9 March 2004
Tutorial day at the university, and one of my students didnít turn up. This isnít like that well-known joy of the examiner, the blank sheet of paper (see one of Tolkienís explanations for how he came to write The Hobbit, if the reference eludes you); itís just a frustrating waste of time, because thereís nothing I can do in my college cubby-hole if I donít have students to talk to. So, with half an hour to kill till the next appointment, I nipped out to the Oxfam charity bookshop down the road.
I am, as you know, a profound ditherer, when it comes to extravagance. I go back and back to shops, I look at the same thing over and over again, even after Iíve quite made up my mind to buy it. This time, today, I glanced in the bookshop window, I opened the door, I snatched up half their window-display and carried it to the cash desk.
Okay, I exaggerate, it was only three books; but it was that fast. Three of Elinor M Brent-Dyerís Chalet School books, a series I have loved since I was a child and collected for twenty-some years. All hardbacks, with dust wrappers. Two were reprints at a tenner each and didnít even need thinking about, just out with the purse and theyíre mine; the third was a first edition, and priced at fifty quid. Which is probably a fair price for the book, but I couldnít have paid it. Happily, the nice man who does the pricing was there at the till, so we could have a conversation, which could turn into a negotiation, and I got it for twenty-five (well, the dust wrapper is very torn...).
In which Chazzie loves his absent student, and bounces home in high delight...
© Chaz Brenchley 2004
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.