Tag Archives: drowsy afternoons

Living history

DSCN0935As I’m drowning in web taxonomy at the moment, let’s take time out to enjoy last weekend’s English Heritage Festival of History.

I joined 1,000 happy historic re-enacters in a field in Northamptonshire to watch a mini re-enactment of D-Day, be shown how a Sten gun worked and enjoy all the grisly details of Tudor-style judicial punishment – including hanging, drawing and, naturally, quartering. Oh, and some nice people enjoying some tea and cake.

Next year I’m planning to form a Journalism Re-Enactment Society, and set up an old-style print newsroom in the field, complete with copy editors, picture researchers and typesetters – and some grouchy bloke wearing a green eye-shade. 

Anyone interested, contact me through the blog. Seriously – I might even do this…

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Cornwall Unbound

This is what I’m dealing with at the moment. It beats newsletters about hedge funds. This is Mevagissey harbour. It’s very picturesque…

Megavissey

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Why library Quick Choice stacks suck

Just popped along to the otherwise excellent Shoe Lane Library in the City of London to see if I could find the latest Scarlett Thomas, or maybe something by Lauren Groff, whose story L. Debard and Aliette in The Atlantic‘s fiction issue a few years ago was just fantastic, I thought. 

Sadly, what I wanted wasn’t on the shelves – but what really bugged me was that the library is full of small display units marked “Quick Choice”, which are piled with books in no order whatsoever. Which means, of course, that if you can’t find your author on the alphabetised shelves you have to rifle through them all, charity shop-style, to see if the book you want is hidden under the latest Dan Brown. 

Which means, of course, that “Quick Choice” is not flaming quick at all – it just wastes time and adds frustration to your visit. 

So why do it? Someone, somewhere in library land must believe that people who go into a library (hmm – literate, book-reading people maybe?) are intimidated by the act of looking through, um, shelves of books for the author they want. Or maybe are so sheep-like that they don’t actually know what to read unless someone essentially chooses it for them (“Look, here are some books that won’t take long to choose!”).

The rot started at Waterstone’s in the ’80s of course – with their staff picks and groaning tables of three-for-two offers. The key difference is that Waterstone’s pays close attention to what it puts out on its tables – and also makes sure there’s at least one copy where it’s supposed to be: on the bookshelf, in case that’s where you, not unreasonably, look for it. 

Does anyone spend any time at all selecting the books for the “Quick Choice”® display at the library? Given that it looked more like some harassed staff member had just flung any old rubbish on them, I’m guessing not. Gah.

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Unmitigated blogging tags

It’s all-too easy to take this blogging nonsense too seriously – you know: try to burnish each post so that it flies off the Google listing straight into readers’ browsers and pushes you to the pinnacle of the Technorati rankings.

Which is why I always smile when I visit my pal Peter Ashley’s Unmitigated England blog [which I am happily going to pimp here].

He writes poetically and idiosyncratically about an England we half recognise – a mixture of the nostalgic and the fantastic, that may possibly have existed once in someone’s drowsy, mid-afternoon reverie. Perhaps in the 1930s.

He also never uses the same tag twice – preferring to treat web metrics with the contempt they often deserve. Visit Unexpected Alphabets No 8, for example, and you’ll see it tagged . And there’s not an example of any of these anywhere in the post. Meanwhile, the Old Gits post is labelled:  . Whatever they are.

Also, I notice from the blog, it was Len Deighton’s 80th birthday this week. Though he’s best known for his Harry Palmer novels, my favourite is the alternative history SS-GB. Many happy returns to him…

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