I think reading books in public has gone out of style. Or else, that is just denial speak for giving up. Today, I made the decision not to visit Blackpool Library again, at least not alone. I thought I could beat the system. I thought I could be alone there and not be bothered in any way. It is no longer a solo project. I can go into the gambling den that is Coral Island and there are no problems there. i think because everyone is busy haemorrhaging money. Coral Island is not interested in the sin of sex, at least not until kicking out time. They’re interested in that other addiction.
If I want to be left alone to read, then Blackpool Library is not the place to go. I don’t want to be unaccompanied or un-escorted there, from now on. Or rather I don’t want to be. I thought I could hack it. Unfortunately not. I may have tried to make a joke of it, earlier on, this year, or rather last year. I did the whole bravado thing, but I know when I’m defeated and there were so many people there last time I was there, too many and none of them were reading books. In fact, over in the cafe, there was some kind of open friendship day with the amazing aroma of well cooked, quality meals and all these friendly faces. But I can’t just walk into a sea of strangers, however much they smile so beautifully and smell of delicious food.
So I went into the quieter section but of course, the quieter section has its own problems. Everyone with social issues goes to the quiet section. My niece, who has always been very wise for her young years, advised about negative experiences regarding people. She said, ‘You’ll never see that person again, so don’t stress about it.’ That was always a comforting thing but recently, I discovered, to my horror, that is not strictly true. The straw that broke the camels back was once again, seeing a Misery style Annie Wilkes (played by Kathy Bates in the original film, based on the novel by Stephen King).
She had returned. The first time, I saw her, she followed me around and then took photos, when she’d got a good full frontal shot. I think it was her blatant over confidence which disturbed me most, just like Annie Wilkes. She was defiant, confrontational and self important, like she had a right to stand in front of me and take photos without my permission, just like Annie Wilkes. You can get arrested for that in Dubai.
Why couldn’t I just laugh about it, why take it all so seriously? This is a woman with thoughts and feelings and hopes and fears, just like everyone else, but I’m sure Annie Wilkes has thoughts and feelings and fears. It all just felt too much of an invasion of personal space. The fact that she was holding up an envelope and not a camera, means nothing. It was the fact that she felt it was a camera and that’s all that matters. What if she felt it was a knife and came at me with it? An A 4 jiffy envelope might not do that much damage, if she tried to stab me with it, but still, imagine the trauma. It’s the intention behind it, that’s the important thing. If they think it’s a knife, then in their mind they’ve stabbed you with it and are trying to cause serious harm.
But this time, thankfully, I had a witness. ‘Look,’ I said, to my husband, ‘there she is. There’s the woman who’s been taking photo’s/videos of me with an envelope.’ It was a huge relief to be able to prove there was a woman, who, as we spoke, was indeed taking pictures with a big brown envelope and really meant it. When I produced a witness, she ran off. She ran last time, once she’s cottoned on, that I’d cottoned on. One moment there, one moment gone.
My husband had to go off for half an hour and he leaves me here precisely because he thinks it’s a nice safe, quiet place for this hothouse flower to be, but I was grabbing at his shirt sleeve and saying ‘Please, don’t leave me!’
This is a library. I shouldn’t be saying things like that in a library. That sad truth was, I was scared of this woman. I theorised that she was mentally ill and not some undercover journalist, as I’d first fantasied. And that made me feel guilty but no less afraid, as there seemed to be a certain maliciousness in her actions, like Annie Wilkes. So I now had guilt, as well as fear, to add to my arsenal of negative emotions. I wasn’t relieved that she may have mental health issues, obviously, but I was relieved that she wasn’t a conspiracy person. Yet, things were coming to a head, because I was thinking of the infestation of P.U.A’s and all the intoxicated, middle aged divorced men and disenfranchised people, all of us, hovering like lost souls, among the books, but not really reading them. One thing I did do here though, as well as hovering like a lost soul, is read books, but no-one else seems to think that’s what this library is for.
Ninety percent of the visitors here are in the multi media section, on the internet, right next to the cafe. No-one’s interested in books, really, not the smell of them, not the look of them, or the touch of them. Am I the only one that has this fetish? For years, men have read newspapers in libraries. I remember them, hidden behind their gently rustling ‘Daily Mirrors’ in my youth. So, I understand, that’s a thing, I get that, that’s a library staple, but why isn’t anyone here reading the books?
And then it hit me, not only is everyone on the internet and not only is no-one reading the books, I’m the only woman in the reading sections, apart from Ms Envelope Camera. It’s always all men. Middle aged men reading newspapers, not books. P.U.A‘s pretending to read, not reading. No women, at all, unless they are there for social purposes, in social groups, or in the cafe, making friends and eating wonderful food, or taking pictures of people with envelopes.
Oh, why do I want people to read books so much. Why?
I love the uniqueness of this library but not the unpredictability. Perhaps I should welcome that in this mundane, greyed out world, but I don’t like surprises and I had a bit of a panic attack last time. So instead of sitting quietly and reading, which I didn’t feel able to do, I went to Coral Island and gambled.
But the gambling den was a breath of fresh air, especially when you’re just on the Two Penny Falls. A lot of fun to be had and you do win stuff. I wasn’t down by more than seven pounds fifty by the end of it all, and with a couple of cheap but nifty plastic key-rings to show for it.
No one will bother you at Coral island and you’ll be able to spend as much money as you don’t have there. It’s so noisy and chaotic and Earnest Hemingway is nowhere to be seen and yet…even if you love books, you will feel safe. It’s like a library should be, but without any books. Safety comes in numbers and bright lights, never forget that.