We're taking a bit of a breather while the world rearranges its underpants. Meanwhile, the other blog is here.

Friday, December 29, 2006

They're going to make Hitler the Queen of the May

Himself comes up to me while I'm talking to Frog about his teenagers' project.

"I hope that you're doing something to minimise the amount of missing stock in the libraries in next year's CIPFA report."

"I've organised an inventory of stock at Gypsy Cream, Pansy's just finished doing adult fiction; Lola's just finished an inventory at Windscape and I'm organising one at Pottersbury Road."

"You need to get this done before the CIPFA count I don't want to have to talk to the auditors again."

  1. Since when was I responsible for stock in our libraries?

  2. Since when do I need instructions from T.Aldous Huxtable on how to pre-plan a CIPFA count?

  3. Or anything else come to that?

Some drove up in taxis that were empty

Jim tells me that one of management group's priorities in the new year is to establish how many vacancies there are in the service, where they are and then get about filling them.

That's right: they don't know!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ipecachuana is an ugly word

More departmental briefings on sickness monitoring:

"If somebody's been signed off sick then you should assume that it's genuine unless, of course, you see them out shopping."

I've checked on the website and nowhere does it say that ill library staff qualify for meals on wheels.

Oh! If only these stones could talk!

Somebody lobbed a stone through one of the windows at Dutch Bend last night and they rang in to report it. Unfortunately, Tilly's not in today to take the call, Mary's on leave and T.Aldous was late in ("there are buses on Pardendale Road" -- don't ask) so it was left to New Boy Jim to take the message. Unfortunately he had no idea what to do about it and neither did any of the rest of us so he had to wait until Himself came in. Having explained the problem Jim then had to endure an hour -- literally -- of T.Aldous explaining that
  • ordinarily the call would have been taken by Tilly to report and that in her absence it would have been taken by the finance clerk (another vacancy);

  • the notes on who to contact should be somewhere on Tilly's desk but they're not there because Tilly must have put them somewhere;

  • Mary's usually in at this time in the morning if Tilly's not here;

  • the procedures for reporting repairs have changed recently;

  • T.Aldous knows who to contact so he'll deal with it;

  • the procedures keep changing, you used to just give Norman in admin a ring but the admin team's been reorganised and Norman's doing something else these days;

  • Tilly really should have been in today.

and more besides. The rest of us (both of us) tried not to listen or watch as Jim lost the will to live. Eventually the explanations subsided and calm was restored. I wouldn't like to swear that the repair got reported.

Of course none of this would have been necessary if "how to report a repair at a library" wasn't a state secret. Or if libraries could report the repairs themselves instead of having to report them to Tilly or T.Aldous.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

With a song in my heart

The muse of epic poetry has struck again. My correspondent has obviously had a splendid Xmas.

Management Idiot
(after Green Day)

Don't wanna be a management idiot
Don't wanna feel good treating people like shit.
When you're dealing with them it's the blame game
So take precautions and give them a false name.
If folk are sick then they're faking.
If they leave make sure to keep the vacancies
Wide open for a year or two-oo.
No leave 'cos there'd be no cover.
Don't care if Typhoid Mary is your lover.
'Cos you've got nothing else to do.

They have meetings, waffle for an hour.
Talk big -- like, can you feel the power?
Touch base and map out the position.
Run the flag up and come to no decision.
They dish orders out like confetti.
No ending to the constant pettifogging
Micromanagement they'll sell.
Seems to me that they take their mighty
Irresponsibilities lightly
As we all trundle off to Hell.

Don't care about policy or planning,
Resource procurement, development or manning.
Don't know training from a mint imperial.
My God, I'm management material.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Merry Xmas to all our readers

Season's greetings to one and all. Hope you have a good 'un.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Departmental briefing on sickness monitoring and management. The highlight is the statement

"It's been suggested that staff from other departments coming back to work after being off sick with stress could be found jobs to do in the Library Service as part of their rehabilitation."

The scoffers and mockers have a field day. Yeah, sure, working in this library service is soooo not remotely stressful. (The only service with a worse record for staff being off sick with stress is the one-stop-shop, which cops for every infection coming though the door plus having to act as the public interface to a deeply uninterested Helminthdale Council.) After the laughter subsides there comes the bombshell:

"The idea came from a very senior member of management in the Library Service."

No prizes...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Over my shoulder goes one care

We're Secret Santa-ing. It occurs to me to wrap up Noddy Housing Office's comms kit (it was dumped on me during the recent "clean up"). To my surprise it's gone. Where? The caretakers look smug. "Ask no questions."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Elastic-sided goats

A small group of senior managers cluster about the doorway talking about a host of new projects they're planning for the new year.

I keep a wide berth. It would be a good idea if first of all we actually finished any one of the bloody projects that have been hanging round like a bad smell on the landing for years on end.

Frozen music

I've received a nice calendar with pictures of a wonderful library in the States: all oak beams and balustrades.

"Imagine having to dust all that!"

I say to Lemuel.

"You could just imagine him there. He'd be in his element. He'd be walking about with a bloody candle."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Can't be helped

I'm resorting to desperate measures: I've just created a blog for to house the clip art pictures and help sheets for our library portal. I'm doing this because there's nowhere else for them to live: the council's switching content management systems and they're not allowed on the new system because they don't meet corporate branding requirements. So I created the blog.

Then found that although I can log in and create entries, including a sheet explaining how to log into some of our remote resources, we can't read them at work. It turns out that blogs fall foul of the council's internet frivolity filter and so are forbidden fruits. I can receive fifty-nine emails a day offering me a bigger dick, viagara by the barrowload and a share of the ill-gotten gains of sundry crooked politicians in third world countries but I can't read blogs. Ah well. "Can't be helped," I hear myself say to myself.

"Can't be helped?"

"Can't be helped?" Of course it bloody can. I'm writing help sheets we can't read because I'm not allowed to put files on my own server "for security reasons" and because I'm not allowed to add new pages to the library service pages to the content management system or use pictures in the pages that do exist.

What on earth am I doing with my life?

Behind you!

Frog's just sent out the panto tickets to the prizewinners for the Xmas competition. If he had permission to buy the advertised prizes for last Easter's school holiday competition they could have had an Easter egg each, too.

Sic transit Gloria Swanson

Overheard in the staff room:
"Did you have a good weekend?"

"It was a bit hectic. We had a birthday party for my mum, it's her sixtieth this year."

"She must have been eight when she had you."

Monday, December 18, 2006


Catty's closing while they (finally!) get the roof sorted out. No chance of getting a wireless link to the library discretely included as the planners are going to be crawling over it like maggots on a dead mouse. There are the usual last-minute arrangements for the disposition of staff. Edie Nattercan rings T.Aldous:

"Is it possible for me not to go over and work in Helminthdale?"

"I'm not sure about that. We can't have people picking and choosing where they go. The needs of the service need to come first."

"Yes, I realise that, but can't I cover in the branches in Catty instead? I've got a medical condition that makes it difficult to work at Helminthdale."

"What medical condition?"

"Explosive flatulence. I don't know the people there. I can't very well introduce myself and then fart in their faces."

It might have been A Great Deal Worse

Himself is back and has surveyed the newly-swept decks with ill-disguised sulks. Whatever explosions that have happened are being kept in the family so far. Those of us not scheduled for meetings with him are keeping well away to be on the safe side.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Foaming nut-brown meths

Seth calls me to one side to show me the contents of the finds tray after this week's archaeological dig of the back room. Pride of place is a set of crystal tankards inscribed:

1883-1983: 100 years of friendship
Helminthdale -::- Krakatoa

forgotten spoils from one of the municipal bunfests with our twin town.

Most of the rest is considerably less spectacular, though I did wonder where that teapot had got to. Then Seth grins and unveils the pièce de resistance: two projectors and a projector stand, bought circa 1992. The projectors are, as the collectors would say, "boxed mint." The stand's unused but slighty rusty. So for the past thirteen years when we've been trawling round the council asking if we could borrow a projector and stand we've had them all the time! Where have they been?

"The projectors were over there under the carrier bags. The stand was in the attic at Catty, it's got a bit rusty where the rain got in."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Everybody rumba!

"How was last night's George Michael tribute?" I ask.

"Well, he looked like Roy Orbison. And we couldn't have a bop on the disco floor because he was busy dancing with a bunch of ladies with big hair and spangly dresses."

I'm old enough to remember when it was the Dutch Bend staff who had the big hair and spangly dresses. Mind you, I'm old enough to remember "Does the Team Think?"

Has your mother sold her mangle?

The mucking-out of the library has resulted in a general redistribution of old tat and four wheelie bins full of old papers and carrier bags leaving the premises. T.Aldous is back in the country, has got wind of what's going on and has made it very clear to Mary that he is Not Happy. He'd have been considerably more unhappy had they followed orders and cleared his office!

Bad news: This gives T.Aldous a blank cheque for unaccountability. Anything that happens he'll be able to say: "that will have been thrown out while I was on holiday."

Good news: It'll be a welcome change from the inevitable "I was on leave that week."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Trays of nuts and sweetmeats

Oh lord, it is that time of year again. Mary's started fiddling about with the disposition and distribution of cheese and onion pies again.

Just like last year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A novel idea for that odd corner

Oh goodie. And just in time for Christmas, too.

The datacomms cabinet and bits of hub equipment that the housing department left behind when they left Noddy Community Centre have come my way. "To be chucked out." Couldn't have been left at Noddy for chucking out could it? Left in a builder's skip while they were refurbishing the room for the new library? Dumped in the car park for the Community Centre's managers to worry about? Oh no, let's have it in Helminthdale Library, we don't have enough bits of old shit.


I have travelled from afar
To bring you a gift in this jam jar

It's that time of year again. Frog comes back from St. Barrabas, where the kids are all agog and excited in anticipation of this afternoon's nativity play.

"I'm the baby Joseph!" shouts one child, confusedly.

"I'm a three wise king!" cries another.

"I'm a penguin!" cries a third.

St. Barrabas is having some penguins in its nativity play. And a couple of tigers. And a polar bear. Apparently the cast was so big they ran out of shepherds, kings, sheep and the like and had to get a bit creative round the edges.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Be careful of the cobwebs, I only put them up this morning

Oh dear. Warner Baxter's just popped again in to review progress in the mucking-out of Helminthdale Library and isn't best pleased. He has ordered wheelie bins at dawn.

Novelty foxtrot

Warner Baxter pops in to check the revenue on-costs of an IT project.

"Is this right? They're asking me for £1,500 to cover this year's project costs."

"Err... no. This was the 2004/5 project for buying licences for online subscriptions. It was a one-off capital cost so there weren't any revenue consequentials. Besides, they never bought any online subscriptions in the first place."

Our backstories never get any shorter

Monday, December 11, 2006

Somebody's knocking on my door

The current craze for tidying up the library service seems to consist of moving the crap from one place to another. Not much is actually being chucked out that I've noticed. Today, to my joy (and Seth's disgust as he was the one who cleared it out a few months back), my computer room's been filled up with shit that's been ferrried over from Catty and Dutch Bend. "To be thrown out." Why it can't be thrown out from Catty and/or Dutch Bend I do not know.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Toujours la polytechnic

Our IT section have decided for reasons best known to themselves that Wikipedia should be added to the People's Network filter. I have tried asking why, but they won't tell me. Further investigation tells me this banality goes further, they have only added the ENGLISH version of Wikipedia to the filter, thus if I could read any other language I would be free to browse, but us English speakers are being discriminated against.

Does your mother know you're out?

Mary and Julia are worried: no postcard from T.Aldous yet. Usually he sends a postcard from the airport with a few additions to the "to do" list: things that have been stinking the place out for a year or so and which he requires sorting before he gets back. Perhaps he is content with what is to be done. More likely he was late for the 'plane!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Chaos from order

At last we divest ourselves of the "spare" copy of Kompass Ruritania that's been waiting for return for about six months. This was part of Reggie's legacy: he was a fiend for special offers, often buying things we didn't actually want because "it was on offer." In this case he decided to buy a copy of Kompass Ruritania for a customer with business connections there (yes, that's a customer) and got on the 'phone to the company for a price. Two problems:
  • We're contractually obliged to buy stock from the book suppliers that won the tender for supply, so we can't buy direct from the company; and

  • Reggie somehow managed to complete a telephone order for the directory. Which caused a problem because the Acquisitions team ordered a copy through the proper channels and then had a second copy delivered to them without so much as an order number.

    Reggie was all for keeping the second copy "as it's our mistake." Mary tartly pointed out that it wasn't "our" mistake and the one that hadn't been ordered was going back. It's no wonder his wife doesn't allow him to go shopping on his own.

    If you've never then you ought

    Somebody's been buying more books on Tantric sex for Helminthdale Library. At least I can't be blamed this time as I'm not allowed to order stock. Pursed lips amongst the library assistants: Minty pulls Frog to one side and points out the offending articles:

    "Look at all them mucky books! They're all about that textile sex!"

    Frog reckons he'll never be able to set foot in Carpet Warehouse ever again.

    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    A thousand fancy coloured-clowns

    The MLA, God bless 'em, on behalf of its mother department -- the Department of Culture, Media & Sport -- has sent out a pile of bumpf inviting public libraries' support of the coming London Olympics.

    The provincial in me wonders why we never saw any "support the Commonwealth Games" stuff from either DCMS or MLA back in 2002. Or more than just cheap sniggering at Birmingham's efforts at capturing the Olympics.

    The rest of me wonders why you can rely on full DCMS involvement in metropolitan hand jobs like the Greenwich Millennium Dome, Wembley Stadium and the London Olympics but jack all to support practical efforts at a community level in the real world.

    (Actually, that last is a lie: I don't wonder at it at all!)

    It's no use stroking them and saying: "puss, puss, puss"

    Helminthdale Council's having to do a staff satisfaction survey, asking how we feel about the Council's change agenda; whether or not it's a good organisation to work for; and whether or not we'd recommend somebody's coming to work in the Council. That sort of thing. Of course, we all sing its praises to the skies.

    The online survey form is confidential. For "monitoring purposes" they ask for some demographic details. If you do happen to be the only white male between the ages of 35 and 45 working in a library somewhere in Catty there is no way that your response can be traced back to you. Staff satisfaction is at such a peak that they're desperately keen to complete the survey regardless.

    Tuesday, December 05, 2006

    A thrill-packed load of old twaddle

    Excitement at Senebene Library: the car park's being used as a location for a popular television drama series (I wasn't paying attention, it was either "Compact" or "Triangle"). Apparently the car park provides just the right flavour of local colour (I wonder if they swept away last night's condoms).

    Prior to their arrival there had been a slight misunderstanding. The film company asked if they could use the library's toilets. There was a bit of consternation until it was made clear that the toilets would be for location staff use, not as a film location.

    We take the opportunity to tease Beryl:

    "No knocking on the door asking: 'do you need any help in there?'"

    "'Do you need that shaking so you don't spoil your costume?'"

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    Converting a table lamp into a
    common-or-garden stuffed gorilla

    One of the odder items unearthed by the Time Team dig of T.Aldous' office is a photocopy of a typewritten note:

    Please could we order some more large print books for Helminthdale?

    dated June 1994.

    Be you The White Tornado?

    I'm profoundly irritated to notice that at one time or another throughout the morning the whole of management group has been employed in shifting crap out of the back room.

    Irritated that is until I discover that they're making room to hide the worst of excesses of T.Aldous' office -- they're under orders to bin the lot while he's on holiday (the back story's here) -- and they've decided to do it themselves as a group effort so that they take collective responsibility and no one person cops for the blame when himself comes back.

    This is easily the most encouraging thing I've heard in a hell of a while: management group's acting as a team!

    Sunday, December 03, 2006

    Escape is verboten

    Sometimes you just don't realise you're doing it to yourself...

    Trying to avoid the usual Sunday evening depression at the thought of the working week to come I decided to watch an old movie on DVD. Only half an hour in did I realise the significance of my choice: The Colditz Story.

    Friday, December 01, 2006

    Polished with Guinness

    It's that time of year again but this time I can't resist my curiosity. I ask Millie:

    "Why does Catty Library always have its Christmas party in February?"

    Millie isn't entirely sure of the details, just that one year there were major problems with setting a date because of various personal reasons and then the local eateries were booked up solid. The subsequent party, being well-removed from the stresses and strains of the seasonal hostilities, went down well and became a tradition. Like Millie says: "It's just so much less hassle."