Friday, March 18, 2011


Years and tears ago I went for a job interview for a librarian post.

I had no reason other than that I love books ( by the way my friend thinks I don't like Kindles because I do not have one – I am not convinced. I am reading a twenty year old book from the library at the moment – it has thick pages, smells musty and is all out of shape. I love it – it calls to me – its also a Cormac Mc Carthy – so that may have something to do with it. And for those who have gone before a helluva lot of it is in Spanish, so...)

I also wanted to be a librarian because the post was at the Port Elizabeth Library, which I adore. It is an old Victorian building, with Queen Victoria standing in marble outside. It is a cluster of small rooms, two storeys high, ringed round with narrow balconies. I spent hours in there at one time, sitting in the reading room, with all the homeless men taking shelter from the rain, reading newspapers.

I applied for the job, and got an interview. A problem presented itself. At that time I had no decent clothes. I earned my living by waitressing and rented a room in a tatty house, writing most of the day away and working at night. My diet consisted of cigarettes and souvlakia at the restaurant. I walked everywhere. My shoes were down at heel.

I borrowed clothes from my mother for the interview. Her shoes were too small, but I squashed my feet into them. I fought my long, permed hair into a scraggly bun, and, with my 'John Lennon' glasses perched on my nose made my way to the interview. My reflection in the shop windows on the way told me I looked like Barbara Woodhouse, the dog trainer.

I made it through to a final interview – and then – the other girl got it. I was gutted.

A librarian I was never to be, but my love for that library continues and my love of books is relentless. I am a seeker after libraries, and never have been as disillusioned as with a library in a rural town which once spent thousands on a new floor and did not buy a single book. Who, I feel, even notices a bouncy floor when you have a good book in hand.

Walls could fall around me, trains rattle through my station stop, aeroplanes take off...

I suppose I am a reading addict. The sort that reads anything anywhere, any time. It was a difficult day when I could no longer read any label on any product anywhere and so had to join the ranks of the spectacle necklace brigade. I need to read the cereal box while I eat my breakfast, the menu of cause, from cover to cover (even if only drinking a cappuccino),and every ingredient label on any supermarket produce.

I am, anyway a great fan of packaging, and would hate to miss a detail. I am also a loo book reader, and if no book is present, will read the aerosol spray can. I read the bubble bath, the toothpaste, the dental floss – give me a moment to spare and I will fill it with print.

At the moment I am not part of any book club and I adore book clubs.

It's something about the women, the eating, the wine, the book grabbing, the wine drinking, the laughing, the frowning ('you mean you didn't like it...?').

Book clubs are book insurance. You are always covered in an emergency. So is the floor beside your bed normally, because I always took at least three extra 'just in case' books.

The only thing winter is good for I reckon anyway is reading in bed. Warm, but with freezing hands I constantly pat the duvet as I read – I suffer from 'I've lost the bookmark' anxiety. Loosing my place phobia is the only phobia I've got!

But, even though I have no Book Club in Sedge I do have the market.

O yes, and a few marvellous book stalls there are too. My daughter says the owners are not really my friends – they just see money when we approach and that's why they greet us so warmly!

I disagree.

Only a good friend really knows ones taste in books and will point out possibilities. And only a good friend lets one run up a tab like every good bar man who understands need when he sees it – for that book you have to have but have already spent your last rand.

And only a friend will hunt around for another of that one book...that one special book that was there last week and is now sold!

We have piles of unpacked boxes of books and are filling our shelves with new second hand ones instead. How I love someone elses book, with their names scribbled inside, sometimes an address, sometimes a message.

I linger over them for a minute, wandering..

So, Kindles are probably great for aeroplanes and suitcases and travelling light. But this love affair, with musty, dog eared or glossy beautiful fascinating books is an addictive one.

Hope you enjoyed the read!


  1. That's me too. I read shampoo bottles, labels, tiny adverts, absolutely everything. Miss book club too and have made friends with the local 2nd hand book shop.

  2. Hey, there. Leaving some comment love. I stumbled across your site when searching for a "reading in bed" picture. You have a great one; I kept reading because you were writing about books. I have the burning desire to the line about snuggled in bed with cold hands...having trouble with the execution. (Is it my four kids pulling my attention away? Or my own lack of discipline? Hard to say.) Thanks for the blog.