One thing that is definitely missing from this part of ‘the country’ is a decent bookshop. There is no bookshop in this small town. There was a secondhand joint that existed for a while whose stock was not too shabby but it didn’t last long.
So today when I was walking home I noticed a sign for a secondhand bookshop and ‘exchange’ (shudder) in the same arcade as the now-defunct store. I did a u-turn and went to check it out immediately.
Not surprisingly it was a total disappointment. It was to be expected that the stock would be primarily romance and airport novels but what disappointed me more was that the person running it obviously knew nothing about book buyers or readers. When he asked me “what kind of books” I liked I wanted to say “the one’s with covers and paper in between” but bit my tongue. When I didn’t respond effusively to his question he guessed that “you don’t like romance?” Er. no Sherlock. Not really. When I was not any more forthcoming than “all different kinds of books really” (because this is true) he went back to the gigantic headphones he had been wearing when we walked in. Rule number 1 of selling secondhand books: the customer likes to be left alone. If they want something they will ask.
I persisted with the stock, thinking that it’s often in places like this that you find gems. Alas, this was not one of those times. I dragged Dash away from his ancient book on the Concorde – ignoring his pleas to buy it because I didn’t want to explain that it no longer flew due to a fiery and spectacular crash – and left. The shopkeeper was not impressed that we had not bought anything, making it even less likely that I’ll go back.
Please, for the love of god, someone open a half-decent bookshop that is reasonably priced and has real shelves that are ordered logically and not in some representation of someone’s home cataloguing system. (Big books go here, small books go there, fiction goes here, contemporary fiction goes there, fiction written by women with gold lettering on the cover goes over there. For FUCK’S sake have you never heard of the Dewey system? What about alphabetical order? I know you can get all jazzy with faceted classification these days but books are NOT DIGITAL. They can’t be in seven places at the same time!) Er sorry, went into some kind of fugue state there…So, back to that shop. Yes, a bookshop. Here. In this town. Someone? Please do not make me do it myself.
So we’ve done the whole move to the country thing and I haven’t written a word. We still haven’t found a house, there’s been work, there’s been Christmas and all that stuff and well…I’ve got nothing.
I have been sent back to the keyboard by an exercise class and those who have seen me post-baby would realise how surprising this actually is but after 5 years the ‘baby’ fat excuse is wearing a little thin. Ahem.
This class sums up a lot about this town and is a sign, to me at least, that I am slowly beginning to understand and enjoy a place I couldn’t wait to leave 15 years ago.
The class is held in the local surfclub so while we are sweating and swearing we can at least look out the glass doors and see the surf, which beats looking out the window of a gym and seeing a major artery in the Inner West. It’s run by a bloke I have known since I was a kid and he has a nickname that implies he’s not too bright and a little bit of a boofhead but I’m loathe to divulge it because who knows, he might google himself every now and then. He’s a loud bloke, forthright, with a habit of calling our family the “7-2-7s” because my parents once owned the local convenience store. He is not a gym instructor, he is a bloke who likes being fit and exercising and he wants to share the love. He also seems to like ordering people around in a strangely caring manner.
My brother had been on at me for a while to go and in the end his stories had got the better of my curiosity and I purchased some clothes that loosely resembled fitness get-up and went along. I thought some vague increase in fitness and reduction in weight would be a bonus.
Well, the stories were pretty accurate: this is a no-frills class. There’s no preening, no pouting and everyone is welcome in whatever they want to wear. There’s a bit of boxing, skipping, some gym work, some work running up and down the club’s stairs, some yoga. It’s basically a group of mates and some others. Everyone knows everyone else. There’s no microphone or wanky earpiece, this bloke only has one volume. LOUD. There’s music in snatches but not when the real exercise is being done, the instructor seems to put it on randomly and loudly for light relief when he feels like it. And he likes us to be able to hear him. He likes us to hear when he tells us to “push out through yer bumhole” or “pull up through yer ballsack or fanny, whatever yer got”. Laying on the floor with your hands underneath you is “get yer hands under yer tits”. The request to sit on the floor with your legs apart for some serious stretching is “chuck a spread”. One woman tonight was continually ordered to “grab yer tits! grab yer tits!” as she was perceived as using her hands to make sit-ups easier. I was assured, loudly, that my stomach muscles were right where I left them and if I just kept going I’d find them again.
It’s unconventional yes, and some may find it offensive but if you know the bloke, you know this is exactly his style, he’s not getting off on the power. He actually just enjoys the exercise and spurring others on to get fit too. It works. You work hard. You want to laugh but you can’t because that would require extra breathing that you just can’t do. Laughing is left to the curious tourists who can’t help but stick their head in to see what all the yelling is about. He works you hard but threatens to throw you out if you work harder than he thinks you are capable. And he calls me Georgie. And no one does that except my grandmother. I’m not game to tell him. I still want to find my stomach muscles. So twice a week I’ll be attending for some physical torture disguised as irreverently-described yoga poses.