I HAVE to admit it. My passion for books borders on obsession.
I always have one to hand, in my car, in my bag, on my bedside table. No spare minute is a wasted one if there’s a book within grabbing range.
I’m the one you will see on the bus, in a queue, at the railway station or waiting patiently in the doctor’s surgery with my nose in a book oblivious to the rising frustration all around me.
I’ve even been known to catch up on a book during intervals at theatre, football but not rugby (I know, terrible isn’t it?) and concerts – but only I hasten to add if I’m on my own. I’m not quite that anti-social.
As a child, books were my escape from a world packed with adults whose views and requirements came ahead of any opinion uttered by someone still wearing short socks with their frocks!
Going to Sunday School meant being able to meet friends and sing and at the end of a year, bliss. A book.
Good attendance meant being able to head for the book shop in town and pick any book that I wanted. Then came the agonising few weeks wait until I actually got my hands on it.
When I was finally allowed to walk down to the library at the bottom of the road where I lived, you couldn’t keep me away.
The poor librarians must have got fed up of the child who always wanted that book, the one just out of reach on the shelves above her head.
When I began work I found myself surrounded by other people who read. People who didn’t think it weird that I’d bury myself in anything that they cared to throw at me – though I baulked at a tome on the internal workings of a Formula One racing engine, chucked in my direction by a mate who was then a rally driver and motor racing writer.
Perhaps he had meant me to duck, not read it.
Another colleague and I spend our fantasy moments, sometimes while making tea, discussing how we will run our bookshop.
We reckon between us we would probably have enough stock. Problem is that, like me, he doesn’t know how he would part with his precious volumes should any customer dare to want to leave the shop with one.
And there we have the nub of the issue. When it comes to books, I put my hand up and admit to being possessive.
Once on my shelves, and yes, there are lots of them in my house, they have squatters rights for life.
I’ve tried the old one in one out system that friends apply to their wardrobes. You know the idea, buy something new and you have to throw something out in order to justify the purchase.
Try that with your books, said one friend, looking meaningfully at a new batch sitting in the stairs that I had yet to find room for on the shelves.
“Don’t you think you have rather a lot of books,” she said, then later rang to ask if I had anything by “that chap who has just won the Booker.”
I said I probably had but only stuff from before he became worthy of TV headlines through winning one of the biggest prizes in literature. That apparently wouldn’t do.
What lands on my shelves is sometimes what I’ve read about, had recommended by those friends whose reading tastes I trust (picky I know) and often by authors discovered by browsing the shelves of my local library. Because the library acts very much as my laboratory.
It is where I get to test out an unfamiliar author, take home their work for a trial period and see whether we can live together. And if we can’t, back they go to the library shelves, perfectly amicably, no hard feelings on either side.
But, it has to be said, the library has introduced me to many new writers, fresh ideas on history, politics, the arts and so much more.
So to think that libraries may be threatened in cuts that admittedly are likely to savage so many other services is unthinkable.
Reading about a village where people had taken out all 16,000 books in their local library to prevent the local council from closing it down had me cheering. Quietly of course.
And, I have to say, were it to come to defending my local library, count me in.