Monday, 20 March 2017

Jumping, Falling and Tripping Over

I was Mr Popular, the Golden Boy. Had it all. When you are in that position, there is a desire to self-sabotage. Maybe it was the thought of being free from expectation and admiration. Or it could just have been that inbuilt instinct to throw oneself from high places. So, no, I didn’t fall off my pedestal and I wasn’t pushed; I jumped. To be honest I was having trouble breathing up there.

I’d like to clarify a few more things. I’m not all bad. And the other guy, he’s not all good, he is habitually passive and uncaring. He sees people as lab rats; his grand social experiment. I make an effort to connect to people, I empathise, sympathise, I have one-to-one relationships.

Him and me, we are still friends, sort of. He acknowledges he needs me. We occasionally meet for beer, chess and challenging philosophical conversation. We disagree about a lot but, for the record, whatever anyone tells you, apples are good for you. Ignorance may be bliss but learning and knowledge are incredibly important. Eating apples is not a sin.

Also, I want you to know I like it here. We’re certainly not in hell. You can argue about cruelty, selfishness and disease; Putin, Brexit and Trump. But there is also love, music and beautiful sunsets. And friendship. I have a lot of friends. I’ve been a friend to everyone reading this at some point. I’m always there for you. You don’t trip, you jump. 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Book Buddy

She limited herself to one bookcase. She told me a book had to be special to take up permanent residence. Said it had to touch her soul. Otherwise she gave it to a friend she thought might enjoy it or the Oxfam Book shop.

I always peruse the bookcase when I’m in a person’s home, ascertaining shared interests and judging them through their tastes. The first time I visited, it was her turn to host our book group, so I could only make the most cursory inspection. The bookcase itself was enormous and ancient, with bowing shelves. I only recognised half of the titles. The second time, she invited just me for coffee, so as soon as she went to the kitchen to make said drink, I was out of my seat for a proper look.

On my previous visit the books had been organised alphabetically, this time they were grouped by genre. When she brought the coffee in I asked her why and she confessed she reorganised her books at least every month.

Every time I went there they were different. There was always a logic, to even the most eccentric ordering. Chronological, Dewey, width, happy-making-ness. Last time I went there, the shelves were beautifully but incomprehensibly arranged by colours of the spine. I called her on this, but when quizzed she could immediately lay her hands on every book she’d ever lent me.

I loved borrowing books from her, they were always unexpected and magnificent. In the back of her books she wrote concise reviews in pencil and her neat little sentences formed the foundations of our discussions each time we met.

We swapped and bought each other many books over the years. I’m honoured that five of my gifts made it to the permanent collection. All our conversations were about books and I knew nothing of her external life, except what I gleaned from her kitchen which was papered with exotic post cards. I found more out at her funeral than I had in our many years of friendship. She had been a feminist campaigner in the sixties, the singer in a punk band in the seventies and travelled the world in the eighties. I met three tearful ex-husbands and one very glamourous lesbian lover.

A few weeks after the funeral I found out my friend had bequeathed me her books. They were delivered to my door in their bookcase. As I cut though the layers and layers of bubble wrap I saw the books were still organised in the swooping rainbow of our last meeting. They are ordered that way to this day.