Deep South

It is true to say that my Glasgow had shrunk to the same surface area as a puddle of urine passed by a dwarfed amoeba. Seldom would I stray from the leafy and macrocosmic West End, save for the occasional commute to the Mitchell Library. One good thing to have come out of the stupid work placement I’m on is an antidote to this incestuous routine. All of the libraries I’ve had to work in are on the city’s Deep South: Giffnock, Clarkston, Thornlibank – all interesting towns in their own rights and would have remained unexplored if it weren’t for these enforced sojourns.

Southside towns are strangely diverse. Giffnock is lovely: plenty of pubs and cafes frequented by handsome and beautiful members of a massive Jewish community. The library building won an award for its unique architecture. Barrhead, on the other hand, should be twinned with the moon. The library can be found in an abandoned pillbox clinic.

Yesterday I visited Clarkston. Alighting the train, my olfactory bulb was suddenly alerted to the vague whiff of animal manure hanging in the air. There were fields. And trees. One of the fields had a cow in it. A man walking in the opposite direction, nodded and said “Good Morning”. Ye Gods. Was it possible? I’d been to some obscure backwater places over the past few weeks but this trip had taken the cake. This time, I was in… the countryside.

I asked a woman for directions to the school (at which I would visit the library – more on school libraries soon, I’m sure). “Just follow the main road,” she said. A ten-minute walk up the so-called main road and only one car and one van passed by me. I could hear blackbirds. It was quite lovely.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote of a personal message from a newspaper dispensing unit. Someone emailed me about this story and claimed to have experienced such phenomena herself. She calls them “messages from the universe”.

While enjoying my lunchbreak in the countryside yesterday, I decided to sit on a bench. No sooner had my buttocks made contact with the wood, I spotted in the distance a roadside advertising board. It said, “Choose Not to Sit on the Bench”.

What the hell? Another dude would have been freaked out about this, surely. But as an atheist, I felt determined to ignore it. Messages from the universe indeed. So I sat there for the duration, ate my lunch and read a good few pages of my library book (Rob Grant’s Vonnegut-esque novel, Incompetence, if you’re interested, dear reader. It’s undeniably funny but I can’t tell what Mr. Grant is trying to say – the story is either a clever parable or a rubbish “political correctness gone mad” satire) without incident.

Hah. Take that, Universe.

But as the day went on, I began to think about what reality would be like if I’d have heeded the Universe’s warning and not sat on the bench. Perhaps I’d have continued walking and found a winning scratchcard on the floor. Perhaps I’d have met my future husband/wife. But no matter – I’m happy enough as things are. I put that thought out of my head.

But the Universe knows all about causality, right? The effects of my sitting on the bench may not be recognisable now but what if I’ve altered reality from the molecular level. What if the wings of my butterfly caused some massive weather problem in China?

These things only happen on the weird South Side of the city though. Maybe it’s built on a ley line or upon an ancient Venusian burial ground something. After next week and the end of the placement, I’ll never have to leave the lovely West End ever again. Perhaps then the Universe will quit bugging me.

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