A Journey to Epping
On Monday morning, I received a most unexpected email.
I had, as a child in New Zealand, saved up to buy a book from the Scholastic Book Club- schools received catalogues for their students which provided discounted books published by Scholastic. This book was one that had won an award and was quite popular at the time, a fantasy novel about some older children who need to thwart some people attempting recreate the opening of a portal into another world using the vibrations of a large monolith, and it was set in an area reminiscent of Waiheke Island.
It was one of my favourite books. Perhaps predictably, my parents either sold it or gave it away and I never saw it again.
For at least years I looked for this book intermittently. I couldn’t remember the title or author of the book, so I would go to bookshops in Auckland looking for the book in the teenage section. Later I tried my best to remember its title and googled it. The greenstone? The pounamu? Both of those were books but not the right one.
So finally, I decided to email the publisher.
I’d been riding for an hour on my GS500E in the rain at 10°C in just my leathers, a t-shirt and a hoodie after a night shift. I defrosted myself at a café, my will to live and ability to think slowly recovering. Eventually I dragged myself home, put on some dry clothes and huddled under 2 duvets and went to sleep. I woke up shivering an hour later, then I was fine.
I checked my email. It was from Scholastic. In fact it was from the one person who still worked there who remembered my book- its editor! She sent me the name of the book and author- “The Triggerstone” by Ged Maybury. Just as I suspected, it had been out of print for many years. I beamed. I finally had the answer to my mystery. I googled the book.
A result came up. From eBay. A seller in Melbourne itself had failed to sell it twice. Did this mean that it could still be available? Trembling I called the number. No answer. They called back 5 minutes later and checked… yes it was available, did I want them to post it? No? I would be over in about an hour and a half? Was I really sure that I wanted to drive all the way to Epping?
For reference, here is the trip from Caulfield to Epping:
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The Western Ring Road has many a section of “high wind”- bridges over thin, narrow creeks, motorways that slide through industrial zones, past dried, parched land. Time spent behind trucks. Quiet time. The sound of wind blowing past your ears.
It really is close to the verge of Greater Melbourne. Suburbs have just expanded their borders a little beyond it, but it feels desolate, remote. We used to call this “Zone 3″. (Another note- there needs to be a similar train ring route, and perhaps a ring road that runs around the city half way out)
Finally I made the turn onto the Hume Freeway and then onto Cooper Street.
The first thing I noticed was that people seemed to pull out onto the road without looking a lot of the time. The second, that the dwellings ranged from average sized houses to large blocks of land with just a caravan or a shed. Most of these places without a proper house do not have running water or sewage facilities, even though they have electricity. There is another Australia, and it is very different from inner suburban life in a capital city.
I walked up to the door of the huge shed with the sign “garage sale” on it. A plump, friendly lady in her 60s answered the door, book in hand and invited me in, out of the rain. The shed, the size of a small house, was packed with bookcases full of second-hand books, electrical appliances and bed-heads. We had a brief chat- she said that most of their customers who come all of the way there (they usually deliver) are from overseas and looking for obscure books. There was something comforting about that- a repository of forgotten books.
As I drove back towards Carlton for dinner, I felt warmed, encouraged by what I had seen. At dinner I started to read my book. It was like meeting an old friend who I had not seen in years.
Mick & Susan’s Bookstore has its eBay page here. They post & deliver throughout Australia.
“The Triggerstone” is written by Ged Maybury and was a finalist in the 1994 AIM New Zealand Children’s Book Awards