There was a library hidden around the corner from the local shops. You could take out six books at a time. The librarian was a pale frog in thick specs and knitwear; a kindred spirit: you could grow up so lucky as to become a saucer to her cup. When she stamped your books with a kerchunk of her heavy book stamper, she smiled as if you both had shared an achievement bright with promise.
It did not matter what you borrowed. It was a library unimpeachably wholesome. You were fond of the How and Why Wonder Books, Hero Tales of the British Isles, the Greek Myths, historical novels with bearded warriors and lost youths, adventure tales in the four corners of a square world, childish horror stories, boyish crime stories, Aesop, Brer Rabbit, Huck Finn, Narnia, the Wind in the Willows, Pooh Bear. Biggles was big, and even Enid had a place in your bookstack. The library formed the AngloYankee spine of your worldview, later sedimented over but never displaced in decades of furious intellectual rebellion.
You would have exhausted the library in your first year were it not for your willingness to reread. You returned again and again to the book of dogs, the book of precious stones, the Readers Digest World Atlas, the Britannica. There was a corner down the back that received the afternoon sun and you made it yours, sitting in the steel-framed lounge chair with the caramel-coloured vinyl cushions. There you slumped after school, day after day, resting the text on your tummy and reading through your thick plastic-framed spectacles. You read what you could and then, when you had to return home, you borrowed what you could. You filled your schoolbag and you went heavy out the swing doors, through the antechamber of dusty notices and down the tiled steps, peering ahead for the Carter gang, who would (if they could) roll you in the mud, throw your bag deep into the lantana, pitch your glasses onto a roof, twist your arm, do chinese burns, tear your shirt, kick your arse, pull your hair, black your eyes, bloody your nose, stamp on your toes, pull your pants down, squeeze your nuts, and drag you in a headlock to the edge of consciousness.
You loved books. Your life protested the contrast between the justness of books and the hell of earth.