None of the official obits mentioned that she worked at the Oxfam bookshop, for some years. She taught me all I know about childrens' books, and was instrumental in sending many home with me. "Here," she would say, "This won't sell." She was right, of course; things scrawled on and broken and mashed into the strange shapes time forces on physical things are of no interest to a collector. But she had my number from early on, not as a collector, but an accretor.
We had an ongoing game to do with the older books; identifying value, counting plates, celebrating suggestiveness. "You know," she told me, "There was a time when chaps like them could write books like those without chaps like you thinking they were talking about things like that." I disagreed. I was going through a major queer pride phase. To me, the adventures of Bumpole and Quimby were just more visibility.
She used to tell me that she wasn't interested in the authors who were thinking about maybe writing a novel, when she did her talks, her seminars. She wanted to meet the ones who already had six books under their bed. They were the ones who were beginning to move into new ideas. Interesting ideas. They were the ones that needed encouragement.
It was she who first showed me the work of Heath Robinson's less famous brother Charles, saying to me, "Here, I think that you will like this." Of course, I did.
She was abrasive, no-nonsense, always had flea-bites from her cats up her arms. Seemed a bit contemptuous of me, but I liked that; I didn't know anything about anything, she knew masses, and it's not my way to prefer people to be nice about that. I liked her ... a heck of a lot.
She left the bookshop over some stupid drama or other, with the predictable result that the interesting person, who had a life elsewhere, left, while the person who was only into the shop stayed, but I'd still see her from time to time; exchange a few words, feel pleased that she was still around.
The last time was late last year; I told her her books were selling well. Of course, from someone who works at the Oxfam bookshop, that's a compliment that cuts both ways.
... and now I'd better get back to that review I ought to be writing. Stupid. No time. No time for this.