Posted by Bernie McGill at 29/03/2013 10:10:20
Those of you who read my regular blog may have heard me mention Sadie, the Sat Nav. Sadie has her own opinions about the best route to take from Portstewart to Banbridge Library. She’s very fond of a mountain track: most of her directions include paths through the Sperrins or the Mournes. She and I have fallen out on numerous trips but I do still get her out of her box, on occasion: she’s a strange, irascible travelling buddy but she’s company to have on the road. The best thing to do with Sadie, I’ve found, is to programme her ahead of the journey, then switch her off until I’m in the town of my destination with only the library to find. It’s difficult for her to locate a grassy loanen in the centre of Newry; there’s a fair chance she’ll give up at that stage and send me down a street-lit road. And even when she does put me wrong, it’s a sort of comfort to have something to swear at when I’m in the car on my own.
Sadie and I have had a few adventures over the last number of weeks. We’ve had sunshine on Rathlin, bitter winds in Derry, ice in Omagh, snow flurries in Newry, and everywhere we’ve been, there has been excellent biscuitage. (A special mention to Coleraine Library for producing a box of French Fancies. It was in the running for top treat but lost out cruelly last night to a home-baked carrot cake from a library user at Ballyhackamore.) We’ve met writers of all generations and genres, from school-age poets to pensionable prose-writers all of whom have shared their stories with openness and generosity. We’ve heard of writers’ groups that meet in pubs, in friends’ houses, in libraries and community centres and one notable group (Mourne Writers) that gets together in a café beside a graveyard. (Just think of the writing that comes out of there, stimulated by caffeine, cake, crosses and bones.) It’s been challenging at times, finding my way around – Sadie has seen to that – but mostly it’s been entertaining, moving and rewarding in equal measure. We were writing last night in Ballyhackamore Library, talking secrets and dreams, passions and regrets when a member of the group said: ‘These people with a list of a hundred things to do before you die – sure any one of those things could kill you!’ Not only do they do outstanding cake there, they get the quote of the month.
Here’s a great big virtual bunch of flowers to say thank you to all the staff at Libraries NI and all the people who came out to the talks and workshops and clinics and readings over the past number of weeks. Special thanks to Cultural Services Managers Ciara Gault, Elizabeth McAleer and Jane Moore who’ve looked after me along the way, to Marketing Officer Sarah Crowther for all her support, and to Web Officer Joe Mullan whose patience with my technological fumblings has been nothing short of saintly. (This is the last one, Joe!) Thank you too to everyone who tweeted or retweeted, who posted or shared Facebook messages and comments on the blog – you’ve kept my pecker up! And thank you to Holywood Arches Library Book Group, who collectively rewrote The Butterfly Cabinet and made a better book of it than I did. (This is a picture of the actual flowers they gave me, so I’m over it now - we’ve put it all behind us.) If you’re looking for me, I’ll be back at my own blog before too long, and if you haven’t been to your local library in a while, or if you haven’t been at all, give it a go. Libraries are the peaceful, sociable, non-partisan oases right at the heart of our communities, the places you can go to find out about what’s happening next door or on the other side of the world. They are places in which thoughts may be gathered. It won’t be long before I’m back in one with my laptop, trying to do some gathering. I like the look of the Heritage Room on the second floor of Belfast Central. There’s a café on the ground floor, for when you need perking up with cake, and I found out something that gives it a particular aura – this is the room that used to house Takabuti, the Egyptian mummy that now resides at the Ulster Museum, as well as the south cross from Monasterboice. (There’s a little clip from the BBC archive here.) Caffeine, cake, crosses and bones with the added bonus of books thrown in? It gives me a little shiver and a little shiver can be the start of something. Maybe see you there.