My mother has been tidying this week. So by Saturday she had a few books for the charity shop. Tewkesbury was busy, parking was going to be tricky. It seemed simplest for Ray to pause at the curb round the corner while we jumped out with the bags.
As he drove off to find a parking space, one of the three bags split. Luckily, it was not the one with the hardbacks, not even the heavy paperbacks, instead a handful of old cookery booklets slithered out. Even more luckily, the pavement was dry, because these were vulnerable.
The pages were soft, finely textured paper that felt silky, and the covers were slightly thicker, printed in colour, with no fancy plastic film or varnish welded to their surface. In fact, they should probably be properly called ‘vintage’. There were no dates, but the illustrations suggested maybe the late twenties or early nineteen thirties.
As I crouched on the pavement making spaces to slip them in with the other bags, one caught my eye. ‘Keep it,’ said the woman who’s spent the week clearing small clutter from her house. ‘It won’t take up much space.’
‘Well,’ I said, flicking through the pages of Do come to my party! says Miss Regulo by Radiation, ‘I was wondering if I might be able to use them in a class…’
‘Have you seen this one?’ said my mother, handing me A Practical Guide to the Use of Canned Goods. I didn’t notice horns sprouting from her forehead, or her feet become cloven: but, could this be the same mother who used to complain about the amount of clutter in my bedroom?
Given time, maybe I would have thought about that heap of ancient newspapers on the old chair in my office, or the boxes of postcards and pictures stacked against the side of my desk, all waiting to be utilised. Instead, I became aware that I was an irritating obstacle on the busy pavement, and in my hurry to move on, somehow a handful of those tempting pamphlets slipped into my bag, rather than one of the charity shop ones.
A remnant of resistance was still in evidence as we reached the shop door. ‘Of course, I could still bring them here after I’ve looked through them,’ I said.
We stepped into the warm, book-lined haven. ‘Think of them as an advent present,’ mum said.
‘That’s a nice idea,’ I said. I zipped up my bag. ‘I like that. Thank you.’
Aren’t mums the best? I spent a lovely evening browsing through recipes for Messina Pudding, cheese saucer savouries, Parisian cake, West Riding pudding, a chocolate castle and a sandwich house, and am already getting glimmers of thoughts about using them.