What was said this morning

I’ve been away from the shop because I’ve had covid. I drooped at home and read books. Sometimes, I went outside in the rain and looked up and down the road to see what other people were doing. I mostly ate instant noodles. I read a book about Queen Elizabeth I caught in the tower of London and doubting the future. Now I’m back at the shop and watching people pass the door, sometimes coming in but mostly not.

Visitors approved my covid reading choice. There’s something about Queen Eliz 1 which catches the ear. ‘Oh yes. She was amazing. And that Mary Queen of the Scots. Were they related?’

A man bought all my Asterix books (except the one in French) and said he’d inherited a stack of Tintins from his dad. He told me about a lecturer who did a thesis on Tintin. He went all around the world to investigate the stories and research Herge, or Georges Prosper Remi, who wrote and illustrated the Tintin books. He said, that’s a thesis people would actually want to read. Probably the only one.

A couple passed the window and stood in the doorway to make some adjustments. He said, ‘The trouble with these straps is they don’t work’, and she said, ‘You’ve got something on one of your thongs.’

A child went past, holding a parent’s hand and wearing a beanie with rabbit ears. They turned their head and I saw their eyes bobbing along, looking in at me before disappearing past the window.

A couple told me about the difficulties of teaching: there’s no support. Someone they knew had a pair of scissors thrown at them. They left their school. There was no support. They said the most destructive thing about schools now is the media. Once they get hold of a story, the truth will never be known.

A woman turned in my doorway and called loudly to someone out of sight. ‘Leave it there, we’re getting lunch.’ Then she walked back towards them and disappeared.

It’s cold and dark. People are dressed thickly. I saw a dad walking past my door, rugged up, scarf, beanie, everything, and his son next to him in shorts and t shirt. The child said, ‘I’m getting chips.’

Colin came in for a while and said he was getting into digital photography. We watched a couple cross the road in front of the shop: they began it together, holding hands, but then parted in the middle and went in completely opposite directions. He looked back and she waved him away. They went into separate chilly areas of the park. He sat down on a bench and she went to their car and threw her bag on the front seat before getting in.

A young man stared down at a copy of Moby Dick.  He had a bottle of coke clamped under one arm. His friend came over and they both stared down at the book. Then they went into the back room, talking about whales.

A very small child handed me a book and told me he liked peacocks. When his family left, sweeping him out through the door with them,  he was singing: dad dad dad dad dad. His dad said, ‘Come on mate. Back to the car.’

Bless you darling

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He came into the shop and the first thing he said was wow, sorry! 
Then he told me about Moby Dick and did I know that every tough gangster in every big deal movie featured that exact gangster in jail reading Moby Dick…
So now, this customer was reading Moby Dick and taking a long time about it because each time he returned to the book he had to go backwards a couple of chapters and regroup , you know, to get it all going again.
His girlfriend was the most intelligent person he knew and was always reading, always, all the time and never stopped and so now he was going read everything too.
He talked about Animal Farm, 1984 and Brave New World, some guy had told him to read these as well,
He said: lovely!
He said that his girlfriend was like, amazing, and that I would think she was the most intelligent person I had ever met, and this is because she is. She told him to get reading and he was like: all right, all right I’m doing it. He loved Moby Dick.
Moby Dick (he said) had heroes and death and bargains, it had toughness and tough blokes and all the time this bloody whale. Does he even get the whale? What’s with the whale? It had boats and that shit that makes candles. But the tough people.
He had both hands raised up trying to sketch out the toughness, but he stopped and looked embarrassed. He said: I guess you hear this all the time…the trouble is that I’m just getting into it.
He reminded me that his girlfriend was such an attraction and I would see it if I met her.
Then he left, swung out of the door the same way he came in and said: bless you darling, it’s good that you are into books like this, and then he was gone…

Photography by Doreen Kilfeather

Mopy

Brenda and Frank came into the shop and they were bending forward, with raised shoulders and concerned hands as though pressed in through the door by the heat outside. When they straightened up safely, Frank saw me and nodded and told me that he did most of his reading on the can. He said: I’m going to branch out, starting with Mopy Dick, I saw the film, I read history you see, true stuff.

He bent forward to stare at a set of Britannica literature and he was delighted, he said: is that the whole lot… flipping heck… Charles Darwin…no, no, I don’t know him. But I’ll find out! He looked around and indicated the whole shop, swept its outline  with his can of beer: this is a place of good stuff.

His partner, Brenda, said, don’t worry about that, what are we going to get now?

I’m going to start at the top and work down, going to start reading that way, I really want to, don’t I, Brenda. She agreed affectionately, regarding him as the living treasure he actually is and they chose a copy of Moby Dick with delight and left again, blazing out into the hot day, going for coffee, carrying goodwill, a passion for living and Moby Dick.

Moby Dick

 

aaron-burden-236415.jpgA young boy came in to the shop with his father and was anxious for a copy of Moby Dick, which was his favourite book. I only had a volume that contained Moby Dick and Omoo and Typee and Israel Potter. I was doubtful of this 1700 page volume but the child reassured me that this was ok, he had already read all of these and they were as good as anything. He said that Moby Dick was a good book, as good as Star Wars or anything like that.

His father stood patiently by.

The child then said that Moby Dick is just more exciting than the other versions, it is just more exciting….than…the other versions. And it is as good as Uluru. He did not explain this last statement but instead went to another shelf to get a Star Wars Encyclopaedia which he was getting for his teacher.

I’m getting this for my teacher. He’s a really really really really big fan of Star Wars. He’ll really get into this.

He stood there, confident, pushing his glasses back to the correct position, squared up and facing the world, his enormous world full of enormous books, glowing and supreme, while his father stood patiently by.

Photography by Aaron Burden

Looking at the stars with the stars

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A young man is in here looking for books for his road trip around Australia.

His girlfriend is in the car and he has to be fast. He is kneeling in front of the classics and he calls out that he wants the big jobs…like Moby Dick etc. This is because he wants to be in the outback with Moby Dick. He wants to look at the stars with the stars.

He shows me a list of the books that has been recommended to him, a list of all the Big Jobs and from these he has chosen Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. He says: this is sweet. I always wanted to read Ken K and here he is! I must go… I’ve got the fam in the car.

But he doesn’t go. He wants a book on snakes: he tells me that there are patterns to everything and you know this just by looking at a snake.

Now he thinks he might try Catch 22 and The Count of Monte Cristo. He also might try Ray Bradbury. He also might try Middlemarch even though that one was for women. He confesses that he has been thinking about reading War and Peace. Then he looked out of the window toward his car where his furious girlfriend is looking back at him and tells me that he must go and that there is a pattern to everything and don’t forget to look at snakes as closely as possible because that’s what he always does.

Photography by Sebastian Spindle