The launch of the Kindle got me thinking about all the things an e-reader can never be. You can't inscribe it to a loved one or press flowers between it's pages. It can never be an object, loved and cherished and passed from person to person, with any history. Your children cannot draw upon the pages and fill it with precious memories. Illustrations look terrible on it, especially art, which needs a grand scale. For these reasons and many more, help me celebrate the real thing: dusty old books!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Old favourites from Gerry Mayfield

A great story from Gerry Mayfield - thanks for sending it!
"I have a couple of old books at least that fit the bill.

The first was a prize from 1st year secondary school (now year 7 of course) and it is now dog eared, but cherished as much for the personalised impersonal message in the front declaring that this is to 'Gerald Mayfield' and was 'Form Prize 1L'. I got to choose the book from a table full and then attended a prize giving session one evening to receive it.

At the time I felt 6 feet tall as I had really worked hard at this because I had not been placed in the top form, which was my rightful place, and with the winning of that prize went promotion to my goal of 'Form 2C'. I read and reread the book as a child and now it sits amongst the other children's books and rarely has a page turned. Would I part with it? NO! I hated school and no one will know what it cost me to win it - it is a badge, a memory and a treasure

The second seems a cheat but only today I realised how dear the book is to me. We are in desperate need of shelf inches and I have gone through my own personal stuff to see what I would sacrifice. I identified a group of 3 'haynes' manuals. I have always loved the smell of oil and the blood on the knuckles from trying to get into that awkward place to release that awkward nut. I rebuilt my first motor bike at 17. It was a BSA Starfire C15 and it cost me £29. I moved onto a Bantam and spent a fair amount of time nursing that and eventually passed my test. I did the sums and realised I could JUST afford to get a real bike. I went along for a look see and purchased (on my brother's signature) a Norton 750 Interstate Commando. It became my pride and joy and I spent lots of hours working on it. I couldn't do that without a 'haynes' manual and I read it even when there was nothing need doing. It might need doing soon, mightn't it? That book helped me put a new clutch in when it failed doing nearly a ton in the fast lane. It helped me get the lights on when the rectifier failed coming back from Blackpool. It helped me get the isolastic mountings sorted when she bucked in the corners. But more than all that the book carries all those memories, of all the bikes of my youth. The smell of it, the feel of it contains too much. I could not get rid of it and I returned it to the shelf and I may, seriously, add it to my reading list again."


  1. It's as good as the books that get posted (and stories like yours!)