I wish I could say I’d planned my life and then carried out the plan. This is one mode of operation that life coaches are awfully keen on, though the minute anyone says ‘life coach’ I immediately wonder why they haven’t got a proper job.
The truth is that most of the best things that have happened in my life have arisen like hair from a plughole and nothing I had planned at all.
The lockdown library is a case in point.
It started almost a year ago like this:
The big river retailer announced it had better things to do in a global pandemic than deliver books, all the libraries shut and I remembered a friend saying that where she lived it was common practice to leave a book you no longer wanted on a wall for someone else to enjoy.
The OH consulted the WHO website to find out how to do this without transmitting diseases and I took the lovely little aluminium green house staging table that we had spent the weekend cleaning and reconstructing out to the front drive, which was still under construction. I anchored a leg into the drive, so it was safe and strong, ascended the loft ladder in search of books, cleared the drawer of plastic sandwich bags and made a notice for the back of the table. Then I posted the result on local social media to spread the idea and took the books inside for the night.
Whereupon the table was stolen. Someone wrenched it from its moorings, leaving a leg half way along the pavement.
I was sad, because that table was one of the first things I bought when we got married and had a garden. It helped to grow a lot of food when we were poor. Many a tomato sandwich started on that table.
Undeterred, I put out the books on various garden tables including the one the builders were using for their tea.
A couple of months later I was on to a little trolley on wheels, designed to be a kitchen cart, I think. That was slightly easier, though I did have to carry it over the uneven crazy paving, wishing every time I’d gone for sane paving. This lasted a couple of months until the first wheel dropped off. So I propped it up on the end of the drive with a brick.
When I got to one wheel and three bricks, it was time to think again.
So I threw caution to the snow that was whistling in the winter wind and invested in a proper agricultural cart.
The now utterly wheel-less previous cart is up there at one end, the middle has become the children’s, how-to and travel section.
At the back of the cart I now place another box.
A lady whom I have chatted to frequently requested jigsaws for her elderly parents. The knitting patterns that are in there were a donation which I have augmented with various craft books and what you might term women’s interest items.
The bucket is treat-sized bars, each in a little sealy bag from my show store. There was already quite a lot of chick lit, now there’s choclit. I started this in the third week of January, usually the worst week for suicides.
The drive, as you can see is finished. There’s a metal eye cemented into the drive, the cart is padlocked to the chain that goes through it and there’s a brick to stop it rolling back down.
Passers-by love the library. Every morning when I put the cart out I am greeted by cheerful good mornings from numerous walkers, riders, wheel chair users and anyone else going past at the time. Occasionally people knock at the door to ask the rules and are thrilled to find there are no rules except the first one, to disinfect the plastic bag at home and wait 72 hours before retrieving the book. I quarantine all donations I intercept, but cannot prevent someone taking a book which has just been left. Early on I realised I was giving away picture books. I buy three new sets of ten for ten pounds from a cut price store online about once a month. A few weeks ago, looking out of my front bedroom window I saw a little girl skipping and hopping along the pavement with a new book in a bag. I am on the way, walking, to the hospital up the hill, quite a few medical staff who pass this way claim a bit of escapism for work breaks.
I get lovely donations too. It is heartening to see classic novels going in and out. Good writing is still enjoyed.
It says on the notice that the library is there because of demand. If there is ever a week when no one takes a book or leaves a book I’ll stop but that hasn’t happened yet.
It probably helps that my house is on the way to the local Marks and Spencer’s food outlet garage. People pop down there for milk and a paper and something for lunch and return with a book to read.
There’s a girl whose engineer father is out of work, she leaves her baby story books for other children, as well as taking books and always walks taller on the way back.
I know there are lockdown libraries in many places. Local residents helping each other has been one of the gifts of Covid.
It’s just a very good way to pass the time, is reading, but you know that.