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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A question of roughage

Maybell is a bit worried.
"You're losing your touch," she says. "I was talking to Julia and Doreen and mentioned something and they said: 'That's come from someone else.' Just thought you'd need to know."
I'm actually not fussed. I'm deliberately making it obvious what I'm doing. I'm even going out of my way to tell people that I'm pulling their strings. I'm an old man in a hurry and the time for subtlety, if it ever existed, has long gone. I've spent years trying to avoid playing office politics games, now they're unavoidable if there's to be much chance of safeguarding jobs and services. There are mutterings from Catty Library that I'm empire-building. I suggested that if I were really into empire-building I wouldn't have wasted the better part of two decades in this shambles.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I've been trying for so long to make a name in this business that I've forgotten what it is

We live in interesting times, as the old curse has it. We are thrice-cursed by:
  • The routine disarray of Helminthdale Library Service, particularly its management lapses;
  • The routine disarray of Helminthdale Council, compounded by the sudden need to fix a humongous gap in the finances (it is entirely untrue to suggest that one of the departmental budgets fell at Kempton Park, though it's a fun anecdote); and
  • The government's impending imposition of austerity economics, including the commissioning of Utility siren suits for senior members of the banking fraternity.
A few suggestions have now been put on the table. It would be naive to expect there to be any good news. It would be nice to have any news that wasn't actually baffling. All the current proposals are predicated on savings generated by shared services and partnership working. Which is great so long as you don't go looking at the details. For instance, the impact of the cuts in the careers services are to be obviated by the youth service's taking on more of their role; and the impact of the cuts in the youth service are to be obviated by...

Friday afternoon's staff briefing wasn't especially illuminating. For the most part it's good news for the library service as the song is: "we'll have a think about this later." Which may be a stay of execution or not but at the very least it isn't a bonfire of our particular vanities just yet. Library Policy & Strategic Management Team (this week) are justifiably antsy because it heralds yet another re-jig of their jobs with no guarantee that any of them will be safe. Those rest of us who provide support services to the library service but don't have the word 'Librarian' in our job description are also looking a bit vulnerable.

I get the distinct impression that my job's there to fight for should I put the effort in for it. The irony doesn't escape me (they seldom do). I don't know if I'm up for yet another fight or not. What with one thing or another I'm feeling pretty burnt out and jaded at the moment.

I've spent a long time telling people that there's still all to play for. I just need to manage to convince myself some time.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A million miles from the Ovaltine

Going through the library I pass by Frog's Summer Stories Session. He's using one of those Nick Sharratt books that are split down the middle so that you can play mix and match with the pictures ("Exquisite Corpse" as the Dadaists would say).

"A bath full of custard!" he said. "Have you ever had a bath full of custard? How do you think it got there? Do you think it came through the taps? Cold custard through that one and hot custard through that one? Perhaps it's all cold custard - ewww! I bet that would clog up the plugs!"

I listened to this and looked at the faces of the children and wondered what the fuck we were doing making him sit in meetings listening to gobshites telling us how clever they are at engaging with the community.

There's posh: he's got trousers

Yet another procession. Yet again the Olympians struggle to say what we are and who we do.

As they wander off to do whatever it is that they do Sybil can be heart to mutter:

"No fecking idea..."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Do you think he's crazy, skipper?
No, just enthusiastic

A visitor was enthusing about the furniture in the Reading Room.

"You can feel the philosophy oozing out of those sofas"

Is this the movie picture ship?

Yet another procession of people unknown to us coming through the library, the fourth in three days. It's Doreen's turn to act as hostess with the mostess this time. She points out the salient points of the personnel sitting round the office:

"That's the Acquisitions Team and they do... well, it's really important work they do for us. And that's Sybil, who does the Regional Loans. And that's Frog, he runs our children's library services..."

As usual, the introductions aren't reciprocated so we have no idea who any of them are, or why.

We're going to get some gingham table cloths and a teapot. We've spent the rest of the morning pracising picking fleas off each other.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Underwear for the hard of hearing

Jack Harry has decided that as of this week we are no longer accepting paper stock suggestion forms.

"Have you told the branch libraries that we're not taking paper forms?" asks Noreen.

"I'd assume that they're already sending them in by email," he replies.

"Err no. They're not."

"It's easy enough for them to do."

"I know it's easy enough for them to do but have you told them they've got to do it."

We have concluded that the answer is "no."

How efficiency works


We have refined the current arrangements.

Instead of the bad old days when we spent half our lives answering the 'phone for T.Aldous we spend at least half our lives answering every beggar's 'phone.
  • Some people put their 'phones through to Maisie's 'phone. They don't tell her, of course until after she's spent hours fielding their calls.
  • The 'phones upstairs are set so that if they aren't answered within four rings they come downstairs to Maisie's 'phone. If that's not available they go to Maudie's 'phone.
  • The 'phones down here are set so that if they aren't answered within four rings they get sent into a hunt group.
This last is a barrel of laughs. If you're not paying attention your incoming 'phone call automatically gets switched to somebody else's 'phone. So you try to retrieve your call by trying to pick it up. And pick up the call that rang just the once on somebody else's 'phone.

Say, just as an example of course, that somebody upstairs rings downstairs to tell somebody down here there's a 'phone call from a relative. And that somebody decides to ignore their 'phone because they want to hear more about somebody's holiday. And that it the comes to your 'phone. And you try to put the call through to the person who's been ignoring it. But their 'phone has been put through to the lending office 'phone...

Hilarious consequences.

This morning's capper? Noreen gets a 'phone call. It's somebody ringing somebody in the library, they don't know who as they've just picked up the telephone number from their answerphone. Noreen does a tour of the floor asking if anybody knows him. Nobody in our office has heard of him so we're baffled. An attempt to ring upstairs to see if anyone up there wants this chappie leads to that call coming back down here. In the end, all Noreen can do is take his name and number and apologise for wasting his time.

I look forward to somebody apologising for wasting ours.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Walking through an empty house

The office is like the Mary Celeste without the crowd scenes.
  • Maudie and Maisie are attending a meeting about the future of their jobs
  • Library Policy & Strategic Management Team (this week) are wherever they are today. Somebody rather tactlessly wrote "Missing In Action" on the staff notice board and there was a bit of a to-do as to whether or not there was a space between n and A.
  • The Acquisitions Team (both of them) are in a meeting with Bronwyn to try and work out what on earth is going on with one of the new collections that somebody higher up is supposed to have sorted out.
  • Frog is out doing a summer story session with some blind children in Umpty.
So it looks like I'm in charge. That being the case, I wonder if it would be an abuse of executive power to tell the lending library to stop diverting all their 'phones down here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hats and rabbits

I've just had a long chat with Maybelle at the end of which she said:

"I'm puzzled by this meeting. You asked for a chat to go through something you wanted me to help you with but as far as I can see you're the one who's taken on all the work."

I was a bit puzzled too. And a little nervous: had she decided that I had really designs on her body she would have kicked my head in. As it was, we decided to give up and stalk the kettle without getting to the bottom of the puzzle.

Of course, I can leave no scab unpicked so I've been mulling this over. Actually, it turns out to be key to the way that Maybelle and I work together. Milton reckons its a good partnership because we both plan ahead and that while I'm good at seeing how best to do things she's good at getting them done. There's a lot to that but I think there's something else in the mix, too.

The bit of my job that's not explicitly in my job description is talking and listening to people. You need to know what people want to do and why before you can try to apply a systemic solution to it. (A systemic solution may be: "it works as it is, why monkey with it?") Very broadly, we have three groups of people I need to talk to:
  • The lacking in confidence. I have to go into sheepdog mode: "I know you don't think you're capable of doing this but look at this, that and that: you're doing it all the time and doing a good job of it. What do you mean, you can't do that? Just look at this that you've done. Honestly, come on you can do it!"
  • The lacking in will. I go into sheepdog mode again: "We both know you can do this; and we both know that you want me to do this for you so that you don't have to and you can bitch about it afterwards if anything goes wrong. Now we both know that where are you going to go now?"
  • The lacking in restraint. I go into sheepdog mode yet again: "Yes, they're all brilliant ideas and we could do that, that, that, that, that, that and that but we haven't yet worked out how to do this, which is what we got together to decide in the first place."
This is all well and good, and I can do this to a lesser or greater extent. But I am not a natural sheepdog. By all that is natural I am one of those elderly, plodding, golden retrievers that can spend hours staring at Belisha beacons. I've trained myself so that I can do all that mental running around and chasing and chivvying to help other people get started with a piece of work or to help them marshal their thoughts. Unfortunately, I can't do it very well for myself and just lately I've been running myself ragged trying to help other people deal with an explosion of Stuff To Deal With.

It used to work quite well back when I shared an office with Jimmy Huddersfield because he, being resolutely not a theorist and being very practically-minded, was an ideal sounding board for me to get my thoughts in order. I've really missed that since he retired. Thinking it through, I think this is what I'm getting out of chatting with Maybelle. The dynamic's different because they're different thinkers but the function's the same.

It'll probably be safer if I tell her I'm after her body.

Not so much as a tartiflette

Kevin the van driver has thrown a wobbly (there was one hanging round in the dispatch room).

It was presented as a kick-off about taking a pile of summer reading game stuff over to Grimley Community Centre but really it's a reaction to his having spent the whole of Friday taking vanloads of assorted tat and breakages over to the old Roadkill Library (which should have been demolished this time last year BTW) only to come back here to be asked where he'd been all afternoon because there was something needing going over to the new Roadkill Library.

Maudie and Brownyn can usually filter nonsense like that out of his work schedule but every so often one of other brighter sparks goes direct to the delivery.

And some of the children's librarians even remember Ted Ray

OK. The good news is that Helminthdale Central Library is running a regular Monday morning Tiny Tots Tales Time throughout the school holidays so we that keep on supporting pre-school children and their families during the usual frenetics.

The bad news is that the librarians of Helminthdale Central Library have decided that their weekly team meeting is going to be every Monday morning. So once a week, five minutes before the doors open, one or other of them will go up to Frog and say:

"Frog, we're struggling a bit this morning. Can you do Tiny Tots for us, just for this morning?"
It's taken him a month to realise what they're doing and he isn't overly impressed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The loofah snapped but the rubber duck came out unscathed

"I think I'm a jaguar," says Maybelle.

"Eh?" asks Frog.

"I think it's a jaguar. Or a puma or something."

"A cougar?"

"That's it! I think I'm turning in a cougar!"

"Oh yes?"

Apparently she'd spent all yesterday afternoon overlooking a gym and struggling not to be distracted by hunky young men.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A field of frozen lettuce

The lists, twits and inboxes are full of talk of this, that or another bit of proposed reorganisation, rejigging, reconfiguring, etc. etc. etc. of the public library service at one level or another.

There's talk of wholesale cuts; replacing staff with volunteers and sundry other scaries. Will we stay as we are? Will we be chopped to bits? Will we be hived off to a charitable trust? Will we be scrunched together with the library services of Pardendale or Bencup, or even embroiled in whatever is to go on in Greater Manchester or the North-West Region, or the whole North of England?

And on top of that, of course, no sensible person would put five bob on Helminthdale Council still existing in five years' time (we're due another bout of municipal reorganisations nationally).

Latest news is that the soon-to-be-defunct MLA is funding feasibility studies for very large scale joint-authority efficiency programmes across the country. I mentioned this in passing to Ken Barmy as we chatted on the 'phone about a problem with a bibliographic database we both use.

"There's already a lot of unseemly jostling for position amongst the Chief Librarians," I observed.

"Mensheviks fighting over the window seat in the back rooms of the Duma," he replied.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Don't blow it too much or it'll look like Jimmy Edwards

Posy's a bit wound up by things, convinced that "they" (she's already picked up that habit) know more than they're letting on about cuts, reorganisations, efficiencies and sundry gremlins, hobgoblins and calamities of moment.

I've tried to explain:

"It's much, much worse than that: they seriously don't have an idea from one day to the next. It's all being made up on backs of fag packets one daft decision at a time, each with no reference to the last decision or the next, and managers too often finding out what's going on from their underlings."

The truly awful thing is that we both find this a comforting thought.

A million and one maybes

That's depressing: travelling through a neighbouring borough to a meeting we pass what used to be a nice little community library. It's now a "Prime Regeneration Site."

Helpfully, the road sign still says "Library."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I'll have none of that language, not even through a brown paper parcel

A strange day. For once I've been crosser with the staff than the managers. To explain I must make something clear from the onset:

No job cuts have been announced yet in the library service; council has said they want to keep all the libraries open and none of our staff has yet been told they will be being made redundant.

I'll repeat that:

No job cuts have been announced yet in the library service; council has said they want to keep all the libraries open and none of our staff has yet been told they will be being made redundant.

The scythes are flashing round parts of Helminthdale Council and have been doing for months but

No job cuts have been announced yet in the library service; council has said they want to keep all the libraries open and none of our staff has yet been told they will be being made redundant.

So we have a touch of the dooms. Not helped by what few words filter out from The Bunker: nothing can be done because "they" (it's always "they") will "probably decide to cut" whatever is under discussion. And Doreen has spent the past two months telling anyone who'll listen (and many who won't) that she's not long for this world.

Milton, to his credit, is at least going out and about trying to start new things going and encouraging staff to take any opportunities going for personal or professional development. He drives me barmy because we're supposed to be working as a team and I'm finding out too much of this as an afterthought but at least he's doing something constructive most of the time. Other than that, the word is that we are doomed.

Staff are naturally dismayed and worried. Which is fair enough. I'm not, which is also fair enough. It could be my Quixotic nature, it could be sheer bloody-mindedness or it could be that I think if something's worth fighting for when the things are relatively easy it's worth fighting for when the shit hits the fan. But I entirely accept that people are going to be dismayed and worried, especially when what passes for leadership is as feckless and supine as ours as been lately. T.Aldous, and to a far lesser extent Mary, would at least have been arguing the case for the library service long and loud, however ill-advisedly or ineptly. Even dear old Reggie Clockwatcher, who was a lovely man but a shockingly weak manager, would have been making the effort. But... But... And so staff are dismayed and worried.

I do draw the line when they decide that despite the lack of objective evidence they are actually doomed and there is nothing that anybody will or can say that they will listen to that will contradict this.

No. We're not doing that. We don't have the spare time, space or energy for that.

So I got cross. And pinned their ears back. Which they didn't like. Nor would I have done in their shoes if I'm being honest but I'm not letting them do it. If senior managers decide that they are doomed, that's up to them. If senior managers try to sell staff down the river to buy their own safety, that's despicable and I'll say so and I'll fight it. But I am not having staff undermining themselves and their colleagues and, effectively, selling themselves down the river.

And I said so.

We'll all calm down, because we do in the end, and we'll see what we can do despite the organisational culture, because that's also what we do. And if things do get really bloody we'll do what we can and we'll care and we'll support and we'll hope for the best because that's what we would want to do if it came to that. But if it really does come to that I don't want people compounding their injuries by already having undervalued themselves and their contribution to the service.

A serious bit

I was sorry to hear of the death of Bob McKee, the Chief Executive of CILIP, over the weekend. I never met him but we'd exchanged emails a few times and during his time in charge he'd managed to turn CILIP away from its prissy navel-gazing and into an organisation I've recently been seriously tempted to join (you'd have put good money on my never writing that sentence!)

A serious loss to the national public library service at a time when too many of the people we rely on locally for advocacy have decided that we're all already doomed and we should be turning customers away from the doors in case we get too busy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The turnip: it's place in nudism

I bump into Ken Barmy. To say that he is disconsolate is to understate immensely. He has just emerged, blinking, from a meeting with his management board.

"How goes it old fruit," say I.

"It's all rotifers and Volvox," he replied, which bode ill.

"As bad as that?"

"We were discussing staffing our libraries..."

"Yes..." this is currently The Discussion That Anybody In The Public Sector Would Prefer To Sidle Away From.

"One of our senior managers reckoned that we have too many staff in our libraries."

I know for a fact they're even worse placed than us for being able to open the doors each morning.

"How do they reckon that?"

"She reckons that they only need so many staff because the libraries get busy with customers."

"Oh Hell. She's not decided that you can dispense with staff and do it all online has she?"

"Oh no. She's dead against online because we must get our visitor figures up."

My brain was already starting to hurt. I asked a question I shouldn't.

"So what does she mean then."

"She reckons that we need to manage customer throughput. She suggested that we give customers red bracelets, like they do in busy nightclubs, and ask them to come back later."

"Kenneth, please tell me you are taking the piss."

He wasn't.

"You poor dear fellow."

It was all I could do not to put a white fiver in his hand and tell him to buy himself a cup of tea.

Friday, August 13, 2010

We look after your circle of water

Not another bloody project without aims, resources, priorities, success factors or exit strategy.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Can you hear me, mother?

News of Bronwyn's Digby Moment has spread around the more irreverent pastures of the library service.

"I don't see why you couldn't get Rudyard Kipling, or W.E. Johns," says Frog.

"Or Enid Blyton," suggests Sybil.

"We could have a dead authors' evening at Dutch Bend Library!"

"I'm getting a message from the other side... Does the name Biggles mean anything to anybody? Ginger? Algy?"

"Mrs. Johnstone... I'm getting a message from Robert Louis Stevenson... He says that your cat Tiddles is happy on the other side..."

"You can laugh!" muttered Bronwyn. "You watch: he'll try to stop you putting on the puppet show in Spadespit because it's not David Blaine."

"That's alright. We can put a big box in the library and tell them that that's him."

"Now then, Mrs. Johnstone, it's up to you now. Are you going to take the money or will you open the box?"

Never trust a plumber who turns up wearing armbands

Digby's playing a blinder this week; someone will have to put something into his coffee. Or at least remind him that he is the council's Press Officer, not God.

Bronwyn's arranged an author visit for Glass Road Library. Said chappy writes gritty, very noir thrillers with enough of a body count to satisfy even the blood lusts of that library's pensionable ladies. So it's quite a coup and needs a bit of publicity in celebration.

"Oh, we can't publicise that," says Digby, "it's so gloomy. Can't she get Dan Brown instead?"

Jack Harry passes the news on to Bronwyn.

"Oh yes," she says, "is he paying for him then?"

"You don't sound very impressed with the idea," says Jack Harry.

"Oh, I'm very impressed," lied Bronwyn.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Over Pascagoula by the sea

"It's strangely liberating," says Bronwyn.

"What is?" I ask, suspiciously.

"That feeling that you don't give a flying fuck any more because they've stamped your card regardless."

"Welcome to my world," I replied.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hob-nobbing with the stars

A Celebrity We All Know And Love has been and gone, in less time than was planned but still successfully. The girls in lending managed the class of kids and the schedule such that nobody felt short-changed. The Celebrity was a delight, not a diva and Digby didn't get too much underfoot.

A nice experience for the library and its customers.

Supermarket trolley by a keep-left sign

We, and a classful of kids, eagerly await the arrival of A Celebrity Most Of Us Have Actually Heard Of. They are running late because Digby Deadpan gave them the wrong directions and the poor devil has been driving round the town centre twice trying to find the library.

Actual, real and proper directions have been issued and we are all hopeful of a speedy arrival.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Victorious failures and successful suicides

Helminthdale, like other councils across the country, are pulling together cuts packages to try and pre-empt the inevitable horrors to come with the government's autumn spending plans. This evening's news doesn't bode well.

The staff in the works department have been fighting a four-year battle with the council over the consequences of the equal pay evaluation fiasco. Just before m'learned friends got involved in earnest the council owned up that they'd screwed up on a couple of key measures and that the team leaders were entitled to remain at grade six. Last week they received their first pay packet at the re-established grade.

Today they were told that as part of the council's efficiency savings the works department posts at this grade are to be scrapped. They're well impressed at the news.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The land that time put in a safe place

"I think this counts as a stock-editing fail," says Sammi as she emerges from the technology section of the non-fiction shelves.

"Oh dear, yes," agrees Frog.

The book was: 'Drive The Jim Clark Way.'

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Just a debate to say they can start talking about these things

Doreen is the lead officer on the new reading project. She controls the budget; it's to be delivered in one of her libraries and her staff will be doing the necessary.

Bronwyn's job is to buy the books selected for the reading project and pass them on to the library.

"What's going on with the project?" asks Bronwyn.

"I assumed you were sorting it out," replied Doreen.

"Well. I'd best get on with it, hadn't I?" retorted Bronwyn, tartly.

Tiny, oak-beamed suppositories

Every day, Posy gets a flurry of electronic missives or epistles from Digby Deadpan concerning the visit of A Celebrity Some Of Us Have Heard Of. We didn't have this much fuss when royalty came to visit (Ex-King Zog of Albania came in to use the reference library, for old times' sake).

Posy explodes at the latest one.

"He wants to know if the library's got a nice table The Celebrity can sit at!"

"If he shifted his arse rather than talking through it he might come over the road and have a look for himself," suggests Maybelle.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Europe's largest domestic herd of bald badgers

There are days when I think I'm in training for the care home. This is a transcript of what passed for a conversation over the staff room table. I've not embellished it any, I hope I've managed to get most of it written down. I dare say I'll have to explain why I've run into the gents with a notebook.

Sybil: "So how's wha'zname doing?"
Frog: "Which one?"
Sybil: "You know, the one with the doo-dah."
Frog: "Oh! That wha'sname. Ooh, well... Luckily I had me little drum with me."
Sybil: "Did you beat a retreat?"
Frog: "Beat! Retreat! Peat!"
Sybil: "Feet!"
Frog: "Ooh, now I'm all of a doo-dah."
Sybil: "You'll just have to let it dangle like the rest of them."
Frog: "Is that a chocolate biscuit?"
Sybil: "It was."
Posy: "If I cut my boyfriend's head off, do you think he'd grow another one?"
Sybil: "Hey, think on: it could be a whatsit."
Frog: "We had fish pie for supper last night."
Sybil: "Talk about braces..."
Frog "One of them's a donkey."
Sybil: "Hey! Hey! You know what? Talking about donkeys..."
Frog: "You'll have to lie back and think of England."
Posy: "Kenneth Williams?"

All these people have the vote. Ain't democracy grand?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Attractive property gains for meek forecast

You can tell the success of a town's regeneration strategy by the charity shops that shut down due to lack of trade.

Using your puckish epigrams to their best advantage

It occurred to me the other day that this blog's lost half its material since T.Aldous finally let go and retired properly. There are reasons for this:

  • Most of what's going on I've written about before ad nauseam. There are only so many ways that a stream of water can pour through the roof at Catty Library before the story wears thin.
  • There are quite a lot of personnel issues that ethically I can't write about, astonishing though one or two are.
  • There are some things so very, very particular to our place that it would blow my anonymity were I to write about them. This is a dangerous time for anybody's anonymity to be blown so I'll save them all up for after I get the axe. Like as not there'll be five or six years' worth of stories to pass on if they make me redundant.
  • Except as alluded to above our managers are being very boring. Well, not boring so much as tiresome. Since T.Aldous officially retired the top table have been closeted in their bunker, coming out periodically to throw a hissy fit then scuttle back again. It's beyond my literary powers to make half a year's sulking sound remotely interesting.
Anyway, we're getting by, thanks for asking, on a diet of uncertainty and gloom. We're surviving thanks to large doses of rank insolence sugared with hoots of derision. I'm enjoying every minute.

Drive-by soft furnishing

There's no money about. Two new, expensive-looking velvet sofas have appeared in the fire exit corridor.

"What are those sofas for?"

I asked Seth. Hopefully. (I had visions of us being able to spend the day sitting comfortably in the corridor waiting for the fire alarm to go off).

"It's for that new reading thing," he said.

We've got funding for a reading programme. So we've bought two sofas.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The next contestant will now do her mime

Frog points towards one of the customers in the library.

"What do you think that lady does for a living?" he asks me.

This is Helminthdale, I daren't guess. Least of all in public.

"She drives a thirty-six ton truck," he tells me.

I look at her again. She's a small bird-like creature. I'm astonished that she can climb up into the cabin, let alone drive one.

"She used to come into Spadespit Library at first. That's when her first three were still young enough to come to under-fives'. Let's see... That was Eoin, Calum and... Timothy?"

"No, Timothy was the fifth one. It was Eoin, Callum and Arthur. Then she had Pat and then Timothy," said Bronwyn.

"So is that Pat and Timothy with her now?" I asked.

"No... Pat was a little girl," said Bronwyn.

"That's Brian and Donal," said Frog.

"How many are there?" I asked.

"Is it eight?" asked Bronwyn.

"No, it's nine. Her sister's looking after the baby."

I'm astonished she can find the time to drive a truck, let alone the energy.