Over the years, I’ve collected a treasure trove of bookmarks. I say “treasure trove” because so many of them were brought back from travels, accompanied books bought from now-shuttered bookshops or were given to me as gifts.
I’ll start with one of those I’ve picked up, sometimes free, sometimes for a pittance, just because I smiled when I saw them — and they continue to make me smile.
The idea of a sheep wearing rimless glasses and knitting a long multi-coloured scarf is just fun! The short tag to hang outside the book is made of wool. Not like those cannibalistic ads showing potatoes eating potato chips (or something like that)!
On to bookmarks from bookstores! I have a bookmark from Pages: Books on Kensington in Calgary, It was a short stroll from my house, along with the other small shops along Kensington & down 10th, often a destination on free Friday evenings. Several Christmas tree decorations from another shop enroute to Pages are carefully packed away in seasonally-themed boxes ready for their next outing.
Of course, three of my favourite bookshops are Ben McNally Books on Bay Street, Toronto, Munro’s Books in Victoria and Fanfare Books in Stratford.
I drop into Ben McNally’s on the way to Union Station to catch the Go train home and rarely leave without new acquisitions. As I browsed one late afternoon, I heard a voice say, “there’s someone here”. I’d inadvertently door-crashed the launch of a poetry book – amazingly by someone I knew because she’d accompanied her husband whom I also knew to winter open houses at my house. And even more amazingly, a lawyer I had worked with at the Ministry of the Attorney General over thirty years was a friend of theirs and was attending the launch; he now lives on the west coast. More recently, he sent me an email on my first post on Slaw, the legal on-line blog.
I must have picked up this bookmark from the U of T Bookstores when I was doing my PhD there: it seems old (as do I, sometimes).
Not so fun are the bookmarks that I still have from independent bookstores that closed years ago.
From the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, which I visited frequently, especially during its years on Harbord, and which was a casualty (although not a fatal one) of the firebombings of the Morgentaler clinic nearby. It was finally a fatal casualty of the economic challenges facing independent bookstores, closing in 2012. I have several of these and other versions of Women’s Bookstore bookmarks and they can usually be found in my books, fiction and non-fiction, by and about women.
Another is from The Book Cellar Yorkville, which apart from its “fine books” also sold international magazines and newspapers (when I still had hopes for learning French, I bought gardening magazines in French) — it closed in 2004. I was a customer of the Longhouse Bookshop on Bloor Street, too, when I lived in the area. I have fond memories of dropping into Britnells with my friend Alexis after our annual Christmas/Chanukah brunch at what I remember as Oliver & Bonacini on Yonge, just north of Eglinton. We reserved a table by the fire and next to a deep-silled window decorated with a large poinsetta. Then we’d take ourselves to Britnells for the music and book browsing/buying. Happily, the bookmark here highlights its 100th year; sadly, it closed six years later. McNally Robinson in Calgary was a refuge on 8th Avenue SW for me when I worked downtown, but it closed in 2008, about the time I left Calgary to come back to Toronto (no relationship between those two events, despite the fact I’d no longer be shopping there!).
I regret I don’t have bookmarks from Nicholas Hoare or David Mirvish Books. David Mirvish Books, in Mirvish Village, I’d visit when I lived near Bathurst and Bloor: ironically, it’s David Mirvish who’s responsible for the dramatic changes now coming to that corner. After I moved to Fredericton, I’d get my fix of Nicholas Hoare Books on Front Street whenever I could on visits to Toronto.
Another group of bookmarks make easy to carry souvenirs of places I’ve visited or exhibits. Knowing how much I like to read, my parents sometimes included bookmarks in their gifts from their trips.
My mum included a package of Japanese bookmarks in her gifts from a trip to that country, with several depicting geishas in different, but all lovely, kimonos and obi. I use one of these to mark my place in Haruki Murakami’s IQ84. The other bookmark here, which I may have bought myself, is from Switzerland; it is beautifully embroidered. My friend Harry and I visited Zermatt many years ago and being far more fit than either of us is now, we climbed up & down one of the mountains for an hour or more after we arrived. Not having taken into account the altitude of Zermatt itself, plus the increase with the climb, we couldn’t understand why we were exhausted at the end of the day!
These bookmarks come from Israel (in the middle) and Mexico (on the right); given the similarity in colours, the one on the left is probably from Mexico, too, although far different from the first one. My parents bought these back from trips. I have another one from Israel that is currently marking my place in Vol. 1 of Simon Schama’s The Story of the Jews.
These are from London. The first one, with Churchill’s profile, comes from The Cabinet War Room and was probably selected by my dad. He served in WWII and had a fine grasp of English war history. The middle one is from Westminster Abbey, very dignified and smart looking. The third pictures various types of guards for London’s historical buildings. On the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, when we were still in England, my parents bought me a miniature version of her coach with some of these guards.
I’ve included these three because they reflect my own history. I was born at home in Bedworth (the one across the top, difficult to see, is leather and reads “Nuneaton & Bedworth”, with their respective shields. The middle one is an example of the very fine weaving long produced in Coventry (where we lived before we came to Canada in 1956); it shows the cathedral and Lady Godiva: in a tale dating from the 13th century, she rode naked through the streets to convince her husband, Leofric, to remove the high tax he had imposed, hidden only by her long hair. No one looked at her except “Peeping Tom”, who was struck blind. Godiva’s ride and Tom’s peeping are immortalized in a clock tower in the centre of Coventry. I believe the third bookmark, with the cross at the upper end, is also woven, coming from Coventry Cathedral, the second emanation of which was almost completely destroyed in the bombing of Coventry in November 1940. The surviving walls and timbers fallen in the shape of a cross were joined with the “new” cathedral consecrated in 1962. When I spent a year at Warwick University in the late ‘sixties, I’d visit the Cathedral quite often and every Friday, I’d meet my aunt Isabel who would treat me to coffee and teacakes at the Owen Owen department store in Broadgate, the post-war shopping centre. More on the Cathedral and its history can be found at http://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/wpsite/our-history/. (The first cathdral was actually built in 1043 by Leofric and Godiva, she of the legendary ride fame.)
I’m including this woven bookmark, a gift from Dad, because it is meant to be given as a gift of “A Bookmark by Cash’s, the Weavers of Coventry”. Cash’s was founded in 1846 and the holder for the bookmark says the firm was “one of the leaders of the 19th Century Coventry silk ribbon industry” and today “revive[s] a delicate early Victorian art-form”. Dad also gave me small framed woven pictures of birds produced by Cash’s. I am fond of these woven bookmarks and the birds, not only because I admire the workers’ skill they reflect, but also because they remind me of my dad.
The last travel bookmark comes from Venice and shows the Rialto Bridge, over the Grand Canal. The bookmark is made (I think) of parchment paper and the design is very Italian. I also bought a small eraser with the design of a red domed church. This was an energetic trip, using Eurail passes to visit France, Italy and Switzerland. Harry and I bought several posters that are framed and spread about the house. We spent the night before we flew back home in a rather unpleasant hotel in Geneva and took the train to the airport. It wasn’t until we arrived at the airport that we realized that we’d left a tube of posters in the room. Harry raced to catch the train, which ran frequently, back into Geneva. I remained in the airport, imagining my options once they called boarding for the last time. He made it back, with little time to spare, with the tube in his hand. Fortunately, we didn’t take time to think through whether he should have gone and fortunately, we were relying on the Swiss train system!
The last few bookmarks are representative of different memories.
The first comes from an exhibit in Toronto a few years ago that explored the way law has treated people of Chinese descent. For more, see http://www.roadtojustice.ca/home.
A different type of bookmark, made of metal, is a souvenir of the Jessup Moot in 2001. The late Professor Don Fleming organized it when the Faculty of Law, University of New Brunswick, hosted it. I became very good friends with Don and his wife, Lesley Fleming, also a faculty member at UNB (in the Biology Department). They hosted a pizza night on Fridays, inviting a number of us who were on our own in Fredericton (we each contributed $5.00 and they made the pizzas and provided libations and other food). I stayed with Don and Lesley just before I left Fredericton for my trip to Calgary. Somehow we lost touch and I was shocked and devastated to learn that Don had died of cancer. Lesley, Harry and I have since renewed our friendship and we stayed with her when we visited Fredericton a few years ago.
This is rather a special bookmark, given to me by a student when she finished her time with us at the Law Commission of Ontario. It is also made of metal, a simple strip, with the words, “It is true that those we meet can change us, sometimes so profoundly that we are not the same afterwards…” (Yann Martel, Life of Pi). I thought of Gita as someone with integrity and committed to certain values, stronger than I, when I knew her, in living in accordance with them.
This last is not really a bookmark, but can be used as one. It is really a card announcement for an exhibit by the Fredericton artist Janice Wright Cheney whom I met through her sister Joanna Wright. Joanna took a directed readings course in law from me at UNB when she studied political science there; she and her husband, Donald Wright (by chance both their last names are the same), are now teaching in the Department of Political Science at UNB. Janice is an accomplished artist who has been recognized for the excellence of her work. One of my great memories of Fredericton is her young son Thomas’s engagement with my campaign when I ran for federal office in 1997. Every year I invited some 50 or 60 women in different areas of life for a “Women’s Brunch”. (My sister, Karen, drove from Nova Scotia on those weekends, making a big difference in preparation and hosting. For my 50th birthday, she wanted to invite some of my male friends to the consternation of some of the regular attendees, one of whom could be heard muttering, “I thought this was a women’s brunch”. Harry rode his motorcyle from Toronto for the birthday brunch, staying with the Flemings the night before. When he arrived at my house, he pulled a bouquet of flowers from a saddlebag, causing some oohs and aahs.) For the 1995 brunch, Janice brought along a pile of cards for her Women & Fiction exhibit that we left on a table for guests to pick up.
As do most readers, at least those my age and those who read books, I have many more bookmarks. They take little room, yet expand with memories of bookstores, trips, people and events that span almost a lifetime. It’s taken a while to finish this post for that reason (and because I’m still figuring out the workpress block system!). Still, the memories recounted here merely skim the surface in many cases.