Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Books have gone

Eight years ago I came home after a May Day weekend away (it was D's birthday, the first we had spent together, the next year I lost my job on the same day) to find I'd been burgled. As these things go I think I was lucky. The damage was minimal and the insurance company made things easy. I lost most of my jewellery but the burglar left the watch my mother gave me when I graduated and the kilt pin my father gave me when I was 21 (though he had the gold bracelet dad gave me for the same occasion). Camera's went but as one still used film and the other was a pocket affair nowhere near as good as the camera function on an average smart phone that was no great loss, and the handful of dvd's that got swiped weren't even mine. The most annoying thing was a carpet bag suitcase that I didn't realise was missing until I went to pack for a holiday. 

The reason so little went was partly because I don't have much that's attractive to burglars (I guess the resale value of Emma Bridgewater mugs and virago modern classics is limited on the streets) and partly because my burglar didn't 'do stairs' (I quote the police). He liked to climb, so had shinned up the drainpipe to my 1st floor flat, chucked stuff in my handy carpet bag, dropped it out the window (so nothing breakable) and left the same way. He was caught some months later when he robbed a 4th floor flat, the climb must have made him hot enough to take his coat off, he left it behind - complete with name and address in it.

The point of the story for me is that it made me reassess my relationship with the stuff around me. I have a lot of stuff, I love decorative objects to look at, can't help but collect bits, and like my father hate to throw anything away in case it comes in again (by which we mean useful, rather than fashionable. We are not particularly fashion conscious people). Post burglary I'm more aware of my attachment to things and also less attached to them. Most things can be replaced, if not exactly than approximately, and happily the handful of bits I would really miss are of value only to me.

In a burglar proofing move most of my worldly goods are books (good luck to the thief who wants to haul them downstairs), even in the event (God forbid) of fire or flood they wouldn't be to hard to replace. Meanwhile since I developed a love of second hand books and started blogging the number of books in my small flat has exploded. Whenever I've tried to have a clear out before I've managed about 30 titles before giving up. This time I really went for it and got rid of almost 350. 

It was easy enough to sort out the ones to go (though I had an inexplicable pang over the Duff Cooper diaries - not sure why that was where the line proved to be, and I can always borrow my mothers copy). Easy enough to call the second hand book people and arrange a sale. Quite odd when the books actually left the building, and also a bit weird taking money for them. It's a modest amount of cash; enough to do something nice with, not enough to need to be used responsibly - but most importantly I have some space back (probably for more books). It's also a timely reminder not to let the desire for stuff to take over, or to allow the amount of things gathered to become overwhelming. 

My books went to Astley Book Farm. They're to be found in the middle of George Elliot country (near Bedworth) and are worth a visit if you're ever in the area. 


  1. How brave of you. I can get rid of books in dribs and drabs, but all those at the same time is very heroic. But great to reflect that you can just get lots more! An important lesson about attachment was learned from that burglar!

  2. Would one call book farming "libriculture"? When I go maybe I'll take some books with me to sell....... Curzon

  3. You are absolutely right and an inspiration. I need to do this too!

    Heh, that burglar. I love his leaving his coat behind, neatly marked with name and address...

  4. I still haven't got to the I've-really-got-rid-of-them-stage - still have so many in boxes in the shed waiting for me to let go, but I've never really considered how replaceable they actually are and how few would actually have a true sentimental attachment as an object per se. Hmmmm.