On the third day I decided I needed to leave the house and at least communicate with other human beings, so I went down to a local café to write. It was packed, but no one was reading. The most I saw was a group of people in Star Wars t-shirts hunched over a board game; and behind them a group of schoolkids sharing a large pizza and drinking Irn Bru. It was all quite lovely in a kind of gentrified way, but I just wish it could have been topped off with the sight of someone in chunky knitwear tucked away in a corner with a copy of Agatha Christie.
On the fourth day I don’t remember what happened because my notebook is torn and covered in coffee stains, but suffice to say I didn’t see anyone reading because I would have remembered.
On the fifth day, however, something extraordinary happened. On the bus a woman sat down in front of me with an e-reader app on her phone. I peered over her shoulder excitedly. The novel she was reading seemed pretty terrible, but it was better than anything I’ve ever written and at least it was fiction. Then in the park that day the sun shone and the air was unseasonably warm and on a park bench I saw a man reading an actual book. I was so happy I nearly screamed and slapped him on the back. I couldn’t glimpse the cover, but it was thick and had scuffed-looking pages and it looked as if he was enjoying it. Later on in the park I saw an athletic-looking couple who’d strung a wire between two trees and were walking across it barefoot trying to keep their balance—which is the kind of thing you often see in midsummer, but not usually February, and was the kind of thing that had feature writers in the Guardian penning anxious articles about global warming.
And so that was pretty much it for my week. For the last two days I saw no one reading. But this is not a curmudgeonly article. I understand: it’s hard to find enough time to read these days, and maybe everyone who is is reading on a phone. Reading a book is a niche pursuit: as niche, in fact, if this unscientific survey is anything to go by, as stringing a wire between two trees and walking across it barefoot. But it’s something many of us love to do if we have the time. Most of use probably have at least one book that has sat us down and kept us turning the pages until it’s finished.
So, if you see anyone out and about reading a book, let us know—Tweet us, post on Instagram. Whatever the book is, we at Ringwood will be sure to share your excitement.
By Dan Whitehead
Picture by Pexels