The sunlight filters in through the large windows to my right, diffused by the glass and the public house next door. The ramshackle orderliness of the shelving appeals to me, books constantly picked up and replaced but not with the same care as the librarians show. The loudest voices of the librarians themselves and in turn, when someone goes up and asks for information.
There are the regulars, one sits in front of me, charcoal woollen coat with turn ups on his blue jeans, a mannered shock of brown hair brushed through. He sits in front of one of the computer terminals and logs on. It feels entirely modern and yet antiquated to use such facilities in an age of personal devices.
There are other regulars that I am aware of. The young woman who worked in Blockbusters and now the newsagents. She once bid on Nazi memorabilia. She has her hair in a roll and wave, which was a style at the time.
People browse the shelves the way herbivores graze, there are no children here today so the children’s books section appears frozen in a perfect tableau. Primary coloured soft furnishings, a wooden picket fence in rainbow colours next to a display of well thumbed children’s magazines in confectionery pink and orange.
Overhead the ceiling fans remain intert and the skylights give the atmosphere a quasi-religious quality. The guy in front of me is reading a news item about PMQs and hurriedly googling Google, which I think is how you’re supposed to break the internet.
At the same table where our writing group sits, two elderly women and talk in hushed whispers. The incomplete jigsaw on the table in the main area, never wholly completed, remains unattended today.
A librarian wanders the aisle, says hello with a gruff, polite warmth. Here you can be known and unknown in the same instant. Although next to the high street, the sound of traffic never quite reaches inside. A muted roar, like dreaming of the ocean.
People wander in and out, more regulars that I recognise. I’ve never said hello but we know of one another. As many people still engage with the books as they do the computers, which makes me feel good. One of the librarians is telling a story about visiting Alcatraz. It is a looping meander of a story, but he sets the scene perfectly as I check out the books that I’ve borrowed.
That I will return.
How perfect that there’s another story being born, in a place that houses so many.
(This was one of the exercises from the writing group meeting I attended this week. Write for fifteen minutes in a place, just looking and thinking about what’s around you. I really enjoyed and I wanted to share it with you. I wrote it in longhand because I didn’t want anyone I saw to think I was writing about them.)