Rainy Day Book Moves

There was a list of outdoor jobs that I had in mind for today but the weather scuppered any possibility of tackling them. We have had persistently heavy rain all morning and have been confined to the indoors where the Head Gardener directed her efforts to the second batch of Christmas puddings of recent days and I faced into “sorting out” the bookpress which holds my gardening books, something precipitated by plans, already into action, to have new bookshelves built to either side of the chimney breast in the sitting room.

The view from the bedroom window with very heavy rain making outdoor work out of the question – it did brighten for a while in the afternoon and we managed a little time outside.

The bookpress has functioned very badly for many years but I have dragged my heels until recently in dealing with the situation. Books were stored two deep (more in places), most vertically with many horizontally to avail of every possible space, rammed in, pushed in, crushed in – a muddle! This meant that many books were, in effect, out of use and unavailable unless I wished to remove those in front or above in order to access them – and there were many occasions when the search was in vain and was abandoned in frustration.

Books out and sorted

It was time for action and we brought in a company which will design, fabricate and fit new bookshelves in a location in the house where they will be far more accessible and useful. A lady visited yesterday and measured the alcoves to either side of the sitting room fireplace – with green and red laser lights flashing and measuring with wonderful accuracy and ease. Books were viewed and measured as a guide to what was needed. A short period on her laptop gave us a suggested layout, showing measurements etc for our consideration. Some changes were made and we have the leeway of a few days to make others if we so wish though I believe we are good to go with the present plan.

A plan of the new shelves – the central blank area is the fireplace.

This morning was spent going through the books in the bookpress. All were taken out, just to see what was there and to get an overview of how they might be reorganised in their new location. It was also an opportunity to select some for recycling – the better ones earmarked for a local garden club and others for the compost bin – and, although the exercise reacquainted me with many wonderful books I hadn’t enjoyed for some time, I failed to locate one volume which has eluded me for years – Tony O’Mahony’s Wildflowers of Cork City and County. It has vanished!

There were some memory triggers:

It was lovely to flick through some of the older gardening books: Vita Sackville West was a favourite and, of course, Helen Dillon, E.A. Bowles, Penelope Hobhouse, Beth Chatto, Graham Thomas, Anna Pavord, Gertrude Jekyll, John Brookes, Christopher Lloyd (fiction!) and many others, all enjoyed over the years.

There were personal favourites and personal memories:

Ireland’s Wild Orchids with Susan Sex’s fabulous illustrations and Brendan Sayers’ text is especially treasured. It was published in 2004, to the best of my recollection, and the forerunner to smaller format books of the same title using some of Susan’s botanical paintings with photographs from Jackie O’Connell. The book came as an extraordinary kind gift from Susan. I have two of Susan’s original preparatory drawings on the wall in our kitchen – another kind gift from Susan. The book is large format and the new shelves will have a narrow tall shelf to house it with, perhaps, some of Wendy Welsh’s books alongside.

And, randomly, some other memories:

A final word: The lady who came to measure up for the new shelving was questioned by the Head Gardener on the various laser measuring and levelling devices she had as she sees a use for them in ensuring accuracy in hedge-cutting in the garden…poor me!


15 thoughts on “Rainy Day Book Moves

  1. That all sounds progressive and productive … so many rediscovered treasures … we are currently preparing to move house and have to go though similar exercises … stirring up so many memories! The new shelves will be lovely …

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  2. I envy your new shelving Paddy and your selection of gardening books but what really impresses me is Mary on her SECOND lot of Christmas puddings. Oh to be so organised.

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    1. It has continued today – old photographs found etc. Reading a book I was given in 2004 and appreciating what a masterpiece it was/is.


  3. Paddy a morning well spent, and isn’t it just amazing the memories books evoke. I look forward to seeing your new shelves. I hope you’re not going for this modern idea of colour co-ordinated covers. eek..

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    1. The books will be left as they are. I am especially enjoying again Ireland’s Wild Orchids, the original large-format book from Susan Sex and Brendan Sayers. I unwittingly promoted the publication of the book through a garden society newsletter ( I was editor at the time) and the article brought in the last few subscriptions which allowed them to go ahead and print. Susan later sent on a copy of the book by way of thanks and I have, also from her, two of her preparatory drawings for the book. It is one I really and truly treasure but which has been kept well away from the hands of grandchildren for years and, as a result, I haven’t enjoyed it as much as I could have. I read an entry each morning and enjoy Susan’s illustrations which are especially beautiful.


  4. Oh those laser tools do sound quite useful! How lovely for you to be able to take the time and go through all of those wonderful books. The proposed new shelves look lovely and will fit so many books! I know the feeling of having books two deep and horizontal on top. Looking forward to seeing the final product when they deliver to you in November!

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