27th September 06:00
Toonheid Dilettante (Recycled)
It was International Book Day last week
Mind you, I don't normally pay much attention to these affairs,
rather regarding them as a bit of a con trick perpetrated by the
publishing world, which is full of dilettantes and ne'er-do-wells,
who have never done a real day's work in their lives.
Anyhow, it took me back about fifty years, to my brief association
with the publishing world.
To earn a few bob while I was still at school, I got a wee job in
a bookshop in Buchanan Street . It was a nice wee job which I liked,
and I got twelve shillings and sixpence a week for my trouble.
After school, I used to run the mile or so to the bookshop where I
would be given my instructions for the next two hours during the week,
and four on a Saturday morning.
It was easy enough work. Basically all you had to do was take a
largish package of newly published books to one or other of
Glasgow's many Public Libraries in all parts of the city. Naturally,
the least expensive way of doing this was just to take the bus or the
tram in those days, and at most, I would make two journeys
Often it was a voyage of discovery, as at that time I did not know
Glasgow very well, but soon I became as accomplished as any
taxi driver. Ask me where a Library was and I was your man.
I always liked the feel of stability you got from these old libraries,
with their imposing facades and terazzo or marble floors, and it
seemed that the Victorians had gone out of their way to house
books in the most distinguished of buildings.
I liked that.
Woodside, Toonheid, Springburn,Whiteinch, Cathcart and nearly
all old districts had these Temples of Learning for the working people
of the time. And, as the City expanded their were little local library
offshoots created in the new 'housing schemes'.
I used to deliver books to school libraries too.
There was only one 'run' that I hated. The Mitchell Library Run.
The Mitchell is Glasgow's biggest library, and is one of the most
distinguished in all of Europe.
Trouble was...it was only a mile or so from our shop.
This meant that there was no wee bus trip with a tidy wee parcel.
No, alas. This was a job for the big wheel-barrow and over a
hundred heavy tomes every time. I must confess I did feel it was
a unique indignity to have to push the heavily laden barrow up
and over the hill at Bath Street past Blytheswood Square,
then hold on like grim death as it threatened to run down the
other side through the front door of the Kings Theatre in
Embank Street..I only hoped that Isabel Stevenson, she was
twelve too, and in my class at school wouldn't see me.
By the time I got to the front steps of the Mitchell I was usually
lashing a fair bit o' sweat and a fair bit o' discomfiture.
It was not all torture though.
During a slack period when you were up a ladder stacking books in
the high shelves of the shop you could get to overhear the 'intellectuals'
doon below ye discussing all manner o' philosophical and political ideas.
Fortunately, when you are a twelve year old ye are invisible.
I wish I could be invisible noo. I'd kick a few erses. ;-)