THE TRUTH CAFE, BITUMEN MODIFIER AND SNOW…

Every morning on the way to work I pass a cafe which is called Truth.  Each time, I peer inside and then think, No, not today. I’m not feeling truthful enough. If I had a cafe I would never name it Truth because it’s intimidating, isn’t it? I mean how do you live up to it? If they pour you a filthy coffee you might feel compelled to tell them which would be  very un-English and extremely stressful. A bit further up there’s  a cafe which is called AntipØde – the coffee is very nice but the music is discordant and percussive and there’s a tiny, dark seating area and often quite a long queue. I assume the music is to discourage lingerers.  I quite like the idea of  The Liar’s Cafe; it would introduce a whole new dimension to an everyday exchange like: ‘Have a nice day.’ Anyway, to cut a long story short this is why I often end up in Caffe Nero. There is nothing to overcome, the coffee is relatively reliable and the music is mellow enough for me to be able to hear myself think. However, if I am running late I go to Coffee Station, which is very close to the shop and where they do a mean flat white and excellent raspberry and white chocolate cake and they’re very generous in their portions. They also have a lovely seating area which has plants hanging down. I like a dangling plant on a chilly morning.

This week I was culling the crime section. I don’t think we really sell much crime but we get a huge amount of it donated and for every Ian Rankin I throw in a hessian sack there will probably be about ten in the back room waiting to be put out.  I save classic crime novels, ones like Edmund Crispin’s The Moving Toy Shop and kitsch covered Agatha Christie’s published by Fontana and Ngaio Marsh’s and I also tend to save any crime in translation that is slightly more unusual like Pierre Lemaitre, Dominique Manotti etc.

A customer comes over to me while I am dragging my sack away and holds out a book. I miss what she says to me and I think she’s asking me the price. It’s an Alexander McCall Smith. I’ve probably just culled this from the shelves. ‘The paperbacks are generally £2.50,’ I say. She goes a bit rigid on me and says, ‘I do not expect to have to pay to donate a book.’ She’s so prickly and grand about her one book donation I can’t help laughing and then naturally I have to apologise profusely for having misunderstood. ‘Do you have any others?’ she asks and I show her where they are on the shelf including the copy of the one she’s just given me.  It’s a mad old world.  It occurs to me later while I am eating my large slice of raspberry and white chocolate cake in the chilly staff room that in about 30 years the vast majority of the books I have written will probably have been pulped.

close up of snowflakes on snow against sky

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This is what the writer Joe Moran had to say on the matter:

We are too sentimental about the physical entity of the book, and too embarrassed about its mortality. All I ask as an author is that, as I should like some say over the disposal of my bodily remains, I am consulted about what happens to my books if they are pulped. My first choice would be bitumen modifier, the pellets road builders use to bind blacktop to aggregate. A mile of motorway consumes about 45,000 books: the M6 toll road used up two-and-a-half million Mills & Boon novels. There is something pleasingly melancholic about converting unread books into the wordless anonymity of a road, like having your ashes scattered in a vast ocean.

If I can’t be a road, I would settle for artificial snow (also made of fibre pellets) falling gently in a Christmas film. At least being shredded is clean and conclusive. 

Bitumen modifier doesn’t sound very glamorous but I love the idea of my books being turned into artificial snow. Well, love is probably too strong a word. Obviously I’d prefer you all to be reading them. But it would be a romantic, magical end to all the blood, sweat and tears of writing if it ended up as snow on the end of a wolf’s nose. A ridiculous but beautiful death.

Here’s the link to Joe’s book On Roads.

11 thoughts on “THE TRUTH CAFE, BITUMEN MODIFIER AND SNOW…

  1. Well, I was in Hiroshima last year and they have this splendiferous place that turns household rubbish into road surfacing materials. I’m not sure what I’d have felt if I thought it turned books into tarmac… Funnily enough, today I was looking at a very old book I possess which was printed in 1799 (I know!) and thinking how it would’ve blown the writer’s mind to know someone was browsing it in 2019. In a way, isn’t that encouraging?

    Liked by 2 people

    • 1799! What is it? Yes, mind blowing indeed. There was a point in the Reformation when the books in the Bodleian were de-catholithized and they say lots of old books/manuscripts ended up being used as wrapping paper in shops. A different form of re-cycling!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a volume of Kincaid’s Grammar, giving up-to-the-minute details of the latest news, like what’s happening across the Channel in France. Lots of beautiful maps – it’s wonder they haven’t been torn out and framed…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I think you are being a bit hard on your books – pulp in 30 years! Though I do fantasise about people taking my paintings to a skip when they are tired of them. I imagine if I found one in a charity shop I’d have a heart attack. You may have covered this and I know you often find your Dad’s books in the shop’s donations, but have you ever found one of your own?
    Snow seems like an excellent outcome! (I have often thought that people would be more willing to pay taxes if there was a percentage where we could elect where it would go.)
    To be honest, I am still coming to terms with the fact that you are culling any of your personal book collection at all. I remember a time when that would have been sacrilege to even suggest …

    Liked by 1 person

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