Many years ago when travelling the surrounding countryside, it was hard to go past second hand bookshops. In other parts of the world, brand new books are probably cheaper than they are down under. Down here, a book can find itself a second life for itself in the dusty shelves of a second hand bookshop where they’ll still bring good quantities of mad cash. Rent being cheaper in the country, a second hand bookshop probably makes more economic sense in rural areas.
Since a young age, my father was estranged. Yet in my early twenties I’d inadvertently became aware that he was running a second hand bookshop in a suburban strip shop. A mate of mine worked around the corner from him, he noticed a passing similarity. Because my old friend has a curious mind, he went into the store and put my father to the question. My mate thought he was being pretty clever, which he was.
Second hand bookshops with expensive rents, probably don’t make much economic sense. Reality being one of the downsides of my profession. My dad eventually closed the business down. In an interesting side story, by sheer chance I later read an article in the newspaper about a lady who purchased my dad’s book inventory and made heaps of mad cash selling them online. That’s business for you.
One my favourite second hand bookshops is located in a country town to the north of here. The shop is on a road leading out of town, and may once have even been the local general store, after all it is surrounded by houses. Stepping into the store you’re greeted with old timey music, a strong musty scent, and a maze of wall to ceiling bookcases and rooms. The handwritten signs attached to bookcases point customers to various categories.
It’s not hard to make a bee-line to the sci-fi and fantasy area, especially when you know where it is. Which by the way, was in a room out the back where less polite customers usually don’t venture. It was in that store where the collection of my favourite author, Jack Vance, and his pulp fiction books was mostly filled. The interweb padded out the missing chunks of the collection. Nowadays the paper has yellowed on the forty and fifty year old books, and the bindings don’t quite hang onto all of the pages. But the covers sure look great!
The covers are great aren’t they? Strange landscapes, monstrous aliens both alive and vanquished, and way off in the distance in front of an oversized moon, a castle. The promise of a gripping yarn where the hero faces unknown odds and yet prevails using a combination of wit and luck. What’s not to like?
Thankfully, fans of the author have restored the original texts, and using the miracle of print-on-demand technology have reproduced all of the precious stories on low acid paper. A worthy investment for the future.
But back to the dusty old second hand book shop. There are only so many Jack Vance books to read, and after a while the eye wanders the shelves and spies other great authors works. But then there are other authors.
The title “The Mists of Avalon” attracted the eye. There it sat on the shelf just asking to be read. The author was Marion Zimmer Bradley, who apparently did quite well financially from her body of work and from that book in particular. Knowing nothing of the Arthurian tales or tradition, the thought as to purchasing the book went something along the lines of: “Why not?”
To be fair to the author, the read was enjoyable, and by all accounts a commercial success. However, it seemed incongruous that a warlord as renowned as King Arthur could be insulted to his face by allies at a dinner, and then casually just kind of take it on the chin. C’mon guys don’t trash talk me, hey? That was hard to explain, but what was harder to explain was that the warlord didn’t jump onto the table, kick the food to the side and strike the head from the shoulders of the annoying bloke who was dissing him. At the very least the author may have included a bloody sword battle over the insults. It’s not like he didn’t wield the famed sword Excalibur. And Merlin was portrayed as a bit of an ineffectual tool, who at the end of the story meekly submitted to his own death, just because. What the? The only character roughly true to type was Mordred, who killed and was killed by King Arthur. That bit of the story would have been difficult for the author to alter. But even then, Mordred was written about as if he were a sulky teenager. Why is everyone being so mean to me, all the time! Far out! Talk about poetic license of an otherwise powerful story.
The actual story of King Arthur is a narrative of the isle of Britain during the latter stages of the fall of Rome. The Roman Empire was in terminal decline. Wars raged. The Roman legions whom had occupied the island for four hundred years had left within the past century. Chaos ruled. The population declined significantly. London was abandoned. Anglo-Saxon invaders hailing from the continent violently wrested lands away from the locals. One warlord was strong enough and clever enough to unite the land and bring a period of relative stability, and that was King Arthur. With his adviser Merlin and band of merry knights, allies, and armies, they probably spent most of their years fighting just to survive.
That my dear reader, is one possible future awaiting our civilisation. That’s the power of it’s narrative. And as Arthur faced himself and his shadow in the form of Mordred, thus we as individuals and also as a civilisation have to face ourselves and the consequences of our actions.
The story is what decline looks like. It’s all continual threats, wars, loss and fighting just to stay where you’re at. And it’s slow, Arthur’s story took place over decades, and came on the back of a century or two of decline. But the central core of the story, is that Arthur tried, won, failed, and yet despite all else, his shadow fell long upon the future.
The war on rats continued this week. From past experience with the chicken enclosure, in order to thwart the rats and their activities, you have to learn all about their movements. With that in mind, surrounding the house is now a narrow layer of larger and heavier rocks. We can daily observe how the rats get into and then out again from the underneath of the house.
It’s a brutal war, but intelligence suggests that the rats had been entering and exiting via a number of locations, which are now all plugged up. Things are probably getting desperate for the band of plucky rodents.
On Thursday I had a few free blissfully quiet hours. As a side hobby, from time to time, I’ll refurbish an old high quality item of stereo equipment dating from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The machines are nearing the end of their life. The work is not difficult, but there is a real shortage of people who can do such work. More than anything it just takes a lot of time and care. So on Thursday I began the process by surveying the guts of the machine, seeing what needed doing and ordered the replacement parts.
I’ll probably do the project over the Christmas break. Incidentally, the machines themselves aren’t worth much to purchase second hand, and the replacement parts were about $50. But after the replacement parts are installed, very few new machines will match the sound quality. There is truth to the saying that: ‘they don’t make ’em like that any more!’ And anyway, it’s a hobby which I enjoy.
The garden terraces needed weeding. ‘Nuff said! We spent five hours weeding those garden beds.
Once the terraces were weeded, we planted out the seasons peas and beans.
We’d raised all of the peas and beans from seed saved from last years excellent crop. Both plants produce really well here, and we’ve selected varieties over the years which do really well in the variable local conditions.
The garden terraces are now looking pretty good.
The weeds were dumped onto a nearby area of grass. We’ll let the material dry out for a week or so before then hitting it hard with the mower which will blitz it all up. The material will feed the soil critters and produce healthier grass for the local wildlife to graze upon.
The plants in the new larger greenhouse are growing nicely. Being protected from frost, we can grow some cool-sub-tropical varieties of plants in there, and one of those is a Babaco which is a kind of pawpaw. This week the plant began the process of producing some fruit. That was fast.
Also in the greenhouse we are growing a number of strawberry plants, and none has produced as well or as early as the hybrid pink flowering strawberry.
And when the sun shines and the wind is easy, the insects are out in force. The hum is audible. Some of the butterflies and moths are quite colourful.
Onto the flowers:
The temperature outside now at about 9.00am is 11’C (52’F). So far this year there has been 1,362.6mm (53.6 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 1,351.4mm (53.2 inches)