The heist of 1988: stealing a library book


I’M old school. I love books – the kind you hold in your hand, flick the pages and slot a bookmark into. Many of my books end up with dirty fingerprints and frayed edges after they’ve been read. I have lots of books sitting on my bookshelf – some quite old and some modern.


Whilst scanning my bookshelf, I clocked a hardback book entitled ‘Bakery Flour Confectionary’. I picked up the book and flicked through the first few pages: the stamp on page four told me that it was the property of the college library … then I remembered! It was a Thursday afternoon in 1988: I was a student at the bakery college in Hertfordshire (Cassio College). This particular afternoon I went into the college library and saw the book. After flicking through the pages I decided it was worth a more detailed read, so I took it to the counter to sign it out, but there was no member of staff at the desk. After two minutes of waiting and no sign of anyone, I casually strolled out with the book clutched under my arm. Once back in the lecture room, I boasted to my friend, Daniel, about my successful heist. ‘Did the alarm not go off?’ asked Daniel. It didn’t go off and I didn’t even know that there was an alarm to stop students stealing books! Still, the fact I managed to evade the alarm made me feel even more proud of my achievement.

So when I saw this book on my bookshelf, my memory was jogged-back 29 years ago. There are numerous other books on the shelf that remind me of a particular year and location. The Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg – 2006 – when I moved to the northwest and was renting a basement apartment that got flooded. Chocolat by Joanne Harris – 2011- whilst on an assignment in the Catalonia region. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James – 2015 – spending Saturday mornings in the local coffee shop with steamed up windows and being gripped by the character Josey Wales.


Time, place and memories. Of course I fondly remember the theme of the books, and time, places and memories always follow. I see my mocha stained fingerprints on some of the books. In one book, I found a flight boarding card acting as a bookmark. Inside another book, lock instructions for a suitcase.


On a recent visit to the magnificent Nunnington Hall, I was struck by the importance of books and magazines in the physical form. As I jumped from room to room, there were several magazines and books scattered around which gave us a glimpse of what it was like in that era. I learned, from one of the magazines, that a mustard bath is good for sleep!


In an age where we are using more and more digital material, when it comes to books and magazines, I’m still stuck in yester-years. It’s no surprise that my debut book is only be available in paperback. The fact it contains many images deterred me from publishing an online version.


Staff members at the college library in Hertfordshire, who’ve been scratching their heads since 1988, wondering where Bakery Flour Confectionary disappeared to, now you know! I still have the book – I can post back to you. Please go easy with the late fees as I’m a full-time author and money is scarce. You’ll be happy to know that the heist carried out in 1988 was my one and only. I now live a life free from crime. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a full-time author, money is scarce so I can’t completely rule out doing what I did in 1988 … on a bigger scale of course!




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