Over recent years my family and extended friends network seem to have forgotten, nay neglected, an important fact in my life:
It's not Christmas unless someone buys me a book.
Usually at Christmas as one gets older you can rely on three presents every year:
#1: New Socks (the amount of socks one receives increases exponentially as you get older until the Postman finally smacks you around the head with a pair of wooly argyles thus ending the whole sorry affair)
#2: At least three calendars. I never buy a new calender until well into January because I inevitably receive three free for Christmas - this nearly caught me out this year when the Usual Suspects didn't buy one and I nearly had to trawl the January sales for the Reduced In The Sales Cheapo-calendar (Fortunately I was saved as a late present revealled itself to be a series of 12 pictures of Cats In Hats, set above the dates of the year)
#3: A book
The type of book I like best at Christmas is a) something by an author I've never read before (I've read all the books by the authors that I know) b) a book of useless trivia that I can surreptitiously glance at whilst the Queen moans on about her Horrible Anus (I still think I mis-heard her somewhere that year...) (see below #1)
But this year in the absence of any book whatsoever I ventured to my local library for the first time in several years.
Don't get me wrong: I like going into the central library which is actually housed in the remains of an old dance hall where my parents first met and is set on two levels: but our local library is a bit...how can I put this nicely...rubbish.
Firstly it has random opening hours which are, roughly speaking: Monday mornings, tuesday afternoons, thursday around the middle of the day and Friday afternoons again but at a random time. It seems to also open Saturdays and some Sundays at Whimsical Time- presumably defined by Schrodinger (on the grounds that it is never possible to empirically prove that the place is open, even if the doors are not locked).
The first time I went in there it was also full of school kids who could be best described as "skiving off" (see #2)
Also once you go in there is not actually much in the way of books: a row of big print books for all the elderly people, a children's section, a couple of computers and three library assistants (which seems rather excessive considering the whole thing could fit in my front room and also considering that you can never find a single assistant in the palatial Central Library)
But this time I was a Pixie On A Mission - as there is a new Ian Rankin book out in hardback and based on the fact that a) hardbacks are too expensive and b) I'm unlikely to read a detective novel more than once unless it's very good (after all - you know who did it now) I decided to order it in.
Apparently these days there is a charge for reserving a book
Maybe it's just me being funny, but the first question that came to my mind was: where did they come up with such a precise charge?
Ninety pence I could understand, or even ninety-five so that it somehow seems immensely cheaper than a whole pound - but Ninety-Three??
That suggests that someone out there got out a pocket calculator and did some differential maths to work out the average cost of transferring books from one location to another - which seems like rather a lot more effort than, oh i don't know, just pulling a random-yet-sensible price out of mid-air
As to whether my ninety-three pence has been well spent I have yet to find out. For one thing my book has yet to arrive, for a second the darned thing might not actually be any good
Thirdly, of course, I will need to find a friendly passing Rocket Scientist to define whether the library is actually open or not.
#1: Queenie was actually talking about her Annus Horribilis - her horrible year. As far as I can determine this was not caused by her bottom
#2: Skiving off - UK expression for being absent from something, usually without permission