Anyone got the recipe for kooky cake?
If it exists, I’m pretty sure I know where to find it.
Naturally that’s where every other odd, fandangled and rarely thought of item is slapdashedly holed up these days – your local trash or treasure thrift shop.
You might have to search a little for it but with any luck and some dedicated fossicking, the sought-after item from a land time forgot will glide magically into view – positioned right alongside last century’s hand tools, mismatched beige china plates by the hundred, dusty relics of what previous generations considered sporting equipment and naturally that ‘ol family favorite… the messily stacked and completely ramshackle collection of pre-loved but still-in-the-original-box jigsaw puzzles – every one of ’em with missing pieces… of course.
My local is not so much a shop as it is a depot. Cavernous and musty are the order of the day. Once inside, and having managed to sidestep the two life-sized female mannequins guarding the entrance-way – mannequins that looked for all the world like the one sharing crazy-pants Howard Payne’s apartment in the movie SPEED (1994) – I fairly predictably headed straight for the second-hand books section.
After some time browsing…
and finally hoisting the white flag of surrender to concede there was nothing of interest here on this day for me, I quickly changed tact and set myself the challenge of finding the oldest book there.
The first few I inspected were relics from early eighties publishing. “Nah”, I thought to myself in a superior tone, “I can do better than that.” It wasn’t long before I was in 1970’s territory and then, finally, like a vision of battered and aged loveliness before my eyes, titles from the swinging 60’s began appearing before me.
One of these I ended up buying for thirty cents. THE STORMS OF SUMMER is the 2nd novel (his first novel, published the same year as this one, was apparently described by Ian Fleming as “one of the outstanding thrillers of 1960”) of British author John Iggulden. Set in Australia, it’s a coming of age story about a young architecture student.
The inside cover reveals the publisher was CHAPMAN & HALL LTD (London). If that name doesn’t ring a bell then know this – these guys were the publishers for Charles Dickens – confirming this book does link hands across the mists of time with the ancients (ok, the slightly modern 19th century ancients).
For the curious, the opening sentence of this 351 page literary time capsule reads –
“At Ashford, when the other passengers climbed down from the service car and stretched their legs while they waited for their dusty luggage to be handed down from the rack on top, Charles Desborough realised that he must be the only one travelling through to the Inlet.”
And for the speed readers, the concluding sentence is this –
“You’re not like that, Charlie,” Tanie said again, not quite understanding all that he had meant.
But I wasn’t done just yet…
For I was about to hit, what in archaeological circles is known as ‘pay dirt’.
Real history and a TRUE discovery were about to be unearthed.
It was to come in the form of a spectacularly well-worn copy of a novel by English writer Evelyn Everett-Green (1856 – 1932), who is recorded as having written more than 300 books in her lifetime.
SWEEPIE tells the story of the adventures of a little girl, a lot of which seem to take place in a garden. It’s 243 pages long and was first published in 1918. I don’t know if the copy I bought on this day is a first edition but I’m going to say it is. That makes this book 101 years old! That also makes this book the oldest thing I own.
The incredible journey of how many hands this book passed through to reach me is a wondrous thought and one I find completely fascinating. Then again isn’t there some old saying about the molecules of air we breath today are the exact same ones the great Roman ruler Julius Caesar inhaled through his lungs some 2000 years ago? (For a solid debunking of this theory click the manuscript length green stuff here – https://medium.com/magazines-at-marquette/is-it-true-that-were-breathing-the-same-molecules-once-breathed-by-the-dinosaurs-julius-caesar-or-decaf242fe8b
And just because I did it with the previous book here’s the opening sentence of SWEEPIE –
“I will not, then!” said Sweepie.
And the closing one –
“I’m going to be her chum now and until I’m grown up, and then I’m going to marry her, so that we can live happy ever afterwards; and the name of that ripping little pal of mine, who’s worth her weight in gold, is just – Sweepie!”
Adding to the find of this book (which has a wizened face like an overstored red apple) is a handwritten inscription pasted on the inside front cover –
Central State School – Maryborough – 1930 – Presented to Betty Leityee for Proficiency Grade IV
And that friends, is just one reason every now and then I choose to imbibe from the bottomless but still warm coffee mug of yesteryear. Geez, when it comes right down to it…