As I write

As I write, it is a bright morning. I’m at my desk; and, outside – a seagull is loudly complaining about something. Occasionally, a car passes by; and, it’s through these noises that I know there’s a world out there waking up.

Yesterday, that world was a very strange place; and today, it will probably be even stranger. Scotland, like large parts of the wider world, is closing down. A microscopic virus has declared itself mightier than powerful governments.

In a small tunnel, not far from where I live, there is a poster – put up to celebrate the life of a Dundee busker who died recently. It was before the virus hit, so he did not die of it. He was not old. I remember walking through the tunnel sometimes, and I’d always give him some change, as he strummed on his guitar. He always smiled and thanked me. He looked like a good man. I was sad to hear that he’d died. I felt a little less sad when I saw that someone had gone to the trouble of printing a large poster of him.

My book-writing is going well, but I wish it was all done. It’s hard to wake and know that I must face the challenge of writing more, without losing focus or hope: that this is a book which will be published, one day. Books are like people – their lives are precarious.

In my library, there are around 3000 books. I’ve not read them all, but I’ve read a lot; and, I’m always in the process of reading more. And slowly, a kind of pattern of something like organisation has spread over my bookshelves – like an anti-virus, or the growing hope that much is worth learning because living, reading, and writing are like one thing to me.

There are still areas of chaos in my bookshelves – places where Freud sits beside comic writer James Thurber; or, where The Tale of Flopsy Bunny (embarrassed, non-viral cough) is beside Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution (a 3 volume ex Dundee library set from 1932). There’s no organisation on those shelves. They’re a remnant of the days when all my books were lumped together, in one self-isolating jumble sale.

Then, bits of my life made me want to understand enough about a subject that I could speak publicly about it, or write an article, a report, or a book. So, organised shelves began to appear amongst the jumble. Sitting together were – books about socialism, trade unionism and civil rights; books about poverty, welfare, education and health; books about spies; and sections on subjects as vital to me as air and sunshine: books on nature, Scotland, poetry, and collections of the works of individual writers – from John le Carre to Virginia Woolf.

Reading and writing have become part of me – a way of embracing the value of life despite its’ precariousness. A way to remind myself and perhaps others too – that it’s not the number of days that we have left which matters, but what we do in those days. What we make in this world, from a story to a society; from a doodle to great Art. We are always making the future – so, part of us will always be here.

Harvey Duke

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