|A new novel from Jill Robinson
Berringden Brow by Jill Robinson was published this October by Pennine Pens. We are are going to publish chapters on the Hebden Bridge Web in a similar way that we have published John Morrison's View from the Bridge. This novel is in the same vein but quite different.
A ll thoughts of boyfriendlessness are temporarily banished by the arrival of an invitation to interview for the post of temporary, part-time, researcher at Leeds University to assist on a project working with users of Parent Contact Centres. The project is run by a young woman named Caroline. I explain to her that, having worked for years in the voluntary sector, I have interviewed hundreds of people in a variety of settings on all manner of subjects. Caroline rings me later in the day to offer me the job.
I am so pleased that I almost forget all the everyday chores I have to attend to, like going to the bank and returning a video to the library. I catch the bank just before closing time, then go to the library. Ben the librarian is there behind the counter. I remember that Claire suggested that I ask him out. Well, no time like the present. Ben asks me about what I thought of the video; it was one he had recommended, knowing my taste, about the life of Dostoevski, called The Gambler. I thank him, and tell him I did indeed find it interesting. I then inform him that I have been to a successful job interview and ask him if he would like to come for a drink to celebrate. Ben smiles and says he would love to, then his face clouds and he goes on to enumerate a list of reasons why in fact he cannot, as he is working late that night, has to go Bradford the next, and to a meeting the day after. He ends up saying that he will have to ponder.
Meanwhile, an interested queue of Berringden residents is forming behind me, eager to pay their library fines, and have their books stamped, so I flee in embarrassment.
Nothing further is heard on the matter, although my phone number is in the library subscribers file. I dare not set foot in the place for the following week, so I have to get my elder son Tom (home from university for the weekend to visit his girlfriend, Lin, and graciously favouring me and Alex with his presence for a few hours) to take back an overdue book for me, which he grudgingly agrees to do. He thinks I am being very childish, and says the librarian probably does not care to be asked out by a woman of my age. He is evidently younger than me. Alex, who loyally cannot understand why anyone would not want to go out with me, says perhaps the librarian is gay, but I tell him that I am not one of those arrogant women who assumes that any man who disdains her company must necessarily be gay.
Mary at the Pop-in shop asks whether he lives at home with his mother. No, he just does not want to go out with me. He simply likes talking about books, music and films with the library clientele. When I finally do venture back into the library, Ben is deep in conversation with a monk from the Buddhist community at Todmorden, whom I recognise as being the one that Claire fancied when we went to one of the Stop the Week meditations held at the monastery on Fridays. (And I had thought we were meant to be focussing on the spiritual at that session. I recall being surprised to discover that there was actually a VCR in the monastery, but in fact, we were shown a short film during the evening). Ben issues me with my chosen video, which coincidentally is Seven Years in Tibet, smiles and resumes his discussion with the monk. No joy there then. Claire will be disappointed, and so am I.