I have multiple copies of more than one book - some of them are "loan" copies - but there is one book I will never loan although I own two copies of it.
One copy is rather too tattered to loan to anyone. The other is one of my most treasured possessions.
In my last year at school other people decided I should be a teacher. I didn't know what I wanted to do - or rather, I think I did but it wasn't possible.
Given the choice I think I would have gone off to university and studied linguistics. I would probably have been an academic of some sort at the other end. I think I would have enjoyed it. Yes, some of it would have been teaching. There would have been some research too - which I ended up doing anyway but in a rather different sort of way.
But, I went to teachers' college instead. Not everyone wanted me at teachers' college. It was thought I wouldn't cope with teaching, especially in a "normal" school. I was shunted into "special" education but I actually left college better qualified than most of my contemporaries. They had two years there and I had three. I did an extra "special education" course. Some people thought I might manage that - not realising that it is actually much more physically demanding.
In the middle of all this there was an art lecturer who thought I do it - and made sure I did. He was married to a rather wonderful woman who, on going to see her son in New Guinea, phoned me from there and said, "B....would like to take you out to see a film but he knows you won't go unless I tell you it's fine with me. Well, it is fine with me and will you please accept the invitation so that he stops bothering me. You can trust him."
I went to the film with him - and he acted like the gentleman he was. I visited their home on a fairly regular basis and we got to know one another well. He liked some of the things I was writing at the time. He encouraged me to look to the future - and university in a back to front sort of way. (I did get there.)
And then, on the morning of my 21st birthday - the very early morning, he appeared on my doorstep. He was holding a small parcel in his hand. He couldn't wait a moment longer. He handed it over almost shyly. "P... (his wife) hid it so I wouldn't give it to you early."
In it was a book - but not just any book. It is small. It has a dark green leatherette cover. Inside is a remarkable piece of artwork. It is a copy of TS Eliot's "Four Quartets" - handwritten with an illustration for each part.
I don't know how many hours it took B... to make that book. P... told me later that there were "much muttered cursing" as he did it. I do know that the Art Gallery here would like to own it - but I am not parting with it.
It sits there by my bed. Sometimes I take it out of the cloth I keep it in and I wonder at it and the work that went into it. If I want to go back to that poetry I pull out the battered, annotated copy and read that. This one however is to held gently and treasured...and treasured.
It was a book made for me.