There are those who say that Helminthdale is a shy jewel of the English Pennine landscape. These people have been detained under Section One of the Mental Health Act. Helminthdale is actually one of those not-quite brick/not-quite stone towns that pepper the wet bits of the north of England. Like many others of that ilk, Helminthdale suffered as a result of the decline of the textile industries; but unlike others it enjoyed the economic misfortunes so much that it decided to make it a full-time project and holds the distinction of being the only part of the country to have been in continuous recession since 1946.
Helminthdale Council is a unitary authority, which is to say that it's big enough to be bureaucratically otiose but not big enough to have a resource base sufficient to fund its dreams. Add to this an incredibly unstable political environment where three parties with practical ideologies you couldn't separate with a cigarette paper are elected almost on rotation, each spending their time in power dismantling and discrediting the half-formed programmes of their predecessor. Helminthdale Library Service is a very small part of this council and not very highly thought of within the Town Hall.
Although there are times when it feels that we have one library for every twenty-five head of population there are really only less than a couple of dozen. These range from the mighty and majestic Helminthdale Central Library, with its rolling empty acres of carpet and groaning toilets to dinky single-staffed outliers in school playgrounds like Glass Road and Pottersbury Road libraries.
This, then is our scene.
The story so far...
Twisted genius and Chief Librarian T.Aldous Huxtable paused in the doorway to his office, his face an inscrutable mask, picked up from one of our interminable book sales. What was his intent? Would he marshall his troops into tackling one of the myriad issues raised by successive government inspectors? Would he coerce an unwilling Library Service into embracing the white hot heat of technology? Or would he go and count the teaspoons?
Meanwhile, his senior management team, this week called Policy Team but next week who knows, busy themselves in the filing away of the points of pencils so that they reach no conclusion.
Jocasta and Amanda have escaped the clutches of the white slavers and, with the assistance of Orlando The Lucky Rabbit, are trying to gain passage on the first dhow leaving the harbour at Barnoldswick. They are approached by a burly Lascar and as he speaks their blood turns cold with terror.
"I have the National Collection of Thomsons Locals for the year 1996 in my reference library."Unbeknownst to them, Charles and Daphne have embarked on a walking tour of the Mobile Library. As they sit on the running board eating their sandwiches they witness the grisly ceremony of The Coming of the Fire Inspector and The Hiding of the Paperwork. Traumatised beyond words they lose themselves in the grip of the dreaded licorice.
Chuckles the Clown is dead.
Dressed in his flamboyant outfit of tweeds and brown fustian, Henry finds himself trapped forever in Sheep City, a land almost but not quite our own. Senses reeling from a combination of Well Known Local Characters and Doctor Sigismund Ringneck's Fiery Water he finds himself agape in mute incomprehension as he tries to make sense of the latest dispatches from Policy Team.
Everybody knows the new telephone number for Catty Library because it is pinned up behind the counter there.
Marjoribanks had a body like a Greek God, which he kept in a duffle bag under his bed at home. Did he know the secret of the boxes? Emily stifled a scream as the thought struck her that perhaps the boxes had attained a life of their own and some sinister purpose of which she was as yet unaware.
Joining hands to contact the living, Library Service staff discover (through the medium of Indian spirit guide Tiptoes-Through-Tulips) that the service does have a Communications Strategy after all; though their delight turns to ashes when they discover that Policy Team have decided that it is confidential. Fighting back salt tears of bitter disappointment, they have no recourse but to await the publication of the regular monthly staff newsletter, which appears roughly quarterly so long as there is an R in the month.
Dick Barton, with his three chums Jock and Snowy, have entered the farmhouse in pursuit of Erasmus Stradling, the well-known wart charmer, who they suspect to be behind the smuggling of nuns' bicycle saddles to Red China. Little do they know that Stradling is, in fact, the deadly Doctor Fu Manchu in a fun fur and cardboard viking helmet. Even as they enter the hallway the fiendish doctor's machinations weave a web of terror about them.
Kevin Musgrove has had a 'phone call from the reference library telling him that a customer can't log onto her Yahoo mail because she has forgotten her password and what will he do about it?
How will he escape...?