This post is about being given things and getting rid of them... and, at the bottom, how much unread books cost you...
A while ago, I muttered on here about trying to buy a new bike. Well, a reader on here gave me one. Yes, the lovely Hugh gave me an old mountain bike and I've been flying around town on it ever since. Which is just marvellous of them.
In a similar spirit, we had a party the other weekend where people brought along old books and DVDs and swapped them with other things. Less bring-and-buy, more give-and-take. Any books left over goes to charity. It was almost successful. Well, it was a lot of fun (we got drunk and ate cake), but taught me some interesting things about possessions.
PEOPLE LOVE BOOKS
They just do. A pile of spare Agatha Christies went in seconds. In fact, most of the crime fiction vanished. The literary fiction got tutted over - especially the more recent stuff (How The Beach and Brick Lane have gone out of fashion). The science fiction was either carried away instantly or sneered at loudly and longly (it is, actually, rather awkward trying to explain, at a distance of 20 years, exactly why I loved Greg Bear so much. As far as I can tell all his books ended with the world going explode).
But anyway - a book is a thing beloved and shared and tutted and picked over. They're not dead yet.
DVDs ARE THE VHS OF TODAY
When did DVDs stop being shiny things that we all loved massively? I was shocked when a friend announced he'd archived his entire collection onto a harddrive and was throwing them all out. Shocked and appalled... until I started going through my collection and ended up with a massive pile of things (CSI? Even for the tasty crime twink with nice hair? No). But what stunned me was that no-one wanted any of my DVDs (apart from a spare copy of Firefly). So, we took them to Cash Converters. Armfuls of them. Hundreds of pounds worth of shiny shiny discs... and got £18 for them. Sad, but then, unless it's rare, it's hardly even worth ebaying them. Isn't that odd? It's like they're obsolete. It's a good way of stopping me spend money buying more of the buggers. It's like my inner "50 quid at HMV" man died there and then.
I AM FICKLE
The nicest thing was admitting defeat. It actually felt liberating accepting that I will only ever like two Woody Allen films, that I will never finish a book by Angela Carter, or re-read London Fields. It's nice to look at things on shelves and think "crikey, when they released the X-Files on DVD the first time, they really got it right", or "Those reproduction Agatha Christie first editions look a lot nicer now that there's no Robert Bloody Browning near them". That said, there are still things on the shelf that I'm keeping as a badge of honour (I've suffered through Jude The Obscure. I want people to know this) or as a threat to my leisure time (Throwing away Ulysses is a step too far). It's also lovely having empty shelves... and knowing I'll fill them again.
AND FINALLY... I AM MEAN
Talking of cash, there's got to be a value to throwing things away.
Let's assume my flat is 300 cubic meters.
And let's take the average rental value of a flat in London to be £2k a month.
Some maths tells me that that's 24 grand a year for 300 Cubic meters. I get a bit confused here, and go "hrr, hrrr, hrrr", but I think that's £80 a cubic meter a year.
Let's take James Ellroy's The Dudley Smith trio (20 cms x 13 x 5), which clocks in at 0.0013 m3... 80 x 0.0013 tells me that that book costs 10 pence in rent a year. Every year it just sits on the shelf. And, as I've read 2/3rds of it, that 3p just hanging out there.
Taking this to extremes, a lego Castle takes up 0.036 m3 - which costs a whopping £2.88 a year.
And the cat, surprisingly, has a volume half that of a Lego castle. So she only need pay £1.50 a year.
I am now wondering about whether to introduce a levy on my boyfriend for being so damn tall.