a guest post by Peter Shaw of Aberdeen Books and Crafts
All my life I have been besotted by, enchanted by, enthralled by books. As a small child, I well remember the thrilling smell of fresh ink, the texture, the excitement of any new book I was given for a Christmas or birthday present. For me, books are a means of understanding a person’s mind, a way of communicating with them. A bookshop or a library is a magical place, a place where one can travel through time and space and ideas. How else is it possible to read the thoughts of someone who has passed on ? I have written books, collected books, bound books for a living, and sold books for a living. These days, I am semi-retired with a small secondhand book shop (Aberdeen Books and Crafts)in a small, rural town in the Karoo desert, in South Africa, and an online book shop at Secondhand Books Online. It was not always the case that I had the luxury of surrounding myself with my books. I have at different times been a British army officer, an accountant, a financial director, a financier, an entrepreneur with a substantial IT business. These were busy occupations which left me little time for my books, not to mention other factors such as young and demanding families and unsupportive wives who objected to their house being viewed as a repository for old and dusty books. But – the fascination with books never left me. When my IT business crashed (remember the Year 2000 scare?), and my wife kicked me out and divorced me, a wonderful opportunity presented itself. Scrutinizing the classified ads columns in the local paper one day, I found an ad from someone who wished to sell his bookbinding business in order to emigrate to Israel. By scraping together all my somewhat depleted finances, I found I was just about able to raise the necessary cash. The seller agreed to stay on for a period to train me, and introduce me to customers and of course the staff. For me, it was the answer to a maiden’s prayer. Then one morning at the workshop the phone rang, presenting me with another wonderful opportunity. It was an elderly lady whose bachelor son, an avid collector of books, had died recently and she was at a loss to know what to do with all his books. Well, I did! The tiny house must have contained at least ten thousand books, all in splendid condition. There were books everywhere, piled up on tables and beds, all over the floors, under sinks – literally everywhere. So I bought the lot. It took me four people and a large removal van to clear the house. To cut a long story short, I moved the bookbinding business to the rear of some new premises, and opened a new bookshop at the front. Since then, I have acquired more deceased estates, and eagerly scoured jumble sales and secondhand stores for books. So my story has a happy ending, with me remarried to a very supportive lady, and living a blissful life in the African veldt surrounded by my beloved books. Who could ask for more?