The bookcase was there for me in my hour of need. But now it has overstayed its welcome

As a last resort, I have written this column to my mate


It’s difficult to know what action to take when you’ve asked your ‘friend’ to move his pine bookcase from your flat more than 40 times and he still hasn’t. His bookcase. Sat in my flat. I’ve asked the guy face-to-face, I’ve phoned the guy, I’ve texted the guy. I’ve banged it in an email. I’ve whispered it to his wife at a dinner party. I’ve done the lot. But he just won’t buckle. Occasionally he will use phrases like “yes” and “soon”. But these are empty phrases. I know that because the bookcase is still here. Unable to get through the guy’s thick skull and into his heart, and having exhausted all other means available, I have now decided to go public and give him a nudge via my newspaper column.

I’m looking at it now. It is a pine bookcase, about my father’s height, measuring possibly five feet across. It’s been varnished in the past by some idiot and now emits a fairly nauseous orange glow that destroys my bedroom and tarnishes, by association, all of the other carefully chosen furniture that I have in there. It kills me. After all, wooden furniture is my passion. All that I earn as a columnist, I invest in old wooden furniture. And as I have slid these gorgeous artifacts into place, so the bookcase has, increasingly, begun to look like the weak link. I am sat on a distressed oak bedside table, and I am glaring at this great hog. Willing it to leave. “Go,” I mouth. “Get out.” It insolently returns my stare.

Of course, the bookcase situation is – as a lot of bookcase situations are – nuanced. My ‘friend’ gave me the bookcase in my hour of need. I had just moved into my flat and shelves were in very short supply. He had made a strong life-choice and decided to move to China for a spell. It was good for both of us that I took the case for a bit. I guess that’s the point. With the fuel of self-interest coursing through his pathetic little veins, he was more than happy to whizz round the case and help me lug it up my stairs. We leant it against a wall and agreed that I would be its custodian for a few months, then he would take it back and I would move on with my life. But even as he skipped towards my front door, rubbing his hands together and whistling gleefully, I sensed there might be a problem. Fast-forward 18 months, and look at it. It has taken root.

So where do we go from here? I don’t want this to be an open letter to the lad. “Dear goon, come take back what is yours, I no longer want it clogging up my quarters.” Open letters bore me. But I would ask you this, mate, in front of everyone: “How do you expect Marius to build me two beautiful floating shelves along my bedroom wall when there’s a disgusting lump of pine in the way?” He may be a lot of things, Marius, but a magician he is not. And you might reply, “Well, Marius can just move it, can’t he?”. Well no, he can’t. For one thing, where to?! I’m not having a bookcase in my bathroom, mate! And secondly, I wouldn’t expect Marius to have to touch that disgusting artifact. He, too, has some dignity.

So let’s make a plan. You mentioned Jamie might be coming down in the next couple of days with a van. That sounds great to me. You let me know when I have to be in and me, you and Jamie can do a job on it. Fetch it down into Jamie’s van and spin it round to yours. If you’re not going to China for a bit, you can pop it in your lounge and put your books on it. Does this sound reasonable?

I have no idea whether you read The Independent on Saturday so – just in case – I’m going to buy you a copy and give you it at football on Monday. Because this time I’m serious, mate. It has to go.

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