Why do I do these things? I am juggling four projects that all need to be completed by the end of March, so I really need to lash myself to my computer and stay focused, but no, this is the very time I decide I’ll have the woodwork downstairs repainted. I thought it would be a quick job, but of course if you’re painting the windows, you need to take down the curtains, and then you might as well have them cleaned (and after 15 years … eeeuuwww) which means you have to fish out all the hooks and get them to the dry cleaner, which is not as simple as it sounds when the dry cleaner is in a pedestrian zone in York’s centre and you can only take a car in at certain times. And then there’s the even worse job of putting all the hooks back in and rehanging the curtains – I’m not looking forward to that particular job.
Apart from the curtains, there are various ornaments and pictures that cry out to be cleaned. It’s only when you take them down that you realise how dusty they all are. I have been feeling very ashamed of my housekeeping skills and am seriously contemplating getting a cleaner – except that would take even more time to organise. I was mortified when I caught the decorator, John, cleaning my brass door knobs, and was shamed into taking the Brasso to the old fender on the fireplace, which was so tarnished it was black, but which is now gleaming and looks very fine. It was disturbingly satisfying too, and I spent ages on it when I should have been cracking on with my first draft. Just when I thought I knew everything there was to know about displacement activities, there is polishing brass …
That was just the dining room. Now John is moving onto the sitting room. Just the woodwork here means shifting two alcoves of books, that were piled on top of each other and spilled onto piles on the floor. Also disgustingly dusty. I am a bad, bad, bad housekeeper.
The plan was to get rid of books I don’t read any more, dust the ones I want to keep and put them back neatly so that I can find them easily in the future. A good idea that like all ideas is easier in theory than in practice. So far I’ve shifted half a shelf, and have already been distracted by rediscovering books I’d forgotten I had. There has been much remembering and flicking through pages, and it’s not looking good for getting rid of any so far. Looking at History: Britain from Cavemen to the Present Day was one of my favourite books when I was a child. The ‘present day’ was the 1950s, of course, and it’s an interesting part of history in its own right now. I loved all the pictures, especially the ones of people eating through the ages – obviously my interest in food and history started early! Obviously I can’t give that one away.
When all the books have been moved into the dining room and the dust has settled, I need to decide whether to put them back in an orderly fashion once the shelves have been repainted, or shove them in any old how the way I did before. I like to think of myself as an orderly person, but my books are always a terrible mess, piled on top of each other and spilling onto the floor so of course I can never find one when I'm looking for it,
I always admire people who have their books shelved in alphabetical order or chronologically, but how does that work when you get a new book? Do you have to take one out to make room for it? I have all my absolutely favourite books close to hand upstairs in my study, and when I had new shelves built recently I put all books by an author together, which was a big step for me. But that system has already fallen apart as new books arrive, and I’m back to the old Scarlett O'Hara sort-them-out-tomorrow approach.
What do you do with your books?