Monday, 27 December 2010

'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen










'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen - one of my all-time favourite novels (I also adore the BBC dramatisation of it with the gorgeous Colin Firth).








Well anyway, I was prompted to re-read it yet again the other day. Why? Because our eldest son Alexander's girlfriend Simone is studying it as part of her English Literature degree with the Open University. She is reading a posh, large edition of it, with lots of lovely pictures of the BBC dramatisation in it. Whereas the edition that I have sitting on my shelf (published by Pan books) is a very small paperback edition, but includes a superb introduction by Brigid Brophy. However, unlike me, Simone unfortunately (especially for her, as she is studying it) doesn't seem to like the book much at all. She is struggling to read it, it seems, and the whole process is taking her a long time (even though she is a quick reader). Then, again, of course, reading Jane Austen is challenging. But let's just hope that such things do not effect her ability to obtain a good degree. She has been finding the degree challenging, although has also made some good progress overall.








So, anyway, I decided to read 'Pride and Prejudice' again. With the classics (whether this be in literature, music or whatever) I find that every time one reads, listens, watches, or observes, or whatever one usually gets something new and different out of the whole experience.








This time I got many new and different things from reading 'Pride and Prejudice'. First of all, I thought in more concrete terms about some of the similarities between Jane Austen and myself. This is something that I have felt instinctively for many years; but reading 'Pride and Prejudice' again, this time I thought about it more explicitly. It is a well-known fact, of course, that Lizzy in 'Pride and Prejudice' represents a side of Jane Austen (and that Emma in Jane Austen's novel 'Emma' represents another side). I also love the book 'Emma' and, once again, also particularly loved the BBC dramatisation of it, with Doran Goodwin and John Carson. I can see elements of both of these characters (Lizzy and Emma) within myself. This includes factors such as looking at life through both intelligent and satirical eyes; wishing to be cultural and accomplished whilst also having awareness of one's own limitations (Lizzy's awareness of her limitations on playing the pianoforte, for example); being attracted to a certain type of man (intelligent, dark, strong-minded, sometimes distance, having manners in certain circumstances but not necessarily so in others if it does not seem to be appropriate etc); loving to read novels (Jane Austen enjoying this from a child, as I did - her father had a library of 500 books by 1801 and Lizzy enjoying books); a religous upbringing (Jane Austen herself, with her father being a clergyman); the need to use our brain within the situations that we find ourselves in (this applied to Emma on a large-scale, which was why she became a match-maker of course and obviously to Jane Austen herself); having a family that could often be embarrassing (this applies to various members of Lizzy's family, including sisters Lydia and Mary as well as her mother; also to Emma's father who was always complaining about the drafts etc) and to having a particularly annoying and silly mother (in this case, Lizzy's mother).



I feel a great affinity with Lizzy in regard to her mother. Like Mrs Bennett my mother was confused, silly and always going on about her nerves! We are introduced to Lizzy's annoying and daft mother on just the 2nd page of 'Pride and Prejudice', with Mrs Bennett saying this to Mr Bennett:



"You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves."




And he replies:







"You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty five years."




I love the satire! Similarly, my mother - she was always going on about 'her nerves' and all the things that were wrong with her. She was a right hypochondriac!


In regard to Lizzy's mother, Mrs Bennett, we have various gems. Jane Austen says that Mrs Bennett was:




"...a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; her solace was visiting and news." (p. 3)


'Nerves' for a certain type of woman could be just so useful!

And here we have something about Mr Bennett's view in regard to Mrs Bennett:




"Her [Lizzy's] father, captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown." (p.175)




Then, towards the end of the book, when Jane, Lizzy and Lydia are all married we discover that Mrs Bennett still:



"...was occasionally nervous and invariably silly." (p. 286)



So, she never fundamentally changes. And Mr Bennett, by marrying such a person, caused many and various problems for the family of course. Still, he was an intelligent man and managed to see his way through many and various situations, somehow or other (although he recognised the fact that he was also often very fortunate in how things finally turned out).


In regard to the humiliation and embarrassment brought upon the family by the behaviour of Lydia with Wickham we have statements such as this:



"But she [Lizzy] had never felt so strongly as now, the disadvantages which must attend the children of so unsuitable a marriage, nor ever been so fully aware of the evils arising from so ill-judged a direction of talents; talents which, rightly used, might at least have preserved the respectability of his daughters, even if incapable of enlarging the mind of his wife." (pp. 175-6)



Also:




"Lydia - the humiliation, the misery she was bringing on them all..." (p. 204)





I similarly, have suffered considerable embarrassment from certain members of my family on and off over the years!




As I have already said though, what I particularly loved and appreciated reading the book this time round, was the powerful and insightful introduction to the book by Brigid Brophy. Brigid Brophy made me think very clearly about some very important points about the novel as an art form; thereby emphasising the brilliance and genius of Jane Austen in a slightly different way for me (as opposed to enjoying the novel on a somewhat simpler level).




Brigid Brophy talks about the beautiful forms that Jane Austen created, and how she did this partly by being ruthless with her work, and destroying that which needed to be destroyed.




"Jane Austen's novels are beautiful forms because of what she destroyed in uncovering them. No element is without counterpart. No action merely ends a phase - it is always a resolution, not merely the last note but the key note, exactly in tune by virtue of its relation to all the notes that went before and theirs to one another." (p. x)



This reminds me of Mozart's work in some ways; having just the right amount of notes, and in the right order etc. (as opposed to some of his critics at the time, that said that his compositions had too many notes! Dear oh dear).



And then there is Mr Collins, the silly and annoying cousin of Lizzy's that also never read novels. As Brigid Brophy says:




"...Mr Collins declares he never reads novels. Jane Austen couldn't have said anything more damning than that." (p. xv)



Here then, Jane Austen is emphasising again how infuriating she can personally find silly and annoying people to be, whilst also making it clear just how wonderful she thinks the novel is. And Lizzys' love of reading is also articulated in the following way when she is reading a book, and then looks up to say to Mr Darcy:

"How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! - When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library." (p.40)

'How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book." I couldn't agree with her more!

Yet, in 'Emma' we witness here the compassionate side of her in regard to those that are less intelligent, with Miss Bates, who is so good-hearted and kind, but not very bright. Also, how guilty Emma felt at one point, when she felt that she had not treated her right and where she had spoken in public about the limits of her conversation.




Moving on, Brigid Brophy rightly turns on its head, the notion that Jane Austen wrote limited novels that just mirrored the society and the surroundings that she was brought up in. This is an accusation that is often thrown at her work, and is really just so unfair. I am reminded of the work of the philosopher J.S. Mill which I have written about in my newsletters and on my 'Ruth Rikowski Updates Progression' blog. J.S. Mill had an amazing ability to be able to write clearly and in an approachable way, which can then sometimes perhaps be taken for granted. I think something similar can apply to Jane Austen's novels. On one level they can appear to be so clear and simple and just lovely, creating a beautiful environment with interesting people - we can just escape into it, and perhaps wish that the real world was more like it, and leave it at that (or at least I can on one level, that's for sure). But although this is all very nice, if we leave it at that, then we are grossly under-estimating the power and brilliance of Jane Austen's work of course (although in reality, to be fair, that does not really happen much). As Brigid Brophy rightly says:


"It is sometimes implied that Jane Austen was a great novelist despite these limitations on her own experience and on her subject matter. But there is no 'despite' about it. Her subject matter constituted bricks quite adequate to building the structures her imagination conceived, as the perfection of the finished structures bears witness. Her own circumstances were actually helpful in that they included the opportunity for her to make herself technically competent - indeed, virtuoso - at writing novels. The technique of fiction is every bit as hard and lengthy to acquire as that of architecture or counterpoint" (p.v-vi)

Charles Hazlewood also thought this about Mozart's work; that much of the brilliance and passion of Mozart's work arose precisely from the life circumstances that he found himself in; and that his work should not be seen as something separate from this. But geniuses have the unique ability to be able to do this; to transform everyday occurences and passions into something else; into something creative, artistic and wonderful, that we can then all enjoy. This is what I see as being the big difference to be.

Brigid Brophy continues, says that:



"Far from passively and impartially reflecting back everything in her own milieu, she is a ruthless suppressor of all items which would not forward her plot or carry a structural weight in her design. A mirror reflects an assemblage in which the elements don't, as old-fashioned water-colourists used to put it, 'compose'; Jane Austen's novels are cogent, dynamic designs - structures of organic engineering." (p. vii)



Then, Brigid Brophy makes it clear that she thinks that Jane Austen's level of genius is on a par with that of Marx, Freud, Shakespeare and Mozart, and I quite agree with her about all of this. She says:







"The twentieth-century, which has been rightly taught by Marx and by Freud to get down to economic and sexual brass tacks, would quickly dismiss a merely mirroring Jane Austen as reflecting far too small a corner of England, too well protected against the intrusion of brass tacks to be statistically significant...Instead, of fading, Jane Austen is in the twentieth century standing out more and more unmistakenably. For the first time since one of her contemporary reviewers [Whately, later Archbishop of Dublin] recognised her as a Shakespearean genius, it is clear that she wrote her books not as a more entertaining way of passing the long rural, upper-middle-class winter evenings than needlework, but because she was a passionate artist whom nothing - not even if she had been a vivandiere - could have stopped." (p.ix)



And:



"The imagination of a great novelist is an instrument as penetrating and analytic as the imagination of a Marx or a Freud. And indeed Jane Austen's artistic insight into the worlds she created carried her down to the very same brass tacks as those two thinkers reached by thinking their way down into the structure of the real world outside themselves." (p.x)



Furthermore, Brigid Brophy says that:





"The ground-plan of all Jane Austen's structures is laid out round two axes, her two great realistic perceptions: the economics of being a woman at a time when marriage was the only key to financial independence; and the power of sexual attraction, which may tempt you towards an imprudent marriage or towards a love which, not being reciprocated, won't lead to marriage at all. The novels Jane Austen constructs about these two great pillars are no more naturalistic than Mozart's operas or Shakespeare's comedies." (p. xii)




She concludes by saying that:




"...like many great works of art, Pride and Prejudice is itself a metaphor of art: an ever-living monument to the power of the imagination, constructed by an imagination of genius round imagination's two principles." (p.xvii)




Wow - Brigid Brophy's introduction is almost an amazing piece of art work in itself, I think!



The ability to re-create life in its various forms, into a beautiful work of art - what a truly wonderful, wonderful gift that is! And how much we can benefit from all of that. And of course, Jane Austen had this gift in abundance.


So I come to the end of another little episode for me in regard to Jane Austen. Although, perhaps now I will re-read one of her other novels, perhaps with new, refreshed and different eyes. Have to see.......

Monday, 20 December 2010

'An Apple from Eden' by Emma Blair



'An Apple from Eden' by Emma Blair (Little, Brown and Company, London, 1998).

Every novel by Emma Blair is proving to be a winner for me! I find them all page-turners, whilst also giving me the 'feel-good factor'.
The story focuses around two families; the rich Seatons and the working class Flynns, whose lives become intertwined at the time of the Great War. The book deals with passion, romance and tragedies set amidst various social class issues.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

'Moonlit Eyes' by Emma Blair


This was a great book - 'Moonlit Eyes' by Emma Blair (Time Warner paperbacks, London, 2002). I couldn't put it down.
This is about a black couple, New York saxaphonist Pee Wee Poston and his wife Beulah coming to live in Islington and living next door to Albert and Jess Sykes and their children Ellie and Paul. Pee Wee and Beulah have come to London in order to be near their son Julius, a high-flying diplomat at the American embassy. The Sykes are friendly and helpful to Pee Wee and Beulah, even though they see them as being in a class above them, and there is also the race issue.
War then breaks out. Son Paul is evacuated but is unhappy. He comes home, but it results in him getting killed. Ellie is heart-broken and blames herself a lot. Then tragically, a bomb hits the house and Ellie is also killed.
Albert goes to convalesce in a home supported by his trade union. He is really happy there, does lots of odd-jobs for the matron there and decides to stay. Meanwhile, Ellie and Julius fall in love.
At first, Albert is concerned about the race issue, but then he accepts them.
So, there are various tragedies throughout the book, and the book addresses various social issues, but there is a happy ending.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

'P.S. I Love You' by Cecelia Ahern


I tried giving this book 'a go', 'P.S. I Love You' by Cecelia Ahern (HarperCollins, London, 2007) but I was disappointed. I only got a third of the way through it; it just did not engage me enough.
Holly and Gerry had been childhood sweethearts but Gerry dies suddenly at only the age of 30 years. He leaves Holly a lot of letters that she must read at times that he has stipulated. May be that was it - the topic was just a bit too depressing for me. It seemed fairly obvious to me roughly where the plot was going, but I didn't feel that I wanted or really needed to know somehow.

Monday, 6 December 2010

'The Other Woman' by Jane Green



This was a good book - 'The Other Woman' by Jane Green (Penguin, London, 2005). I read one other book by Jane Green, so I thought I would try another, and yes, I enjoyed it.
Ellie and Dan are in love, and are proof that opposites attract. Ellie's mother died when she was a baby. Dan's mother is possessive, wanting to organise everything, including their wedding etc. But Ellie took this in her stride at first, thinking that it was nice, that there was a mother figure around. However, after a while, it all got a bit much. A big problem is that often Dan won't defend her in regard to it all.

Dan says, for example, "Oh, for God's sake...can't you just give it a rest? All I've been hearing for weeks now is you bitching about my mother." (p. 91)

Ellie replies, saying:



"That's because you never stand up for me. If you were to actually show some balls and defend me, or agree with me when your mother is manipulative or unreasonable, then it wouldn't wind me up as much." (p.91)



But then "...Dan explained how he feels pulled between the two most important women in his life..." (p. 92)
A difficult situation.
The Daily Express describes the book as "A compelling page-turner from start to finish" - and I very much agree.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Music

I love music; I can't live without music; it is my lifeblood; it is like bread and water to me.

My love of books is fairly well-known now, I think, but not so much my love of music. Well, in essence, music is just as important to me as books. I just could not carry on/live without either. Books and Music - the essentials of life, as far as I am concerned!!

I have been a little reticent about talking about all this publicly; when I first got published, I took the professional approach; then the political and Marxist theoretical approach.

It is only over the last year or so that I have started making my love of literature and music more public. And as I say, the focus has still been very much on the novel (apart from my long piece about Michael Jackson - as I was so beside myself over his sudden death).

Anyway, I now feel that it is time to rectify this anomaly, and to say something more about my love of music. As with books, I have loved music for as long as I remember. But I guess the big difference is that with books, reading books, it was all very much my decision (well reading a book has to be doesn't it - it is such a personal, individual experience). As a child, I took myself off to the local public library; I choose which books to borrow; I went home and read them. Then, of course, there were the books that I got for presents. But even then - one chooses whether or not to read them, what order to read them, whether to read all or some of them, whether to re-read them etc. And of course, this love of books has remained with me forever. When some people say that they never read a book I am very puzzled - however, do they get by in life, I think? But of course, that is only my way of looking at it all. We are all very different, when all is said and done. I love getting into the minds of different people; or at least, people that think, that have things to say and express; and that can do this well - i.e. getting into the minds of published authors. This is so, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, but of course, fiction was my first love.

As a child, music, in contrast, was all around me (it was not something that I decided to do on my own in the way that reading books was). My mother loved to sing and dance; I sang hymns at church; I was in a choir; my mother was in a choir; I went to concerts (I remember being very keen on Gilbert and Sullivan, for example); I listened to music on the radio; and I learnt the piano and the recorder (although I wasn't so keen on the 'learning the piano fiasco' - the cold front room and all that - no central heating in those days). Anyway...But then in my mid teens I started buying some records of my own. Cat Stevens was one of my first loves here.

Then, when I went to university I bought myself a record player and lots of records (certainly did not want a TV). Lovely! I also used to go to university discos about 3 times a week and danced very energetically and enthusiastically; I was in heaven. I absolutely loved it. Lots of wonderful music used to waft across the campus as well; Pink Floyd's 'The Dark Side of the Moon' was the ultimate; it was brilliant. The sounds of that wafted across the campus, from student's rooms, more than any other album or artist. We all loved it. The sun shone, and Pink Floyd sang.

And so, this love of music has continued ever since - always looking out for the next interesting album, the next artist etc. These days I borrow lots of CDs from my local library in Ilford - that way I can get familiar with a large repertoire of music without it costing me too much. Great. I love it.

So, I read, I write, I listen to music, I dance, I sing etc. Truly wonderful; I am in seventh heaven as long as I have all this. Take it all away from me and I would be doomed. But I certainly don't intend to go down that path!

Although I had private piano lessons as a child (and also learnt the recorder actually), I was not properly classically musically trained. This is one of the problems with music. It can still be very much a class/elitist thing, when all is said and done. You know, middle class parents having the money and inclination to send their children to private music lessons (particularly important given how poorly resourced music departments in schools tend to be). Breaking out of that mould is very difficult. And can folks make a living/make money out of music? Well, very difficult. So, folks often choose the 'safer' career options; but without music we are all the poorer. What an impossible life it would be without these wonderful creative outlets. Dear oh dear! But it is wrong that, once again, those that are not so well off can tend to suffer.

In regard to music and libraries, whilst we all know that libraries are for borrowing books, we can sometimes forget, or at least look over the fact, that they can also be very good for borrowing music!I have gone through various phases with this one; well, I go through phases with my library-usage anyway, but more so with music....

When I was on maternity leave with our eldest son, Alexander, I used to borrow a lot of music records from our local library in Coventry - yes, it was still records in those days!

Then, on and off over the years, I have borrowed music CDs from the local library - and of course, this was easy when I worked in the public library service myself. Furthermore, our middle son, Victor, worked at Kensington Central Library for a couple of years. They have a wonderful music library there -with lots of music CDs but also lots of music scores and books about famous composers etc. Anyway, he borrowed lots of CDs whilst he worked there; some of which I liked but quite a lot of which did not appeal to my tastes all that much. Still - it was all an interesting experience!

Then, last year, after my father-in-law died I picked it all up again. The music selection in my very local library was useless; but Ilford Library (not far away) has a wonderful collection I discovered. Now, months later, I am borrowing music CDs again on a regular basis. It means that I can listen to a large repertoire of music without it costing me too much. I also like the physical thing of going into the library - so, no I don't want to get it all from the Internet, if anyone asks. I have heard some wonderful music by this method. I love listening to new music as well - so this is a great way in which I can keep cheerful, listen to and absorb a lot of new music, sharing music with others, as well as having a great time dancing around, relaxing etc - without it all costing a lot of money. Winners all round - until the cuts start biting. Whatever is Cameron and his crew doing to the public library service, and indeed, to our public services and way of life, in general. But I try not to think about it all too much; it is too depressing, and just all to dreadful. Why did people vote in all this rubbish? But then again, whilst the electorate can be blamed for voting in Thatcher, they can't be blamed for voting in Cameron in the same sort of way. Cameron does not have a mandate from the people for this right-wing government; but still, he continues, never-the-less.

I love such a lot of different types of music; I could not begin to say where it begins and ends. A lot of the time, these days, I prefer the softer artists over the heavy rock and metal ones, it has to be said; but then again, I/we go through phases with music, and a lot of the time, it can depend on one's mood, can it not. It is the continued freshness and the difference that I love; and the ability that music has to reflect your mood - I put on a certain type of music when I am in one mood; and a different type of music when I am in a different mood. One can express oneself through music in ways that it is not possible to in any other way. And we need a variety of ways in which to be able to express ourselves.

But certainly, I love listening to new music; to music that I have not heard before. I am not one of those that likes to keep listening to the same thing time after time after time.

At the moment, there are a number of strands to all of this music for me: listening to music (CDs etc); dancing; singing in a choir; going to concerts; seeeing live bands (including our local folk night, 'Forest Roots'), watching music programmes on the TV and DVD; enjoying our middle son Victor's band, 'Cold Hands & Quarter Moon' and all the excitement around watching them grow, develop, listening to the new songs that Victor writes etc. etc.

Perhaps, I will write some other blogs about particular artists and albums that I enjoy/have enjoyed. Have to see.

But for now, let's sing and dance, and enjoy all the wonderful things that music can offer and bring to us.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

'Forget-Me-Not' by Emma Blair


In the Emma Blair mode, I decided to re-read 'Forget-Me-Not', (Little, Brown and Company, London, 2001) as I managed to pick up a copy in a library book sale the other day. This is a good book; by which I mean that it is a book that really engages me, a book I can't put down! Over the years, this has been the most most important criteria for what I classify as being a 'good book'. I have gone down various other paths, of course. and doing A' level English Literature obviously made me think a lot about the beauty of classical literature, which I then read and enjoyed much of over the years. But my childhood love of novels stemmed from picking up a book that enticed me, engaged me, took me to somewhere else, that enabled me to forget about day-to-day reality, for a period. And it is that main love that has remained with me throughout the whole of my life. A sort of socialisation process that I gave myself, I guess, if you get my drift.
Anyway, themes of boarding houses, newspaper reporting and acting run throughout this novel - an interesting combination. Tim Wilson, a newspaper reporter for the Torquay Times (yes, 'Fawlty Towers' springs to mind!) and his mother run a small boarding house and the interesting actress Elyse Davenport comes to stay at it.
Meanwhile, Tim is besotted with Katherine Coates, the daughter of a business colleague of his late father. But Katherine's mother Ruth has higher sights for her. In order to make what she wants happen she tells Katherine that she only has a few months to live. Katherine complies and marries Miles; but then Miles tragically is killed at war. Meanwhile, Katherine's father Jeremiah can hardly bear Ruth any longer and has an affair with Henrietta. As war is looming, Tim doesn't want to die not knowing what sex is all about, doesn't want to have sex with a stranger, so Elyse and Tim decide to make it together. But tragically, Elyse is actually dying (and not fabricating it as Ruth was). She dies, and finally Tim and Katherine are together.
So, it was interesting, having a novel that combined all this plot against the backdrop of the artistic, creative world.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

'Little White Lies' by Emma Blair


I enjoy Emma Blair books, so for relaxation decided to re-read this one - 'Little White Lies'. I read it very quickly; couldn't put it down, in fact.
It is about the antics of a family that move to Glasgow, after the father loses his job in the small town Tomintoul. Lizzie moves there with her parents, although the 2 grown-up sons do not join them. Lizzie quickly finds work as a machinist and makes friends with Pearl. We witness Lizzie growing up; her first alcoholic drink; her first boyfriend; her first sexual encounter etc. But all suddenly goes pear-shaped when she discovers that the first and only time that she has sex, she falls pregnant (whilst Jack has gone off to sea - he was too young to be tied-down, he thought - even though he was mesmerised by Lizzie). The family were really worried about the disgrace it would bring on them. So much so that the mother, Ethne, decides to make out that she is pregnant; she pads herself all out. Meanwhile, Lizzie goes to stay with her brothers, supposedly to help to care for them through a bout of sickness, whilst in fact, she has the baby. Ethne joins them then returns telling everyone in the area that the baby is hers - i.e. 'Little White Lies'. Everyone seems happy with this solution. Later Jack returns, realises he loves Lizzie and they settle down, although he is never told about the baby!
Another story running alongside this is in regard to Pearl. She marries Willie; very keen to tie the knot, only to realise what a big mistake she has made. He is always complaining, comparing her to her mother. Then, he is desperate for a child, but no joy. In the end, she does something very dramatic - has sex with Willie's friend Pete, just to try to get pregnant and please Willie. She succeeds - she falls pregnant, only to discover later that Pete and Pearl love each other. Pearl ends up going off to London to live with him, and hopefully in time, to marry him.
The final story is in regard to Doogie, the father, who can't resist the bountiful and sexy Daisy at work.; especially as at the time, Esthne is not so keen. But it is only for a short duration; then Daisy finds someone else and luckily no-one gets hurt. Doogie is also a hard worker, which probably helped him to 'get away with it all'.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

'Push' by Sapphire


'Push' by Sapphire, Vintage Books: London, 1998 - another book that Alexander's girlfriend Simone lent me the other day. It is a book that she rates highly. Not the sort of book that I would normally read, it has to be said. But surprisingly, it kept me engaged and I read it quickly, in fact (it is only a small book mind - 140 pages). It is described as being 'The Colour Purple for the Nineties' - and 'The Colour Purple' was certainly a book that I found to be very powerful and engaging, and this is why Simone lent me 'Push', I think (a long time since I've read 'The Colour Purple' though).
'Push' is really a very tragic story, about a 16-year old girl black Precious who is raped by her father and now has 2 children as a result of it. Her education has obviously been completely messed up; the book is written in the first person and we witness Precious trying to express herself, through her tragically poor and inadequate English. How brave she is. One can feel the pain that she is going through. And to add insult to injury she then discovers that she is HIV positive.
How can any one human bear so much pain? And yet somehow she does, and through it all she still manages to be cheerful in some way.
The book deals with some really important social issues, although I must admit that I did find it very painful and disturbing, and I am not sure that I would want to read too many books like that! But thanks for lending it to me Simone. It certainly made me think.

'Northanger Abbey' by Jane Austen


I decided to re-read 'Northanger Abbey' by Jane Austen, having recently enjoyed watching the film again (the perfect way to relax for me). For me, it doesn't quite match up to 'Pride and Prejudice', 'Sense and Sensibility' and 'Emma', but still all 6 of her novels are very special; really something. What a shame it was that Jane Austen didn't live longer, and wasn't able to write more. Still, we must just enjoy what we have, and it helps me to focus and sobers me up, to contemplate on the fact that life is quite short really, and if we do not really 'go' for externalising what is deep within us, and making it happen for us, and live life to the full, then we can end up living a life of regrets.
So, Jane Austen died at 40 years of age, with 6 novels written; so far, I have not completed one! I have my non-fiction books and articles which I am, of course, very proud of, and I am so very glad that I broke through that barrier. However, my first love was fiction, my first fantasy was to write a novel, and I really must and will make this happen. There always just seem to be so many things stopping me from progressing with it. I must and will find another window soon, so that I can return to it.
Anyway, Jane Austen's ability to create something beautiful through the words she used, the way in which she phrased things, is breath-taking, I think. She creates something very special and wonderful out of what, on one level can be seen to be something quite ordinary. 'Emma' for example - about match-making. And one of the main themes of 'Northanger Abey' is about how a young girl, Catherine Morland's love of reading Gothic romance novels, clouded her judgement on reality, leading her to mistaken believe that Henry Tilney's mother had been murdered by Henry's father, General Tilney. Well, there is more to it than that, but that is a very important theme. But all comes good in the end anyway, Catherine matures, and Henry and Catherine are married.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

'The Magic Cottage' by James Herbert


Our son, Alexander's new girlfriend, Simone, kindly lent me this book the other day, because she thought I would like it and it did prove to be an enjoyable read: 'The Magic Cottage' by James Herbert, New English Library, 1987. For some reason, I have never tried reading a James Herbert book before. But anyway, this one was quite gripping.
It is basically about this couple, Midge and Mike who buy a cottage, Gramarye, that turns out to have special magical powers. All sorts of weird things happen in the place; there are bats in the loft, for example, cracks in the building mysteriously appear, and Mike's injured arm rapidly and mysteriously heals. They then discover that there is a religious sect in the village, called the Synergists; this group start interfering in Midge and Mike's life. Then they realise it is because the Synergists want to take over and move into Gramarye, wanting to benefit from its special powers. But in the end the cottage is destroyed.
In the final page Mike and Midge are thinking of looking for and buying another cottage in the country, perhaps in the Cotswolds. But this time, not surprisingly, they are not so sure about it all!

Friday, 12 November 2010

'Alexa' by Andrea Newman



'Alexa: a novel of three people caught up in feelings they can't control' by Andrea Newman, Penguin, Middlesex, 1976. I have read this little novel just so many times - I really have lost count of the number of times! For me, it is a little gem. It sits on my shelf and when I am in a particular mood, and when I have a real need to regroup/rethink/take hold of life somehow in a new and different way etc, off it comes from the shelf again and I read it. Andrea Newman is a powerful writer, and a number of her books (including this one) were made into TV productions.


It is such a little book (just 157 pages) and yet it says so much; for me, it covers so many important topics; topics that are so very dear to my heart; issues that basically I have grappled with all my teenage and adult life in fact.
What do I mean by this? Well, to put it in a nutshell, it captures something about the real dilemma within myself, and which many other women must clearly suffer from. This is the dilemma between wanting security, a stable and secure relationship, a home etc. with wanting a risk-taking, adventurous, creative life etc.
The book centres around 3 characters: Alexa, Christine and Paul. Christine and Paul are married with 2 children. Paul has a secure job as a teacher; they have a nice home in the country, and in theory have 'domestic bliss'. Alexa, on the other hand, is a successful, creative novelist; living in London; having different relationships with men and a seemingly exciting life (although in reality, it often just involves her spending lots of time writing). Anyway, Alexa and Christine are long-standing friends; Alexa has chosen the creative, risk-taking path; whereas Christine has taken the security, earth-mother path.
Christine is feeling stale; she is also a pianoist, but never plays the piano these days. The children are just too demanding, and she gets too tired. Alexa comes to stay to see how she can help. They decide that Christine will go and stay in Alexa's flat in London for a few days, and live the high life, whilst Alexa stays in Christine's home and looks after her children.
But all goes 'pear-shaped' when Alexa and Paul have a brief affair. Alexa tells Paul that she only wants to go ahead if he promises that he will feel no guilt afterwards. Alexa is into free, no-strings attached, no guilt-attached love-making. Paul agrees; but he can't sustain it. He ends up telling Christine. Christine overdoses and tries to kill herself.
Luckily, Christine does not succeed, and the pages end with her and Alexa maintaining very infrequent communication through letters, and with Christine telling Alexa that she is pregnant again.
The characters of these two women portray the two sides of my personality that I am forever trying to juggle up, and that are sometimes in conflict. All very difficult; but then, life is difficult! So be it, we carry on and try to make it all work, somehow or other.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Hand of Ethelberta by Thomas Hardy


I decided to read 'The Hand of Ethelberta: a comedy in chapters' by Thomas Hardy (Macmillan, London, 1975). I love Thomas Hardy, but had not read this one before. However, I was pretty disappointed, it has to be said (so much so that I did not actually finish it). The Introduction by Robert Gittings, in this case, proved to be absolutely right; he said that the book was 'the joker in the pack'. And then goes on to say that "...it fascinates by its very strangeness. Among much that may seem clumsy or fumbling, there are flashes of amazing insight and poetic delicacy." (p. 15) However: "The truth is that a large part of Ethelberta is badly written, and often shows Hardy at his worst in style and thought." (p.18) I quite agree
The book deals with some important topics; class issues and the struggles a woman faces (Ethelberta) in trying to be a writer. But Ethelberta drifts from one group of people to the next; from one society to the next; the book is just not well-written and does not engage the readers attention. Oh well - can't win them all!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Firework Display on Wanstead Flats, 5th Nov 2010

I went to see the Firework Display on Wanstead Flats on Friday, 5th November 2010. It was rather a wet evening, but thankfully not raining when the display was on. There were loads of people there, and all in all, it was very emjoyable. And below - here are some photos of it.






















































Friday, 5 November 2010

'The Big Picture' by Douglas Kennedy



I re-read a Douglas Kennedy book the other day 'The Big Picture' (Abacus, London, 1997). I love Douglas Kennedy's books, and indeed, wrote a long piece about his books a while back, which went both on this blog and on our website - see http://www.flowideas.co.uk/print.php?page=360&slink=yes. As I said in this piece, Douglas Kennedy has a remarkable ability to be able to get into the minds of educated and intelligent, but troubled women.

Anyway, 'The Big Picture' is somewhat different, as it is written in the first person, but as a man, not a woman. It is full of adventure and intrigue, and the plot, on first reading, really surprises you and goes to places where one would never imagine it would. It is a very clever plot; illustrating once again, the intelligence and capability of Douglas Kennedy himself of course.


The first person is Ben Bradford, who has a wife, two children and a steady job, but discovers that his wife is 'playing away'. In a heat of passion, he ends up mistakingly killing Gary Summers, the lover. Now, what to do? Ben decides to fake his own death, and to take on Gary's identity (forging his signature etc.). His own death is faked by him saying that he was going on a boat trip on his own; the boat blows up along with the remains of Gary's body that are in the boat.

Ben then starts his new life as Gary, the succesful photographer, which is very exciting for him, because he always wanted to be a professional photographer anyway. But things get complex, when a certain Rudy tumbles him and then blackmails him.

They are in a car together, with Rudy driving. Suddenly, the car turns over, Rudy is killed, but Gary escapes. Now, what to do? Ben decides to reinvent himself yet again, and to take on Rudy's identity. Wow - a real page-turner.



Friday, 22 October 2010

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell



I have always loved so many of the traditional classics - Jane Austen, the Brontes, D.H. Lawrence, George Eliot, Aldous Huxley, Emile Zola, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy etc. etc. I could go on and on.


Elizabeth Gaskell, though, tends not to be rated in quite the same league; but probably somewhat unfairly.


And so, I came to re-read 'North and South' by Elizabeth Gaskell (Vintage Books, 2008) recently. What a truly wonderful book it is; a kind of 'Pride and Prejudice', with a political and social conscience. Although, the last part of the book is not quite so powerful (in terms of a piece of writing), it has to be said. Therefore, despite the fact that, on one level, the plot can be seen to be somewhat more poignant and relevant to many people, perhaps, than 'Pride and Prejudice' does, as a piece of writing it does not really fall into quite the same league.


Never-the-less it is a wonderful book (and anyway, for me, it would be very hard for any book to be able to come up to 'Pride and Prejudice').


Furthermore, the BBC did a wonderful dramatisation of 'North and South', in 2005, starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe. The book illustrates the differences between the north and the south, with the heroine Margaret Hale (played by Daniela Denby-Ashe) having to move from the south to the north with her parents. And in the north she witnesses dirt and poverty and then meets up with the dashing John Thornton (played by Richard Armitage), the local mill owner. First of all, Margaret thinks John is ruthless and cruel to his workers. She battles with herself.


"She disliked him the more for having mastered her inner will. How dared he say that he would love her still, even though she shook him off with contempt? She wished she had spoken more - stronger." (p. 245)


But in the end, she realises that she has been mistaken and she falls in love with him.


One thing that really impressed me was when I found out that Richard Armitage read the whole of 'North and South' before he started acting the part of John Thornton. That shows real dedication, I think; he holds the book in very high regard. Colin Firth did not do the same before playing the part of Darcy, I understand. But on the other hand, 'who cares'. He was truly wonderful in it! Well, both of the actors are wonderful. I say no more.

Although, I must try to get along to see 'The King's Speech'; the new film that Colin Firth is in. That looks very good.



'Shadows in the Watchgate' by Mike Jefferies

I read this book, 'Shadows in the Watchgate' (Grafton, London, 1991) by Mike Jefferies a few years ago, and decided to re-read it. The first time I read it I just could not put it down. It is a really unusual read. And for me it had a special appeal because it is set in Norwich, Norfolk and refers to places like Castle Meadow and Elm Hill. It is a fantasy revolving around the Norwich taxidermist Ludo Strewth who manages to conjure up evil through the Hand of Glory.

Ludo then also becomes obsessed by the lovely American model Tuppence Trilby, and decides that he wants to preserve her - i.e. kill her and stuff her. She could then sit along all the other stuffed animals in his shop and he could admire her as and when he wanted to. He is able to bring the stuffed animals to life through the magical evil powers that he has been able to conjure up through the Hand of Glory and he uses them to help him with his mission.

Meanwhile, Tuppence buys the Watchgate House, but that can't protect her. Dec Winner the volunteer fireman saves her life, falls in love with her, and tries to help her escape from the taxidermist's dangerous, 'live', stuffed animals. Finally, Dec is able to destroy the Hand of Glory and they are then safe.

Certainly a worthwhile and gripping read. I shall, perhaps, try reading some other books by Mike Jefferies at some point.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

'To Be the Best' by Barbara Taylor Bradford


Finally, on the Barbara Taylor Bradford trail, I read 'To Be the Best' - and now that's enough of Barbara Taylor Bradford for a while! 'To Be the Best' continues with the 'A Woman of Substance' story.
Again, Emma Harte's grand-daughter, Paula, continues to protect and build the Harte empire.
"Harte's of Knightsbridge was the best. The only one of its kind. A legend." (p. 512 - in Omnibus edition, which includes both 'Hold the Dream' and 'To Be the Best', published by Diamond Books in 1993).
Emma Harte opened Harte's of Knightsbridge in 1921. Paula marries Shane O'Neill (descended from Blackie O'Neill, who loved Emma but they never married - somehow their paths never crossed together at the right time). Towards the end the Harte empire is under serious threat, but Paula O'Neill uses her brains and determination and comes out winning.
And on the final page, we learn that Paula and Shane are to have another baby, so all ends happily.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

10 Fascinating Sub-Movements within Feminism

I received an email from a Jena Ellis, informing me about a website entitled 'Online Certificate Programs' - onlinecertificateprograms.org.

Also, about a short article that has just been posted on this website, about different types of Feminism. It is entitled '10 Fascinating Sub-Movements Within Feminism' and it briefly describes 10 different types of feminism; namely, Liberal Feminism, Socialist Feminism, Radical Feminism, Anti-Pornography Movement, Sex-Positive Feminism, Cultural Feminism, Separatist Feminism, Conservative Feminism, Postmodern Feminism and Ecofeminism. I did note though, that there was not a section on 'Marxist Feminism'.

Anyway, it is worth having a quick look at (and I told Jena that I would create a short blog entry about it). So, here is the link:

http://www.onlinecertificateprograms.org/blog/2010/10-fascinating-sub-movements-within-feminism/

Elton John supporting talented Musicians

Elton John is another musician that I have always very much liked and admired; he has a lot of natural musical talent, I think, and I enjoy a lot of his music.



So, it is wonderful that he is now trying to help young up and coming talented musicians. He seems to be disillusioned with the music industry today, in many ways, with programmes such as 'Pop Idol' and the 'X-Factor', which does not provide very much opportunity for real musical talent to be able to shine through in.



The Sunday Times of 10th October 2010 included an article about the help he is giving to some of these musicians (p.3). The article, by Dalya Alberge is entitled 'I'm still spending - on complete unknowns'. The article reports that Elton John has spent over £1million financing dozens of students at the Royal Academy of Music, London personally financing 42 students to train there. Elton John enrolled himself at the Royal Academy as a classical music scholar over 50 years ago, when he was just 11 years old. He won a scholarship to the academy in its scheme for talented musicians and studied Bach and Chopin there for 6 years, although he dropped out before his final exams. Elton John received a doctorate from the college in 2002. He says that the training that he received at the Academy was 'vitally important' to his career. I think he is very thankful for it, and wants to try to pay something back in some way.

Elton John told the Sunday Times:

"I am so proud to be able to support the academy in any way I can and will always be grateful to them for opening the doors for me and so many other young musicians to develop our talents and live our lives in music."

Next, he is planning a second concert; this time at the Royal Opera House, in order to raise a further £600,000 for the Academy.

Elton John has also helped various other people in the past. Michael Jackson thanked him for helping him to stop taking prescription morphine, for example, and he helped Princess Diana to deal with her bulimia.

I read the newspapers these days, and my heart sinks. The government is 'putting the boot in' here, there and everywhere, and young people are suffering really hard, I think, with the huge proposed increases in tuition fees, along with debt, the recession and a lack of jobs, and unaffordable housing. But anyway, amidst reading all this gloom I suddenly read this wonderful, uplifting article. I think that we should start putting more of our faith in musicians and less in politicians.

Our son Victor Rikowski is doing very well on the music front; his musical talent is really starting to shine through in Bangor in a significant way. Quite a lot of new, good things have already been happening to him on this front, following on from the local Bangor radio programme that he was on a couple of weeks ago, with his band, 'Cold Hands & Quarter Moon'. The person that interviewed them, James McAllister, really rates them, I think, and is doing his best to try to promote them more.

How wonderful it would be if 'Cold Hands & Quarter Moon' could somehow or other be brought to the attention of Elton John!

Friday, 15 October 2010

'Hold the Dream' by Barbara Taylor Bradford




Well, I decided to carry on with the Barbara Taylor Bradford reading, and so next read the sequel to 'A Woman of Substance'. This book is entitled 'Hold the Dream', first published in 1985 by Grafton Books. Emma Harte's grand-daughter Paula McGill Fairley (Paul McGill being the real love of Emma's life) is given the challenge of 'Holding the Dream' - the dream that Emma created, with the huge successful empire that she built up. Towards the end of the book Emma dies. But Paula is very successful; she is very much like her grandmother in many ways; very determined and she certainly manages to 'Hold the Dream'. A good read, although really not nearly as good as 'A Woman of Substance' in my view. The plot and ideas were very similar to those in 'A Woman of Substance' and it did not really have enough new things to say.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

20 Essential Works of Feminist Fiction

I received a surprise email from one Anna Miller alerting me to an interesting short piece, entitled '20 Essential Works of Feminist Fiction'. I said that I would include a link to it on my blog, so here it is:

http://www.onlinedegree.net/20-essential-works-of-feminist-fiction/


The list includes one of my all-time favourites - Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice', as well as two other favourites of mine - 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte and 'The Colour Purple' by Alice Walker.

Perhaps, I will read some of the other suggestions myself at some point; who knows - have to see.

As it says in the piece: 'The real heroes in our society are those who overcome obstacles to achieve their goals. Women in particular have risen above much of the inequality that previously hindered them from participating in a male dominated world."

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Some Ex-Colleagues in Newham Library Service

I have had a few interesting encounters recently (either directly or indirectly) with some ex-colleagues in Newham Library Service. These included: Pat Lloyd, Kathy Walker, George Bye, Anne Brooke, Andrew DeHeer, and Angela and Kim.

Pat Lloyd, for example, phoned me up saying that Kathy Walker had sent him a letter, and in it she had included an article of mine that she had downloaded from the web - 'Library Privatisation: fact or fiction?' -
see http://www.libr.org/isc/articles/17-Rikowski-2.html
So, that must suddenly have had an impact on her - interesting!

Anne Brooke is a member of Forest Voices Choir; Margaret Griffith was on the stall for the Newham Writers Group (which she is a member of) at the Forest Gate Festival this year and Andrew DeHeer was on the stall for the Forest Gate Library and Local Service Centre, known simply as 'The Gate'. Then, I bumped into Angela and Kim going round in the van with the Housebound Readers Service.

I guess the biggest surprise though was bumping into George Bye, who was sitting on a seat outside our local pub recently, 'The Golden Fleece' with someone. I hadn't seen George for years. My rapid exit from Newham Library Service was achieved in considerable measure through the handiwork of this person; and that was after I had greatly assisted him with the implementation of the Dynix library computer system there. I actually referred to this work of mine, in an article that I wrote for Managing Information (in the July/Aug 2003 issue, Vol 10, No 6), entitled 'Females, Computers and Libraries' saying that:

"When I assisted with the implementation of Dynix in the London Borough of Newham...I was designated the task of training all the staff on circulation on Dynix. This was a very large and demanding job, and yet it is a task that often falls within the remit of 'women's work' - training staff, helping staff, being available and helpful. There is often an assumption that women are willing and able to share their knowledge and information in this way. Indeed, that they should be willing and happy to share it. Yet, at the same time, I was not given the opportunity to be involved in the some of the important decisions, in regard to the implementation." (p. 8)

Monday, 20 September 2010

'The Women in his Life' by Barbara Taylor Bradford


'The Women in his Life' by Barbara Taylor Bradford (Grafton Books: London, 1991) proved to be an enjoyable read and something of a page-turner.


I loved Barbara Taylor Bradford's 'A Woman of Substance', which I read years ago, and also watched on DVD. It said so much to me about how a determined, intelligent, clear-headed and hard-working woman could win and succeed against so many odds and right various wrongs, if she really wanted to. I know that the level of success that the character Emma Harte received was certainly delving into the world of fiction, and is certainly not something that most women could achieve, but still, I thought the book conveyed a real message of hope. My son Victor also watched the DVD recently and was very moved, affected and inspired by it (Alex, Gregory and Glenn also really like it).

An;yway, with all this in mind, I decided to read 'The Women in his Life', also by Barbar Taylor Bradford. This dealt with various struggles that people went through in World War 2, focusing in particular on the character Maximilian West, who ended up losing both his parents in the war (who were beaten to death) and how he was bought up by Teddy. All this was described very vividly and powerfully, I thought. Maxim then becomes a successful businessman as well as having various women. But in the end, he finds true love.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Inspiralled Cafe in Camden, London

On Monday 13th September 2010 Glenn and I had a lovely day out clothes shopping in Camden - one of our favourite places to shop. But what inspired me to write this blog was the 'Inspiralled Cafe' that we went in - an organic, vegetarian, alternative cafe with music, poetry and much else besides. The cafe was situated by the canal, where you can also get boat trips from. It was really something we thought. We took some photos of it all and these are below. It was a lovely weather as well, and we bought some pretty awesome clothes (well, we thought they were anyway!). Michael Jackson fashion-sense dominated the scene, much to my surprise. I thought it was great, but proved to be a problem when Glenn tried looking for a Denim shirt. Anyway, he found one in the end!






Sunday, 12 September 2010

Emily Christophers and Public Libraries

One of Glenn Rikowski's ex-undergraduate students, (who is now studying for a PGCE at Northampton), Emily Christophers (a great Education Studies student, graduating in July 2010) gave Glenn two articles last week. It was very thoughtful of her to cut out these articles from The Week (28th August 2010) and give them to Glenn for us to read.

As an Education Studies student at the University of Northampton, Emily read some of both mine and Glenn's work from 'The Flow of Ideas' website (the Rikowski family website). Furthermore, she also obtained my single-authored book, Globalisation, Information and Libraries (Chandos Publishing, 2005) from the Open University Library and read some of that as well. This reading led to her cutting out these articles for us.

One of the articles Emily had cut out (for Glenn) from The Week was about BBP University College of Professional Studies; the UK's second private higher education providers. The first was University College Buckingham (UCB, now University of Buckingham) which was set up in 1973, when the Conservatives were in power. Margaret Thatcher formally opened UCB in 1976. The establishment of BBP indicates how the private sector is looking to get into higher education provision in the UK on a bigger scale, especially now that potential providers (such as Kaplan, a US outfit) view the current Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government as being sympathetic to their plans.







University of Buckingham Biology Research Labs


Emily gave me a short piece to read from The Week (of 28th August 2010, p.14) entitled: 'A sneaky way to destroy our public libraries' by Terence Blacker, from The Independent. The Week summarises various news items from the previous week.

In this piece, Blacker talks about the current UK coalition government's 'Future Libraries Programme' which was launched by the Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, last week (early September 2010) and the fancy words about 'community' and 'partnership' which are embedded in it. As Blacker points out, if the fancy words are stripped away, we find that they are really simply code for the privatisation of our public libraries. And this of course, is what I have been warning people about over the last 10 years or so. In my book, Globalisation, Information and Libraries I go into it all in great depth, seeking to demonstrate how global agreements made far from home, will and are impacting clearly and directly at the local level, bringing in the commercialisation and privatisation of our dearly loved state-funded libraries.

So, the Culture Minister's plan will trial 'new governance models' for libraries; in Suffolk local community groups will run the libraries, for example, whereas in Bradford they will be run in supermarkets. Also, for a while now in the London Borough of Newham (where I worked for quite some years), public libraries have been running alongside Community Information Services (so unfortunately Newham has been very much a pioneer here!).

As Blacker points out, whilst one one level this might all sound 'very modern and inclusive' it actually:

"...amounts to back-door privatisation, a way for central government to 'wriggle out' of its obligation, under the 1964 Libraries and Museum Act, to step in if a local library authority fails to provide basic library services."

The leading article in The Guardian of 31st August 2010, also speaks about the 'Future Libraries Programme' in a piece entitled 'Open Books' (p.30). It starts off with saying:

"Naturally, those who most loved libraries as children are now their most articulate supporters."
Well, I know what they mean there, although there is only so much time and energy any one person can give to any one cause! If certain powers that be and certain folks are really determined to destroy something, then well, it will be destroyed in some fashion, although on the optimistic side something else is likely to emerge in some form or other (so don't let's get totally despondent!) Capitalism can't have it all its own way; that is impossible. It would suit capitalism if humans worked 24/7 for example, but of course, humans need sleep, rest, food and drink etc, so that just isn't on. So, then we come up with the concept of the 'length of the working day'. Anyway, I digress somewhat...

The article in The Guardian points out that there are 10 projects in the 'Future Libraries Programme' and that these are:

"...testbeds for many of the ideas that the coalition would like to apply to other public services. Two London boroughs are considering merger of their library provision. Suffolk wants community groups to manage them. Most controversially, some of Bradford's books could be moved into shops."

The article argues that faced with budget cuts many councils will:

"...freeze new acquisitions, cut opening hours, and perhaps charge for book clubs and children's story-times. Some libraries will close altogether."

Others will see the introduction of more volunteers, and less professional staff in libraries. The article concludes by arguing that working-class areas will suffer in particular, as the people in these communities are less likely to defend their public libraries as vigorously as those in more middle class areas.

And so, my concerns and predictions are all starting to come to pass.....And even worse, libraries rather than being in the background/a backwater to future trends, are actually paving the way it seems. Heavens!

One wonders if and when folks will actually and meangingfully sit up, take notice of what we have been saying and actively and determinedly try to do something to stop the rot. Not that it will be at all easy, but even so...It all remains to be seen, but it is great that Emily is taking up some of the issues in this way, and many thanks to her for all of that.

On a personal basis, as well, we wish Emily all the best of luck for her future career in primary school teaching.