... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Monday 28 November 2011

On books

As you might imagine, we're doing a fair bit of downsizing at the moment and one of the things I did this morning was pack up another load of books for Oxfam. I was thinking of including the set of Children's Britannica encyclopaedias that my father bought for my sister and me in the 1970s. In the end though I couldn't do it. It was for sentimental reasons, but not the most immediately obvious ones. As I picked up a random volume, letnit fall open, and read an article about caterpillars, I realised that I wanted to be able to show this to my granddaughter; to show her how once upon a time information was found in books, rather than pulled via a computer from the ether... And then I thought, she'll have the last laugh when there's a power cut and she has homework about caterpillars to complete... I'm not a luddite, but I am a bit of a pessimist and I'm not convinced the internet will be around forever - all that electricity it needs - whereas books last for centuries with no maintenance and minimal care. I know what my money would be on for long term data storage.

I also packed away a basket full of sparkly scarves and pretty beads and bracelets, so that one day I can show her that you don't need a bubblegum pink Barbie dress and a plastic tiara to dress up as a princess.


  1. At about the time of my birth, (I was the oldest son), my parents bought a complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica, and then for many years subscribed to their year books too. Goodness knows what this must have cost them, because they had very little money at the time, but they clearly thought it an important part of starting a family.

    We were never great academics, and in all honesty those books largely remained on the bookshelves, and were still there at the time of my mum's recent death.

    Faced with difficult decisions about clearing the house, two different charity bookshops have both told me that such things now have close to zero value. A day or so ago, I actually ripped the cover from each in turn, so that they could go into the correct paper and cardboard recycling at the local tip.

    I find such actions painful, and shudder at how mum would have reacted if she had known, but in all honesty we are completely overloaded with too many possessions, and no way could we have taken on something of this bulk for any possible historic or sentimental value.

    Of course, when they were written few people had television, and we were still many years away from putting anyone into space, let alone on the moon. Hardly current works of reference!

    It's difficult isn't it ? Many months on I have still not made anything like the progress on mums possessions that I should have done - all were considered in some way "valuable" by her, but almost nothing there that could be classed as valuable in the usual meaning of the word.

  2. I'm happy to agree with you on both points, Princess Sarah.

  3. I like having information, in books, in a local, tangible form. We found a lovely old 'practical handyman' book in a charity shop in Ricky the other day; lovely.

    Such thoughts make me wonder how much of a project downloading the entirity of wikipedia would be, but thankfully I'll never get further than wonder.

    We had a set of Children's Britannica. I vaguely remember wanting to write off to addresses in the off article (to order a moon map, I think?) but being told they were a decade old and a bit out of date...

  4. I have a six volume set of Practical Householder magazines from the early 60s, which I am not going to part with. They show you useful things like how to panel your ugly Victorian door/staircase/fireplace with hardboard, whilst wearing a tie and a sleeveless pullover, and smoking a pipe.