And not just in the obvious way, by selling me interesting books, cheaply, that I might not otherwise be able to get hold of.
It happened like this. The block of flats I inhabit has a door at the bottom which each of us can unlock from our flats with a remote control button, without seeing who we are letting in. This makes us vulnerable to robberies. What happened was that the buzzer went, and one of us would pick up his phone. A voice would say: “I am the postman”, or “I have a delivery for number 22”, or “I have come to read the electricity meters”, or “I live in number 29 and I don’t have my key on me”. It only needed one such person to be a plunderer and a liar, and one trusting householder to trust the liar, and the liar was inside the building able to steal any enticing parcels from the post boxes just inside the front door.
We don’t have a concierge, and we don’t have postal boxes that are locked. (Which may be why blocks of flats are now, more and more, big. They are big enough for all the dwellers in them to be able, between them, to afford a concierge.)
So anyway, this all makes it impossible for me now, in full confidence, to receive purchases from Amazon. They get delivered fine. But they are then liable to be stolen.
We have all learned about this, and I for one do not let people in without coming down and personally seeing them in and out. I get the impression that robberies have now abated, and the robbers have moved on. But, why take the chance? Why not, instead of getting Amazon stuff delivered to a home like mine, get it delivered to the home of a friend with no such problems, just his own single front door? Why not drop by every now and again to collect whatever Amazon stuff you order?
So it is that, instead of getting Amazon stuff for me delivered to my own home, it now all goes to Chateau Samizdata, the home of Perry de Havilland. And so it also is that I have yet another excuse for dropping by to visit Chateau Samizdata every so often, every time stuff needs collecting.
This is good in itself. There is nothing like face to face contact with good friends. Samizdata is all very virtual and twenty first century and all, but it started when people met each other face to face, and it works better if we keep on meeting in this old fashioned way from time to time.
But travelling to Chateau Samizdata has another benefit, for me. My journeys to and from Chateau Samizdata are by bus, there being no tube station anywhere near it. These bus journeys are quite long and time-consuming. The bus must thread its way through much traffic and many complicated London traffic interchanges, and make many stops. But, as the computerised and internetted age gets into its stride, I find that I now welcome such journeys. During them, I read. A book. I decide before my journey begins which book it will be, and then, when I am on the bus, I either read that book, or I do not. Those are my only choices. Many now take the internet or vast music collections with them on such journeys, especially regular travellers. But journeys like this are not quite numerous enough for me for mobile electronic diversion to be worth the extra bother and expense. I carry a book. Just one the book. Made of paper. So, on my bus, there are no distractions. Nothing else to entice me. It’s that book, or nothing. My home contains the internet, and a second cornucopia of other stored messages, in the form of many other books and CDs collected over a lifetime. How to choose? Too often, I spend scarce leisure hours swithering between these various entiements instead of properly attending to any one of them. But on a bus journey, especially one which you do quite often and thus don’t need to fret about, all such rival enticements and distractions are switched off. I have the one book, which I typically, as a result, concentrate on. I like this.
Holidays are famously the time when people read. But what if, when on holiday, you choose to take a book that you find you don’t want to go on reading? What if, in fear of that, you take too many books? And also, perhaps, a music machine? Then, how do you choose which thing to concentrate on? No, the best time to be reading a book is when you are using public transport to visit familiar but very slightly distant destinations, and going home after a few hours.
My latest purchase is Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature. It looks very good, but it is definitely very long. I must now contrive more expeditions to slightly faraway places.