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Matthew has been in the library for four hours, but he hasn’t quite dried off yet. His jeans are sticking to him. For five minutes he has watched the cursor flash on the screen of his laptop; half the books strewn across the table remain unopened. He sniffs experimentally: he is definitely getting a cold. Matthew’s pen lies redundant on his notebook. He picks it up and doodles something that looks like a beetle, shading it in black.

As the deadline for work on the World of Insects exhibition draws near, he is running short of inspiration. Of course, as the most junior of the museum’s curators, he was delighted that the new exhibition is to focus on his own specialist subject. But recently, Matthew’s passion for entomology has been overtaken by other concerns, and it’s not without some anxiety that he watches the days go by.

He scrolls through his typing. Display no. 6, ‘A Hive of Activity’: a week’s work. Bees make a fascinating subject, he tells himself. You’d hardly think so from reading this. He shivers, and tugs his sleeves over his knuckles.

There is definitely no heating on in this library.

The tap of rain on the windows draws his attention to the bloated grey sky. Suddenly Matthew remembers. He looks at his watch and bundles his stuff into his rucksack. He had forgotten that today is Saturday. James’s rugby match kicks off in half an hour. Hurriedly, Matthew pulls on his jacket and arranges his library books in what almost resembles a neat pile on the table.

For the next twenty-eight minutes he will pedal his way through hectic weekend traffic. And at last, damp and breathless, he will stumble through the turnstile and into the stands. The players are already on the pitch. Matthew hurries to take his seat next to James’s girlfriend, Julia.

‘Thought you weren’t coming, says Julia. ‘I was in the library. Lost track of the time.’

Julia nods, but appears to wince at the word ‘library’. ‘How’s it going, then,’ she asks, ‘this … thing you’re doing?’ ‘Getting there.’

In his present frame of mind, Matthew is less tolerant than usual of Julia’s freely expressed indifference. The match has started, and he seizes the opportunity to say no more. His older brother charges down the pitch clutching an ovoid ball as though it were the Holy Grail. As James scores a try, Matthew claps dutifully.

A moment later the team’s long-suffering supporters watch as the ball soars wide of the mark. Matthew traces its flight towards inevitable failure. It’s beginning to feel like a long day.

For five minutes he has watched the cursor flash on the screen of his laptop; half the books strewn across the table remain unopened

Not so for Emily. As she flits about the library, contending with the backlog of returned books, it is clear that there are simply not enough hours. She hurries through the History section, one hand dragging a heavily laden trolley. A glance at her watch confirms that she is four minutes behind her self-imposed schedule.

One by one, she wrestles hefty hardbacks onto their shelves with impressive speed. A sense of relief sets in as she works, restoring thirty-five volumes to their proper places. Job done, she returns to the desk, where three of her colleagues sit before computers. All are wearing jackets. Emily says nothing as she deposits her empty trolley. Hands on hips, she sighs at the floor-to-ceiling shelves of recently returned, randomly deposited books.

One of the desk assistants turns to Emily. His fleece is zipped tight around his throat. ‘Emily,’ he says. There is a slight delay before she looks at him. ‘Aren’t you freezing?’ ‘No.’ At last Emily registers his outdoor attire. ‘I’m on my feet, I suppose. Hurrying about.’ ‘You going into the office at all?’ he asks. ‘In a minute, yes.’ ‘How about asking Evelyn if we can put some heating on?’ Evelyn is the head librarian. Emily has a fleeting vision of her likely response. ‘But it’s October,’ she protests. ‘Exactly.’ ‘The heating doesn’t go on till November.’ ‘There are laws about things like this. They don’t just apply from November.’ Emily thinks hard. ‘But I’m not even cold. Maybe you should ask her.’ ‘Are you scared to?’ ‘Of course not.’ With one small lie, Emily’s fate is sealed. A minute later she opens the office door to find Evelyn seated at her computer. ‘Evelyn?’ ‘Hmm?’ ‘Paul was just saying he’s feeling a bit cold …’ ‘Oh was he? Well he can tell that to the Council. It’s their cutbacks that are making him chilly.’ ‘That’s … just what I said.’

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iScot Magazine October 2017 The one with the Printed circuit board in the shape of Scotland.