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

Father and daughter hugged

There was a small group in here, a family by the way they talked to each other, and they must read a lot because they shuffled around without checking where they were going; they didn’t mind running into each other. That’s how you know it’s a family.

Anyway, the father and daughter, both stalking the same reading material, collided softly in front of writers and writing , and stayed together hugging, but still looking down at the books they each held in one hand.

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 

Notes on wheelie bins 2

When I pass wheelie bins on foot (rather than car), I am closer to their plastic mouths and throats and so can examine contents with a critical face. And note who put the wrong bin out. And who places things incorrectly, or, worse still, doesn’t sort at all.

When I pull my bins to the road, I hope nobody notices any of my bin discretions.

Once our bin got swapped with our neighbour’s, which is impossible. Our neighbour had just cleaned his. Ours was truly foul. And his ended up at our gate, where we later exchanged bins but not eye contact.

The truck drivers did it. Because why not; it’s a sensational way to blend citizen angst and make our recycling look doubtful, seeing as it isn’t ours.

I admire binners who cast their bins to the road broadside and trudge back inside without looking back. Disregard council instructions this side to road and spin the bin so its chest is angled wrong and its lips oily from the cracked margarine container clamped butter side up to the roof of its mouth.

I put my bins side by side so they can sit with straight ankles and thin mouths and hate all the other bins in the road who all rock and spill the weeks data at each other. Bin gossip.

‘Full of magazines and margarine lol.’

‘Busted crockery, busted bit of fireplace, bit of old rug.’

‘Got stood up.’

‘Lost out.’

‘Someone took a mask out o me and used her again.’

‘Jesus.’

‘What’s that under yr rib?’

‘Can of spew.’

‘They recying bits of tiffany lamps, they?’

‘Nope. Garry’ll ditch that.’

‘Pity.’

‘Parrently that family there’ve got a new coffee table nice one with tiles stuck on and none loose.’

‘Yet.’

‘Yeah. You’ll be eating ‘em soon. Varnish like sugar. Give us one when they come.’

‘Maybe.’

‘Here he comes that stupid truck. Get ready to spew. The barker of Barker. Seatbelts.’

But my bins only whisper together, and the ones across the road are even more sour; straight and silent until I go away and then wheel out along the kerb handing out pamphlets.

There’s one down the road that’s always on its back at the end of bin day. Can’t seem to land right and doesn’t care either. It’s always laying with slumpy square hips across a pile of gravel and other bits of household stuff the truck won’t take. Sometimes it sleeps there until the following bin day, and is then dragged back in and force fed another week’s failures.

I like walking along and seeing them all standing there in mountain pose. Mouths locked around what we believe we don’t want because we just have too much of basically everything. Bins sucking on leftover confectionary, rattling fast food pots beneath their teeth, squeezing vegemite jars between thighs, tying cardboard to their soles in summer.

Imagine if we didn’t have wheelie bins. How much of our life we’d miss.

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!

What wheelie bins do

I like Thursdays because it’s wheelie bin day, and I look at them on the way to the shop, standing in wobbly rows in the hot dust and doing basically nothing. But that’s wrong.

Nothing works so hard as the wheelie bin. When I pass them, all the way to work, they’re in little groups mulling over a whole week’s story. And exhausted really. Some are skewed and crooked with broken feet and sagging bellies and some are split from chin to knee.

Sometimes, in our road, they are not straight. They are shoulders to the road and backs hunched.

I see the green bins and yellow bins leaning into each other, exchanging gaseous news about what their families are going through, mouths slightly ajar, unable to close on the morning’s breakfast.  Some are rattling and chewing in the breeze and dropping careless milk cartons, and with odd things like camping chair legs protruding like a chicken bones through plastic lips.

Through Woodchester, there’s two without lids, the clasps protruding from necks, and one is bandaged heavily around the gut with silver tape. Some wear beards of food and greenery.

Some foam at the mouth. Some have fallen in the wind and are still lying broadside in the gravel when I drive back home. Some have been towed back to their seats. Some get hosed out and have to cough up that last bit of egg carton. Imagine not having them.

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