I remember when Sheriff Vaizey galloped in to town on his grey dappled mare – the sun shone through a dust cloud that trailed him all the way from the northern territories. He’d been up that way on the hunt for Andy “Red Gun” Burnham. Vaizey didn’t like Burnham’s ways – in cahoots with a posse of book rustlers and funding bandits who were shutting down the libraries left right and centre… leaving communities abandoned like information ghost towns.
Vaizey was a member of the well-reknowned 1964 Club in those days. It’s said that “Red Gun” was taking a drink at the saloon, when in swaggered Vaizey, spurs a chanking, looking around at the assembled bandits, cowboys and rustlers, spat out a slug of chewin’ tobaccy and said:
“Andy Burnham’s refusal to take action in the Wirral effectively renders the 1964 Public Libraries Act meaningless. While it is local authorities’ responsibility to provide libraries, the Act very clearly lays responsibility for ensuring a good service at the culture secretary’s door. If Andy Burnham is not prepared to intervene when library provision is slashed in a local authority such as the Wirral, it is clear that he is ignoring his responsibilities as secretary of state, which in the process renders any sense of libraries being a statutory requirement for local authorities meaningless.”
Well, you can imagine what sort of reaction that provoked from Red Gun. Soon chairs were flying, bottles of bourbon smashing against mirrors behind the bar, people stumbling backwards over tables. As the dust settled Vaizey strode out of there and his adversary was found as a crumpled heap of a man stuffed into a brass spittoon by the bar.
When they heard about this legendary Vaizey, a few of our towns folk decided to offer him the Sheriff’s post – we could do with a strong man to sort out our own library troubles. Everything was hunky dory at first – he said he was going to do this and that. He made a few speeches to the town council about how great libraries were and how he’d defend them to the hilt.
As time went on nothing changed. No libraries were saved. It seems that Sheriff Vaizey was keener on sleepin’ in the jail house and big-wigging with the mayor than going out on the prairie to deal with those troublesome library varmints we had pestering us and rustling our books. Seems like one battle was enough for him and these days he’s more content to sit back and watch more libraries close around him. Why, I don’t know? Gets me to thinkin’ that maybe his words to “Red Gun” were a bluff. I don’t rightly know that it was Sheriff Vaizey who sorted Red out and planted him in that spittoon – maybe it’s a legend he created himself.
So, maybe it’s time for Sheriff Vaizey to hang up his badge, Stetson, spurs and other cowboy clichés and let someone else who gives two hoots about the library situation replace him. Or maybe we could just tie him onto the saddle of his grey dappled mare, slap its hind quarters and watch him ride off into the sunset to the theme tune of Bonanza.
“Hi Ho Vaizey! Away!”