Let me introduce my shelf: Juliette

Ellen Birch 13 November 2017

I adore my new second-year room. With its mezzanine structure, second(-best!) bed downstairs, and hidden kitchen area, along with the décor I’ve added to transform the drab 1960s Medwards brick into my own little home; it really is a healthy environment in which to live the next step in my Cambridge studies. But a crucial element of its beauty – one which, I admit, goes underappreciated by me – is the little three-shelf bookcase I tucked under my stairs, which holds my work and reading. As a literature student, I know I should revolve around this unit as an epicentre to my studies; though I don’t quite manage this, I hope that, by writing this article, I will be able to prevent myself from taking such an integral element of my life here for granted. Haphazard bookshelves can be such telling snapshots of hectic lives – and the tidiness of my own possibly speaks more of its underuse by me; suggesting more my procrastination. And yet I know how empty and stark my room would be without it.

Top shelf: Radio, two 1920s bookstands, and a lamp

The majority of these objects are, sadly, only for aesthetic purposes; aside from the lamp, which provides a welcome brightness to the nook my bookcase is nestled within. I rarely listen to my radio now, preferring my own music choices to work to – but despite its silence, it does still feel like a comforting presence of something from home: like the timeless titbits of learning spouted by the Radio 4 programmes my mother listens to when she cooks dinner, I know it could provide a rich backing track to the menial tasks I have to complete, should I need something to get me through them. The two figurine bookstands were bought last year from an auction – the 1920s aesthetic of my room would be festering without their presence! I don’t use them to hold any of my books, partly because they leak age-old sand, and partly because they’re too gorgeous to be subject to clasping the Riverside Chaucer between their sleek frames. Sometimes fripperies must stay fripperies…

Second shelf: Polish books, reading for pleasure, my Bluetooth speaker, and a rather cute frog

Have I mentioned yet that I’m rather obsessed with Poland? My intoxication with the history of that beautiful country, which stemmed from ancestral connections, has now led to a rather unhealthy desire to purchase Polish shellac records from the 1930s (which are sadly awfully expensive) – but before that, prompted an interest in copies of old Polish literature. Multiple versions of my all-time favourite book, The Pianist, sit atop 1930s photo albums and other antique compilations…yes, my room looks like a History teacher’s office, but I really rather like it. Alongside these are books for pleasure – as all English students will know, these have gone unopened since I don’t have time to do any reading that isn’t going to contribute to an essay crisis. Then, there’s my lovely Bluetooth speaker, and my little stylish frog from home. So I might be a History teacher, but at least I have style, right…?

Third shelf: essay reading and essay-crisis snacks

This seems self-explanatory: the third shelf of my bookcase holds lots of chocolate, alongside all the grotty Faculty tomes I took out before the summer vac and still haven’t managed to return (RIP me and the fines on my account x). Some of my lovely ‘reading for pleasure’ books have sneakily been placed here too, to give the impression that I read voraciously: medieval, modernism, international – it’s all in a day’s work for me xoxo.

Fourth shelf: my folders and work

You’ve got to put them somewhere – and at the bottom of my hierarchy of interests seems the most appropriate place for me…