Despite not having wall cavity insulation the family homestead is always a toasty sanctuary even in the deepest cold of winter.
This, I am sure, is down to the sheer number of books that line our walls and bookshelves. Both Karen and I love books and, when we threw our lot in together, we found that we both gained through the other’s avidly acquisitional nature the equivalent of an entire rain forest’s worth of books.
I swear to God we have so many books it is probably not worth us ever buying new wallpaper. You can’t see the bloody walls so why bother with a nice bit of William Morris?
Although I’ve shed a few books over the years (half-hearted attempts at life laundry) I have on the whole always regretted such endeavours. A book is for life, not just for Christmas. They are old friends. Old haunts. Places of comfort, recovery and healing.
And when a book is particularly good I always plan in my heart to read it again. To pass that way at least one more time.
But you know what it’s like: there’s always a backlog of new books to get through – a most pleasurable chore if ever there was one – the chances of me re-reading the majority of my favourite books is a slim one at best but I’ve always lived in hope.
It is surely a sign of increasing agedness that that hope is beginning to wane.
I’m actually re-reading an old favourite at the moment – the first in a series of 14 that I plan to plough all the way through in an orgy of escapism – a book I first read 22 years ago. The final part was only published last year – a couple of years after the author’s death. This huge epic tale was the last story he ever wrote so it all gives my return to his world a certain frisson.
To sink into a familiar world with characters who are old friends is as comfy-making as drinking hot chocolate in bed and watching an old movie. It is good for the soul. And it makes me think how right I was to hang onto these books and not pass them on or sell them or throw them out. And it confirms in me the stance that I shall never be parted from these books because I would love the opportunity to read them again one more time.
But then it hit me.
If it’s taken me 22 years to re-read the first am I ever going to re-read them again? In another 22 years? In my sixties? If I’m lucky I might manage another rendezvous in my eighties but, really, how likely is that? I might be reading The Lady at that point – and that only for feeble titillation purposes.
I was a young naïve man when I first read this book. And now I’m a middle aged slightly learned man. Certainly I’m grumpier and more cynical.
And life seems shorter.
Too short to read all the new books I want and certainly too short to re-read all of the old ones.
I have to face facts: there are books within my horde that I am just never going to get to read again – no matter how much I might wish to and no matter how much I might try to never buy a new one (that would just be a fool’s labour).
But still I can’t bear to part with any of them.
They don’t just keep the house warm, you see… they keep me warm too.