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A Potter's Moll: Culling The Books

Housebound because of lingering snow, Potter’s Moll Liz Robison has been culling her book shelves and sorting the contents of files and drawers.

To read more of Liz’s delicious columns please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_potters_moll/

And do please visit the Web site of Liz’s husband, potter Jim Robison http://www.jimrobison.co.uk/

The prolonged and heavy and long laying snow gave many including me, cabin fever. I live at the top of a steep hill with a very steep drive and we were housebound for several days. I dealt with the fever by culling the bookshelves and sorting the contents of files and drawers. This becomes a very time-consuming exercise as you pause to read old letters and pore over photos; to say nothing of browsing or even reading whole books.

Thus I came to re-read Sister Carrie by the American writer Theodore Dreiser. Set in 1890’s Chicago it is very detailed and fascinating about the vigorous growth of cities – flinging roads out into the surrounding prairies and it also ponders how the city alters and ultimately corrupts and isolates individuals.

My browsings in the poetry department were topical on the subject of snow and ice, as I re-read some of Robert Service’s ballads of life in the Yukon during the gold rush. Very suitable to read when snow bound. I love the drama of ballads like The Cremation of Sam McGee. Some of the poems are very poignant when you think of all the human flotsam and jetsam who tried their luck in those times.

I have also been working my way through Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. There is a wonderful loquacious, comical character with a wooden leg, called Silas Wegg. He looks around the home/workshop of Mr Venus, the taxidermist, and declares:

Be it ever so ghastly, all things considered, there’s no place like it.

Wegg is gunning for a character called Mr Boffin and Dickens tells us:

All the way home he stumped it out of the rattling streets, piano with his own foot, and forte with his wooden lag, ‘He’s GROWN too FOND of MONEY for THAT, he’s GROWN too FOND of MONEY.

Brilliant!

One cold but brilliantly sunny day we went for a walk across the fields and as we returned down the lane people were out clearing snow. We reminisced with a neighbour who is a retired bin man. We recalled how in 1978 the snow came up to the tops of the walls. After a few days a machine came with a blower that cleared a path and blew the snow over the wall into the field. Next day the bin wagon came down the lane but when it got to the houses they found that they could not open the doors. Someone suggested they should wind down the windows and climb out, but they decided to go back to the depot instead.

We managed to keep a dental appointment in Leeds and afterwards went for a mooch round the wonderful Leeds Markets. The variety of choices is remarkable – meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, flowers, delicatessen. When I lived in Leeds in the 60’s and 70’s I used to go there by bus late on Saturday afternoon and come away with huge bagsful of fruit and veg for coppers.

This time we contented ourselves with a bacon and egg sandwich from a greasy spoon café and it was absolutely delicious, plus a big mug of strong hot tea.

More from me in a fortnight.

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