Why I remember …….
……I remember back in the early sixties. I guess I would have been about five years old. My family had upped sticks from another place and we had washed up in the village of Swineford, my mother and father, along with three small children lost in a wilderness of cabbages that led down either side of the path to the river.
My sisters and I explored our new worlds of school, village life, a house with electricity in it, and the forbidden Avon which of course drew us like a magnet.
Readers all of us, taught much at home, one of the early adventures was a trip to the library.
Once a fortnight we climbed in to the old black car. Up out of the village past the Elm trees (how curious even the words seems now). We drove through Bitton with all its shops and factories. Back out in to the country of little dairy farms before we turned up Cherry Garden Hill. Getting to the outskirts of Oldland bear left up over the railway. Minutes later down Cowhorn Hill, golf course on the left and then through the estate of relatively new houses. Either way past the patch of green which I don’t recall being so, but even then may have been called Banjo Island, our 1950’s relic of a car pulled up and parked outside the library.
Coming in through what is now a side door I recall a counter that I can now look down on myself, towering over me. Populated by a staff that I was forced to regard as far more forbidding than I am sure they were, it was quite clear back then that the library was a place of almost religious respect in regard to peace and quiet. Any conversation beyond that door was to be conducted barely above a whisper.
Yet what a treat. What a joy. What adventure lay within. I think we were allowed three books each back then so between Melissa and I that meant we had six. Claire was only a baby. With those half dozen we were able to bring home Dr Zues, The Colour Kittens, Ant and Bee, Winnie the Pooh, The Red Bus, and an anthology of nursery rhyme. This latter from which our mother would sing us lullaby to sleep.
So, having chosen, we returned to the hushed desk and bore the echo of the stamp back to the car. Eager to explore the colours and words within our books. Negotiating rights on who got what first. Warned not to read while in motion lest we be sick, we bore our snatches of other world back to the village in which we grew.
You know, from those days, I am glad to say that the adventure that I found in books never left me. I stayed a member of that little library for the next dozen years I guess, until I followed the river Avon down to the Severn and out into my own life.
At first unconscious of the influences and then later increasingly following my own interests the library was able to reflect and steer my tastes from childhood to a young adult.
Using school and Jackanory as springboards I soaked up worlds of fact and fiction. I don’t think I was a ‘geeky’ kid but with less interest than some in football, I was infrequently more than arms length from something to read.
Unfashionable perhaps? I read all the Enid Blyton that I could lay my hands on. Jennings and Derbyshire. A story of a boy whose name I don’t remember now but whose body parts operated some kind of internal collective reasoning to steer his adventures. Professor Brainstorm. The Adventure series of Willard Price, an early one of these giving me a lifelong love of personal adventure in and under the sea. An increasing amount of science fiction, populated by Dan Dare heroes.
Alongside books of British birds. A guide to how to be a carpenter capable of building a modern magazine rack (templates included). The Look and Learn book of facts, invaluable for winning at school quizzes as I was ever able to set the questions. Patrick Moore introduced me to astronomy, another passion that has taken me through over forty years now. A book that showed me the rudiments of my mothers increasingly dodgy car allowed me to fix bits that nowadays I would leave to the RAC or scrap completely. Oh yes and the Atlas that I used to explore the area around Bordeaux where I would be placed for a month with my school exchange partner.
For most of the sixties and seventies that little library helped me explore the way.
Oh it wasn’t the only place of course. School was pretty good to me (I went to the version of Kingswood Grammar school that burned to the ground in 1977). My family encouraged me to be the first to ever go to university. Radio 4 led me far and abroad as I am sure it did many others. The mystery of girls as well.
The library at Cadbury Heath was then very important to me. I would like to salute all of you who have kept it open over the years. Never doubt that the work you do is immensely worthwhile. Influential as well. From a small child to the young adult. It helped shape me in many ways. Opening up places that knowledge and imagination leads. Showing me both the doors and the keys to others and allowing me to choose….
….ah yes, I remember when it was all fields round here.