Last Saturday was National Libraries Day which I celebrated by visiting my local library (where, rather shockingly, there were no signs about it), tweeting about it and getting righteously angry about it at a game of scrabble in the evening. On the scale of world-changing actions, mine came somewhere between the “read an article and was mildly outraged” and “signed a petition”. But at least I set in foot in there, walking past the man plucking loose clumps of hair out of his dog’s coat and the girls surrounding their mum wanting to know when they would be old enough to read American Gods. She clutched her 50 Shades rip-off closer to her chest and shuddered.
Half an hour of browsing and six book choices later, I was heading back for home and my current favourite reading spot. My big blue armchair. This has a comfortingly deep seat that cradles me as I read, a handy blanket on the back for when my feet get chilly and is near enough to the radiator to keep it warm. There’s also a table next to it for my mugs of tea, phone and pile of books. It has become ‘my spot’. Dog used to rest next to it, his head on my feet and the arms are wide enough to take a sprawled cat or two. A turn of my head and I can see outside to where the starlings are gathering and shouting in the tree.
I’ve had favourite reading spots in all my houses. When I was very small and the airing cupboard was just outside my room, I’d climb up into it with book, blanket and torch, closing the sliding door behind me so my sister didn’t know where I was and hide away with nothing but oceans of words and a pile of clean laundry to drift away on. Wind in the Willows, the Worst Witch, Wolves of Willoughby Chase and One Hundred and One Dalmatians are forever linked with the smell of Lenor fabric cleaner and the distant sound of my little sister saying “I can’t find her!”
In the last of the parental homes, it was nestled in the corner of my bedroom where the radiator was. Piled with pillows and in a suntrap, it was warm and comfortable. The family dog kept me company, his whimpering dreaming occasionally farting self the only noise beyond the turning of pages. It’s here I read Wuthering Heights, Animal Farm, Ruth Rendells and my first ever Jackie Collins, emerging hours later with popping eyes, blown mind and a desire to wander about wind-battered moors.
Bed has always been a good place to read. Under the covers with a torch when young, sat up against the pillows with tea when older. Although these days, I have to sit up to read: lying down runs the risk of falling asleep and then clouting myself one with a falling tome. Baths too. There is nothing finer than a long hot bath with a damn good book and a glass of wine, the bubbles creaking as you settle against them. Cross-legged on the sofa, or in the open boot of the car during days out. Stood in the kitchen, absent-mindedly stirring pots of dinner with one hand, or perched on the chair in my bedroom, pile of washing temporarily forgotten by my feet as I just have to finish this chapter.
That this knowledge, this endless, continually growing sea of words and information is free (or cheap), is a wondrous thing that crosses social boundaries, breaks down barriers and makes our lives more than a little richer with every visit.
Wherever and whatever you read this month, make it something from your library. This week, I heard a Disturbing Thing: museums and libraries are discretionary services; as far as the government is concerned, if your council can afford to run a discretionary service (no matter how much money they prove they can save or earn from it), they can afford to have their budget cut further. Use it or lose it people, and then, come May, vote these fuckers out.