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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I'll think of you until my memory fails

This is a time when we traditionally take stock of our lives. As I do so I'm shocked to realise that I have posted over 800 all-too-true anecdotes on this blog in the past year. I'm even more shocked to recall all the stories that didn't get on the blog because they'd breach confidentiality; or would deal with personnel matters that are none of my damned business; or which, although true, are too unlikely for words (I know...!)

Well, here's wishing you all a Happy New Year.

Let's hope it's a better one than 2008, but judging by
2007 and 2006 and 2005 I think it's going to be business as bloody usual.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The last words of Anaxagoras were "Give the lads a holiday"

Well, reason and common sense notwithstanding the End Of The National Year Of Reading Event took place and was A Big Success. Which is to say that enough people came along to justify the expense of hiring choir, juggler and poet but not so many as to have T.Aldous and Mary making noises about fire regulations. Bronwyn and Maybelle put up some good displays; the children joined in with Frog's audience participation stuff; Nancy did a really good Silent Storytime for toddlers; and Mary actually brought the mince pies in a couple of hours before the event started.

"Let's not get too cocky," says Bronwyn. "There'll be another one coming along right behind."

How true those words are, even today.

Monday, December 29, 2008

No form of entertainment, no matter how sordid or debased it may be shall ever take the place of Her Majesty's Commissioners of Income Tax

"How's tomorrow's big day looking?" I ask Maybelle. "It's sorted," she says, though the sincerity of her words are compromised as she rolls her eyes, bites her lip and hisses something about "... mince pies!"

I ask Bronwyn the same question. She lets out a deep sigh. "We'll get there and we'll do it because we always do."

I ask Frog and he says: "Like always, we don't know what the fuck we're supposed to be doing and nobody seems to much care. We'll make it up as we go along as per usual and they'll say it was a great success because enough kids turned up and nobody was actually sick on the carpet. And this time next month it will all have been forgotten about."

Unfortunately, they're dead right. They'll deliver a fun event despite not knowing what it's for or what the Library Service wants to get out of it and Policy Team will think it was a splendid thing for all the time that they care to think of it. What a waste of resources and opportunity.

One suspects the master of deception is aware

"What's a VIP switch?" asks Maudie.

"A what?"

"A VIP switch. T.Aldous says that's why the publicity for Catty Library is wrong."

"It's a bit like the rhythm method but you have to ask for an extension because you weren't ready at the right time."


Maudie approaches.

"Did you know that the "Welcome to Catty Library" leaflets didn't have the new 'phone number on them."

"Er... yes."

"Do you know if we're going to do anything about getting them updated or reprinted?"

"Er... no. Have you asked T.Aldous or Julia?"

"Julia blanked me and T.Aldous said that we needed to have a look at it some time."

"That'll be right."

"It's uncanny. I asked Milton the same questions and gave me word for word the same answers."

Can't think why.


Corporate Helminthdale scores another own-goal. We've all received our copies of the new corporate newsletter, the first since they told us we're all getting pay cuts (even the people getting pay rises). Pride of place is the news that the council has installed "confidential screening for sexually-transmitted diseases" in the toilets in the Town Hall.

"This facility will be moving around the Town Hall, so keep your eye out for it!"

No schoolboy smut from this source!

This hasn't impressed the troops. The Christmas message was that the Council thinks we're worthless. The New Year message is that the Council thinks we're syphilitic and worthless.

God knows what the Easter message will be.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The forest is breathing along with us tonight

South Pacific island sceneIn a lonely library
Where the shelving butts on a leaking wall
Most people look for another library
Ill luck besets them to hear the call...

In the stone age.
Library... cast a sigh.
Where you can't act your own age
And careers come to die.

Boxing clever
Pile 'em up, pile 'em high
Like some card Tower of Babel
Climbing up to the sky.

Your own locker space;
Your own locker key;
Your own half-chewed biro;
A cold cup of tea.

Crises crafted with skill.
With your confidence damaged
You just wait for the kill.

Librar... eek!
South Pacific island scene Somewhere in the library
You may see the right book.
You may see the right book
Although it's been misshelved.
And sadly you know,
You know even then,
That you may never
Find it if you try again.

Somewhere in the library
There will be a stranger.
There will be a stranger
Just as perplexed as you.
They'll struggle and curse
And yet what is worse
They will have worked there since June '82.

South Pacific island scene
A hundred and one pounds of fun
That's our new acquisition
Come and have a look
At a reference book

Speaking of these directories
Set in six point jargonese
Squint at it mint
While it's still out in print
And sight.

South Pacific island scene
Happy talking talking library talk,
Talk about things you'll never do.
You got to have a dream.
If you don't have a dream,
How'll they ever have a dream to screw?

Talk about the stock
Chosen for the shelves.
Popular and useful, naturally.
Talk about the staff
Valued for their skill
Trained, empow'red, and with authority!

Happy talking talking library talk,
Talk about things they're going to rush.
You got to have a dream.
If you don't have a dream,
How'll they ever have a dream to crush?

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Have yourself a merry little library.
Hear the bookshelves groan.
If you want to stock-edit then you're on
Your own.

Have yourself a merry little library
Watch career hopes fade.
See them ruthlessly deskill you down to what
You're paid.

I hear that there's libraries
Where the book stock's bright and new
And staff do well.
Such cruel tales they tell
To the likes of me
And you.

Have yourself a merry little library.
Watch the gutters rot.
Some day next year they will be replaced
Or not.
So lend a hand in the land that Santa Claus


A Merry Christmas to all our readers!
from Eddie the Happy Editor

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pass the parcel

With one excpetion, only Mary could think that this afternoon is the best time to embark on moving the furniture round in the corner of the office occupied by the Acq. Team.

"There are network points in the wall. Do they work?" she asks me.

"They might do. The best way to test is to plug a laptop in and see if it logs on. I'm busy at the moment [Julia and T.Aldous have seperately and severally told me the date for Carbootsale's closing for rebuilding]. If I can get time this afternoon I'll check it out. If not, it'll be the New Year."

When last seen, she was going to mither Milton about the possibility of his buying a new PC for Bronwyn. A redundant exercise: Lupin's planning on replacing her old one in the very near future as part of the IT renewal process.

Mince all over his warehouse coat

Mary's been landed with the job of organising T.Aldous' end-of-year celebration of the National Year of Reading. She's roped in Bronwyn, Maybelle and Frog; they've cadged favours from some of their usual contacts and had nearly all the ideas knocked back by Mary for various reasons irrational. So the printed programme for the day is:
  • Carols from the choir of St. Barrabas, Helminthdale
  • A demonstration of corn dolly-making
  • A poetry reading
  • A juggler
  • Mince pies will be provided
Not especially literary, as I mention to Maybelle.
"I'm too busy worrying about the mince pies: Mary says she's going to be buying them so I expect we'll be having the usual panic first thing on the day."
The voice of grim experience.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Common abuse is not libel

"T.Aldous had a right go at me yesterday," says Milton. "He tried to give me a bollocking because you've got a bad attitude towards his and Julia's handling of Catty Library."

"Oh shit, I'm really sorry about that."

"That's OK. I just said that you were dead right and asked him what he was going do about making a better job of it with Carbootsale."

"He'll hold that against you."

"I hope so. It might provoke him into doing it properly next time."

Caught outside Belle Vue Zoo with a branding iron and a box of bird seed

Maudie gets a 'phone call from the council switchboard.

"Is it true that Catty Library's been put onto the switchboard?"

"Apparently so."

"Do you know their extension number?"

"I don't. I was hoping to find out from you."

"We only found out because a member of the public rang us to ask to be put through."

Between us we eventually discovered their new internal 'phone number. Which was three-quarters of an hour well spent.

We then moved onto the next vexed question: what is the public telephone number? (Ordinarily we'd get it off the publicity or the web site but seeing as Maudie's responsible for getting the publicity to the printers and I'm responsible for editing the web site we're on a hiding to nothing there.) T.Aldous' walking past at this point gives me an opportunity for enquiry.

"What's the new public telephone number for Catty Library?"

"It's the same one as the old one."

"No it isn't."

"Yes it is. I arranged it."

"If you ring that number you get a message telling you that line is no longer in use."

"No you don't."

So I dialled the number, gave him the handset and proved my point.

"It should move seamlessly to the new 'phone number."

"Which is...?"

"We wouldn't have this problem if the VoIP switch had been delivered on time."

"The new 'phone number...?"

"We ordered that VoIP switch weeks ago. We've been badly let down by IT."

"I know the backstory, T.Aldous. What is the public telephone number for Catty Library?"

"Well, it would have been sorted by now if it had been installed on time."

"I am a member of the public. I don't care about the backstory about the VoIP switch. I want to ring Catty Library. I want to talk to somebody there about something. What number do I ring?"

"It should be the old number."

"Well it isn't, the library's been open two days and I'm a member of the public trying to contact them by telephone. I dial what number?"

"I really don't like your attitude. I'll get Julia to send out an email to all staff with it on."

Which she could have done weeks ago. When we put together the publicity that never happened either.

National Year of Reading

The Director of Education (whom God preserve) has decreed that next Monday there shall be a celebration of The National Year of Reading, encompassing all forms of glad-handing, back-slapping and lickspittling of the Adult Literacy Working Group of which he is Chair. Looking at the programme it's pretty much a day of wristjobs workshops for practioners rather than anything for public consumption.

T.Aldous, ever ready to score a point against the Director of Education (whom God preserve) has decreed that Tuesday is a public celebration of the National Year of Reading, to be held in Helminthdale Central Library. And so it has hung for the three weeks since he had the idea. Nobody knows what is to be happening that day but it will be A Great Thing. If it goes true to form, some time in the next day and a half somebody will be landed the job of organising the spectacular with a budget of buttons.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sometimes it's so bleak and desperate that you can almost hear the furniture giggling at you

Catty Library re-opened for business today. A customer went into Carbootsale Library late in the afternoon and said:

"I see Catty Library's closed."

"Oh no, it's re-opened today."

"That's as maybe. There's two librarians stood on the doorstep telling people that it's closed."

So Verity rang Catty Library and was told that yes, it had been closed because one of the windows had fallen out and they're getting Health & Safety in to come and check the putty.

Verity fed the intell into the jungle telegraph and I've sent a system message telling staff what little we know, which is enhanced by a customer's popping into Gypsy Lane Library and giving Pansy a verbatim report of the notice on the front door. Nobody from Catty Library has bothered letting anybody else know that they'd all gone home.

Given the height of the machine and the length of the arc, he is clearly a man without prostate issues

I mention the lack of information to staff about Catty Library to T.Aldous. I also mention that it's unfortunate that we can get information about the refurbished library into the paper but not onto our web site.

"But you updated the information the other week, I saw it."

"Yes, but that was weeks after these articles and I had to make it all up myself."

"Well, you did it so what's the problem?"

"The problem is that library service managers should be taking more of an interest in making sure that we get information about our libraries and services onto the council's web site."

"But that's what you're for."

"Err... No. If I'm given the infomation I'll do my level best to get it online in a timely fashion but if I don't know I can't do."

"Well, you did it."

"Aye, no thanks to you or Julia. Yet you managed to get let the Catty Examiner know what's going on."

"That's down to the council's press office. They did that."

"And where did they get the information from...?"

"Well, of course we worked with the press office. Why wouldn't we?"

"Of course you should. But shouldn't you also be working with your own staff too?"

"That would be down to the press office."

"No. No, no, no, no no. Letting your customers know about your services being delivered in your libraries is your responsibility, not that of the press office."


"No. Your responsibility."

At which point he stalked away and threw some crockery about the staff room.

Immortalised in singing concrete

I think we've had the last Christmas Kareoke Night at Dutch Bend Library. Saturday night's do went on raucously and well into the night (my informant left just before one after watching the spectacle of T.Aldous dancing to 'Nellie the Elephant').

Daisy Duck's planning her revenge on her mate the landlord at The Spotted Mule, which is just across the road from the library. At half two there was a knock on the library door. Daisy opened it to be faced with two policemen.

"We've had a complaint from the pub across the road. They say you're making too much noise."

It must have made their year. Daisy can see the funny side but is a bit worried:

"I don't think T.Aldous has ever been raided before."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

If music be the food of love then here comes the syrup of figs

Well, we've negotiated a few turkey lunches in the nursery slopes but now we're looking at the big stuff. I ducked out of last night's piss-up in Helminthdale: it looked like the whole of the Town Hall was intent on drowning its sorrows and I didn't want to know. Tonight is the Dutch Bend Christmas Party, which invariably involves a good deal of drink and a karaoke. Which, if you haven't had a good deal of drink, is pretty close to Hell.

Once that's done there's only the Helminthdale pot-luck lunch and we're home and dry and A over T into the bosom of our families for the seasonal hostilities.

Feeding the fourth estate

I am incandescent with rage. For weeks now I've been banging on at Julia and T.Aldous that we need to put an update on the state of play of Catty Library on the web site so please could they tell me something about it. With nil result. In the end, I got so embarassed about not updating that information for three months that I bullshitted something up and published it at the beginning of last week.

Imagine my delight, then, to find lying about by the fax machine copies of two articles about the new, improved library that were published - with pictures - in November. They can get the Catty Examiner in for a preview but they can't be arsed to pass any information on to their own bloody staff.

Single team working? My arse.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Roughly the bit which keeps the pie crust up

Joy be unconfined! The refurbishment of Catty Library - which has, like World War One, been promised to be 'over by Christmas' - is done and dusted as far as the outside world is concerned (we'll draw a veil over the leaky children's library and the fact that there's no telephone) and it's to re-open on Monday.

"The 'phone should be going in tomorrow, so it'll probably be Monday afternoon," says Milton.

"I'll have to update the web site over the weekend. What's the new 'phone number?"

"I don't know. I asked Julia but didn't really get a useful answer."

Despite his suggestion that I don't do it, I have a go at this myself. Julia's not available so I ask T.Aldous.

"What's Catty Library's new 'phone number? Nobody seems to know."

"Everybody knows it: it's pinned up on the staff noticeboard at Catty. Given them a ring and find out."

Passed it

Fire inspection been and gone and damn me we've passed.

The one and only time we see a co-ordinated management effort to communicate a goal to the other ranks and see them support and resource the work to the successful attainment of said goal it's to hoodwink a fire inspector.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nobody takes biscuit addiction seriously in this country

Frog's miffed. After all the story times; class visits; Team Read promotions; SureStart and BookStart events and deliveries; teenage reading programmes; families and carers activities and bounce & rhyme sessions he's delivered this year the one time he gets fulsome praise from his betters is when he empties and disposes of two boxes of crap from near his desk.


The gasman's been to Senebene Library.

"It's OK, love, it's not a gas leak. You're just smelling the methane from the drains."

So that's all right then.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A plumber you can trust

Lupin's been off sick with the 'flu. That's put one of our projects back a week or two, which is unfortunate. Even more unfortunately, while he's been off sick somebody else in IT has "borrowed" his kit and erased the PC image he'd set up for the project, so he's going to have to spend a day putting it back together again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Keep our land grand

"How are you getting on with all those boxes in the fire escape corridor?" Mary asks Noreen.

"We're doing well, there's only as many as there were last week."
The plan is that when the fire inspector comes a-prowling these boxes will all be put into the dispatch room, which is where they ought to be in the first place. We still don't know where the crap that's been filling the dispatch room this past decade is going.

Another plan is for Bronwyn to move her desk into the corner of the Acq. Team's area, where all the boxes of Booked If I Know picture books are piled up, awaiting shipping out to very receptive main libraries. Naïvely, I ask where the Booked If I Know boxes are going ('cos they won't be going out to the main libraries any time soon). Apparently they, too, are to go into the dispatch room. I can only think that we're going to knock the ceiling out.

I remember the days when you could buy a cow with a tin of beans

Maisie is being sent out to buy yet more milk for one or other of the meetings in the library.

"Wouldn't it be easier to buy a cow?"

I ask. Which prompts the inevitable discussion in the staff room.

"I should think we've got more than enough cows as it is."

"If we bought a cow we could call it T.Aldous."

"We could say that it was a tribute."

Monday, December 15, 2008

I can't make me mind up if it's too dead or not dead enough

Travelling to a meeting by train I'm joined at the platform by Ken Barmy. He is a disturbing travelling companion.

"Hist! Are they the singing sands of the Asian desert, intent on luring us to lonely, unmarked graves?"

"They're announcing the arrival of the next train."

"Are you telling me that's not a disembodied voice designed by devils to mislead the unwary traveller such that their loved ones may never see them again?"

I had to concede the point.

Like most local government employees lately, we got to comparing notes on Pay & Grading.

Note for the unwary (English public sector workers may want to skip this bit)
A decade and a bit ago it was pointed out that "women's" jobs were paid less than "men's" jobs in English local government, regardless of the relative importance of the jobs and/or requirements on qualification, training, etc. So the government told local autorities that they had to review their staff's pay with a view to providing equal pay for equal value by 2007. Not many local authorities met the deadline. Many faffed about. Most took it as an opportunity to save a bit on the staffing budgets by equalising down. Many took the opportunity of cutting the salaries of specialist staff on the basis that there's less of them and it's harder for them to find examples of jobs of equal worth to compare themselves with. This is a bowdlerised account but you get the gist.

I asked Ken how he got on.

"They've cut my salary by £3,000. How about you?"

"Twelve percent cut."

"Of course, you know it's a job creation scheme for Personnel departments, don't you?"

"Eh? How do you work that out?"

"If a large number of disaffected staff worrying themselves sick about how they'll be paying the bills isn't a problem requiring a Human Resources solution, I don't know what is."

In a sane and just world he'd have a statue.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

So now you know

Norma talking to a customer:

"In this country we say please and thank you!"

Salome challenged her:

"That was a bit uncalled for."

"I don't care. If they're in this country they should learn to do like we do."

Strangely enough, "please" and "thank you" don't feature highly in the local vernacular.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Three methods of expansion

In the old days upstairs a customer would come in, queue to return their books, be told that they've got an item on the reservations (holds) shelf, be given the book and then queue to get it issued to them and stamped out. Now, the customer queues to return their books, is told they've an item on the reservations shelf, walks over to the enquiry desk where they queue to get given the book and then goes back to the counter to queue to get it issued and stamped out.

The reason? Staff were complaining about having to keep bending down to get the books from under the counter. Given that there's about three acres of space behind the counter it wouldn't be beyond the wit of library managers to put some shelving or trolleys in there for the reserved stock. Except that Doreen says they can't do it because "someone might take the trolleys out and shelve the books."

Christmas at Windscape

We couldn't have Christmas without yet another spat at Windscape concerning the children's party. This year Norma is annoyed because Kitty, who is her job share, is for the very first time being allowed to claim the time back as time worked instead of coming in to help in her own time.

The protest takes a bizarre turn when Norma turns up at the reading group's Christmas party and tries to claim the time back. Doreen's having none of it, though ends up having to concede half an hour because Norma covered the library while Kitty went out for a bottle of milk.

"Lola hadn't arrived yet so I had to cover," she says.

The truth is that she told Kitty not to wait for Lola, she'd mind the shop.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Some people have no objection

School visit at Windscape. The teacher notices that Thelma is covering.

"Such a nice change to have someone who smiles and says hello to the children!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One hundred and twenty pounds of horseshit

Oh, I don't want to blog about this week. Surely I've exhausted my readers' patience about
  • boxes
  • and shifting stock out of Umpty Library because they say they've got too much new children's stock and don't have time for visits for school classes
  • and libraries' closed dates not being disclosed to the systems guy or to the passing public
  • and Policy Team not having yet another scheduled meeting
  • and another unannounced staff meeting with T.Aldous complaining that people didn't turn up for it
  • and the network being down
  • and the public PCs dying one by one in random pattern with their hard disks blown to buggery
  • and the reference librarians' entering the fourth glorious year of reviewing the standing orders lists but actually not bothering
  • and the expensive reference stock we're buying for Catty Library which won't have a reference section when it re-opens
  • and Policy Team members boasting that they can't possibly provide information about what's going on in our libraries because their staff don't tell them
  • and the plans - ha ha! - for closing Carbootsale for rebuilding work once Catty Library re-opens

Oh, I'm bored just listing the possibilities, you'd never stand for me blathering on about them.

So the baby could play with the smoke

Maisie's spent an hour and a half on the 'phone to the gas company querying a bill for the old Roadkill Library, including thirty-two minutes on hold listening to Mantovani. I couldn't help overhearing the eventual conversation.

"One of your engineers came over in September, cut off the gas and took a final reading..."

"...It's been closed since January. It's closed and unoccupied..."

"...No, it's unoccupied. And it never will be occupied again: it's been closed for demolition, they're going to build a motorway over it..."

"...There's no point in you sending us an estimated bill, the reading's going to be the same as the final one your engineer took..."

"...Isn't your engineer's actual final reading better than a customer reading?"

"...The library's nine miles away and there's nobody in there. We can't send somebody over once a month to take a reading. Besides, what's the point? The gas has been cut off and your engineer took the final reading..."

The eventual compromise is that once a quarter for the next hundred years, Maisie will be sending the gas board an email saying:

The building that was Roadkill Library, Windicote Lane, closed for demolition January 2008. Reading 103772

Monday, December 08, 2008


Seth's been walking round with a grin on his face and T.Aldous is in full stroppy panic. This can only mean one thing...

Fire inspection!

T.Aldous is in a flap because we've done precisely nothing in response to the last fire inspection report (I wouldn't want you to think that we've just the one standard response to any inspection reports, even though it's true).

The Acq. Team have been working through the influenza like Trojans and have got the backlog down to just twenty boxes in the fire escape corridor. The official line now is that these boxes will be moved to the dispatch room, where they should have been in the first place. Quite what's happening with all the crap that's been stuffed in the dispatch room for the past decade and a half is beyond our collective imagination.

Unless T.Aldous is building a tunnel, too.

Time and place

I'm surprised to find Milton mooching round the office.

"Shouldn't you be with the rest of Policy Team? I thought you all had a meeting in the Town Hall today."

"We did. T.Aldous has cancelled it because he couldn't find the email about it because his PC 'isn't working' again."

The meeting was supposed to be about "Making Things Happen."

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Making an effort

Lavinia asked about Helminthdale's Christmas lights, which were switched on the other week by Pusscat Willum. Here they are in all their festive glory.

Chrimbo lights in Helminthdale - look they're red and green and lovely!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

More kicks than ha'porth

We were wondering what the ranting and raving and shouting was... It turns out to be Julia, giving Daisy Duck a bollocking for asking for a new telephone at Dutch Bend because the existing one is broken. Not the style of management I'd adopt personally but then I'm not A Professional.

We laughed for exactly eleven-and-a-half minutes

Had a drink with Ken Barmy last night after bumping into him while Christmas shopping in Hannigan's Truss Boutique.

"How's your authority's much-vaunted change programme going on?"

"Oh, we've done change. It's back to Business As Usual With Fucking Big Boots On now. No priorities, aimless meandering management chucking their weight about when it suits and disappearing like the morning mists whenever accountability comes a-knocking and the project management expertise of the kindergarten sand-table."

"As good as that?"

"I'm instinctively optimistic."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What's my line?

I catch Milton in an unguarded moment (he'd just had one of those conversation with T.Aldous where you wonder which of you stepped out of an aeroplane without a parachute).

"Why didn't they put a 'phone line in at Catty the same time as they put in the fax?"

"Because T.Aldous has decided that it's going onto the council switchboard."

"I thought we were putting it onto the switchboard at the end of next year as part of the council's VoIP roll-out."

"We were."

"What happened?"

"A couple of weeks ago T.Aldous was talking to somebody in the Town Hall lift who said that it should be possible to put a VoIP line into Catty to put it onto the switchboard. So that's what we're doing."


"So that it won't cost anything for T.Aldous and Julia to ring Catty Library."

"Have we sorted out the publicity for the new 'phone number?"


"I'll need to know the number so's I can make the changes in the web site."

"Good luck to you."

"We don't know the number?"

"Not yet we don't."

"So what's the plan?"

"I've told them that if they're going to change the arrangements at this late stage of the game they can sort out the consequences themselves."

Sounds like our way of doing things... If you don't like the answer you get, keep asking people until somebody gives you the answer you want, however much it screws up your project.

Not fit for man nor beast

The unseasonably wintery weather has taken its toll on the local transport systems. It took me two and a half hours to get into work, most of which involved a group of us shivering at the station wondering if the boneshaker parked at the platform was going to Helminthdale. It turned out to be the Liverpool train, which came as a shock to the driver and guard, who thought they were going to Huddersfield. Frog got in just ten minutes before me, having struggled his way over the hills from Bencup.

T.Aldous has been wandering round the building complaining that it took him 45 minutes to get into work this morning. We are collectively aghast: it usually takes him the best part of an hour to do the ten-minute journey down the Pardendale Road.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mysteries in telecommunications

"They've finally gotten the fax line installed at Catty," says Milton.

"So we finally have an opening date for them, then?"

"Er... no. We're waiting for the 'phones to be sorted."

"They've not put the 'phone line in at the same time as the fax?"

"Let's not go there. If you get me started on this one we'll be here all day."

"Aren't we just restoring the existing 'phone line?"

"Let's talk about something else. How's the web site getting on?"


One of our regulars rushes into the lending library upstairs as soon as the doors open.

"I need to use your toilet," he says.

He then rummaged around in the back of his trousers and proceded to show Seth why he needed to use the toilet.

Note for customer care advocates: there's no excuse for this, the library's in a shopping centre which has been open since quarter to nine and has two lots of public conveniences.


Monday, December 01, 2008

It frightened Burke and Hare

One of "those" conversations:

"Is Bronwyn around?"

"She's off sick today. Can anybody else help?"

"I've got somebody on the 'phone asking about a talk by Fred Dibnah."

"Stuff me, I thought we only used the Ouija board for talking to Policy Team. If we start using it in public events we'll be picketed by the witch-burners."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cobblers to Queen Victoria

There's probably a more productive way of spending quarter of an hour at work than helping Frog work out a way to fit a Prince Albert onto Benton Kinky the new bondage bear. There just isn't one readily to hand at the moment.

You probably don't recognise me without my cape

Maybelle's Amazonian claim is picked up on by Sibyl and Frog, who are feeling michevious. I'm in no mood to fight the flow.

"You'd be no good as an Amazon," says Sibyl, who has a classical education. "They had to have one of their breasts lopped off so that they'd be better able to draw a bow and arrow. You wouldn't want that: you'd be walking round with a list."

"It didn't do Wonder Woman any harm," I point out.

"It's the star-spangled knickers," says Sibyl.

"You don't have the star-spangled knickers as well do you Maybelle?"

"You'd only get distracted," she replies. Which is true.

"I'm Junoesque,"

continues Maybelle, spotting when she's on a roll.

Awaiting the change

I've noticed that the High Street banks' strategy for spending out of the recession is to withdraw all the five pound notes so that we have to buy things whenever we need change of a twenty pound note. The result is that people like me end up with thirty one pound coins in his pocket and a consequent list to starboard when they put their jackets on.

I was whingeing about this when Maybelle suddenly perks up:

"Oooh! I'll have twenty pounds coins off you! It'll save me having to queue at the bank again this week."

It turns out that since the council upped the parking rates as part of its encouraging-green-living-and-nothing-to-do-with-the-budget-deficit programme, the weekly parking permits cost £20. But the council's ticket machines don't take notes.

"So you lug around a purse full of twenty-odd pound coins?" I ask.

"It's no problem for me. I am an Amazon."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I found another verse in the Methodist hymn book

A bad afternoon at work, which I'll tell you about in a couple of months when the fuss has died down.

To cap it all: Frog and Bronwyn have started singing Cowboy Campfire Carols around the photocopier.

Each had his portmanteau in his hand

A bit of a dampener on Friday night's leaving do for Cosmo. All but one of the party turned up well in time for the meal and so weren't best pleased at having to wait a further thirty-five minutes for the final member to drift up. Especially as T.Aldous lives closest to the restaurant. Still... no show without Punch.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pedalling our way down the road of life

T.Aldous is trying to get some stuff shifted from here over to the old Roadkill Library (which by rights should be part of a dual carriageway by now) and some other stuff shifted from Dutch Bend to Catty in preparation for it joining a pile of other stuff coming back here for no apparent reason. The problem is that Kevin the van driver has got a full itinerary for today as he's taking piles of boxes to each and every library in the Borough (we're a public library, we buy new books, honest!) and is then filling in for the nursing homes runs in Carbootsale and Umpty. T.Aldous is struggling with the logistics.

"I can't see why it takes him so long to go round the nursing homes in Umpty."

Says the man who does the ten minute run down Pardendale Road in never less than forty minutes.

Libraries as centres for leisure activities

Seth is seen carrying something on the end of a very long stick. It is a used condom, found in the Reference Library lift lobby. It excites comment amongst the staff.

"Yeugh! Fancy making love in a lift!"

"Have you never done it?"

I think I would, given the right opportunity. I have fond memories of adolescent fumblings in the reserve stacks of a research library.

There's an air of outrage in the Reference Library. You'd think they'd be glad that somebody's come up with a use for the library that doesn't involve them having to go to the enquiry desk to ask for service.

Friday, November 21, 2008

And we're stuck inside here doing a stupid panto

It's a bit early for getting dragged into Christmas politics and I'm disinclined to get involved now.

The Assistant Librarians generally have their own Christmas do, but they've not been much in evidence lately and haven't gotten on well in the process. So they've not organised one.

Lola's back from maternity leave and mentions this to Bronwyn. Bronwyn, being of practical mind, suggests that she joins Frog and the Acq. Team in their do. The problem is that nobody knows when it is. Lola comes and asks me:

"When's this Christmas lunch?"

"I can't remember off the top of my head."

"Why wasn't I invited in the first place?"

"You weren't around to ask."

"I'll bet it's not going to be on a day when I'm at work."

"You're not coming over to me late on a Friday afternoon to pick a fight about a Christmas dinner. Now fuck off and go and have a fight with somebody else."

Ho bloody ho.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mickey Mouse is eighty this week

Maudie's been instructed to order twenty-seven mouse mats for Catty Library. I have no idea why they might need twenty-seven mouse mats: they don't have and won't have twenty-seven PCs in the building. Now they've arrived there's a bit of a to-do. The price quoted in the procurement system is £2.50 (!) but they've come in at £3.15 (!!!) Maudie's all for sending them back, the Procurement section is all for renegotiating the price. And I'm all for keeping well out of it.


The council's preferred supplier isn't prepared to sell us a Christmas tree at the moment.

"In case the price goes up because of the shortage."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Not being cynical at all

Cosmo, who's been covering at Roadkill Library, is leaving us shortly to join somebody else's circus. I get a 'phone call from Daisy Duck at Dutch Bend.

"Can you do me a favour? Could you put a collection envelope on the table for Cosmo? I've been busy with a pile of other things lately and it's only just occurred to me that nobody will have organised a collection."

"Surely his line manager would have organised that already?"

My, how we laughed.

I'll be leader, you can march behind

Frog, Maybelle and I are in a meeting to discuss a few pieces of work we're working on. Frog mentions some problems he's having getting the use of a room in Sheep City as a venue for an event next year. I ask the obvious question:

"Why does it need to be at Sheep City?"

"When Mary and I talked it through it was obvious that upstairs here wasn't an option."

"Couldn't any other library do?"

"We had that workshop for playgroups at Tench Road last May and the turnout for that was really disappointing."

"That is on the further reaches of the Borough, though, isn't it?"

"Why not have it at Noddy?" asks Maybelle. "It's attached to the community centre so we can have sessions after library hours; it's got a bus stop just outside on the main road; and a huge car park."

"We've tried having late night events in the branches but... I'm turning into Mary, aren't I? Sorry. I'll check it out and see if that's a possible."

This comes as a relief: I'd made a note to have a chat with him about this point after the meeting. I hope that if I ever go that way he'd do similar.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Heavy breathing

Milton's been getting earache again about the Champions for Change. He's holding firm but getting browned off in the process.

"Courage, mon brave," I tell him, "one volunteer is worth ten pressed men."

Sybil and Lippy overhear this and are up in arms.

"If we're pressing men, why aren't we getting a go?"

Please let me sleep on your doorstep tonight

Milton and Seth are going over to Catty Library to shift some stuff in and other stuff out. And perhaps even shaking it about a bit. They make the mistake of mentioning it to T.Aldous as they're putting their coats on.

"Hang on a minute, I'll come with you. I just need to make myself a pot of tea."

Half an hour later they're still kicking their heels.

That's the place for fun and noise

Now that folk have decamped into the management suite and finally cleared up after themselves we're into the process of turning a couple of the offices into meeting rooms, to replace the meeting room that was turned into the management suite. It's down near to the Children's Reserve Stock shelves so Frog's taken to calling it Kiddies Korner and has stuck of a mock notice to that effect.

This has gone down badly with Mary, who's In Charge of the shifting round. But, typically of this place, instead of saying anything to Frog she says something to Bronwyn. And later on something to Noreen. And later on to Maudie...

I think these whispering condemnations are hilarious. When they're indirected my way I crack on daft and pretend I don't know that anything's been being said. By the purest coincidence I may innocently intensify the offence or accidentally remind the offended that they are aggrieved. Frog, on the other hand gets quite wound up. The practical effect is the same: he's determined that instead of letting the joke get stale and walk away after a week or two he's forever going to refer to this room at Kiddie Korner.

Word is, Mary's determined that this is going to be Meeting Room One. Which is odd as there's already two meeting rooms in the building.

Only wearing black until they make something darker

It's an interesting time in the Acq. Team. They're mired in the pre-Christmas rush of orders, reference subscription renewals, the latest panic buy for Catty Library and preparations for getting the vacancy they've been carrying for four years advertised and, perhaps, even filled.

"How's things?" I ask Noreen when she's on her own and it's quiet.

"Oh, the usual. It'll be alright, it's under control. As far as anything ever is under control round here. The one thing that's really making my life a real misery at the moment is that thing."

She motioned over to the cupboard in the corner.

"That's the cassette player they use for rewinding talking books. I don't know why they have to put it in our area, just because that's where the electricity points are."

When somebody is so determined to make such a mountain from such a molehill the safest thing to do is to sigh and walk away quietly.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I'd meant to pick up on one of Lavinia's comments the other week asking what constitutes an emergency in a library, as they're pretty sedate places. Unfortunately, they're also very public places and so anything that could happen to or by the public probably has happened in a public library somewhere or other. We're a fairly humdrum (OK, then, very humdrum) small northern town with the usual small northern town issues so the emergencies we've had so far this year have either been medical (a few fits, a suspected angina attack and a self-harming dramatist), criminal (a fistfight between two groups of youths) or building emergencies (bricks through windows; a roof suddenly deciding not to be rainproof any more with hilarous consequences; someone flooding the lending library by jamming a pile of paperbacks into a lavatory bowl and flushing repeatedly, that sort of thing). It's not every day, thank God! but quite often enough for even us to realise the importance of having things like panic alarms in single-staffed libraries.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ah yes...

The Assistant Librarians take turns to do stock selection for the whole borough. Which explains the tone in this email from Daisy Dormouse to the others:

I asked Julia if we shouldn't be buying stock for Catty Library now it looks like being open before Christmas. She said that we have been doing for some time now. Do you think we should be improving our communications mechanisms somewhat?

Lies, damned lies and statistics

I did the CIPFA statistics at the beginning of April and was thoroughly depressed by the proportion of the stock stuck in boxes rather than on shelves or on loan.

I little knew how bad things were. I've just started working my way through some of the boxes that have been sitting in a corner here for the past fifteen months. According to the library catalogue they're all on the shelves...

A rock 'n' roll Val Doonican

We've been given an agreeably large amount of money to launch the new children's audio collection (which is the old children's audio collection with a pile of new stuff from the Book Off project). Frog suggests getting in somebody he's seen at a Children's Librarians' workshop in Birmingham: they're very good advocates for children's libraries with a good line in entertaining anecdotes and a name that might be worth dropping in the local and professional presses. We can get him and a big launch party well within budget. The boy's done well. He presents his ideas to Mary.

"Ooh, it's a lot of money..."

She'd prefer getting someone cheap and local. Which make me wonder just what she'd do with the remainder of the launch money. (The question's rhetorical.I know the answer is 'nothing.')

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gallic flavour

We none of us trust the Direct Works Buttermilk soap in the gent's toilets so we bring in our own antiseptic handwash. Which explains why we've had the same cake of soap in there for two years. I hadn't realised it was so long. Frog reckons we'll have to buy another cake of soap so that people don't mistake us for Frenchmen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's hard to tell the difference when they take their hats off

Like me, you may wonder why we've got so many boxes full of books hanging around backstage for years on end. Here's a clue or two:
  • Over there's a trolley full of books. It's the same trolley full of the same books that's been lurking round the place since April. It's stock from the old Roadkill Library site to be transferred to other libraries. It's all newish paperback fiction that wouldn't fit on the shelves when they moved house and a pile of non-fiction that they didn't fancy (they're coffee table books about living in the Victorian age, the Tudors, Ancient Egypt, tropical rainforests, global warming, walks around the Lake Distrct, real obscure-niche material that there would be no demand for in a public library). This stock was sent here to be dealt with because Daisy, who's responsible for Roadkill, said she didn't have time to deal with them. Seeing as there wasn't anybody here at the time to deal with them (literally: Salome was the only remaining full-time Assitant Librarian but was on leave and Lola was on maternity leave) the stuff stayed in boxes. Eventually, Seth kicked off about the number of boxes lying about and Andi was given the job of sorting a dozen of them out. She did this by putting a couple of boxes' worth onto trolleys which she'd leave lurking about the building "being worked on" for weeks or months on end. This is the last of those trolleys (Lola and Bronwyn got shut of the others).
  • Another strategy for dealing with the boxes is to put somebody else's name on them. Lola's come back from maternity leave to find seven boxes of stock for transfer jammed under her desk. Each is labelled: Dutch Bend Helminthdale Salome Andi Posy Andi Posy Andi Salome Lola.

I've lost patience with the bloody trolley. I've just done the lot and it took me fifty minutes.

Give it a dose of Quaker oats

I ring Catty to try and find out whether or not anybody there knows where they've decided they want their PCs to go. Hetty answers and is annoyed to find out why they've not been set up yet.

"Just out of morbid curiosity... what's the current delay in reopening the library?"

"The tables aren't high enough."

"Tell me no more, I'm frightened to learn it."

Nowt but a dishcloth and a sugar bag

Lupin went over to Catty Library yesterday to set up the computers. We've no idea when the library's going to be reopening for business (we've been reshelving it for the past month) but he's determined that this time he's not going to be doing everything at the last minute. It won't be easy. He didn't manage to finish the job yesterday...

"Do you know where the computers are going?" he asks me.

"Roughly. Generally speaking, we're putting them where the people at Catty told Milton they had to go."

"That's good. I was tripping over the things and when I asked them where they were going they said they didn't know."

This doesn't bode well for the way the place is going to work when it's open.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Looking for a nine-foot square Monopoly board

Visiting Ken Barmy in his lair I am astonished to find that he's got a whiteboard the size of a wall behind his desk.

"Who's got the world's biggest whiteboard now?"

he crows. I can only gape.

"Isn't it brilliant? I'm astonished I've got away with it."


"They asked me if I wanted anything. I said I'd like a whiteboard please. They said to measure it up and get it ordered. And so... Well, here it is."

"What are you going to do with it now you've got it?"

"I shall draw pictures of Susannah York running barefoot through dewy meadows."

"They'll not be pleased with you for doing that."

"Don't see why not. It would be one of the more constructive things going on round here at the moment."

It's all I can do to hide my envy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ecstasy, Bruce, ecstasy

Mary's going over to a presentation at the Fire Station.

"If anyone asks, I'm just getting changed and putting on some perfume," she tells me.

I thought she was kidding right up to the point when she walked past me on her way out. Well, at least there'll be no naked flames.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The tragedy of a man with an absent mind

Milton's got his coat on.

"Run for the hills!"

he tells me and Mary

"T.Aldous is working on a document and I just heard him tell Maudie that he doesn't know how to cut and paste!"

Brooding on the infinite

As part of our ongoing change process we have set up a Champions For Change Group. One of Jim's last acts before scuttling off for the Swiss border was to ask for volunteers for the group. Gratifyingly enough, a good sized number volunteered and they represent every tier in the hierarchy and every section in the service. This is really good news and they're all really enthusiastic and everything.

So this is, of course, a problem.

Milton has been asked the killer questions:

"It isn't fair: why do they get to be in the group? How do we make sure that other people get their turn?"

"It isn't fair: why should the people who want to volunteer to be champions for change be allowed to be champions for change?" Childish nonsense. What the hell is the point of conscripting somebody to be an advocate for something? "It isn't fair!" Poppycock.

Milton is trying to frame a suitable response to the question. Mine would be two words.

Ladies and gentlemen, and Tiddles the cat

Kitty O'Shaunessy's been working in the Local Studies Library since Dan Leno was a lad. She's retiring next month so we're having a collection for her retirement present.

Imagine the consternation when it is discovered that the tin that had been labelled for this collection has been re-labelled by T.Aldous for the collection for to pay for the wine and nutes he bought the convalescent Warner. We now debate whether or not to carbon-date the fingerprints on the coins to determine which collection they were for.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Son of Splat!!!

What is it with this place? A young lad (OK, a yoof) has just wandered into the lending library, sat down at a table and started doing some coursework. He was doing no harm to anyone whatsoever, and was obviously of a polite disposition as he asked a passing member of staff:

"It is OK for me to sit here and do my coursework isn't it?"

"Ooh, I don't know. I'll have to check."


"Sorry, they say you've got to go upstairs to the reference library."

I'm sure I read something about Policy Team writing a Customer Welcome Strategy recently...


We currently don't require that customers using the People's Network computers are members of the library, though we would like them to join and gain the many benefits therefrom. Our reference librarians can make people members of the library as they do so once in a while so that they can issue one or other obscenely-expensive reference book to People In The Know. (Yes, these are the reference librarians who hide the newspapers under the enquiry desk so that customers can't steal them).

T.Aldous bumped into a couple struggling to get a pram and two babies up the stairs to the library because they wanted to use a computer to check their emails. He guided them to the lift, made sure it was going up to the reference library and told them to ask for a computer at the enquiry desk.

A few minutes later, he was passing the lift and the family was coming out. He was, naturally, a bit surprised and asked if all the computers were busy.

No. They'd been told that they "needed to go downstairs to join the library" before they could use a computer.

To his immense credit, T.Aldous took them back up to the library, got them onto a PC and gave them a membership form, a new user pack and a lot of spin about the services in our libraries.

I can't help thinking that a hard core of our staff wouldn't be happy unless customers weren't allowed on the computers or borrow books at all, just so that they could make sure that we could guarantee to be able to meet demand should it arise (but obviously not guarantee to actually meet it).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Alcohol is not allowed on the fairground ride

Poor old Warner Baxter's laid up after an operation. We quite like him as he's a decent sort and he makes Policy Team say nice things to us when we deserve them. So we were all very happy to sign and send a card and Frog included some suitably doggerelly get-well verse.

Warner's emailed T.Aldous asking him to pass on his thanks to all concerned. Which is really nice.

The gilt is scraped off the gingerbread quite considerably by T.Aldous' hand-written coda:

"Policy Team bought Warner some wine and nuts as a present for when we went round to visit the other day. We didn't have time to put out a tin for staff donations but if you would like to contribute something towards the £14.97 cost of the gift please put it in the tin provided."

"The poor devils must be on their uppers," mutters Sybil.

Can you hear the Trappists sing?

'Phone call from Julia, who's busy lurking at Catty Library well out of the way of T.Aldous.

"I've had a telephone call from the Catty Examiner. How many items do we have in stock here?"

"I'll just check the figures... here we go it's... hello? Is anyone there? Hello? Hello? Is there anybody there? ..."

I can hear the noises off of Julia wandering round the library messing round with shelves and telling people which boxes to unpack.

I shouted the number.

(eventually) "I can't hear you, what did you say?"

On balance I decided to just repeat the number.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

No looking for lamp-posts that aren't there

I'm not even as far as the bloody building before it starts today. I'm just crossing the road when I'm accosted by Ned Grangemouth from Corporate Audit.

"Has Mary asked you about this year's CIPFA figures?"

"Last April, when I did them, yes, why?"

"The Audit Commission's got the numbers from CIPFA and sent them back to us for us to confirm that the numbers are correct before they become set in aspic. I passed on the library figures to Mary and asked her to check that they were OK. She was supposed to be getting back to me but she hasn't yet and I'm getting nervous 'cos tomorrow's the deadline for any queries or appeals."

"Not a sausage."

"If I send you a copy can you have a look?"

"I'll try my best."

So he has and I've had a look and I can't see where some of the numbers are coming from: they're certainly not the numbers I passed on to Jim and Mary in April. Unfortunately, I don't know what numbers were sent to CIPFA in the end as those files aren't in the folders accessible to us other ranks.

I mention the conversation to Mary.

"Oh... I've not had an email about that, I'm sure. I'll log on and check and see if it's come through."

I expect it's in her unread emails folder. All I can do is wash my hands of the affair and wait for the tortuous progress of the auditors next spring.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald of the telecommunications world

A colleague writes:

"Can anybody, even Helminthdale, match a telephone bill 823 pages long? We have just received one. It's for our computerised energy line. A fault on the heating system triggers off a 'phone message to the computer centre who should then deal with the fault. Unfortunately, a second fault at the computer centre means their computer is unaware of the message. So for three long months our heating system has sent a 20 second call to the computer every 10 minutes and for three long months it has been ignored. Unfortunately, no-one can yet trace the cause and so our bill is already mounting. Will it top 823 pages? See next months thrilling installment!

"P.S. We have our phone bills in triplicate for administrative purposes!"

Welcome back for the first time

They're unpacking boxes at Catty and in the process left the front door open while a trolley-load of books was taken out of the library. Sure as eggs, a customer walks into the library. There are two possible scenarios:
  1. Welcome the customer. Explain that the library's not open yet but we're well on the way to getting ready and we hope that he'll find it's been worth the wait. It's going to look good when we've got all the stock on the shelves and done the last of the tidying up. And we're a bit fed up because we wanted to be open well before now but we hit a problem with the floor, which has been resolved and doesn't it look a treat now? remember that awful triple-edged camber? and we're waiting for the builders to sort out the roofing problem over there in the corner where we've been planning to put all the computers. Still, we're getting there and it does look pretty good, doesn't it? And don't forget, Carbootsale Library's just down the road and they're open six days a week while Catty Library's closed. We look forward to seeing you when we're officially open!
  2. Sorry, we're closed. Could you close the door on your way out. Thanks.

Guess which approach was chosen.

Years have rolled on

There is a seasonal element in play here. There is a staffing crisis at Dutch Bend. Catty Library is closed but there are staff in there unpacking boxes ready for an unspecified opening day which is almost certainly going to be postponed because all the putty's fallen out of one of the new windows. You or I, being unthinking amateurs in the ways of the public library, would send one of the staff from Catty to Dutch Bend. Especially if we were Julia, who is both on site at Catty and responsible for both libraries.

Unfortunately for Frog, he's the one who's picked up the message and relayed it to Julia. Who tells him to ring personnel for the 'phone numbers of any staff who may not be working today so that he can ring round for cover.

Mary rescued him in the end: Lippy's going to work extra hours and do the necessary.

Unhand me, Colonel Brandyballs!

Seth and Alwyn have been issued with new walkie-talkies and, as suggested by the health & safety inspectors, we also have spares scattered strategically about the building so that people can be contacted in the event of an emergency or when the kettle's boiled. We're not sure of the coverage, though, so Seth's spent half an hour first thing testing them in different parts of the building.

I'd completely forgotten about this. And that one of the beasts was sitting on top of my in-tray. Imagine my surprise when a voice by my ear says:

"This is Funf speaking..."

It turns out that we share a frequency with the security guards in one of the big shops in the shopping centre. They think it's hilarious, which is probably why every so often you'll hear a voice from some distant part of the room saying:

"Luke, I am your father."

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Share and share alike

I mentioned job-sharing the other day. I thought it might be useful to explain how we do job-sharing in Helminthdale Library Service.

Elsewhere in the world, including Helminthdale Council, of which we are part, job-sharing is two or more people doing the one and the same job. One job, two or more people. I won't labour this further. In the Library Service, job-sharing is a bit more complicated than this.

For instance, Katie and Lola are both job-shares. But they each have a non-existant job-share partner because those halves of the posts have been allowed to wither unfilled on the vine. So, in effect, they are each doing a full-time job in half a week.

On the other hand, Daisy Dormouse and Wendy Muffplaster job-share the same post. Except that Daisy is responsible for Roadkill Library and Wendy is responsible for Noddy Library. In Daisy's half of the week Noddy is left to fend. And in Wendy's half of the week, Roadkill is left to fend.

And at Catty, Posy and Andi job-share the same post. Except that Posy is responsible for adult lending and Andi is responsible for children's.

So it's all dead easy really.

When mistletoe was one and six a yard

I told Frog about last night's home-time conversation. He reminds me why I'm glad I'm not a teacher or a children's librarian.

"I was walking down the road about a month ago when I noticed that an attractive young girl had stopped and was smiling at me.

"'Hello,' she said, 'you're Frog aren't you?'

"I was dead chuffed that she was interested enough to find out my name. Then came the killer blow:

"'I used to go to the story times you used to do at Senebene Library.'"

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pedestrian ettiquette

A funny thing happened on my way out of the office... As I was crossing the road I was approached by an attractive young woman who said hello. Now, I'm getting of an age now, and I'm finding that if I see a half-familiar face in an unfamiliar context I'm often at a loss. Being a friendly sort, if somebody smiles and says hello I'll say hello back to be on the safe side. And so I said hello.

We got to talking about the insularity of the natives and the problems you can have socially in a new job because most of the people you know are either above or below you in the line management chain. This gave me the opportunity to try and find out where I should know her from.

"What job are you doing now then?"

"I'm working in the riding stables up at Spadespit."

So I didn't know her after all. Still, we kept talking and the conversation raised all sorts of interesting and charming coincidences. A middle-aged man's fantasy come to life.

"Shall I give you my 'phone number?" she asked.

"If you like."

"We'll just have to go over to my car. It's parked just over by Kitty's."

Kitty's is an interesting establishment just across the road from the STD clinic. What we used to call a knocking-shop.

"I'll walk you over to your car, but I've got a bus to catch, unfortunately."

"That's a shame. How about a kiss just to say goodnight?"

"I think that would be a bit forward of me."

"You really should let your hair down a bit."

"I know, I'm hopeless."

We parted amicably. There's no objective reason for me to think she wasn't just a lonely soul stranded in Helminthdale and there's no reason for me to be embarassing or insulting.

Come in Doctor Otterbland

The Health & Safety bods are interrogating Frog.

"Are you the only first-aider in the building?"


"Do you think that's enough?"


"Ah," interposes T.Aldous, "Sybil's going to be the other first-aider but she's on leave when the course is being run."

Later on, Frog asks Sybil the obvious question:

"Have you been on leave for the past four years?"

I want to perch half way up a ladder and talk to the Polydor girl about meerkats

Ha! We're having a Health & Safety Inspection! What a hoot!

It's difficult to know who's the worse: the inspectors or T.Aldous. The rot starts early: we've not had one of these inspections for twenty years so, just like the buses, four insectors turn up all at once. Their first question sets the tone:

"Can we see the recommendations of the last health & safety inspection?"

"You've not done one before."

Seth had to make an excuse and leave when he heard this exchange:

"You seem to have a lot of clutter around this workplace. We're particularly concerned about the number of boxes that are piled around the building, especially in the fire escape corridor."

"Yes, it isn't ideal. Unfortunately we're having a big move-around within the building and we're having to pile boxes up as best we can out of the way while we get on with it."