09 +00002014-04-28T20:31:50+00:0030 2012 § Leave a comment
This is the most magnificent campaign against library cuts in Lincolnshire and I’m delighted to give it my support. Please add yours and support @savelincslibs to keep libraries in communities.
[NOTE: journalists & bloggers are free to use images on this post to report on the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign and library campaigning in general]
On Tuesday (April 8th) a delegation from Save Lincolnshire Libraries (including six children) travelled to London by coach with two objectives in mind. Four and a half hours there, four and a half hours back… but completely worth it.
Firstly, there was a lobby of various MPs, hosted by Nic Dakin MP for Scunthorpe. A number of MPs were invited to meet campaigners in The Peel Room at the Houses of Parliament from 12.30 to 2.30, including party leaders, ministers and their shadows from DCMS and Education. All Lincolnshire MPs and various others were asked to attend. You can follow this link to read the campaigners briefing notes for this lobbying event (summarising the campaign story so far) or just read on to see what happened on the day…
Secondly, six campaigners took a…
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09 +00002014-04-14T13:20:21+00:0030 2012 § 5 Comments
Ten days ago, I went to Greenwich University to discuss a project for a new journal which will allow students to publish articles alongside academics and get equal recognition for their work. This was exciting in itself and an initiative which is greatly overdue: for as long as I can remember, academics have delighted to ‘co-author’ works with students and grab most of the credit as a reward for their ‘names’, while allowing the students themselves to do the donkey work (although I should add that there are some honourable exceptions and also that one or two other journals already exist that are published along the same principles). I shall probably write more about this project when it is up and running.
Greenwich University is a vibrant place. It has long been the home of the Maritime College: there have been naval buildings there since Elizabethan times. Adjacent is Deptford, famous for its docks and as the place where Christopher Marlowe, allegedly a spy for the Elizabethan government, was murdered. Greenwich itself is the final resting place of the Cutty Sark. The university dates from the mid-nineteenth century, though some of the buildings are much older. It stands proudly against a steep curve of the Thames, alongside a stretch of the river that is uncompromisingly wide and majestic. This is frequented by both barges and pleasure boats, which reminded me a little of the river traffic in Shanghai.
The university is housed in a series of white stone buildings with evocative names such as Queen Anne Court, Queen Mary Court, King William Court and the Dreadnought Library. Much more recently, one of the buildings has been dedicated to the memory of Stephen Lawrence. There is a maritime museum, admission to which is free, and across the road another museum which is currently hosting an exhibition of J.M.W. Turner’s sea paintings. Unfortunately, I had no time to visit either of them, but I shall be returning later in the summer and plan to be much better-organised then.
I know from personal experience that, as well as being cosmopolitan, Greenwich students are extremely switched on, because for the last several years I have recruited student panels from among their ranks for some of the conferences and seminars that I have organised. Like students everywhere, they seem to prefer to wear a uniform. This spring, for the girls, it is cropped tops and pale (very short) denim shorts, these worn with thick tights and brightly-coloured canvas ankle boots, and, for the boys (many of whom sport Pete Doherty-style pork pie hats), skinny jeans with long plaid shirts.
Not to be confused with the ‘real’ students was the seemingly endless procession of secondary school parties that were doing a tour of the campus and its attractions. Each was (more or less) in the care of two or three harassed teachers, though the pupils were without exception doing their best to ignore the latter; they were slouching along at a snail’s pace, spread out across the pathways two or three abreast, just like the pupils I have seen dawdling to and from our local secondary school. The real-deal students, by contrast, were marching along rapidly and purposefully, busy, busy, busy, laughing and chatting, with too much to do but taking it all in their stride. A couple of years ago they were probably staunch members of the slow-stroll brigade. Is university really so effective at inspiring them to action, I wonder, or are those having to endure the ignominy of supervision just trying to drive their teachers berserk by taking the longest possible time to trail from A to B?
Despite the somewhat alarmist weather reports about the ‘Stage 10’ smog in London which I heard being discussed on the Tube and elsewhere during my journey, it was a beautiful, clear, sunny spring day in Greenwich and at least five degrees warmer than the dank and misty Yorkshire that I’d left at 7 a.m. Spring may be coming slowly, if surely, to the North, but I can bear witness that in London and environs it is now full-on.
My meeting about the journal slid by all too quickly, three hours gone in an Augenblick. I’d hoped to have time for at least a quick peek at the Cutty Sark before I left, but my watch told me that I had less than an hour to get back to King’s Cross if I were not to endure the combined wrath and triumph of the ticket collector as he rejected my fixed-time ticket and forced me to buy another. I’ll therefore have to save that pleasure for next time, too.
However, as I was waiting at the traffic lights in one of the busy main streets that threads through the old town of Greenwich, I happened to look back and see the masts of this historic ship rising surreally above the buildings and a row of buses, as if it had just joined the queue of local available public transport. I took a quick snap before I hurried on.
09 +00002014-04-01T10:33:47+00:0030 2012 § 4 Comments
We celebrated the start of spring this weekend by paying our friends Priscilla and Rupert a visit. We were looking forward to seeing their new-born lambs. They have eight ewes altogether, of whom four have borne a total of nine lambs (three sets of twins and one of triplets). They don’t know whether the other ewes are in lamb or not – apparently it is very difficult to tell whether a ewe is pregnant unless she undergoes the ovine equivalent to a scan, which for most farmers would be prohibitively expensive. (It occurs to me that an enterprising entrepreneur should come up with a ewe’s pregnancy testing kit!)
Whether or not the remaining ewes have been successfully impregnated, one thing is certain: Terence the Tup is in clover. Some of my readers will remember that Terence had a few runs-in with a mating harness at the beginning of the winter. Once Rupert had finally figured out how to put it on, it chafed Terence, so he was allowed to step out of it forever. This meant that his virility could not be measured. All that Priscilla and Rupert could do was wait and hope that he had triumphed.
Terence takes over the story:
You wouldn’t believe this, but that Rupert has fitted up a telescope in his bedroom so that he can spy on me. Prurient, that’s what I call it. If a ram tried that, he’d be locked up. It’s bad enough trying to get a bit of privacy when you’ve eight ladies to look after, without him butting in. He says he’s doing it on humanitarian grounds. Pah!
Everyone seems to think that I’ve struck it lucky here, that it’s an easy billet for me, with just eight women and no other blokes trying to muscle in. I’ll have you know it’s not a straightforward as it looks. For one thing, some of my girls are quite flighty. They’ll argue with each other over who should be next for my favours and then, when I pick one and take her side, they’ll all turn on me. Sometimes, that means I don’t get anywhere with any of them and I have to wait until things have settled down before I try again. Then Rupert comes out (having, I imagine, been glued to his bedroom window – you’d think he’d have better things to do) and says he’ll get rid of me if I don’t perform. You can’t win.
And another thing… Rupert and Priscilla bought special fodder for the ewes once they thought they were in lamb, to give them the right nourishment. I’d no objection to that, but they were downright stingy when it came to letting me eat it as well. I didn’t get any of it ‘officially’. They didn’t seem to understand that I was as busy making lambs as the ladies were – busier, in fact. I’m a dad of nine now, and counting, not just a mum of two or three. They should have seen that I needed the victuals to keep my strength up.
I found a way round this eventually. I decided to cold-shoulder any lady who wouldn’t share her provender with me. It worked a treat: they all gave me some. They might not have minded ganging up on me sometimes, but if there was one thing that none of them could stand, it was being ignored. I should have tried it in the first place: they’d all have been in the club in no time. Rupert thinks that I’m getting a bit fat now, but what does he know about BMIs for sheep?
Once the lambs started to come, though, I got the boot. Seriously, it’s the truth: I know it sounds outrageous. They used some hurdles to fence off part of the field to segregate me from the girls, and fastened me in with one of last year’s lambs, ‘to keep me company’. Little whippersnapper. I give him a good head-on crack, skull to skull, whenever I think no-one’s looking. Fortunately, the telescope has been trained on the girls who’ve yet to give birth, so Rupert doesn’t see it if I’m careful. I ask you, though, what kind of maternity unit does he think he’s running here? I’m certain there are no telescopes involved in ‘Call the Midwife’.
By the way, eight of my nine are boys; they could use me in China. ‘Ramming it’, I call it.