Monday, February 18, 2013

Fifty Shades of Something

Charlotte's post last week mentioning Peyton Place got me thinking how much times have changed, now we are in the era of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Long, long ago, my children, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I spent a few months between school and university working as a librarian.  In those days censorship was alive and kicking and books like Peyton Place were weeded out from the public shelves and removed to a section called the 'Blue 'Books' – is 'blue' meaning  'indecent' still in common use? – which could be accessed on request, by anyone brave enough to ask. There was, you understand, nothing that was anything like as sensational as Lady Chatterley's Lover – the trial, when the famous question, 'Is this something you would wish your wives and servants to read?' was asked, still lay ahead.

The Blue Books in our library were kept upstairs in the little office where we had our coffee breaks and proved quite educational after a sheltered girlhood. Sometimes we were quite late getting back.

The day came when a man actually came and asked to see the Blue Books. With the shock waves the request produced, it is surprising that the walls of the library didn't start to shake and crumble. The Assistant Librarian, who was at the desk, went pale and said, 'I'll fetch the Chief Librarian.'

She was exactly like the caricature of a librarian: spectacles, hair in a bun – though not the sort someone would pull loose, murmuring as they whipped off the specs, 'Why, Miss Ryan, you're beautiful,' since they were combined with beady dark eyes, sallow skin and a pointed nose. She favoured grey skirts and hand-knitted cardigans a lot. (I know you think I'm exaggerating but I swear I'm not.)

She had a habit of sniffing when she disapproved of something and when the hapless gentleman was presented to her she employed this to considerable effect before saying, 'Follow me,' in frigid tones and escorting him upstairs to the office. With her eyes averted she gestured generally in the direction of the Blue Book shelf and said, 'There you are!.'

The man seemed confused. 'Where?' and she pointed again.

'I'm sorry,' he said, still puzzled. 'I don't see them. The Blue Books – the government reports?'

To her credit, she made a swift recovery. 'Oh, I'm so sorry. They must have been moved. They'll be in the reference library – this way.' She was extremely charming to him thereafter.

And unlike Charlotte, I remember Peyton Place quite vividly!


Charlotte Hinger said...

Aline--loved your description of the librarian.

Aline Templeton said...

Thanks, Charlotte. It was your post brought back the memories!