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

Friday, April 30, 2010


"Why are you wearing a hard hat?" I ask Noreen.

"I'm going to get some date labels out of the stationery cupboard.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Like a duck complaining about webbed feet

We are becoming convinced that Tuesday was hisself's last day at work.

On Monday, having already been in once since his last last day at work, he turned up as usual and spent a long, long time handing over The Keys to the Empire, or at least the paperwork in his desk, to Julia.

On Tuesday he told us all, individually and severally, that it was his last day and that we must do lunch and all the usual. At end of play he said to me:
"I'll miss working with you. I know we've had our rows but at least you make me think. It's funny what you find you'll miss. This is my last day you know."

"You've said that before. I won't believe a word until I see it."

"No, it really is. I've had as much satisfaction as I'm going to get out of annoying Julia. It's served her right, too."

I expect so. It's been a textbook Julia performance: every time T.Aldous came in, she'd stomp out of her office and fume and ask why nobody was doing anything about it (erm... because you're in charge, Julia?) and then she'd stalk away to go and kick an underling or do something to undermine Doreen.
"Ah well," says T.Aldous. "If I were you I'd get out of here before it gets as bad is it's going to."

Like the man said: sometimes the next thing you've got to a friend is an enemy who understands you.

A Watteau fairyland

I'm attending a meeting at the community centre in Milkbeck. While we're getting ourselves ready to go in there's a visitation by The Business-Changing Solutions Team.

This turns out to be three blokes moving desks into a pantechnicon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bodice ripping

There's a young lad come in to sort out Nancy's wonky desk. It turns out that he's a college friend of Lippy's daughter. She says.

"You're all over that poor lad like a rash."

"No I'm not. I can't just ignore him, I've known him for years. You've got to say hello, even in here."

"What are you like?"

"I'm not! Pack it in, you'll embarass him."

"If we're embarassing him why are you the one going pink?"

"Stop it!"

"We'll have to get a sweat shirt made for you: 'Library Cougar'"

The sheer preposterousness of this part of the quest

I promise you that this is true.

From: Kevin
To: IT Support

PC tt551 in the lending library won't log onto the network. We get a false domain message. We have checked all the cabling and have switched keyboards to make sure there's no rubbishy input. Still not logging on. I suspect this is the same BIOS problem as we had with all those PCs at Raccoonville Library the other week.

From IT Support
To: Kevin
We're having problems connecting to this PC remotely. Can you log on and get the IP address for us.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Where else would a recently-retired paramedic be told that he's not a qualified first aider?

What kind of spirits insist on communicating through a Morris Minor hubcap?

I'm chatting with a colleague who's having problems with the serried ranks of his council's Human Resources Department.

"I have someone on long term “sick” leave who is healthier than I am but I got told off when I suggested I couldn’t affect the date of her return as she would return when she wanted to and not before and that would be just after the bank holiday when she was due to go on half pay. Our HR “Advisor” uttered a sentence prone to get anyone heading for the roof:
'Why would going down to half pay after six months off be a factor in her coming back to work? Surely she will come back when she is better and not before.”

Astonishing. Our HR department reckons that death and cremation is only a marginally-acceptable excuse for absence.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mrs Alice Hartley performs The Dance of the Seven Veils.

The old dears who are on the door-to-door library run like a bit of smut. Which is just as well really when one of today's incoming novels tells us the doings of Professor Charles Hartley. In large print. On page one.

"He was not aroused. Deep in the recesses of his baggy boxer shorts The Phallus - the proud symbol of the Professor's innate superiority over half the population of the world - lay quiescent, a dozing puppy."

Lippy's been convulsed with laughter this past ten minutes.

It's no wonder they need large print.

Haven't we been here before?

"It's his last day today," says Maisie.

"It was his last day on Friday," I objected. "That's why he had lunch with his cronies from the Human Resources department."

"It was his last day on Friday. But he had to come in on Saturday and he's just rung me to tell me to ask Julia if it's OK for him to come in today to finish emptying his filing cabinet."

"And what's she said?"

"She said she wishes somebody would do something about this situation."

"So she didn't go as far as to say no, then?"

"What do you think?"

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I spent the first twenty minutes of 'The Singing Nun' booing Debbie Reynolds

I've been hitting-and-running the blogosphere lately and I apologise to any of you who feel I've been short-changing you a bit.

Part of it is down to pressure of work - there are a few big projects on the boil which depend on me not being so disastrously out-of-touch with the needs of the modern world as I am now (and it's no consolation to say that while I feel I'm two or three years behind the technical requirements of our customers the library service is ten or fifteen years behind me). I'm running hard and getting nowhere and wondering if there's anywhere there anyway.

Part of it is that after five years and two-and-a-half thousand posts of adolescent whingeing I've raised the bar of abject idiocy pretty high. Where once I could witter on about the dodgy lift or statutory returns; milk a few sarky comments out of the high standards of the council's building projects or fulminate about the piles of old crap littering the place I can't really any more. It's all just part of the wallpaper. We expect there to be forty boxes in the fire escape corridor, the same way as we expect Frog's first exposure to the council's Young Person's Reading Strategy to be on one of the library discussions lists or for us to be in month twenty-four of an office move-around that revolves around making space for a non-existent coffee table. It comes as no shock to find out what we're doing this summer from contacts in the housing benefits section or from library authorities in the south-east or from customers of Gypsy Lane and Spadespit libraries. It hardly at all needs mentioning.

I'm struggling to much care.

Don't worry, I'll do what I'll need to do: some half-baked bit of magic which delivers the required illusions and misses a world of possibilities which would only frighten the tiny tots.

And I expect I'll need to carry on venting in this blog.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I never realised how much I'd miss the irresponsibility and bad language

It's difficult to conceive of our workplace's being in a post-T.Aldousian phase but technically it is true. And a primrose path it is not...

email from Maybelle to Julia:


I've had a series of meetings with the St. Botolph's Women's Reading Group and they'd like to use the library to work with their toddlers' groups. They'd like the group leaders to be able to borrow books for use by the toddlers' groups without their having to take them all out on their personal library cards. I've talked to Frog about this and he's happy for it to go ahead and we've thought of ways of doing this that would work in practice and give us a new batch of guaranteed custom.

Is this OK with you? What would be your desired outcomes for this project?

email to Maybelle from Julia:


Policy Team will have to have a think about this. In the mean time, could you have a think about the outcomes?


On the way into work I noticed that they're doing a traffic census on Clemenceau Road.

Clemenceau Road has been closed for two months for sewer replacement.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

One hundred years ago today

How times change...

Not quite

Either they're getting worse or I haven't been paying attention lately. Overheard in the staffroom:

"We're doing a lot with the Wii these days."

"When we were kids they made us stand in it to cure the chillblains."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Match of the day


"The rotten sod. He'd put a blindfold on me and tied me to the bed then he went downstairs to watch the football on the telly."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You bet your life we are

I shouldn't like you to imagine that I'm ignoring the house ghost. T.Aldous wasn't in yesterday but he's come in today "to finish off the tidying up."

The precedent that's worrying us is old Gordon Trembly down at Umpty Library...

British pluck

The council is starting to struggle as the combination of cutbacks, redundancies, unfilled vacancies and staff stranded overseas starts to bite.

There is the inevitable corporate invocation of The Dunkirk Spirit.

The welkin rings with hoots of derision and all is well with the world.

Among my souvenirs

An occasional series: titles really to be found on our reference library shelves.

  • Man Makes Hole: A Brief History Of Boring Tools
  • The Internal Purchasing Power Of The Pound 1989
  • Summary Of Bar Council's Response To The Humber Bridge Commission
  • Reorganisation Of Public Elementary Schools In England And Wales 1937-38
  • Electing The American President (1960)
  • How Americans Elect Their President (1968)
  • What Is The British Council? (1967)
  • England's Mountain Motorway: The Lancashire/Yorkshire Motorway - M62 (1966)
  • A Policy For The Arts(The First Steps.) Cmnd. Paper 2601 (1965)
  • Reform Of Local Government In England (Cmnd 4584) (1970)
  • Channel Tunnel Project: October 1973 To November 1974
  • After Four Years, A Practical Guide To The Race Relations Act (1972)
  • A National Minimum Wage: Report Of An Inter Departmental Working Party (1969)
  • Strategy For Pensions; The Future Development Of State And Occupational Provision (1971)
  • Who Publishes Official Information For Business And Industry? Proceedings Of A One-Day Seminar 20 Sept 1988
  • First Report From The Social Services Committee Session 1985-86: Reform Of Social Security
I wish I could say these were exceptional.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Clouds of glory

Helminthdale Library Service is not unaffected by the Icelandic volcano. Half a dozen of the staff who should be in this week are stuck in various parts of the Mediterranean. As this is an Act Of God there is every likelihood that the time spent trying to get back will be taking off their annual leave. Arguments that the council has a long-standing commitment to mobile working were dismissed out of hand.

All this makes life interesting in our libraries. We struggle to keep the doors open at the best of times; between the people who are leave this week and the people who were on leave last week and are marooned in a foreign land we're pretty much stretched too thin for words. The only question is: will the breaking point be somebody going off sick with food poisoning or will it be somebody being taken off the front line to go and staff something or other that Policy Team has cooked up at a moment's notice with no thought whatsoever?

Sitting lifeless in a sea of Mustn't Grumble

All last week we had no end of bitching about the new clocking-in processes. Which is fair enough as the new clocking-in processes are fantastically cack-handed, as you would expect from any process invented by a Policy Team that is ignorant of the practicalities and uncaring of their effects.

We have a rare staff meeting this morning (the occasion being that we all need to be told the new rules on election purdah and are required to sign a sheet of paper to say We Were There). Julia takes the opportunity to remind everyone of the new clocking-in process and asks if anybody has any problems with it.

Not a word.

I've already said plenty in another meeting so I hold my piece. Julia asks again, to confirm. Not a word again.

It's only when she's talking about absence monitoring later on in the meeting that anybody asks any questions about the new clocking-in process, and then not very much.

I shall remember this next time somebody bleats: "they should ask us what we think about things."


Posy's spooked and a bit stressed-out. At first we take no notice, this being our usual Monday morning state of grace after all.

"I think my flat's haunted," she says at last.


"By my grandfather's ghost."

"You've only just moved in; why would he haunt your flat?"

"I've got his old photograph album. He keeps switching the lights on and off."

"That doesn't strike me as much of an afterlife, switching lights on and off. I'd want something more interesting than that if I was a ghost."

Friday, April 16, 2010

His head's too far from his blood supply

As T.Aldous and Julia faff their way round the offices like some low-rent Brian Rix Farce the man himself is overheard to wail querulously:

"My problem is I didn't do it in the first place."

Up the poll

We've got election fever and politics, as always, is the great divider in our society.

Sybil is telling jokes about Henry Campbell-Bannermann and the rest of the office is staring back at her blankly.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stap me vittles, we're back on the merry-go-round!

We gather that the Reference Librarians are having a meeting.

"Are they doing anything good?" I ask.

"They're coming up with a list of standing orders," says Noreen.

"Haven't they already given you a list of standing orders?" I ask.


"That they rewrote in February?"


"And that you've sent to the suppliers...?"


A glimmer:

"They can't remember what was on the list, can they?"


Stretch goals

"I've heard it all now," says Betty. "He's in the staff room telling somebody that next Monday's definitely his last day in."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lit only by a guttering candle

There's been a rash of "Psychic Evenings" in the pubs round Helminthdale lately. I noticed the first advert on The Duck and Pullet, but thought no more about it: nothing would surprise me in that end of town. Now I've seen adverts up at both The Red Castle and The Trembly Arms.

Given the rate that pubs are closing in this area we'll probably soon need a medium for to buy a round of drinks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Three blind jellyfish

I bump into Ken Barmy in the pick 'n' mix section of Hannigan's Truss Boutique.

"What's it like now they've finally gone?" I ask him.

"Finally gone?"

"Your old chief..."

"Oh! They were still in when I left the office last night."

"Was Friday their last last day?"

"Oh aye. They were in Saturday, too."

"Which bit of 'last day' don't they get?"

"Which bit of 'Chief Librarian' don't you get?"

The very hungry caterpillar

Frog's doing the storytime at Umpty Library. He's halfway through "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" when a small voice shouts:

"Look mummy, the caterpillar's come here for the story!"

Yes, you've guessed it: another dead pigeon in the air vent.

"Even the bloody maggots are drama queens," mutters Frog.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Orchids for Miss Blandish

It's been pointed out that although we've quite a few books on breast cancer and cervical cancer in our Healthy Living Collections there aren't any on testicular cancer and none on prostate cancer less than five years old.

"Ooh," says Kitty, "if they're checking themselves there I hope we're going to be issuing them with rubber gloves as well."

Many happy returns

Milton's first day back from leave. The first thing he sees as he comes through the door is T.Aldous taking three sheets of paper out to the recycled paper bin.

"O fuck," he says quietly.

Lippy's feeding him strong coffee and Victoria sponge.

Security is our watchword

Saturday's our busiest day so we hire extra staff to act as counter fodder (this isn't a sudden conversion to the principle of the application of resources to the demands of the market: it's been going on since Adam was a lad).

Of course, only logging onto the network once a week, and sometimes not even that, they may forget their passwords. And the IT Section aren't available on Saturdays so we can't ring them then to ask for the password to be reset. So we ask them today and find that the rules have changed.

If the person involved can't/won't ring the IT Section to get their own password reset we have to get the head of service to fill in a form authorising it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The future belongs those that believe the beauty of its dreams

I receive a missive or epistle from Ken Barmy. It is not encouraging.

Hello old bird,

Us is doing well us is. Our chief, having retired at New Year, has been more in evidence now than they were when they were on the payroll. So far we have had six (count them: six) farewell parties. Maundy Thursday was the final and absolute last day, marked by a celebration lunch with a few cronies.

I had bet the caretaker a pound that we'd have fourteen last days this month. Utter, utter folly: we've had five so far and it's only the 9th. This is the conversation we had on Thursday afternoon:

"This is my last day in. I can't keep coming back here to finish sorting things out."

"And how many times have I heard that before?"

"I mean it: this is my last day in."

"Good. You wash your hands of it and leave them to it."

"Yes, I'll be glad to. See you tomorrow."

I promise you on my mother's harmonica that this is true.

In my experience there is an element of the irrational in all librarians. Logic would dictate that this would reach its greatest expression of lunacy in their chieftains.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


"Did you get a record of the number of eight-year old children on 1st April?" asks Jack Harry.

"Did you ask me to?" I ask in reply.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

That reminds me, I must get some rhubarb on the way home

"I thought you were on a retirement course today," says Maudie, despite herself.

"I needed to email somebody in Building Services to chase them about that burglar alarm at Spadespit."

I'll have you not bandy my loins about

Like myself, Frog is downhearted at work. Actually, pretty much like everyone really.

He's been a bit cheered because today's performance poet has told him that he should do a bit of moonlighting himself and has offered to put him in touch with a few useful people. It's a beguiling prospect and I think he'd do quite well at it.

"Sounds good," I say.

"Yes. I should give it a go, shouldn't I?"

"Yes. Even if it's just the occasional performance on a day off, it'll be another bow in your quiver."

"And it'll be nice to do something for an appreciative audience. That's why I'm still doing the occasional story time for the schools. It's nice to feel appreciated once every so often. You know yourself, do anything here and it doesn't matter how good a job you do of it it's like pissing yourself in a dark suit. You know all about it and nobody else notices."

He's quite right. I had to admit it: these days a lot of my motivation for writing is the need for the occcasional kind word from strangers.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Bob's your teapot

"You won't be seeing me tomorrow," says T. Aldous...

"...I'll be at a pre-retirement course."

Pull up a chip butty and sit down

Today is the day of T.Aldous' latest farewell luncheon. The community room is filled with food and mostly-warmish bodies and the man himself is holding court. The caterer has laid on a good spread. Well done, congratulations, splendid.

I've tried not to be churlish about this but having seen the amount of staff time that's been invested in this, and not for the first time, at a difficult time of year in uncertain organisational circumstances I really can't approve of it. I politely made my excuses and declined my invitation (I didn't want to spoil things so I claimed pressure of work).

Although the caterer has set everything up T.Aldous has insisted that Maisie and Maudie act as waitresses. Having been given no orders to the contrary they do so.

And where are Strike Force Library Management when all this is going on? Well, Julia elected to go on leave this week. Milton and Jack Harry have arranged to be at a series of all-day meetings in Umpty. Which leaves Doreen holding the baby. As Doreen isn't brim full of self-confidence and is treated by the rest of the managers very much as the junior partner in the team, she feels stuffed and just has to lump the situation like the rest of us. All morning we've been serenaded by the grinding of her teeth.

Staff who did attend the bunfight report that T.Aldous has been telling people that he'll be looking into a couple of hot topics when he's got some time in the office next week. He's a bit busy this week emptying his filing cabinet.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Chatting satirically as he drank soup out of a tin

Distance lends enchantment, which only goes to prove that I need to move house. A couple of days away from the relentless grind of the nothing in particular has given me the chance to lick my wounds (some folk can afford to pay other people to do that for them) and review the landscape. And pretty grim it looks, too.

We're currently in election lockdown, an annual treat for those of us working in local government. Basically, throughout the months of March and April we can't do anything or be thought to be doing anything that promotes the interest of any particular councillor, candidate, cause or party prior to the May elections. Of course, an official edict to do nothing is like manna from Heaven to the Library Service but we still have to be careful not to let anyone use us for photo calls, publicity stunts, etc. It will, as usual, be a closely-fought three-way match will no clear winner at the end of it all, the same as the past nearly forty years. If history is any guide, whichever party/parties do take up the reins of power will then spend the rest of the year dismantling the plans of the current lot out of sheer cussedness. Unless the current lot is re-elected, in which case they'll dismantle them because whoever wins the general election will be pulling the plug on the spending anyway.

There will be big changes in the Library Service, mainly because despite all the stalling over the past few years there will be Big Changes in Helminthdale Council caused by the raft of edicts and orders that have come down to us from the Westminster Village and even the Library Service cannot be immune from all the shaking about. In this respect we've been rather cossetted by the presence of T.Aldous who has acted as both lightning rod for anger and baffle against jigging things round for the sake of it for the past couple of decades. (I should also point out here that he's also been a baffle against a whole slew of entirely desirable and necessary reforms that we would have been better doing ourselves on our terms rather than having some half-baked versions of them wished upon us from on high.) Oh, and there is a new Review of the National Library Service by the Department of London White Elephants.

Besides that where are we? Well, we're now seeing more of T.Aldous in the office than we ever did when he worked for us. Management Group (this week) have retreated to their lair, emerging every so often to go to the lavatory or get a cup of coffee and the occasional sortie to drop a piece of work into someone's lap and then run away. The lower ranks complain, rightly, about a lack of communication but then spoil it on the rare occasions that somebody bothers by complaining about having to take the time to read or listen to the news. Especially with some people's creative ideas as to what in the world 'isn't anything to do with me.'

And then there's:

"They don't have the first idea of what we do. They imagine it's all done by magic."

"Well, why not let's suggest that they do a bit of work-shadowing so that they get some idea of what needs doing and how you have to do it?"

"Oh, we're not having them hanging round here!"

It's a strange thing, just at the point where I've half-persuaded Milton that we need to try and force people to take a bit of responsibility for themselves I've started to come to the conclusion that he was dead right in a brown study he had before Xmas.

For all their moaning and groaning about wanting to stop pratting about and pissing opportunity up the wall most of the Library Service is happy to moulder unhappily in the status quo.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


Dagmar is kicking off because the bins at Raccoonville Library haven't been emptied since the caretaker retired last week. This is because somebody needs to unlock the back gates to let the bin men get the bins and the new temporary caretaker doesn't have the key. So Dagmar has rung Maisie to tell her it needs sorting out.

This is Maisie, who's responsible for all the finance and admin in the whole library service and is up to her neck in Year End Horror. (Including tidying up the consequences of the librarians and branch managers in two of our areas not doing the 2009/10 cashing up until yesterday after accounts were closed despite being told every day for the past four weeks that Monday was the cut-off day.)

So Dagmar rings to complain about the bins.

"Didn't the caretaker give you all his keys, including the ones for the back gates?" asks Maisie.


"Well, why don't you give the new caretaker the keys off that bunch?"

"I've not got time for that, I'm too busy."

With plastic spaceguns every breakfast, good enough to eat

T.Aldous has been sitting in what used to be his office ringing round people he's been inviting to his next farewell party. He's telling them that he's making sure that they've got their invitations because the people who have been making the arrangements have been getting things wrong.

Probably getting things wrong like imagining that they've come in to work for the library service, not as personal assistants to a pensioner.