My Friend Peggy

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Is not doing so well. I went to visit on Tuesday.

I remember when she first came to the shop. Irreverent, outrageous.

She has still read more than anyone I know. When I first met her I was surprised at her interest in science fiction. Her other interests are crime and thriller fiction, but across her long life she has read a staggering amount of other things. I always try to find something she hasn’t read.

Sitting there on Tuesday in her clean, blank room I brought up The Jewel in the Crown. She’s read it (but will read it again). I had brought her three other books; one fantasy, one crime (this pleased her) and a thriller that she said would be rubbish. I took that one back. There was a stack of crime on the white unit next to her. She has read all the Game of Thrones, she rushed them, she said, not wanting to die before finishing them all.

She said she wouldn’t be going anywhere soon. That she couldn’t get any bars on her phone; when she tried to get outside, the doors were all shut. She asked me to get her a door code. She wouldn’t mind a glass of wine. She said they made her get up and do stupid things down in the dining room. She asked me if I’d come back. She thinks I am going there for her sake. But being with Peggy sustains me!  I’m there for both of us.

She complained to the staff about the cup of tea that never came.

I remember her telling me she always carried books with her for the boring places, like church and the opera. She thought nothing of reading during any event, if it was boring, she would read.

Peggy only has one eye, a doctor once made her a glass one, produced it triumphantly, but she threw it in the bin. She said she had one eye and would stay that way.

When she lived in Woomera, her (ex) husband burned her library.

When she was a child, she spent a long time in an orphanage.

She thought she was ugly. She isn’t. She is striking, tall, spectacular, a bonfire.

She described a good day as one reading, at the pub, on the reds, a roast and a pile of paperbacks, and her. She was comfortable to turn her back on everything and read… so how come she always saw everything.

But now she thinks I am only visiting her out of kindness. But I’m not. I’m there to warm myself. I complained to her of all the work that I have to do at home, unappreciated, no peace and quiet, no end in sight, etc, etc.

I saw her listening to my litany of self-pity, saw the sun break through on her face, saw the grin. She was pleased with the never ending work, my sulking and self-indulgence. She was hungry for real.

I warmed myself for as long as I could and then went home. Have to find some more books for her. Not Lee Child (rubbish), not the classics (Oh God, no, read them all). Something real.

Artwork by Isidre Nonell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and then he just threw everything into the creek…

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A customer told me this: when he was young, he read all the stuff in school. But his cousin, his good cousin, he didn’t read anything. Well, they are still mates. And his cousin said only the other day: why do you read stuff Rob, you don’t need to read, all you need to read is just one instruction book man, like a manual, like the engine manual of your car man, life only needs a couple of instruction manuals.
Rob told me that on the last day of school, long time ago, they were going home and he had in his school bag all his stuff, all his books and that. And he has kept them all until this day because he loves them, even the book on how to type, and the book on how to spell and the book on how to do other stuff, BUT his cousin, he threw all his stuff in the creek.
When Rob told me this story and told me about the part about the creek, he looked at me and we both thought about the books in the creek, the slap against surface, the heavy sinking, the triumph, yes! And everyone thinking, yeah, free…whatever…
Rob said that he kept the books on how to type. He loved those books. He always saw things a bit not like the others and all that.
Now he reads and read many things – he is reading Faction Man because he is not sure that Bill Shorten is all that he’s cracked up to be, reckons that that guy never had a proper job yet. He should of worked at MacDonald’s or something and leaned how it is. That’s what reading books told him about: work a proper job until you are despaired of it and then you can get famous. But if you don’t work a proper job, get your hands black and all that, go home owning nothing except a bad job then you’ve no right being in government and that’s why they are all wankers.

Too Many Pies…

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I have a visitor who comes here quite often no matter the weather.

She said when she came into the shop this afternoon that everybody’s always got too many pies in everyone else’s business: I don’t like it, I don’t like it, I don’t like being told I am a hoarder and have a problem. So what if I have too many books and too many vases. Who are they to tell me if I’m ok or not? I am ok.

I thought that her hands, that were holding her worn out bag and a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau trembled slightly, and then I thought that they trembled again.

(But that’s ok, I know what it is to doubt your own precarious hold on life. The hands always show how much weight there is to hold at any one moment).

Then she left, took off, as she said, into the outside, getting home before the dust storm which she said was because of global warming thanks to idiots like Donald Trump. She left, banging the door and took off, into bravery and difficulty and idiots like Donald Trump and still keeping on going.

 

Upward, Toward Heaven

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Today is just cold and dull. But it’s ok.

David came in to pick up a book about women artists in South Australia, the book is here and he is pleased, he stays to talk for a long time about women artists in South Australia. I made a small movement toward…something else… and  he said:

I’m sorry for the long conversations all the time but I am clawing for a life you see, it is how I keep going. It is how I keep on going, because I am alone. Most people have full lives, but…well…I don’t.

And he looked upward toward heaven with his delivery, up toward the roof and way beyond that and I thought the roof might split in two with the aim of it,  and I thought what made him able to disclose such terror with such unflinching honesty and humility.

And I wanted to say: but it is the same for me, really…

but he suddenly left, and somebody else was there to tell me about a motorcycle incident that had just happened up the road and was particularly nasty.

And David was gone.

“I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.” Anaïs Nin

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Outside the shop it is grey and raining and warm and everyone who comes in tells me that the weather is doing strange things lately.

Inside the shop I can only think about Anais Nin because I am very slowly reading her journals. She is dead now. And her writing, as someone said to me, is brilliant and brave.

She wrote what she really thought. This is a terrifying concept. Because, as she said:

“When one is pretending, the entire body revolts.”

There is thinking enough for weeks and weeks in this small sentence.

Sculpture by Ken Martin