Time waits for no man…. I apologise. Can I still say that? I know I shouldn’t use such sayings in this age of all-inclusive. As a woman I never thought that I wasn’t as good as a man. With the right education I have always believed I could be as good as anyone else.
To me it has never been about my sex or the colour of my skin, hair or eyes. During my school years my school friends were from different races and cultures and they all passed their exams and went on to a bigger and brighter future, but with me it has been the lack of knowledge.
All of my life I have surrounded myself with books. Many have been bought from charity shops, Car boot sales or sold off by libraries. My love of books started from when I was a small child in the 1960’s. I came from a poor family. Poor in both money and education.
I grew up in a village in Essex in a house owned by the company my father worked for. At that time my father’s landlord owned most of the village and the surrounding countryside too.
My mother had learning difficulties and in today’s world would be classed as autistic on some level.
In the 1960’s our village had a new library built. It was a small, black metal framed building that seemed out of place to its surroundings of rural buildings of timber framed cottages. The library was built in the grounds of a large Victorian house. I have memories of the gardens and its lake, but nothing more. The grounds were surrounded by a high hedge and flint walls .
My first visit to the library remains one of my most vivid childhood memories. Its power has driven my need to own books. Books are the one thing I find difficult to let go of, or to part with. You can have my jewellery, my wardrobe of clothes, etc, but books. No. I have books of poetry that I bought as a child from jumble sales. With the few pennies I had, never toys.
My father read comics, Westerns and sci-fi novels. My mother read mainly comics, and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, but for me the only books I have wanted were references books. My need to know and understand the world around me drove my obsession with owning such books. My parents lack of education meant they didn’t pass on their knowledge, so I had to seek it out for myself. It became my holy grail.
My grandmother spent time reading to me when I was a small child, though I don’t ever remember her reading novels. She loved music in as much as pop music of the 50’s and 60’s.
Back to my first visit to a library. The building had a fresh, bright feel to it. With black metal and pine shelving, and there was grey carpet on the floor. The books seemed to me, at aged four, to shine and sparkle as if they were magical.
Mum told me to choose which books I wanted. I ran and made my selection hugging them tight to me. I can’t tell you the names of the books, because I couldn’t read. I’m sure it was just the pictures or the colour of the covers that attracted me.
A lady came over and asked my mother if she could help us. Mum told her I was borrowing some books. The lady explained that mum had to fill in a form. My mother froze, and told me to put the books back.
I stood, not understanding, gripping the books to my chest.
Mum snapped, ‘Put them back now!’
Reluctantly I returned them, my mother’s impatience growing as she wanted to be gone from the place.
The woman’s uncomprehending stare.
I’m sure in today’s world with computers the woman would have dealt with the situation differently. Telling my mother she just needed some details to put on the computer.
Rather than ‘ You need to fill in a form before your child can take them.’
I’m sure the woman would have realised that my mother was unable to fill in the forms, and offered to help her.
While growing up I felt the same panic when asked to fill in forms. I used to carry a slip of paper with all the details I needed on it. When no one was looking I would pull it out and copy down carefully what I needed to spell. Being dyslexic I learnt how to hide my lack of education. I deeply regret that I have held myself back ashamed of what others might think of me.
The birth of the computer and especially the internet has amazed me. It has opened up a magical world of possibilities. Since turning 40 (quite a few years ago) my dream of being able to put my thoughts into words, and know that others will be able to read and understand them is a dream come true.
I never believed for one moment throughout my school years that I would have seen my writing in print. I know I still have a long way to go, but my confidence in my ability to get over what I want to say has improved, but I do still suffer from self- doubt when I discover I haven’t edited my writing as well as I should have done.
Panic hits me in my chest.
I hope to achieve more in the coming years, but for now I’m still making every day count as I move closer to my greatest achievement.
A novel on a library book shelf.
Have a great weekend, everyone.
Paula R. C.
Thank you Google Map for the picture of Broomfield Library. It looks almost unchanged from when I was a child.