When you finally have a house that fits all your books
This is the fourth instalment in an occasional series of musings from Carly Thomas about her chaotic journey since buying a grand old country house and garden.
Words live in every corner of our old house. Whispers of lives, foreign countries, sage advice on when to plant artichokes, and gnarly tales of adventure.
Poe cozies up with Atwood. Gee, in reverence, has a whole top shelf to himself and Dahl tries to cheer up Plath. Every room is the domain of books. There are hundreds and it is the first time they have all found a nook under the same roof.
Before that, our houses were too small. The last place was a whimsical, yet wholly impractical for bookshelves, triangle, and our first one was the cutest button that you couldn't swing a cat in let alone the entire works of Shakespeare.
And so, yes, I am in heaven. My books are my most beautiful and cherished possessions and many of them have been hauled from flat to house and to the other side of the world and back again.
I have books with handwritten inscriptions on the title page that are as beautiful as poetry. I have a book printed in 1867 with hand-tinted drawings of hummingbirds. Four copies of The Bell Jar mooch in our house.
My mum is a prolific reader, a lover of a good yarn, and she encouraged reading under the covers with a torch. We had no money, but we had books. Later on, she had a bookshop and I used to to read the books and put them back on the shelves, bending the ones I loved so she would let me keep them.
I blame her for my addiction. I am a sniffer of pages, an op-shop dweller and a nose-in-a-book snob. They make me happy and I think they make this house happy. They also make me want to become a crazy old book hermit who reads and drinks tea all day, mumbling passages from Wuthering Heights.
I think Nancy, the previous owner of the Rahere estate, liked books. There are beautiful inbuilt rimu book cases in many of the rooms and plenty of reading crannies in the garden. That might be me being romantic. I am partial to The Secret Garden and, yes, I am quickly painting a picture of Nancy that is more watercolour than charcoal sketch.
But heck, isn't that what books do? They let us wander into another person's life, feel what they feel and see what they see through the open window of words. Like a garden, they give us refuge and beauty, and like my imaginings of Nancy, they let our minds wander.
They give our thoughts legs and books are necessary, just like chocolate, red wine and sea spray. They are life-giving, affirming and necessary, and if I crumble another pile of Nancy's house, they may also be useful as a makeshift hold-up.
The great tome of War and Peace would do wonderfully don't you think?