10th February 2011

I find reading whilst travelling a bit of a struggle. The issue of lugging weighty books around; the hefty hardback history literature of which I am fond, are not friends with my weight restrictive backpack. Many seasoned travellers solve this problem by favouring the book exchange system and through this, they travel the world only carrying 1 book at a time. Marvellous, thought I. That was until I perused the shelves of establishments offering the swap system and found them lacking. I am not a big fiction reader, I get bored easily and by the third chapter I have daydreamed the rest of the story. The author’s version never quite lives up to mine; What do you mean this WWII tragic romance ended in the sorrowfully happy ending?! In my version, there was a ninja trained Nazi wombat with a penchant for coco pops who defected to the other side and single-handedly brought down the Luftwaffe using shock and awe tactics. Tsk!

Non-fiction, specifically good history books, are rare to find at these exchanges. I therefore find myself staring at rows upon rows of ‘feminine’ novels full of teenage romantic drivel or tales of woe. Or worse, the overcomplicated and generally predictable crime dramas. If it wasn’t good enough for the reader to want to hold on to their copy, I don’t want to read it. This was a lesson I didn’t learn straight away…

I settled myself into my seat for the brief flight from Auckland to Sydney; seatbelt strapped on, comfy socks donned, phone turned off and sketchpad placed in the pouch in front. As I delved into the pocket for the emergency flight sheet, I discovered a book hidden under the sick bag. Great, I was out of reading material and this would do nicely for the flight. Needless to say, I spent the journey watching cartoons and pecking the air. By the time we landed I had to make a decision about the poor, lonely, abandoned book and being the dishonest cretin that I am, I slid it into my bag for later.

It was some weeks later that rediscovered the book in my bag and flung forth the cover page to reveal what literary mysteries were held within. As my eyes moved from page to page it became glaringly obvious that the simplified language, oversized text and constant repetition suggested that either the author was a moron or they thought their reader was. I may not be the sharpest tool in the box but I’m quite sure I’m not deserving of a dunce cap and a french cathedral turret to be banished to. I eventually gave in, the book was an insult to the trees that had died in its making. The horror, the horror.

A week or so passed and we were sitting at our departure gate in Brisbane airport. I pulled the offending article out of my bag and decided that here would be the place where we would part company. I had found it in an aeroplane, now I would leave it in an airport so that some one else could discover it. I hoped this would absolve some karma for taking it in the first place. As we got up to board the plane I dropped the book onto my chair and turned my back on it. Sitting onboard the aircraft I turned to my husband and smiled, feeling free. At that moment, there was a commotion at the aircraft door. A breathless ground crew burst in and whispered something to the hostess. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention’ came the voice over the tannoi, ‘has anyone lost a book?’. I looked up and to my horror, this kind woman was desperately waving the book I had deliberately abandoned. She lifted it high so that everyone could see. The plane went silent. ‘Has a lady lost her copy of Danielle Steele?’. Pregnant silence. Everyone waited for the owner of the book to reveal themselves so the aeroplane could depart. Oh great, there is now NO WAY I can admit to having anything to do with the book, the silly woman announced that it was a Danielle Steele. An aeroplane of 100+ people thinking I had purchased a copy of that repugnant collection of monosyllabic words was a fate worse than death. I sunk into my chair and pretended to be fascinated by the in flight magazine, convinced that at any moment someone was going to point to me and say, ‘that lady left it, I saw her’. After what seemed like an eternity, the ground crew sighed, her good deed for the day having been unsuccessful, and departed clutching the orphaned book.

The moral of the story is never trust free books. I shall have to stick to sketching, writing and people watching for entertainment. None of those things are exactly a hardship.

As always, thank you for stopping by and subjecting your good selves to my dose of bad writing. I apologise for my inadequate wordsmithing.