Old Friends

Boxes and dust have been the order of the day, or rather, the order of the early morning hours between midnight and six, which is when I do the most of anything useful.

My family moved house while I was in London, and I’ve been going through the boxes from the old house bit by bit. I’m doing books first, deciding which ones actually get to live on shelves in the new room, and which ones get consigned to a box high up in a cupboard. It’s not always easy. Dealing with stuff at home is always immensely more complicated than in England, because here I have to make decisions about the accumulated sentimental junk of twenty years rather than four.

Childhood books are an issue. Some books get Shelf Status with little or no agonizing involved: the Narnian Chronicles, which I really must reread now adulthood informs me that Aslan’s meant to represent more than just a really noble lion; the Borribles books, certainly the darkest and bloodiest children’s books I’ve ever read, but also the most gripping and imaginative by far. But what about the Roald Dahls? Do I concede that I only reread them once every couple of years, and box them up, or do I grant them a precious place just because we go waaaaay back? And if I let the Roald Dahls onto the Shelves, how can I then deny space to the Dick King-Smiths, the Joan Aikens, the Enid Blytons, the E. Nesbits, the Colin Danns, the Judy Blumes, the Nancy Drews? How can I, with a clear conscience, banish I Am David and Malgudi Days and The Secret Garden and My Side Of The Mountain and White Fang and Grimble to the Box of the Unloved and Abandoned?

Faced with difficult decisions like these the other night, I dealt with the situation like an adult. I piled the books back in the boxes, found my old collection of Asterix comics, and read them till 6 AM, at which point my mother woke up for work, saw the light under my door, came in horrified, and nagged me into bed.