June 2013

Pakka is now nearly ten years old and still demands a walk first thing in the morning. I suppose our relationship is a little different from the usual cat and owner bond. From her earliest days going out I have walked with her, and now we walk together almost daily – usually very early (to avoid dogs) and return home about an hour later. That is unless I am on an early shift for work, when the walk might be shorter, or giImageven up altogether.

She doesn’t walk on a lead, and would be most annoyed should I attempt to restrict her movements. Should I stop for any reason, she will halt too, and will sometimes sit down to wait for me. Other times I will wait for her as she investigates the long grass, tall trees, rabbit holes, foxes, or the bramble bushes on the common.

She will come if I call or ring a small falconry bell I have, when I return from work in the evening and she is out – often running up the garden. She will call if she needs me to wait for her when we are out together, and will use me as a lookout post; running up my legs and torso to stand on my shoulders to gaze out over the common. She is a cat with attitude. She is a hunter, as all cats are, and she will often bring home small creatures and release them. Over the years I have spent many hours moving furniture around the house to enable me to recapture and then release something small and furry or feathery, back onto the common or the riverbank. She chases foxes, other cats and dogs, when she can, which can be an embarrassment, but on the whole we understand each other.

In the daytime she can go in and out as she pleases, however at night I keep her in; for her safety and also to ensure that she doesn’t hunt through the night.

I work for a large book chain and spend a large amount of my time selling books to children. Usually I sell them to young people between the ages of five and twelve and thirteen – for younger customers I usually deal with their parents, and many older customers have clear ideas about what they need and don’t feel the need to have advice of any sort. Not to say that doesn’t happen, however it is more rare.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of persuading someone to read, especially if they have been brought into the store and the comment has been made that he or she ‘doesn’t read’ – an assertion made almost always with a finality; that they never will.

I’m afraid that I often dispute that and will often ask the ‘responsible adult’ who has come in with them to go and shop in the adult end of the store, while I talk to the young boy or girl who has come in.

Part of the success I have with this is that I read the books and so I’m able to give more enthusiasm to the review of the book I am suggesting. There is nothing worse than being told baldly that

‘It’s a very good book. I loved it when I was a child…’

That means very little…and I enjoy introducing good books that I love to my young friends in the store – and it is really like introducing two friends of mine who don’t know one another, one is a young boy or girl and the other, just happens to be an extremely good book.

This blog will I hope be about Pakka and our lives living together and about books too. Some of which may be antiquarian (or at least second hand) and others will be modern, usually children’s books.

Every month I try to go to the PBFA (Provincial Book Fair Association) book fair at the National Hotel, near Russell Square with my father – he collects privately printed books, whilst I collect falconry volumes when I can afford them, books on natural history and of course books written and illustrated for children.

The June PBFA book fair was much more busy than usual and we had to wait to get close to the stalls, but other than that it was a very good fair.

Years ago I acquired through a friend of Dad’s a copy of The Mirror of Hawks – loose from its boards; it is a Japanese volume originally published in 1870, or there about, with wonderful wood engravings of falconry. I had my copy rebound and have kept it safe ever since.

Then a few years later, I came across a photocopy of the book, in green boards and purchased it at the fair for a very reasonable price; it is still inscribed with what I paid, under £10.00 – so a double enjoyment over a lovely falconry book.

In the June fair, I came across the photocopied book – marked at £50, and then the original, as mine, at £100 – quite astonishing – and to find both at the fair was really very odd indeed.

I sell copies of Ferdinand the Bull (Leaf) at work for about £6.50 and found yesterday a copy (its true a hardback first edition) marked at £400 – it was in mint condition and was published, I think in 1935/6 – but it still seemed a lot when compared to 12 volumes of a natural history series, complete in brown leather that I fell in love with

–        Ward, Samuel: A modern System of Natural History. Containing accurate descriptions and faithful histories of animals, vegetables, and minerals. Together with their Properties and Various uses in medicine mechanics and manufacture etc. 1775-6


£75 for each volume in comparison with £400 seems quite reasonable…and it was another 160 years older. The wood engravings were lovely and the text was inaccurate, but full of certainty…gorgeous.

Still I left it with the bookseller to go back to Suffolk. Looking on Via Libri our Internet site we use for books, I find the volumes sold separately ranging from £12 each through to around £60…so maybe it was a reasonable set.

More successfully I recently received a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately the Milk from Bloomsbury via work. I was particularly chuffed that it is signed both by the author and the illustrator – Chris Riddell, which made up a little for my missing out on Samuel Ward’s set of books. It is a fun book – particularly for those young readers whose father lies to them regularly – as mine has done. The illustrations by Chris Riddell are as usual superb.

On an early morning walk recently the morning was cold, windy and grey – clouds making the sky darker than it might have been at four in the morning. Pakka spent some time bouncing around in the long grass and sticking her head down rabbit holes. She then bolted to her favourite tree, which is enormous, though I have never found out its type, however, it has a good selection of branches that go up from about ten foot at regular intervals and she loves to go up and up and call when she is really small, looking down on me beneath. Usually she scrambles down to the lowest branch and then leaps to my shoulder.

On that morning she came down to that branch and then got the wind in her tail and leapt onto a branch that is about 3 foot in length that sticks almost vertically up from the join of the bottom branch and stops abruptly – I think it once had some tree surgery done on it rather badly.

She missed the top, did a spectacular spin in the air over her back and was about to come crashing down the trunk, when she saved herself by sticking all her claws out and halted. Hanging down the short branch, back to the bark, attached mainly by her front claws. She managed to scramble back up onto the stump and then dropped down onto the branch below, where she had a quick wash.

At that point I insisted she return home with me and we walked back, she with her tail in the air and behaving as though nothing untoward had happened at all…

I hope to write an entry once a month, more if I can – so I hope to have another episode for you in July.