I am moving house at the moment. Not literally, I hasten to add. I am not typing this from a laptop balanced on my knee somewhere on the M1. I am moving in a few days and I type this surrounded by boxes and bags and the remains of Things Which Should Not Be Moved And Really Should Go To The Tip For The Love Of God.
And I am surrounded, quite palpably, by the absence of my books.
It makes me twitchy this space-without-things, this new canvas of my flat where the type of the keyboard echoes and the TV seems too loud. It makes me twitchy because books are the weft of my life in so many ways, they are the binding between the cracks and they are the rock that I swim too when I am drowning and need something to hold on to.
I like books. Can you tell? I like what they mean, I like what they are, I like that the very concept of a book exists – stop for a moment and consider how wondrous that is. That we, as a people, decided to bind and create and collect our stories, our currency as people, our history and our culture, and we realised that was important enough that it needed to be kept. That it needed to be valued.
And that it needed to be.
And so, this is where I tell you of my panicked comment to an estate agent: “What sort of an area are you looking for?” “Somewhere close to the library?”, and this is where I tell you why that still matters, why that always matters and why that will always matter.
When we visit libraries, when we touch a book, when we sit and listen to mum or dad or gran or grandad read the first page of a new bedtime story, we are doing so much more than the reading of that book. We are reading ourselves in a way, we are engaging in the sharing of stories, and we are binding ourselves to one another.
We are connecting. We are connected. We have a hook into the great weave of our world. We read to hear, to find, to be ourselves. We are when we read. We read when we are. And we read when we are not, when we are lost in the great nothingness. Libraries open doors to other worlds. And to ourselves.
I miss my books. I miss them because they are a part of me. .