I have lived at my current address for nearly 20 years. When I took possession, on 10th February 1998, I was staying in a hotel with my property in storage. So I arranged for the place to be painted throughout before I moved in, on the 20th. I have never been able to arrange for a painter to work without moving out again, so the house decoration has gradually grown rather tired. It is not bad, but it won’t do for another 20 years. I must repaint now.
This summer I was finally able to find a painter who was able and willing to do the deed. He arrives on Monday 17th October, 2016, in fact, if all goes well – for these gentry are notoriously unreliable. He will move large chunks of furniture around, in order to paint.
But there is one important exception. Nobody can move bookcases which are full of books. So this requires me to empty my book cases, which are mostly in my study bedroom. This I have been doing, for over a week now. The cartons I have placed in my garage; 24 of them so far.
It is difficult to find cartons suitable for books. I have been driven to buying 32 litre shallow “underbed” plastic boxes with lids, available at £3 each, from Wilkinsons. This evening I collected a further 30.
The process of packing is itself a painful one. Without a copious supply of boxes, it is even more stressful. You find yourself agonising over how to fit stuff into the boxes. With enough boxes, you don’t worry. Buy lots of boxes. It reduces the stress.
Tonight I have at last emptied every visible shelf in my study. However there still remain many shelves in the large cupboard, including a stack of academic books. Even these I have started, and may hope to complete tomorrow night. This is well; for I have little space remaining in my garage. It has been a heavy task for a man no longer young. Will I ever have the strength to do it again?
In a way, this makes me think. Should I really own so many books that I can’t manage them? I say that I own many; but it is little more than 3,000, I would guess. How many of these books will I never look at again? It is all very well to retain books, especially academic books. But I do wish that I had almost all the academic books in PDF, rather than in paper. Will I have another purge, I wonder?
Clearing my shelves is like a journey into my own past. I come across offprints, send unsolicited by a kindly academic. Vast amounts of old hard disks litter my cupboard. There are endless dictionaries of ancient Greek, from the days when I hoped to write a Greek translation tool. Should I dispose of these? Probably I should … for I no longer have the energy that I did. In other cases I come across books that I know I will never reread, for I have read them out over the years. Yet they are part of me, and made me who I am. What to do?
Men of my age commonly deceive themselves that they will have more time when they retire. If any of my generation can ever afford to retire, they may find different.
I spent two months at home this summer, in indifferent health. Five days ago I went back to work, and found the first two days very awful. I then had some very stressful and tiring days. Yet … I find myself more alert, fitter, and in better health, now that I am working. The “curse of Adam”, that all of us must work, turns out to be a blessing. With “retirement” often comes a vegetable state.
As eBooks become more common, possibly it will be possible for me to buy or otherwise acquire eBooks of some of the academic stuff. I must invest the money, I think; and buy back control of my shelves!