Since receiving my royalty statement I have been re-reading The Writer’s Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes. It’s really good. I came across this bit which I liked.

book of hope

“When your Daemon is in charge do not try to think consciously. Drift, wait and obey.”


Daemon is an interesting word. I wonder what Kipling meant by it? Of course I thought of Philip Pullman’s books because in those each human has a daemon in the shape of an animal. I have always loved that idea. So that’s what I’ve been doing. Drift, wait and obey. And I’ve been doing a lot of tidying and sorting. I have in fact been doing to my own books what I do in the shop. Taking them in hand and considering if they’re worth the shelf space. And I have been discovering things about myself I did not know. I seem to be a person who reads poetry because it turns out I have 76 poetry books. There’s been a cold, high moon these last few days.  Change is in the offing. If I were a dog I’d be sniffing the air and looking far into the middle distance. I can’t keep doing what I’ve been doing. Something is going to change. And part of that seems to be making a large pile of all my poetry books.

Another obvious change was that I have decided to donate some books to the shop. Usually the traffic is all the other way. There were 18 of them. There are others but 18 is the largest amount I can carry at a time. Unfortunately, I was early for work and settled into Caffé Nero with the companionship of a flat white and no newspaper to hand and without a notebook and a pen. What to do, what to do…? The bag of books was at my feet. The book on top was Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes.

Flauberts parrot

Well, yes, of course I did. I picked it up and started to browse through it and I discovered I had marked it up. Not only am I a reader of poetry, now I am apparently a marker-up of books. Or I was in 1985. There was a flurry of markings all the way through. I know you long for me to share some of them with you. Given my receipt of the royalty statement that I might possibly have mentioned earlier, this paragraph amused me.

“Let us have the modesty of wounded animals that withdraw into a corner and remain silent. The world is full of people who bellow against Providence. One must if only on the score of good manners, avoid behaving like them.”

And so did this one:

1880  “When will the book be finished? That’s the question. If it is to appear next winter, I haven’t a minute to lose between now and then. But there are times when I am so tired I feel I’m liquefying like an old Camembert.”

I have to say that is an exact description of how I feel when contemplating finishing off my current work in progress. Anyway I swiftly transferred the book out of the bag of donations to my shoulder bag. Time for a re-read I think.

Now then, back to the book trade. There was a dreadful doll which my colleague found in the children’s department. We have no idea how it got there. It was ghastly in a 70s horror book sort of way. Do you know the sort? It was stripped of clothes had one eye half closed and the other one was staring hard at us? Stephen King comes to mind. We both looked at it and my colleague went and placed it head down in the rubbish. As I walked backwards and forwards past its dreadful and pathetic plastic legs, it reminded me of the time we had a great many books on poltergeists come into the shop. I was basically being less than reverential about the contents and throwing some of the dodgier ones away. The books weren’t just about poltergeists; they were also about unexplained psychic and spiritual phenomena. And then the books started flying round the room. No, they didn’t, sorry that was a huge lie. I’m a fiction writer and I had a relapse. Actually, what happened was that a pile of books appeared to jump off the table. It was enough for me to stop saying what I was saying and consider if there was something present in that room that might possibly be a bit pissed off with me. And, put it this way, I certainly didn’t want it to get any crosser. So I extended a sort of aura of propitiation into the room and shut up. No, I don’t know what that means either but it seemed to do the trick and I recommend it if you find yourself in similar circumstances.


Things that fell out of books.

This week’s offerings from the books were as follows:

  • A stained white paper napkin with the following written on it in biro: ‘excoriating’ with the tail of the ‘g’ running all the way back beneath the word in a flourish and then underneath that ‘keep eyes open Keith?’ Had Keith fallen asleep? Was Keith a spy? I imagine a group meal gone badly wrong.
  • An old bookmark with the words Give Book Tokens. What a Good Idea! I know it’s old because the value of book tokens listed is in shillings: 3/6, 5/-, 7/6 etc
  • A Take Away menu for the Pin Petch Thai Restaurant in Islington and Earl’s Court
  • A nice leather book mark of the porch in Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire.
  • A Masonic prayer, well I think it’s Masonic: it talks about ancient spiritual fires and the rose of love … it’s actually rather lovely.
  • A Catholic prayer card with a picture of San Filippo Neri – he is the patron saint of Rome. He was always happy apparently and known as the Saint of Joy. He obviously never received a royalty statement. On the back of it is a prayer by John Newman in Italian. I am placing this somewhere prominent in my eye-line just beyond the top of my computer to aid against liquefaction

So that’s me this week, a dissolving Camembert drifting, waiting and obeying. But if the daemon expects me to read all this poetry I might have to put my foot down unless s/he starts hurling the books round the room and then I will undoubtedly obey.


  1. Oh my gosh. I’m sitting here on Monday morning, drinking my hot tea and suddenly almost lost what I was sipping as I bellowed a huge guffaw. Your post is so funny (I know, even though we both have rubbish royalty statements and may be dwindling like Camembert). I hope you don’t mind my smiles, but I feel as if we’re having tea together and conversing about the woes of writing and publishing, and how our daemon still….still…pushes us on. Yes, ever since I read Pullman’s books I’ve imagined my daemon on my shoulder. Mine is a wide-eyed furry fluffy creature that I’ve never seen in “real” life. I wonder what yours is.

    PS I love the Kipling quote and am going to “borrow” it for my creative writing students.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I find that Daemons quite like binge-watching television serials, doing serious vacuuming and drinking bottles of red wine so it’s best to take them out of their comfort zone, take them for a good long walk and even a coffee at Caffe Nero – in other words, I reckon you’re on the right track.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Since we have known each other since we were baby artists, I feel I can say Brava! I knew you when you would rather have slit your wrists than give away/get rid of a book. And now look at you! 18 at a time. And you have 76 poetry books – OMG! I find it wonderful …
    And as for ‘liquefying like an old Camembert’, how fabulous, how visceral, if a little stinky.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post Vicky, I laughed all the way through it and who knew the book trade could be so very fascinating – and perhaps dangerous! Mind you, I’m sure I could tell a few stories about libraries….speaking of which you had a starring role in our recent ‘who writes like’ display – I was walking through the library and noticed your name at the top of a list of crime authors – nothing to do with me so it was a surprise to see your name there! I hope you and your daemon will take some joy in having a royalty payment 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Andrea thanks so much for letting me know my name was up there! It’s very encouraging not to mention surprising. In the course of going through my books I’ve come across all the martial arts books I bought to research that part of Sam’s background and it got me wondering what she’d be up to ‘now’ so to speak. Anyway I didn’t take those books to the charity shop!

      Liked by 1 person

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