Today, I cheated on my library.
Over the last few months, I’ve taken to spending Monday morning out of the house, reading the papers and catching up with emails and other admin and so on. Initially, I headed for a coffee shop, until it dawned on me that all those ristrettos were adding up. Although I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of knocking back hot black coffee and feverishly scribbling notes on a sachet of sugar à la Ernest Hemingway (until 10am, anyway), the reality of my ever-so-romantic life means that I can’t justify the expense of a freshly roasted fairtrade caffeine hit every hour (the interval I deemed seemly to justify my seat). So I began going to the local library instead. Not only do they have more newspapers, but there are heaps of books and magazines as well, and very few people talking about their ‘mad’ Saturday nights. Best of all, it’s free.
Last week, however, I strayed. I needed to do some research for a feature, and I’d heard that the Guildhall library boasted a fabulous collection of cookery books. I trundled down there, and spent a happy few hours calling various decidedly foxed editions of Hannah Glasse’s 18th-century masterwork, The Arte of Cookery made Plain & Easy up from the stacks. But a few of the newer titles were listed as on shelf at the Barbican library, ten minutes away.
Any excuse to go over to that wonderfully optimistic village in the sky, even when the wind is tearing through its tower blocks – and since that fateful morning, I have one more. The Barbican library is fabulous. I’m afraid it knocks all the offerings near me for six – newspapers on wooden frames so no one can nick Media Guardian and deprive me of the job of my dreams, books on everything from rude French slang to the cookery of Gascony (both of which now sit before me, along with a collection of Patricia Highsmith’s short stories), and a wonderfully cosy, cave-like 1960’s interior which encourages the browser to take a seat, and make a more informed choice.
I’m sorry, Islington libraries. You have your own special place in my heart, but your strip lighting is too harsh, and you don’t stock Decanter magazine. I have been forced to play away. I am now the proud owner of a City of London library card. I can only hope that in time you will see past your differences, and can live together happily in my wallet for many years to come.