There will always be a tug of war between my girls and I when it comes to our weekly(sometimes every 2nd week) excursion to the local library. There is a local sweet shop near the library which gives them the spur to make this agonizing journey to a place that represents all that is pointless and wrong with the world. “I hate reading”, “What’s the point of a book, I’ll never read it!”, “Can we go to the sweet shop now?” are the comments I receive during our time there. If I can ignite a flicker of interest in the written word I can sit back in my rocking chair of life and with a smirk of smugness on my face watch there eyes jump across the page. A simple request! I’m not asking them to stick needles in their eyes, I don’t want to pull off a fingernail, for the love of God…..they always get some kind of reward if only it’s in sweets.
When I was younger….about there age now….every Saturday was a regular visit to our local library in Ballyphehane. My cousin Fergal and I would accompany each other to get lost in the TinTin books or Hardy Boys Adventures. It gave me a sense of escape from the norm. Libraries are traditionally sombre, quiet places that command a respect from the members that visit now and again. As a child we found it just as difficult as most to obey the etiquette of these hallowed walls. We picked up our few books…colored with the well worn crayons and checked our books out as we left with the stamp of the return date on the inside sleeve. Simple pleasures in life that I feel my kids need to recognize. I don’t care if they even read the books they pick….even if they read 2 pages… that would be a small step…gradually building to a grudging respect for the written word. It’s a cumulative process that should help them in some way. Maybe it’s selfish on my behalf but I always loved the concept of the library system….I sometimes pick up a classic novel in the children’s section and flick through it at home. I just love the ability for someone to walk off the street and pick up a novel or a bit of history…some bit of literature that may change their perspective on life. Unlike the internet…the library is a 3D experience. The information is all around you and the search can be a lot more random than an online experience….the smell of the pages…the touch of the pages…these visual sensations all build to give you a much higher experience than any online experience.
Don’t get me wrong…I love surfing and searching online but I’d hate for it all to be lost to a virtual experience…the simple act of feeling the weight of the book in your hand…the decision to take it home…walking to the librarian station….a quick chat maybe about what a good choice of book…..the journey home and anticipation of reading the first few pages!!!
The experience for my girls at the moment is quite different…a bit of cajoling and bribing to pick out at least 2 books each….yesterday it was up to me to pick something for them so I picked up 2 Irish History Books “100 Greatest Moments in Irish History” and “The Irish Famine(The Birth of Irish America)”. Both have fantastic illustrations and snippets of Irish History that even I didn’t know about. I introduced Clodagh to the Famine book with a retort of “We learnt that in School”. This stopped me in my tracks because there was no way in they would cover such topics in that much detail. Then I advised her that there will always be information on a topic that will be outside of the school curriculum and it will be up to her to get the full story and we all know how History can be controlled to the detriment of its people. Then I went upstairs for a split second and as I returned I saw her quickly flicking through the book. Small triumph for Daddy. 101 greatest moment you could say.
The area we live in is full of this history…As I said to the girls…these were our people who suffered and died….I got a comment of “We didn’t know them!”…infuriation followed from my part but I think I got someway through to them.
The road from Newtwopothouse (where the girls school is) to Doneraile is one I travel every day on our journey to and from school…an area full of history…..from my house to the school there are stone walls built by the landlords of yesteryear that have with time fallen to ruin. Over the last year the local farmer who owns the land has had a man repairing the walls to their former beauty. A slow painstaking task that involves cold wet mornings and lots of patience. Every time I pass them I give a silent nod of respect to this master mason for his outstanding work. The area has been restored to its past glory. This is an area surrounded by Ash, Beech, Oak, Hazelwood….. and these have the contrast of the stone walls that seem to frame them against the countryside. That daily excursion is unlike any I had as a child…..a causeway of road hugging trees guides us each day to our destination….giant trees planted 100’s of years ago….that is why we should remember the past with a grudging respect.
I must admit I also like the few clove rocks and bulls eyes that the girls share with me after the library. Simple pleasures…