I’m sitting in the library, at half past nine at night. I’m alone in this section, the only sound is my (probably too loud key-tapping) and I’m full of every feeling of love-for-libraries I’ve ever had. A feeling so strong that I’m slightly dizzy with it. The wood panelling and staircases remind me of the wooden banisters at the old Woolwich Library, where my sister used to take me when she was at Mulgrave Primary and I was at Woolwich Common Nursery School and the combination of six older siblings and Mum and Dad being voracious readers and Miss Hogg and the other nursery school staff meant that I was reading very early.
Our council flat on Ogilby Street did have books, (it also had potato wine, but that’s another story), but nothing like a library’s-worth. And nothing like this library’s worth. I’m sitting in the gallery, at a corner desk surrounded by volumes on English History, thinking how very happy my mother would be to see me here, in this spot, getting on with my work. She loved her history and she loved that I make books for a living.
This afternoon I went for a walk in the rain and, seeing what looked like a couple of rows of servicemen’s graves, I felt drawn to have a look. They were all WW2, and they were mostly Air Force, and so I looked along the rows, looking for the RNZAF grave … and sure enough, there he was. A young man, a pilot, all of 22 years old, killed on 23rd November 1941. My dad’s plane was shot down on 8th November 1941. Dad was 20 then. He might have trained with that young man. They might have been friends.
I thought I might find some ghosts here, in the quiet (and maybe I will yet – it’s only Day 1!) but the ghosts I can feel very strongly are Tom and Peg, book lovers both, who had so few opportunities themselves and would be so happy that their girl had this glorious chance to sit in a silent library and call it work. I have five of my own writing projects to work on while I’m here, and two projects I’m helping other people with, some talks and readings and workshop – and I’m very very quietly whispering ‘bring it on’.