But........hopefully the start of a new life in someone else's collection.
Once a week I work in a charity shop, sorting and pricing books. The books come in, some boxed, some in bags, or loosely tied with string. Maeve Binchy nestles next to Tolstoy, Thomas the Tank Engine lies down with P.D.James. Up the narrow stairs they go, into a holding bay, ready to be sorted by the handful of volunteers who also come in once a week or so.
We never know what we will find.
Sometimes there is a pattern. It looks as if someone has given up the linguistic struggle and a splitting carrier bag contains, 'Spanish in a Week', 'Teach Yourself Spanish', 'One Day Spanish', 'Basic Spanish in a Month','Beginners Spanish' and 'Conversational Spanish the Easy Way'. One hopes the holiday was a success.
The adult offspring have left home, and someone has finally cleared their rooms. There are two boxes of Ladybird books, and a great collection of hardback Enid Blytons. The Famous Five, apparently still parentless, are roaming the countryside, spying on suspicious-looking men, and being fed enormous cholesterol-loaded cream teas by friendly farmers' wives. Darrell and Mary-Lou are still being naughty in the dormitory at Mallory Towers School, while the early edition Noddy books remain a treasure house of political incorrectness.
Someone has had to sort out older treasures, perhaps from their parents' home, for in another box are some fifty-year old 'Boys' Book of Science' with many of the pictures crayonned in. The boys in these books wear knee-length grey shorts, white shirts, ties and pullovers, and when they go outside to do their experiments with string and baking powder, they wear their school caps with crests on the front. There are no girls in the science books.
There are sometimes bags full of Mills and Boon Romantic Fiction. We, the volunteer sorters, like Mills and Boon books. They are small, lightweight, easy to handle and can all be put on one shelf for collectors, without having to classify them by author. They can all be priced at 45p. Easy peasy.
Less easy are the big books of car maintenance for out-dated cars, the faded cookery books featuring prawn cocktail and Black Forest gateau, craft books full of ponchos and tam o' shanters in orange and lilac acrylic (see 'Beth' for more ideas) and town guides full of lovely photographs and twenty year old street plans. Collectors' items possibly - but where are the collectors?
More often there is no pattern, but each bag and box gives evidence of a life. A passing interest in Feng Shui and flower arranging, and a more extensive interest in thrillers and real-life murders. Can these co-exist? Perhaps this bagful indicates the end of a relationship.
Another box contains gardening books, especially about the cultivation of vegetables, several cartoon books about cats, including 'Feng Shui for Cats' which should really have been in the previous collection, and a clutch of historical romances. A more harmonious life, I like to think.
Then there is the disconcerting bag full of books about weaponery, which is not as disconcerting as the small man in the anorak who comes in looking specifically for such books.
'Have you got anything on martial arts weapons?' he says. 'Nunchaku and kamas and that?'
I ask if he would like to leave a contact number, so that we can tell him if something on nunchaku turns up. He prefers not to leave a contact number.
There is always a lovely assortment of children's books in this shop, fiction and non-fiction, all at pocket-money prices. Whenever I'm in the shop, filling shelves, I point children and their parents to the books. Much, much too often they smile politely at me and then drift across to the video and DVD collections. To the Disney shelf.
Have a look at 'Zhoen's' thoughts on Princesses, and mourn with us.
I do not give up on the hope that every book that has once enriched a life may go on to do its work again.
Sorting takes a long time. You can see why.