Monday, 15 October 2012

Voltaire and Rousseau! *Day 1*

Hello, mes amigos! I'm so happy to see you! Why? Becuase my blogger has been down for a grand total of 7 days. Shocking, isn't it? I expected better of you internet. I really did.

Anyway, now that everything seems to be working, I can show you what I've been writing for the last few days - a journal of my work experience. I was on my work experience last week in an bookshop called Voltaire and Rousseau. It's stowed away in Glasgow's West End, and it is amazing. Like, super super super awesome cool amazing. I really can't explain how much I loved working there.

But I can explain what I did each day, thanks to my journally thing I kept. So, without further ado, here's day 1. I'll post the rest of them throughout the week!

Voltaire and Rousseau - Day 1

As I write this, the books look like corpses.

It’s a sad analogy, but it’s true.  In this small, second hand bookshop in the West End of Glasgow, the books are piled to the ceiling and stacked on the floor. Their covers are dusty and their pages are worn. The titles, once so beautifully embossed in gold leaf, have now faded, and the illustrations on their covers are scribbled and covered with remnants of their owners - chewing gum, hair, grease, sweat. They are all dying. Each and every one of them. Even the new ones are dying, choked by the books piled on top of them.

But even so, I love this place. Its name is Voltaire and Rousseau, and it is here that I’m doing my work experience. The work borders on boring, but I don’t mind. I like the smell of the books and the smiles that students flash at me as they pick their way through the jungle of paper and leather. I like the cat too, even though it ignores me. I like the owners and I like the ambiance of the place, the calm that seeps into the air and into your lungs. It’s hard to feel stressed when you’re in that shop. Which is good, because I’ve been going through a lot lately. I might go into more detail about my problems later, but for now, let’s concentrate on the beauty of dying books and their dying bookshop.

Voltaire and Rousseau opened over 30 years ago, and as much as I hate to admit it, you can tell. The books stacked precariously at the bottom of piles are covered in dust. They haven’t moved since they arrived, and the amount of books that are on top of them, they aren’t likely to move again. They are paralysed - just another victim, just another corpse.

The owners - a set of brothers - amble around the shop, occasionally shifting books or making tea in the back room. Like I said earlier, it’s hard to be stressed in here. Even so, you can see the worry in their faces. They still get customers, but the online book industry has hit them hard. Before, they were taking in boxes of books at a time, but now, they can’t take any more. The stock isn’t shifting, despite the insane amount of students that bustle in and out of the shop every day.

Me, I don’t do much. I sit and read, I shuffle books, restacking them so they don’t tip. I drink the tea that has been handed to me by Ian McGonnigle, one of the brothers. I place books on the top of shelves and I clear up the books that have, through a change in air current or the whisper of the cat’s tail, fallen to the ground and refused to stand up again. I move the wounded. I clean the dirty. I help the students who are looking for the poetry section (so well hidden it took me a moment to find it amongst the plays and novels). I let people walk past me as they saunter round the shop. It’s calming work.

Today, the first day of my work experience, only one incident made me stop in my tracks. It was nearing lunchtime and Ian had pulled a stool outside for me to sit on. I had been searching for inspiration around the long forgotten shelves and rare books, scribbling things down in my notebook when Ian had asked if I wanted to go out. I sat my notebook on a pile of books, and went to pick up my bag.

That was my first mistake.

Any writer knows the feeling of fear in their stomach when someone reads their notes. You’re being violated, probed, examined. Someone you don’t know is reading your innermost thoughts and feelings and characters and plots and ideas. Someone you don’t know is ripping you to shreds.

Which is why I was horrified to find that a group of students had picked up my notebook and were picking through it as I grabbed my jacket from the floor.

I didn’t think.

Perhaps I should have.

I ran over to the students (two girls, one boy) and grabbed the notebook from their hands. Confusion, like a blanket, settled over their faces first, but it was quickly replaced with something that looked like shock. And then realisation.

“Oh God,” the boy said, his brown eyes widening to the size of saucers. “Was that- Is that yours?”

I nodded, hugging the notebook to my chest.

A flurry of apologies whipped the air around me: “I didn’t was just sitting there...we thought it was a novel...there was a short story...I’m so sorry...”

After a moment of watching the trio blush I forced a smile. “It was my fault,” I said. “I shouldn’t have left it out.”

“No, no, it was us...I’m so sorry...we didn’t mean to...”

I shook my head, and after a few moments of silence, the trio, still red faced,  turned away.

Everyone always complains that I have messy handwriting. They say I should tidy it up, that I should teach myself to write properly.  But why would I want to? Why would I want my writing to be so easily accessible to the public? People called Da Vinci strange and weird for writing left to right, but can you really blame him?

That was my first day at work experience. I’m nervous for tomorrow. But I'll be fine. I know I will. 

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