I’ve had a stressful morning: my flatmate broke our bathroom door (we’re still trying to bottom out why, or what precisely he was doing in the shower, but we are all very grateful that he broke the door, rather than shout for help at 6.30am) and my mother told me that avios miles are ‘worthless’, so all that time on moneysupemarket.com was in vain, but at 10am sharp, the library opens, and everything calmed down.
(For those of you wondering what I did pre-10am, try taking a bathroom door -free shower in a shared flat, and see how efficient you are in the morning).
There are many things I do not like about the library – the designated ‘quiet zones’, for instance, make my head explode, but all of the shuffling and not-even-trying-to-whisper talking is made up for by the library people. I begin by nodding hello to a tiny, perfectly spherical 80 year old woman called Beth (I helped her with her library card last week, almost exclusively so that I could determine her age). Beth has two t-shirts, both XXL. One says, in hot pink: ‘Don’t try to stop me’ and the other, in more muted sparkles, ‘I am a fashion victim.’
Beth likes to come to the library to read after her early-morning workout. (The library and the gym share a building, along with a café called ‘Delice’, which, as their board explains daily, is because ‘all of the food is delicious’.) She reads teen fiction exclusively, because those are the books kept on the bottom floor, and, obviously, she’s already climbed quite enough stairs at the gym. I regularly offer to collect adult fiction from the 1st floor for her, but Beth has no time for my ‘hilarious’ nonsense and prefers if I don’t linger too long near her sofa.
The sofas on the ground floor of the library are hotly contested real-estate. I have often watched in admiration as Beth fakes a limp to move some non-80- year old person out of her seat. Leaving Beth (although I often peer over the balcony at her, another habit of mine she dislikes intensely), I clamber up to the 1st floor, and sit in my usual seat. There is no squabble about my usual seat, because I get to the library when it opens. There are, however, deep disappointments and barely suppressed rage for other people’s usual seats, when they rock up at 10.05 and discover that some rogue GCSE student is occupying their space.
However, assuming that teenage idleness continues in fine fettle, the rest of my 4-person table is filled up with the usual library people. Who consist firstly of balding middle-aged man (I am not 100% certain what middle-aged means, anymore, now that I’ve read so many articles telling me that 50 is the new 40 etc, but this man is in his mid-40s. Is that middle age? I can’t see myself living past 90, but who knows? Today I did almost 14 minutes of exercise, trying to fix the damn bathroom door). Balding middle aged man wears a white t-shirt (one hopes he has several, but it is hard to tell) and shorts. Always shorts, no matter what hat and jumper combo I myself am modeling. He wears earplugs, and breathes heavily, sniffs almost perpetually and is visited at lunchtime by his girlfriend, who speaks too high and tries to sit on his lap. Balding middle-aged man and I are not friends.
Nap-taking black man and I are friends. We sit opposite one another, and he used to ask me to ‘watch his computer’ when he went to the loo, until I pointed out that it was an ACER, and no-one wanted to steal it. He ‘works’ for approximately 15 minutes of every hour, and fills the remaining 45 minutes with desk napping. We recently had a great moment when I lent him my jumper as a pillow, and then had to sneakily take it back, when I got cold. In unrelated news, nap-taking black man has not been back to the library this week.
The final space on our library table is shared between angry white female, who exclusively looks at books on feminist theatre theory (this is not why she is angry white female. She spends much of her day stalking about the library, frowning hugely and bearing down on people who are whispering, during which time I read great swathes of her books, which are brilliant), and Martin, who is writing what I can genuinely say sounds like the worst sitcom pilot ever.
(Martin once shared a not very good muffin from Delice café with me, and told me both his name and his pilot premise. Neither were particularly inspiring.) Martin and angry white female do not know each other, but I have firm hopes that one morning they will both arrive at the desk spot simultaneously, and the rest of the table will be asked to vote as to who gets to stay. (I will rig the vote, naturally, and ensure that balding middle-aged man gets kicked off). There are other library people, naturally, but I can’t talk about them at the moment, because it’s lunchtime, and I need to go watch stretching Asian man perform his entirely mysterious library tai-chi.