this is the one, his will be wonderful and thank you.

It is Valentine’s Day and a man is so happy that I had a copy of Wombat Divine. Later in the day he came back and gave me a red rose because I had a copy of Wombat Divine and he was going to surprise his wife with it.

The Pulley

When God at first made man,

Having a glass of blesings standing by;

Let us (said he) pour on him all we can:

Let the world’s riches, which dispersed lie,

Contract into a span.


So strength first made a way;

The beauty flow’d, then wisdom, honour, pleasure:

When almost all was out, God made a stay,

Perceiving that alone of all his treasure

Rest in the bottom lay.


For if I should (said he)

Bestow this jewel also on my creature,

He would adore my gifts instead of me,

And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature:

So both should losers be.


Yet let him keep the rest,

But keep them with repining restlessness:

Let him be rich and weary, that at least,

If goodness lead him not, yet weariness

May toss him to my breast.

George Herbert


The Small Pottery Bird


An old lady came in and showed me a little pottery bird she had just bought in a second hand shop. It was not a beautiful bird. She handled the small pottery bird like this; she tipped it forward and stroked the beak. Then she tipped it over and examined the flat plate of the underneath. Then she outlined the dents of the wings with her thumbs and looked at it with such delight I thought it might come alive. I could now see that it was a beautiful bird. She fitted the bird into one hand and looked at its eyes. She told me it was the nicest thing she had ever seen. Then she bought a copy of Ring of Bright Water and said goodbye.

‘….if I had fifty three minutes to spend as I like, I should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water.’

John Wilson.jpg

A young man asked me if he ought to read A Clockwork Orange. I said that it is a confronting book to say the least. He seemed excited and also purchased A Diamond as Big as the Ritz and Catcher in the Rye. He is not a student; he told me that he just loves to read.

Karl and Jenny buy two more Neville Shute books and they offer to lend me their entire collection.

I am asked how I find time to read. I am informed that really, there is no time to read anymore.

I am told today that Dashiell Hammett suffered diabolical health problems. There is a comment in his biography that he was possibly as skilled a writer as Ernest Hemmingway.

Outside it is grey; everybody keeps glancing at the sky…

People pass outside, heading for the bakery. They do not realise that their voices carry inside. One man says something about Moby Dick, he read  it when he was young. His friend says: huge bloody book, my mum had a copy. I wonder how my book shop made them think of Moby Dick all of sudden, there is no copy in the window.

The front road is packed with motorcyclists. They do not look at the shop.

I was asked on Monday if I had realised  the significance of the date: 04/04/16 but I had to admit that I had missed it.

I am also missing out on the football. Everything is scurrying quickly, including the summer and I am too slow. But Gould’s Book of Fish that I am reading now is not slow. Everything now is aching with Gould’s Book of Fish.

Ruth picked up her book about rocking horses and she bought photos of her collection to show me. They are very beautiful. She told me that making and restoring rocking horses is a thing of the past but it is her passion. She said that if people are unhappy, her advice is to make a rocking horse.

Somebody ordered the complete Series of Unfortunate Events.

Someone ordered any book on model railways that I can possibly find.

Apparently the weather ‘threatens a change’.

I sell a copy of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect. I am asked to help reluctant readers read and good readers improve. I am asked again how I find time for reading.

Sarah tells me that the world is coming to a bad end. Scott has ordered My Side of the Mountain but has forgotten to come back for it.

I accept a book to sell here on consignment and the author is delighted. The book is massive and must have taken a long time to write. I am impressed with how much she loves it herself.

A tiny boy stands at the window and says quite clearly “kitty cat…” eight times before his parents demand that he be quiet….. “…move away from that window, sir!”

Daryl buys a biography of Charlie Chaplin and tells me that the first thing any elected politician does is to demand a pay rise and write a book on why they were born to lead. And then…that’s it!

Richard introduced me to his friend, Cyril when he picked up his book The Ballad of Desmond Kale….they are on their way to play golf and then to the pub for dinner. His friend, Cyril is 6 months younger than Richard, that makes him 91. Richard tells me that Cyril had 6 kids and they are all useless.

Max orders The Little Prince, he is up to his 12th read of this book and he wondered if I realised that the books is heavily symbolic of life and humanity and is tremendously wise. He advised me to re-read and think deeply especially about chapter 13, page 71 where the little prince meets the merchant who sold pills that had been invented to quench thirst. I said that I would do this.

‘Good morning,’ said the little prince.

‘Good morning,’ said the merchant.

This was the merchant who sold pills that had been invented to quench thirst. You need only to swallow one pill a week and you would feel no need of anything to drink.

‘Why are you selling those?’ asked the little prince.

“Because they save a tremendous amount of time’, said the merchant. ‘ ‘Computations have been made by experts. With these pills, you save fifty three minutes in every week.’

‘And what do I do with those fifty three minutes?’

‘Anything you like…’

‘As for me, said the little prince to himself, if I had fifty three minutes to spend as I like, I should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water.’

The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint- Exupery

Photography by John Wilson