Our Travel blog
When I was about 14 I was afforded a position of rare responsibility at school. Together with my friend Julian we carefully fostered the impression that literature held an interest for us so that we could gain accreditation as library monitors. In truth Julian had discovered some saucy text in a book and was eager to find more and I wanted clandestine access to the school Xerox machine to print a fanzine I was involved in putting together.
After a serious talk from Mr Leonard about the importance of our role and the mighty responsibility upon our tender young shoulders we were largely left to our own devices. Pretty soon my hands were stained blue-black from my surreptitious printing and Julian’s were rubbed raw. After a while it dawned on us that we should probably do a little light librarianing from time to time if we wanted to retain our positions. And as Julian had just discovered the D H Lawrence section he was eager to continue and I was getting a growing reputation for my nifty way with a cumbersome Xerox machine.
The problem with our escapade was that neither of us had paid any attention to Mr Leonard’s induction. We had a vague idea that cataloguing was involved but until now we’d contented ourselves with just sticking the returned books back where there was a space. The delights of Dewey or Universal Decimal Classification were unknown to us. The Library of Congress system was a mystery and the Colon classification was probably something bored proctologists indulged in. I don’t recall the detail now but one day while sorting some returns onto a shelf we chanced upon our own system that was aesthetically pleasing, simple and absolutely unique. This would put Leiston High School on the map. In our minds eyes we saw the headlines in The East Anglian Daily Times hailing two local schoolboy heroes. On my way home that evening I was rehearsing my first radio interview and wondering what to wear when the TV crews came calling.
The following day we set about our plan, spending as much time as possible avoiding lessons and keeping 3rd years out while we rearranged the books to our satisfaction. Sometime around mid-afternoon we stood back, arms folded and admired our handy work. Julian disappeared to the lavatory with a copy of Cider with Rosie to celebrate while I made some small adjustments and tweaked the odd spine into its exact place.
With the passage of time I’m unsure if we summoned Mr Leonard or if he just appeared but I do distinctly remember being rather hurt at his reaction to the school library being rearranged into colours and then height. We thought it provided a much more appealing vista as you entered and cheered the gloomy place up no end. Indeed I’d go so far as to say it was a vast improvement upon the former higgledy piggledy mismatched chaos he’d left behind that morning.
He wasn’t angry exactly. It was more an uneasy calm that comes somewhere on the icy plains beyond mere anger. He stood gaping and trying to start a sentence without success…”but…” (silence) “I mean why would…” (slow shaking of head) “how would you find…” (silence) “why…why…” (claps hand to forehead) “I thought you understood…” (flapping of arms) “I don’t know what…” (silence) “Why would you do…” then, turning first to me then to Julian he whispered “What were you thinking…why would someone do this?”
I learnt a valuable lesson that day about rhetorical questions. With hindsight I probably shouldn’t have launched into such an enthusiastic explanation of our system; one that gradually withered under his gaze until I stood silently looking at my grubby shoes. Our punishment was to put everything back, which given that we had to use a cumbersome system that involved reading faded numbers on the spines and occasionally looking through microfilm records to cross reference volumes took a lot longer than we had spent on our reorganisation. We felt it was unwise to point this out to Mr Leonard on one of his frequent visits to check on our progress, even though to this day I maintain ours was the superior system.
All of which may explain my absolute joy on discovering Craignure’s lone charity shop has an entire bookcase of second hand books arranged by colour. I bounded up to it overcome with rapturous delight. “Behold” I exclaimed turning to face Alison with a sweeping gesture towards the magnificent display. Considering that Alison has just spent an entire winter re-cataloguing a theological library she controlled her enthusiasm with commendable fortitude and walked away shaking her head.
I did note that their neatly coloured book shelves were a bit untidy but I can just imagine their delight when I pop in every day to tutor them on the correct application of the system.
Mull, we need each other!
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