Death in a French WC
Friday was our twenty-seventh wedding anniversary, Patricia and me. I posted an old photo on Twitter and we got lots of lovely well-wishes over the social medias. It was all very nice.

In the evening, we went out for dinner to celebrate how damn lucky we were to find each other and to eat some food as well, obviously.

A local restaurant was having a French evening and we went there. If you know I live in a small town on the west coast of Ireland, you may be tempted to think that a French evening might be a bit of a joke but that was not the case. This local restaurant, Rua, (Irish for ‘red’) would take the Pepsi challenge with any restaurant I’ve ever eaten in anywhere. Not only is it good, it’s damn good. On this particular evening, it was actually très bien.

We had some moules and some canard and some crepe for dessert as well as a big old Cotes du Rhone. It was a very good meal. About half way through, a French couple came in and there was perhaps a subtle worry that they may tear the place up, declaring that this wasn’t ‘French’ at all but, no, they seemed to enjoy it too.

It all reminded me of the first time I went to France and ate in a restaurant there. I was in Grenoble for a week, working, and was brought out one evening by a work colleague. It was just the two of us and it was a small intimate kind of a place. The food was also very good, as I recall.

I remember two things in particular from that evening. The first was that I had a very-late-night espresso after my dinner and, although I’m well-accustomed to coffee, this one has me pacing the floor for half the night before I could even think about sleeping.

Or maybe it wasn’t the coffee. Maybe it was that second thing I remember from that evening.

Towards the end of dinner, after the espresso, I decided I should visit the toilets. I had identified that they were through a small door in the wall as I had seen people come and go from there throughout the evening. I excused myself from the table and made my way to that door, working my way through the tightly packed and busy tables.

Just as I got there, a woman stepped up in front of me and beat me to the door. Being the eternal old fashioned gentleman, I held the door for her, allowed her to go in, and then followed her through the door, closing it carefully after me.

I mean, how was I supposed to know? I thought, not unreasonably, that the door led to a lobby which would in turn lead to a male and female toilet. Nuh huh. I turned from the door to find the lady standing beside the sole toilet in the room, looking at me expectantly, no doubt wondering what it was, exactly, that I had in mind.

I don’t blush much. I blushed then though, I reckon. I muttered a nervous ‘désolé’, hastily threw open the door, and rushed back out into the restaurant. As I closed the door from the outside and leaned my head against it, the refined, reserved, restaurant patrons all erupted in loud cheers and applause for me. It was clear that everyone in the place knew the toilet arrangements. Everyone except me.

Last night, I saved up going to the loo until I got back home.

At least I know the rules there.

A Borrower from A Lender Be

Man, I love my Library.

Castlebar Library, County Mayo, Ireland. I love you.

But then I have been around a bit and, in fairness, I have loved all my libraries in their time. I’m like Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson, singing about all the girls I’ve loved before, except I’m singing about libraries. That’s not actually the only difference but it will do for now.

Thursday was a bit of a pain this week. I’ll spare you the details. It was just a bit of a pain. Then, on Friday, I got two messages on my phone simultaneously. The first said that a book I requested online from the library was now ready for collection. The second message also said that a book I requested was now ready for collection. Just the week before, I had logged on and asked to borrow two books. The library had tracked them down in another library elsewhere in the country, had them shipped to my library and now they were sitting there waiting for me. I dropped in at lunchtime and there they were, two beautiful trade hardback versions of the books I wanted to read, my name neatly written on the labels attached to them. 

No charge.

Man, I love my library.

And it’s not just books, you know. Now that people are moving on from DVD and Blu-Ray and getting their entertainment via streaming services, the Library is replete with DVDs and box sets of all shape and sizes. Want to catch up on a recent movie or binge on a series? It’s probably in there, in your library, waiting for you. They’re great for music too. CDs and Audio Books and books online to download onto your computer, even in the middle of the night. Our Library even loans musical instruments. The first decent drum kit my son had, came on loan from the library. That way, we learned how much he loved to play before we bought the kick ass kit he has now. How brilliant was that?

Don’t get me wrong. I buy my books when I can. I enjoy doing it. I think you should buy books too. It’s tough being an author and they need our help and support, just like the libraries do. But I read quite a lot and I couldn’t afford to entirely support my excessive reading habit from book buying alone. That’s why the Library has always and forever been a lifesaver for me. More than that, it’s been a heaven. Sometimes, I can hardly get over what an amazing facility it is to have. A place that will lend you books and let you read them for free. It almost feels like it shouldn’t be allowed and I pray that it always will be and I fear that it someday won’t.

My library is what keeps me on a par with everybody else in the entire world. No matter how rich you are, no matter how powerful, I can afford to read anything and everything that you can read. Because of my library, nothing is held back from me just because I am not as wealthy as you are. All knowledge, all entertainment, is there. Access to it is my right. It is mine.

People say we should make use of our libraries as a sort of a political statement, to reinforce how important and how necessary they are. I have no quarrel with that. It’s true that we do need to defend our libraries in any way that we can and making good use of them is the most obvious and effective way to do that. I just don’t think it ever has to be a chore. Anyone who loves to read can grow to love their library. There are more books there than in practically any bookstore and they are yours to take down and look at and borrow and read.

On Friday, the high point of my day was going in to the library and getting two books I wanted to read handed to me with a smile. I read the first few pages on the walk home and didn’t walk in to a lamp post, as I sometimes do. Life was good.

A wonderful resource, the Library. Use the resource to save the resource but learn to fall in love with it too.

It’s that loving of it that will ultimately save it, I reckon.