I love old book stores.
Yesterday I found the City Basement Book shop hidden away between a couple of shops. A small single non-descript door and a long flight of stairs down into a squirrels den of musty, dusty books.
I remembered going into this store back in the early 1990s and now that I’m working in that part of the city, I wondered if it was still around. As I walked to work, I missed that door and so I thought it was a victim of modern life.
Yesterday, while walking home to the train station, I looked around me and scrutinised all the shops. Melbourne seemed to me to have become a dirty, grimy and grungy city over the years. It reminds me of Gotham City at times in some parts. I think it’s just that part of the city – down near King Street and Spencer Street, it always seems to be dark and wind blown. It doesn’t help that many shops, cafes and restaurants have now shut down.
As I was contemplating this, I saw the door to Basement Books! It’s still here with us!
I contemplated “should I go into the store OR go home?” I didn’t want to spend any more time in “Gotham” city, and figured entering a book shop, would mean a loss of substantial hours.
Nevertheless I went in.
I went straight to the fiction section and saw that they had many of Paul Auster’s and Graeme Greene’s books. However as I picked them up, after a while, I put them back on the shelf.
The shop is huge but down in the basement, it feels cloistered. There are stacks of books on the floors and it’s a rabbit warren. Every square inch of space seems to have books. I’m sure many haven’t been opened in years. There’s magazines too.
Walking around, I managed to crash two high book towers to the floor. Spaces were tight and my shoulder bag knocked to the ground with a loud crash. As I was picking up the books from the floor, I noticed even the towers were themed. Shackleton and Antarctica expeditions.
These book stores are amusing. The retail assistants all seem to have been there for many years, they’re not chatty at all, they’re more happy to stay behind the counter reading books until you’re ready to buy them. They don’t small talk.
When the book towers crashed to the floor, I started talking to myself and apologising to no one in particular. I’m sure I was heard by the assistant but no one came to help.
In a dusty musty second hand book store, no one can hear you scream. 🤣
Joking aside, I restacked the books then turned to face the Maritime shelves. They had an excellent collection of naval history books and that’s when I saw the account of the Mutiny on the Bounty by the great man himself.
There was no second guessing with this one. I bought it and headed home.
On the train, as all the people were looking down at their phones, I took out this book published in 1961, with its thin, yellowing paper, and started to read.
It’s something else to have a personal account by the man himself and I’m a bit of a Bligh fan girl at the best of times. I think he was misunderstood. He seemed to be a highly skilled and competent navigator surrounded by idiots. Maybe he took his duties and responsibilities a bit too seriously and didn’t understand why others didn’t do the same. As a result, I think he was frustrated. Maybe he didn’t know how to express himself. Then again what do I know?
Mutinies seemed to follow him around.
I’m looking forward to reading this book in his own words of how he may have spoke and it will be like he’s talking to me. It’s surprisingly readable and written with “dignity and assurance”.
Some years back, Andrew and I stayed in an AirBnB place for a few weeks in Lambeth when we went on a holiday to the city. (We travelled there from Melbourne JUST to stay in London and have a look see).
I remember saying to my husband, “We must go into that church and see it’s garden for which it is known for!” but for whatever reason, maybe because we were always either too early in the morning or too late coming back from a busy day exploring the city, we never did.
I still have the image of that church in my mind’s eye when I think back to walking the streets of Lambeth.
Obviously Bligh was giving me a sign every single day to come in and see him when I passed the church but I ignored him. Guess he is used to mutiny.