Strength Weekly likes to think that its most persistent themes are of great national importance but the longer one runs a blog the more evident it becomes that some concerns of less than pressing interest are acquiring thematic mass. Take this business of finding stuff in secondhand books, for instance. The other day, whilst conducting the trawl that averts lack of ease, I was thumbing through a copy of a book of a type which I would normally vacate a postal district to avoid. The volume, ‘The Amazing Results of Positive Thinking’, by Norman Vincent Peale, is a follow up to Peale’s 1952 ‘Christian psychology’ manual ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’, in which it is suggested that if positive thoughts can be formulated and, presumably, marshalled in such a manner that they eclipse negative thoughts then you’ll feel better.

I find that this doesn’t actually work. I have a particular negative thought along the lines of ‘This self-help garbage sucks and can only help those who are credulous to the point of inanition’ which is so deeply engrained that the notion of formulating a positive thought to counter it feels about as practicable as self-cleaning teeth. Positive thinking can only help those who have never had a negative thought about positive thinking. For those who might, if only briefly, have found themselves musing ‘The stuff I think wells up from places over which I have precisely no control so why would the assumption of other thoughts, actively concocted by myself in the name of some old-fashioned modern psychological exercise, have any greater or more enduring effect than the attempt to mount a photograph on the wall using saliva as an adhesive?’ then proto-cognitive behavioural technologies are destined to founder in the absence of an unblemished suggestibility.

So anyway, flipping through Peale in the manner of one unable to stop looking at an actor playing Ronald McDonald on a leafletting sortie, I came across an enclosure. A pale blue notelet, trapped in the tightness near the binding, read as follows (I have changed the names):

Dear Betty,
by this you will no doubt be convinced that I am quite the worst old woman you have ever known.
Oh yes I feel guilty alright for not writing to thank you for the nice soap you left for me also the very interesting letter. (Thank you dear)
So pleased to hear you had settled down and enjoying your new life in London.
Expect you will be home at Malton for Christmas so I shall post your small present there they may come in (?) or at least you can always give them away.
I would love to buy you a really expensive present if only I had enough cash, I always feel like this at Christmas but it doesn’t worry me all the year round.
Things are very much the same at the Home’s also the staff.
We have started having extra time off during the week which is going to be good I think when we get it working properly.
Well dear I must go. Wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas.
Love Auntie Ida.

Realising that I had the makings of a consistency I transferred the notelet from the book which had no place in my shelving to one which had, at the very least, some mildly odd illustrations in it. ‘The authorised manual of the St John Ambulance Association’ (21st Impression, 1964) resembles, at first glance, one of those sleek black notebooks available at specialised notebook retail outlets. In fact, it is more diverting:

My blog was shifting. It had, perhaps only momentarily, come to resemble another genus in the complex digital flora that are replacing the warmed world. Many readers will already be well aware that if you go to a blog you like then click on the ones they like then click on the ones they like then click on the ones they like, you may, on a good night, be delivered to something as magnificently arcane yet cared for as A1Scrapmetal , run by Hazel.

What can be said about Hazel’s small metal objects of choice? At first I wondered if Hazel was strange in a not good way then I decided that Hazel, like many of those whose training has refined their sensibilities beyond the car park and on out beyond the beer tent to the understudied microscopies of the overlooked, was very good in a strange way. (Close reading of Hazel’s discoveries reveals that many of them unfold in drawers and containers already in her possession, as if the fruit of her preoccupations had been laid down over such a long period that they had silted over and grown stratified.)

Then my brother-in-law gave me for Christmas a secondhand book about masculinity called ‘What a Man’s Gotta Do’ (1986) by the late Antony Easthope. A useful read by a pioneer, containing perhaps the most unexceptional enclosure I have yet uncovered in a used volume.

I really have nothing to say about this bus ticket. It is a low point in the graphic trajectory of this publication. Is it 22 years old or did my brother-in-law simply slip it in on the way over on the bus? I can’t be bothered to find out.