Today I decided to go back to volunteering at the bookshop in town – I volunteered in the same branch when I was sixteen, which was almost ten years ago now. It’s a small, friendly place, and I can picture myself rapidly losing money when I work here (I love the collectibles in particular, even when I already have separate copies of the novels themselves).
When I was sixteen, in contrast, I hated doing this work. I remember my mum making me fill in the application form. Why was she making me do this? I wasn’t made for working in a shop. I wanted to be in my room all day, listening to Renaissance polyphony on YouTube, drawing Islandia characters, eating just-add-hot-water noodles and writing out lists of countries and their capital cities.
I begrudgingly did my few hours per week even so. I must have had a very dissatisfied expression on my face as I piled up books and worked on the computer. It was exactly like the previous summer, when I had done work experience and had counted down the days in my journal until I was able to go back to school, penning such dramatic declarations as, ‘I am so sick of it; one week is enough’.
Today was better. I’d forgotten how therapeutic it is to be surrounded by some of the world’s most random books; it reminds me how normal I am… Today’s selection included a 100-year-old midwifery manual and a Folio Society copy of Belloc’s ‘Cautionary Tales’, which I misread as ‘Canterbury Tales’ – I only twigged when I didn’t remember a lying little girl called Matilda from any of Chaucer’s tales…