Hey, little fella

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There is a family meeting outside the shop but it is not a meeting. It is a farewell, gathered around a car because some of them are leaving. They have all packed the car, very slowly. They are slowly still packing, sometimes they take things out and put them in again. They have been at the bakery but that’s over now. They have been leaning and waiting against the windows here. There is a small child and one man picks him up and says, hey little fella, hey little fella, hey little fella.
And the child, the little fella, puts his very small arms around the man’s neck and holds on as though to something very important. And the man holds onto the child in the same way. And there is a woman there looking at the child. She says,
They have to go now.
The young couple are not ready. He is packing the bags slowly in again. Then he takes two of them out again.
Keep us in the loop.
Where are you meeting the others? Is it Williamstown?
Let us know what happens.
Yeah, mum.
Everyone moves together toward the car and the older man says, traffic jam, traffic jam.
Thanks for having us, mum, been great.
See you soon.
Ah well, good on you, you know.
Well, off they go. Strap that little fellow in properly.
He’s in, he’s all right.
They’ll do.
I know, I know.
It’s been great.
They are great. The lady said this in a sort of whisper, I couldn’t hear it properly, that’s what it looked like, it would have been something like that, a whisper because the rest of your voice has gone for a bit. She was holding on to the fence.
Then they joined hands and went across the road together, looking at the ground.

Sculpture by Wil van den Hoek

The Vampire Books

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John is back from Tasmania, and he came to tell me about his bike trip of 1400km, taken through rain, sun and good cheer. He told me about the best thing of all.

“ …this is the best thing of all: I rode up to the Mt Wellington car park – right up the top of that place, it was like heaven to ride around the top of that car park, it was flat and it was heaven. I am an old man you know! And a lady and her husband were up there and they clapped me when I got there…because I am old I suppose. But then she said, do you know what she said? She said: Someone ought to write a story about you in the Southern Argus…”

John paused and looked at me. I said: Our Southern Argus? He said: YES!! And then he leaned back with both arms up in the air. YES!! He laughed and laughed. “Somebody knows me! SHE knows me but who was she? I’ve never seen her before and she lives here in Strathalbyn. Up the top of that mountain we were. I tell you that life is an incredible thing!”

“Then I rode out of Devonport and 3/4 of an hour up I went, up another hill and at the top there is a sign: road closed due to landslides. Why the dickens couldn’t they have put that sign at the bottom. The air was like cold crystals up there…. “

“I said hello to my horses as soon as I got back. And THEN I had squatters!!!! Bees, thousands of them, in my own house, moved there when I was away. I tell you that you can never know what will happen next! I moved those bees back out and myself right back in! Now I need something to read until the sunshine comes back.”

Finally, John wishes me a good day and advises me that good weather is coming. A little boy, patiently waiting asks John: but where is your bike? And John tells him that the bees took it.

The little boy returns to his mother in the front room to tell her this worrying piece of news but she is exclaiming over a Hunger Games trilogy, bound in pink, orange and lime green and she tells him that the books are just so cool and funky. Aren’t they just totally rhythmic! He says: don’t worry mum, we’ll figure it out.

A young person asks me why Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was not written properly.

I read some more of Djuna Barnes and I am aware that these smoky stories are symbolic and too difficult for me but I am bravely reading on. I am thinking that she is funky and cool and rhythmic! I hope I can figure her out but it is doubtful. Luckily, this does not matter.

Dion returned to say hello and make sure that the shop is still ok. I said that all is going well and he said: except the weather.

Alex told me about the Persian Army and also about his Toyota Corolla. Then he recommended that I pursue a fabulous historian called E. J. Hobsbawm who wrote The Age of Revolution: Europe from 1789 to 1848. He said that this was riveting history.

I am asked for Positive Imaging: The Powerful Way to change Your Life, Wolf Hall and Lark Rise to Candleford and any books on ants.

Matt told me that it is getting harder and harder for him to find the books he wants to read. He said that he only likes books about paddocks.

I commented on the new five dollar note and the customer said: yes but it’s still only worth $5.

In the other room there are three older ladies, they have come in from a bus tour and are busy amongst the detectives and crime and I can hear them. There is a raised voice: “…it’s just a suggestion…it’s JUST a suggestion…for God’s sake…”

At the end of the day there is a woman here. She stood for a long while. She stood twisting and twisting her hands. Then she turned to me and said she didn’t have time to read but she read a vampire book the other day. She even turned the telly off and read the vampire book and it was so good. It was such a relief to read about vampires and be on another planet where her parents did not have cancer. Then she thanked me and left even though I did not do anything for her.

A customer tells me that his is moving from history books to gardening books. He is doing this because it is time for a change.

I think about the vampire books.

Photography by Joshua Hibbert

 

 

 

Grief

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I remember when a couple lent me a book they loved. It was called Madness: A Memoir by Kate Richards. I wondered if I would find the time to read it. But then I did read it. I was caught by the first paragraph which described a young woman who has attempted to cut off her own arm. I read the whole book and will never forget it.

I returned the book when they came back to my shop and thanked them. They said that this book was respectful and very very good and that their own daughter once attempted suicide. And the second time she succeeded.

They stood there, she, the mother with her book: Growing Roses Successfully and he with a book by John Grisham and me standing there with nothing at all.

 

I have a daughter.

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Peggy came to visit. She came to find some rubbish to read because her daughter has recently died and she is struggling to get going again. I do not know how to offer consolation on such a profound loss. She said: give me some rubbish to read and it’ll help get me going. Then she said: I didn’t do enough and this is why I need to be distracted. Do you ever think that? I said that I think this every single day. She said she has been reading all night long and wakes up suddenly when the book hits the floor. She recently stayed in bed all day with Tolkien and Georgette Heyer. I admire her more than I can say.

Then she said: I am getting old and cannot remember things well. You should put it into words, the details about your children. Also, I am going deaf.

I  am thinking of the details.

David came in and said: what are you doing? I said that I am writing some words about each one of my grown children so that I can preserve these details. David is emotional and dramatic. He said: oh I see, I see. He told me to write in images, not in words. But I am unsure of what this means.

A couple, looking through the Hesperus Press editions straightened up and said: our grown children…there are few words to describe it, the grown part. That’s hard.

David said to us all: I do not have any children.

This couple, who had come in for The Canterbury Tales and bought instead The Mill on the Floss said that sometimes they did not always want their grown children to visit.

I am writing just a few words for each one, so that, as Peggy reminded me I will not forget:

I have a daughter and we can argue on anything. We did not start like that but we became like that. We argued on the small things, the big things and then needed to argue on all things; the loss of the toaster, the temperature of cheese, the origin of grain. And then the position of pain, the right to comfort, the clarity of lies, the theft of the past. She is a quarter boy who struck the bell for every quarter hour that I was not honest. This is how I learned to be honest and it is how I learned that honesty is important. I am speechless with criticism and respect.

I have another daughter who can realign the hours and take care of the days. I look to her confounded and follow her example of gentle lists and goals. Together we have enormous quantities of fun and then suddenly she is a stranger to me; brave and fearless. She is completely apart and I am envious of her being completely on her own road. She can sound and show all weathers and allow crying.

I have another daughter who can lie in her own shape and regard unconcerned the future. I look to her with awe and relief that such an attitude is possible and with such bravery and distain. Because I am unable to disregard the hours and days and imagined chores that I need to earn my train pass.

I have a son and I admire him intensely from close and afar. He is rare. He does the things of men. But he can work within all the things of women. Despite my pacing and motherhood fury during his infant days, he achieved all this. There is no more to be said.

I have a new daughter who has joined up with enthusiasm, blended everybody and excludes nobody. She is focussed, generous and excellent. She has the future sketched and is delighted with it and is a gate keeper, making sure that everybody gets though. And we can no longer do without her.

I look at these words and wonder about them. I would show them to David but he has taken his biography of Anaïs Nin and gone home.

A lady bought three books by Ngaio Marsh. She told me that at home she has books open on every surface, everywhere, all the print lying there face up and ready.

A young man said that he does not like the whole world building premise, the land spreading structure etc and this is why he did not read The Wizard of Earthsea even though his dad did.

I am asked for The Nigella Express and for The Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones.

Elaine would like a copy of The Shepherd’s Life. When she drops in she tells me that she is distressed because her daughter, who is 55, will still not answer her mobile phone.