So some preposterous number of years ago, I interviewed Alan Plater at his then home, a spectacular flat in London. I was very young and rather nervous but wowed by how massive this place was and, especially, how full of bookshelves he and his wife Shirley Rubinstein had it. I wanted the flat, I wanted the bookshelves.
I particularly wanted the bookshelves. I’m not sure I could’ve vocalised this then, I suspect I just drooled, but it seemed a pretty perfect kind of place to live in.
Did I mention the size?
I came away thinking that London flats are superb and that bookshelves are fantastic. I was right about one of those things. While Alan and Shirley’s flat was glorious, it was actually two flats. They were knocked together into one long one and in fact few people in London live like that.
Shirley and Alan became close friends of mine after this but I never went back to that flat. They moved to a gorgeous house – and this time the knocking through and building on turned it into an even more gorgeous house with more levels and rooms and crinkly corners than can truly be appreciated in one sitting. Oh, and book shelves. Lots and lots of bookshelves.
I’ve just realised: when I watch Grand Designs or lesser property shows, my lip does curl just a little at those houses that have no bookshelves. Not fit for purpose, if you ask me.
But I like that I never went back to that flat. It makes that place and that moment a specific little bubble. I’ve never been one for lusting after houses and cars – possibly I have a bit for some Apple gear but give me a break here – but those shelves, that bubble, I wanted it. It felt inextricably bound up in what I wanted my career to be. I did lust after being a writer, even as I thought that was something other people did. Not me. Couldn’t be me.
Turns out, it could.
And all of this came back to me this week as I did a mentoring session over Skype. (I do mentoring for The Blank Screen and Other Stories now. It’s a thing.) During the natter, there was an oooh. Look at the shelves behind William.
I turned around, winced at how I’d forgotten to tidy up, but there they were.
Floor to ceiling bookshelves. Crammed.
Nowhere near as organised as Shirley and Alan’s, but bookshelves aplenty and akimbo.
I haven’t thought about this much in recent years but I’m thinking about it today. Because I look at those shelves of mine and I want them. Just as I wanted Alan and Shirley’s, all that time ago.
And I’ve got them.
A couple of them have copies of my books.
How in the world did that happen?