I joined the Book Club although I had never ever read a book since school. You may wonder why. Well, you’ll probably guess that there was a girl involved, one who went to the Book Club. I fancied her, fancied her desperately. I knew her at work. We had chatted inconsequentially at the drinks machine as the plastic cups clattered down one by one, each followed by a defiant hiss of steaming liquid. One day, she told me about the Book Club. She evidently thought I looked bookish – or rather she fancied me as I fancied her. Well, so I hoped. She just used the Book Club as a catalyst for our future relationship. I jumped at the bait with enthusiasm, but then immediately regretted it when she told me that I needed to read an actual book – a very large one as it turned out with tiny print and an unattractive cover that I had to buy in WH Smiths – it was titled BARGE – and I needed to talk about it, she told me, with the other members of the Book Club.
Well, I did read it religiously. It taught me long words like ‘catalyst’ and ‘judicious’. I gave up all my favourite TV programmes. And, surprised as I am to report this, I actually enjoyed it. I never understood the significance of the title, though. Anyway, this was the first time ever I had enjoyed any book.
I expect you will guess, by my tone, how the plot now turns – because, predictably, when I arrived at the Book Club (fat book in hand), the girl who had invited me was nowhere to be seen. I never saw her again at work, either. And, incidentally, they replaced the drinks machine with a tea-lady pushing an urn on a trolley. I now have a nostalgia for drinks machines.
I have a nostalgia, too, for TV programmes because, soon afterwards, they did away with TV sets and replaced them with large wirelesses, ones with glowing consoles and wickerwork speakers. Oh for the good old days of big black plasma screen on the wall.
A lot came from reading that book it seemed. And I generally became an avid reader as I listened to Mantovani music on the crackly wireless. Eventually, I married the tea-lady. She looked much younger without her overall. And we lived happily ever after – like the ending of that first book I’d read since school.
I never returned to the Book Club because they started using Ipads and Kindles instead of real books.
One day, I did think I saw the girl who had first invited me to the Book Club – in the distance, sitting on a park bench. She was much older, but I could tell it was her. As I got closer I found her reading a real book and sipping a drink from a plastic cup. She half-smiled. I was never sure if she recognised me. I went off to WH Smiths – but it was shut. So I returned home to the wife who was knitting in the corner of our silent candlelit sitting-room. Somehow her dress was kept nicer by the judicious use of her old overall.
Life continues to go by outside the window.
Written yesterday (slightly amended today) as a speed-writing exercise at the Clacton Writer's Group