This Post Is A Security Risk
I was in Manchester library last week. It is a cavernous, domed building, and it is beautiful. I've been in there a few times now, just to sit and read. I love big libraries, listening to the muffled sounds of people working, shuffling the books from the shelves, each in pursuit of his or her particular brand of knowledge. It is a bit like being inside the Internet, only without so much porn.
When I lived in Paris I used to go and sit in the Pompidou Centre library for whole days, to avoid the cold anonymity of the city outside. In a library you can find familiarity in books, and silent solidarity with the people sitting all around you. I love the curious looks people sometimes give each other in libraries. In Paris I read the entire work of Jane Austen in a fortnight and then moved on to the Bronte sisters. I found it endlessly comforting.
Last week I decided to find some books on fairy tales. I perused the shelves until I found some that looked interesting, and took a seat at a table in the main dome. I had just started to make some notes and indulge in some library-echo listening, when my phone flashed. I took the call in the stairwell, leaving my coat and small suitcase tucked underneath the chair.
It was Ben, with bad news. I spent a while on the phone, to him and then to my sister.
When I returned to my seat, my bag and coat had gone. The women sitting on the desk nearby leaned over.
"Were you sitting there? Sorry, we didn't see. The security man came and took your bag and coat."
I went to the Information Desk. The woman was on the phone, and gestured that she would be with me in a minute.
Five minutes later she listened as I whispered my plight. She sucked her teeth briefly.
"If security have it they'll have taken it round to the back. You have to go outside."
Clutching a biro-scratched map I stepped outside, internally grumbling.
Why'd they have to take my bloody coat? It's February, for fuck's sake, and they're making me run a freezing gauntlet as punishment for leaving my stuff unattended for twenty minutes. I can understand then taking my case, but my coat? Did they think there was a bomb in the pocket? Fuckers.
Consulting my map, I climbed the steps to the security booth.
Two middle-aged, rotund men looked up from their heavily-pawed copies of The Daily Sport and smirked.
"Someone took my stuff." I said. "I was on the first floor, and stepped out for a phone call, so security took my bag and coat."
I waited. The closer one raised a greasy eyebrow.
"It wasn't taken, love. It was removed for security reasons."
I stared at him.
"You should never leave your items unattended."
"Security reasons" he added, in response to my blank expression.
I shivered. "Sorry, I wasn't aware that my coat posed a security risk. I will be more careful in future. Can I have it back now?"
After a bit more telling off and some light perving I escaped with my things.
This week I am going to London, as Ben has a gig on Wednesday. Unfortunately on Friday we are going to a funeral, at which I am singing. I am very, very nervous about this. The nerves are outweighed by the feeling that I do want to do it, but still. Since I was asked I have been lying awake at nights, thinking about it. Not really worrying, just thinking. I feel it is the least I can do, so I want to do it.
When I am back up in Manchester I am going to go to the library every day and leave innocuous things on a desk, to see what security deem as a "risk". A scarf? A scale model of the security booth? A dead pigeon? It will be an interesting experiment.