Here’s a shot of our stock librarian Reggie ‘Dewey’ Watkins easing himself into a spot of afternoon shelving after a couple of pints of mild (‘No nozzle’) at The Bawdy Goat. Watkins is a subversive, a round peg resisting society’s efforts to force him into a square hole. For years he has been waging a one man war against normalcy or what he would call the ‘normotic.’
‘Families and normality are the great gas chambers, the deadening effect of habit and unhappiness, coming home, eating supper, watching telly and talking about absolutely fucking nothing– and this is what psychiatrists advise the criminally insane to aim for!’ According to Watkins, a breakdown is a far better option.
Watkins devises schemes which appear to pay lip service to tri-borough initiatives but are in fact highly subversive. Not content with The Homework Club he set up a Homeless Club involving all the rough sleepers who sprawl on the purple vinyl chairs in Grey Gables lending library. ‘Let ’em in and get them good and pissed..’ (he keeps a couple of cans of export lager in the lost property box)… ‘And then send them upstairs to plague the old dragon breathing clouds of Shippams Paste in ref…’
Today Watkins drew my attention to a strange phenomenon. Someone we term Everyday Man or, sometimes, Afternoon Man. ‘Over there by the folklore collection… do you see? the man with the badges for long dead political causes flashing on his dispatches bag…’
Afternoon Man is not like the other tramps. He would never try to plug-in his electric toothbrush and disable the public access computer. Neither would he peel off his socks and stick calloused, yellow feet in the air and start swearing if you approach. Nor would he sharpen pencils with razor blades and measure bits of string. Afternoon Man seeks silence, materializing in the least populated spots of the library and rumour has it– he’s been living in the building for years.
Sighting him is a rarity, you are always aware he is somewhere but he is liable if challenged to break up into sunbeams and motes of dust. Variously posing as a contractor, a scholar studying the iconography of the virgin, he slips into the downstairs tea room and cuts off cellophane-thin slices of cooked sausage and cake. He collects rain water in thimbles hanging from black thread beneath the pigeon netting. Occasionally he hangs up wind-chimes, strange silvery tubes and plastic diamonds tinkle in distants bays when you’re rootling around in the special collection.
Afternoon Man and his Church of Afternoonishness for all those resisting square pegs and round holes is (like Reggie) waging a war against the normotic. And he has made the library his home. He favours heavy histories of the British Isles as reliable pillows, books not much in demand by other readers. A single badge caught my eyes as he shifted a folio entitled: The Vampire, His Kith and Kin. It simply said I am a Fictional Character and then he was gone– just the tinkle of a thimble and the faintest trace of a fisherman’s friend.