Moving Update - The Rake's Progress
Some years ago I dispensed with a bookcase and put a large number of books up in the attic. The books were in plastic carrier bags (how will we manage when the eco-fundamentalists get them banned? [carrier bags, not books, although books may be next if books have a large carbon footprint or if a book casually tossed from a boat is found to have concussed a turtle]).
Anyway, my imminent move meant retrieval of said books from the attic. Unfortunately, I had put them under the eaves at the furthest point from the entrance. Crawling towards them on my stomach was ruled out for two reasons.
Firstly, the risk of falling through the ceiling into the living room at a time when I had just sold my house. Not that there's ever a good time to fall through a ceiling but it's a well-attested fact that if something bad is going to happen it will happen at the worst possible time and if you're going to injure yourself a few weeks before Moving Day, at least wait until contracts have been signed and your buyer can't pull out because of the pile of rubble in the living room.
Secondly, I have a trapped nerve in my arm. Or it could be what my parents' generation called 'neuralgia'. Or early warning of a heart attack. Whatever. It ruled out clambering crab-like across the joists in semi-darkness and then reversing with a carrier bag of books clenched between my teeth.
Thus it was that I resorted to a variation of an old fairground game. I stayed near the entrance and attempted to lift the carrier bags with a long garden rake. The first three times it worked splendidly and I awarded myself an embroidered cushion, an Art Deco table lamp and a broken PC monitor as prizes, all of which were conveniently to hand.
I congratulated myself on my ingenuity. But pride goes before a fall. Don't worry, I didn't actually fall. But the plastic bags began to break and scatter the books across the attic. (What's all this eco-shit about plastic bags lasting a thousand years? Five years in my attic and the buggers have almost totally bio-degraded).
So now the books had to be raked towards me like giant autumn leaves whilst taking care not to damage them. I know it's not the same level of atrocity as Nazi book-burnings, but this was really no way to treat an early edition of The Code of the Woosters or dear old Beatrice Webb's My Apprenticeship or even Marcuse's One Dimensional Man, unreadable though that was (but any self-respecting Child of The Sixties had to own a copy, along with Ronnie Laing and Family and Kinship in East London).
Eventually, all was safely gathered gathered in and I descended to terra firma exhausted, 'black-bright' as they say in Yorkshire, and with flecks of fibre-glass loft insulation in my hair.
This week a dealer comes to purchase some of my books. Or possibly not. I can see him now, scratching his head and saying: "Frankly, Mr Lupin, slight foxing is par for the course but severe rake damage......."