Saturday, 10 July 2010


I am generally pretty organised, I like to know the exact location of everything I might need during the course of the day, week, year even, so that I don't have to waste time searching. When cooking I can stick my hand in the spice cupboard and without looking pick out the cayenne pepper, cumin seeds, or whatever, because I know exactly, by feel, where it is.

Same with books: they are shelved alphabetically by author and I can go to the exact shelf on which all the Cs are without opening my eyes and grab Angela Carter's book of Fairytales should I need to. So imagine my horror when, having left it as late as I dare, I went to the S shelf on Thursday night to grab Muriel Spark's The Ballad of Peckham Rye, to reread it for the lecture I am to do on Tuesday, and found it not there.

Thus ensued the exact thing I try always to avoid: every bag was searched, couches were upended, papers scattered: no book. I remembered the difficulty of obtaining a copy last year, none of the bookshops had it and I had to buy it from a secondhand dealer on Amazon. I don't have time for Amazon now!

Yesterday it struck me that I might have lent it to Rhona (best friend, lives the other side of Glasgow) so phoned her. She was trying to get the kids, as they squealed in the background, organised for a trip to deep sea world, but, yes, she found it. She would post it immediately, special delivery.

So it has arrived. And I have learnt not to leave such things to the last minute ever again.

On another note: Lulu has inspired me, with her wonderful diagrams, to try one of my own. A new way to document the days and brighten the pages of my diary. Here is my first effort:


Pat said...

That could have been disastrous and makes one question the advisability of lending books, even to best friends. I only have one outstanding at the moment but I do lend rarely these days.
Steel yourself for much later on when NOTHING stays in its place and gremlins are everywhere removing things and depositing them in unlikely places. It's enough to try the patience of a saint.

Carole said...

Impressed that you remembered where the book could have been. And then you actually got it back in one piece.

Love the journal drawing. Very informative.

Dave King said...

Delightful - a very successful effort.

Scarlet Blue said...

You could keep a little note in the place where the book should have been... yes I am that anal.
Liking the pic a lot and might have a go myself - Lulu should have made this into a meme!

Lulu LaBonne said...

Aaargh mislaid books noooo...
I adore the map of your wonderful day, it conveys the joy of the thing so well

Scarls - I'd love it if this became a self-starting meme xxx

Kim Ayres said...

Love the picture! You could get one of those long rolls of paper like they used to tear strips off in art class at school, and document a year in a big drawing - a modern day Bayeux Tapestry :)

savannah said...

there was a recent panic on the plantation when the MITM discovered that a very-difficult-to-find-massively-expensive-and-who-the-hell-loaned-it-out dvd was missing. after a series of emails and phone calls it was discovered to be residing with his niece in nyc. y'all can just about imagine how he is about his books...re the journal drawing meme, i'd have to find my moleskin and start keeping a dead tree blog again. *sigh* i love y'alls illustrations! xoxoxox

(i think the last time i did any drawing in a journal was maybe 8 years or so ago when i was in paris.)

Pat said...

Savannah: can you scan them and post them? I for one would love to see them.

Leni Qinan said...

I'm glad that you could trace and recover your book.

I hate it when I lend books/cds/clothes/whatever and they're not returned; I've lost some appreciated belongings this way, so sadly after a few panic attacks and disappointments, I decided not to be so generous with my things.

I love the illustration of your diary. It looks naïve-style, and very appropriate for a diary.

Eryl Shields said...

Pat ~ it could certainly have made things very difficult, I like to be able to point students to exact passages so they can look them up at their leisure. Rhona is now the only person I ever lend anything to, but it's such a big part of our friendship, and I know I'll always eventually get the thing back, that I could never stop doing it. Those gremlins are already beginning to visit, I recently found cheese in the washing machine!

Carole ~ she is the only person I lend books to these days, actually that's not quite true I just lent one to Stevie's business partner and have lent poetry books to a chap he plays badminton with: crikey, now I think of it it could have been anywhere.

Glad you like the drawing, I suspect what it informs you of is that I can't draw though!

Dave ~ hello, haven't seen you for a while, keep meaning to pop over and see what you're up to. Glad you like the map, I enjoyed doing the trees.

Scarlet ~ that is the best idea, thanks! Do have a go, it could be a spontaneous meme, like life itself!

Lulu ~ you've started something, I really enjoyed doing it, at last a use for all the coloured pens I seem to have!

Kim ~ brilliant idea! Have you seen Grayson Perry's Walthamstow Tapestry, it's great?

Savannah ~ get those Paris drawings scanned in and share them with us!

Dead tree blog! you made me smile, XXX

Pat ~ she must!

Leni ~ there are very few people I would lend things to and only Rhona would I trust with precious things.

I think the illustration is naïve in more than style! Glad you like it though.

Crafty Green Poet said...

It's always so annoying when you find you've lent a book to someone just when you need it yourself! Glad you remembered where it was! I love your drawign by the way

Kass said...

I'm with Kim. I like the idea of a long roll of paper with your life drawn out on it.

Glad you got the book back. Muriel Spark is worth retrieving.

Elisabeth said...

Such order Eryl. I'm impressed. I wish I could boast the same but as I dragged out papers to sort out tax today in my still jet lagged state I wondered what my children would make of the mess their mother has left in her wake should I die today.

Hopefully I won't die yet and you solved your book problem too. Most problems tend to be solved one way or another but you're right, it's best to prevent problems as you describe if we can.

The Pollinatrix said...

I'm not quite as organized as you, but I do find that I can't function past a certain level of disorder. I just go mad.

As I read this I thought about how my two-year-old took every single book of her shelves yesterday and dumped them in a heap on the floor. Yeah, alphabetizing is simply not gonna happen.

Since this is the first time I've been here to comment in a while, I wanted to tell you - Congratulations on your graduation!

Eryl Shields said...

Crafty ~ can you believe I now have two copies, I think I might do a prize draw or something! Glad you like the drawing, I think I might try doing one every day – just for practise.

Kass ~ I really like that idea too, I might try it if I can find a roll around these parts.

So, are you a Muriel Spark fan, what's your favourite?

Elisabeth ~ welcome back, I hope you don't feel too out of sorts after your long trip.

I'm only organised about certain things: paper work, and financial stuff are a whole different matter, but I do hope to bring those into order some day. I tend to think that the more I can keep in check the more time I have to be creative, but it is a fine balance: I could spend all my time keeping order!

Polli ~ having a two year old doesn't make keeping order easy, or even possible. It's only in the last two or three years I've managed this level (and my son is now 24), and as you see it does slip, often.

Thank you for your well wishes, they are much appreciated. I do hope all is well with you, still.

angryparsnip said...

Love love love the drawing when I look at the drawing I see a fun and exciting day.
I have order to an extent but not anywhere near yours.
I do draw in the books I keep on my desks. I write stuff down like a phone number, address, book/movie I want, cut out from the paper or magazines and many lists. I write in a notebook or journal because I lose all those post it notes...but unfortunately there is also much scratching off with liberal amount of cursing... especially if it has to do with the x or my internet cable so I need to keep a nicer journal or learn better language.

Cheers, parsnip

The Unbearable Banishment said...

I have NO MORE ROOM for books. I have several cases filled floor to ceiling with collectible signed first editions, so when I finish a mere reading copy, I leave it on the subway or a bus. It's recycling!

Alesa Warcan said...

Images drawn in lines or drawn in words draw your readers towards the meaning of tale you weave.
A trace left on paper is safer as it faces the passing of time: engraved in ink, a link to the past, a memory made to last.

Charlie said...

Call me selfish, but I have a no lend policy regarding favorite or irreplaceable books. Want to read it? Try the public library.

I like your drawing because you do good trees.

A Cuban In London said...

Nice to know that there's a fellow OCD sufferer out there. When I lived in Cuba I used to organise my few books on my so-called shelf according to how I thought the authors would have related to one another had they ever met. That's why I had my Patricia Highsmiths next to my Raymond Chandlers. :-)

Greetings from London.

Eryl Shields said...

Parsnip ~ I bet those notebooks of yours, with their scratchings and curses, will make a great read one day.

So glad you like the drawing, I managed to silence my inner self-censor whilst doing it: an achievement in itself!

UB ~ you should join the 'book crossing' movement which is dedicated to passing books on, apparently you can track your books and see how far they travel. I would join it myself but the likelihood of anyone else being a member in this part of the world is beyond slim.

Alesa ~ that's very oracle like!

Charlie ~ I'll call you wise.

I'm very pleased with my trees!

Cuban ~ what a great game that would make, you could invite people to speculate about why you have put, say, Elizabeth Barret Browning next to Antonio Gramsci.

Alesa Warcan said...

Oracle, yep that's me. Breathing cookie vapors on the side of mount Parnassus. Baking peoples' noodles. : j

Terresa said...

Love the inspirational drawing. I would also love to meander your spice rack. Mine is much too small and overflowing at the moment. I bought a new container of ginger last week, only to bring it home and find my old one (sigh).

Hope your lecture went well, too. What did you lecture on?

Eryl Shields said...

Alesa ~ Oh, noodles!

Terresa ~ now you have an excuse to bake gingerbread before your ginger goes stale!

My lecture was on symbolism and ambiguity in The Ballad of Peckham Rye and we got a really good dialogue going (I hate to just stand there and bang on!) so I hope the students got something out of it. They were a nice lively bunch so I enjoyed it.

eroswings said...

First of, Congratulations on graduating!

And cheers for finding your book.

I don't organize books by authors first; I break 'em down by genre then authors. But I confess I'm much more organized with my clothes than my books or CDs. I've got clothes sorted by season, occasion, cut, color, and pattern.

Leni Qinan said...

Reading back your post, not only you have your bookshelves perfectly organised, but the kitchen also! I envy you!

I can spend a week looking for 'that small oven tray' or Baricco's 'Silk' and maybe end up finding them together in the sleeping room, LOL.

The World According To Me said...

I'm weird about lending people books, because I hate it when people don't return them! I too display them in an organised manner on my book shelves, and (like with most things) I become a little stressed if they are not in the correct place!
I'm glad you remembered you lent your friend the book and she returned it swiftly.
Love your diary pic.

nick said...

Our bookshelves (the spouse and me)are not only alphabetical by author but also chronological by year of publication. How pernickety is that? If I put a book back in the wrong publication order, Jenny is NOT HAPPY.

Our books go missing mainly because we decide we're never going to read X again, give it to the charity shop, and then six months later we desperately want to reread it because it was praised to the skies by author Y.

Eryl Shields said...

Eroswings ~ I'd love to have enough clothes to organise. And I'd love to have seasons: here it's either winter or almost winter, both feel much the same and require waterproofs.

Leni ~ what is Baricco's Silk, and what do you do with it and a small oven tray in the bedroom?!

Worldy ~ it's imperative, I think, that lending be treated like gambling: don't do it unless you are prepared to lose.

Nick ~ I need a diagram here, I can't quite imagine having two such filing constraints. Which comes first, author or year?

20 odd years ago I gave a pair of shoes to a charity shop and still miss them, never again. Oxfam supplies me with great quantities of books (for which I am very grateful and usually pay a bit more than they ask) but I will never reciprocate.

Leni Qinan said...


Alessandro Baricco is an Italian author and he wrote 'Silk', a book that I'm sure you'd like. The small oven tray in the bedroom explains the chaos in my flat... ;)

((It seeems that MJ and me are slowly resurrecting in Blogger!!! Hooray!!! Old ocmments are coming back!!!))

Eryl Shields said...

Leni ~ hurrah for that, I just left a comment on Eroswing's thread: better late than never!

I have Silk, it lives between Beryl Bainbridge and Sebastian Barry. I'd forgotten all about it (for some reason I thought of some exotic culinary ingredient when I read your comment), but now am very tempted to reread. No time, though, I have to research writing aid websites for a friend for tomorrow, and it's nearly bedtime!

Anonymous said...

Hello, just came by. I long ago abandoned the idea of an organized book case, does not work, the bastards move at night. The "Kettenbibliothek" was a good invention ...

nick said...

Oh, author comes first, natch. Otherwise we'd have to know year of publication of every single book. The mind boggles.

My fantasy is a microchip in every book, so you can locate it instantly with a remote, even if it's buried under the dirty washing.

Eryl Shields said...

Mago ~ oh dear, it sounds like you have literate ghosts!

Nick ~ thank goodness, I was trying to imagine a large book collection organised by date of publication and nearly had an embolism!

You should patent that idea and get it into production.

steven said...

hey eryl - so organized! i have found my way from organization to some sort of almost makes sense but doesn't always work organization. it's hard to describe but it's more intuitive than systematic. books - well they leave here and often don't return and that's alright because i know they usually make more than one and so i order another if i'm desperate. i love when my students take books and don't return them - that's like a flag to say that book was damn fine and i really need to get another one for the class! steven

Leni Qinan said...

Thanks for your comment in the Blogger thread Eryl! I really appreciate your support and collaboration.

Now ALL the comments in MJ's and my blog are back and we can comment with our Blogger username without being eaten by the Googlebot.

Hooray! *blows kiss and rises cava flute to you*

Eryl Shields said...

Steven ~ hello, are you back from your marathon (times a gazillion) bike ride?

I love your attitude to life: you are absolutely right especially as another copy can usually be got for pennies from Amazon, and there's always the library.

Eryl Shields said...

Leni ~ I am drinking a glass of Canadian Icewine (a gift from a friend) in celebration!