Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Telling Tales

Last week I had lots of train journeys around the country. Most of them were after 5pm so it was dark and I didn't get very far with my train I-Spy. There was one trip in daylight, from Wellingborough to London where me (and my Dad) saw almost all the things on my list. I'm not sure if we saw anyone rushing for the train but it was 10am so there weren't many busy commuters rushing around.

On an earlier train journey that week I sat down and realised I'd brought nothing to read on my three hour journey. As the radio signal disappeared and I decided it really was too dark to play I-Spy I looked around for another source of entertainment and was pleasantly surprised to find a copy of Easy Living magazine in the pouch on the back of the seat in front. I've never read this magazine before but it was pretty good and kept me entertained throughout the journey. The best bit was knowing it was free and also that I was recycling someone else's old magazine.

It's a great idea leaving papers or magazines on trains once you're done with them, as long as the nice train staff don't tidy it away before someone else can pick it up to read. A completely read magazine is one thing but what about leaving your most loved book behind for someone else?

While I was in Europe last summer I visited Hanover for an afternoon. Sat on a bench by a church I noticed a cupboard next to me, the cupboard was filled with books and as I sat people came and went leaving and taking various books. I was fascinated, even though all the titles were in German. This is an example of a recent new social trend of book leaving. Public places are designated as "libraries" and people drop off unwanted books and pick up new ones. It's a great idea and although I don't know if it's taken off in the U.K. let I do know of several similar schemes.

For example the Guardian newspaper launched its six-week book season this autumn by setting 15,000 books free into the wilds of the U.K. From coffee shops to stations platforms, children's novels to science books to craft annuals; the books were placed around the country for new readers to discover them, read them and pass them on again. Guardian readers were also encouraged to leave their own books with the special bookplate sticker (found free in the weekend papers) inside with a message from the original owner. Finders can then log their book online and look at where it came from and where it's been.

Along the same tracking lines the Bookcrossings phenomenon allows books to be shared and traced across the globe. Stickers are downloaded and printed than then they and the books they're attached to are left in places new owners can find them. The unique sticker number in the book is then logged into the website and the past and present owners can chat about the books, an organic online bookclub.

All these ideas, from leaving your magazine behind on purpose to setting books free into the world are all examples of all three of the R's: reduce, reuse, recycle.  You reduce the number of books you buy by swapping them with others, you always reuse a great book reading it again and again and you recycle it onto the next new reader. A brilliant example of how sustainable living should be. Although, I'm not saying we don't need any new books. Old stories are good but a new tale always has a special feel.

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