Friday, 11 November 2011

Social Dancing at the Guildhall

Social Dancing at the Guildhall Catholic Church, High Road, Ilford

Nearest station: Ilford (overground).
10 min walk from station, or catch 86 bus which stops right outside.

Every Thursday, 8.00pm - 11pm

£4 entry

Raffle (£1). Drinks from the bar.

Ballroom and sequence dancing, with a little bit of disco and line dancing.

Very friendly group of people.

Everyone welcome.

Party night with free nibbles on the last Thursday of every month

Come and join in the fun.

Great variety of dances, nice and interesting people to talk to, good atmosphere, lovely music, wonderful for your health. Beginners welcome. What more can I say.

Life is for living, and all that!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Diana Edmonds, Head of Libraries Division within Greenwich Leisure Ltd

David Marzella, Library Union Steward for Greenwich (and someone that I connected with whilst writing about cuts in public libraries and relating it all to the General Agreement in Trade in Services - GATS) alerted me to this important news item. He asked me if I would circulate it for him. So here it is:

News item in CILIP UDATE October 2011

" Diana Edmonds , Ast Director Culture Services Haringey leaves her post in October. Diana will be taking up a post as Head of the Libraries division with GLL , a charitable social enterprise which currently manages leisure services for more than 20 local authorities. GLL expects to become a significant provider of library services in the coming years. "

David informed me that Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) was sent up some years ago, initially for the purpose of taking over and running Greenwich Leisure and have now expanded. There is little union recognition, David says.

The intention of the council it seems is to transfer Greenwich libraries over to a ‘trust’. Now, I foresaw such developments years ago now – I started writing about all this back in 2001. Libraries getting taken out of state control, being handed over to a trust, thereby paving the way for commercialisation and eventual privatisation.

Whilst writing on the GATS I referred to ‘Instant Library Ltd’, which Diana Edmonds was in charge of at the time. ‘Instant Library’ was traditionally a library recruitment agency, but then moved into other areas. As I explained Instant Library took over and ran Haringey public libraries for 3 years (after Haringey was deemed to have failed its Best Value Regime). Also, that this incident was the first time that a public library service had been taken over and run by a private company. I foresaw that this would likely be the start of more to come, and this news item clearly indicates that this is the way things are going.

Alan Wyllie in Islington
also provides more information about privatisation on his blog – see

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Some Brief Thoughts on Descartes

The topic of the great philosopher, Descartes, leads on nicely from my previous blog.

Now, 'The Wise Man and the Foolish Man' - as I said, this was a Christian chorus that I used to sing as a child at church.

So, what was the message in this Chorus? Well, that the Wise Man aimed to lead a good life, and to follow and pursue goodness, so his house was solid. But the Foolish Man was not pursuing that, so his house fell down. (bit sexist all this 'Wise Man' and 'Foolish Man' stuff - but won't pursue that one right now!).

Now, Descartes. The only subject that all 5 of us (Glenn, Alexander, Victor and Gregory and myself) have studied so far is Philosophy and guess what - yes, we have all read and studied some Descartes. I read Descartes as part of my Prelims at UEA when I was just 18 years old.

Now, Descartes has often been called 'the father of modern philosophy' - so he has to be taken seriously, does he not.

All of us (apart from Victor) have also all read Descartes 'The Meditations' but the other day, our youngest son, Gregory, decided to re-read it, and persuaded me to re-read it (which I am currently still reading). I have also just read Descartes 'Discourse on the Method of Properly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking the Truth in the Sciences'.

I will probably write more about all this later, but for now, I just wanted to draw attention to why Descartes argues for the existence of God - as this leads on nicely from 'The Wise Man' and his pursuit of goodness.

Descartes starts by doubting everything and then famously says, of course:

"I think, therefore I am."

However, he points out in Discourse that " was a greater perfection to know than to doubt..." (p.55 in Penguin edition, 1968) and that the fact that he doubted his existence at all, showed that he was imperfect.

And yet, he has some notion of perfection and he says:

"...I decided to inquire whence I had learned to think of some thing more perfect than myself; and I clearly recognised that this must have been from some nature which was in fact more perfect." (p. 55)

So, the idea of perfection:

"...must have been put into me by a being whose nature was truly more perfect than mine and which even had in itself all the perfections of which I could have any idea, that is to say, in a single word, which was God." (p.55)

Now, I am someone that rejected religion many years ago, but various circumstances and changes in ones life and around one lead one to continually think and re-evaluate. I seek the truth, knowledge and wisdom - as Descartes did. And within this, my aim is also to make some break-throughs in my own thinking and writing.

So, we ponder and we think on.

But at this point I would once again, like to give great praise and credit to these great philosophers, who help us to get away from the rubbish and to think clearly and coherently. I do not know how some people manage to get by in life without reading and thinking about some of these great philosophers. But there you go.

Over the last couple of years or so, I have been really influenced, helped and inspired by 4 great philosophers, in particular - Marx (as always), Wittgenstein, Sartre and now Descartes.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Wise Man and the Foolish Man

Sometimes, these days, I find myself reflecting on various people's behaviour and having these words (see below) ringing in my ears. Now, these are the words to a Children's Christian Chorus that I used to sing at church, as a child - and we used to put actions with it all as well. As a child I just sang it and enjoyed it, but suddenly I realise just how poignant these words can be.

So, here it is:

The Wise Man and the Foolish Man

The Foolish Man built his house upon the sand,
The Foolish Man built his house upon the sand,
The Foolish Man built his house upon the sand,
And the rains came tumbling down.

The rain came down and the floods came up,
The rain came down and the floods came up,
The rain came down and the floods came up,
And the house on the sands fell down.

The Wise Man built his house upon the rock,
The Wise Man built his house upon the rock,
The Wise Man built his house upon the rock,
And the rains came tumbling down.

The rain came down and the floods came up,
The rain came down and the floods came up,
The rain came down and the floods came up,
And the house on the rock stood firm.

10 Most Lucrative Industries for Women

Tina Sans, from 'Online Degrees' emailed me about my 'Serendipitous Moments' blog and wondered whether I would be interested in including an item about an article that they posted on my blog.

The artile is entitled “10 Most Lucrative Industries for Women”. The message in the article is certainly not something that I agree with - that women have it all made today, that they have broken through the glass ceiling etc. However, I thought it might raise some eyebrows and some level of interest, so decided to blog it. So, here is the link:

Saturday, 15 October 2011




Discover the Writer within You – by taking part in our new CREATIVE WRITING Workshops!

Tuesdays, 4.00-6.00pm [11+] from 29th November 2011

Do you have a passion for writing, telling and sharing stories?

Have you ever wanted to be an author?

If so, then take part in this FREE Workshop to start your creative journey, whilst also improving your IT and literacy skills.

Novels, poetry, TV scripts, film scripts, plays, short stories or even comic books.

Set the stories of your imagination free!

IDEA: Library Learning Information

Idea Store
Chrisp Street
1 Vesey Path
East India Dock Road
E14 6BT
Tel: 0207 364 1506

Saturday, 8 October 2011




Thursday 13th October 2011

10.-00am - 12 noon

Looking to find your great grandmother?

Come to our workshop and use our free online Ancestry Library Edition to be able to trace your roots and find other family members!


Idea Store Chrisp Street

1 Vesey Path, East India Dock Road

London, E14 6BT

Tel; 020 7364 4332

Idea: Library Learning Information

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Learn to Sing

A friend of ours, asked us if we would advertise this 'Learn to Sing' advert for her, so here it is:

'Learn to Sing'

Have fun finding & developing your voice with an experienced singing teacher.

Ages 7+. All standards. Adult beginners welcome.
BMus (Hons), ARCM, ISM member. CRB checked.

Call 07714 268151
London based

15 of the First Female Professors in History

Jasmine Hall from Online Colleges emailed me saying that she liked this blog and would I be interested in posting a link to an article on their Online Colleges website, entitled
'15 of the First Female Professors in History'.

I thought it was an interesting read, so said I would be happy to blog it, so here is the link:

Friday, 26 August 2011

'The Moment' by Douglas Kennedy

I went into a Waterstones bookshop a few weeks ago, and browsing through the fiction shelves I decided to 'check out' the Douglas Kennedy books, to find out if he had written a new novel. And hey presto - he had. Sitting there on the shelf (and in paperback!) was:

'The Moment', published by Hutchinson in 2011.

Wow - a must buy. I took it over excitedly to the counter and purchased it right away. This is very rare for me; to follow a fiction author and to buy all of their latest books. But with Douglas Kennedy nearly every single book turns out to be an absolute winner; real page-turners; with wonderful, exciting and meaningful plots. Yes, I am now a devoted Douglas Kennedy fan!

And yes, indeed, 'The Moment' (Kennedy's 10th best-selling novel) was another gripping read; another real page-turner; another book that it was impossible to put down. Yes, Douglas Kennedy does it again and again and again.

As well as being great reads, Kennedy's novels also make many important and insightful social and political points. 'The Moment' carried on with this tradition, and it also had a philosophical dimension.

The philosophical dimension revolved around the concept of 'The Moment': around issues such as whether or not one should live in and for 'the moment'. The main character, Thomas Nesbitt falls in love straight away, but then tragedy hits. Was this because he had been living in 'the moment' or was it down to some other outside factors?

Then, there is also the value or otherwise of being 'spontaneous' and/or 'impetuous' - a topic that I discussed recently with two of our sons, who were quite cynical about it all.

Now, for me it has always been important, indeed necessary, to be rational, sensible and level-headed for much of the time, but that on occasion there is a definite need to break out of this type of mentality, and do something spontaneous, irrational and/or impetuous - i.e. 'living in the moment'. Enjoying life in the particular instant; being carefree; being out of character, perhaps; putting ones concerns and responsibilities to one side for a while. I see 'spontaneity', in particular as being something very positive in this regard. And here, my thoughts turn to D. H. Lawrence - another one of my favourite fiction authors.

Being impetuous can, of course, be taken the wrong way - not making sound and considered judgements etc. Indeed, in what I saw as being in an 'impetuous moment' I decided to start up this blog. That was a good thing, mind. But I was actually going to call it 'Impetuous Moments' but upon discussing it with Graham Coult, the editor of 'Managing Information' (who is keen on blogging), he suggested that 'Serendipitous Moments' might be a better name, as that is clearly positive. I thought that was a sound idea, so took it on board. But being impetuous can also be a good thing. We need to break out of the rat race type of mentality sometimes, that's for sure.

Indeed, important decisions can sometimes be made in 'the moment'. And moments of genius thinking can suddenly appear; the inspiration in the moment; thinking outside of the box and outside of the confines and convention of society; such moments need to be cherished, and wherever possible, preserved. But of course, big mistakes can also be made in 'the moment'.

So, anyway, Douglas Kennedy discusses 'The Moment' in the opening pages of his book. There is a discussion between two of the characters (between Thomas Nesbitt and his father) and this is how it goes:

'Because I worry I'm a 'not now' sort of person.'

'Why do you say that?'

'I can't live in the moment, I can't let myself be happy with where I am.'


'The moment...' I said, as if trying out the word for the first time.'It's a very overrated place.'

'But its all we have, right? This night, this conversation, this moment. What else is there?'

'The past.'

'I knew you'd say that - because that's your obsession. It's in all your books. Why 'the past', Dad?'

'It always informs the present.' " (p.7)

And so on and so forth. There is so much that could be said. The importance of being able to 'let go' and live in 'the moment'.

But there surely has to be more than just 'the moment'; there is the long-term view; the hopes and aspirations.

There are also the sociological terms; 'immediate gratification' and 'deferred gratification'. 'Immediate gratification' - more working class; 'living in the moment'; living in the here and now; enjoying life and not planning much for the future. As opposed to 'deferred gratification', a more middle class concept - planning careers, buying houses and working towards creating a secure and happy life for oneself etc. etc. The latter is also very important, otherwise things can go badly wrong!

And at the end of the book Kennedy returns to 'the moment' again. That quote is at the end of this blog.

Anyway, let's move on for now. Is it a good idea to outline the main plot? Probably not - I might spoil it for potential readers. So, rather I will just say that the novel combines a love affair with writing and other creative outlets, politics and philosophy and that it is really something. Delicious; captivating; enticing; can't put downable.

But there are a couple of other particular themes in the book that I would like to discuss a little more.

The opening few pages starts off with Thomas as a child, and this quote amused me. Thomas Nesbitt says:

"I was always the last kid chosen for teams at school. I always had my head in a book." (p. 29)

Well, that one is so very like me, I must say, and I suspect that this might have applied to Douglas Kennedy himself - i.e. liking books over team sports as a child. I hated PE at school; I was always the last one to be chosen for the horrible team sports, such as netball and rounders. And as for hockey - well, that was even worse. Good job that I also had a sense of the importance of being healthy, otherwise I might be a couch potato by now, she says laughing!

Anyway, I digress.

Then, on p. 16 we have Thomas Nesbitt as a child, wanting to go off and escape (away from his parents) - and so he decides to go off to the local library. I certainly know what he means on that score and where he is coming from. I frequently escaped home and went off to the local library as a child, and got myself some delicious stories to read. I wonder if Douglas Kennedy also felt like that as a child? I suspect that he probably did. Much of fiction writing comes from our own experiences. 'The Moment' for example, is set in Maine and Berlin and these are some of the places where Kennedy currently lives. Nowadays, he divides his time between living in London, Maine, Paris and Berlin. Cool places, eh!

Then, I thought a quote about creative works was also very powerful; a quote about creative works remaining with the creator. One of the characters in the book, Alastair (someone that Thomas is sharing a flat with) is an artist; whilst Thomas himself is a writer. Yes, many of the characters in Kennedy's books are writers, editors, journalists, painters etc - i.e. creative people. Anyway, here is the quote about creative works, with Thomas reflecting:

"That's the great consolation lurking behind all art: the fact that, during the act of creation, you have power over things. Once the painting is in the hands of your gallery owner - or your manuscript with your editor - you no longer own it or possess command over its destiny. But when you are at work, it's still all yours. You own it." (p. 108)

Douglas Kennedy sums up my thoughts and feelings on this one very well. When one is in the process of creating it is all very much ones own work; but once it is 'out there' it becomes, in one sense, something completely different. It is a strange feeling. Writing, keeping it close to ones chest - very important. But when it eventually goes 'out there' it becomes something else. It becomes transformed into something else. One feels differently about ones writing once it is 'out there'. One thinks about how other people might be interpreting and seeing the work for one thing; one looks at it through various lenses.

One also feels less attached to it in one sense. One does not know quite what will happen to the work, or what will come about as a result of it all. Glenn, for example, was invited completely 'out of the blue' to speak in Dublin earlier this year, leading on from his book 'The Battle of Seattle', which was published 10 years ago now. Seattle clearly must have very much inspired the Dublin folk - all the group had read the book! So, one never quite knows: as Douglas Kennedy says, one does not have 'command over its destiny'. The work also takes on another kind of form; it becomes more important in one sense.

And one certainly knows that one works is not going to be confined to the dustbin, which obviously scrawls on paper and/or screen can end up as, if one is not careful. But the best thing surely is to get the writing published. That way ones work can be taken more seriously and hopefully will be read by a wider audience. And for an artist, it is to exhibit and sell etc.

But of course, writing can be kept 'closer to ones chest' than paintings can. A painting would have to be hidden in a locked door, if one wanted to try to make sure that non-one saw the work in progress, as it were.

Anyway, enough reflections - let's move on.

The political dimension in the book was also fascinating and very gripping. These political issues clearly occupy Kennedy's mind quite a lot - put simply these are issues largely around communism versus capitalism. It seems to me that Kennedy hates the extremities of both, and that he is probably on the soft left. These themes pervade many of his novels.

Quite a lot of 'The Moment' deals with the bad communist regime, the STASI that there was in East Germany, during the Cold War, and how terribly it treated the main heroine, Petra Dussmann, who Thomas falls in love with, in 'the moment'.

Glenn and I are, of course, against capitalism; we do not accept the 'There Is No Alternative' philosophy; but the communist regimes that have existed so far, are clearly not the answer. We must persevere; exercise some patience; and aim to think and work towards creating a better, fairer and a kinder world for ourselves.

And I thought this quote was really something as well; the power of writing and all that. Here are Thomas Nesbitt's thoughts on writing:

"When I write, the world proceeds as I would like it to proceed. There is an order to things. I can add and subtract what I want to the narrative. I can create any denouement I desire...When I write there is an order to things. I am in control." (p.25)

I very much feel this; that when I write I bring order to things; I am in control; I know where I am going; I can make sense of things. And writing can also be therapeutic, of course.

There are also elements of the book that might be autobiographical, I think. The main character, Thomas Nesbitt, becoming a novel writer; up to now, having just written one non-fiction book on Egypt. And Douglas Kennedy himself wrote a book about the pyramids.

In some of Kennedy's previous novels it said that he was married, had two children, and was living in London. But in 'The Moment' there is no mention of his wife. I wonder if the jet-setting, successful life has taken its toll? Also, there is a part of him that is clearly very American (the fast pace in the novels etc), but there is a part of him that it also very critical of the American way of life, I think. Which no doubt partly helps to explain why he is currently living in 4 different locations!

And then there are the similarities between Douglas Kennedy and myself - that also interests me. We are both about the same age (he was born just a year before me); we both have 3 non-fiction books published; we both enjoy writing; we are both married; we both have children; we are both interested in politics and, as I say, I suspect that Kennedy is on the left; we are both critical of both capitalism and communism (as constituted so far); we are both interested in writing novels about writers and creators; we are both keen to include some politics and philosophical issues in our fiction writing; we are both interested in exploring the minds of talented, educated and troubled people. The artist, Alastair, in 'The Moment' for example, is a wonderful artist, but has personal issues - he is a gay drug addict. And so on and so forth.

As I say, Kennedy wrote 3 non-fiction books and now this is his 10th best-selling novel. And as I also say I have 3 non-fiction novels published and am now venturing into fiction. I wonder if I can follow a similar path to Douglas Kennedy? That would sure be wonderful. But I am a heavier writer than him; that has to be said and acknowledged.

I do, indeed, often find myself identifying with certain and various creative people - whether they be alive or dead. But there is something very special about identifying with a living person; one can see how they develop and progress; one can relate to the period that they are writing about - the simple fact of sending emails that are in Kennedy's novels, for example. One can feel it all so much.

My thoughts turn, yet again, to Michael Jackson. Douglas Kennedy helps to fill the gap left by Michael Jackson for me to some extent. I am very fortunate in that regard. I can also compare it all to where I personally am at.

Douglas Kennedy does also have a certain advantage for me, because my discovery of his artistic talent was much more personal. I mean, the world knew Michael Jackson, even though I did appreciate his brilliance in quite a solitary way. But anyway, Kennedy is not in the same league exactly as Michael Jackson, when it comes to world fame of course. I simply discovered Kennedy's work on my own by being attracted to one of his book covers in W. H. Smith, where the book was on display (a few years ago now). So, in this way, it is more personal for me (although not in other ways).

One could also make some interesting comparisons with Jean-Paul Sartre's work - Sartre who dealt with many philosophical issues in his novels. Now, Douglas Kennedy is not in the same league as Sartre, when it comes to depth of philosophical thinking of course. But even so, he makes many insightful philosophical and political points. And perhaps, in the future, his work will become deeper. I like that idea - so that he goes down in history as not only being a best-selling novelist, but also as a really classical novelist - i.e. so that his place in history is secured.

Personally, I am approaching the novel from the opposite angle, I think. I seem to be going in at the deep end; with moments of lightness. The exploration of many philosophical issues are absolutely key and crucial for me. But perhaps, in the future, I will also write some more lighter reads; or at least, that the balance will change.

Although, let's also give credit where it is due. The 'Independent on Sunday' has this to say about 'The Moment':

`Kennedy, like William Boyd and Paul Watkins, has always managed to walk that precarious tight-rope of credibility between the twin towers of popular and literary fiction.'

Yes, Kennedy does indeed combine popular and literary styles in his novel writing - a real achievement. And the fast pace (no doubt influenced by his Manhattan upbringing) and fascinating plots makes his books really gripping; real page turners. I certainly would not want that feel and pace to be lost or lessened. But on the other hand, I think Kennedy's books could be made richer by exploring the political and philosophical issues in some more depth and where they play more centre stage in the books. A difficult artistic accomplishment, but one that I am sure Kennedy is very capable of achieving. As Christian House in 'The Independent' on 8th May 2011 said:

"The Moment remains a great read but I can't help thinking there are better things to come from this fine raconteur, if he can only eschew the demands of his publishers."

Yes, a very good point that, I think.

Anyway, I am very much aiming to do both; to lessen the great divide between fiction and non-fiction, and where one can feed off and benefit the other. But that is not something that all that many people try to do in any really meaningful way.

And the 'Irish Times' has this to say about 'The Moment':

`Douglas Kennedy's 10th novel, The Moment, a tome running to almost 500 pages, is weighty enough to crush any doubts about this prolific author's status as a stylish popular novelist and a classy purveyor of the gripping yarn... It is the quality of evaluation, this conscious appraisal of unforeseen loss, of gallant naivety, of the bullish youthful belief in the right to happiness, that sets Kennedy's work apart from that of many other popular novelists... It is a gripping read and an honest attempt to address human frailty while playing out our minor destinies in the face of great love and desperate loss.' --The Irish Times

Douglas Kennedy concludes his novel talking philosophically about 'The Moment' again, saying:

"The moment.

The moment that can change everything. The moment that can change nothing. The moment that lies to us. Or the moment that tells us who we are, what we search for, what we so want to unearth...and possibly never will.

Are we ever truly free of the moment?"

Yes, 'The Moment'.

I also wrote a long piece about Douglas Kennedy's novels in October 2009, that is both on this blog and on our 'Flow of Ideas' website. I wrote, in particular, about the amazing ability Kennedy has to get into the minds of educated but troubled women - writing in the first person as a woman. Re-reading these novels, and writing this piece, really helped me leading on from the death of my father-in-law, two and a half years ago now.

Here is the link to my article:

And now Kennedy's novels are starting to be transformed into films and on to the stage. One is a French film that is based on 'The Big Picture' (a great read) and the other is 'The Women in the Fifth' which is being performed in the theatre.

And finally, here is a picture of Douglas Kennedy - wow!

Saturday, 28 May 2011



The time has come to make clear, or not as the case may be. Three years after Rhodes, Glenn gave a talk at GradCAM in Dublin on 25th May. This draws a line under the silence and long hair over this period, though long hair might be grown once more.

Taking stock and considering what next emerges will be a joint decision. Whatever is decided upon, we have confidence that the power of our project will be uncovered.

Glenn and Ruth Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas:

All that is Solid for Glenn Rikowski:

Tuesday, 24 May 2011



The Praxis and Pedagogy Group of GradCAM (the Graduate School of Creative Arts and Media) Dublin present:

Glenn Rikowski
“Capitorg: Education and the Constitution of the Human Contemporary Society”

Wednesday May 25th 2011
6.00 – 8.00pm
Henry Clarke Room, NCAD, 100 Thomas Street, Dublin

Our lives are increasingly constrained by the social relations that capital coordinates. The educational discourse of neoliberalism; promoting literacy for job opportunities, economic advancement, and individual success are of paramount importance to producing human capital rather than human beings. Neoliberal literacy includes training students and workers to accept “a new work discipline” and conditioning their will to maximise the accumulation of capital and wealth. As students increase their marketability, they are “always already shaped by the labyrinthine circuits of capitalist desire” (Peter McLaren and Ramin Farahmandpur, 2002)

We not just learning, teaching, and living in neoliberal capitalist societies, but are becoming “a new life-form: human-capital” through “the capitalization of humanity” (Glenn Rikowski, 2002).

Flyer for the event:

The Capitorg: (Many thanks to Soowook Kim: Glenn)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

'The Mayor of Casterbridge' and 'Jude the Obscure' by Thomas Hardy

I have always loved Thomas Hardy; the way he writes, his style of writing, the wonderful countryside, the beauty of Wessex, the characters and the characterisations etc., even though, he is a determinist and such awful things happen to so many good, albeit flawed human beings. Things just to be forever conspiring against many of the main characters in his novels (such as for The Mayor of Casterbridge, Michael Henchard, for 'Jude' in 'Jude the Obscure' and for Tess, in 'Tess of the D'Ubervilles); and this happens, no matter how hard they try and how good they aim to be. It all seems so unfair and unjust. But clearly, Hardy must have felt quite passionately that this is how life can often be in reality, and particularly for certain people, (and indeed, he is certainly right on that score, I think!). Many of us have suffered in this way (although Hardy is very extreme about it, it has to be said). Society can be very cruel. However, personally, I do like to try to look on the bright side, and to somehow think and hope that things will come good in the end. Well, I have to really, for my own survival. I couldn't carry on living from day to day otherwise!

Anyway, re-reading both 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' and 'Jude the Obscure' recently, I felt this even more passionately. In fact, I actually began to find the whole process of reading the books very draining; it was actually taking it out of me. The whole atmosphere, the whole way in which Hardy writes, leads one to think that the main characters are doomed. No matter how hard they try, one knows that in the end, they will lose out; that more bad things will happen to them rather than good, and that the bad things will triumph over the good. So, although I still found the books very enticing, I was not quite so sure that I always liked the feeling they were giving me - a feeling which when I first read the books, many years ago now, I actually felt quite OK with. In fact, I loved the feeling in many ways. I felt at home; I loved the sense of community that they engendered. But on the other hand, this time around, I found the way in which everything that the characters touched, how so many people that they associated with somehow seemed to end up being bad news for them, doing them harm in one way or another, was all very draining. This shows how we can change over time, I guess.

Also, the endings in both of the books are so terribly tragic (as is also the case in 'Tess of the D'Ubervilles' of course). Both Jude and Michael die comparatively young; they both die with more or less nothing; and all that after having tried to live decent (albeit not perfect) lives! Michael could, for example, have killed his good friend, Donald Farfrae, the person that he was so kind to and nurtured, who then in various ways started to take everything that Michael had. This included Donald becoming the Mayor of Casterbridge himself and marrying the 2 women that Michael loved; Lucetta and his daughter, Elizabeth-Jane; even though all this was not done through evil, malicious intentions by Donald. Anyway, Michael chose not to kill Donald of course. He also gave the love letters back to his one-time lover, Lucetta Templeman - letters that if discovered would have destroyed her reputation. Michael still wanted to marry her - but no, she decided to marry Donald. It all starts to go wrong, of course, from the day that Michael, in a drunken state, mistakenly sold his wife; and no matter how much good he tried to do, such as becoming the Mayor of Casterbridge itself, and trying to do some good for the people in the Casterbridge community, the odds are always stacked against him; fate had other plans for him.

And look at how tragic his final words are:
" 'Michael Henchard's Will'
That Elizabeth-Jane Farfrae be not told my death, or made to grieve on account of me.
& that I be not bury'd in consecrated ground.
& that no sexton be asked to toil the bell.
& that nobody is wished to see my dead body.
& that no murners walk behind me at my funeral.
& that no flours be planted on my grave.
& that no man remember me.
To put I put my name.
Michael Henchard"
Dear oh dear!

With Jude, in 'Jude the Obscure', Jude loved books and wanted to get himself an education. He goes to Christminster (rather like Oxford). But he mistakenly married Arabella before he went, and all that comes back to haunt him as the books progresses. He cannot get into university at Christminster (it is not in his class, his league). He falls in love with his cousin Sue Bridehead in Christminster, but they never formerly 'tie the knot' (even though Arabella had long since gone). They were frightened to commit, as they had both made bad mistakes in their previous marriages, Sue marrying someone that she did not love. But after the children die (the older killing the younger two and then himself thinking that they are too burdensome for Jude and Sue), Sue decides it all happened because Jude and her have been wicked, that they should not have lived togther, and that they should return to their original marriage partners. They do; they are unhappy and in the end Jude dies, with basically nothing.
So, Michael, Jude and Tess, all well-intentioned people, trying to lead decent lives, whilst at the same time making some human mistakes on the way, die relatively young and with nothing.
All so very tragic.
Of course, these stories are all very well-known. Still, it is useful sometimes to reflect.

Hardy's style of writing though is fantastic, it has to be said, and reminds me of how Jane Austen can rephrase things in a certain very effective, enticing and beautiful way. It is a rare gift. Reading 'The Hand of Ethelberta' by Thomas Hardy also brought home to me what an art such effective writing is. This was because this book fell seriously short; as it says in the Introduction, it is indeed 'the joker in the [Hardy] pack'. Perhaps, it would have been better if it had not been published. But I suppose it at least gives us an opportunity to compare and contrast, and to help us to appreciate a good novel from a poor one. This was probably a novel that Hardy should have realised was only in draft form, and needed to be edited, rephrased, reworked in various ways. So be it. It didn't happen. But it provides a useful illustration.

This will be my last blog on the novels that I read for the foreseeable future; and indeed, blogs on 'Serendipitous Moments' in general now, will be rare. Next, I need to concentrate on my own novels; on my own writing and on my own life. I do this by forward thinking; by being optimistic; by embracing life; by connecting with certain types of people and organisations and by making certain decisions. And by thinking in the opposite way to Thomas Hardy in many ways, in fact. By believing that no matter what obstacles one may be presented with, it is possible to find positive ways through, and to come out successfully and on top. Romantic thinking perhaps, but it is how I prefer to think and to be. And for me, it has certainly brought forth good results. We do what best suits us. And so for all these reasons, my energy must be conserved, so this door will now close, and will make way for another one to open.

I hope and trust that these blogs of mine on the novels that I read have provided some interest and enjoyment. Novels have been, are, and will always continue to be a very important part of my life. And on this note, I will leave the final few words to Lizzie in Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice', who says that:

"How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book!"
I could not agree more! There can, indeed, be no finer words in my book!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

'Girl Friday' by Jane Green

This book was OK, but I did not enjoy it as much as the other Jane Green books that I have read. But then again, perhaps, I am getting a little tired of her books or something. And of course, I have been very busy organising a book launch for my third non-fiction book on digitisation.
In 'Girl Friday' Kit splits with her husband Adam, but then a sister (Amanda) that she never knew she had appears on the scene, and goes off with Adam. There are also other sub-plots.
Whether I continue to blog the novels that I read remains to be seen.
I re-read 2 Thomas Hardy books recently, which led me to do some re-thinking; which I shall probably blog at some point.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

'Jemima J.' by Janet Green

'Jemima J.' by Janet Green (Penguin Books, London, 1998) - this was a very enjoyable read. It is about Jemima Jones, an overweight journalist, who is very attracted to her good-looking colleague Ben from the Kilburn Herald. But she's convinced he won't be attracted to her. She then goes on a very strict diet, really slims down, goes to America and gets attracted to another man - Brad. She thinks it is love, but then discovers that he is using her to keep his 'real' relationship going. Finallly, Ben comes back on the scene, they fall in love, and she goes back home to UK. The book helps to illustrate what an important part food, diet, how we think we look etc. plays in our lives.

A powerful, engaging read.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

'Darkest Before Dawn' by Katie Flynn

'Darkest Before Dawn' by Katie Flynn (Arrow Books, London, 2005) - another good read.

This revolves around the Todd family at the time of the 2nd World War. There is Martha and Harry Todd, with their 3 children, Seraphina, Angela and Eve (the first 2 names being very cherub-like names which was why the 3rd was called 'Eve' and not Cherub). You see the family go through various highs and lows in war time, with jobs and relationships etc. But the love and loyalty between them all remains strong, and finally we see Eve and Toby (after Toby originally went out with Seraphina) fall in love.

'Sweethearts' by Emma Blair

'Sweethearts' by Emma Blair (Sphere, London, 2007).

This was another good read; when I started reading it though, I realised that I had read it before. Still, I very much enjoyed reading it again.

The story revolves around two sisters, Lexa and Coredlia Stewart, and how they cope with life leading on from the death of their father. First of all, they tried to take over and run their father's fruit and vegetable business, but this became impractical, particularly given the prejudice against women. Then, they both get other jobs and fall in love, but inevitably there are various complications.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Invitation to a Book Launch for 'Digitisation Perspectives'


Digitisation Perspectives
Edited by Ruth Rikowski
Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 2011

ISBN 978-94-6091-297-9 (pbk); 978-94-6091-6 (hdbk);
978-94-6091-299-3 (e-book)
£35.00 (pbk); £75.00 (hdbk)

Part of Book Series:
‘Educational Futures: Rethinking Theory and Practice’
Series Editor: Michael A. Peters

Digitisation Perspectives will be launched on Wednesday 16th February 2011, 17.30 - 20.00
At: Wilkins Terrace Restaurant
University College London
Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT, England

Digitisation Perspectives includes contributions from 22 experts worldwide.

Foreword by Simon Tanner, Director Digital Consultancy, King’s College London, who says that the book: “…seeks to address and answer some of the big questions of digitisation…It succeeds on many levels…”

Topics covered include: electronic theses, search engine technology, digitisation of ancient manuscripts, citation indexing, reference services, digitisation in Africa, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, new media and scholarly publishing. The final chapter explores virtual libraries, posing some interesting questions for possible futures.





Chapter 1: The Rise of Digitization: An Overview - Melissa M. Terras
Chapter 2: Digital Libraries and Digitisation: an overview and critique –
Ruth Rikowski
Chapter 3: Digital Knowledge Resources – M. Paul Pandian
Chapter 4: Digitisation: research, sophisticated search engines, evaluation: all that and more – Ruth Rikowski


Chapter 5: Improving student mental models in a new university information setting – Alan Rosling and Kathryn Chapman
Chapter 6: Electronic Theses and Dissertations: promoting ‘hidden’ research – Susan Copeland
Chapter 7: Learning Systems in Post-Statutory Education – Paul Catherall
Chapter 8: Going Digital: the transformation of scholarly communication and academic libraries – Isaac Hunter Dunlap


Chapter 9: Hegemony and the Web: the Struggle for Hegemony in a Digital Age – Tony Ward
Chapter 10: Digital libraries: an opportunity for African education – Dieu Hack-Polay
Chapter 11: Critical Perspectives on Digitising Africa – by Leburn Rose


Chapter 12: Digital Library and Digital Reference Service: integration and mutual complementarity – Jia Liu
Chapter 13: The New Generation of Citation Indexing in the Age of Digital Libraries – Mengxiong Liu and Peggy Cabrera


Chapter 14: Building the Virtual Scriptorium – Tatiana Nikolova-Houston and Ron Houston
Chapter 15: SPARC: creating innovative models and environments for scholarly research and communication – Heather Joseph
Chapter 16: Impacts of New Media on Scholarly Publishing – Yehuda E. Kalay


Chapter 17: Meeting and Serving Users in Their New Work (and Play) Spaces – Tom Peters
Chapter 18: Virtual Libraries and Education in Virtual Worlds: twenty-first century library services – Lori Bell, Mary-Carol Lindbloom, Tom Peters and Kitty Pope


Cover designed by Victor Rikowski

Refreshments provided.

Confirmed speakers at the launch include:

An Introduction by Andy Dawson, Senior Teaching Fellow and MSc Information Science Programme Director, Department of Information Studies, UCL.

Ruth Rikowski is a Freelance Editor, commissioning books for Chandos Publishing, Oxford. She is an Associate of the Higher Education Academy and a Chartered Librarian. Ruth Rikowski is the author of Globalisation, Information and Libraries (Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2005) and the editor of Knowledge Management: social, cultural and theoretical perspectives (Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2007). She has also written numerous articles and given many talks; focusing in particular on the topics of globalisation, knowledge management and information technology. Ruth Rikowski is on the Editorial Board of Policy Futures in Education and Information for Social Change. The Rikowski website, ‘The Flow of Ideas’ can be found at and her blog, ‘Ruth Rikowski Updates’ is at

Paul Catherall is a librarian currently working at University of Liverpool, UK. Paul has worked in E-Learning and technical support roles over a number of years and his current role involves providing library services to students studying online. Paul also worked for several years as a college lecturer in Information Communications Technology. Paul is also undertaking a PhD within the area of E-Learning and is a graduate of Glynd┼Ár University, formerly the North East Wales Institute of Higher Education (B.A.) and John Moores University (M.A. Dist). Paul is also an associate of the Higher Education Academy and chartered member of Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). Paul has also been active in various CILIP affiliated groups, including the Career Development Group and is a member of the Editorial Board for the collective forum and journal Information for Social Change. Paul has authored various published journal articles and texts including a stand-alone book Delivering E-Learning for Information Services in Higher Education (Chandos 2005).

Julianne Nyhan – on behalf of Melissa Terras, who is a Senior Lecturer in Electronic Communication in the Department of Information Studies, University College London, and the Deputy Director of the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities. With a background in Classical Art History and English Literature, and Computing Science, her doctorate (University of Oxford) examined how to use advanced information engineering technologies to interpret and read the Vindolanda texts. She is a general editor of DHQ (Digital Humanities Quarterly) and Secretary of the Association of Literary and Linguistic Computing. Her research focuses on the use of computational techniques to enable research in the arts and humanities that would otherwise be impossible.

Places limited for the book launch: R.V.S.P:

Purchasing Digitisation Perspectives:

From Sense Publishers: