Library Closures in the UK

You might know that in Fife there has been a campaign to keep libraries open, sixteen of them were singled out for the axe. The campaign has failed as although the closures have been postponed it’s only for a short time. One library might have a future but it is all very much pie in the sky at the moment with councillors suggesting that the library could move to a nearby high school. That’s a suggestion that seems to pop up frequently but I can’t see how that can work as schools are not the sort of places that should be open to random people walking off the street into them. The library access could end up being a honey pot for weirdos intent on getting a hold of youngsters for nefarious purposes.

Anyway, it’s a problem over the whole country and not only in the UK. You can read about the occupation of the Carnegie Library in Lambeth here.

Apparently the coucil in Lambeth plan to change the library building into a gym, with a few shelves of books in it, but there will be no librarians on the premises. The books are obviously just a sop to local readers and will be of very little use. Some readers have occupied the building. According to the BBC 350 libraries have closed recently in the UK and 8,000 library jobs have been lost. Andrew Carnegie will be birling in his grave, so if you’re in the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown – that’s what the funny noise is! Honestly, that’s where he is buried, he was in the US when he died, so no Skibo Castle resting place for him. It’s such a pity that he didn’t stipulate that the buildings he donated for libraries must not be used for any other purposes – or maybe he did and they are just ignoring his wishes.

The libraries in Fife are trying all sorts to generate some income, selling bits and pieces, including coffee. But what sort of person thinks that the profit from libraries can be counted in monetary values? Surely the gains are far more important than filthy lucre.

There’s a Friends of Carnegie Library Facebook page which you can see here if you’re interested in seeing how the campaign and library occupation is going.

It enrages me that people who read are always seen as being of no importance compared with others. Why is it seen as being necessary to have a gym in the area? We all know what happens in gyms – some people join in enthusiastically for a few weeks and then never darken the door again. It’s simpler to get fit on your own, just eat less and move more – walk.

I noticed that in the Glenrothes area of Fife the council workers are busy building cycle paths, no doubt at great expense, I’d really like to know how much it’s all costing. I just wish that the library users in Fife had as much get up and go – or should I say sit down and stay – as the readers in Lambeth have.

I’m Back (I think)

Whilst some necessary work was being done on ‘Pining’ I’ve not been having a rest. We decided to bite the bullet and start painting the hall and stairs. We’ve had the paint for months and have just been putting it off, because we knew that as always – the house would turn into a bomb site, with furniture and picture frames all over the place, not to mention ladders and paint pots.

Anyway, we’re doing it a bit at a time, the lower hall first, two coats of paint called hot sand  which as usual, turned out not to be quite what I expected it to be, but luckily I like it. It looks like a sort of creamy colour on the pot but it is more a buttery yellow – or ahem sand colour. I think in future I really should ignore the colour on the paint pot and just choose going by the name as that is always more accurate.

Today we gave the walls at the stairs two coats and all the many prints are back on the walls. Tonight I managed to get half of the upper hall done, I suspect it’ll look patchy in the light of day but it won’t take long to give it another quick coat tomorrow morning, then we’ll have reached the worst task, two bookcases will have to be emptied so we can get the rest of the hall finished off.

Meanwhile as I/we’ve been doing that, the news has been full of yet another referendum. At least this up and coming EU referendum has a fairly short time to run, compared with the Scottish independence one anyway.

All the complete lunatics are coming out for Brexit. I think that they might think that if the UK leaves the European Union then things will go back to how they were in the days of empire. The EU is far from perfect, but it’ll end up being more expensive for us to leave than it is just paying into it, and whatever – we would still have to do everything by the EU rules if we want to trade with them.

I have been having a few good laughs though- as whenever they ask any EU migrants what their opinions are – they say that they should stop any more migrants coming in to Britain. There’s nothing like pulling up the drawbridge after you get in I suppose!

Tonight I didn’t even bother to watch the 10 pm news, and we have all the way until the 23rd of June to go. I’m referendum sick already and if I caught a glimpse of Donald Trump on the news then it would be more than I can stand. It seems that the lunatics are planning to take over the asylums, both sides of the pond.

Me, I’m just going to ignore the lot of them, as there’s absolutely nothing to be done about it – there’s just no point in worrying!

Library Closures in Fife – The Battle Commences

We went along to a meeting in the Salvation Army hall in Glenrothes last Tuesday, the meeting was about the intended closures of 16 libraries in Fife. I was quite amazed at the turn out, there were over 100 people there, much more than the organisers had hoped for. The very definitely ‘not bad’ author James Robertson spoke of what libraries mean to him. If you haven’t already read his books – you should.

There’s real anger amongst locals, especially when we realised that as usual the council has a completely different idea of the word ‘consultation’. In their dictionary it means ‘cut and dried’ or fait accompli if you want to be cosmopolitan about it. There’s always more than a hint of The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy about these so-called consultations in my past experience. All of the community councils are closed over the summer and their next meetings are scheduled to take place after the ‘consultation’ period. Mobile libraries have been suggested as replacements for areas where libraries are to be closed. However they are also planning to get rid of one of the three mobile libraries which Fife own, so how the remaining two are supposed to cope with the extra work I have no idea.

I was vaguely aware of the words Cultural Trust being used in recent times but I didn’t really realise what it was. It seems to me that Fife Council have handed over the running of the libraries to this third party as a way of dodging the flak when cut backs are mooted. They can wash their hands of the whole thing and say – it’s nothing to do with us, it’s the Cultural Trust who say these places must be closed.

To add insult to injury it transpires that the paltry sum of £21 per head of population in Fife is all that is being spent on library funding at the moment. Considering the service given by the local libraries that’s what I call an absolute bargain already. How anyone can think of spending even less on what is an essential service is beyond me.

It seems that borrower numbers have been looked at and the powers that be have come to the conclusion that the libraries under threat of closure are not worth the cost of keeping open. In these days of austerity with huge unemployment in Fife, society can’t afford NOT to keep libraries open. It’s as if the people who have made the decision to close libraries have no idea themselves of the roles which a modern library fulfills.

Apart from the computers which are vital for people who can’t afford one of their own, there are also job clubs which meet in the libraries, a vital link for people desperately trying to find work. Those people may never borrow books so they don’t appear on any borrowing statistics but they need the libraries more than anyone.

Modern society can be a lonely place for a lot of people, the elderly in particular and the libraries are lifelines for people who might never speak to a living soul otherwise.

In another place and time I worked in a large county library, one of the many Andrew Carnegie libraries, a large Victorian building which had been designed to accommodate a large reading room. In the winter time I would say that half of the reading room users were people coming in to get out of the cold, and who would grudge them that? Not me anyway. I suspect the same is true now, especially among the unemployed and disabled.

The extra pressure which would be put on to the remaining libraries would be intolerable if any libraries were closed, the library in Glenrothes town centre is very small and the computers are always all occupied, there must be some sort of time limit to people’s use of them. There’ll be queues of people waiting to get on to a computer.

Many of the libraries under threat are in village locations, places which already have very little in the way of amenities. Women are often stuck there with no way of travelling elsewhere as public transport is dire/non existent or very expensive, especially if they are having to take children on buses to visit a library.

As it happens I’m reading George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier at the moment, written in 1934 he mentions using the libraries, and despite living conditions and life in general being dire for the ordinary working person, there was no mention of libaries being closed down. They obviously had more sense back then.

If you want to help with the campaign to keep the 16 threatened libraries open, please sign the petition.

Word Origins and the NHS

There was a interesting article in the Guardian G2 section a week or so ago about words and their origins. Did you know that the word chortle was created by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass? He blended chuckle and snort to come up with that one.

We have Dr Seuss to thank for the word nerd. There are lots more in the article and if you’re interested you can read the full article here.

And if like me you’ve been exasperated by the constant slagging off which the National Health Service has been getting over the past few years you will be pleased to see that the NHS has been declared the world’s best healthcare system by an international panel of experts. You can read the article here.

Sadly the powers that be have been taking every opportunity to attack the jewel in our crown. Obviously they intend to say that the system is broken beyond repair and will use that as an excuse to sell the NHS off.

Nothing is perfect but I know plenty of people who have had wonderful care from the NHS and also know people who have been completely let down by private care. They are after all only interested in making money out of you.

Good Morning Britain by Aztec Camera and Scottish Independence

Well the date has been set for the Scottish Independence referendum, it’ll take place on 18th, September 2014. Already there have been quite a few programmes on about it with talking heads all trying to get us to do whatever it is they want. It’ll be interesting to see how the campaign unfolds. One thing I do know for sure – if we are inundated by Tory toffs telling us what to do – it’ll be fatal for the union!

Apparently most women are undecided, me included and I suspect I might still be undecided when I walk into the voting booth to cast my vote. I must admit that I’m nostalgic for a Britain which doesn’t actually exist any more, which you probably guessed from all the old books which I read. Just as a matter of interest, as we’re all obsessed with the weather in the UK, according to Angela Thirkell’s books the summers weren’t any better way back in the 30s,40s and 50s. I know, that’s me going off at a tangent again, it’s just that it’s so much colder here than it should be at this time of the year and we’ll probably have a white Easter!

Anyway, I like Aztec Camera, a Scottish band from the 1980s. Have a listen to Good Morning Britain, the lyrics are definitely not upbeat, but the tune is. The film running behind them is interesting.

Songwriters: FRAME, RODDY
Words and music by roddy frame

Jock’s got a vote in parochia
Ten long years and he’s still got her
Paying tax and and doing stir
Worry about it later.
And the wind blows hot and the wind blows cold
But it blows us good so we’ve been told
Music’s food ’til the art-biz folds
Let them all eat culture.

The past is steeped in shame,
But tomorrow’s fair game,
For a life that’s fit for living
Good morning britain.

Twenty years and a loaded gun
Funerals, fear and the war ain’t won
Paddy’s just a figure of fun
It lightens up the danger.
And a corporal sneers at a catholic boy
And he eyes his gun like a rich man’s toy
He’s killing more than celtic joy
Death is not a stranger.

Taffy’s time’s gonna come one day
It’s a loud sweet voice and it won’t give way
A house is not a holiday
Your sons are leaving home neil.
In the hills and the valleys and far away
You can hear the song of democracy
The echo of eternity
With a rak-a-rak-a feel.


From the tyne to where to the thames does flow
My english brothers and sisters know
It’s not a case of where you go
It’s race and creed and colour.
From the police cell to the deep dark grave
On the underground’s just a stop away
Don’t be too black, don’t be too gay
Just get a little duller.

But in this green and pleasant land,
Where I make my home, I make my stand
Make it cool just to be a man,
A uniform’s a traitor.
Love is international
And if you stand or if you fall,
Just let them know you gave your all,
Worry about it later.

NHS Reform!!

Do you remember those Conservative adverts in the run up to the last election The NHS Will Be Safe in Our Hands – or words to that effect? Nobody really believed it, which is probably one of the main reasons why the Tories didn’t actually win the election. Not that you can believe that, given the way things have gone, with their Lib-Dem coalition partners rolling over and not doing what they should be doing – which is to save us from the worst excesses of the lunatic right wingers.

I happened to be working in the NHS the last time the Conservatives got into power (Thatcher) and in no time flat they had their claws on the Health Service and were busy ‘reforming’ away like mad. This meant that one whole tier of the NHS was abolished and thousands lost their jobs. At the time I was running the library in an NHS county HQ and obviously that was deemed to be something which was completely unnecessary. I actually think that the politicians must have thought that it was a library full of novels, rather than the medical books and journals which furnished the shelves.

So at great cost people were put out of work, and here we are 30 years on and the Tories are doing exactly the same thing again. The reorganisation is going to cost £billions and it will result in a worse service and is no doubt the preliminaries of the Health Service being privatised in the end.

There is definitely waste in the NHS as there is with any large organisation but the way to deal with it is to stop tinkering and slashing services and just identify where things could be improved and do it.

Will the Lib-Dems wake up and do the decent thing – or are they too feart (frightened) of Flashman and the rest of the bullies? The people who do not support Cameron wholeheartedly have not even been invited to any discussions. The word ‘fascists’ comes to mind.

I’m just glad that all this nonsense seems not to be going ahead in Scotland, but it doesn’t stop me from thinking about our ‘cousins’ in England.

Riots in England

I did predict rioting this summer in a previous post but I must admit that I didn’t think they would take the form that they have. I thought it would be like the riots in the early 1980s which were the result of the policies of that ghastly disgrace of a woman who went by the name of Margaret Thatcher.

Mind you I think that if you look back to those days when she was going about telling us all that there was no such thing as society then it’s quite clear that yet again we can lay the blame at her door. I’m making absolutely no excuse for the thugs and thieves who have been causing mayhem on the streets of various cities in England over the past few nights but a culture of greed and corruption has been nurtured over the past 30 years or so especially in the ‘institutions’ of banks, Parliament and the metropolitan police and youngsters can see that those who already have – get even more.

When we have people like David Cameron as our Prime Minister and Boris Johnson as the Mayor of London, and we all know how badly they behaved when they were young, then it’s difficult to listen to them condemning the behaviour of thugs when they themselves were thugs as youngsters. The only differences between Cameron et al is the fact that they were from wealthy families and when as members of the Bullingdon Club they trashed The Ritz and thieved from Fortnums, their parents were able to pay for the damage and for some reason wealthy people get off with it. They aren’t seen as thugs but just young men up to ‘high jinks’.

Almost the very first thing which Thatcher did when she got into power was to strengthen the police force and pay them more money. It quickly became clear that this was so that she would have them completely on her side when she came to tackle the miners and close all of the mines down. So when David Cameron announced that he was cutting the police force I was absolutely gobsmacked. He might call himself ‘son of Maggie’ but he didn’t learn much from her. It’s obvious that the police decided that they weren’t going to do much to stop the trouble on the streets. Why would they when they don’t feel that their jobs are safe? It was in their best interest to step back and look overwhelmed, in the hope that there would be an outcry about the lack of policing and Cameron would have to do yet another U turn and cancel the cuts to the police force.

There hasn’t been any trouble in Scotland and that’s probably because they don’t want to be seen as following in the footsteps of anyone in England. The same thing happened when English football so-called supporters were famous for being hooligans. There was never any trouble in Scotland because the Scottish football supporters liked to see themselves as being above all that nonsense – and they were. But the authorities in some countries have been advising people not to travel to the UK which is very annoying especially as the Edinburgh Festival has just begun.

It has been great to see the communities in England rallying round and clearing up and we should never forget that there are far more decent people than there are mindless morons around.

Michael Gove – again

This isn’t really what you would call a blogpost, if I were on Twitter I would tweet it but I’m not, so here goes!

I’ve always been a Monty Python fan and The Meaning of Life is on at the moment. Unfortunately it’s on a channel with adverts, which I hate, so between the adverts I switched over to BBC News 24 and what did I see shooting across the bottom of the screen?

The Education Secretary Michael Gove has warned teachers that if they go on strike on Thursday they risk damaging their reputations.

At this rate I’ll have to stop watching the news because I’m just about apoplectic. How can a man (and I use that word very loosely) who behaved as he has in the past even think of warning anybody about their reputation. Being an absolute swine seems to have done him no harm in life, maybe the rest of us have just been too damn decent for our own good!

Public Servants’ Pensions

I’ve just seen that absolute scunner Michael Gove – so called Education Minister – on TV. He was talking about the proposed teachers strike at the end of the week in England and Wales. Basically he was inciting parents to strike break and go into classrooms in place of teachers to keep them open. It doesn’t seem to hve occurred to him that they are unlikely to have any training in dealing with large numbers of young people and that most of them won’t have had a disclosure, which means that he is potentially allowing exceedingly dodgy characters access to other peoples’ children. Being a parent does not mean that you are automatically a good person.

Speaking of dodgy characters, in my opinion Michael Gove should be sitting in a prison cell at the moment as he was one of the worst MPs involved in the expenses scandal. He flipped his home and was gleefully getting the tax payer to pay for things which he had no right to do. Very interestingly he was keen to give our Prime Minister’s mother-in-law’s shop the business. Also he was quite happy to take his family off to a high class spa and chalked the whole thing up on expenses to be paid by the tax payer. How he can sit and pontificate on the rights of people who work so much harder than he does for so little pay is just beyond me. The man has no shame obviously.

The government seems to think that all teachers and local government workers, including people on very low pay, should quite happily agree to having to work a lot longer for much less of a pension. Apparently, it’s our fault because we are all living longer and the pensions are no longer affordable. That just makes me scream, I don’t know about you but I know absolutely loads of people who have died recently and most of them weren’t lucky enough even to reach pension age as it is now. It may be that people living in the affluent south of England are living longer but in the north things are very different. It’s because of a combination of genetics, poverty and the cold, damp climate.

Would it not be sensible to concentrate on the unemployment problem. If there were more people in work and paying tax and fewer people on unemployment benefit then that would go a long way to solving the problem of a black hole in the pension budget. At the moment, people are being educated only to end up in a dole queue, no matter how many degrees they have.

Better still, the government should tell the banks, who let’s not forget started this whole problem with their stupidity and greed, to stump up money to plug the hole instead of awarding themselves massive tax-free bonuses.

Please take a look at this link, from the Daily Telegraph, but be warned, you may need a sick bag/high blood pressure tablets!

Loch Lomond – the theme park?!!

I was listening to the Scottish news a few nights ago and found myself cursing when Jackie Bird said that there would be a report on plans for a theme park on the banks of Loch Lomond. Oh for the good old days when everything was controlled by the local council which ensured that the whole area remained unspoiled.

I suppose it did mean that there wasn’t much for tourists to spend their money on when they got there but I don’t think that’s a bad thing when you think of the tourist tat that most similar attractions are selling. After all the best things in life are free. The scenery,wildlife and atmosphere is the main attraction. It doesn’t exist when you stick blots on the landscape in the shape of massive man-made constructions.

When Loch Lomond was made a ‘national park’ some years ago I knew it spelled a death sentence to the place that I grew up with. Sure enough, what had been a completely unspoiled place due mainly to the fact that the local council refused planning permission for most things, has sprouted shopping centres and golf courses and is quickly losing its special charm.

It’s not what I call progress. The theme park which is being planned for Balmaha is a nightmarish thought and I really hope that it doesn’t come to fruition. But money talks so I suppose it’s a done deal already. It’s sacrilege!

If you want to read more about it have a look here.