Thursday, June 21, 2012

On my way to (writing about) my public library

I should like the crystal ball to shew me what my
husband will be like.
Disclaimer: In this blog, I was going to write about my new place to visit in Pretoria: my public library.  On the way, however, I became distracted by everything near the public library that I have discovered that I also love.  So this post will take you to the doors of my library, but no further.  Just so you know what you’re getting into...
 I have for many years been a compulsive book buyer.  My family have learnt to roll their eyes and find something time consuming to do if they take me within fifty metres of a book store as I will immediately find my way in and browse (and frequently buy) to my heart’s content.  Now I own a *kindle* which I love, particularly when I am addicted to a series as I no longer have to rush frantically from store to store trying to find a copy of the next exciting part of the saga.

 This year, however, as I fall deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole that is my Masters thesis, all my mind wants to do is delve not into more rabbit holes, but into popular science, economics, history, poetry and shallow popular fiction (I won’t tell you what, it is entirely too embarrassing).  I have also been the victim of the vagaries of the scholarship system and I have had nothing to spare for book purchases.  I could take out books from Wits University’s libraries, but I have often filled my card with work-related books, and every time I step into the libraries I feel obliged to take out something, if not work related, thenat least literature that is high-fibre: you know, the stuff that’s good for you.

She asked the fates to let her sons have long, long lives.
 So, propelled forward by my addiction to these shallow and air-brushed forays into the human heart, I ‘phoned the National Library Services (based here in my very own Pretoria) and found out where my nearest library is situated, which while not within walking distance, is in one of the nearby tree-ed neighbourhoods.  Zama and I set off down the road and after driving twenty minutes too far into the wild green yonder and turning around, we finally found the place.

 It is just up the road from an honest-to-goodness park, replete with a see-saw, swings and a slide surrounded by grass.  Opposite the library is a neighbourhood shopping centre: an old-school one with an Indian-owned green-grocer that sells fresh flowers, vegetables and fruits.  When I walked there from the bus stop one day I bought a punnet of fresh raspberries and ate them then and there, leaving my fingers stained pink.  There is also a pet-grooming parlour and a Chinese restaurant with an outdoor area canvassed with red fabric to protect it from the wet.  There is even a corner cafe and bakery that sells R1 orange ices so filled with sulphur dioxide that I coughed every time I took a sticky, icy bite (and yet I just kept right on eating that thing...).

 They have a car boot sale there every so often.  There are second-hand clothes, white elephant stalls and (of course) a woman with a table filled with second-hand books, left to her by emigrating relatives and friends.  I know I said I don’t have money for books this year (and that was the whole reason I joined the public library) but then I found “Stories from the Faerie Queen”, a children’s book given by The Hatfield Baptist Sunday School to Violet Cross for Attendance and Good Conduct at Christmas, 1929.

But the knight was Britomart, the fair lady with
a man's armour and a man's heart.
To misquote Hadley Freeman (who is misquoting Charlotte Bronte): Reader, I bought it.  And I am letting you share in my good fortune by peppering this post with some of its whimsical illustrations and captions (albeit in blurry photographs from my humble blackberry camera).  I hope you enjoy (and that your appetite has been whetted for my next post: what I found in my public library).

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