Saturday, 5 November 2011


Over the past twelve months I've been doing a lot of travelling. I've been moving around a bit within my own continent, and making forays into a couple of others. I've travelled into a new decade too. Psst! Don't tell anyone but I'm now in my sixth.

Visiting other countries is fun, slightly scary when done on my own, and keeps me on my toes. I'm very lucky that I'm fit and able to do it, and have had the funds. But what if I was unable to physically travel?

Arguably, the most important journey of all is in our minds, and where better to broaden our knowledge than to use a library? Books, music, the internet; it's all there, in a warm and safe environment for everyone to freely use. When times are hard what could be better than to preserve such a resource? In common with many others, I have been vocal in my anger at the closure of libraries in my country. The argument isn't over yet, with a myriad of legal challenges being heard.

Even during WW2 the government saw the huge importance of such an institution, and in spite of all the difficulties, libraries stayed open. Publishers printed as much as they could for sale too, on bad paper, which was all they could get. You can occasionally find these books in secondhand shops, with the request printed inside to pass them on to others, particularly members of the armed forces. The war was characterised for many by bursts of highly stressful action followed by long tedious hours of inactivity, which can be just as stressful in a different way. It was recognised that it can be very healing to lose yourself in a good book. We may not be at war like in 1940, but the need for libraries is certainly still there, for adults, and for children. Stressed out through lack of work, or happy and innocent at the beginning of learning about the world. We need libraries.

There's another sort of travelling that I've been doing as well, and that is the great journey of self discovery. Fortunately, you don't have to buy a ticket, and you can do it in the comfort of your own home, but it can still be scary, especially when delving into the depths of your feelings with a close relative, as I recently did. Thanks to my sister being so open we both ended up feeling enlightened, with lots of useful discoveries made.

Knowing oneself well can be fraught with danger. It can change the way you think about yourself forever. It can make your head hurt when trying to put into words why you feel in a particular way, and where those feelings have come from. It can feel like stumbling around in a dark field, without knowing if there's an angry bull in it, or a row of sunflowers waiting for the sun to come up. But it's a journey that I suspect a lot of novelists are rather good at. We're a nosy lot, poking our pens into what makes ourselves and others tick. Without such insight, how could we come up with some of the characters that live within the pages of a book? They are only interesting if they seem real, and they only seem real if they are based on a certain sort of reality.

So this is a celebration of journeys. Trains, and planes, and relationships, and into the depths of our minds. All slightly scary, but I wouldn't want to miss out on any of them.


Penny Dolan said...

Happy ideas to dream on for a gloomy day - and how lovely it must be (at times?)to have a sister.

Rachael Kelly said...

How lovely that you wrote something about ME! (The sister). Thank you Cindy, I love you to bits and always will xxx

Cindy Jefferies said...

Penny, you can be an honorary sister any time you like, along with my other two. I often rather think of you as one anyway.

And're welcome! And the feeling is mutual.

Sue Purkiss said...

What a lovely, reflective post!And what an interesting year you've had. Thanks, Cindy.