Seb Reilly: Non-disposal agreement

Books are 'best the old fashioned way'

Last weekend my old washing machine broke down. It was mid-spin and out of nowhere came this enormous bang, and then the drum slowed with a scraping sound. The awake cat was very alarmed and ran off to join the other one, who was asleep upstairs at the time. After draining and emptying the machine, I discovered the drum was no longer held in place, and so, with an expired warranty and no chance of repair, was regretfully forced to buy a new one.

The following day, the new washer arrived and the old was taken away to be recycled. Unlike the previous model, this one has all kinds of gadgets, including the ability to be controlled by my phone. I didn’t buy it for all that, but it was on sale and the same cost as something more basic.

What’s concerning, though, is the dial to select the wash program. It’s a big chunky button, but the middle of it appears to be some kind of HAL 9000-esque bulbous machine eye. When I set the first wash, I almost expected it to respond by saying, “I’m sorry Seb, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Fortunately, it is yet to rebel against me.

Holding off the rise of Skynet whilst maintaining working appliances is proving to be difficult, and it makes me savour how things were in the old days: analogue instead of digital, tangible and not virtual. Whilst washing machines and their ilk will always be advancing, some things, in my opinion, are better the old-fashioned way; books being one.

There is something wonderful about a printed book – the feel of the pages, the smell of the paper – and I have amassed quite a collection over the years. The latest one I have acquired is very special to me, as it features my own words. Favour has smiled upon me – or rather, Alice Olivia Scarlett, the Fiction Editor for Thanet Writers, has – and a short story I wrote has been included in Shoal, an anthology being released next week.

Shoal is a collection of short stories from twenty-three Thanet-linked writers, and has been created by the local writing community. It can be pre-ordered from Waterstones now (click here if you don’t believe me) and my name is, in fact, on the front cover; something that I am honoured to see. I even got my voice included in the book trailer.

The book has been printed to the highest quality using sustainable, ecologically-friendly paper, and is definitely not a single-use product. Seeing my name on the cover of a book is a feeling that is difficult to describe, even for a writer. My copy looks very much at home on my bookshelves – front and centre, of course – and is something I will look upon often. I hope others will read it and enjoy it as much as I have, as the stories within are wonderful (even if I do say so myself).

Making things is something we, as a species, have been doing for a long time. Here in Thanet, there is a huge community of makers and creatives, and I am proud to be part of that.

Shoal writers

As part of publication, the book is being launched at the Margate Bookie on Bank Holiday Monday. I will be at the Turner Contemporary for the weekend, enjoying all the delights of the Bookie, along with undertaking a more public role as this year I am part of the line-up: I am appearing as an author. I will be speaking at the Shoal launch event, alongside some truly fantastic writers, so come and find me and say hello.

Everyday Plastic’ is a large-scale image by Daniel Webb and photographer Ollie Harrop

As well as books – and the exceptional artistic community in Thanet – people craft all kinds of things. From making babies to coming up with innovative ideas, everyone creates. Unfortunately, as a nation, and across the world, we manufacture a lot of things we don’t need, as was recently highlighted by the Everyday Plastic exhibit in Dreamland, where artist Daniel Webb kept all his plastic for a year and had it photographed to create a huge, life-size picture. It is a sobering reminder of our tendency towards the disposable and single-use.

My copy of Shoal will not be something I dispose of. My first publication in a book, my first naming on a front cover, my first appearance on the billing of a literary festival; these are things I wish to remember. I will keep it so one day, when I am old, I will be able to look back and remember when I first had my name on the cover of a book and got to talk to a room full of people about it.

Perhaps my washing machine will ask to see it, as by the time I’m retired the mechanical eye will definitely be self-aware. I’ll have to hold up the physical book, though, as although there is an eBook version available, I will not be downloading it, no matter how much my washing machine disapproves.

“I’m sorry Washer,” I’ll say, “I’m afraid I can’t do that.”