If you are lucky enough to stay at Gladstone’s Library for a whole month, and I was, it is almost inevitable that, by the end of your stay, there will be things that get left behind and other things you will take away. I could get metaphysical about leaving behind a month of my life that had now become the past but, instead, I’ll tell you about the washing I left. Now is not the time for intimate detail but you’ll be relieved to know the washing was clean and had been left hanging on a rack. I was soon reunited with it when it arrived in the post neatly parcelled up as a kind of living proof that my stay at the Library hadn’t all been a dream…(cue wavy images, floaty music…).
The library started with 32,000 of Gladstone’s personal books and it has been greatly added to since. There are now about 250,000 printed items and just to give you further reason to doubt the reliability of this narrator I can tell you that I also left behind three books I had taken with me from home. I am a fast reader but was there any real danger of me running out of reading material in my month long stay? There must have been a time when Mr Sherlock Holmes was obliged to point out to the poor lacking-in-brilliance Watson that a very good place in which to hide a book would be a library. You might think my books would be impossible to find but Mr G. Butler of Gladstone’s Library is not one to be defeated and he did not rest until he had found them. He also offered to post them back to me. “Oh no!” I cried, “I myself will have to RETURN to collect them” (a plan worthy of Professor Moriarty himself don’t you think?).
By now even Watson could have worked out that I didn’t want to leave the Library. I had made new friends, see photo (is that the right photo?). I had a beautiful park to walk in where I could see snowdrops and sheep. I had been very well fed and looked after. The ‘team’ at the Library really is a team and I had been able to spend my days with gentle, wise people united in their efforts towards freeing me to write. I was the ‘Writer in Residence’ but there are no guarantees and I might have done just the ‘Residence’ part which would certainly have had its own value. But write I did. I wrote words down, crossed words out, and wrote some different words and some of the same words. I wrote poems. For the first time in my life I had the time to think and read and write. It was the main thing rather than something to be squeezed in the corners of ‘real’ life with all its demands and distractions. My month at Gladstone’s Library was a precious time and can you blame me for not wanting it to end?