There were lots of possibilities here, but I’ve decided to do the same as Marcus Sedgwick’s post last week, and photograph a section of shelf just as it is, rather than artfully juxtaposing. Also, I decided to go for a shelf that has nothing to do with fiction, children’s books or writing.
On this shelf I keep books on cookery, gardening and a few odds and ends; the bookcase is handily next to the kitchen and the garden, with a comfortable sofa close by.
Gardening makes me happy. Writing makes me happy, too, but not all the time, whereas gardening never fails. The two combine well: often a plot problem sorts itself out while I’m potting up seedlings or doing some pruning, or - best of all - digging. You can see here a couple of books on vegetable-growing, which is new territory for me, as is chicken-keeping. We have three partridge Pekin bantams, and I love to see them pecking around the lawn or dust-bathing in the sunshine, making a range of clucks and other remarks which I’m learning to interpret.
The Art of Letter Carving in Stone is here because last summer I tried my hand at stone-carving, with a local mason, sculptor and friend, Bernard Johnson. I spent several days working on an owl in relief – in a way, it was retrospective hands-on research for my Victorian novel Set in Stone. Beginning to experience the fascination and the slow reward of carving Jurassic limestone, and watching Bernard’s highly skilled, meticulous work, I wanted to try my hand at letter-cutting. That’s something for the future, though, as I’ve got several writing projects under way, and stone-carving takes as long as it takes – days, weeks, months.
That one’s a library book, which brings me to – libraries. I put in an online request, and in less than a week the book was waiting for me, in exchange for £1 reservation fee. Aren’t libraries great? Let’s use them, keep them, praise them, guard them. My local branch, which serves several villages, is currently threatened with at least partial closure. Please, no.
Look closely at those gardening books and you’ll see Gardener Cook by Christopher Lloyd and The Gardener’s Book of Colour by Andrew Lawson, two of my favourites. I enjoy browsing in books like these at any time, whether it’s in winter, to dream of planting plans for next year, or now, to find recipes for freshly-harvested vegetables. The first came from a second-hand stall at the price of £1.50, and the second from a charity shop, £1. Fantastic bargains! Spend long enough in charity shops and you’ll find books you didn’t know you were looking for, but which seem to be looking for you.
This brings me neatly to my latest book, The Treasure House, which is set around a charity shop and the things that find their way there, and grew out of my experiences as volunteer in a local hospice shop.
Thanks for inviting me!