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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

'Read' the books!


Our preparation for our next British visitor has been relaxed not to say complacent. We are already feeling like a professional accommodation agency!

The danger is that Emma will be arriving in Barcelona at twenty to six in the evening, so we feel that we have the entire day to ensure that everything is in place. This, as any teacher with “the entire weekend ahead” will know, gives an entirely false sense of what time is available to complete essential tasks.

The bed coverings are all washed, but not yet on the bed. The boxes of books have been cleared away and the books placed on shelves, but the emptied boxes are still littering the garden. We have bought goods, but a few commodities are still waiting to be purchased. Nothing is going to take too much time, but we are going to leave it until there is not time to complete everything – in time!

I don’t think that being fully prepared for guests is actually playing the game. Too professional an approach to guests is surely a form of arrogance. Part of the pleasure of a visit is that your regimen is disrupted and you have to accommodate disruption to normal routine. Which all sounds like a justification for inaction and blind panic when you realize that time has in fact run out!

The boxes that I have opened today have revealed new treasures: the Somerset Maugham volume of short stories that I was looking for last term; catalogues from art galleries when I was in my relentless ‘doing art in Europe’ period; a box of my gloriously melancholy poems; ‘Lord of the Rings’ in my well thumbed three volume paperback set; programmes from significant and thoroughly witless productions; my volume of Charles Rennie Macintosh as a Designer of Chairs (which at one time I thought was my most esoteric purchase, and I bought it long enough ago for it to be so!) and on and on. How can I throw any of these away? Every book has a history; for many of them I can remember where I bought them and what bargains they were. I can remember the book sales; the plundering of various second hand book shops in Cardiff and Swansea and Kettering and London; the remainder book shops; the expensive ones; the unexpected ones; the gifts; the acquisitions – and some of them for which I have no memory whatsoever.

I am finding books that I have always told myself that I would read (like ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ which I have now read) and other books that I feel I should read but probably won’t.

On Wren’s tomb it says (in Latin) something like for my memorial look around you. I suppose that I could change that a little and say for my autobiography look at my books.

Everything is there. Jumbled up with little sense of order. But everything that is important in my life is reflected in volumes brash, cheap, disturbing, classic, thoughtful, challenging, religious, tawdry, expansive, fantastic – and whole range of other adjectives that would have to be used to encapsulate a life.

I suppose one good thing about the fractured jigsaw that forms my book room is that the sheer incoherence of the array allows virtually any interpretation of what I am like.

A safe ambiguity!
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