I don’t know what triggers some memories, but this one popped into my mind while reading a totally unrelated post, closely followed by another similar recollection. Both memories are worthy of recording because they played a monumental role in my childhood development.
The first memory is visiting the Notts County Council mobile library. A large bus/lorry type vehicle, with shelves of pristine books inside, a red carpet leading down the centre aisle to the steps from the entry door at the front.
My first recollection was standing on the curbside outside our house on Python Hill Road looking eagerly down the street for the first glimpse of the approaching mobile van. It would often stop further down the road, and stand there what seemed like a decade, but was probably only 10 minutes, then it would trundle up the road and pull up outside our house.
Mum would collect books for herself and Dad, whilst I would scour the children’s section. Already a proficient reader at school, the mobile library just reinforced my thirst for reading, and later my thirst for knowledge – the back shelf on the book was the science shelf, with huge glossy books on Astronomy which I would borrow and study intensely until the van returned a week later.
Three things stand out all these years later – the distinct “book” smell of the bus, the pleasant lady librarian (the bus driver said very little) and the pristine cleanliness of it all.
But eventually I had read everything they had got. Dad used to go to the library in Mansfield on a Saturday morning – that is, the library which was based next to the museum, and later to Blidworth library where he would collect four sci-fi books each week and work his way through them. I also started reading them, and he had very good taste in sci-fi: Ray Bradbury, Issac Asimov, Phillip K Dicks among others. I developed a passion for sci-fi and books in general, and when I was old enough I would walk from home to Blidworth library most nights in Summer, and at least once a week in winter – it became my second home. I soon ran the child section dry, and started on the adult section – at thirteen years old, I drew some strange looks from others in the adult section, and also the librarian on the front desk when I went to have my selections date stamped.
Blidworth library also played a part in my first childhood romance, but that’s another story.
It’s fair to say that reading books from an early age was an essential part of my development and created a thirst for knowledge that I am yet to satisfy.
The other memory sort of goes hand in hand with the one above; when I was still at primary school I remember being ill and off school, and in those days there was no day time TV, except on BBC 2, which would show information programmes, normally with a “How It Works” theme. These films were broadcast solely in order to help tradesmen set up the new fangled colour on their tv’s.Not that we had colour, I only remember them in black and white on our old PYE TV with its dansette like white and gold tuning dial and woven speaker cover.
I enjoyed these documentaries so much that I would often stay in during the school holidays to watch the programmes rather than go out to play. I particularly remember the one about the Luton car plant, and a few made by Shell and BP about oil exploration. On a school trip to the Luton plant a couple of years later, the teachers were mesmerised that I already knew the full production process.
They stopped showing stuff like that a couple of years later, but it had already whet my appetite. These days there is such a glut of information, I don’t think kids know where to start, and need guiding on what information they take in.
With kindles and ipads, it’s almost too easy to forget the beauty of books. I hope my grand kids get to visit a library regularly as they grow up… Maybe I should make a point of taking them?