Dear Bendigo: Pegging down paperbacks

Mum’s a sucker for an orphan paperback. I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing that with you, for it is a most endearing quality. And it’s one we happen to share.

Lots of years ago, a lifetime it seems, I opened a secondhand bookshop in the Borough of Eaglehawk. 

It was in the Paris end, with a view of the old town hall and Canterbury gardens across the way through floor-to-ceiling old pane windows, Simon and Garfunkle on high rotation and the kettle on continuous boil.

I know… would have been the perfect life, had there been more of a profitable customer-to-visitor ratio. But one had a crack, and for that alone it was well worth the effort.

Plus, you should see the surprise on people’s faces if I ever drop that into conversation. For it seems the dream of opening an old bookshop is on many a bibliophile’s retirement to-do list.

For mum’s retirement, she’s wise to be content for more time to just read the books. And she has a lot to get through, thanks to said past attempt at a business.

I’m sure there are many baby boomers who are sick and tired of harbouring the flotsam of their Gen X children’s past years.

 Among the old toys and games and bikes and horse gear and clothes of our past, poor mum and dad still have a substantial pile – for whimsy sake let’s call it a hillock – of secondhand books in the garage.

But mum will not deny the fun she’s had plunging into the pile in search of something to read. 

She’s been doing it for years now. It’s like a lucky dip out there! And as such mum has several dog-eared, yellowing novels from the shed on the go at any one time.

But when it came to travelling up north for the winter this year, mum ditched the dusty old things and took with her a shining new Kindle. Stacked with enough who dunnits to see her through for another decade, it seemed she’d never need to pick up an actual book again.

And then mum discovered the laundry libraries…

Forget the Dewey decimal system… it seems there’s a little-known underground network of book borrowing going on all the way up the east coast of the country.

Mum first discovered this while washing the smalls. In the laundries of the caravan parks there’s always a little stash of paperbacks. But unlike last month’s New Idea, books are not made to be idly flicked through while waiting for the spin cycle. 

So you have to take them with you.

Mum says she had a great time borrowing from the laundry libraries… when she finished a book, she simply placed it in the laundry block of whatever caravan park they happened to be in next… it was the done thing. 

Lovely to think of all those books, traversing the country in a kind of washday relay.

Restores your faith in reading, doesn’t it.

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