Colours quarrel

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I wrote this in December 2015, when the windows were completed, but I had no image of the glass taken in the evening.

“Linden has given me some squares of glass for Christmas. These will be fitted into and around my front door which receives a drench of light every afternoon. I imagine a cathedral, but really this is just my front door. I had my colours organised, but the glass artist changed them because he said my colours were not going to obey me. He said that colours quarrel. My dark rich colours would go black and sulk.

He changed my panes to rose, champagne, sage green, ice and an invisible gold. I complained that now there was no colour. And there wasn’t. He said there would be, that now the colours would cooperate and allow each other a fair go in the light, and that they would change as the light changed and show all of their personalities. My dark colours would just turn their backs because didn’t have enough space.

I said I didn’t know. He replied that it was understandable, everyone is busy. But there is nothing so busy with its own concerns as a piece of stained glass. Each piece of glass thinks it’s right. They needed to be treated subtly and with cunning to get them to all do what you want without them knowing.

Well, my glass panels are up and fat with warmth and light –  and they are beautiful; the artist, with his dreadlocks and tools and dusty workshop was absolutely right. In the morning they are quiet and smooth and rich, in the evening they are hilarious, and show blue and purple even though this is impossible.”

Yvonne

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Yvonne was one of my first customers. When she came in, she apologised for using a kindle. She said, ‘You may as well know’.  She loved racy thrillers – Clive Cussler, and she said that when she was young, she was quite a dish.

Every day she walks the block with Marco. She rescued him. She said he’s a gem, but terribly naughty. She always asked after my family. When she was young, she learnt an instrument that nobody had ever heard of.

One day, she brought me in a glazed tile. She’d bought it up the road. It was a picture of my shop (as close as you could get) and she wanted me to have it. I was very flattered. I hung it on the wall. Every day, customers would ask, ‘Where did you get THAT?’

Yvonne said, ‘Gawd. You can get that picture anywhere.’

The day I closed the shop, I saw her walking calmly by, Marco clicking away at her ankles. She passed me when I dashed over the road for groceries. She said, ‘Times are grim,’ but she was squared up, ready for a challenge.

The young girl who wanted a book for her friend

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This young girl wanted a book for her friend. The friend is an exchange student and unable to go home right now. So a group of students are buying her books, for consolation. The exchange student, who can’t go home, reads and reads.

The young girl had a list of books, written in pencil and folded neatly. She showed me the list. It is mostly the classics.  I read, “William Wordsworth”.

I said, ‘William Wordsworth!’

And she said, ‘Oh yes!’

Reading a children’s book slowly and reluctantly

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A lady had bought three children’s books (for grandchildren) and tried to leave. Christmas things to do etc. But she was sabotaged on the way out. The Smallest Bilby and the Midnight Star on the window shelf stopped her exit. She came back and picked it up. Looked at the cover. Brought it to the counter. Outside, people rushed past. She read it though slowly, thoughtfully. Then she said, ‘Damn.’

We looked at each other understandingly. The book had won. She carried it out, I watched it go.

 

I want to read this book

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Michael came into the shop with a gift for me, a copy of The White Nile by Alan Moorehead, hardbound and heavy, magnificent.

He said, you’ll like this, you know. And I could tell you some things about Alan Moorehead! Whenever Michael refers to a book or an author, he bows, an acknowledgement of his gratitude to them. Sometimes his voice trembles. He will hold a book as he talks about it, leaning over it, turning it, regarding it as though astounded that somehow, it found its way to him!

This always makes me want to read what he is telling me about.

He is on his way to the bakery this morning, to read his current joy, Torill Kornfeldt. I have seen him in there at the side counter, sitting electrified, his cup of tea gone cold.

Hand holding a book by Adolph von Menzel

 

 

 

The boy who bought his friend a bookmark

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These children come into the shop on weekday afternoons, school bags, drink bottles, friends, phones, everything. They had been looking at the bookmarks and talking about their lives. On other days they stand by the tables or the windows and talk about their lives. Sometimes they stand outside and look in and talk about their lives.

One day one of the girls asked me to put aside a bookmark for her as she didn’t have the money. So, I did. Then, some days later, one of the boys came back. He had a job now, mowing lawns and he said he did a pretty good job with them.

He would like to get that bookmark for the girl, his friend. A gift. And he did. He looked pleased with it but while he was looking happy, staring down at the bookmark, thinking about it, she came in!
Then they both stood there looking at the bookmark. It was a silver pirate sword with blue glass drops and silver swirls that sparkled or maybe it was their faces that sparkled, was hard to tell.

Artwork by Pascal Campion

The New Shelf

shelfI have a new shelf. It is new and handmade and for my birthday. It sits upright and tense, new, in the bedroom, rubee red, beautiful, anxious and ready to house the treasure for which it was made. I am lucky to have a husband who can make magic and that properly, so it lasts forever.
So, who was chosen? Books, this time, were selected and taken to their seats based on how they were dressed at the time of their publication. So, if lined up at the back door of paperback hell, well, no. If they still wear the soft leather of yesterday, then, yes.
If modern with a movie cover, then no fucking way,
If Easton Press, that superior leather bitch club then yes.
If with broken spines, dented knees, lost dentures, dandruff or a history of drunkenness, then no. (But they ( Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker) certainly wouldn’t want to be there.)
If beautiful in all weathers, then yes.
If a gift from afar, from friendship, from love, then yes. ( Letters of Henry Handel Richardson, complete).
Self-help books, those pretentious sons of. No.
From gifted, lifted libraries not my own but given to me, then the yes, voted immediately. The gold text classics, Australian literature, sit up the top tier and give sun. Yes.
A mighty thousand-page volume of literature by women. Obviously.
If clothed in the colours of the Arabian Nights, sapphire, emerald, gold, the dazzle razzle music of insanity and violet, and the sky between twilight and forbidden. Yes.
Dante. Ok.
Things I have not read, have read, might read, plan to read.
Night reads, mostly.

My Wife is Involved in the Pre Raphaelites

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This man always comes in hurrying and always, vigorously, inspects even the lowest shelves, that is how he found Ruskin’s Stones in Venice.
My wife, he said, she will want these very things. She reads a lot; I, myself, think she is very good, in my considered opinion, she is really very good, my wife. And she will like these Ruskins in a mighty way.
I think you and I, that we, you and I that is, will make her happy, my wife.
Then he went into another room, coming back after a while and said: when she was young, she had the longest hair. And she could always let herself go in her books, I always liked that. You see. Now of course, I must just get something for myself to read. When he returned, he was holding two books out in front of him, volumes of Freud and Descartes and he said: I’m going to get some fun out of these.
He paid for the Ruskin, the Freud and Descartes. He took out a wad of notes, some train tickets and a letter and a Woolworths docket, he showed me all of them and said, regarding the money, here you’d better take some of that.
Then he said: I have in interest in mining history, specifically the history of mining tools, specifically at Burra – the copper mining there and Broken Hill, silver, zinc and lead, I am in fact, writing my own book. Well then, and he laughed loudly, all good isn’t it, and he swung through the door and he, Ruskin, Freud and Descartes, all left together.

 

Digital sculpture by Chad Knight

Ethel, not John

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Ethel and John came into the bookshop about a month ago, tangled together and finding it difficult to manage the door. John wanted some Spike Milligan to read, he told me a long story about Spike Milligan and Ethel helped. She was short and square, John was bigger.

She had a British accent and she said you know at the end of every sentence. They had been married 45 years.

Ethel came in by herself two weeks ago to order a book for John, a gift, a biography of Spike Milligan. She was limp with relief or joy that I could find the book and order it.

Last week though, I found that book on the counter, returned.

Ethel came in again, this week, and found it difficult to manage the door. She had a slow, strong face. There was a small amount of sunlight caught in its contours, apologetic light and her features were gathered safely in the centre of it. While we searched for another book she told me a little about her life and she said that John called her the old dinosaur. The book she had bought for him, well, he didn’t want it.

The other day they came back together. He said: look at what I’ve got to work with and I thought he was referring to the book she had bought him,  but he was actually talking about Ethel. He told me another long story about Spike Milligan and he had spit caught in chains at the corners of his mouth. He told me he had worked hard he had, all his life, he had. He told me a long story about it.

They had trouble with the door that day too,  which was Ethel’s fault, and they stood in front of the thousands of oblongs that lined the walls and rooms and John told the long story about his life and the bookshelves leaned over him, the books that already safely contained their story and his story and her story.

He said: sorry about that book but he didn’t want it… his useless dinosaur just wasn’t up to much, all her fault.

Ethel stood still on her piece of earth. And then they left.

 

Sculpture by David Leffel

 

 

 

 

The children who asked me to look after their bikes…

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This has never happened before! These children swung into the shop during the afternoon, so suddenly that I didn’t see them until they were directly in front of me and clasping their hands together as a plea, they asked if I might look after their bikes, please and please, while they went to Woolworths to get some things. They were bright with cold and energy and woven together in a tight clump of children and daylight and endless time.

And they had already parked the bikes in a neat row along the window of the shop; they showed me this a little anxiously. And I said that this was all good. And off they went.

A little later a boy came into the shop in a puzzled and worried way and told me that he knew the people who were of those bikes. He stood with his hands in his pockets and looked at the Asterix books for a while and then asked me if those people were actually in the shop and I said no, they were around the corner and up the street and he dashed for the door and out and around the corner and was gone.

Later, I checked the bikes; they had obediently stayed in their courteous row.

An hour later, the children were back, as suddenly as they had left. They thrust a handful of gentle flowers at me, orange and white daisies, they said: here’s for you, for looking after the bikes, and then they were all backing out, banging into each other and into the doorway, calling and calling: thank you very much for looking after… see you another time…see you….