The Story of My Shelves.

‘Where are we going on our holidays?’ asked the Small Girl, for the umpteenth time.
‘We are going to Sofa,’ replied Teenage Daughter with admirable resignation.

You see, following last year’s fiasco (matchbox chalet teetering over a cliff in driving rain), I determined that the family’s holiday budget would, instead, be spent on a blue velvet sofa. Yes, I do feel guilty. Not very, but a bit. In fairness, with some teasing, the holiday budget stretched to a sofa, a chair, two rugs and SEVENTY-SIX (!) shelves.

I put a post on Instagram back a bit. This picture:


With these words:

When Husband first came to call on me in my college bedsit my fledgling book collection was lined up on a lovely marble mantelpiece. To his dismay, my microbiology/biochemistry tomes were liable to topple over the edge at inopportune moments. ‘I should build you a book shelf,’ he said. I replied, in my head or maybe even out loud, ‘you’re the one.’

The One and I have a history with book shelves.

That first set of shelves was handsome. He built a tall space for my folders of lecture notes, a middle shelf for science books and two shelves that snugly accommodated my rapidly expanding collection of fiction…there were signs of things to come there.

He carried that bookcase on the bus to deliver it to my bedsit and I was certain then that no-one on Earth had ever loved me more.

IMG_8579 (2)

It was, let me think, nine years later that we moved into our first house, together with Toddler Boy and Baby Girl. We had just spent 12 weeks in Florida while Husband went through training for his new job. We were forced to cancel a week’s holiday in New York because of visa difficulties but we were happy enough to come home and pick up our very own house keys from the Auctioneer and use Husband’s holiday (clearly, I have form on this one) to build some bookshelves. We hadn’t a stick of furniture, you know. The in-laws donated an old garden table and two deck chairs so that we wouldn’t have to eat off the floor and still, my priority was the bookshelves.


Husband was younger then, weren’t we all, and he banged up those shelves in a couple of days. We gave them a coat of gloss and took a day off while the paint dried.


There was an abandoned summer house in Glandore, owned by Husband’s Godfather but not used, where we knew that there were trees laden with forgotten apples. We made peanut butter sandwiches for Toddler Boy (it was a phase) and filled a flask of coffee and drove our rusty banger down the road to West Cork. We were so happy, bubbling with joy. We were totally besotted with each other and with the children and so excited about decorating the house and so convinced that we could never want for more.


We picked bags of apples, cookers and eaters, and then lay back on the grass and soaked up the golden light. It was an exceptionally golden day.


The garden ran all the way down to a private beach and we were much taken by surprise when a naked man emerged from a gap in the hedge. Mind you, he was caught even more off-guard. We sheepishly explained our tenuous entitlement to have trespassed while he covered his assets and admitted he was the gardener. We parted with a mutual confidentiality agreement.


Cast out of Paradise, we took a stroll through the village of Glandore. It’s a spectacularly beautiful place, a sheltered bay dotted with picturesque islands, handsome Georgian houses standing guard around the coast and a neat row of pubs holding the centre. You couldn’t find any place prettier on a sunny September afternoon which is why we had our wedding reception there.

(This next photo, by the way, is probably the best representation of the paint colour, it looks a bit, more than a bit, lurid in most of them.)


As we passed an open pub door we overheard an odd sound, a collective gasp followed by a low groan. The sort of sound you might associate with a narrowly missed opportunity to score at football only with a sense of greater anguish. A man strode purposefully out the door as if looking for someone to tell:

‘A plane crashed into a building in New York.’

You know the rest.


We drove home with the kids asleep in the back and the radio on. We were on the Clonakilty by-pass when the second tower fell. Funny the things you remember.

When we got home we set up the telly on a box of books (the shelves still weren’t dry) and sat on our two deckchairs and thanked God for visa difficulties.


We moved into this house exactly ten years later. Through all the two-year-nightmare of purchasing, planning, demolishing, building and near bankruptcy I maintained my sanity by living mostly in my imagination.


Officially, our planning permission was for an ‘extension’ but, in reality, we knocked everything except the front facade and this room. When there was nothing else, genuinely nothing at all, I sat in here with a flask and a bag of scones and built shelves in my head.


We managed to have the floor put down before the budget ran dry. It was a basketball court in a previous life and came complete with all the lines and markings in yellow paint. Small Girl was six weeks old. I used to carry her in a sling when I came in here and mopped the floor of this otherwise empty room and I spun around and the imagined picture of those shelves got a little sharper in my head.

That painting, by the way, was a wedding gift from the godfather whose apples we stole.


It has taken six years of imagining, eight if you count the nightmare two, but it’s done.

Seventy-six shelves.



Yep, he’s the one.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


41 thoughts on “The Story of My Shelves.

  1. What beauteous yarn you spin and now your books (the ones you will write) can sit on these marvelous shelves in this lovely room alongside all the other authors who’ve worked their way into that heart of yours. The one? Damn right, of course but I need hardly say that. My one and I are separated most of the time because of US Visa issues. Somehow your aborted holiday to the Apple instead lying on the damp grass of an apple orchard made that better for me – one never knows what twists of fate one is avoiding by the precise thing that seems at that moment to be so overwhelmingly not fair.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s the greatest reminder to use time wisely … not to waste a drop. There is always an upside if you care to accept it.

        Actually, sadly my Visa story remains more heavily weighted in Obama’s administration than Trump but the fact is that a broken system is now being kicked and beaten on the bonkers barking assumption of he who shall remain nameless and his kith and kin that if you blow holes in it that will somehow be a solution. It isn’t. As with the NHS in Britain, oppositions are good at throwing rocks at it and announcing that they will make it magically better but when their time comes watch em run for the hills or worse stick their oar in and then realise its more troublesome than they had assumed and walk away whistling and pretending it isn’t really there. Politicos. Grenoble is not a bad place to be exiled 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Grenoble sounds wonderful, to be honest. Mind you, the British NHS sounds like Nirvana compared to our wrecked, unfair and downright dangerous set up! As for He who shall remain nameless, God help us, it’s just not funny anymore!! Have a great weekend.xx

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Depends where you live in Britain, unfortunately … it was set up to be fair for all and like all things has ended up as the wrong sort of post code lottery. I am lost for words where the person my friends call ‘le Tromp’ (a play on tromperie) is concerned. Totally lost. Grenoble is lovely … if mizzally wet today. Enjoy yours. Really, really enjoy it xx


  2. What a treat of a post – visually and emotionally. Thank you.
    Our besties have a similar story of narrowly avoiding the tsunami – what strange twists of fate our lives lead.
    I loved your line about being besotted with each other and the children, those precious days of young familydom.
    What a room! You are going to enjoy it so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my, it’s wonderful, what a beautiful job you’ve both made of it. And what a beautiful place to sit and read. I absolutely love it. You have me wondering if I could build shelves. CJ xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I adore the colour and the lovers absolute heaven! Me too..i am now 50 and haven’t had a bookcase to properly hold all my tomes for years..moving, new home in France. We have big book case plans for next year. When your books have a home, you have a home.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I love everything about this – the shelves (oh, how I envy you!), the colour, that painting, the glorious colour and shape of the sofa (worth skipping a holiday for), the wooden step ladder, your lovely children, your very lovely shelf-building husband, the visa problem (thank goodness), your imagination and words. I hope you make sure you carve out time every day to sit in this room and enjoy the fruits of your labours. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful post, Lynda — the room is gorgeous — I love all the shelves and the colour, too, yellow being my absolute favourite wall colour 🙂 . You have such a gift for story-telling — I so enjoyed reading this woven-together work, and your happening-to-not-be in New York on 9/11 brings back memories of my experience that day: my husband on a plane, en route to Detroit, the heart-stopping fear when my friend called and said I should turn on the TV. The hour and a half of silence as I waited, wondering if his plane would be hijacked too. All the personal stories that emerged afterwards. That was something that took me months to get past — the poignancy and the unfairness wrapped up in those twists of fate that send some to their doom and keeps others safe…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh Lynda! You did it again! Drew me in with every syllable after the amazing photo I first saw on IG this morning and GASPED! So dreamy! So lovely! So wonderful!!! So happy for you! What a guy you have there! And he is pretty lucky too! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I would like to commission your “One and only” to come on over, I could use a few book shleves for my knicker knack of sea shells collections….I love your stories…and I am sooo happy for you….the room is something out of a dream for sure…love, love the blue couch. I like the paint color, it lets the books steal the show, and they show off quite nicely….sooo happy for you my friend…nothing like a dream coming to life. Well done hubby, well done!! xxkat


  9. Lynda I came over from Instagram to your blog this time to view this gorgeous post (and I admit see more pics!). What a glorious room! I love that sofa! Divine. What a clever One you have. I expect you may never leave.
    My sister was in the Twin Tower roof restaurant the night before. I was pregnant and petrified for her. It’s funny what you remember at certain times of your life.
    I hope your new sofa brings you new happy memories and comfort. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

Let me know that I'm not talking to the wall...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s