Today, I attended a "winter fayre". The Old English spelling ought to be a dead giveaway. Lots of fat, aproned butchers carving up ucculentsay oastray orkpay (it's Pig Latin, people, you'll work it out), mulled ale, rosy-cheeked matrons, roast chestnuts and happy, laughing children warmly wrapped up in bright hand-knitted scarves against winter chills. Not. Instead, scruffy secondhand goods and kids stuffing themselves on junk food. To one who gets nervous at the Friday Market, this was purgatory par excellence, not least because the upside was that I went through my bookshelves like a devouring flame, removing all the tasteless impulse buys with attractive frontal imagery on Virgin's bestseller stall bought in moments of cerebral meltdown, as well as titles which were letting the side down by having become dog-eared. I insist on a tidy library. It is now refreshed, cleansed, leaner and meaner. What was surprising to me is that I did not instantly find another stall and restock the shelves with more hundreds of pages of pulp. After disgorging the books I left almost immediately, which was only right since I hadn't paid to get in, simply barged unchallenged to the front of the queue, shoving people to right and left with a large shoulder bag.
I'm not good with incompleteness, tasks unfinished, or tasks waiting to be finished. I get fretted if I have something to do that I haven't really prepared for properly mentally. In consequence when I went through the bookshelves, I did so at high speed, knowing that I needed to leave the house in ten minutes and if I actually gave thought to whether or not a particular book was to leave home for good, I'd be lost in a welter of indecision and they'd all get put back on the shelves, as if handling them would confer some kind of sentimental attachment to them. I felt like a guard at Auschwitz.
So, job done. The books melted like snowflakes in May - I revisited the stall a few minutes after depositing them and almost everything had gone. Perhaps my cast-offs aren't quite as unreadable as I'd thought.