Today is the day Japanese 20-year-olds put their best suits or kimonos on and go to the local city hall to meet friends and listen to dull speeches. It’s a national holiday, and, having a mild cold, I celebrated it by acting as old as I possibly could: I even had prune-flavoured yogurt on my bran flakes this morning. I browsed the internet for home hints, three of which I tried; I had leftovers on toast for lunch; I put away, finally, my Christmas and New Year’s Card paraphernalia; I washed a scarf in the sink; I read on the sofa for a few hours, and if I’m really ambitious soon, I will make a pot of tea and read for a few hours more. I’ve got BBC Radio 3 on in the background and I’m wearing a chanchanko. I don’t think I’ve left anything out.
Every Christmas, Fred and I send each other secondhand books. I’m presently getting tucked into one of them now: Halfway to Hollywood, Michael Palin’s second collection of diaries. I was surprised when it arrived, because it appears to have been a library book: along a scribbled-out barcode on the front cover, I can make out ” Mesa County Public Library District” and on the inside cover, a boldfaced stamp in red ink: Withdrawn. Now, a quick Google shows me that Mesa County is in Colorado. I think Fred ordered the book from a shop in Seattle ( via Amazon). It’s now in Osaka and I can only imagine why it was withdrawn. This edition is only from 2011; it’s in excellent condition and still has the cellophane dust jacket over the dust jacket that all hardcover library books have. There can’t have been a surplus of Michael Palin Diaries in Mesa County, Colorado, so how did I end up with it? A library closed? A local Republican grandee came across the word ‘bum’ several times and had the book banned? Being a Python, Palin does quite freely use the word ‘bum’, and there is some discussion among the Pythons early on about the making of a short film called ‘Penis Apology’ to show at the beginning of ‘Life of Brian’ (in which you do see Graham Chapman’s willy for about two seconds). But that wouldn’t be it. For all the benefits of eBooks ( and I did read about 20 of them last year) they don’t have the story behind them that old books do.
Is it dinner time yet?