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The Bookshelf

On the corner of my street is a bookshelf, and it’s always full of books. Children’s books, chick lit, travel books, autobiographies, non-fiction, political tomes, books in different languages – every kind of book. There’s often someone kneeling or squatting before it, perusing the titles and making a small pile on the footpath, tucking one under an arm, or popping one into a bag.

Bev, who owns Ben Buckler Cellars around the corner, put the shelf there. The rule is that you swap what you take for your own books. I’ve taken one or two dog-eared Jane Austen paperbacks, a chick lit book about vampires, some modern American literature… I’m currently reading Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs.

But until recently, I hadn’t put any back.

As you pass the bookshelf and walk down my street on a sunny weekend you’ll see a painter working in a canvas in his garage/studio, actors and personal trainers and musicians drinking cider or beers on the footpath, or playing cricket…

I’ve lived here off and on for many years, in several different apartments. Right now I am leasing from an old friend, a writer I met at one of our street parties eleven years ago. I rent the car space to my German friends across the street.

Maybe I became itinerant because of my love for Hastings Parade. My true nature may well be that of a suburban horder. Or maybe I would have been a full-blown world traipsing gypsy, but something always drew me back to this magical mountain. Living in small spaces and moving every year makes you adapt, that’s for sure. It also keeps you free.

I recently acquired a new flatmate, a 26 year old girl who wants to be a writer. I can see how things come around. It’s nice living with her because she loves our place and she’s happy there. She doesn’t see the ill-fitting taps. She loves the views and being near the sea. She doesn’t watch TV. She likes a cheeky beverage but she’s training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for charity.

I offered to clear some of my bookshelves to make room for her. They were buried in self development books that I spent my early 30’s poring over. They were also covered in old journals with endless stories of fun and adventure laced with deep existential angst over “the life I should be living”.

As I sipped a glass of red and filled two boxes with books on manifesting and astrology and philosophy, guides to spells and self-love and empowerment, a copy of The Devil Wears Prada, some short stories…

Suddenly I knew I was exactly where I should be. And that I wasn’t missing anything at all. And that all this while I’d been having the time of my life.

On my way to work the next morning, I carried those books down to the bookshelf on my street corner. I wondered if anybody would like them. Would they need them and love them as much as I had…

By the time I came home, the books were almost all gone.

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