For the Love of Secondhand Books: A Continuation

A second meander around some nearby bookshelves, which are almost ready for Christmas.

I’m almost ready for Christmas here. To my partner Sarah’s amusement, once I’d finished my work on Friday, I went down to the Oxfam shop nearest to where we live and did what she calls my Christmas shopping. Mostly second hand books, and quite a few. Enough to see me through the quiet days when, like the majority of us, I’ll pause from my work and enjoy myself. Which in my case means I’ll be reading.

Not all the time of course. There’ll be some talking, quite a lot of walking around, some writing maybe, and of course quite a lot of music. But to quote Devon Sproule, one of my favourite songwriters:

“I’ve got the bookshelves loaded”

So all is calm, all is bright and, as I said, I’m almost ready for Christmas.

Not that I’m not reading already of course. It’s been the weekend and so the first of Friday’s purchases has already been read. Much like ‘Stoner’ by John Williams, the last secondhand book I wrote about on here, this one is an apparently quiet story about a seemingly unremarkable life that’s not so unremarkable at all. Continue reading “For the Love of Secondhand Books: A Continuation”

For the Love of Secondhand Books: A Digression

It’s a perfect example of what it is, a secondhand book. It’s got other well used books on its cover, it’s on a ‘vintage’ imprint and I bought it from a secondhand  bookshop.

It is also, by the way, a perfect book. Tom Hanks says it as well as I ever could in his review quote inside the cover:

“It’s simply a novel about a guy who goes to college and becomes a teacher. But it’s one of the most fascinating things that you’ve ever come across.”

Read that aloud, please, in your best dry, wry and enquiring Tom Hanks voice and I think you might both get the idea and want the book. Which you can have any day soon if I give you its catalogue number: Continue reading “For the Love of Secondhand Books: A Digression”

Urban Goals and Holiday Reading

Haven’t been here for a while, to Liverpool Central Library.But two special reasons to come today. First to see a new exhibition of photographs by someone that I ‘know’ in a Twitter sort of way. And second, to stock up with some holiday reading  as I’m taking some time off work.

Photos first then. The exhibition’s by my Twitter friend @UrbanGoals, and is in fact called “Urban Goals.” Turns out that’s not my friend’s actual name though.

Introducing Michael Kirkham.

Who looks, from his photo, to be a boxing referee. This exhibition though is about football. Not the glossy corporate world of Premier League football, but real football in the real places where we live.

Urban Goals on walls near you.

Continue reading “Urban Goals and Holiday Reading”

From the Planet Zogg: The Libraries of a Different World

Our world is full of stories, of our lives, our places and the things that have happened. Stories are essential to us in fact. They’re where we keep our memories and the valuable things we’ve learned as humans in all the generations we’ve been alive on this planet. So we’re used to the phrase ‘Let me tell you a story’ introducing a tale of something that’s already happened. Not this one though.

This one was made up in a particular situation, all situations being particular, where a group of people working on the futures of our public libraries were stuck. So, stuck as we were in the beauties and nostalgia of the libraries of the Planet Earth, the libraries we knew, we sat down instead and imagined this story of the libraries we didn’t know, far far away from here on the Planet Zogg.

So let me tell you a story… 

 

livlib08

“The Libraries of a Different World”

The TransLibs

It was like this, we knew things were going to change for us in a big way and a few of us got together to discuss it all before we left. Before we left for the new planet.

You’ve probably heard this basic background a thousand times before, but just in case this story ever gets picked up, say in a library somewhere because, well, this part of the story is going to be mainly about libraries, here it is. Maybe for someone who’s never heard of Earth, never mind Zogg, here’s the background once again. Continue reading “From the Planet Zogg: The Libraries of a Different World”

The kindness of public librarians

A librarian at work.
A librarian at work.

I’ve often written about public libraries but not for some time. I have been spending a lot of time in them though lately, as I’ve been writing a book. It’s a book on the 50 year history of Liverpool Housing Trust, one of the ‘Cathy Come Home’ era housing associations and a place where I first volunteered and then worked in myself for 20 years from 1975. No doubt when the book comes out, which will be soon, little hints of what’s in it or long bits of what turned out to be too long to go into it will appear on here.

I’m not writing it on my own mind. My friend and ‘proper’ writer and publisher, Fiona Shaw of Wordscapes is doing much more of the writing than me and also editing the whole thing. But we divided up the bits we’d do and mostly write on our own, getting together occasionally to see where we’re up to.on-national-libraries-day22

And I’ve done most of my own writing of it in public libraries. In our grand and lovely Central Library when I wanted to lift my spirits and get going on what felt like a big project. Then most often in my local library at Allerton Road as I’ve settled into the work and enjoyed every minute of it.

Enjoyment much helped, as it’s turned out, by the kindness of public librarians. Continue reading “The kindness of public librarians”

In Liverpool: On National Libraries Day

On National Libraries Day25Well where else would I go on such a day?

I’ve spent the last couple of Saturdays working in my local library. I love to go there when I want to really concentrate on writing something. I love too the serendipity of finding what I didn’t even know I was looking for when accidentally sat next to an unfamiliar bit of library. These are sacred places.

But today I decided on a change. Decided I’d get the bus down to Liverpool Central Library. The new camera’s not been there yet so is naturally keen on a good look round.

Off the bus at Lewis's. Its endless renovation continues.
Off the bus at Lewis’s. Its endless renovation continues.
Lime Street looking particularly forlorn on a slate grey day.
Lime Street looking particularly forlorn on a slate grey day.

Don’t worry, we are walking towards the library. I’m ‘putting it in context!’ Continue reading “In Liverpool: On National Libraries Day”

A Year in 12 Photographs

Now that 2014 is over, here’s an attempt to sum up my own past year in 12 photographs.

Over the year there were 160 new blog posts and most of them contained new photographs as I wandered around, mostly, Liverpool with my camera clutched permanently in my right hand. Here’s what I saw.

The 472 to Heswall.
The 472 to Heswall.

This was the year of ‘Great Bus Journeys of the World’ all made possible, or at least cheaper, by me being awarded the freedom of my City and beyond, by way of a bus pass. So as soon as I got it, late in January, I began a new kind of exploring. Here I’ve made my first ever trip through the Mersey Tunnel on a bus. Getting on at Cook Street, where the 472 starts, to make sure I can get the front seat upstairs and get the best views through the tunnel and across the Wirral. As thrilled as any child.

The view from Ward 7Y.
The view from Ward 7Y.

I spent the early part of the year being tested and diagnosed with a relatively rare blood disorder, polycythaemia, most likely caused by a genetic defect. This included regular visits to the Royal Hospital where dedicated staff perform their daily miracles in an architectural monstrosity – with great views. Continue reading “A Year in 12 Photographs”

But Beautiful

Wavertree Library01City Council consultation on Monday 6 October, 6pm to 8pm, The Conference Centre at LACE, Croxteth Drive, Sefton Park, L17 1AA – this will be to discuss Sefton Park and Wavertree libraries.

In 1958 Billie Holiday recorded ‘Lady in Satin’, her last but one LP and the final one to be released during her lifetime. It divides opinion still, many feeling that her wonderful voice is too far gone by this time to be a pleasure to listen to any more. I love it though, and consider it a late work of great dignity. A particular favourite track is the Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen song ‘But Beautiful’ where she sings these lines of aching longing and regret. They came back to me a few days ago when Sarah and I were standing inside Wavertree District Library:

“And I’m thinking
If you were mine
I’d never let you go,
And that would be
But beautiful, I know.”

The last time I’d been here it was a forlorn place. Half of it was taken up by a City Council ‘One Stop Shop’ of various council services. And what was left of a library was shoved to one side, containing few books, all displayed with their backs to the wall. It felt to me then like it was in its late days.Wavertree Library02

Now it may really be in its late days, it’s in the list of eleven libraries down for possible closure as one result of the Government’s ‘austerity’ policy. But walking in we immediately see that it has flowered again wonderfully. Continue reading “But Beautiful”

Wallasey: A Tale of Two Libraries

Having been keeping a very careful eye on Liverpool’s libraries over the past few months, I decided I go and see how our neighbours are getting on with their’s over the water in Wallasey.Wallasey24I don’t know Wallasey very well at all. I know New Brighton, which is part of it, and was last there a few weeks ago, but to get to know as much of the rest as I reasonably can in an afternoon I decide to walk around, almost aimlessly, other than knowing I’ll try and find a couple of libraries in the course of my wandering.

I think walking is the only way to really get to know a place. To see it and feel it and work out how it fits together and how it’s doing. So let’s go.

But I can't walk on water, so have to walk through town first.
But I can’t walk on water, so have to walk through town first.
Then get on a bus, the 437.
Then get on a bus, the 437.
And through the tunnel to Wallasey.
And go through the tunnel to Wallasey.

Continue reading “Wallasey: A Tale of Two Libraries”