When the Bookshelf Crashed to the Ground

This old oak was born into a village of horse-drawn carts and solitary cottages. Now it watches over sprawling estates. For centuries it has provided calm shelter for birds, and shade for saplings.

Huge Oak Tree

Oaks symbolise knowledge and strength. This bookshelf doesn’t.

Bookshelf on the floor

There it is, symbol of whatever might be in my head, combined with a crumbly wall and weak screws.

It is unsettling when things suddenly crash down loudly. The house shakes and you have to rush around looking for gas explosions.  It was a relief when I found the bookshelf. There was no squashed cat, just 157 things on the floor a dented hoover and a few of us staring as if it was an art installation.

Look at somebody’s bookshelf and you can be judgmental and assume things. Picking through the mess and deciding what to put back on the shelf made me judgemental about myself. 

Seeker of Reflected Glory
Early one morning by Virginia Baily

The great novel by a friend, the biography of a relative, something by a spy who knew a friend of a relative. These must be on display at all times, ‘Oh yes’ I say casually to whoever I can trick into noticing them. ‘I did know them, very well in fact’.

Why does telling someone normal that you know somebody clever make you glow like that?  What colour is reflected glory anyway?

Fungus book

We all gave this book to each other for Christmas with vague statements about how amazing it is that Fungi run the world. I bet none of us have read it yet.

There are so many words.

words in a book

But they are good words, and the main thing is to have the book. If you talk about it you also can go on about trees talking to each other. That is kind of the same subject, and fills the time.

Cautious Traveller
Travel books

Books and maps for all the places I have ever been to. Great for reading when you get home and realising what you should have done. Useful for anybody who likes exploring the same bit of Dartmoor every year and will occasionally take a deep breath, and fly out to follow other tourists around a beautiful Mediterranean resort.

When you get home you can’t help thinking that it was more resorty than you would have liked.


For years I have been kidding myself that good photos live in those piles of albums on the shelf. Now they are all over the carpet and it is alarming to find out that seven of them are empty.  Collected in second-hand shops over the years with the hope of ‘sorting the photos’. The rest are full, with photos of people like this.

Scene from stonehenge festival

I don’t know who they are, or why they live in my albums.

Collector of Knowledge who does not Know Anything

Having a book about something implies that you know about that thing. If that was true I would be an expert in star gazing, robots and basic electricity.

Also world history, housekeeping, birds, and flowers.

Books about birds and flowers

These books are important if you see a flower or bird, and need to look it up.  But you have to remember what the thing looked like and then flick through hundreds of pages to find it. Life has never been long enough for me to do that. It is easier to accept that you don’t know the name of some things. 


There is a pub across the road called the Royal Oak. Is our oak tree royal?  Did a king hide in it once? Which kings hid in trees anyway? When was the Stone Age?  What was the silk trail?

History book

Enter the children’s history of the world. If you refused to listen to history lessons in school this one is a gem for answering questions, as long as you are especially interested in the British Empire.

Sentimental Hoarder

Throwing these out would be like throwing away my own children, and the children of all my friends. Except we haven’t got children any more because they all walked off and grew up. So the only things left to hang on to, are these books.

Children's books

And then the sun came out. The shelf sits safely on the floor, stuffed with the same old books. Time to go out and inspect the end of No Mow May.

No Mow May and blue flowers
White flowers in no mow may
Chicken in No Mow May

5 thoughts on “When the Bookshelf Crashed to the Ground”

  1. It’s all so true and funny Jo. I bought Entangled Life for Scot for Christmas and he says it is absolutely fascinating -so there’s one person who has actually read it:)
    Look forward to this blog every week and you never disappoint.

  2. Chortling out loud at this one, Jo. Right there with you on the book-shelf content. You’d think I was a huge intellectual, looking at my book-shelves, (which is obviously the intent)! You’re right to keep the kids’ books too though. There are few joys greater than reading a battered, much repaired copy of your child’s favourite book to their child, a generation later.

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