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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Norman Clegg’s Library

As we paused for a photo, a woman arrived
to set up for a Sunday evening fellowship.
What was she thinking,
ruining my shot like that?

Given my love of books, it’d be natural to assume that I love libraries.  I certainly have fond memories of them from childhood.  I discovered so many great books on their shelves, such as Roald Dahl’s Charlie adventures, Robert Heinlein’s novels, and the early Star Trek books.  But later, when I started getting allowance from my parents, and making money for work, I found I enjoyed visiting bookstores more.  While I had to pay to read their books, I didn’t have to give them back afterward. 

In the pilot episode of “Last of the Summer Wine,” we are introduced to three old men for whom the best in life has, sadly, past them by.  There’s Cyril Blamire, an ex-water board official and military man, who never married and rents a room in another family’s house.  There’s Compo Simmonite, a scruffy little guy who never works, whose wife has left him, and who loses all his money on the horses.  Lastly, there’s Norman Clegg, a former linoleum salesman whose wife has recently died.  As all three are at loose ends, they pass the days in each other’s company, looking for anything that will add a sparkle of interest and levity to their existence.

One of the places they frequent is the town library.  There, out of the elements, and away from prying eyes, they can sit in a modicum of comfort, and chat about the opportunities that have eluded them.  The reading room is their place: a little haven of tranquility, free to enter, and without the incessant arguments that Sid and Ivy shout at each other in the café.  Mr. Wainwright, who oversees the library, dislikes all the time they spend in his reading room, how they rip pages out of the newspapers, and how they disregard the rules.  In the pilot episode, when he walks in to discover Compo eating a sandwich, and Norman smoking, he feels perfectly justified in throwing them out.  “They’re barred!” he declares to his female assistant.

In his opinion, Norman, Compo, and Cyril simply don’t respect the exalted position he believes a library should hold in the community.  Unfortunately for Mr. Wainwright, when the three catch him and his assistant having an affair, he must compromise his rigid principles, or the community (and his assistant’s husband) will learn how he corrupted her with the sensuous works of D. H. Lawrence.  So the three regain their reading room, and there they can learn about the world, and gain greater insight about each other’s life, in this special place of learning. 

We returned the next morning for a better photo.
Now, who could we find who might be interested
in my Top Secret adventures as a Japanese sniper?

On our visit to Holmfirth, we discovered that the library on the TV show is actually a Methodist Church.  It stands across a parking lot from a Co-op Market.  Nearby is the river that flows through town.  One can walk across a bridge, through a public garden, across a busy intersection, and enjoy some tea and refreshment at Sid’s Café.  There you can buy a hearty lunch, or just a light snack.  Just don’t buy food or drink there and expect to enjoy them inside the church (especially on a Sunday).  Whether the “Last of the Summer Wine” library is overseen by a librarian or a priest, you’re certain to suffer somebody’s wrath.  Even if you love reading books like I do, and are as pleasant and agreeable as Norman Clegg.

Remembering our happy visit to Holmfirth,
Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries

Related Internet Links
Watch the pilot episode on Youtube
(It comes in three ten-minute segments, the video quality is poor, and the audio is out of sync.  But until the BBC decides to release it on DVD, this is the only way you can watch it).  

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