Some of you may know that I'm being evicted next month. Those of you who didn't, learn it now. In a few bare weeks, we must leave our isolated little house on the prairie after three years of strange smells, damp stains and bliss. No neighbours, no traffic, no noise except the endless guttural moaning of sheep all around us. A large sprawling garden. We've adored living here - it's a dream house for a writer, especially one with noisy children - but the landlord wishes to sell, so that's the end of that.
I've been skirting round the dreaded act of packing for the past few weeks, buying boxes and packaging tape, chucking away non-essentials and drawing up To Do lists, but not actually rolling my sleeves up and starting to pack.
But today, all that changed.
I have now emptied two five shelf bookcases of their books - no mean feat, we're talking double rows on each shelf - and their spiders, spider corpses or skins, acres and acres of sticky cobwebs, and little scurrying creatures moving too fast to be identified.
Clearly, 'normal' people keep their bookcases dusted and in pristine condition, not to mention alphabetical order. But we're not normal. Most of our bigger bookcases lurk in dark corners and tend to be used by the kids - and the occasional adult - as a useful place for hiding toys, sweet wrappers, odd bits of paper, coils of wire, old telephone books, coins, Anglo-Saxon rune cards, empty crisp packets, plastic necklaces, spent batteries, rolls of cellotape, discarded teeth ... all of which are crammed between, behind, or on top of the books.
Then there are the 'forgotten' books on the top of the bookcase, the ones too bulky, heavy or tall to fit onto the shelves. The ones that spiders and their pale spindly-legged progeny really adore.
Ugh. Theatrical shiver.
Even now, hours later, I'm still itching. By methodically cleaning each book as I took it down and packed it away, I managed to get covered in a thin layer of dust and cobwebs myself. I was wearing a sleeveless top, so you can imagine the state my arms were in after two bookcases' worth. I had dust in my hair and mouth, and crooked spidery things clinging to my cleavage. I could even taste dust on the rim of my tea mug.
And though I started off promising to throw out or donate to charity shops at least 40% of these books, because we simply can't take all of them with us, I've ended up barely able to part with 10%.
It's all utterly ridiculous, of course. What on earth do I want with an ancient tome of recipes inspired by and illustrated with Toulouse-Lautrec paintings? Yet I can't bear to part with it. Endless tedious books on Kipling; I have no interest in Kipling, but they belonged to my mother, so what can I do? Ditto foreign editions of her novels, or half a dozen copies of each of her most popular paperback romances, all needing to be housed safely for future generations to ogle and admire. And until tonight I had no idea that we owned five different editions of Keats' poetry, in varying conditions of decrepitude.
But you never know. Books are fragile things. Fire, flood, divorce, will do for most of them. Better hold onto these different editions, just in case the worst occurs. Similar duplications of Donne, Milton, Pound, Yeats, Coleridge, Byron ... though no sign of Shelley or Wordsworth anywhere. Good taste prevails, thankfully.
Tomorrow I will tackle the least-used books in my study. No need for dusting here. But still the hideous dilemma of which books must go into storage - we'll be moving somewhere smaller - and which will make it to the new house. And to put my misery into grim perspective, this will be my seventh house move in seven years.