05:34 PM, British Library.

I’m in a library! The fluttering of my heart when I entered the book-lined confines of this room in the heat of 12 noon today is a feeling I will cherish for a long long time. The feeling of being unbound by imagination, of flying free from rationalities, of entering the mountains out of the limits of a smog-filled city…I could go on, but, I wouldn’t be satisfied because every description just seems to fall short of the joy I felt this noon.

Of course, a teeny bit of it might be due to entering an air-conditioned room during a hot afternoon.

The first book I saw when I entered, on the delicious rack in front of me, was Bloomability. A lovely story of a young girl and her struggles to grow up. Heart-warming and gentle, it reminded me of the sea I could see from the balcony of the hotel room where I would read this book while on vacation with my parents. A carefree memory and a whiff of salt in the air…that was immediately shattered by the weight of a question bank resting in the bag on my shoulders.

Brought back to reality, I reluctantly made my way over to a well-lit table and started studying Anatomy. A sense of purpose that I desperately tried to latch on to stayed with me while the books around calmed me down with their very presence; I do love a good library even if I heartily despise the trappings of Gray’s Anatomy.

My respite came during the lunch break I took. I made a beeline for the shelf that had been beckoning to me ever since I’d entered, but, whose temptations I’d cruelly ignored and my loyalty was rewarded. My eyes fell upon a gem which I thought had gone out of print.

Noel Streatfield was an author of children’s books which were together monikered as the Shoe Box. Ballet Shoes, Tennis Shoes, Theatre shoes and more, she wrote books where children from the warring years grew up in conditions that we can’t imagine. She wrote about passion and discipline and hobbies turning to art. Delightfully humorous and beautifully characterised, my first encounter with her happened during one of my favorite memories with my father. He took me to a Sunday second-hand market with the money I’d saved up as a summer treat. It was a veritable feast for the young me. Rows and rows upon books, affordable and just waiting to be snatched away, I was a kid with a sweet tooth left alone in a candy store! I bought 15 books that day and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.

One of those books was Ballet shoes. It was the only book my father and I hadn’t agreed upon. It was little costlier than the others. But, something, a gut instinct made me pick up the book and not want to let go. It felt like, “Aha! There you are. I’ve been looking for you.” and when I read the book that summer, the warmth it filled me with kept me cool for the rest of the season.

Since then, I’ve been searching for the rest of her works. They have been quite elusive. But, today, lying right there, in front of me, sitting pretty on the rack was Theatre Shoes by Noel Streatfield. I couldn’t grab it fast enough and a smile that threatened to break my jaw blossomed on my face. Opening the first page, I felt a sense of accomplishment that is probably completely undeserved, but, which I thoroughly enjoyed. While my sandwich whittled away, I read 35 pages of the book, unable to stop smiling the entire time.

Currently, the rest of the book is sitting beside me with a book mark stuck at page 35. I’ve gone back to Anatomy for now. But, soon, during my next break, I’ll read more pages; I’ll spend some more time with Sorrel and Mark and Holly and I’ll thoroughly enjoy the feeling of an Archaeologist stumbling upon a treasure that he had given up on.

Ciao and Happy Reading!

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