Screwing things up

It took me a few years to realise that I could change the spacing of my bookshelf. But once I learnt to do it, nothing could stop me; not even a shelf fastened with different and hard-to-remove screws.  A few days later, there was an ominous rumble and three shelves with my India collection collapsed, spilling books all over the floor and taking half the German section with them.

A younger lateral thinking David Kendall might have thought about why the shelf screws were different, version 75 does not have that functionality…

Rather a pity as I’d spent some time arranging my books after dusting and cataloguing. All my favourite books on Bengal were in easy reach, books about Ramahun Roy, Vidyasagar and the Bengali renaissance, my collection of Tagore and Vivekananda, Sunil Gangopadhyay’s novels, and my History of Bengali literature from 1911 together with Hobson Jobson. And the grim books were tucked away on a lower shelf beneath my sight line. Those that I thought it necessary to read but don’t want to focus on every day – on the unthinkingly racist British colonial communities in the nineteenth century, the horrors of Delhi after the insurrection, the massacres in Amritsar and after partition, and the Bengali famine. But now all was in a jumble and I felt like a Berlin trummerfrau in 1945 as I picked my way through the rubble (a very well fed trummerfrau admittedly).

I was rather proud of myself for not spending half the night trying unsuccessfully to put things to rights. I retreated to bed and read Trollope for a couple of hours after clearing up the worst chaos. And in the morning, I thought about why it had collapsed, which was unusual for an olympic level dyspractic like me. I replaced the screws I’d carelessly removed, thought about the distribution of weight and how to counteract the weakness of the structure which was less taut after being dismantled a couple of times when moving and exactly how far the support screws should be screwed into the side panel. And much to my relief managed to reconstruct the shelves and get them to stay put, glad not to have try to get hold of a carpenter in these infectious times and receive a four digit repair bill.

The arrangement of the books is admittedly not as satisfactory as it was; For technical reasons (concentrating the weight in the middle and not at the ends of the shelves), Vivekananda has to share a shelf with books about British Empire, which is not ideal. I have put William Darymple between them, which is the best I can do for the time being. I’ll improve this (slowly and gingerly) but the trauma of the collapse has to fade first…..

2 thoughts on “Screwing things up”

  1. Pity you didn’t spend more time listening to those physics lessons way back when! Or perhaps it was woodwork which failed you! Messrs Hilton and Kent must be having a quiet chuckle wherever they are now.

    1. Mt Kent in fact moved to Lancing in Sussex of all places though I imagine he’s dead by now. Physics was my weakest subject at school (leaving aside PT). I’m sometimes not too bad at establishing in my head how things work but instructions from my brain to my limbs do tend to get fuzzed up especially as regards the appropriate amount of force to be used and the relative size and exact location of objects in relation to other objects.
      So my guiding principles as far as the physical world is concerned are ”Don’t touch” , « Keep out of the way ». It wasn’t designed with me in mind. However, a collapsing bookshelf is such an extreme event striking at the heart of my well-being that even I had to mobilise my meagre practical skills!

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