He found a pristine specimen in a charity shop the other day; immaculate condition, hardly used, lovely keys, ribbon in place and he was just about to buy it when fortunately he put his glasses on for the final close scrutiny and spotted something out of the ordinary.
The keys were Norwegian which probably explains why it was called a Norwegian Blue Imperial, and though he could probably have jumped his way around it and made it type English, that's obviously why it was in a charity shop in Devon.
With sincere apologies to Norwegian visitors I'm afraid there was only one course of action open to us...
...and we proceeded to have one of our ridiculous exchanges wondering if it was dead and pining for the fjords, which will only make sense if you watched Monty Python as religiously as we did, and with further apologies to those who weren't there back in 1969, it won't seem in the least bit amusing.
Clearly we don't get out much and that's apropos of only a very tenuous connection to what now follows.
Among recent book arrivals a plethora of translation (no Norwegian), a set of Central European Classics about to be re-published by Penguin and there I realised was a potential reading trail sitting before me on the kitchen table and a route that I'm not sure I would have known sufficient about to compile for myself.
So whilst I do like to be an independent reading traveller, sometimes I'm quite happy if the navigation is plotted for me and I can always digress if I want to.
I took a more purposeful shine to mittel-European literature when I discovered Joseph Roth a few years ago and I've strolled along the more familiar roads... Antal Szerb, Sandor Marai, Jaroslav Hasek, but I still feel I know next to nothing of any substance about it, yet I love it for that seemingly lost, other-worldly rather melancholy atmosphere it invokes in me.
It's all a terribly misguided muddle that could do with a bit of organisation and some grounding in reality, especially when through all the mists of that romantic folly you realise that
'These books all come from a culture which has suffered hideously throughout much of the twentieth century - it has been invaded, despoiled and mutilated in a way which is hard for outsiders to appreciate.'
Well, I'm most certainly an outsider who wants to know more and this series promises to take me on
'a political, social and cultural journey from the optimism of pre-1914 Central Europe to the horrors of the Cold War.'
The Penguin collection is one you surely won't miss on the bookshelves in early May with these refreshingly bright and rather eye-catching cover designs.
Mixed-media, part - photo, part - graphics, which thinking back to the recent Margaret Atwood re-issues from Virago seems to be the current trend. There's a quilt in there somewhere, with all those geometrics Kaffe Fasset would have something whipped up in a jiffy that fitted the colour palette perfectly.
A selection of very arresting titles and authors (sorry to make you all twist your necks 90 degrees...be careful) that have certainly made me look twice and investigate, and perhaps from a range of lesser know literary countries for me, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Hungary, Transylvania before it became part of Romania.
I've dug deep and think I've at least heard of Karel Capek and Czeslaw Milosz but I'm going to plead terrible ignorance on the rest and so all information and suggestions about which to read soonest would be very welcome, along with any ideas for background reading for someone whose history of that invasion, despoilation and mutilation is intermittent, verging on non-existent.
The books will need to be available and accessible, nothing to dry and dusty. I somehow want this to come to life because I'd like to discover more by and about these writers along the way too.
I shall be wading in slowly with How I Came to Know Fish by Czech writer Ota Pavel, because I'm a bit nervous and it's the skinniest one, and, with quite a few other reading commitments to fulfill, slender suits my reading mood right now; but it's also a childhood memoir and that suits my current remit too.
Moreover I really like the sound of it.
'Fishing with his father and his Uncle Prosek - the two finest fishermen in the world - he takes a peaceful pleasure from the rivers and ponds of his country.'
Well by osmosis I've forgotten more than most people might ever want to know about fishing in the first place, so I'm interested, but more so for this...
' When the Nazis invade, Pavel must steal their confiscated fish back from under the noses of the SS to feed his family. With tales of his father's battles to provide for his family both in freedom and in persecution, this is one boy's passionate and affecting tale of life, love and fishing.'
From the book I know this.
Oto Pavel was born in Prague in 1930, the son of a Jewish travelling salesman, much of his family was arrested and imprisoned during the war. He became a sport's journalist and was a great enthusiast of ice hockey and fishing, though whilst covering the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck in 1964 he became severely ill and spent much of the rest of his life in various mental hospitals. During that time he wrote this book which was finally published in 1990.
I'm now incredibly intrigued by this journey, but, ever the hasty reading traveller once I've been inspired, I decided to take some time to read Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman before I hit the road and what a good thing I did, more soon.