Libraries and bookshops, journeys to somewhere else.

Saltash Library

All my reading life I’ve loved libraries, as I got older bookshops took over because library opening hours are not always convenient for working people. We always visit libraries whenever we travel to cities. Birmingham and Seoul stand out as two of the best. Yesterday I was in our local library doing some admin for a book group. Not planning to get anything for myself I had a quick wander around in case something irresistible caught my eye. Two books leapt out at me, not because they would take me on new journeys but because they reminded me of journeys already taken.

Alan Johnson’s In My Life will be the second Alan Johnson book I’ve read. The first one The Long and Winding Road was the third book of his memoirs. I have yet to read the first two parts. The Long and Winding Road was significant to me because during the period it covered we were neighbours, not close, but some of his roads were my roads and when his days of secure chauffeur driven cars were over we shared our regular commute into Victoria or London Bridge. Obviously like proper London commuters we never made eye contact.

Looking down Gipsy Hill
© theoldmortuary

Alan Johnson is not the only recognisable face seen on the platforms of Gipsy Hill Station.

One stands out as the ‘ most’ famous. Fanny, the Gipsy Hill Cat. Famous throughout London for her duty of care to the commuters of South London. She has her own station waiting room.

and is nearly always on hand for cuddles or ticket checking.

Spiri Tsintziras book Afternoons in Itheka is the second book that grabbed me and is the second based in Itheka that I have read.The first was North of Ithaka by Eleni Gage, a book that fueled a trip to Itheka last summer.

The trip to Ithaka was serendipitous and wonderful. It is such a peaceful island.

We had a huge rustic supper in a general store and occasional cafe.

Some of the artwork was surprising.

The food was everything you would expect of Greek hospitality. Comforting, delicious and never ending.

Reading is my favourite pastime, it gives me time and location travel. Sometimes backwards like these two books but often projecting me forward to adventures as yet unknown.

Dozing with a good book Gangnam Style

My favourite place to read is at home in the World’s Most Comfortable Chair. It is not always the most effective place to read.

My particular ‘World’s Most Comfortable Chair’ was bought on eBay from Penryn . It was in a sorry state but was an original from the 1960’s, the deep chocolate brown velvet was faded to an unattractive lilac . Reupholstered and recovered it lives in theoldmortuary with other bits of mid- century modern furniture.

The chair is the problem. It makes any book soporific. Not for me sleeping on hard surfaces with a book.
This preamble is a shameless lead-in to share two of my favourite book related images. I captured them within the same few hours in Seoul, South Korea. The first was a wall mural in Bongeunsa Temple, Gangnam-gu.

I imagine this photo would have rested undisturbed in my Seoul photo archive had it not been reconstructed in a contemporary way just a mile or so away at the Kyobo book store. I love the peace expressed by the relaxed hands in both images.

I had completely forgotten these two book related dozes were captured in Gangnam district, so more shameless image sharing and with it, hopefully, an earworm. Seriously, you’re welcome no problem at all.

A row of books.

Any row of books has potential.

A row of books that are beautiful, but fakes,  should be disappointing.

Tate Modern bought ‘British Library’ by Yinka Shonibare CBE in 2019.

The installation of 6,328 books is as much a space for contemplation as the Seagram Murals by Rothko in the same building .
https://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/display/in-the-studio/mark-rothko

My response to Rothko is to be peaceful and calm. Shonibares work makes my head fizz. It’s not just the vivid, vibrant colours but the stark utilitarian librariness of it.

3 walls of a gallery are filled with bookshelves. All the books are brightly coloured, covered with Dutch Fabric, a mass produced batik style material from the Netherlands. On the spines in gold leaf are the names of first or second generation migrants to Britain who have made significant contributions to the culture or history of Britain. Some books have the names of people who have opposed migration, this negative group is balanced by the huge number of books that have no names on their spines representing the future when currently unknown migrants will boost and embellish British life in unimaginable ways.
https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/shonibare-the-british-library-t15250

Central to this exhibition is a website where migrants or their descendents can add their stories. These additions can be read on the website.

I took my small granddaughter, also a migrant, to this exhibition before she was one. Already a lover of colourful books I plan to take her regularly until she can add her story.
https://thebritishlibraryinstallation.com/about/

The Guardian ran an article about Yinka Shonibare last week.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/jan/13/yinka-shonibare-london-nigeria-african-renaissance

Libraries

Plymouth blue sky today, no filters.

Plymouth library, museum and art gallery all closed some time ago.

The site is being redeveloped to become The Box, a museum, gallery and cultural space . I’ve really missed being able to use the old facilities and have volunteered at the building site doing Hard Hat Tours as a way of being involved.
https://plymhearts.org/thebox/

Until today I hadn’t used the library in its new location. Primarily because I loved the old building and the new one, to be honest, is not charismatic. Plymouth deserves something glorious like Birmingham. In our dreams…

Libraries are not just about buildings and books.

theoldmortuary needed to find out the location of a deceased relations childhood address. We had tried all sorts of searches on-line line with no success. The library was our next choice and we arrived today with only scant information. The staff at the library were brilliant trying all sorts of searches. Eventually a pre war register of Plymouth inhabitants gave us the breakthrough we needed. Another member of staff delved into Cencus archives to double check the findings. After that we took a drive and found a cottage hidden from view up an alley and some steps. We would never have located it without the diligence of the library staff.
https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/libraries

Libraries are about friendly, knowledgable staff. Plymouth Central Library was very good to us.

Thankyou