Thursday, January 24, 2008

In love with the library

I love the library, particularly on cold winter days when the rain slices down. It is a haven of calm and piece in a maelstrom of whirlwind shopping activity and if I had my way I would cheerfully spend three hours there while my wife tries on every jacket in the centre before deciding that there is nothing that she likes.
The best thing about the library, apart from the calm and relaxed atmosphere is the books. My Lord, have you ever seen so many books? Hundreds, nay, thousands of them, spines facing out, arranged on shelves as far as the eye can see.
The interesting thing about the books in the library – and I’m going on hearsay here, for I haven’t got around to reading them all – is that they all contain more or less the same words. If you open a book on quantum physics (the pop-up version) and compare it to Jordan’s autobiography, for example, you will be amazed to find that the same words appear in each. Of course, they are in a completely different order and, as such, totally alter the meaning of the text, which is a good thing, as it helps to maintain interest in literature.
You can find books on any subject under the sun and a few on subjects behind the sun and over its left shoulder too. And they are all arrayed with different covers, which is a great help in differentiating between them. Imagine if every book in the world had a plain brown cover, what confusion there would be!
Be warned though! If you go into the library looking for a book with a red cover, you will have to look long and carefully, for the books are not arranged by colour. There might be a couple in the poetry section, a few more in travel and maybe an oddball on the poets-who-died-of-consumption shelves.
So millions of books and you can borrow most of them (though not at the one time) and bring them home at no cost. Then when you are finished with them, simply bring them back. This is a concept unique in the retail world and it is surprising that it hasn’t caught on more. You could go into Penney’s, pick out a nice swimsuit for the summer holidays and then, when you come back, simply return the item to the store. Seems a good idea to me and would cut down on those endless queues at the tills, wondering why “yer woman” hasn’t got her purse ready if she’s been standing there for the past ten minutes.
Of course there are other things in the library apart from books. There is a music section too containing what I am told the young people of today call Compact Discs. These are a new-fangled invention, smaller in size than a 45 but capable of holding as many songs as a regular album. Be warned, though, you need a special contraption to play these Compact Discs and many don’t come cheap.
Again, the variety is breathtaking, anything from Mozart to 50 Cent (an American gentleman with a whimsical approach to lyric writing). It even contains that magical moment of music history when Lionel Ritchie broke into Bob Dylan’s set on Live Aid to announce that “Hey, America, have we got something special for you tonight?!” before launching into “We are the world.”
There are also DVDs but don’t bother with these unless you are very technically minded. They are so complicated that very few people even know what the initials stand for.
You can also take out paintings, which is another brilliant concept. Remember how that dappled picture of the whitewashed cottage on the Algarve looked so fresh and vibrant when you first hung it on the kitchen wall and now looks completely jaded? Well, the library has the answer. This week, a painting of a lake in Connemara, next week a basket of fruit with a dead pheasant by the side of it, the third week a horrendously ugly naked couple and an apple. Home decoration was never so easy. Forget those swanky and expensive home interior places – Blanchardstown Library has all the answers.
There are also computers in the library, ranged in circles and generally faced by dishevelled young people who know how to use them. Here, if you know what buttons to press, you can search the World Wide Web for any information that you require, though, if you don’t know what buttons to press, you get a paperclip man who tells you that it looks as though you are writing a letter.
A sign at the bottom of the stairs reads “Have you ventured upstairs yet?” Pretty spooky, eh? I prepared myself well. I stuffed a packed lunch, my Swiss army knife, several changes of clothing, a hairdryer and some Kendal mint cake into my haversack before slowly beginning the ascent, accompanied only by several Sherpas and a back-up team that waved me off from base camp. Slowly, I climbed, higher and higher, pausing every third step to reacclimatise myself to the more rarefied altitude. Soon my erstwhile companions were lost to view far below me and I pressed on alone. And then, suddenly, I was there, at the summit, with the broad sweeping panorama of Adult Fiction and European History spread out below me to the distant horizon.
I looked around at this brave new world. Here too were books but strangely different books to the ones I had left downstairs. These were “Reference books” and quite frankly, I wouldn’t really recommend them to those people who like a good yarn with a clever twist at the end. One book I picked up was a Government report on something, which was written in a language that seemed familiar but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
There were also magazines, though not many with “Britney reveals all!!!!” splashed over the front and newspapers and periodicals, which I had previously thought was some kind of flying dinosaur. Loads of luvverly things and I feasted my eyes on them like a child in a sweetshop before taking a few photographs for the scrapbook and abseiling back down the stairs.
In fact the only fault I can find with the Library is that it doesn’t stay open 24 / 7 like Tesco’s in Clearwater. How good would that be, spending an hour or two reading the latest Patricia Cornwell before heading into work or swatting up on the archaeology of the ancient Incas at three o’clock in the morning? Throw in a hammock or two and some futons and coffee and ginger nuts and it would be my idea of heaven.
Yes the library is a wondrous place and if my wife ever throws me out in favour of a toy boy, I think I could cheerfully move in. The chairs are very comfortable and they even provide you with a variety of newspapers to start your day, though the staff looks dimly upon you when you look for more toast to dip into your egg.

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