Totally unexpectedly, I was given some book tokens yesterday. They were a completely unnecessary thank you for a very minor service I'd done someone, but nevertheless very very welcome, because I love book tokens.
Not, every one does, you know? I have three sets of god children, all in varying stages of growing up, and while the youngest are still at the stage where I wouldn't think of giving them a token, because anything that doesn't have wrapping paper that can be torn to shreds is a major disappointment, the other two groups have diametrically opposed views on the subject. The eldest, a grouping of three, now all in their thirties, demand the real thing. So what if I choose a book they already have? It doesn't matter. They want something I have gone out and chosen especially for them. The youngest of these has a birthday just days away from my own and we think so alike about literature that on three occasions we have chosen exactly the same book for each other. It can get complicated.
The middle group are both teenagers and for the last twelve years or so, they have been equally adamant about wanting tokens. I don't think it's to do with them not trusting my judgement, they will often ask for advice about what to buy, they just like going round the bookshop for themselves and weighing up the options.
And I'm with them. The thrill of being able to browse the shelves, knowing that you don't have to leave all those books behind, that you're in a position to take one or maybe even two, home with you without having to calculate whether or not you can really afford them, is wonderful. Some of you will have heard this story before, so I apologise in advance, but I think it's worth the retelling. Some years ago an ex-partner (and believe me, that ex is important) asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said that I would love some book tokens so that I could go and browse round my favourite bookshop looking for books that I didn't even know existed but which I would want as soon as I saw them. Well, Christmas morning came and we exchanged presents. I gave him the individualised, custom-made barometer I'd commissioned after he had admired the maker's work at an exhibition we'd been to and he gave me.......
An Electric Toothbrush.
You see why the ex was important.
Well, no electric toothbrush this time. This time I get the joy of deciding which bookshop I'm going to go to, browsing for a couple of hours, going off and having tea and cake while I think over what I've seen and then finally coming home clutching my wonderful and unexpected purchases. Could life hold any greater pleasure? Not from where I'm standing.