Home Library

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One of the things I’m missing most in the midst of this isolation is the library. I like everything about it. The whole kit and caboodle. From popping the library bag Finn brought me back from Paris into my handbag before I go, to practically running to the NEW IN stand as I arrive, in case some curmudgeonly old man sets his sights on the latest housekeeping tome and whacks me out of the way with his walking stick.

The library I like best is in an arts centre with a shop full of local crafts, a theatre, a gallery and a tiny little cafe that serves the bestest goats cheese and pesto paninis in the land. It is a place alive with eccentric old people. An ancient lady who regularly stops me to tell me about the paintings she once saw in Florence, and a man I have twice seen muttering about the very state of this immaculate library as he rummages through the oversized print books, looking like a geriatric Al Pacino.

I like to make a day of it. A journal and pencil case in my bag ready to sit on the terribly uncomfortable leather sofas and make notes from the books I will not bring home, closely guarding those I have chosen take with me. For in the library I am bizarrely territorial: perched ready to pounce in case anyone dares to pull a book from the little piles I stack around me. Convinced that the sniffly teenage boy sitting next to me has a keen interest in the health of the menopausal woman and will grab the books I have chosen to shore against my own hormonal ruin should I even consider nipping to the loo.

When I have spent an hour or three enjoying my own company, I find a cozy corner in the cafe and order my panini, a pot of tea and the most scrumptious of elderflower and rose cordials and then I dip in and out of the books I have chosen for the week, trying to hold in a bookish grin as I wonder at the sheer privilege of being able to read books I do not own.

It is a routine and ritual I adore: the mainstay of my week. Time alone away from the house. Time that is all mine. The something I chose five years ago to replace shopping Fridays with my Mum and the thing I miss most now we are denied the pleasure of shared books and the freedom to roam. I’m worried we won’t get it back for ever such a long time. The very idea of books travelling from house to house an anathema to us all now that germ phobia is both so rife and necessary. The worry of grubby hands and the necessity to protect our old people. I’m worried in fact that we won’t get it back at all. Not in the way we have known it. But I suppose, like everything else affected by this horrible virus, we will simply have to wait and see…

So instead I am working on creating my Home Library. For a long time now I have kept only those physical books that really do speak to me and so on the three bookcases in the house that are all mine, I have only those books I have not yet read, or those that have earned a place in my life. The many books I chuck into my basket in the supermarket or buy in armfuls in the cheap bookshops are given away as soon as I have read them, very few destined to stay for always.

But my Kindle is a different story. Through the bliss that is endless galleys sent to bloggers, the joy of Kindle Unlimited, the access my local library gives to their E-Books and of course, Gutenberg, (the gift that keeps on giving), my huge, cherry red Kindle is positively stuffed with more books than I am sure I could read in a lifetime and so I have decided to start exploring my very own home library, making a project out of organising all that is in there into collections instead of the endless muddle of an unorganised list, and celebrating my efforts with my own homemade goats cheese sandwiches!

There is so very much I am starting to really miss now that that the novelty of the stay home instruction is wearing off: the trips to the deli on the way home from the library and afternoons in Starbucks with Kath. Saturdays sitting in the Wharf sipping a tea-time gin and tonic with Ste and walking through the Fairie Glen on damp Sunday mornings with all my boys. Visits from my Dad. Car-boot sales now the weather is looking up. The morning drives I would take to the retail park to treat myself to a little something from Homesense. And the cinema! Heavens I miss the cinema…

But I think the answer lies in mourning not what we cannot do, but in finding new ways to do enjoy what we can. Re-purposing money we may have spent beyond the home, in it instead. Spending time creating new spaces in the house: for reading, or solitary film watching. Becoming more purposeful about internet shopping and declaring 5.30 on a Saturday evening to be cocktail hour! Organising a home library and becoming dedicated to truly enjoying it. Discovering all the nooks and crannies of the villages on your doorstep on your daily health-walks and establishing new ways of exercising at home…

This isn’t going to go away in a hurry and the time is now right to consider all that we can do and create the routines and rituals that will sustain us going forward. Working out how to fill the gaps in our lives with tiny homemade joys and truly believing that there might just be a rainbow (or a library!) hiding behind these gloomy clouds…


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11/27/2020 12:00 am

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  1. Love this!

  2. I agree! I have been so ‘lonley’ without my library being open. I just keep adding books to my hold lost. Finally, they have opened innovative ‘curbside’ service. You call inside and they bring your ‘hold books out and put them on your trunk. Genius. They also do not lend books that have not been ‘in quarentine’ For 72 hrs. I still clean them before I bring them into the house, but new BOOKS!

    How easily we take these small things for granted.

    Warmly, Kathleen

  3. I wish we had a library like you describe to bless us with but a small rural library is all I have available and I have to pay a yearly fee to use it and to say the choice selections are limited is an understatement. Kindle and Audible along with Kindle Unlimited are my answer. Benny has finally brought in a bookcase for me so i could unpack some of my books. It’s amazing how much more grounded I feel with something that many would feel was small.

    Curling up on the couch with a cup of tea or glass of Mt. Dew with my Kindle is my treat. Once we get warmer outside (they’re predicting snow again this week!) , I’ll move to reading on our bench swing by the large tree out front or a chair on the deck surrounded by all my plants. I love my Kindle Paperwhite for reading outside.

    We’re blessed that Covid really hasnt affected us very much. We’re both essential workers, I’m a CNA and he farms. We live on a farm so we’re rural and don’t tend to leave the farm very often anyway. As a CNA it’s totally changed how we work within a nursing home.

  4. Always heart warming to read. Many thanks and blessings.

  5. Barbara D. says:

    Tears fill my eyes as I remember my weekly trips to the library. First checking the New Releases then on to the Historical Fiction. My Granddaughter taking the stairs up to the second floor for the young teens. She a book lover just like me. I want to go to the library. Something so simple yet out of reach. Ordering books on Amazon sustains me til the libraries open again. I want to go to the library.

  6. Lovely and so right! Time to create new little special routines. I have been trying to recreate at home some meals from restaurants that my family miss going to. I miss going to the library or the grocery and browsing the aisles. I miss going to the local garden center and choosing the perfect plants and flowers for my garden and patio, but I am ever so grateful for my perennials this year!

  7. Well said Alison. I miss my library so much. My solution to all life’s problems has always been found in a book. As always you have encouraged me to think about focusing on what I do have. So I do have unread books on my Kindle App, I do have a lot of non-fiction and a few novels picked up from charity shops before this started. I’ve also ordered some classics from Amazon. Now to create a ritual to make more time to read ….

  8. Oh my stars, YES!! The LIBRARY. I miss ours terribly. I am lucky enough to have a very grand library with the most wonderful staircase ever, that leads to comfy chairs next to a fireplace. It’s all dark wood and the heavenly smell of books and enormously tall, skinny windows to curl up in. You have described that library feeling so perfectly Alison. Priceless. Let’s hope it is all well soon!

  9. Katherine says:

    It sounds like a beautiful routine, Alison!

  10. Joanne Siviter says:

    I miss the library, and taking my daughter for lunch at our favourite vintage tearoom, and wondering around a national trust on a Sunday afternoon and drinking tea in their lovely cafes; and rummaging round boot sales and vintage fayres; and going for a wander and a natter around the local antique centre; and going to church; and school summer fayres; and food festivals held on bank holidays in the nearby town; and meeting friends for lunch and Prosecco on a Saturday; and second hand book shops; and popping into m&s for goodies for our dinner without having to queue for half an hour; all these things I so miss and I so worry I won’t be able to do ever again….

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