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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

“Pushing the Door Open with a Creak I am at Once Surrounded by the old Familiar Smell; the Acidic and Vinegary Smell of Old Leather Bound Books from a Bygone Age…” Or: A Return to the Dusty Factory of Nineteenth Century Appreciation:

It's morning. Early. Despite the recent warm weather there is a fine mist of cool water hanging in the air as if a cloud has fallen from the sky and landed amongst us. The only sound I can hear is of the soles of my shoes clacking upon the floor and grinding the tiny particles of grit on the tarmac. My destination is close now. I have not been here for some months, but I feel as if I have never left as the familiar sights and sounds bring the past forward, colliding with the present.

It is unusually dark, but, for the lack of light and the damp air, unusually warm, too. It is August, and I suppose as we phase awkwardly from summer into autumn, the enigmatic weather is wont to contradict itself.

Looming closer is my destination. Shrouded by the mist and the early morning twilight it looks like some great animal, watching me draw near, incredulous at my late return, at once excited, but also vexed at my lengthy absence. As I approach the door the finer details are painted into the beast by my nearing proximity, and the broad brushstrokes that made it seem animalistic are replaced, and the looming creature morphs into a familiar and friendly presence, excitedly welcoming me back.

Just as you may be apart from a friend for a length of time, and upon being reacquainted may notice small differences in them that may have gone unseen had you been in their presence more frequently, I notice the face of the building has undergone minor changes; the weeds upon the front step have grown longer than I have ever seen, the hot summer has caused the once-striking red paint of the door to fade and begin to peel, and the windowsill has become thick with dust and dirt. All this will be attended to in time.

Above the door I read the sign with the same pride with which I read it the day it was hung almost three years ago. 'The Victorianist'. I whisper it aloud.

Pushing the door open with a creak I am at once surrounded by the old familiar smell; the acidic and vinegary smell of old leather bound books from a bygone age. Paper touched by our ancestors and passed down through the generations to find its way to me. I am, like previous persons, but a stepping stone for these old tomes. Long after me they will find new custodians to keep them and enjoy them. They have outlived so many, and will outlive many more yet.

The one window in this building of wood is miserly in its allowance of light, and so I reach for the light switch and flick it, but nothing happens. Stepping forward over the threshold I stumble upon a pile of mail; it seems I have much work to do...

When the light is returned, and the weeds pulled up, and the window cleaned and the dust is blown from these old books, business can once again resume and this little wooden factory of nineteenth century appreciation can once again get running.

First, I must get a fire going. I tread across the creaky wooden boards to the knee-high cupboard and take out the matches I knew I had left there, for when I was last here it was May, yet we were still in the throes of winter. A few lumps of coal and newspaper still remain and in no time a small fire is burning in the grate, crackling and throwing obscure orange shadows up the walls. Then she catches my eye, sitting proudly on the wall of the chimney breast, from whence she has watched everything for the last three years from behind her gilt frame. Although she was the first item I brought into this place, I had forgotten she was here.

There is no mistaking her mood as she sits regally, staring out at me with a displeased look. She is photographed here in 1897, the year of her diamond jubilee, and yet, despite her expression having been captured in a second, all those years ago, I feel it has been reserved for this moment, as she registers her annoyance at my lengthy absence.

I bow my head to her and agree; 'Yes, your Majesty, it has been too long...'

Then, like an industrious squirrel at the dawn of winter, I scurry off to do my work...