When I was little, the library on Grange Road in Ryton was something I took for granted. It wasn’t even a three-minute walk away from where we lived. Both of my parents were avid readers, and they (my mother especially) were in the library most days. It’s not that long ago since it was closed down and demolished to make way for the car park that’s there now. The children’s section was to the rear left (where the charging points for electric cars are) and the librarian’s office was on the right of the car park. I was a pre-school member there in my own right, so while Mum chose her books I would choose mine, and engage the librarians, Joyce and Beryl, in lengthy conversations. Beryl still lives in Ryton, and I know that Joyce resides on the south coast somewhere because I occasionally see her sister. My favourite books were Dr. Seuss, Janet and John, and a raft of Ladybird titles. As well as the prose/stories in the Ladybirds, I loved the magnificent painted illustrations they had, so full of detail that I could lose myself in them. They’re rubbish [the illustrations] now – all cartoons. Because of the library, and with my mother’s help, I was a proficient reader long before I started school. Local Authority cut backs have deprived us of Ryton Library (and many others) but thanks to volunteers we have Ryton Community Library, which is at the back of the Methodist Church on Ashfield Terrace.
A few weeks ago I called into the Community Library and asked if I could join their reading group.The timing of the meetings, the afternoon of the last Thursday of every month, somewhat ruled me out because of work, but it was definitely on the back burner. However I’ve got some unexpected free time and so I asked Heather if she would take me down there. Owing to medical issues I’m not allowed to drive for a bit. The meetings only last for an hour (which is about all I can manage at the minute) and I was made to feel very welcome. Gateshead Libraries provide the books, and the title I’ve been given to read for this month is, ‘The Girl with all the Gifts,’ a thriller by M.R. Carey. I haven’t read anything of his before, but at the back of the book there is a section called ‘Extras’, rather like the special features on a DVD. Here it tells us that M.R. Carey is a pen name for an established British writer of prose fiction and comic books. He has written for both DC and Marvel, including critically acclaimed runs on X-Men and Fantastic Four. It’s remiss of me I know, but my knowledge of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four lies somewhere between sketchy and non-existent. I did win The Illustrated History of Marvel in a raffle last autumn, a colourful volume of work which would have kept a wood burning stove satisfied for a month. I gave it away the day after I won it so unfortunately I don’t have it to refer to. Martina Cole says about The Girl with all the Gifts, “If you only read one novel this year, make sure it’s this one.” Funny that, because she said the same thing about a different crime novel I finished last month. She must mean a different year. I’m struggling with the book myself, but I’ll try to persevere for another chapter before I call it a day. One of the ladies in the reading group, Maggie, mentioned that life is too short to be reading things she doesn’t enjoy, and I completely agree. When we’re not reading for information or education, we read only for enjoyment, so if we’re not enjoying something what’s the point? Even so, having something selected for me which I wouldn’t necessarily choose myself paves the way to new horizons. See Ryton Community Library* for opening times and details of events.
*Ryton Community Library Volunteer Association is a Registered Charity
(Charity Number 1153741)
Saturday was a big day for Heather; she has been eagerly anticipating taking part in the Beach Assault challenge at Whitley Bay for months. This is an assault course on the sands, one of a number of events run in support of ex-service veterans. I cheered her on from the safety of the car, sustained by a flask of tea and The Times. It took Heather an hour and a half or so to complete the challenge, and she returned muddy and tired, though not as muddy as she was when she participated in the Stampede at Newcastle Race Course last October. Here are some photos from Saturday afternoon.