Monday, 29 August 2016

More ramblings on Craftivism

This post is inspired by my recent reading of Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism by Betsy Greer. I came across a small book on craftivism in June and now have a growing interest in this area of craft + activism.

The book is arranged in a number of essays and interviews looking at a variety of different types of craftivism. The following items do not cover the entire contents of the book by any means but these are the projects and ideas that have stayed with me after finishing the book.

Charity Quilting - Susan Beal
Quilters from around the world sewed flags to be used as part of a memorial following the Boston Marathon Bombing. Over 1,700 flags were received and put on display in a venue where everyone who wanted to could view them for free. To me, this is a beautiful show of solidarity, of hours spent in contemplation of an event that marked the lives of many, created by people hundreds or thousands of miles away who wanted to show that those affected were in their thoughts.

To Boston with Love, Museum of Fine Arts

The Blood Bag Project - Leigh Bowser
The Blood Bag Project is a fascinating example of craftivism being used to create awareness around a specific medical condition. Leigh's daughter Chloe suffers from Diamond-Blackfan Anaemia (DBA) which means that Chloe needs regular blood transfusions. This is why the item crafted for this project is a blood bag! I recommend having a look at the Blog Archives just to see the variety of textiles, techniques and ideas people have used to create their own blood bags. I've printed off the template and intend to make one myself, and if you are more into crochet than sewing there is a pattern for crocheting one as well.

On Golden Joinery and Mending - P Flintoff
This reminded me of the Japanese art of Kintsugi - I assume it was part of the inspiration though I don't recall it being mentioned in the essay.
It's a type of visible mending, a technique where clothes are repaired with no wish to disguise the fact that they have been mended. This craftivism is a challenge to the throwaway culture of fashion, a means of treasuring possessions for their flaws. This essay dealt with Flintoff's experience of golden joinery, using gold thread to repair a torn shirt and also a teddy bear for his daughter. I have a pair of old garden jeans that are tearing which I keep meaning to replace but having read this article I'm quite tempted to have a go at some mending. The holes are alas far too big for a needle and thread but I was thinking of using patches of golden fabric. I tend to shop in charity shops anyway so already use that as a means of bucking the throwaway fashion trend and golden joinery has opened up another avenue for me in this area.

Tools of the golden joinerers trade

Interview with Craft Cartel - Rayna Fahey and Casey Jenkins - Cunt Fling-Ups
The Craft Cartel interview covers more than cunt fling-ups but it was this section of the interview that really stuck in my head. There is a strong vein of feminism running through craftivism, partly because crafting is often seen more as the traditional province of women than men. The fling-ups came in to being as a reaction against censorship of the word 'cunt'. Interestingly enough, I wondered if I should bleep or disguise the word on the post and then realised that it was exactly this kind of thing that the fling-ups highlight!  

There is a theory that shoes are flung-up over power lines in certain areas to denote gang boundaries. These anti-censorship fling-ups aren't used to denote boundaries but they are a public opposition to censorship. As the interviewees went into details about the making sessions, I wondered about how people in my local area would respond to something like this. In January 2013 the Ipswich Star ran a story over an 'unsavoury message' created following the removal of letters from The County pub - so I'm thinking such casual bandying about of the word would not be well received! Fahey and Jenkins talk about the reaction from participants and people on the street - these fling-ups are 'brightly coloured and soft and sparkly. You have to work pretty hard to find them threatening.'

Craft Cartel craftivism in action

Sewing Voices - Heather Strycharz - The Arpilleristas
Betsy Greer's book doesn't just focus on craftivism going on currently. The history of craftivism is highlighted with essays like this. The Arpilleristas were Chilean women who used tapestry to reach the outside world while under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. These colourful embroidered tapestries depicted human rights abuses and the poverty and horror of the regime. Others were lighter in tone, showing a better Chile without Pinochet. Customs officials did not look closely at the tapestries, dismissing them, and thus for a time they evaded the heavy censorship of the regime and made it to the outside world to raise awareness of what was going on. When it became clear what was happening, there was retaliation though the woman continued to sew.

I am sure there are those who look on something like craftivism as an ineffectual means of protest. The Arpilleristas show me that this is just not true.

The examples above are only a small slice of what this book has to offer and I would recommend it to everyone interested in activism, craft and the personal role an individual can play in politics.

This book has crystallised for me what I love about the idea of craftivism. It gives everyone a voice. It allows everyone who takes part to put their beliefs and energy out into the world. It places emphasis on connecting with individuals rather than great faceless homogenous groups. It invites people to take part in a process where there is time to reflect and think, where the emphasis is on opening conversations and engaging with people rather than shouting others down.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Random thoughts on reconnecting with once-loved crafts

From mr x stitch

The thing about crafts is that one tends to lead to another. Knitting was the first crafty thing I can remember being taught to do as a child and having the materials to continue with. Crochet followed. Since then I've tried my hand at needlepoint, quilling, cross-stitch, rugging (is that a word?), embroidery, machine sewing, hand sewing, English Paper Piecing, beading and jewellery making.

Some of these hobbies were short-lived as I tried them on for size and realised that while they were enjoyable in the moment I would not have the interest in investing in them long-term.

From Etsy

I spent a couple of years on cross-stitch and when I gave it up in my mid 20s I never thought I would return to it. Over ten years later, I happened to catch sight on Pinterest of a sassy unicorn pattern that I thought would make a great gift for my sister. As I didn't know if I would continue with cross-stitch, I put out some feelers and asked people if they had old supplies they wanted to get rid of. I thought it would be like a return of good karma, as I had moved on all my supplies years ago to people who were interested in taking it up just as I was moving on to other things. A couple of friends gave me some supplies they were not going to use, plenty to make my gift for my sister.

Made for my sister from a pattern available here

I made the gift, I posted a pic on Facebook . . . and suddenly other people wanted one. I duly produced to order, and because I was enjoying cross-stitching so much I indulged in the temptation that is searching Pinterest and created my own board for the cross-stitch patterns I liked the most.

From Daily Cross Stitch

What I found was that cross-stitch had got a lot more playful and geeky than I remembered it being. When I've been in charity shops recently I've found myself noting just how many cross-stitch books there are on the shelves, many of which I had longed to own in my twenties but not had the money to buy. I could now get them if I wanted to as they go for £1-£3. I didn't want them anymore it has given me hope that all the sewing books I want now will be in a charity shop near me in the next decade. Thanks to the advent of sites like Pinterest and Etsy there's so much more access to funny cross stitch than there was years ago.

From Pinterest

I'm finding more patterns, creating more, and I think this particular craft has come back to stay a while which is a very pleasant surprise as I thought I had done with it. That's the lovely thing about this kind of hobby. I think it comes under the 'like riding a bike' umbrella. Once you know how to create something in a certain way it stays with you, skills lingering in the memory, just waiting for when they might be needed again.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy cross stitch!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Perfect Recipe Book for the Tiny House

Considering the fact that my previous post was about how I would make space in my dream tiny home for books, it might be considered a bit of an odd follow-up to post on a type of book I would NOT find space for.

I don't know what your success rate with recipes is but maybe 1 in 10 of the ones I try end up as keepers, and by that I mean meals that feature in my diet every month or so. This means that for every cookery book on my shelf currently - and these aren't the tiniest type of books anyway - only 10% of those books are taking up worthwhile space. Consider the fact that I don't think I have sat down and worked my way through any of the cookbooks I have from cover to cover and this percentage drops even further. I currently live in a house where there is space for a shelf of cookery books but I itch to cull them down by at least half. My husband does not agree and so they remain.

Image taken from Homedit
In the tiny kitchen of my tiny house, there would be no cookery books. If I got really nostalgic for the feel of a proper cookery book, there's always the library to provide that feeling in temporary form. Every inch of space in a tiny kitchen is at a premium. Everything needs to justify its presence by being useful. 

To be clear, I do love cooking. I enjoy trying new things and finding new recipes. With websites like Pinterest, cookery books have become obsolete for me. When I fancy cooking something different or have ingredients to use up my first stop is Google rather than my cookery book shelf.

Having said that, do I like working on a recipe from a tablet screen? 


I am not one of life's neat chefs. Food gets flung about. Flour bursts into the air in unexpected arabesques. Sauces spatter. Hands get sticky. A paper copy of a recipe is essential in this kind of environment. Gobbets of food don't enhance mechanical equipment - the marks and scuffs on a paper recipe somehow give it charm and recommendation.

The title of this post refers to the Perfect Recipe Book. This Book would be a repository for all those recipes I had tried and loved. It would also, you've guessed it, enable me to get crafty and make it unique.

I envisage a plain A5 hardback notebook. Colour of cover irrelevant as the first thing I would do is sew up a snazzy fabric cover to make it mine.
Found here - a repository for sweet treats?

I think I'd start with savoury at the front, sweet at the back, maybe allowing a couple of pages at each end for random stuff like cooker temperature conversions and how long it takes to boil an egg and steam peas.

From Supercutetilly. Not quite a foodie cover but I like the 'make something good TODAY' sentiment and the design could easily be tweaked to incorporate edible things

I think there'd also be a pocket of some kind worked in to the fabric which I could put post-it notes and page marker items in so I could easily find those favourite recipes.

From the Agniezska-Scrappasion blog - if you are a fan of scrap booking have a look here, some fabulous stuff

Being fabric, I could easily wash the cover, or if it got so hideously mangled through cooking stains that it wasn't worth the cleaning I could make another one.

Country Kitty binder cover

So, there you go. The Perfect Recipe Book in my dream house would contain recipes that worked, could be regularly added to and would be able to justify every inch of space it took up. 

Nothing to stop me making a start on it right now really . . .

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

My dream book nook

In my dream house, there must be books. Even with space at a premium, they will very definitely have a place. As the whole house will have a cosy theme, the book nook will have cosiness as an automatic feature!

I once had a dream where Keanu Reeves built me my dream book nook - what a lovely man. 

In a standard sized house, this is classed as a built-in bookshelf.

Natural light is a requirement. No stained glass in that window.

One wall of the compact space filled with shelves; one wall flat so I could pile up the pillows and lean against it.

No space for this big chair in my tiny house, but look at all that natural light. Perfect use for a tiny spare room in a house.

No space for a chair, but space for a lovely thick mini mattress which invited snuggling for a satisfying bout of book reading just as much as a big comfy chair would.

Now, with limited space I know I'd need to be a bit ruthless with books but I could surely manage more than this.

I'd want a windowsill on which to rest drinks and snacks. I think one of the things on the bookshelves would need to be a snack box filled with goodies to nibble.

Now this idea I love! Space for storage underneath so ticking the tiny house need to use available space sensibly, and those shutters are a delightful touch - you could shut yourself off in your own reading den.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Random thoughts on going flat

A little over two years ago, I had a double mastectomy to remove my breasts and do what I could to bypass the 85% chance of breast cancer that my faulty BRCA1 gene and family history all but guaranteed in my future. I did not want to opt for reconstruction for many reasons, not least because it isn't just one surgery but several over a lifetime. I had three years of research to make my decision and made contact with people in the UK and abroad who were living breast-free lives. There are many women who have had this surgery, my cousin included, who choose to go 'flat' - i.e. not wear any prosthetics. 

Today was the first day I felt like going out in public 'flat'.

Flat Friends UK, a lovely support group I found on Facebook. Very useful for fashion tips!

I didn't because I was going to a wedding, I hadn't mentioned it to the bride and groom before and a woman without breasts can be a startling and unnerving image. Yes, yes, yes, I am aware that negative reaction is something to be challenged and worked with but I did not think the venue today was the right one to begin that.

The important thing for me is that I felt like going without prosthetics in a public place around people I didn't know. To me, this is a step forward. Might be small to some, but to me it is a big one.

Melanie Testa - an inspiring lady who goes flat

When I had breasts, they were 36DD. In my teens they were a B cup, in my early 20s a C, and then when I fell in love and moved in with my now husband they got to the DD stage. He used to claim it was his magic hands - I think it was more down to the fact he was a fantastic cook.

Anyway, having breasts that size meant that my boobs were noticeable. 

Men and teenage boys had always felt they could make comments on my breasts. Not ALL men, obviously. But a certain type of man. If that type of man had the sense of entitlement that they could comment on my breasts I have no doubt they would also feel they could comment on my lack of breasts. The comments when I had breasts reduced me to a sexual object there for gratification. I assume the comments I would receive post-breasts would also be sexual, and negative and disparaging because I now no longer meet the requirement for what this type of man expects from a woman.

Shondia - Bold & Breastless

This is what holds me back from going flat in my day to day life. The fact that others would feel free to sit in judgement and to have the right to voice that judgement - and I don't know if I am equipped to constructively challenge others should they do this. 

I'm not particularly fond of being looked at. I don't like having my picture taken. I don't like wearing make-up. Wearing my A or B cup prosthetics, I am 'under the radar' if you will. I tick a box and look 'normal'. Remove those prosthetics and I place myself in a different category. 

One of the Flat Friends members strutting her stuff

I recently listened to an episode of Late Night Woman's Hour where a number of interesting ideas came up. One was that women dress for some things and against others. For example, women dress against the chance of being abused or harassed, dressing against a certain type of scrutiny. That encapsulates part of the reason why I choose to wear prosthetics.

Another quote form this programme ran along the lines that as a woman you are:
made to be held accountable for what you wear . . . (others) want you to control or somehow sanction your body with what you're wearing and that means that there's something very powerful in what women wear and that's totally compelling.

Do I want to challenge those who feel they can criticise me for not conforming to expectation? Though I have mentioned men above I am well aware that it would not just be men who made comment but women and children too. Maybe I could open up a conversation with some of those people. With some, there would be no opportunity for that. I would be in opposition to something they expected and no amount of talk would convince them that I was not transgressing something deeply important to them.

I would especially love to go topless when swimming. I'm not the best of swimmers but I do enjoy being in the water. I hope that one day I have the confidence to do this.

I have a feeling I will be returning to this topic.

From the SCAR Project

Saturday, 6 August 2016

What I've learned about gardening this year

Nasturtium in shade, mottled with morning sunlight

This year, I decided I was finally going to do something with the front garden area, and turn at least part of the (mainly) weeds and scrubby grass quadrangle into a flower garden. I had experience of planting vegetables, fruit and other edibles but flowers are not something I've had much time for in the past.

My approach could best be described as the 'fling it in, see what takes' method. I wanted to attract more bees so some I acquired certain plants with that in mind after a quick read up on the RHS website. Others were cast offs from other peoples gardens, or happened to be on sale as I was passing by. Some rancunculus bulbs (think squat, squashy spiders) were left over after a work team day and so I snaffled them. They have not been that successful in the garden as the rain in June was not to their liking but I will be getting more for next year.

My one and only Persian buttercup/ ranunculus. After this, the plant pretty much died. Sigh.

I wanted sweetpeas, inspired by a friend of mine who grows them every year and has the blooms on display about her house in small glass jars. I really liked the idea of being able to do that. The sweetpeas I planted did not do that well this year, again I think partly because of the drenching in June, and then when they did bloom I forgot to take little bouquets for the house. I also forgot to regularly nip off the seed pods which I assume prevented them from flowering with the gusto they might otherwise have done. Sweetpeas therefore go under the heading of 'must do better next year'.

A success of this summer has been the dahlias. Last year, I bought 4 pots of dwarf dahlias that were for sale outside a house. I put them in tubs that summer of 2015, not really knowing what to do with them, and in late autumn followed the advice of a friend (she of sweetpea fame) and collected the tubers, storing them somewhere dry and cool over the winter. In the spring, I was delighted to find many of them sprouting and so tubbed them up to see how they'd get on, then planted them out in the garden proper when they were big enough. The tiny plants of last year have bloomed into lovely large plants this year - they liked the rain. I bought a couple more dahlia plants - again from outside a house - and will see if I can repeat the success with lifting the tubers for 2017.

I did not achieve the wild profusion of sweetpeas I had hoped to this year. It was the one plant I was cautious with seeding! That will change next year.

A disappointment has been the hollyhock. I bought one from Wilkinson's for the express purpose of the benefit to bees but it has double-bloomed in such a way that no bee can get near the pollen. Also, the plant itself is a great spreading hoggish thing that has done its best to flatten and bully all plants in a two foot radius. The extra weight of the flowers means that the plant has needed some serious tethering and my garden looks a bit scruffier than I would have liked it too. All in all, I won't be bothering about planting a hollyhock next year. I do have a lupin and I have enjoyed that as it is has been respectful of the other plants in its vicinity and done its duty in terms of the bees.

Hollyhock, beautiful colour but not much good for the bees. Fail!

The nasturtiums have, until recently, done well in the front garden this year. I planted them indiscriminately, and they went crazy to the point where I was cutting them back and feeding a few leaves to the chickens here and there to stop them taking over. In the past couple of weeks, they have been decimated by caterpillars. Cabbage white caterpillars at that so it's not as if they have been sacrificed for some rare and interesting butterfly. In a matter of days, the thick forest or leaves has been stripped back to stalks. This will no doubt please the fuschia, the herbs and the borage which were unable to keep up with the nasturtiums riotous energy but it's sad how quickly they have been stripped.

Beautiful poppy which I'm glad I spotted in the morning and took a picture of as by the end of the day all the petals had been blown off.

My favourite plant of the year has been my yellow flowering nemesia. Bought for a couple of quid outside a charity shop, it has been prolific in throwing out blooms. I don't think it has been out of flower for months. The flowers are small and dainty and the plant itself has struggled to survive with the greedy hollyhock menacing it. I don't know if it will last to 2017 but if not I will definitely be getting more nemesia next year, two plants at least.

One of the first flowering plants in my garden, a pansy from a set of 6 bought from the local co-op. One was dug up and/ or squashed so many times by the local cats who use my garden as a toilet that it did not make it to the flowering stage before giving up and dying. The others all did well, until the foliage around them exploded and flattened them to the ground. They are still alive but in a straggly state.

Other things I learned this year:
A lot more cats shit in my garden than I realised. Any weeding session has to be preceded by a crap-collecting session to avoid unpleasant squishy surprises.

I really need to pay attention to labels and packets in terms of how big a plant can get. I assumed borage wouldn't get very big as I'd only sit it in a friend's greenhouse, where it was in a pot and didn't have to fight for sunlight. The borage plants in my front garden have grown into beasts to fight the nasturtiums for sunlight and space. The bees have loved them, so I intend to keep borage as a feature of the garden. Maybe only 1 or 2 plants though!

Wilkinson's plant labels may say a plant will be one colour but that doesn't guarantee it - the large poppy plant I bought turned out to flower orange-red rather than hot pink.

Having my own oregano and thyme plants in the front garden is fantastic. I have no idea how these plants do during the winter and will read up on that closer to the time so I can take lots of fresh sprigs and chop them up to freeze in case they die back over the cold months.

If you put lavender in a nice sunny place it is much happier than it was when you originally put it in a sun-starved, weedy area.

June and its almost daily rain enabled me to take some arty-farty photos with raindrops and plants :)

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

July's Book Dowsing

Successful book dowsing in July:

Bridge to Terabithia

Katherine Paterson
Jess Aarons wants to be the fastest boy in the class, but when a girl named Leslie Burke moves into the neighbouring farm his life changes forever. Even though she runs faster than him, Jess begins to think Leslie might be okay - she's clever and funny and not a bit soppy. And it is Leslie who invents Terabithia, the secret country on an island across the creek where he can escape his troublesome family.The only way to reach Terabithia is by rope-swing where Jess and Leslie become King and Queen, defeating giants, sharing stories and dreams, and plotting against their enemies. They are invincible - until tragedy strikes. It is more dreadful than anything Jess had ever dreamed of, but as he struggles to cope with his grief and anger, he finds that his family value him more than he'd thought and that, still King, he could even save Terabithia for the future.

Where did I find it?
The library

Why did I pick it up?

I watched the film a few years ago - it is one of those movies with a trailer that gives an almost entirely false impression of what the story is. I was looking forward to something fantastical and light and instead got a tale of poverty with a tragic incident towards the end. One thing I noticed at the time because it was (and still is) unusual was how there were more female characters than male. When I came across the book in my local library I wanted to how the book from my recollections of the film.

What did I gain from this book?

I really enjoyed this story. It isn't long and took about two days to finish. I knew what was coming and part of me wished I didn't as I picked up the book knowing how things were going to end. The power of imagination in children is something I return to again and again as so much of my own childhood was lived from one fantasy to another. As a child becomes an adult their outside world expands; conversely, their inner world often contracts. The landscape of my childhood daydreaming was never-ending; as an adult I feel it is finite and measurable. That might sound like the tale left me feeling a bit miserable but actually I found the book to be a lovely reminder about the power of a child's mind.

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole
Sue Townsend
The troubled the life of Adrian Mole continues in this hilarious and touching sequel to The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 133/4. His diary - and his relationship with Pandora - continue to fascinate and entertain.

Where did I find it?

My bookshelf

Why did I pick it up?

I couldn't get in to any of the other books I had on hand at that time and my tatty old copy of this book, read at least a dozen times by myself and also by my siblings and my mum, beckoned me for some reliable reading.

What did I gain from this book?

Nostalgia. I don't know how modern teens would relate to the main character. His life is so devoid of the technology that younger people take for granted and perhaps this would make the text feel old and out of date. The elements of angst, thwarted love and nihilistic rage are no doubt still current for any teenager though.

Hardboiled & Hard Luck

Banana Yoshimoto
Hardboiled opens as the narrator treks high above her secluded mountain hotel on the anniversary of her lovers death. Hard Luck opens with another female narrator, this time at the bedside of her sister, who lies in a coma. Exploring the ghosts of love, memory, and intimate secrets, these are two haunting and atmospheric tales from Japan's leading female writer.

Where did I find it?

The library

Why did I pick it up?

I previously listed Hardboiled in another blog post on my list of favourite short stories. Finding it on the shelf at the library I couldn't resist taking it home again. I looked at the list of check out dates at the front of the book and wondered if one of them was mine from years ago.

What did I gain from this book?

A reminder that just like with a favourite film, there are things in books that you don't see on the first reading. The second reading reveals more. The third and the fourth too. I remembered the stones, the part of the Hardboiled which I found so sinister in the first reading. I could barely remember the second story, Hard Luck, at all, so re-reading the book meant that I focussed on it more this time round. Banana Yoshimoto is very good at writing scenes where important connections are made between two people when those people are unlikely to ever meet again. 

Monday, 1 August 2016

Old Books

At a wedding reception I attended last weekend, the bride had assembled a number of old books and arranged them on the windowsills and mantelpiece of the wedding venue, interspersed with branches, leaves and flowers. As I was getting ready to go she told me I could take any that I wanted, barring the Charles Dickens volumes and the Lewis Carroll Through the Looking Glass. I find it hard enough to resist the lure of free books but when those books are also old hardbacks? Well...

I was strong and able to limit myself to three. There were a couple of Lewis Carroll books and I hoped the one the bride wanted wasn't the lovely copy I liked the most but it was - good taste, that bride - and so I picked up one of the others.

The lure of old books for me is the fact that they carry hints of their own stories. The Black Arrow by R.L.Stevenson had a piece of string lingering in it as a forgotten bookmark, and an inscription in the front that read:

Miss Roberts
With love from the Stratford Girls
March 1929

Who was Miss Roberts? Who were the Stratford Girls? How delicious that I will never know and could spend hours in conjecture. This message was written nearly fifty years before I was born. I've kept the piece of string and may well use it as a bookmark when I get round to reading this book.

So many charity shops these days only seem to stock books in excellent condition that are only a few years old. Is this what the modern customer wants? I'm a pretty frequent charity shopper (so frequent that I now have a loyalty card for St Elizabeth Hospice - yes, charity shops have loyalty cards now!) and I like seeing books that are getting a bit on the tatty side. They have more character. They show more love. Yes, a shiny new paperback with no cracks in the spine and immaculate front and back covers looks nice but the fact that is it so pristine is not exactly a recommendation. A book that shows wear and tear - now that's a book that has been read a number of times, evidence that it may well be worth reading.

I love the fonts in old books too. Not so much the ones on tracing-thin paper with as many words on the page as can be managed with the meanest size. I'm talking about the ones with generous (or at any rate reasonable) line spacing and serif fonts with ornate framing here and there and an old-fashioned illustrated border at the start of each new chapter or new short story. Illustrations that look old-fashioned to modern eyes used to Quentin Blake and Chris Riddell. Flourishes that look a wee bit pompous now but are still charming in spite of that.

I like history as well as reading so perhaps it's no surprise that I like old books as much as I do. They represent history. I hate to think of books like these being thrown away or pulped. Book-shops specific charity shops tend to have a more careworn collection in amongst the new and the untouched. The secondhand bookshop is something which is disappearing from our high streets, feeling the pressure from charity sales and cut price books, and these were also repositories for the battered and beloved books that I can be so drawn to.