There’s something very special about being ‘part’ of something. Work, family, blogging, school gate chatter – it can all give you that potent sense of belonging. I think it is more of a driver for people’s ambitions and hobbies than we think.
I have often mentioned my monthly book group…a longterm hobby that has become one of the cornerstones of my life here and definitely a place I feel I belong.
I moved to Southampton just over 10 years ago and in my first week, alongside scouring eBay and charity shops for chairs/plates/mugs, I also emailed the City library enquiring about reading groups. I was duly provided with the list of groups – Saturday, library; Monday, seminar room; Wednesday, WINE BAR…
And so three weeks later found me embarking on my first meeting – Book: The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney. Location: Wine Bar. Nerves: Moderate. Attendees: eight. Room Temperature: Freezing. Drink: Tea (see room temperature). Names remembered: two.
Let me whisk you forward ten years. TEN years. We became nomadic for a short time during a noisy World Cup one year before making our final home in the library. The temperature is now comfortable, the wine is plentiful. We still number about eight people most months, with some new voices gained and some masterful voices sadly lost.
We have sat together as a group in whatever machination over 120 times. We have therefore individually, but somehow together, entered over 120 different worlds…we have each sat at the same lavish Russian restaurant, wandered around the same Victorian factory, stared at ayslyum walls, hidden in African villages, scarpered from shacks. Together we’ve met queens, doctors, dictators, mothers, fathers, slaves, criminals, witches and, yes, zombies.
And through these worlds we have shared parts of our own worlds and developed bonds that in some cases have led to actions with life-altering consequences.
I have discovered the unique joy of a collective reading experience – how, after time, you find yourself reading with all of you and a bit of other people too. How when there’s something pressing to say about the book, it’s ok because you will have the opportunity to say it and you’re saying it to people who’ve read it too. How you can feel something so wildly different to the person sat next to you about the same character, plot or even sentence and that’s ok, more than ok…sometimes hilarious.
In short I love my book group. And to save this post from being an entirely self-indulgent piece to say just that, I offer the following observations:
Libraries are amazing places – all those worlds to visit. And if we don’t use our libraries we’ll lose them. We may lose them anyway so go before it’s too late.
Extraordinary people, interesting people can be found everywhere.
Read! Read together. Even if it’s just with one other person. It’s simple but remarkable.
If you’re wondering about joining something, anything, do it. You can always leave but maybe you’ll find you’ll never leave…