January 15th, 2019

Roberts Rummage

Roberts Rummage is my favourite shop in all the world. It's the size of a small front room and it sells what I take to be the smaller items from wholesale house clearances- no furniture- just stuff- like books, tableware, pictures and toys. So, it's a junk shop- but whoever chooses the stock (Robert presumably) exercises a measure of discrimination; the books are interesting books, the pictures are mostly 19th century prints (which I love) and the toys are collectibles. I rarely come out empty handed.

Yesterday I bought a die-cast model of a Doncaster tram and a copy of Isak Dinensen's Seven Gothic Tales. I hadn't known I wanted to read Dinensen but when a book  beacons to you from a shelf you know you have to respond. It's a reprint of the first edition from 1948. The title page says there's a frontispiece by Rex Whistler but there isn't- and can't ever have been because the publisher has pasted a neat little square of paper over the claim- and the square has a sweet design of a fountain with a heron flying past- probably not by Rex Whistler. Why no Whistler? Could it be something to do with potwar austerity?

I started reading Dinensen last night and I'm enthralled. Dreamlike, weird, gender fluid- all that good stuff. Orson Welles wanted to make a series of films from Dinensen's stories and though the full project (like most of his projects) fell through he did get to complete a short, one-off TV movie called The Immortal Story, starring Welles himself, Jeanne Moreau and Anthony Perkins. It's a very strange little film- disconcertingly strange- and I see now that the strangeness comes from Dinensen.

I think the chap who served me was Robert himself. Tall, stooped, elderly, shy, kindly. And if he wasn't Robert he should have been because he exactly fitted the shop. Another customer asked him if he had such a thing as a diving helmet and he said 'Fraid not, because they're worth thousands of pounds. He told me an anecdote about how he'd tried to sell the Dinensen to another customer who writes short stories but the customer already had a copy. My two items together came to £3.90- and he rounded it down to £3.50.

PS. I might have known. There's stuff about Roberts Rummage on the Internet- including this short film. Robert is Robert Mucci- and he is the man who served me. He buys stuff at auctions and house clearances- but only stuff that interests him. The shop looks brighter and tidier in the film that it does IRL.