ON WET BOOKS
Back in January 1985, I gave my husband Mike a special birthday present – Hugh Falkus’ huge tome on Salmon Fishing. Before wrapping it, I wrote on the flyleaf, adding the affectionate joke, don’t drop this one in the river! He managed not to drop it in the river, but instead managed the less picturesque feat of dropping it in the toilet – it having been positioned on a small shelf above at an unfortunate angle. We interleaved it with kitchen paper and dried out carefully over several weeks in warm, dry corners.
For Christmas 2004, I gave him David Hockney’s magnificent book on art; he had borrowed it from the library and instantly wanted it to keep. The book arrived and I wrote on the flyleaf before I wrapped it, avoiding jokes about water-related accidents. No need – fate intervened in the form of a tornado on January 11th. The book was in the office, and the office was one of the rooms which was unceremoniously divested of its roof that wild and dramatic night. As we had also lost the back roof in its entirety and the roof over both kitchens, we had to move out into an empty holiday cottage at the bottom of the hill and I remember sitting at the kitchen table with the sopping volume, carefully interleaving the pages with kitchen paper and drying it carefully over several weeks in warm, dry corners.
For Christmas 2014, I tracked down a fairly rare book by T.C. Kingsmill Moore, A Man May Fish. It appeared to be the only copy left in the British Isles, at the excellent Cochy-Bondhu Books in Wales, and I went to great lengths to ensure that when the package arrived, it would not be covered with their trademark bright yellow stickers which would have given the game away. Before I even got to writing on the flyleaf, the postie delivered it and left it in the microwave at the bottom of the hill – the trusty Hebridean solution to an airtight mailbox. A treacherous gust of wind blew the door open, it rained … and well, you can guess the result – yet another special book with the packaging soaked through.
Luckily, when I took a closer look, the book had been wrapped in bubblewrap and it was only the cardboard casing that had got soggy. In the past week of hurricanes, hail, rain and snow I have been careful to ensure that it has not been left anywhere where it might be dunked or dripped on. Perhaps this is Mike’s last wet book!