Monday, May 4, 2015


Oh, I threw out all my old books.  Didn’t even bother giving them to the Op Shop;  I put them out with the rubbish.  I don’t need books now;  I download and read everything I want on my tablet”.   She was heard talking loudly to a group of her friends seated at the local coffee shop.  “I threw out all Robert’s old books as well - was he furious!   We didn’t talk for a week, but that’s alright, we never talk much anyway.  My house is now minimalist which is the latest trend and I’m thrilled.  Robert has started spending much more time out in his shed, which will do him good.”  She guffawed and almost choked over a mouthful of coffee.

I felt sort of sorry for poor old Robert.  He didn’t have much of a say in the whole exercise. so I’m not surprised he’s spending more time out in the shed.  She’d better watch out that he doesn’t pack a bag and leave!  Or was that her intention in the first place, to throw old Robert out with the books?

Her loud reference to throwing out her books did make me wonder though.  Was she just displaying her superiority or was it maybe that she didn’t read much anyway?  

Books have their place in most people’s lives.  When I visit a house that hasn’t a book to be seen, then I immediately start looking closely at the people who live in that house.  For to me, and I’m prejudiced when it comes to books, it’s definitely not a home if it doesn’t have books.  Kids books, grown up books, coffee table books, any sort of book.

Me, I was lucky.  I grew up with books.  We were poor but we enjoyed second-hand, third-hand, sometimes even fifty-hand books.   Handed down from various aunts and cousins even neighbours up the street.

We saved our pocket money - we got threepence a week (equivalent to 2-1/2 cents today - of course they’re no longer Australian currency either) and from that we’d hoard a penny (1/3rd of three pence) in a special little jam-jar.  We’d wait until we’ve saved up to fourpence or sixpence which was the cost of a book from the second hand bookshop run by Mrs Jeffries in Barclay Street, Footscray.  We’d rush to the shop whenever we could, we'd snuggle down under the counter and rummage through the “specials” that she piled there for kids.

My brother and I could read words in books before we even started school.  It was Mum who taught us at the kitchen table.  So we learned to travel the world through the magic of words and chapters in books.  We met the strangest of people and the most important of people around the world.  We read about animals and forests and jungles and countries in far away places of the world.  We read about seafaring adventures.  I read schoolgirl books.  We lost ourselves in fantasies, in fairylands, in all sorts of lands.  As we grew older our taste in books became more adventurous and fiction, non-fiction, autobiographies, and novels began to appear on our bookshelves.   We discovered new authors, new wonders of the world past, present and future.  Our love of books has continued into our early old age.

So I don’t know about that woman who shouted loudly over the crowd at that coffee shop, whether she will be able to say in time that she has breathed the exquisite smell and perfumes of books, that she has delighted in the touch of an old book and gently caressed its leather covers, has opened the page to be surprised and enraptured by photos, drawings or diagrams; has gently touched the page and experienced the eagerness to turn the page.   To find a smile escapes her lips as she enters into the wonderful world that books offer.  

That “loud” and tactless woman will probably enjoy her electronic tablet.  She will undoubtedly enjoy whatever new devices come on the market.   Yet I believe I am and I will be the richer for my travels, for the enjoyment and the knowledge gained from my beloved books.  Some with dust covers, some without.  Some with stains, some without.  Some with pages missing, some without.  Some with no covers at all.   Some dog-eared and tattered.  Yet they are all my friends and are ready to engage with me through the written words contained within, in a comforting and exciting way, whenever I reach for them and open them at the first page.  They give me satisfaction, they give me comfort, and they give me the friendship that I need whenever I seek those things. 

© Rosemary Parry-Brock, Victoria, Australia 

Copyright Rosemary Parry-Brock 

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