Friday, August 14, 2015
The Books in my Bathroom
I have recently finished decorating my bathroom. It is now fit to be seen in public, and the completion of a little plumbing that needed doing has meant I have been able to replace the shelf you see in the picture, and thus have somewhere to put the books that are on it. For some weeks they have been in a heap in my wardrobe. Yes, I know it's such a bloke thing to read on the loo; although I get the impression that women do as well, they just won't admit it and certainly wouldn't go as far as keeping books in the bathroom. This post was actually prompted by a recent Tumblr thing of people posting ten books which had stayed with them, and this is the Hound's version – you will notice the complete absence of classics.
In my own case, the bathroom is more or less the only place I read nowadays. I was a very bookish child, and up to about five years ago I was a voracious reader – until I sold them or gave them away, realising that I will never read to the extent I used to, my house was full of shelves of books. The event that stopped me five years ago was that I was diagnosed with glaucoma – probably misdiagnosed in reality, since my present diagnosis is ocular hypertension. I will be on medication for this for the rest of my life, but when first diagnosed I was on latanoprost drops, which both damaged the surface of my eye, and so irritated my eyes that I was dying most days to tear my eyes out of my head. The movement left to right necessitated by reading was particularly painful, and so I rather got out of reading. Fortunately I was able to move on to another long-term interest, cult TV shows, a witchly example for me of adapting to circumstances and making life liveable. These circumstances combined with my problem with depression and accompanying problems with concentration, mean I have read very few books in those years. Certainly not novels – find I can no longer keep on with them, although in the past few years I have re-read novels by Margery Allingham, Edmund Crispin, Jasper Fforde, and Terry Pratchett, when the mood has taken me.
These also tend to be in electronic form by and large, so that my one remaining bookcase is mostly populated by box sets of DVDs these days. The books I keep are usually books which are of some personal significance. I have a number of what I would consider the better books about magic, which would be expensive to buy again or difficult to find in libraries. These are mainly ones which have been personally influential to me: Laurie Cabot's Power of the Witch, which was the first book I read in my first foray into practical witchcraft; Phyllis Curott's Witch Crafting, Kaldera and Schwartzstein's Urban Primitive, Budapest's Holy Book of Women's Mysteries. I also keep some of the magical classics at hand for reference: Crowley's Magick, Regardie's The Golden Dawn, Aradia, and so on.
I have chosen to depict the books in the bathroom because they are books I dip into, or (I will admit it) books I either really want to read or about subjects I want to get my head round. Leaving these books by the bedside simply does not make me pick them up and read them. I will just enlarge upon a view of them.
Beneath the Bull Ring is a fairly academic tome about excavations of three sites during the redevelopment of the Bull Ring. In my impatient way I am tending to fast forward to the conclusions in each section, but this book is a major reminder that I am living a stone's throw from the site of the manor of the de Bermingham family (covered now by the wholesale market). Some of their tombs remain in St Martin's, should you want to see them. I have discovered that the clue to approaching history for me is to get the feel of it – I am approaching this book as a series of snapshots of different times in the city's history, so that I can walk around the city getting the feeling of those times and visualising what the city would have been like then.
The Palmistry Bible is there because I'm going to learn the theory of palmistry if it kills me, but I'm having real difficulties getting it to stick. This has been very much my experience when I have tried to learn Greek, that it just doesn't take. Latin is always like coming home, as is the theory of the tarot. Hmmm… I wonder what this says about me.
The rest are mainly 'light' books, perfect to dip into on the loo, but there is also Heavy Words Lightly Thrown, about the real meaning of many nursery rhymes, and the book you can't quite see is a book of old photographs of Digbeth, Highgate, and Deritend.
The book called Apartheid – The Lighter Side, was a supposedly funny book published about apartheid in the 1980s. Nowadays the only things which make you laugh are how truly ridiculous the example adduced therein (see, I've read books) really are. It gives the example of a woman who was legally three different ethnic groups in a year, the wonderful one of a bus where the seats were divided differently according to which part of the route it was on and the conductor had to change the apartheid signs accordingly, and the twenty page South African Railways instructions for making a sandwich.