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The Gideon Prester School Library

· Haiku,Books

A month ago I packed the gf off to Madrid so I could sort through my loft of books, and winnow down the 1400 to half of that. My gods, what a hassle it turned into. I simply haven't had the time to relax and enjoy the rare opportunity for peace in the way I was hoping.

It took a day to bring everything down to the living room - the only open space in the house. I clambered spider-like through the roof space in the summer heat - thank goodness this is Britain and not California. Once I completed that task I was bored with books, and instead started looking in the loft for anything else I could donate: my wooden Tai Chi sabre, ankle weights, a dozen ring binders. Anything to delay having to wade through eighty printer-paper boxes.

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During the last month I've spent every moment either at work or organising these bastards, triaging into 'Keep' and 'Donate' piles, then changing my mind again and again and again. I sold a few for a pittance, which was not at all worth the effort. Other tasks quickly became appealing: I repeatedly baked flapjacks, cleaned my gf's car and scrubbed the garden birds' water dishes to a high shine.

Every box has needed repairing with duct tape, and two nights ago a tower, five-high, collapsed in the loft, one of the thin-walled boxes buckling. That was emotional, I have to say.

Note to self: don't stack crappy cardboard boxes filled with heavy books.

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I've taken a few work days 'working from home', but still I'm far from completing this task before the gf returns. The local cats, and my own Jemima, have boycotted the house, sensible creatures.

Still, it's been interesting seeing many of my books again, and finding a few old friends.

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Also, what seems incredible to me is that I seem to have actually read 80% of my books. I've always had a misconception that I always longstanding 'to-reads' are always pushed to the back of the queue in favour of new purchases. This misapprehension arose because the only ones I ever normally see are the hundred dust-gatherers piled by my bed. In fact I've read most of my physical cache, and that's not counting the eighty eBooks read since I installed the Kindle app two years ago. It's a satisfying conclusion, and not really surprising. If you read 40-60 books a year for thirty adult years...

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And I kind of enjoyed delivering six hundred books to my local school. It's good karma. The school needs those, pre-filtered for quality, more than I do. Seeing the librarian's joy, and the bewilderment in the faces of the five assisting pupils, I briefly fantasise that they rename their library after me.

The books need to be transferred from my car on to a trolley and into cases, but the children are useless at tessellating them. They have no concept as to efficient packing, and, are constantly distracted, flicking through my books. Lesley, the librarian, was excited when I pointed out my silk-bound copy of a book about Marco Polo's travels. And when the groundsman sidled up I pressed into his hand a beautiful book of Jack Vettriano paintings. He told us he had several Vettriano prints on his walls, and was seeking another: Bluebird at Bonneville.

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I still have six or seven hundred, and you can't take them with you when you die. Reducing the burden of possessions feels good, but not it's a feeling that doesn't last, which of course will lead to further rounds of divesting. As long as the present economic system continues, we must continue plundering the Earth for raw materials. It's the symmetry between extraction of raw material from quarries, and deposition of used goods and packaging into landfill. Speaking of which...I'd better get back to the task. The gf returns in three days.

Total donations:


Books: 710

Graphic novels: 47

Annuals: 50

Magazines: 140

CDs: 50

Guitar songbooks: 23

Maps: 14

All of the above is only to explain that I've lacked the time or energy to write anything fresh, so here are a few haiku I conjured in 2018:

Late home summer night
Sourdough toast and hot milk
Snoozing cat nose to tail

Under sapphire sky
Flash of red face, speckled wings
Goldfinch on feeders

Trains of food flecks dragged
To their nest, summer soldiers,
My house, ant powder