Noah and Max and Christmas

Noah and Max (3)

Noah and Max are under the Christmas tree.

Max emptied the lower branches days ago and Noah gazes through the empty spokes with interest. He accepts an angel to chew. Both babies can now sit on a firm base with no toppling, they have crushed the nativity under their bottoms, they have pulled down the silver tinsel and it is their first Christmas. There is so much to do.

Wrapped gifts are, as yet, dull. Those smooth surfaces offer no angles or handholds, they contain nothing that can be seen and therefore nothing that they want.
An emerald green bauble that hangs from a branch, however, holds movement. And also light and shine that keeps changing. It has a promising surface that can be tasted. There is often an accompanying spoken warning which is predictable and comfortable.

The wooden Santa that contains another Santa inside it and yet another inside that is delightful. One piece can astonishingly go inside of another piece and come out again.
There is a bottle of good milk lying nearby which nobody wants.
It is possible to pull the loop away from every hanging element so that they can no longer hang at all. Max can jolt a decoration downwards with superb strength, it knocks him backwards and he must rebalance each time. Noah sits close by, supporting the work, a team.
It is hot, there are lists of things to do, there is still a week until Christmas, there is complaining and rushing and not enough carparks.
But Noah and Max are travelling Christmas from a stronger position. Willing to be grazed by new ideas, able to breath in colour, calling for contact and exchange, uninterested in efficiency.

Max is discarding each broken and lovely decoration to one side, he is sighting up the tree, reaching for higher profits, still out of reach. Noah is examining each shape consistently and carefully, tasting the edges, processing the contours, understanding the value.

 

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The little girl who said no…

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There is a little girl here at the shop,  hoping that her books – The Cat Warrior series – have arrived, but they have not.

She is impassive, stern,

I know she is a formidable reader, knowing exactly where she is reading and why. She will not be lured to something else while she waits. To every suggestion, she says: no.

I admire everything about her.

She is confident; she will not be swayed by any cheerful and generous hope. She is slightly contemptuous of my offerings.

I admire everything about her.

She can’t believe her books have not arrived, it has been ten days and this is what I said – ten days.

She eyes my benevolence and she will not agree.

I admire everything about her.

Finally she does look elsewhere; she does it for her mother and for me. It is her doing it for us, not for herself. But it is not a giving in, she remains dignified and generous.

She chooses The Maplin Bird by K M Peyton. This is an historical novel, brilliant,  but not an easy read for a ten year old. It is one of my favourite books.

I tell her I am impressed. She looks at me, entirely unimpressed.

I admire everything about her. When she leaves she is hugging the book to her chest and she begins reading before she is in the car, on the footpath, not even remembering to open the car door.

I admire everything about her.

 

 

Sheila

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Sheila came into the shop yesterday and wanted a series of books by Iris Johansen which she said were awfully good. Forensic crime and awfully good. She asked me what I was reading and I told her about Hal Porter and Olga Masters but she hadn’t heard of them, as I had not heard of Iris Johansen. She had to spell the name out for me. She had not heard of the books I was reading but she was enthusiastic about my enthusiasm. She was delighted with me, she leaned over her walking frame to listen closely, generously and she said: Well, who’d have thought it! They build up in you don’t they!

Then she left, slowly, easing her walking frame through the door, taking ages to get home and complaining about nothing.

Photography by Lisa Zoe

The world is fucking flat…

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A young man came into the shop, fervent, purposeful. He stood at the front, agitated, and looking at me. Then he asked me for a book by its title: did I have it; did I know it, had I read it??

But I hadn’t.

He said in a low and significant voice: this book proves that the world is flat.

I said: oh wow.

He said: it’s an important book.

I said: oh wow.

He asked me if I might find a copy. I looked on the internet while he paced and sighed and wondered and I did find one. I said: it looks like an interesting book.

He corrected me: it’s a true book.

I offered to get it in for him and he flung the required money onto the counter, ecstatic.

He said: the world is flat. The world is fucking flat.

He went off to roam the rest of the shelves, not a single book of which contained the correct information regarding the shape of the planet. But he was respectful; he handled the books with reverence. He was particularly gentle with a copy of The Wind in the Willows.

He said: my sister had this book.

Then he added sadly: but people get annoyed with me, for things, you know…

 

The Small Pottery Bird

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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.