I don’t deny I miss the space we used to have in the country – both in the garden and the house. A desk takes up the same space wherever you are; it’s the books that are the problem.
At Saling Hall we had shelves for an ever-expanding collection, and the part that expanded furthest was the glossy picture books. We covered the period when they morphed from text printed on paper more like card (and often tinted buff) alternating with 16-page colour sections printed on shiny paper stiff with clay. Thames & Hudson seemed to lead in this field. There was a snag: if you kept your books closed and tight together in the huge bookshelves they needed, in a typically cold damp room, it wasn’t long before the clay on the colour pages stuck them together. Instead of a book you had a brick.
Look at the quality of colour we accepted in those days. It was muddy, frequently blurred when the four-colour process didn’t quite click, and none of the colours was true. Still, we thought it better than black and white. There is a quantum leap between 1970s printing and the standard we expect today.
A relentless succession of glossy garden books has never ceased to appear, and I seemed to acquire most of them. And they grew (and still grow) heavier every year. It wasn’t until we moved house and I tried to sell them that I discovered they have no value – at least as “pre-loved” goods. No dealer even wanted to carry them out of the house. It was a pity; they contained wonderful images and many memories. Here in London they are simply un-houseable. Thank goodness, then, for the Internet: it isn’t exactly a substitute for shiny pages, but it can handle memories and, more than that, satisfy all sorts of curiosity.