Published in Meath Chronicle May 2nd Edition

Academy Street – The Book, Not The Street!

My friend dropped in on his way to the library and asked if I wanted anything.  He still regrets his generosity. Jumping on the offer, I told him I was looking for Mary Costello’s new novel, Academy Street.

In hindsight, I should have known that sending someone who’s essentially a tourist (having spent far too long in New Mexico) to look for a book called Academy Street, in a library very near Academy Street, in a town which actually has an Academy Street, was not my brightest moment.  I forgot he doesn’t know the street names round here.  So, in the nature of the true innocent abroad, he went off to the library searching for Academy Street.

The librarian, a really helpful person, told him it was nearby. Just turn left outside the entrance, take the steps down the hill, turn right and “you can’t miss it,” she smiled.

Oh, dear. My friend was a bit puzzled about being sent out of the building to look for a book, but decided that maybe the library had an annexe of some sort nearby, and that’s where they kept new publications. Why such a thought entered his head is anyone’s guess, but maybe they do things differently in Albuquerque, who knows?

He marched up and down Academy Street in search of a building – any building – that looked remotely like a library, or a bit of a library, or even a window with books in it. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.  So he continued past Bridge Street into Ludlow Street, figuring there may be something there. Nope. He could buy a few chops for the dinner, or look at a house if the humour was upon him, even buy a bunch of flowers, but there was nothing which indicated the presence of a library.

A passer-by, taking pity on his utterly lost, deer-in-the-headlights demeanour, asked him if she could help at all?

“I’m looking for Academy Street” he said.

“Just turn around and keep going – it’s the next street down” she informed him.

“But I’ve been on that street, looked up and down, I can’t find the library” he replied.

“No, the library is just off Railway Street”, she said. “Turn right at the church, up to the roundabout and it’s there.”

He was starting to flag by now, in bad need of a coffee, and wondering if he should have a lie-down. But you can’t lie down in the street, at least not in my hometown, without attracting unwelcome attention, so he reluctantly decided to return to the library.

“I couldn’t find the annexe” he told the same librarian.

“What annexe?” she was puzzled.

“The annexe where I’d find Academy Street”.

“Huh?”

“I asked where I’d find Academy Street because I don’t read fiction and I wouldn’t know where to look, and you said it was down the steps and turn right and right again, and I’d find it there. But there’s no library down there, and I still can’t find the book, and…” I figure he might have been close to tears at this stage.

“Oh! You meant the book Academy Street! You never said! I thought you were looking for directions to Academy Street!” she was laughing sympathetically. He delivered a wan, forced grin.  He realized he did only say he was looking for Academy Street, he never mentioned a book.

Still, I’ve been told to get my own books from now on and not be sending people on “wild books chases” and how the hell was he supposed to know, blah blah blah….

I’ve replied by persistently humming that great old Prefab Sprout line from The King of Rock and Roll:  “Hot dogs. Jumping frogs.  Ahl-bah-querque”.  I never miss a chance to mock.

And for their patience and forbearance in the face of great literary innocence, I say –  not for the first time – God bless Navan library and all who sail in her.

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