Looking round, it's easy to focus on the wooden and plastic playthings under our feet, but blending in the background and overlooked are the things from BC (before child). Why should we cuss about the toys Frank currently plays with (especially when we tread on them in the night), when we have heaps of dead stock filling our house? So we're in a clear-out frenzy, reviewing our belongings, and asking ourselves if we need to keep them. And one bulky set is our books, collected over the last thirty-five years. Are we ever going to get round to reading our shelves of unread books? Do we still need the non-fiction now we have the internet? Much as we love some of the titles, are we ever going to re-read many of our old favourites? Have we opened these books in the last five or ten years? Are they now out of date? How many years do we have left to read or re-read all our books, and what will we choose to do with our remaining time? And finally, if we regret letting a book go, we can always pick up another copy.
All very fine in principle, but what about the practice? It's a painful process, and about a hundred titles have gone so far, giving us two metres of shelf space to move various objects off the floor. Today I took a batch of books to the office, offering colleagues the opportunity to pick them over, before I lug the bulk of them up the hill to the Oxfam Bookshop. So goodbye Bronte's Jane Eyre, auf wiedersehen Hesse's Steppenwolf, and au revoir Andre Gide's The Immoralist.
The latter was picked up by a workmate, who found a handwritten letter inside. I immediately recognised my grandmother's handwriting, and I had used it as a bookmark when I read it. The letter was undated, but it referred to the forthcoming event that was the birth of their great grandchild. Yes, these book pages and letter hadn't been opened since 1982. I can't remember the book at all, but I have very fond memories of my Nan (who died ten years ago), and a 27-year old daughter who's very much alive.