A cautionary tale


Once upon a time, in the sunless summer of 2012, there was a jolly good library in London Town ― in Kensal Rise.

“Was” I hear you clever children say! Well, listen up!

Many tiny folk came from far and wide to this palace of books to read and hear storytellers and gain much knowledge. Many treasures were within, for as Twain The Sage said: “A public library is the most enduring of memorials.”

Well, not quite, children – as we will see. Some people don’t like libraries! Buffoons. Dunces. Rulers! They get jolly irked! Why? Who knows? Perhaps because libraries give us knowledge and knowledge gives us power. Perhaps because they’re free. Whatever. Kensal Rise Library must be shut down! It must be cut! Why? There was not enough money in the land. Why? Hands up please!

“The Bankers had all nicked it!” says little Ronald Crumlin. Indeed. They kept it for their castles. The Rulers seemed to prefer bombs to books. Surely not? I’m afraid so children. The Burghers of the Borough of Brent tried many times to close the library down. And every time the good townsfolk fought back.

“Hands off our children’s education!” Famous writers joined in. Philip Pullman with his Dark Materials.

Buzz off! Mr Wise Owl Alan Bennett. “Child abuse!” said he. And the local, lustrous Princess – Zadie Smith. “Shoo!” said she. And all seemed well. Hurrah! The books were safe. Hurrah! But the Barbarians waited. And waited. And came back in middle of the night, while the books were sleeping. They broke the locks and smashed the doors and charged in with Mr Plod and his bloodhounds!

“Woof! Woof!” went the foaming doggies. “Tremble! Tremble!” went the quaking books. Quick! Wake up and hide! Too late! The place was sacked. Thousands of books – even Huckleberry Finn – were carted out. Never! I’m afraid so, children. “Cowards! Philistines!” yelled the townsfolk, when they saw the empty shelves. “All that imagination! Philosophy! Poetry!” Gone. The lot. 

Even the picture of Mark Twain! Is there hope at hand? Well, who knows? I hear tell that last night ghostly shapes were seen. Some saw a boy by the name of Finn up in Kensal Rise graveyard. And a fella called Twain in much dudgeon. His pen, they say, is mightier than all the barbarians of Brent.


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