There is something about an old penguin.

I was driving through my village heading to the post box when I saw it.
It was nestled gently and protectively under the arm of a gentleman in a linen jacket. He was walking steadily through the tree lined village high street and the sight of it in his hand caught my eye in a way that no kindle or ipad could ever.
It was an old, orange penguin. Not the devoted animal from the frozen lands, but an old book. An old penguin. Beautiful.
I was alone in the car having spent the morning catching up with jobs around town and suddenly heard myself shouting “You have an old penguin! Which one is it? Where are you going with it and why are you carrying it? ” Fortunately the shout wasn’t too loud so no one actually heard, despite my open window.
I posted my letter then retraced my drive back down the high street and there it was again! Still in the same snug place but my questions were no closer to being answered.
But there is something magical about an old orange penguin. Something that whispers “Somerset Maugham, Jane Austin, Ernest Hemmingway and Evelyn Waugh” seductively in your ear. It’s the bookness of them. The bold announcement that “I am not electronic and the person who owns me values me and looks after me and reads me.”
I recently wanted a copy of The Moon and Sixpence and so looked on everyone’s favourite auction site, and there, among the shiny new editions and prettily covered versions, stood an old orange Penguin. Yep…it’s now on my shelf, waiting it’s turn. Looking like the patriarch that it is next to the bright young things and literary fashionistas alongside.
So as for the linen chap and his orange friend. Who knows! But it certainly brought an orange glow into my morning.

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8 thoughts on “There is something about an old penguin.

  1. Wonderful. I remember being in India, having a tea down a noisy side street, hidden away, and through the crowd came an impressively tall Englishman in an off-white linen suit and hat. He looked so out of place, then i spied the book tucked to his chest: “A Stranger in a Strange Land.” I had to giggle.

    • Love it !
      I wonder if it was maybe the same linen clad gentleman I saw today? Maybe he spends his days walking the streets of the world with an old penguin. It may well have been the same book as well !

      • Wouldn’t that be something! Would make for a wonderful character. I did meet a character straight from a book once; an American in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens. I was sitting on some steps and we got to talking. I asked about all the papers he had. “I’m recording all the botanical names,” he replied, adding, “Before they are changed. I’m responsible for many, you see, and I want to make a personal record of the work before two things happen: I die, and Bellamy erases my handiwork from history.” That got my attention, and for the next three hours we talked. Turns out he was part of pre-WW2 survey to record all of the world’s plant species. A new nomenclature code had apparently been established and, according to this old chap, a man named Bellamy was heading up the project to change all the names. Long story short, he’d undertaken a journey around the world, visiting every botanical gardens and making a handwritten note of every plant species under the old nomenclature code. To this day I don’t know if what he said was true or if he was simply insane, but his mission was to always stay ahead of this Bellamy, for behind Bellamy this old man did not exist.

    • Yeah, i agree. He took his retirement money and created this story to justify travelling the ends of the planet. Made for an interesting afternoon, though 🙂

  2. I know we had a few of those old Penguins on the bookshelf back home Don’t have any at my place.
    No doubt you heard Penguin has just been bought out by Random House?

    • I’m not quite that avid a bibliophile. Though I will snap up different editions of my favourite authors whenever I come across them.
      It’s more fun than just buying them.

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