A lot of libraries are organised by something called the Dewey Decimal System. Non-fiction books are arranged from 000 to 999, encompassing a whole great sweep of human knowledge with a three digit number, albeit one invariably with quite a few decimal points after. Last year sometime, there was a good library joke going about Twitter, which read:
‘I still believe in 398.2’.
For those uninitiated, I’ll give the game away in a minute. I’ll give you time to Google what 398.2 is in Dewey. I’ll wait. In the meantime, here’s a photograph:
This photograph was taken in the woods behind Caerlaverock Castle, near Dumfries, possibly the best castle in Scotland.
398.2 is where you would find the books about fairy tales. When I walked in the woods as a kid, I used to imagine fairies and mythical creatures roaming amidst the trees, even while I knew as a rational sort of person they wouldn’t be there. I think it was the writer in me, my imagination conjuring up a broader world in the already teeming life of the woods. It was often when I thought of ideas for writing and for life. It was like John Clare, who wrote that ‘I found the poems in the fields / And only wrote them down’.
When I was at Caerlaverock a few months ago, the woods were quite young, like Lochend Woods where I used to walk near Dunbar. It was the kind of place where fairies, pixies and the rest could be readily imagined living quite contentedly. When I think of Caerlaverock, I tend to think of the castle, which is unfair, since the woodland and wetlands not so far from it are also pretty special too. Walking in the woods is an immersive experience and it is easy to forget the wider world when surrounded by trees in their various varieties. The sounds, sights, touches of the woods are disorientating and they do make you think bigger thoughts worthy of the height of those trees. So, yes, I still believe in 398.2. It would amaze you the folk who do.