How Eye library saved a bored teenager...
When I was six, without any prior consultation and with the rather dubious pretence that it was an “adventure,” my parents moved me to Eye in Suffolk.
As far as “adventures” go, it was a pretty bad one. A bit like someone promising you a treasure hunt then taking you to a lake, throwing you in and demanding you pull scrap metal from its murky bottom with just your eye lids.
There was very little to do. I was suddenly a teenager with hormones and no fake ID, so most of my teenage life was spent having cold showers and walking around fields covered in acne with a healthy suspicion that everyone was having a much better time.
When I say there was little to do, there really was nothing to do. We had one pub, they wouldn’t serve me because I didn’t look right, a car park with a strange statue in it and the library. (One week someone dumped a burnt-out car in a field so me and my friends just stared at it for a bit… great days.)
Bizarrely if I had the opportunity to hang around MacDonald’s looking young and suspicious or even just paint a bus shelter with my true love’s name, I would have. Alas, the opportunities were not there. (Although I do have an excellent anecdote about the time a car was dumped in a field and me and my friends just stared… oh wait I’ve told you it. That’s that then.) Because of this I turned to the library.
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Apart from the excellent car incident, for me the library was the most important part of Eye.
All libraries are brilliant. Anyone can join a library and borrow a book, DVD or CD and it’s free. They are a place to work, read or for struggling writers to get heat. Obviously some are bigger than others.
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Ipswich library has three floors, Essex library can fit a couple of football pitches inside it and the UEA library is nearly as big as the college itself. Compared to its Titanic cousins, Eye library is like a tiny kitten just playfully nudging at their ankles.
But it’s just as important, if not more so. For a teenager who couldn’t play football hadn’t quite perfected the art of smoking and nearly caused a water shortage because of the number of cold showers he was taking, that tiny building on Buckshorn Lane was a lifeline.
I don’t want to get all sentimental about how books have changed my life because they haven’t. If anything I’ve probably wasted a lot of my time reading when I should have been working or learning how to meet people without staring at my feet and grunting.
But Eye library gave me the opportunity to read books I would never have read. A lot of people’s first exposure to reading is school and the books we were given at school were dull – I don’t care what anyone says you should not be reading Shakespeare when you are 14. You need to discover him when the time is right, then put him down and read something fun.
My librarian was Mrs Knight and she would often give me books she thought I’d enjoy based on what I’d taken out previously, although that got a little embarrassing as I grew older. It’s not nice when a woman of a certain age sympathetically offers you a Mills and Boon novel as a way of stopping your skin form permanently pruning under a cold shower.
Without Mrs Knight, however, I would never have discovered the Hardy Boys and then Mark Twain. I wouldn’t have gone on to pick up Kafka or Dickens. I would never have had any questions about Georgina from the Famous Five or found out what happened to that very hungry caterpillar.
I would’ve seen the books on my curriculum and probably never bothered to read again.
Eye library is a tiny pocket building, holding a wealth of knowledge and real adventures, that don’t involve staring at a burnt out car. It’s the nearest library for miles and if it’s taken away, with it goes the opportunity to discover different books without a gruelling bus or train journey and for anyone spending their teenage years walking around the fields not fitting in, there isn’t going to be much escape.
Apparently Eye does have a bus shelter now, but I’m not sure an old car will be put in a field anytime soon. (Have I told you about that? It was brilliant, there was this car in a field …oh I have told you… great days)