“Libraries are our friends.” ― Neil Gaiman

And so dear listener, I’ve been meaning to mention this for some time but some things got in the way. But some other things have happened since to make me want to write this.

A few weeks ago, I watched a discussion on Channel 4 News in which the author of the Horrid Henry stories took on an automaton from the Institute of Economic Affairs disguised as a woman in which the automaton was arguing the case that libraries could not continue (more or less) in their current forms unless they had plenty of computers and people to show you how to use them 😦

The real person (Francesca Simons) wanted them to have books and people who knew about books to help share their love of books. There seemed to be some disagreement about the actual meaning of browsing.

I know whose side I’m on. And that of knowledgeable bookshops 🙂

One example says it all. Recently I read a book with 3 year old RJ, which her mum had got from the local library. It’s a story about cray-ons (not cranes) laying down their tools (themselves) as they felt stereotyped. I loved it and decided to buy a couple of copies for other people.

I went to Waterstone’s in Byres Road and asked an assistant for a children’s book about cray-ons going on strike (trade union background showing through there). She paused for a second and said, ‘You mean ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’? ’ And went and got two copies. One went to my grand-daughter and the other went to another grand-child from a different family (J? A grand-mum? But too young surely? But then I remember that I am a grandpa) and this other grand-daughter did so much more with it in terms of using her imagination than you could ever do with a keyboard and monitor. It became so much more than just a damn good read; it was a platform for imagination 😀

e and I browsed in the Oxfam in Byres Road the other day and you discover books that you didn’t know even existed; when I was very young I was allowed to have a borrowing card for the adult (pronunciation is vital here) section of the local library and I read some amazing books as a result of which I wanted to be a policeman when I grew up; I made extra cash in my early days in radio by writing a What Happened Ten/Twenty/Thirty Years feature for a Saturday morning programme – the material for which I discovered by delving into Mitchell Library micro-fiches; and (and some of you knew this was coming) I owe sooooooo much to all the library staff at UWS (Paisley) for their help and patience in my Post Grad and Masters 😀 😀 😀

I should have gone and said thanks to them on my day of Master’s graduation resplendent in my second only ever wearing of Highland Dress with black socks. But saying that your help with that Inter Library Loan meant I had to learn how to tie a pair of brogues sounds strange – there are quantum leaps and there are quantum leaps.

(‘And was anything worn under the kilt, jt?’

‘No, Skippy, it was all in good working order and still is.)

But you catch my drift.

Gosh, that’s half my word count…….

Ach, let’s keep going. I’m in that kinda mood.

It’s not that I’d stopped reading but it had become the kinda angst reading that I was buying from Fopp – Burroughs and Welsh. But I’ve folk to thank for my change in reading. J and e get big mentions lots but Prostate Cancer Ann and the Blogmeister both suggested Neil Gaiman to me and whilst I have mixed feelings about him, it was with great interest that I had to pull them apart metaphorically in a discussion about veganism on my Facebook page.

And do you remember a wee while ago I was coming back from a team bonding day and was on the train and everyone was looking at their tablets except for the girl on the train who was reading The Girl on the Train? It’s actually a very good book but sooooo much of it described what it is like to be drunk/hungover/drunk/hungover on a daily basis like it was for me in that final thirteen months before Cold Turkey Sunday but I finished it. (I watched the Louis Theroux prog last Sunday and it did not have the same effect on me.)

I was thinking all this as I walked through the Gruffalo Park in Bearsden recently 🙂

Don’t get me wrong. For academic research, computer databases are brilliant. I can’t even remember all their names and there was a joy in discovering obscure articles in the Australian version of Addiction, but even better was seeing a whole shelf load of hard copies of that journal and spending a couple of hours randomly looking through them was never a waste of time.

My favest journal article was ‘Not to Be Toyed With’: Drug Addiction, Bullying and Self-empowerment in Buffy the Vampire Slayer…….absolutely no relevance to what I was doing but how could you not want to read like that? But no. No pictures.

(obvious copy and paste that hasn’t worked 🙂

The point I’m making is how big a role libraries have played in my life over the years even if there was a time I strayed away from them. I see young children being introduced to them in various places and it’s great that Hillhead Library, for example, can play host to Gaelic playgroups and the noise (of fun) that is attached to them.

I still have my SCONUL card and my Glasgow Life Library card was issued to me by Missie K when she worked in Glasgow Life Libraries but how come, Missie K, my membership number is the year of my birth? Eh, that’s it. Rant over.

And finally, there is only one piece of music I can play this week. I remember that afternoon. I watched it unfold live on television and remember shouting at the TV – helpless, fuc*ing helpless.

JFT96 at last.


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