Last week when I was gallivanting in “big grown-up London” as the children used to call it, I had the pleasure of meeting up with MLF (my literary friend) . Indeed it was MLF who, way back in early January, put the idea of having a day off work into my head and it was firmly written in our signing-in diary at work. If I had been in possession of the right tools it would have been branded into that inoffensive black book. The plan nearly fell apart when late on Wednesday afternoon it was realised that bodies were going to be rather thin on the ground on MY DAY OFF. One member of staff was off for a long weekend, combining Valentine’s day and his birthday to visit his long-distance (long-suffering?) girlfriend in Berlin. At least two others had meetings away from the office (how dare they!) and our main man and his assistant were due to be off shooting (don’t panic, he’s not a professional hitman).
Those of you who know MLF alias DGR will know that she never has any trouble buying books. She suffers from chronic book-buying whereas my affliction is more acute. As a consequence of this, rather than gathering volumes to my ample bosom and accepting that I will never be cured, I leap around from shelf to pile, picking up and putting down, picking up and putting down and more often than not leaving a story emporium empty-handed. But I didn’t.
MLF, alias DGR, has another persona and I hope I am not blowing her cover when I remind you that she is also the indomitable Nurse Prudence. I was perfectly happy to head for home with a bag no heavier than the one I had brought with me but NP was having none of this. I could hear the starched apron crackling and the whalebone in her corset creaking ….
… and so tail between my legs I crept back to the the stack .. and picked up Emile Zola’s “The Ladies Paradise”. NP assured me in her most authoritative manner that it would be good for me, just what NP orders.
Now my condition is rather more complicated than others. I don’t have simple book-buying sickness, mine is a variant strain. My piles are are not the same as the piles of others. Others have TBR piles but mine are so rare that they haven’t yet been named. Maybe they should be called CPPs (Crafty People Piles) or GCP (Glued to Computer Piles)? Don’t get me wrong, I love books and always have done so, back as far as when crisp new puffins and penguins cost 37p. That can’t be right, can it? I will have to go and check that out. My problem is that I hardly ever read them. My daily routine consists of dashing between kitchen to fold up yesterday’s washing and bung today’s in the machine, various bedrooms to wake various bodies up SEVERAL times and the computer to have my daily fix of DGR and other addictions, and uncovering Gilman, the rabbit, and making sure that he has enough food and drink for the day ahead. I do carry at least one book in my bag to work (isn’t it illegal to leave home without one?) but I have the luck/misfortune to have a wide circle of “train friends” to converse with to and from work. I make a valiant effort to read by standing nonchalantly on the platform with my latest attempt in hand. But there is always someone, either dashing to get on the train just before it leaves (I met her when I overheard her on her mobile phone telling porky-pies to work about how the trains had been delayed) or on the train itself. I came to know my oldest train friend because of the stripey hats and socks she wears. She just looked my kind of person and of course she is. You can’t go wrong with stripes. She’s great fun, an incredible mix of Italian, Greek and French (I can never remember where each bit is from) but luckily for me she also speaks English. Not that we always speak English. Occasionally she will attempt to speak French with me or teach me a phrase in Italian and so our quarter of an hour on the train between where I live and where I work is used up on things other than reading.
At home there are the usual tasks of feeding and clearing and even speaking to other members of the family (including Gilman). A brief consultation with Nurse Prudence led to the discovery that perhaps my reading problem is due to my lack of having a reading place. Maybe if I tidied up the house that problem could be solved.
Whoops, I’ve missed my usual train by writing this and I’m not even dressed yet and Gilman hasn’t been woken up …….. so … to be continued……………………….