Saturday, 21 July 2012

Memory is a funny thing!

Memory is a funny thing, its very selective and there are always things that you remember which seem to be very insignificant now - but must have had for some reason an impact at the time. 

I was reading one of those "Do you remember when" websites. One of the questions was, "what was the first book you read from the library." I can remember going on my first visit to the library with my mother. I was about six years old. I had been taught to read long before going to the infants school and even then I was quite comfortable reading a newspaper. 

The bit that I don't recollect but it was recounted many times by my mother in later years. When the woman stood at the library counter gave my mother a "joining card" to fill in. Mother passed the card to me and I quickly filled it in and passed it back - to the surprise of the librarian.

This was a time when you had a small cardboard folders that were kept in a long thin filing drawer. The card had your name and other details on it. When you chose a book, there was a small book stub in a similar cardboard folder inside the front cover.  The stub was removed and placed in the folder with your name on which was then carefully filed away. The book was then date stamped on a flyleaf for when it should be returned. 

What I do remember was walking around the library, selecting three books and returning to the counter. The librarian said "You may only choose one book on your first visit." I looked through the three books and decided which one I would take. Then the librarian said "You can only choose books that are located in the children's section." I had chosen my books from the adult section of the lending library. 

So, I looked around the children's section. It was in a small side room. There was a fenced off section with small bookshelves. At the time, there was nothing I could find that I wanted to read. I remember thinking that the books were far to young for me.  So mother used one of her library tickets to get the adult book for me. Now the strange thing is - I can't remember what the book was or what it was about. I remember some of what took place at the time. But what I do remember was my older sister took out a book about horses called "Red Conker". 

Why after all these years do I remember her book and not the book that I had chosen - a strange quirk of the memory cells. But I also remember reading "Red Conker" before it was returned.

A few weeks later, I went with mother to see the chief librarian. He was sat in an oak panelled office with a huge desk. I was there because mother had requested that I be given access to the adult section of the library. He asked me to read a passage from a book. Then he asked me a few questions about what I had just read. We all went down to the main desk where my "blue" children's ticket was exchanged for three "olive" adult tickets. The strongest recollection that I have of the chief librarians office was the smell of books and leather. It's funny how you can have memories that include smells!


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