I managed to get in about five people’s way taking photographs as I rocked up outside Twickenham library this afternoon.
A family of a father and two sons, a couple of women with book bags slung over their shoulders, an older man who was standing in the doorway waiting to meet someone.
“Sorry,” I muttered to the family as I stepped right in front of them, trying to get a straight(ish) record of this stone:
I was almost taken aback when the older boy, who seemed about eight, smiled up at me. “Don’t worry,” he said.
It’s ridiculous but true that living in the capital you don’t expect strangers to be friendly, let alone to forgive your clumsiness.
Inside, there were a few armchairs set about the ground floor, each one nestled with person and book, bonded as though they were one.
I decided to explore the children’s library, partly I’m sure because of the friendly boy that had passed me as I entered.
I found the family with the two sons. The friendly boy was called Henry and his brother was called Joseph.
Henry showed me his favourite place to sit in the library, the seat by the window and so you could look at people going past on the street as you read, whilst Joseph preferred one of the soft green chairs, which he dubbed the poo-poo chair.
They showed me some of the books they liked while their dad flicked through the shelves, adding more and more to their stack.
One of them was a book which had pages designed in such a way that you could make a new creature out of two halves of different animals, an ‘eleger’ (elephant and tiger) or a ‘zekey’ (zebra and a monkey.)
“Where else in the world would we be able to see a zekey?” I asked the boys.
Henry thought for a moment. “Only in your imagination,” he said.
“We come here about once every three weeks,” their dad told me.
“We get out loads of books,” said Henry. “I like to read them over and over.”
“It’s a really great place,” their dad said. I hung on his next words, sure that he might say something meaningful about libraries but he pointed towards the toilets. “Joe needed to go as soon as we got here, even though he’d just been five minutes ago.”
“Oh, yes,” I said, my voice, I hope, only fading a little.
Before they left, Henry confided that we were not alone. His imaginary friend Finley was with us too.
“He drives around in a tractor and likes to pull bins over and so he can eat leftover steak.”
“Where is he?” I asked.
“Well, because we’re in a library, he is able to change size and make himself very, very small. He is sitting just there now.”
Henry pointed to the narrow slot in the machine where you place books to check them out.
“Why is he able to get smaller in the library?”
“Because all the books here give him powers,” Henry said back.