The journey of a library book

I’m not the best at returning library books, so I prefer to read in the library whenever possible and only borrow a book if I need to. A few times I’ve ended up with books in my possession longer than I should, and reminder email leave me crestfallen. But what if there was a better way to ask for books back? The Library of the Society of Antiquaries of London may have hit upon the most whimsical solution possible:

Librarians, like shepherds,
Purvey their pastoral care,
And whilst no wolves or leopards
Their dire intent declare,

Through time, and slow detrition,
The grander glories fade;
Books, borrowed for a mission,
Are frequently mislaid.

They are not dead, but sleeping,
The books that Fellows hold,
And some improve with keeping;
Their content turns to gold.

Yet underneath the dirt with
Octavos on those shelves
Which dusters rarely flirt with,
Stray volumes lose themselves.

For ages disregarded
That library book may be,
Whose absence has retarded
A pending Ph.D.

One journal’s single issue
That must have been misplaced –
Alas, how much we miss you!
Your partners go to waste.

Our books are seldom weighted
With marks of ownership;
Not one has yet been fated
To bear the bar-code’s strip.

So seemly is their binding
You’d take them for your own;
Excuse us for reminding,
You have a three-month loan.

You will discern no class-marks
Imprinted on the spines;
We deem such things are crass marks,
Nor do we scourge with fines

The Fellow who produces
A book long overdue;
For volumes have their uses,
And scholars are but few.

Dear Fellows, we importune
You: bring what books you hoard;
Be ours the glad good fortune
To see them all restored.

Why, then you’ll hear us voicing
A loud and cheerful sound;
For great is the rejoicing
When what was lost, is found.

I’m not entirely sure, but I think it was written by Adrian James, the Assistant Librarian. At the very least, it brightened my day and reminded me of a couple of books I need to return (though not to the Society).

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A bank holiday in Eynsford

Bright sunshine, the first Test cricket of the English summer, and a tense finish as England and New Zealand tussled for the honours. What better way to spend a bank holiday Monday.

I chose to go to Eynsford Castle, a 40-minute train journey from London Victoria. It’s one of English Heritage’s free sites and I figured it wouldn’t be too busy. Best of all in 1312 the owner, William Inge, filed an official complaint that people with a claim to his land had attacked Eynsford Castle and left it damaged. The forecast for Lords cricket ground was overcast so I assumed I’d be able to take some nice photos in Kent.

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Walking from the station to the castle I wondered if I was going in the right direction. The signs for Lullingstone Roman fort were clear enough, but the ones pointing to Eynsford Castle were almost hidden. Once I got to the right place I had to double check I wasn’t trespassing on private land.

It wasn’t downhill all the way, but it did strike me that the castle was quite low in the landscape. This is especially clear when looking from the 12th century kitchens, where the curtain wall has collapsed. The river running through Eynsford is shallow enough that I spotted a few people paddling in what turned out to be glorious weather. Back at the castle, the earthworks of a moat are still visible and a sign beside the bridge to the entrance warns visitors of deep water. The castle is close to the river, and a raised bank  prevents it from flooding. I’ve not yet checked if anyone has come to a verdict on whether the moat was originally wet. It’s so close to the river it seems a waste not to use it, but on a warm fay in late May it is hard to see the amount of water in the river adequately filling the moat. Perhaps it was only meant to be shallow, more of a reflecting pool than an insurmountable barrier.

Inside the impressive flint curtain wall are the remains of the hall, reusing Roman tiles in the fireplace. As you turn left from the entrance there are three openings which the information boards tell you are garderobes. Certainly the one of the far right is a toilet as it has a chute down to the moat, though it does seem a bit odd to have three so close together.

While grey skies helped England at Lord’s I was expecting the same to provide a moody backdrop. As it was the sun burst through and while the sky was a brilliant blue in photos it made it tricky to avoid the buildings appear very dark.

I got to walk round the outside, seeing where part of the wall had collapsed in the 19th century. In the time I was there a few people showed up to wander round the ruins. One group brought a picnic which reminded me of the fatal flaw of my plan. With enough pictures under my belt I decided to call it quits.

Eynsford is a lovely quiet castle, with enough still standing to remind you of its medieval history.