Tuesday, 18 June 2013


The photo here is descriptive of how a ship gets put in a bottle. It’s a thing I did, for a while, a few years ago, when I wasn’t writing. That period began when my children were at primary school and were being asked to make things for homework – a boat (its hull a halved water bottle), a bridge (string and toilet-roll tubes to raise Tower Bridge) – and then I moved in closer. The photos below show a fraction of what got made.

The first photo has parrots that dip and rise when you turn a handle, and my children at the age we made these things. The Chapeaux de Napoleon have batteries: no turning, just press the switch (bottom right). The box with ships also has batteries: switch (again bottom right) and the lighthouse flashes. Papier mâché factories, painted pink. The bottled ship: there were around 20 of these. The big wheel: turn the handle and the wheel turns too. There was a roundabout too. And those were the end: my children were growing away, leaving me stranded as a toy-maker.

My father left school at 14 to work in the iron foundry that his own father had helped establish. My mother was a ‘home-maker’ and was raised a Methodist, and I’m still not convinced that sitting at a desk all day constitutes work. Unless I engage manually with actual physical stuff, I’m not sure I’m doing anything. This why CBe does not, so far, publish ebooks – it’s the thinginess of the physical object that makes a book a book. This is why I collect the printed books from the printer myself and lug them over to the warehouse. This is why, though I’m not at all sure about how the pop-up shop (below) is going to work out through the week, I’m looking forward to the morning of Monday, July 1st, which is when we move into an empty space and set up.


Yulia said...

Hi Charles,

It's Yulia, from Tokyo! How have you been? I haven't checked your blog in a while- I've been a bit busy trying to live in this new city, but I happened to think of you when I went to Jimbocho, the book town in Tokyo (independent and used book stores galore). Anyways, I really like this post. An honest and unpretentious defence for real books. I'm planning on writing a short article about Jimbocho, would you mind if I quote you from this post? Naturally I will link your blog as well.


charles said...

Yulia, yes, of course, and I look forward to reading the piece - C