The silence in my life


The library – remember them?  We’ve still got one in Witney and I rather enjoy visiting it but opportunities to do so have been rare.  Now I have some enforced free time I thought I would take myself off there to catch up on various job searches, look for opportunities in the local paper (there were none) and generally get away from the house for a few hours to experience some noise.  The library’s proximity to Greggs wasn’t even in the top five reasons for going there.

Libraries aren’t like they once were.  There is a bit more noise, more activity, with kids – horror upon horror - enjoying themselves reading and looking at books, various groups meeting and people working on projects from history searches to college work.

After a quick wander round to look at the various new book and DVD displays, I found myself a table and got established, undertaking the student ritual of unpacking everything from my satchel-like bag and setting it all out on the table in the style of a character in a 1960s movie, the one who is there to shut down the theatre/school/church/railway line and who must in consequence be a stickler for sharpened pencils, neat books and closet fascism.

I got down to work, updating CVs, looking on a number of websites for the magic opportunity which would change my life and generally getting things in order, a pastime I found remarkably helpful.

A young woman was already sat at the other end of the table and she responded to my arrival in the style of the English, adopting an attitude of mild annoyance at my very presence.  Reacting to my arrival, she volubly adjusted her various stationery piles, glowered at me once or twice and then, when she had asserted her authority over the table to her satisfaction, she went to look for a book of some kind to allow her to silently express her horror that I had had the temerity to sit at the same table as her.

I imagine she thought I was foreign.

An old man came and joined me and the Alpha Female’s abandoned laptop at the other end of the table.  He sat down with a huge tome containing some kind of list.  By the time I left I was desperate to ask him what on earth he was doing since he spent the best part of an hour going through said tome meticulously copying down numbers into a book in tiny script – script so selfishly small that I wasn’t even able to read it.  The nerve.

The children in their section of the library were making the usual racket – all good natured and causing nobody with any sense any problem at all.  The noise was one of small people being happy and enthusiastic about books, so all to the good.  Instead, the library residents were disturbed by the middle-class mum loudly reminding little Archie that they were in a library and that they really needed to be quiet to avoid upsetting other people who was upsetting us all.  Archie was as good as gold: his mum needs a good talking to or a restraining order.

A group of young people sitting around talking about their attempts to get jobs were curiously encouraging, reassuring me that I was not odd for having lost my job and that at least some of these bright young things had years of being bored beyond human reason at a desk, while I had served a decent proportion of my time in such a soul-destroying way.  Their positive conversation was welcome and I’d have liked to have joined in had I not now graduated to ‘old fart’ status in the eyes of anyone under 30.

After many years of spending only a small amount of time in the library, my visit turned out to have been a positive boon for my work and my state of mind.  I shall aim to return at least once a week while I have the opportunity to do so.  Who knows: maybe the old man will have finished his bizarre annotations; maybe the woman will have come to terms with other human beings being within four metres of her; maybe Archie will have had the chance to educate his mum in the ways of shutting up.

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