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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Frozen wastelands

Billy Meredith walks by, doing as close to an impersonation of Ernest Shackleton as I ever want to see at the workplace. The mobile library's heating packed in six years ago so it's going to be a nippy sort of day for them and their customers. Especially seeing as the vehicle's so dilapidated these days that the customers elect to stand outside to have the books handed out to them.

"It's the wind chill factor," explains Billy. "When you get the wind howling through that gap in the floor by the rear axle it cuts you right to the bone."

Monday, November 29, 2010


The crowds are already gathering outside the Town Hall for the switching-on of the Christmas light. Town Centre Management have been making a big play of the mystery celebrity they've hired to do the job and the rumour mill is running wild. The consensus of opinion is that it's going to be Frankie Avalon, though a vocal faction in the Planning Department insists it's going to be Heinz. Either way, judging by the state of the teeming masses, there won't be a dry leg on the bus home tonight.

No round envelopes for me!

I've behaved more professionally than this in my time. Daisy Dormouse rings up from Umpty Reference Library:

"We're having a bit of a tidy up. We've got lots of Windows 95 CD-ROMs here."

"Congratulations," I reply.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Galloping gourmets

Bronwyn's just back from a stock consortium meeting in Penkage. They stopped off for lunch at The Cat And Banjolele on Cattermole Street.

"What was the special today?" we ask.

"Spaghetti bolognaise and mash," she answers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority

Posy's just been dealing with a customer who's a distance learner doing her degree online. Posy, who's fresh out of library school, told her about a lot of the free academic library resources you can find on the web; talked her through signing up for a few free e-journals; and sent her away with a spring in her step.

So of course somebody has to take her to one side to tell her that she "pitched that too high."

I despair.

There are parts of this service that imagine that every enquiry can be answered with:
  • "It's on that shelf over there."
  • "There's a PC over there, you can look it up on Google."
  • "Not today, thank you."

Damsels of the octagonal stool

"How's things?" I ask Daisy Duck.

"I haven't actually killed anybody yet," she replies. Quietly.

She says it like this is a good thing.

A slight problem there as the cat's got a bit of a tummy problem

News reaches me of a useful and productive sequence of meetings to make a bit of progress with a few family history projects. Wendy, who has been the Reference & Local History Librarian at Umpty Library since Noah was a lad, spent a whole meeting telling Henry that she doesn't know anything about family history.

The following day she then spent a whole meeting telling Daisy and Bella that they couldn't possibly deliver the family history online sessions they've been assigned to do without the supervision of A Professional.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I didn't come all this way in my second-best hat to be fobbed off

I bump into an old colleague I've not seen in a while (you'll remember him Tom). He's been retired a few years from his old Yorkshire stomping grounds and, like most of the retired people I know, he's a damned sight busier now than he ever was at work, freed as he is from compulsory unproductive activity.

These days he's doing work with the library equivalent of International Rescue, helping to plan the Third World's response to the need for public library services in the United Kingdom.

Up to a few months ago that would have been funny.

An undisciplined impersonation of Edmundo Ros

"I'm going to have to be more careful," says Bronwyn. "I'm going to be done for insolence."
Ordinarily this would be laughable but these aren't ordinary times. This week, Bronwyn's body language is far more eloquent, and a damned sight ruder, than anything I could ever say.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Frog's been doing the story time for a school class visit at Epiphany Library. He's been telling them the story of The Fox And The Crow.

Unfortunately, the children of Epiphany are not entirely in tune with nature. And in the local dialect, "a crow" is a particularly crusty bogie. Hence all the cries and groans of "uurgh!" from the audience.

This has got us thinking. Frog's decided that for one of his next puppet workshops he's going to show the kiddies how to make Billie The Bogie. We reckon it would be easy enough to make:

  • Turn small green Marks & Sparks carrier bag inside out.
  • Smear liberally with glycerine.
  • Stick up nose.
We reckon it's a winner.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Imaginary numbers

I am chatting with a colleague from another place about another subject when we get to comparing cuts in the book fund.

"We're getting a cut of £400,000," he tells me.

"Ouch," I winced. "Mind you, you'd done well to have had that big a book fund after all that business last year."

"Oh, we haven't. The book fund budget's now -£120,000. But the accountants are happy and that's the main thing isn't it?"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Four engagements and a hospital visit

"Hettie's been on the 'phone," says Maybelle. "She says that one of their customers has been in twice today to use the computers and what should she do about it?"

I'm surprised at the question.

"The same as she has been doing for the past ten years, surely?"

I don't know why it's an issue, it's not as if people are fighting for the computers at Catty Library. Libraries love a bit of rationing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The point at which the miner is playing the piano like a maniac

Overheard on the way to a meeting:

"You appear to have some anger issues."

"Yes, I'm bleeding annoyed with you, you pillock."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The hangman's rest

Things must be bad. An old friend who can always be relied on for an "och, it's not like you've broken up with Katherine Hepburn or anything" has just said: "if you need to talk about work we're here to listen."

Note to self: stop being so cheerful, you're frightening people.

A whiff of goatiness

Noreen gets a 'phone call from the lending library upstairs.

"Where are the floor mats for the yoga session?"

Floor mats?

Yoga session?

The only reason any of us down here know that there are weekly yoga sessions in the community room upstairs is that we get a 'phone call every Tuesday morning asking where the floor mats are.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hello, I must be going...

Mobile 'phones.

Now, I'm no fan of mobile 'phones but I don't, generally, have an objection to other people having one.

Except when they forget the bit about them being mobile.

One of the horrors of the modern office, which God knows is Hell on Earth to begin with, is the mobile 'phone that somebody has left on their desk while they go away and play with a photocopier, get a butty from the shop down the road, go and gawp at the bloke who's brought in the new literacy group, that sort of thing.

So there we are, stressed out, running round taking telephone calls for people sitting in their offices not taking telephone calls, in between trying to keep at least one wheel left on the wagon. And then you hear something shout: "Answer me you bastard!" And continue to shout "Answer me you bastard!" for the next five minutes until the caller cottons on that nobody's there. Then, just as you settle down after this nonsense, somebody else's 'phone starts playing some bit of (c)rap music. Very loud. And repeat... Then "Answer me you bastard" tries again. And then a cock crows...

Do your workmates a favour before they kill you: either carry your mobile with you so that you can answer it when somebody rings you or else turn down the sound. A lot.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

He served five years in Parkhurst for taking a dive in the South of England Valetta Championship

I'm chatting with the Borough Traffic Engineer, who's on a farewell tour of the pedestrian crossings of the borough.
"I have completed the Circle of Life,"
he tells me. Like you do.
"When I first came here they gave me the job of replacing all the zebra crossings with Pelican Crossings. My final job is to decommission all the Pelican Crossings."

"What are they replacing them with?" I asked.
He blinked owlishly and hid a smirk behind his handkerchief.

Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you

I think that in this times of great distress we must celebrate our unsung heroes.

Today's Unsung Hero is the local history librarian who was asked by a management consultant why there was "so much old stuff in the library's archives."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

It makes you wonder what the enemy clothes horses were like

I bump into Ken Barmy, who is throwing pineapples at a lamppost in Market Street. He is in a bate.
"You'll never believe the latest proposal," he says.
Given that everyone I'm speaking to these days have either been sent letters asking if they want to take voluntary redundancy; letters telling them that they are at risk of redundancy; letters telling them that they are being made redundant; or all of the above, I shudder to think.
"We're going to Hell in a handcart. They're cutting staff and services and threatening to sell us down the river to a bad master. And all the while our library managers having been wringing their hands and telling us that nothing can be done, but take heart! because they have made sure that the power of the library service strategy stays in their hands.

"And do you know what the end product of a year's high-powered heavy-breathing strategic thinking turns out to be? Do you?"
I confessed I didn't.
"They're going to slap a lick of paint on the fucking wall and change the fucking name of the main fucking library. That's what."

"You don't sound impressed, Ken," I ventured.

"I am sore vexed," he admitted.

The public library service is safe in the hands of people who went to library school.

And when the music stops...

It had to happen.

It only takes the merest mischance, what with our poor communication and documentation; chaotic management; and staff so thinly-spread that they spend more time whizzing round the borough to provide emergency cover at libraries than they do seeing family and loved ones.

On the morning that Helminthdale Central Library, our flagship library mind, was being kept open with three staff Kelly and Norma turned up at Windscape Library.
"What are you doing here?" asked Norma.

"I'm covering for you, you're on holiday," said Kelly.

"But I'm not on holiday until next month," replied Norma.

"Could you not take the day off? I'd like to think I didn't get up an hour early to get the bus over here just to waste my time having to go back to Helminthdale."

Monday, November 08, 2010

Always something there to remind us

My God.

It's only Monday afternoon and we're already doing Sandy Shaw impersonations. It'll be Nat Gonella by Friday.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The moon and half a sixpence

It's a bit difficult to write this blog at the moment. Not because there's not plenty to write about; and not because I don't need to write the worst of it out of my system. It just isn't quite right at the moment:
  • There are the self-imposed strictures on other people's personnel issues. We're public sector workers working for a council that was announcing swingeing cuts to budgets and services before the General Election papers were being sent out so you can make a few guesses there.
  • Many of the people I work with are readers of this blog. These are sensitive times, I need to be more careful than usual. I don't want anybody feeling even more fretful or vulnerable than they are already on account of a daft after-dinner story.
  • I suppose I need to be careful on my own account, too. These are interesting times, I'm in a tricky position personally and I'm pushing my luck a bit with The Powers That Be concerning some of the stuff that's being proposed. And let's face it, I'm not exactly under deep cover here: at least two people have deduced who and/or where by piecing together the clues in the narrative. So I really should be careful. Actually, if it were only me in the firing line I wouldn't give a monkey's but at the moment it wouldn't be, so I do.
  • There are tiny slivers of hope in all this mess. If the library service really does go down the toilet it will be because of an unholy combination of ignorance, arrogance and lack of imagination. I personally have an unholy combination of ignorance, arrogance and overly-active imagination so I'm putting a lot of my energies into trying to support people who are fighting for more positive outcomes. I'm not being awfully effective at it and need to get my act together, I'll admit, but I need to be careful not to compromise even those meagre efforts by telling the wrong tales out of school at the wrong time.
So I'm having to be a lot circumspect at the moment. Apologies and all that.

A brief recap of the last few weeks: next Summer I might or might not be working for the library service or, indeed, the council; as indeed might or might not some of my colleagues. Libraries might or might not be closed next year or the year after. We might or might not be taken over by outside forces or contracted out or something. And most, if not all, of the organisations we work with or provide facilities for, are in the same boat.

Put like that it sounds like business as usual over the past twenty years...

Friday, November 05, 2010

You'd have to go a long way to beat Anna Neagle

I've been staring at screens a lot this week so on the way into work I popped into the chemist's to get some more aspirin and Optrex. They had a special offer on "New Multifunctional Eyewash" so I bought a bottle of that.

Looking at the latest crop of emails coming from the Chief Executive's office they must have bought a few bottles, too.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The world's gone to pieces since they lost their respect for real misery

It's not awfully good this morning. Them as aren't filling in job application forms are writing notes for their war memoirs or for union meetings.

Monday, November 01, 2010

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity

Oh God. Please tell me this isn't what life is like in your fifties.

Sibyl, Bronwyn and Frog are talking in the staff room...

"Robert Plant? Isn't he married to what's her face?"

"That's right. She was on doo-dah the other night."

"That's right. Wasn't Elvis Costello on that?"

"No, that was another night."

"Oh yes. I can't remember his name..."


"No, the one who interviewed him when Elvis Presley died."

"Oh yes, that was whasisname."

"That's right, I remember it now."

Say goodnight to the folks, Gracie.

Fairies beware: this year you may be strung up by the Cherokees

You can always tell it's coming up to Xmas because Kitty and Norma start scrapping like Kilkenny cats. This time they're fighting over whose posters get put up on the noticeboard.

It's good to keep a sense of perspective.