Fanny Blake on how nothing could stop her love of the library.
When the news broke, on a chilly November night, I was in the car beside my mother, sitting outside our village library, about to go in and swap my books. The image of us, sitting in the dark in our green Morris Estate, stunned by what we were hearing on the radio, has never left me.
Every Friday night was library night. I always looked forward to the end of the week, when, after I’d got home from school, we’d round up last week’s books and drive into the village to get the new ones. In summer the library’s door was left open. In winter a welcoming light shone out of the window into the ill-lit street. Afterwards we’d drive home listening to the Archers,and I’d disappear upstairs to my room with my books and a couple of chocolate biscuits. That was when my lasting love of reading was cemented.
The Lowdham village library was in a building that sat at right angles to the main street, its door up a narrow garden path. I don’t know what the building was before it became a library, but it doesn’t matter. For me it was a kind of paradise. From outside, through the long window, you could see shelves of books waiting to be chosen.
On entering, we were immediately greeted by that special musty bookish smell and the murmur of hushed voices. As I remember, there were two rooms, one on the left of the entrance, and one on the right. The latter was the only one I was interested in. That was the adult fiction section where I could find the next in Mazo de la Roche’s Jalna series, anything by Georgette Heyer or Anya Seton, or make new discoveries. There was always something I wanted to take home with me.
My parents were avid readers and we had plenty of books at home. But we didn’t have these ones, and the ones we did have didn’t smell the same. Nor did they have the date stamp at the front that filled me with sense of urgency.
That library no longer exists in that building. I think it may have moved to somewhere else in the village. I can no longer remember what happened for the rest of the evening of November 22, 1963. If nothing else, I’m sure I must have exchanged my books. Nothing would have stopped that. Not even the death of the American President. That library was so important to me and I can still conjure it up as clearly as if I was there yesterday.