December 7, 2012 § Leave a comment
The Dragon in the Library
Ours was a small town where most people knew each other. Most of the shops were friendly family businesses. Marton had three cinemas, several butchers, a handful of pubs, a small public library and a dragon.
The dragon guarded the library. She wore tweeds, sensible shoes, Nora Batty stockings and a fierce expression. She gave no quarter. Fines were imposed without mercy. I once returned a book, lost down the back of a chest of drawers for over a year and had to pay £15.
‘But I could have bought two copies for that!’
It made no difference she still made me pay and I wished I had slipped it back onto the shelf when she wasn’t looking.
The library was drab. Books were lined in neat rows on varnished shelves. I don’t remember any seats or tables but I do remember bare floorboards which squeaked when we trod on them, incurring the wrath of the dragon.
‘Children were seen and not heard’. Especially NOT in the library. It was a place of dread. Not a place you’d want to linger. Totally unlike the warm, welcoming, colourful library with its children’s room and big comfy sofas, manned by friendly staff, which has replaced it.
Having travelled the world, I returned to my home village with my husband to raise our family. Richard worked from home inventing pumps; installing water systems in little African villages. I taught part time and did some Bed and Breakfast. £5 a night with nylon sheets which could be washed and dried and back on the beds the same evening. We met interesting people from around the globe without needing to leave our home. Often we enjoyed them so much we felt guilty taking their money but it helped pay the mortgage at a time of galloping inflation.
One day an elderly woman knocked on the door demanding a room for herself and another for her driver. She talked incessantly, having mastered the art of circular breathing.
She knew everyone in the locality and was related to most of them. She had come to oversee the renovation of Emily Davison’s grave. She spoke in convolutions, going off at tangents at every opportunity . She enjoyed her stay so much she came back every year. One time she mentioned she’d been a librarian and had worked in Marton.
That’s when it dawned on me… SHE was the dragon in the library.