I’m unpacking books with Annie. Can this really be work? Feels like Christmas to me. I breath in that special massed-book atmosphere and can’t wipe the grin off my face.
Make no mistake, this is my summer holiday. We’ve already had a swim in the Moray Firth, and a ramble with our dogs along the marshy shoreline. Those were good, very good, especially that dip in the invigorating North Sea.
The highlight though, is my book day. I’m a little old for work-experience, but offering to help gets me close. One of my not-so-secret fantasy-occupations has always been bookseller. If there’s one thing more tantalising than browsing shelves, it’s got to be glimpses of well-stocked store-cupboards behind the counter. Who knows what treasures wait there. Can this be bettered?
Oh yes, when a box, or bag, comes in for unpacking. Stories spill out. ‘No one,’ says Ruth, ‘offers to sell books to the bookshop without telling us why.’ I think of the boxes I’ve delivered to charity shops over this last year, and how I’ve carefully explained about my neighbour moving house, or my aunt, clearing space.
Ruth is deftly sorting a box. She turns each book over and flicks through the pages, looking for damage, not quality of story or writing. She knows what’s popular, I don’t, and there are shelves and shelves of books on the other side of the counter. I’m drawn to the spines on the vintage shelves. As I’m dealing in alternative-me scenarios, I should say that in that world, these are what my walls would be lined with instead of wallpaper.
I’m tempted, but resist them as too much responsibility. It’s not that I don’t look after my books, exactly. But I don’t take care of them the way Ruth and Annie do the Logie Steading Bookshop, which has no trace of spider-webs in the corners, or dust. When I return home and notice how unkempt my shelves are, I spend an hour improving them. It won’t last, though for a few days it’s good for my soul to see them all gleaming.
Meanwhile, will you just look at all those books? I wasn’t looking for Narnia, but there’s something about an open door that demands I step through. It’s no wonder that by the time I drifted back to the desk I’d gathered a heap of books. How long did it take? I’ve no idea, time lost all meaning. Which is just how it should be, isn’t it?
This is all so unlikely for my alternative-bookseller-self, who I can’t help feeling a little worried about. I suspect she’s liable to spend a lot of time reading her stock when she should be concentrating on customers.