It's Christmas 2001. I am struggling in my front room with a cut-off too big Christmas tree that I am trying to get balanced into a too small earthenware flowerpot. I have a small bag of sand and two half bricks and no matter which way I wedge them or where I put the sand the tree keeps toppling over. In exasperation I look over at something cheery and festive that's playing on the TV to remind me just why I am doing this and how much fun it will be sweeping up needles right through springtime when I see the solution right there on the shelf. Books.
I grab a dozen or so paperback books and then I wedge them all around the tree and the pot and the bricks and the sand. And they bend and twist into shape and as if by magic the tree is standing tall and proud and pretty much straight.
And I have lots more space on the shelves.
I identify this moment as being the one where I finally fell out of love with books. I have spent all of my adult life surrounded by them. Buying them, selling them, artfully defacing them. Hell I even wrote one once. But aside from the time I had a box of proof copies of Martin Amis's Heavy Water that I gave to my daughter's hamster to chew through one by one I can't remember any of them ever having been put to such good use.
I have just cleared two shelves of books from my front room. That's equal to about half of the books I own. I didn't take them to the charity shop because my local charity shop doesn't "do" books. I didn't take them to the second-hand store because that's where most of them came from and it didn't seem right to send them back. In any case, there is no money in second-hand books these days. I just threw them away. And it felt so good.