Prams, backwards

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Young fathers angle their prams through the shop door backwards, expertly reversing without mirrors and without grazing the wooden ankles of a single shelf. Then they assess the angle, the space and the occupants of the pram. They often consult a reading list on their phone.

Young women, drive in forwards. Then they repack the luggage, apologise twice to everybody and say that they love books. Their prams are always loaded with children, clothing, spare shoes, water bottles, shopping, toys, days, hours and minutes.

Regardless of who drives, the passengers look out serenely and climb out hopefully.

Everyone wants The Very Hungry Caterpillar and I hardly ever have it.

Everyone is told not to fiddle.

All children stare at the fishing tree.

They always leave a bear or a shoe next to Science and Nature, then the family have to come back again to find it.

 

The little boy who looked through the window

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They were running past the window, a group, against the wind and streaming. The little boy, about six, darted at the door, bent low to look through, his face for a second right against the glass, fogging up, owl’s eyes, not blinking. He disappeared behind his own breath and then tapped the glass and flew away.

But he came back. His face, pressed to the door again, was all eyes and ideas. His family must have stopped and come back because somebody, suddenly, opened the door and in he fell.  There was a little sister with rainbow gumboots just behind. She put one finger in the air and said, Harry Potter. Her brother, breathing hard, said, book two or one. I gave them the books and they took them under a table to have a look. The parents drifted.

It was getting darker, quieter , and it began to rain.

There was a young woman here that afternoon, too, who sang while she searched for books. I remember the children gazing at her shoes, and then looking at each other. She didn’t know they were there. She sang on, they drew up their knees and hugged their hiding place, the parents drifted and outside, it rained on and on.

Artwork by Rebecca Dautremer

On the way back, no way!

Over the Moon by Jimmy Lawlor

Quiet inside, but outside the shop a commotion because there is a family crossing the road and scattering in all directions; they can’t find the bakery. There seems to be about 20 people in their group, all ages, many children, prams, a dog. The group gathers and swells and somebody unseen is calling directions and one child has seen the cat in my window and wants to come in.

He is told no, no time, no time. He says, on the way back? He is told, no way!

Another child stops directly at the door and says she needs a book about stones. So that next time they go to that beach, they can keep building. Two more children press close, leaning on, breathing on the window. The adults, the pram and the dog have moved on a little way, we can still hear them. Someone is calling, just get coffee, Brad, just get coffee. The children are silent, staring sideways, looking at the voices. The oldest child taps the widow in front of the wooden cat. She says, are you coming back next year? The boy says, yep. A smaller child says, if mum says. His brother says carelessly, I’m going anyway.

The oldest child says, quick, they’re coming. Then suddenly the children are gone. Quiet again.

 

Artwork by Jimmy Lawlor

Love looking at everything

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There is a caravan across the road from me, it has parked across the entrance to the council toilets and Yvonne tells me that people are unhappy because they can’t access the toilets. There are arguments and a stack of buckets is flung from the caravan, there is also a broom, a hose and a basket of clothes pegs on the ground. People are standing around in an annoyed kind of way and Yvonne says there are two children in bare feet sitting on the bonnet of the car in the warm sun, waiting for their dad to get the caravan going again, they are going to the beach, a new beach they have never been to and they like the beach and dogs, especially her little dog. Yvonne, who likes dogs and people more than anything else, said it is good to see the young families out and about and doing things together. When she and her sister were young they were always out and about, they looked at everything. That was back in the good old days.

Artwork by Sarah Eisenlohr

Licking the Door

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On Thursday morning there was a little girl standing at my door and not coming in. She could see the wooden cat in the window and she sang: cat cat cat the cat. But her mother, laden with toddler, pram, baby, groceries and the rest of their life said: not today.

So, this little girl licked the glass of the door, the good thick glass, icy cold with the cold day and she stood with one foot flat and one pointed and her chin to the sky and eyes closed and tasted the glass of everything until her mother said: Oh God, stop it, stop licking the glass, quick,  come away.

The little girl with both eyes still closed had to correct her mother. She said: it’s not glass, it’s lollies.

 

I can remember

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A little boy asked me this morning if I remembered him coming in before with his mum and dad and getting a book called Dr Zeus and also getting a book about a cat. He reminded me with a certain joy that I took a photo of them standing there with their books, him and his brother. He reminded me that his brother does not read that many books now as he plays cricket. He is pretty good at cricket. He is a fast man.
I did remember. It was a long time ago. Those small boys lined up next to each other at the counter, their eyes were lamps, their books certain tiles of gold spread carefully in front of me so that I was aware of the incoming joy.
This time they chose different books, after all they were older now, grown up almost, they were reading about dinosaurs and cricket and Star Wars. They brought the books to the counter and their eyes were like lamps and I was aware of the incoming joy.

I’m just looking…

 

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A little girl wandered into the shop here one morning with a bucket of chalk and she was all by herself. She said: I’m just looking at the books.
Then she looked at me and said: sometimes I see words that are really small and I’m like…
There was a long silence while she waited politely for me to understand what it was like to see words that are really small.
Then she said: yeah.

She continued walking gently around, noting out loud what she liked.
I like Olivia.
I like this. I like this, maybe.

The door swung open suddenly and her father was there, looking at me in amazement. He looked at his daughter and said: God, what are you doing, we couldn’t find you.
He checked his phone. She said: just looking.
He checked his phone.
She kept on looking and he checked his phone.
He said: ok, come on. The weather’s coming in.
She walked past and bid me goodbye, serene and glowing. She said: I like mice.
And her father ushered her out, hurrying onwards and outwards into the weather and into the future.

Photography  by John Wilhelm

 

 

Rain in Strathalbyn

Yelena Sidorova

On Thursday it rained, laying the summer and the dust to rest.
Somebody passing outside said: what brought this on?
Their friend answered: I don’t what brought it on but we’re not ready for it.

The postman said: we’re in for it. The letter he gave me is wet.
A family shouldered through the door and told me it is raining. They are looking for Mr Men books for the baby.
The baby says: hello hello hello hello hello hello puppy, hello puppy, hello, hi, hi…
The baby threw all the Mr Men books on the floor. This is because he didn’t want them. His father tells him that he would like to know who ordered this rain!

Simon is picking up a book he had ordered and told me that it was him that ordered the rain, haha. He said that now he will go and read at the bakery, waiting for the wife, I have a lovely spot, it’s reading weather again, I hope she takes her time. He salutes the sad baby as he leaves.
Another man browses in silence, along the shelves, along the rows, along the spines, slowly, reading out loud but silently, caressing each title in his mind. He reads his way downwards, later he will tell me that books are endless.
A lady outside said: shit. Shit this bloody rain, it’s supposed to be summer. Her friend told her that summer ended ages ago. The veranda is dripping.

I am asked for Cider with Rosie,  The Land of Painted Caves and A Brief History of Time.

There is a young woman, balancing on one foot, considering Francois Sagan, she is bending her head over that beautiful little paperback, thinking what things…? Francois Sagan herself would not require an answer. An old lady was pleased with Mulga Bill’s Bicycle and The Complete Lewis Carroll. She said that she once knew Morse code and every night she reads until 10.45pm and when she left she said: thank you for all of this.

A couple languish against the shelves whispering about everything they have read so far. The looked very happy and very urgent, urgent to continue adding and adding. They take with them Hilary Mantel and Chinua Achebe’s There was a Country. Outside a man is leaning against his car and smoking and staring hard at the Lee Child books in the front window. He gestures toward one of them and says something about Tom Cruise to his friend. The other person laughs.
An old couple leave with nearly all of the Agatha Christies. They tell me it is cup of tea weather.
The young woman who had been balancing on one foot has chosen a copy of A Certain Smile by Francois Sagan and she leaves, balancing on this radiant accumulation to her life.
Then it is quiet again, and just the rain.

Artwork by Yelena Sidorova

 

 

 

 

 

Noah Reads

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Noah reads like a proper reading person, that is, he reads like himself.

He is a year old. When he examines the book, the front and back, the bottom and top, each page on a useful hinge, the last page an attractive gate, nobody knows (except for him) what he is thinking, believing or eating.

Noah reads at an alarming rate, this will continue until formal instruction begins and then he will slow down to a courteous pace; he is  already a thoughtful baby. He will travel thoughtfully through reading requirements. But alone, he will soar with closed eyes, apologetic of recommended titles, he will read the same book over and over, re read old books, re read easy books, insist on reading difficult books, put aside appropriate books and be kind but not enthusiastic about reader stars for progress, charting instead, his own country which will feature a starscape that only he can track.

Noah watches his own parents read. His house is growing a garden outside and a library inside. The library is without plan, format or sensible guidelines. The books are filed according to where they land. There are old books, new books, worn out books and well read books all in together, a mother country with no end page but requiring a heavy reference: it must be a book someone may want to read some day. Volumes that do not wear this badge are shelved anyway.
Noah travels this realm of gold somewhat carelessly, after all, it has always been there. Its gilt influence on his life may go unnoticed, or maybe not. Everybody reads differently.
Some people read for recovery, relaxation, distraction.
Some people read for accomplishment, achievement and knowledge.
Some people read to accumulate data, settle argument, prove frontiers.

This, then, for Noah, a beautiful infant in a great age, the digital age: that he might forgo analysis for listening. That he will pursue the tentative and the original. That he will take terrible risks and abandon the surface of things.
That he might reach air’s other side… ( Rainer Maria Rilke )

Noah reading

 

 

I wish you would use your windscreen

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This is what Annette said to Bruce when he could not find her anywhere and finally came into the shop today to see if I may know anything.

Then she was in the door and behind us and furious because if Bruce had bothered to look through his windscreen he would have seen her waving. She said maybe he should clean the windscreen. Then they ordered a copy of Hawaii by James Michener and went to have a cup of tea next door.
It is quiet and warm, there is nobody around, there is nobody that wants a book this week! Outside a very old man is smoking and leaning into the sunshine with his eyes closed. There is a bag at his feet holding loaf of bread, a bag of onions and a hammer.

A man came in to ask me directions to Noarlunga, he had to get to his daughter’s dinner party soon or she would kill him. He paced around in circles while I wrote some directions down. He didn’t have her a gift either, he said it was going to be a grim evening.
A family come in for a while and the smallest boy tells me that his mother can not be trusted in a place like this and made his family all laugh kindly at him.
Two men come past and glance through the window and one says to the other: I can’t see anything through this window and the other man replied: this place is closed now mate!

I am asked for a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
There are a group of children discussing books loudly and fiercely here for a while. They are fervent and confident and happy. None of them answer anyone else’s questions…

The thing that annoyed me the most about this one is all the workers, they were paid in vouchers. Did you even see that? I’ve just finished the series, just finished this series too.
Look at this….
Divergent, naa
Every season is different in this
What’s this one? It looks ok, no it isn’t.
No, I don’t want that.
I like all these colours in the shelf, all together.
I don’t think they will ever change the words, will they? Do you think they will ever change the words in this? Are they even allowed to do that?
Then the parents are back. The mother reassures one of the readers that they will never change the words in Little Women, that no, they can’t do that.
Two couples outside the shop are arguing about coming in.
One of the children is whispering to me about The Ranger’s Apprentice books.
The old man who was smoking has gone away.
The couple outside are rift, two coming in and two going to the bakery. One of the husbands is witty, he calls back: see you two blokes tomorrow then. The wives look at each other and neither answer him.
The young family are leaving, they call back thank you very much.
I am asked for Alice in Wonderland.
It is nice to be here.