Few places are as simultaneously comforting and intimidating at once as a good library – or indeed an evil one, come to think of it. The shelves of books are an immovable presence radiating both the call of old friends, and the uncertain promise of new people met at a rather sedate party. Either way you’re not entirely certain as to what will happen next.
The bustle of libraries, full of children, has been firmly quenched in these covid lockdown days, and more’s the pity. Instead we have a return to the deep silence that has always underpinned these places. Despite the faint traffic noise that sometimes murmurs and hisses in the background there is now a quiet and stillness that some find unnerving.
Those who remark on it sometimes say that the silence is expectant, and it makes them want to fill that awful void in an otherwise frenetic soundscape. I think that tells us as much about how uncomfortable they are with their thoughts in the quiet as any statement by the librarians; even if that statement is a simple “Shhhhhh!”
Much to my delight I found out this weekend that Apophysis, the fractal software I used to enjoy making images with as the base of some of my old artworks, is still available and has been updated to work on modern PCs.
Well, it would be rude not to. I’m still re-learning the ins and outs of it, but for comparison here are two old images and two new ones
We tried something a bit different this week as we gamed on Sunday, and livestreamed the session – or at least the audio of it along with the virtual table top – it was very rough and ready, but we all enjoyed it immensely and even had some people pop their heads round the virtual door to cheer us on. Some of them even suggested they’d enjoy coming back next time, so we can’t have been awful.
I suppose this means I’ll have to get quicker on getting material prepped and ready, and I’ve agreed to do a quick video intro that will be spliced into a YouTube video for the channel that we’re setting up as well. I’ll announce that properly when there’s something to actually see there. Personally I can’t stand the sound of my own voice, but no one has said anything about it so I have to assume it’s not dreadful to anyone who hasn’t heard my internal monologue. That… doesn’t at all sound odd, does it?
If it takes off, we’ll do more social media noise in real-time, but for now its a neat little experiment.
I’m focusing on being positive this week, what with the anniversary and my brain’s attempts to continue to sabotage me. For the most part this has manifested in new writing, new items going up in the shop (180 odd designs and rising as of time of writing), and going through old backups to find the graphics that time forgot.
Oh, there are so, so, many. I forgot how prolific I was when I was ill back in the early to mid 2000s. Some of the archives have aged very badly, others look amazing, and others are currently inspiring new works as a revisit.
Its interesting to see how I’ve progressed in some areas, and what looks familiar even now. More than anything else it has got me wanting to spend more time pushing to rediscover digital art techniques.
It was Lady M’s birthday yesterday, so we made the most of it. She had a small mound of presents and cards to enjoy before we jumped in the car and sped down the way to Portsmouth for breakfast with myr s and Lady B, and a wander round the shops.
When we got back there were flowers and chocolates from the Charleesi, her boyfriend, and the ex-Mrs M, and we just settled into a quiet evening.
With lockdown looming, it felt like a last-ditch effort to get to see everyone and was much needed: Lady M got to be surrounded by loved ones while friends on social media made her timelines explode with good wishes.
Grinding noises filled the air before he even arrived at the library. A large scale building project seemed to be doing its best to envelop and absorb the older brick building like some predatory amoeba. The concrete bones of the towering new buildings were in the process of being dressed in brickwork similar to that of the library in anticipation of their windows and doors being installed. Scaffolding was liberally draped around everything in sight, and even buttressed against the older building across flattened roof spaces visible from the road.
The library building definitely seemed to be enduring the outrage with a suppressed eye-roll expression. Sounds of metal grinding through brick and concrete dominated everything and echoed off the surrounding buildings. Below that you could hear the thrum of generators and the hiss of compressed air escaping, while loud steady beeping noises told of reversing vehicles somewhere nearby.
The hope that this would ease as he walked through the doors was quickly dashed. Even inside the walls of what should have been a haven of peace the loud rattle of metal overlaid everything else. He was surprised not to see any cracks in the walls or visible vibrations in the shelving. Perhaps, he mused, the books were acting as a shock absorber, protecting their housing the only way they could. A glance out the nearby window gave the context to that noise at least: caterpillar tracks on diggers as they ground and inched their way around the site. A sign could be seen fixed to a nearby wall. It read “What is reading if not a silent conversation? – Walter Savage Landor” Librarian humour.
He paused and and took in the pinched expressions and weary smiles of the staff in the face of the encroaching construction noise. It wasn’t stopping them from engaging with their customers with what looked like genuine enthusiasm.
I made an old woman cry yesterday. I was serving her and as I removed my mask behind the screen she did a doubletake. Then she said I was the absolute double of her son, down to the beard, eyes, and voice – and tears welled up. She left quickly after, as I told her I hoped it meant it could be something she could look forward to next time – which was the best I could manage at short notice.
I don’t know the context, I assume either death or estrangement figured in the story somewhere. I don’t think anything can really prepare you for moments like that.
And so we carry on. In this case to Halloween, which feels thematically consistent at least.
And I have assistants dressed as witches, a bone suit and face mask at the ready, and loads of families wandering in and out despite torrential rain. There are far worse ways to spend a Saturday than dressed up and having a bit of a light hearted approach to the job. It would have been the last of MCM comiccon this week so at least I’m dressed up for something.
I’m on my own, setting up for the day at the library, and there’s a certain calm to the quiet that eases my mind and nerves. Maybe its the sense of being master of my domain, or the reassurance of being alone with books and the promise of what may come today.
Either way, even with a building site next door, the quiet of a library first thing in the morning takes some beating as a way to set you up for the day.
All the computers are on, cash in the tills, daily timetable drawn up, and a clear set of shelving awaiting today’s returns. Time for a cuppa before I open the doors I think.
I’m on holiday next week, partly for Lady Mrs birthday, and partly because its that time of year again when PTSD likes to rattle the bars. It isn’t as dreadful yet as it has been in recent years, and I’m putting that down to keeping busy with as many positive things as I can.
So just this week to go, and if I can get all the paperwork concerning the new hires set up properly before I disappear I’ll treat that as a win.