We come back to bookmarks. We leave them, sometimes in the heat of the moment, between chapters, as the bus arrives at our stop. Later, our fingers search for the familiar touch. Hardly think about it, but recognition: we're back. And perhaps it's more than a day later, perhaps several years, on a different bus in another town, and the bookmark brings us back to that moment precisely.
Sometimes a bookmark is just a bookmark. Look at that one from Skoob, with a handy map on the reverse. Because I go to Skoob several times a year, that's not exactly a moment in time being pinpointed (though I think, because it was inside a Mollie Hunter, that I picked it up the day I went with Hunter's label-mate Roy Gill). That said, the Bookmongers bookmark - from Brixton - is such a thing of beauty I have it on a pinboard, not even in a book.
And then there's that Hogarthian Room of Ones Own Inc. I've never been there. In the imagination it's more splendid than Skoob and Bookmongers combined, though such a place could only exist in the imagination...
Yes, that's really what I'm talking about, today. Not my bookmarks but the ones others have left behind. Like this Glyndebourne card receipt for Ms Julia Aries, uncovered in a Mary Webb novel. I've been to Glyndebourne actually - yes, I can hardly believe it either - and it's such a strange, unreal space, and any visit you make is fixed in your memory, who you were with, what you saw, the pic-nic you had, and what you talked about in that long interval in the twilight between arias. Was Julia reading Gone to Earth that evening? Were the two associated?
Sometimes the link is very strong, like this obituary for the great silent movie star, Louise Brooks, which I found long ago in a her autobiography. Brooks had the most extraordinary life: a star at the height of the flickering firmament, muse for a German director, then snubbed by
Hollywood, forgotten, believed dead, belatedly feted by ardent cinephiles.
And can't you just imagine an ardent someone trimming that obituary from the paper and slipping it in this book, with a heavy sigh?
Some associations are more obscure. Why does my copy of Carrie's War have a £10 Monopoly note between its pages? What about this photograph, tiny, which fell out of something - bugger me, if I can remember what book it was - showing Observation Point - Grand Canyon -
And tinier still, perhaps my favourite. In a Brighton charity shop, a shop for an AIDs charity, a young me hunted through the many gay-themed books on the shelf, lighting upon a small pornographic novel from the 60s entitled Young Knights by Sir Todd Ritchards (sample line: 'Then Torre knelt between the legs and taking the small jar he had nearby, opened it and reached in and withdrew a kind of lotion Todd had remembered using when polishing silver in Lyoness.') It has a lot of black and white photo illustrations, and on the opening page, 'To Tony with love Rob xxx'
Are you tantalised by what might have been left among the pages of this mucky little touchstone? Simply a bus ticket, a single, in August, for the Maidstone & Dist. Motor Services Ltd. 26 pence, I think.
And right away, I'm there on that bus - I'm travelling through
Maidstone, maybe heading to Hastings, Faversham or Tenterden, and I'm carrying this book with me. I'm probably reading it on the back seat. Or am I giving it to somebody, while we're waiting at the stop, saying goodbye, trying not to make it obvious to the other passengers? It's a tiny ticket - when I was hunting it out tonight, I thought with a sinking heart that I'd lost it. It would be easy to lose - but it made it to me, and hopefully I'll keep it there...
I thought I'd write about things found in books - marking a place or a time. I found this green bookmark yesterday, made by John Paul, probably in 1991 when Street Fighter II was released and the Simpsons were surrounded by an aura of cool although nobody at my school had seen an episode.
The bookmark was in a Reader - something I should talk about on here properly, before the blog closes. I'm especially fond of Classroom Readers because they're designed to engage the imagination and then be discarded. Most of us will have read one from some reading scheme. Last year I was fascinated to find that the same woman - Sheila McCullagh - wrote most of the ones I'd heard of: the houses with red, blue or yellow gables (denoting reading fluency), the red, blue or yellow pirates, the blue, green, orange and purple
Puddle Lane books, Tim and the Hidden People.
Yes, I'll talk about that another time - but here was a book that was made to be put aside, and here was the bookmark inside it, and 'street' in Street Fighter II is spelled wrong... And you wonder, don't you, where John Paul is now, what he's reading now, and what he remembers of 1991.
We come back to bookmarks... What have you found?