I’m surrounded by fire, year in and year out, day in and day out.
I’m not a smoker, nor am I some kind of professional fire-breather, I just live in an old house in an old country town. In summer, with bushland and paddocks just up the street, there’s the forever whiff of smoke; some days, when it’s bad, the sky is white with it, sirens rushing in this and that direction. In winter, to keep the house warm, there’s a fire in the living-room, another in the library, which really is a library, the shelves stacked and packed with books, novels mostly, though there are quite a few short story collections, and poetry collections too.
It’s the library I worry about the most, because the fire, which is actually a Hordern and Sons coal-burner that I use for wood, is surrounded by the books – a stray spark and whoosh up it all goes. So I’ve organised the books into categories: up high, as if I’m also worried about flood (in the past three years the river has flooded annually, though I’m alright in this regard – my house is high on a hill), are my favourite novels, the ones I’d risk life and limb to rescue. There’s a full shelf of these favourites, so if I really was in the midst of an emergency and only had a few seconds to decide I’d have to make the choices of a lifetime. As a trial run, as if this is a part of my Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan, I just ran from my writing room into the library and bundled up a baker’s – a writer’s – dozen.
Now, back in the writing room, piled on the desk, are thirteen books I’ve rescued in this mad drill…
Keep reading over at the Universal Heart Bookclub. Many thanks to Walter Mason and Stephanie Dowrick.