The laughers who laughed

Laughers are people who just keep on laughing. They use laughing as speech. And each piece of laugh is an actual sentence with words and eyes that only they can understand. These two started it at the door.

‘I don’t actually need any books.’

‘I want a copy of…..I had one….but I gave it away.’ They came in bursting with their own news.

‘Oh right. Lets look around. This is cute. Where’s your book anyway?’

‘I gave it away away away.’ They laughed low and long.

‘See this?’

‘What is it?’ They laughed low and loud.

‘Ohhhhhhh. Ok. Ok. You getting it?’

‘Yeaaaah. Ha. Look at this: Jonathon Livingston Seagull.’

‘Who’s he?’

‘Oh God, he’s Jonathon Livingston Seagull.’

I liked their clothes: sandals and soft cotton things from another era. Everything she did, he admired. Everywhere she went he followed. She looked back to make sure. He looked at her making sure.

‘Do you like these books? Do you prefer to cook from a screen?’

‘I don’t know. Is this low carb? Is this good? Should I get it’

‘There’s this guy that I work with at work. He’s quite interesting.’ He followed her listening and prepared to not like that guy at her work who was not interesting.

But she’d already forgotten that guy. ‘Oh God, look at these cat books.’ He followed her, quite rapt and agreeing on the cat books.

They swayed on past me and I couldn’t hear them anymore.

Then they came back, and he read out my signs of advice over the front door:  read wildly read wisely read widely. He looked at her wildly. With his wild eyes over the blue slightly crooked mask.

They went back to classics and stayed there on their knees, leant over books and talked in whispers about Saul Bellow for ages and ages, and outside, the hot day just had to go on without them in it for most of the afternoon.

Illustrations by Linda Rothchild Ollis and Magda Boreysza

Interrupted

“They were fine and slender. At any given moment they stopped every bit as much lines, every bit much in the same state as at the beginning. Interrupted, always interrupted not because they terminated, but because no one could take them to the end. Circles were more perfect, less tragic and didn’t move her enough. Circles were the work of man, finished before death and not even God could finish them better. While straight, fine, freestanding lines – were like thoughts.”
Clarice Lispector, Near to the Wild Heart 

Looks like I’ll be here for a while longer

I’m halfway through my 10th year here on Dawson Street, and nearly at the end of my lease – ten years was my ultimate plan- and I didn’t imagine I’d be able to go beyond that. However, my landlady is generous, and she wants me to stay, and so we’re planning to renew the lease after all.

There’ll will be a few long term changes, though, to help keep the shop going as best I can when trading is uncertain and not as consistent as it used to be.

From next week, I’ll be trading only four days a week from 9am to 5pm (instead of 5 days a week from 10am to 4pm). This means I’ll be here for the SAME number of hours but over longer days. This gives me 3 days away from the shop to earn a small income for myself (and for my super).

I’ll always be available by phone, email, and Facebook regardless of where I am. I’ll continue writing the blog, and I’ll still take all the new stock home first before any of you can get at them.

Thank you for your continued support and enthusiasm. It motivated me to come up with this new way of keeping things going, and I’m looking forward to it.

Here’s to R E A D I N G, no matter the circumstances, the times, or the era!

Young people when it’s really hot outside

Slide and glide. That’s how they come in, and when I look up, there they are, pale and cool and never complaining. Young people stand humbly, looking up at the shelves, and then glance quickly and apologetically at me as if they shouldn’t be in here. Unfailingly polite.

It’s very hot this morning. But you’d never know it. Young people don’t comment on the weather; they just let it lie around outside and pile up at the door if it wants to.

A boy wanted a love book by an African writer, but I didn’t have it, and we couldn’t even order it, except from France. He looked at me sadly. And a girl swung about with a pile of 7 waiting for her grandmother who only had 2.

And another younger girl sat in the bird books just reading them as if they were novels. She was about 13, and wore a curious beanie, and she bought 3 books, one about The English Plover, because she loves birds.

Then it got hotter, and all the young people left, passing out into the heat without comment, and the bird girl carrying her three books in a pile on her head.

10 reasons to read Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf

I just read it again, which will make the 8th or 9th time. It was my best book when I was 9 years old. Luckily, I’ve still got it.

1. The first line is One day Polly was alone downstairs so you know where you are and what’s going to happen when the doorbell rings.

2. The third line is There was a great black wolf and he put his foot inside the door and said: “Now I’m going to eat you up!” so you know where Polly is and what she has to do.

3. Everything that happens in between is correct.

4. Polly, like Pippi Longstocking and Mrs Pepperpot, is a forerunner of some of my best female heroes: Julie (from Julie of the Wolves), Harriet (from Harriet the Spy), Ramona (from Ramona the Pest) Matilda Wormwood (from Matilda), Laura (from Little House on the Prairie), and Dolour (from Harp in the South), Currency (from One-a-Pecker, Two-a-Pecker), and Tiffany Aching (from Wintersmith).

5. Polly and the wolf fight psychological battles that a child can totally understand

6. Polly always wins

7.The wolf never stops trying

8. In the end, Polly is still winning, but the wolf is also still trying

9. It’s hilarious

10. You can enjoy it over and over for 45 years (so far)

The difference between working in a book shop last year and every other year I’ve been here

There is no difference between last year and every other year I’ve been here. There were small things, like mask wearing and checking in, but people, and my shop, basically remained the same:

  • The quality of customer-peering (through the door) remained the same
  • The record number of books held under one arm while browsing stayed the same (9)
  • The same books fell off shelves and tables in the night and dented their own covers
  • The streams of conversation passing the door were as intense, rich, and deeply textured as in 2014
  • Dogs still urinated just outside my door
  • Children still read on their knees and replaced the books backwards
  • Window books continued to draw clear, crisp and authoritative comments from passers-by.
  • Young people gazed through the front window at a single book on the table with the same unreadable facial expression.
  • Readers still bought bookmarks
  • Everyone still turned to open the door the wrong way
  • Readers still went silent when they find a book they really want and then breath slowly outwards
  • People still come in thinking I’m the bakery

What didn’t stay the same:

  • My landlord died

This was sad because Malcolm liked my shop and used to leave books for me in the storage room. It’s only because of Malcolm and Ann that I’m still here.

I’ve been really lucky for a long time.

Sculpture by Eudald De Juana

Just!! Something I heard word for word through the window

There’s a discussion going at one of my windows, down low, because the men speaking are kneeling on the ground. I like this window.

‘Just couldn’t believe it.’

They are tradesmen, I can see the fluorescent orange, lemon, and blue clothing.

‘He just came at me.’

One of the tradesmen is doing something with his shoelaces. They keep talking.

‘He just wasn’t making sense.’

The street is quiet and still, unusual for Christmas. Even the traffic is nonchalant. They men are still there, kneeling in the sun for what seems like ages. Then I realize they are looking at a phone.

‘So, we were like this, and he just came from nowhere.’

I heard the sound of a shoelace whipping through holes and then breaking.

‘That’s fixed it.’

‘You got it then?’

‘Yeah, mate. Anyway, it was this big. Fuckin huge. Unbelievable.’

He was still kneeling but was now holding both arms out wide. The other man nodded, still looking at his phone.

‘Came this close. Telling ya. Came this close.’

I still don’t know what it was.

On the way to work in a bookshop

Two minutes away from the driveway, and I need to think about what I’ve left behind. I can hear books sliding across the back seat and thumping against the boot, but the one I need won’t be there.

And it’s not. I left it on the edge of the kitchen table next to a small container of peanuts, a fowlers jar preserving ring and a set of keys not mine.

So, Anne won’t get Hubert Wilkins today.

I stop at our general store and complain to Jake about Australia Post and he agrees.

I drive to Callington trying to avoid the galahs that scribble all over the roads in small groups of about 8 million.

Through Callington hoping no train comes through and holds me up for a year so that one carriage can come through at a perfect walking pace.

Through the farms, which are all perfect slabs of golden toast at this time of year.

Woodchester, stone walls and quietness and the row boat on the corner made up into a Christmas display.

Weave around the farm machinery going from paddock to paddock, one with silver tinsel tied to each door handle.

While driving, go through orders in my head not completed yet, orders not yet picked up, and wonder how to keep going with James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Into Strathalbyn and more galahs, white ones in clumps of one hundred, I can see them standing on the road and screaming in each other’s faces.

Then the ducks, quiet and always together and never knowing quite when to get out of the way of the traffic.

I watch huge trucks swerve at the last minute and somehow miss them all, and motorists swerving into the oncoming lane to avoid making ducky pancakes, and oncoming motorists nodding, fair enough, but I can see them all saying fukn ducks because I can read lips when driving this slowly.

Kids on skateboards fast and a lady with a walker slow.

The wooden Christmas trees on the corner. Ruby baubles tied to fences, a lady walking her dog with tinsel twisted through his collar.

At my shop, a caravan parked but has left just enough room for me to get to my tiny park next to the shed. A stack of bakery trays piled against the shed for some reason.

A black face mask on the ground and a small purple drink bottle.

Struggle around to the door and enter within with a good plan for the day. Decide against most of it.

Have another brief go at Ulysses.

Shelving, dusting, clean windows. Someone says, “she’s closed”, and I quickly snap the sign to open, but they are gone. More shelving, orders, book searches, message people for pickups, tidy displays, turn on the Christmas lights.

Have another go at Ulysses. Serve customers. More shelving, more orders.

A man tells me about World War 2.

I find a copy of The Incredible Journey for someone.

A young man wants a classic to read and I show him 20 possibilities, but he leaves without getting any of them. I take Grapes of Wrath, which I’d showed him, and begin reading it myself.

Someone asks me how to get to Woodchester.

Not a very lucrative day, but each day a gem.

No day is ever the same.