If We Knew Then….


They have a smell all of their own – and a feel and a certain character to them. Ancient dust, brittle paper, long loved volumes. The books, so very very many of them, are all now shelved. I think I qualify as a Bibliophile. Iain said this afternoon during a pause in the action. Oh! and here, grasping a desperately ancient volume, is the very first book I ever bought – I was nine. Canada (Romance of Empire) by Beckles Wilson written around 1900. Here is a sampling from Chapter V: The Founding of Montreal.

Of all the great cities of the world you will not find one that has had so romantic a beginning as Montreal. The stories sent home by the Jesuits had stirred all France, and made the more pious and enterprising spirits more than ever resolved to teach the wicked redskins (ahem!) a lesson in Christianity and plant the fear of God in their hearts. The French said they did not believe in treating the savages (double ahem) of the New World in the cruel way the Spaniards had done in Peru and Mexico; They preferred to win them over to civilised ways by kindness and the force of good example.

There we have it. What can I say? Sorry Canada. If we knew then what we know now, things may well have turned out differently. Hopefully.

When Iain returns to his wife and home in Japan at the end of the month I will come back to the books, and house. If all goes to plan I will manage to carve out about six weeks of rest/renewal/retreat time before flying to…Canada! So my labours of the past week are of mutual benefit.

This post is for Tom in Canada who loves books.

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11 thoughts on “If We Knew Then….”

  1. So, one more night in B. and B. or in the case of these last two nights, the local youth hostel http://fwd4.me/BBk. Once a Methodist church, a cavernous building to be sure, retaining original features it is a great place to stay – and I’m all on my own there too. Looks like Iain has books on his mind too: See _Up The Wall_ http://fwd4.me/BBh

    Who knows what tomorrow may bring, snow, sleet, hail and rain?

  2. It’s hard to discard a book. As a child there were still a couple of second hand bookshops in town, and my turn-of-the-(last)century chemistry books had engravings of glassware held by lovingly-turned wood stands. Wonderful stuff. There came a point when it was getting ridiculous, so I had to let some books go. It hurt and I still regret it. A lifetime later I have discovered Kinokinuya in Singapore, half Japanese and half English books, said to be the largest store in SE Asia. Amazon is harmless by comparison: the addiction returns. I’m currently reading a book on reading. For the true addict there’s “LibraryThing” which allows you to catalogue your books online and see what others who share your tastes are reading. A cheap bar-code scanner speeds up the process!

    The chemistry further reminds me that the old German chemists all had full beards, and the young researcher of the day would take his newly synthesised compound, usually a gum or oil, to Herrn Prof. Dr Dr X who would look at it and lo!, it would crystallise! The Professor having been in so many labs, his beard was full of seed crystals – just what was needed. Apocryphal of course, but I think Iain qualifies.

    Best wishes for your new home Iain and safe trip back to Japan!
    Thanks for the post Reverend Master – we won’t mention the weather.

    In gassho

  3. Sadly, even thought we say we know these things now, the powerful in our socities still oppress Indigenous peoples around the world ‘for their own good’. One just has to examine current official policy towards Indigenous people in such regions as Australia and South America… we do not seem to learn to have asked the basic question: how would we feel if that was done to us?

  4. Thanks for stopping and leaving this comment. Your thoughts are echoed by the majority I would imagine. Empathy so often gets lost in the rush, with dire consequences as we know.

  5. Someone told me recently that they had considered buying me an E Book for christmas. I had to explain that you just cant beat the real thing. There is nothing quite like flicking through the pages of an old, well thumbed book and wondering (if its second hand) who else has poured over the same yellowing pages. Its like picking up an old friend. That lovely foosty smell when you walk into second hand book shops. Perhaps in the future they will add a the foosty old page smell to E books, but I still wont buy one :)

    In gassho

  6. Ah yes now I remember, you are a book person too. The books that have been passing before my eyes recently cover a huge range of interests. Trains yes and all matters geography too. Not much non fiction, if any. And then out of nowhere popped up a pocket sized book titled, ‘Conversational Navaho’! Not something one needs every day of the week…. I have to confess that my eye was roaming along the shelves and my fingers were twitching with the thought of taking a look at several books. Perhaps reading will be a part of my rest/retreat/renewal time in February. Or it might not.

    Now back at Throssel where the snow is piled ever-so-high and one can’t _not_ talk about the consequences of ‘the weather’.

  7. Thanks Maria for bring this word into play. I love it. From the Urban Dictionary: Foosty – Of Scottish/Glaswegian derivation: rotten, gone bad. (or just plain smells.)

    I am glad to know you are a second hand book fan. I had quite a few books before I became a monk, thick old ones. I just liked them, especially the ones with colour plates or lithographic prints.

  8. At about the time Iain was nine and getting his first book, give or take a couple of years, I had a nice little collection of “Regency Classics” which you could get at Woolworths in those days, the late 1940s. Alas, when I was twelve I got scarlet fever and as this was a notifiable infectious disease all my books had to be destroyed, even my teddy bear which I’d had all through WW2.
    An early lesson in impermanence I s’pose.
    I’ve made up for lost time since. My bookshelves are groaning under the weight, of books not teddy bears I hasten to add.


  9. Now I just wonder which Michael this might be and could it be a Michael who hasn’t left a comment before…

    Anyway, glad you thought what ever it was, was wonderful!

  10. Too bad Norman about the books and especially the teddy bear. There’s always more where books are concerned….

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