Monday, 19 January 2009
Sirens, Deightons & Mustard Gas
Sometimes I amuse myself by making notes for a book comprised of photographs of all the buildings I've lived, learnt and worked in. And then I stop because so many are uninteresting and there are obvious gaps where stuff has been pulled down. Like one of my C of E schools, even though it was designed by the Goddards of Leicester. But the location of my very first job is still remarkably as when I cycled nervously up to it in the mid 1960's. This is the Southfields Library in Leicester, known affectionately as the Pork Pie Library. It sits on a road junction between two vast housing estates and was designed in 1939 by Symington, Prince & Pike. Looking like a London Underground station, the plans could very well have been influenced by Charles Holden's design for Arnos Grove. I like it so much I photograph it nearly every time I go by, if the light's as good as it was yesterday. So many memories are locked behind the brick and glass. Here I not only rubber-stamped books, but also discovered playwright Joe Orton's old library ticket (with 'default' stamped on it), Len Deighton books and an old man coughing his lungs up in the reading room because he'd been gassed in the First World War. I also got to work the wartime siren on the roof for practice alerts (there was a nuclear attack warning device in the cellar), ate a bar of Bournville Chocolate with my morning coffee and read the very first copy of The Sun newspaper. All this for £7 a week and the chance to chat up the girl assistants on the evening shift.