As you get older, echoes from your past start to catch up with you. Or maybe I have just got better at hearing them when they reach me. Or perhaps the increasingly networked world we live in means that the echoes have more pathways to reach me. I got a Facebook message form an old school friend who still lives local to where I grew up. He’s been working in the London Borough of Hillingdon’s library system for years. And he had heard about my new book, and reached out to see if I’d be interested in coming on to a Facebook live chat to talk about it, in one of the Facebook Live slots they were doing to help people during the latest UK-wide lockdown.
Of course, I said yes.
This thrilled me in a number of ways. First, I love libraries – I’ve always been a great supporter of them, even as they morph and change in time to becoming much more than just about books. But then, they always were about more than books weren’t they? I remember my dad instituting a habit of taking me to the library once a week after school on a Friday to exchange my library books: Harlington library – just by the flyover by the M4. It’s closed now, but I can still remember the sun streaming in through the windows on sleepy sunny afternoons, and the awkward looks that adults gave me when I dared to sit next to them in the newspaper section with my selection of nature / Asterix books.
I remember running out of books to read on nature, and then switching to the adult sections, and diversifying to history, anthropology, psychology, and more general science, as well as more challenging young adult fiction. I remember it being a special time each week with my dad.
I remember some of the nice librarians who took an interest in what I was reading. I remember some of the grumpier ones too, and how they didn’t seem to get much pleasure out of life. I remembering wondering why that was and imagining their lives outside of work.
I remember actually having four physical library tickets that I would exchange for books. I remember feeling guilty when then became overdue in the rainy school holidays occasionally.
And, as I got older, I remember biking to the library by myself as well as with friends, taking in the Grand Union Canal, maybe the River Crane and perhaps even the newsagents to buy sweets on the way back home. And I also remember having to be careful to avoid skinheads too. It was a a weird time, and those echoes of the past are catching up to me again now – with ever more challenging dimensions as a parent.
Of course I said yes.
Libraries have been a central part of my life, and they have been for my children too. My oldest daughter – she’s 10 now – her first political protest was at a few months old, when she went on a march against library austerity cutbacks in Isleworth, back in 2010. And now in lockdown, I’ve been impressed with how libraries have sought to reach out and help people to improve their experience of life, even in this most challenging of times.
Of course I said yes.
After I said yes, I checked the schedule they have in place – and it looks impressive. They have best-selling authors from New York, Norway, and Barbados ahead of me in the schedule – so I hope I can live up to expectations, with me being a first-time author.
February 10, 7pm, UK time – Facebook Live. I’ll post the link closer to the time, and update here too.