Book Review – A Crack in the line by Michael Lawrence

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. Posts may be edited from the original blog. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

I’m always reading books, but I’ve set myself the challenge of reading most of the books in my library, eek.

Thinking this is a tad ambitious I’ve lately opted for new books that we order in. The last one was the Crack in the Line. I picked it up at first because it was set in the UK and was different from the usual sci-fi/fantasy I usually go for.

It’s obviously a children’s book and the hero/heroine are basically two possibilities of the same person. The title refers to a crack in the railway line which leads to a train derailment. The mother has a fifty-fifty chance os surviving the train crash. At the instant of impact the Universe becomes two universes. One in which the boy loses his mother and has a dreadful life and one where a girl (the same person but a girl) gets to keep her mother and has lots of luck and comes into money.

I enjoyed this book although it was bit slow in places. There is some swearing in it so I wouldn’t recommend it for anything below 12 years old. However it is not gratuitous swearing – it does push the story along – character development and all that.

The main characters are likeable and there are some funny interchanges between the boy and his aunt who arrives at the house to look after him while his father is away. Luckily she is quite dippy allowing him the opportunity to pass between universes to meet himself as a girl. it’s part of a trilogy and I have gone through two thirds of the second book. Admittedly it’s not the best book I’ve read but certainly not the worst. If you are bored on a rainy afternoon, these do while a way a couple of hours.

eww public libraries – just kidding!

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. May be edited from the original post. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

I visited my local public library and while its not as bad as the kids’ parents told me, there wasn’t a huge selection of fiction books on offer. We have more books in our spinners! Still I liked their what’s new section (had six books in it which weren’t actually that new), there was a book displayed there which looked quite interesting – I think I’m going to buy it.

I think they could’ve done more really. It was all a bit bland apart from the toddler reading bit which was basically a play area in the middle of it. There were no posters advertising forthcoming books or even what they have that might be interesting. I always insist on havin fresh displays every term in my library. it felt a bit oppressive to tell you the truth. It’s visits like that that make me appreciate how nice my library actually is.

It’s daunting seeing a lot of books with just their spines showing – you need to attract the reader – tease them with colour. Dare I say it – break it up a bit.

The staff were friendly and welcoming, I’ll give them that. They don’t give phone numbers out though – strange policy – do they think I’m going to sell it on the black market for library phone numbers?

hey ho

Living Social Deal: CSI Weekend – Who murdered the Lord?

Another great Living Social Deal attracted my friend to pester me with emails asking if I would like to go. When I saw what it was, how could I possibly refuse?

The CSI deal was for a night in the sumptious Down Hall with dinner and breakfast included. The dinner also included the case files of the poor late lamented Lord.

Getting there

The journey to Down Hall was a nightmare. Totally our fault as we decided in our infinite wisdom that Mothers Day would be an excellent day to do a trip. In our defence, we didn’t KNOW it was Mother’s Day when we booked it. Coincidentally I bet my mother would have loved this trip, but I digress.

After taking around 3 hours for an hour’s trip we arrived only vaguely stressed. It didn’t help that the road that the Sat Nav wanted to send us down was closed and it refused to give us another direction. Note to Sat Nav makers, ‘Turn back now’ is not helpful when the road is closed and you are faced with the choice of going in two directions. As it turns out we are excellent navigators as we chose the right direction. Hah, who needs maps, a toss of the coin can do wonders.

We parked in the complimentary car park and first impressions had us impressed with the building. I would include lots of pictures here but I was using my phone camera which seems to have had a hissy fit and produced quite bad pictures but I will soldier on with the review and beg for your forgiveness.

As I mentioned Down Hall is quite impressive. If you ever had delusions of being Lord or Lady Muck then this is the place to have them. The reception however was confusing with two counters and no idea if we were skipping the queue but anyway no-one complained and we were given  our keys quite quickly. Quite efficient really.

The Room

How can I say this, the room was gorgeous but to my horror there was one double bed. I am used to posh and semi-posh hotels having two beds in the room and was a little put out, but my friend and I have been friends for years so I put aside my prudishness away for the night. I mean what was I expecting? Her to turn into some sort of bed monster in the night? Who knows? I can be weird sometimes.

I should probably mention the lift/elevator to the upper floor. This was almost worth the trip. The walls looked like they were lined with books. As a librarian and author I loved it. Way to go Down Hall, you got that bit sooo right.

Whe we arrived in our room we immediately looked to see what sort of view we had, which you can see for yourselves to the left of this post. We thought it was quite nice but the bathroom was enormous and even more impressive.

Down Hall also (apparently) has a spa. I hadn’t really noticed  this when I booked the CSI weekend but I was quite excited when my friend told me and made sure I packed a swim suit. I have never been so disappointed in my life.

The ‘Spa’

First we went down to get the code for the Spa. Why can’t they give this to people during check-in? Heaven only knows, maybe it is to discourage people from using it?

We went down to reception and ahh, there was a wedding on. I love weddings but I wasn’t going to this one and sort of resented losing half an hour of my life waiting for the queue for the receptionists to go down just to get access to a spa, which a) could have been given at checkin or b) put in the guest book in the room.

Eventually we got what we needed and were given directions to the spa. Problem number 2, the signage was next to useless, we had to ask three employees to find the way to get to it. You have to go through a lounge and go outside through the fire doors, walk outside for a minute and reenter the connected building.

Now I understand the info said there was nowhere to put your stuff in the changing rooms, but there was nowhere to put anything! The changing room for the ladies was tiny. There was a Sauna, also on the small side and a pool which was really just a puddle full of excitable children. We went tnto the Sauna and I backed out of trying the pool, I headed back up to the room while my friend jostled for space in the pool.

To be fair you wouldn’t go to Down Hall for the Spa, so any criticism should be taken in context with the rest of the trip. The evening started at 7.30 and we arrived on time, and waited, …and waited in the bar in the room across the hall for it to start.

The prices were average London prices, we worked it out from the drinks we had bought the night before, so no worries about that, we were expecting it. However there were no chairs and to be frank I was getting a bit grumpy. I don’t like standing for any length of time and although those drinks were reasonably priced for London, I wasn’t used to them and was getting more frustrated and annoyed by the minute. It began to feel like a tactic to get more money out of us. I don’t mind paying if it is part of the evening but frankly it was boring. Standing up in a room of strangers wasn’t conducive to chatting for us.

The Dinner and event!

Then the doors opened and the night began.

The event was put together from a guy from Right Angle. It was very well organised. As soon as they took over the evening, it went without a hitch. We piled in, all trying to grab a chair that we could sit next to our friends and we introduced ourselves to our new team mates who were all interesting people and the meal was off to a swimmingly good start – unlike the swimming pool part earlier. Seriously I wouldn’t have been this bitter if the hotel hadn’t made us wait for an inordinate amount of time to get a poxy code.

Anyway, there was a metal case in the centre of the table and a folder with information on the crime, witness statements and other evidence. The more enterprising of our team had already opened them and were coming out with theories before we actually sat down!

The event began with an explanation of who the organiser was and how the night would progress. I was very excited to find I was going to take my own fingerprints! Unfortunately I can’t remember if the starter arrived first or if we did the finger prints first. In fact I can’t remember the order of the food vs parts of the evening at all! Maybe we had too much red wine? The starter was cheese tart, which I couldn’t have, being highly allergic to milk, so I had a fig/melon combo – yuk. I ate it though because I was hungry but I have never wished I could eat cheese more than then.

The fingerprints part was brilliant. We all had a piece of paper with a square for each finger and we shared a pot of ink. We put our fingers in the pots and then rolled it onto the paper. My friend accidentally rolled the tips of her fingers but she soon had the knack. We then compared the fingerprints with patterns on a laminated sheet.

The main meal, thankfully was the same as everyone else’s and I thought it was delicious. There were complaints from around the table that the food was dry, but I say, Bah Humbug, I LIKE dry chicken. Stick that up your pipe and smoke it.

On our chair when we arrived we were given white boiler suits which we were allowed to keep. Along with the fetching suite, was a mask and gloves. Another one of my allergies came into play. It’s like a computer game, you think you are doing well, and you go back a level. Still, what amazed me was, the organiser was prepared for this. He produced a pair of blue latex free gloves. What a star!

In the corner of the room was a CSI crime area as seen in the picture at the top of this post. We were to pick up a piece from the crime area and take it back to our table. We would then along with the other evidence in the case put them through some forensic tests. Cool huh?

I got a saucer and swizzled some powder on to the saucer. A pair of fingerprints appeared as if by magic. The team then worked out whose fingerprints they were. We also had a hammer and various other pieces.

There were hairs in an evidence bag and one of our team members went to discover what they belonged to. There were two netbooks set up in the corner and I am assuming some sort of scanning or magnifying equipment was there. That part of the room was packed so I couldn’t get close enough to see.

The evening progressed and the pudding arrived! Humph, I got blackcurrent sorbet, which I actually thought was gone off raspberry until someone pointed out what it was – oops.

Then the big reveal. Who killed who. Who did the fingerprints belong to and why was he killed?

I won’t give away the answers in case it is the same the next time they do it but not one table got the answers completely correct! Here’s a hint though, wild rabbits do not have all white hair apparently.

Conclusion

So in all in all, a thoroughly enjoyable event and one I would go to again, possibly with my husband or mum. If you have any reservations, don’t listen to them – just go for it – it’s a laugh.

 

I’m not reading that – it’s old!

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

 

Monday, 31 December 2007

I’m not reading that – it’s old!

As regular readers may know, I m approaching my first anniversary as a School Librarian. When I started I had worked before in business and government but never in a school so for a while I was flying blind (pun intened).

There didn’t appear to be that many user-friendly ideas for school librarian newbies on the net so I wanted to put a few tips on here for future newbies.

Our library is quite large for a school library I’m told. I’ve never worked in another one so I have to take their word for it, anyway there’s over 20,000 books in it. While I know there is a need to keep up to date on new literature, in fact we are always buying new stock, but there’s a lot of books there that just never gets read – and there’s some really good books there that I read when I was in school.

So here’s what I did:

  • Made genre specific displays. i.e. science-fiction, horror, historical…
  • Face out displays on the shelves

and my favourite, a tiny bit of trickery…

Choose books which don’t look that old. My first one was Dreameaver by Louise Lawrence. This was published in 1997 and was last taken out of the library in 1998. A perfect candidate and actually a really good book for sci-fi fans.

Next, I took out the date stamp sheet and put a brand spanking new one in its place and placed it casually on a window display (we have odd books on them (another of my ‘innovations’).

Within days it was taken out as the childen thought it was a new purchase. it has been borrowed since then as well. Critics among you may think that the child would have picked it up because it was out of the main stock. However to test this theory of mine I had removed it and artfully placed it somewhere else a month before with no success. As I mentioned before in this blog – a little trickery gets ’em reading!

Gee I hope they never read this or they will get wise and my circulation will go DOWN.

The Hunger Games (film/movie) Review by Ceri Clark

I have wanted to see a film version of the Hunger Games ever since I read the book as part of a book club I belonged to. There was unanimous approval for the book and some members read the whole series as a result.

So I went to watch the film with high expectations and I would say for the most part, they were justified. I really enjoyed it but there were some niggling moments which made me think if I was to give it a number of stars up to five, I would give 4.5.

Why I loved it,

The concept is great, which is why the book was a best seller. It is a science fiction story which is worth watching. It has moments of brilliance and you could see it happen in reality some day. You might think no, humans could never be that cruel but just think about Hitler’s Nazis, the Gladiaters in ancient Rome and a hundred other examples in world history that have happened over the centuries. There are child soldiers even now forced to kill or be killed in some third world countries. You could argue that it was only 24 from that whole civilisation… per year…. for 70 odd years….

My favourite performance was of the Mentor and the ‘stylist’, they really gave the essence of what the book conveyed in words. They were both nice guys stuck in a horrific system, making the best of a bad situation.

The problen with reviewing a film from a  book is there is a danger you end up reviewing the book not the film. The movie has to stand on its own merits and I think it does do it. There were a few tears shed during hte watching of the film which is always a good sign as you are investing in the characters. I found the film really depressing but the overall feeling as I left was that it was worth watching. Would I watch it again? Probably not because it was so depressing. It was a great sci-fi action adventure and I would recommend it to anyone to watch, even if it is just once.

The Niggles

There were only a couple of niggles that spoiled my enjoyment. The first was the close-up camera work. I was getting very frustrated with the tight angles and I had to look away sometimes. My husband said the same, however later when the ‘action’ starts this doesn’t present a problem and it does work.

The second was the music when she is hunting in the very first scenes. While my husband loved it, I found it like someone scraping fingernails down a blackboard. My whole body tensed until it was over. I really hated that scene – just for the choice of music. I found this really strange as music doesn’t usually bother me at all, It usually just pulls my emotional strings but this just irritated the hell out of me.

Conclusion

I loved the book and the film comes a close second. I would recommend it and give it 4.5 stars for the reasons explained above. It has a definite thumbs up from me and it could one day become a classic.

 

I don’t like reading…

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

Monday, 17 December 2007

I don’t like reading…

This happened to me only last week.

The library was quite quiet and there were only a few children around. It was the end of the day and I didn’t want to start any big tasks. As the end of term was fast approaching I thought I would just remind a couple of them and see if I could get them to take some books out. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: So, have you got your books sorted for the end of term then? (in a light friendly tone, it’s good not to sound too desperate to improve the circulation figures at this point. Children can be soo fickle).
Child 1: I don’t like reading.
[A-ha, a challenge]
Child 2 with a horrified gasp: You can’t say that to the Librarian!
Child 1: It’s OK, She’s a nice Librarian. [She turns to a secretly delighted me]. I only like Jacqueline Wilson books and I’ve read all the ones you have here.
[Little does she know and why are Librarians always supposed to be scary?]
Me: Actually I’ve just bought some new teenage Jacqueline Wilson books, have you read those?
Child 1: No…
Child 2 runs eagerly to the far side of the library to pick a couple of the new ones up to show her. I walk away. I find the secret is to walk away at this point. It won’t mean anything if she feels pressurised into borrowing it. Anyway half an hour later, she takes one of the books out!

I get soooo frustrated with Apple products

I have been a user of Apple products for years. I bought, I think it was, a G4 laptop years ago when I was a student studying for my Masters. It was brilliant. I had no problems with it and I loved it. It got a bit old so with a teary farewell I sold it on eBay. The battery lasted FOREVER and in those days I didn’t mind squinting closely at the screen to see what I needed to do. These days I want my technology to bend to me not it. Afterall I pay for my gadgets they don’t pay for me!

Apple iMac

I bought an Apple IMac with a 27″ screen and absolutely loved it when I bought it. I really bought it for the screen and when it works it is amazing. Unfortunately it fails on m e at the most frustrating times.

I was busy putting together my Gmail book, happily creating screenshots and pasting it into my Word doc when, BAM, the screen goes black. WTF?!?!? I scream for Nick, my in-house tech guy also known as The Husband. He remote  desktops into the iMac and he is able to save it. Thank God! This happens whenever I use the computer for more than three hours – which is when I write or make book covers – most of my leisure time!

We have an appointment at the Genius bar – I hope they can’t fix it – it IS still covered by the Care thingy.

Software

I tried using solely the iMac for a while but it drove me crazy and I kept getting headaches. The problem is I have some graphics software only available on the Mac. I cannot upgrade to LION because if I do then I can’t use this software which is the only reason I use the Mac operating system. Today it kept force-closing on me and I couldn’t get it to work. Why oh why can’t I use my iMac without encountering problems!

Reasons why I can’t get an IPhone

I’m clumsy, I’ll admit it. Two days ago I managed to drop my Samsung Galaxy SII FOUR times in the same day. I forgot to put my cover on after a recent software upgrade so it slid out of my pocket and bounced on the ground while I got out of the car. I’m just lucky Nick didn’t drive over it on the way to HIS work! The phone has scratches on the corners but with the Bumper on you can’t see them and it is in full working order.

Why do I say I can’t get an iPhone? Take a look at this Youtube video an you’ll understand why a clumsy person like me can’t use one!

Font Size

I simply can’t see them on the iPhone, I’ve tried but no good. I have discovered BigFont on Android however and my quality of life has improved dramatically.

Conclusion

So you see, I do try to use Apple products but they are so badly designed for my needs. I’m like a moth to a flame. I can’t help buying the things and i suffer the consequences. Still there is always MIcrosoft and Google…

 

Living Social holiday, elements of amazing with a dash of disaster – the EPIC journey to Newquay

I probably should do a few more present day posts so this one is about my recent visit to Newquay.

How long do you think it would take to go from Newport in South Wales to Newquay? 3 hours, 4? Well, if you believe National Rail around 4 hours, however if you actually go there you might think differently…

The day started out nicely enough, we’d packed the night before with the usual essentials like pillow, camera, phones and laptops, hopped outside in the morning at 8.15 and took the bus which was bang on time. Well done Newport!

We arrived in sunny Newport and popped to Greggs for a healthy breakfast, yum, hot sausage roll. Well I say we popped in for breakfast Nick popped over to a certain fast food restaurant on the other side of the road and got bacon, cheese, hash brown wrap. Not too sure who was healthier there – although he had a wrap so that beats anything.

We bought a couple of sandwiches and headed for the train station. The train was on time, or maybe a couple of minutes out – nothing to be alarmed about. We found some nice seats and settled back for the ride.

About five minutes before we hit Exeter, St Davids there was an announcenent that there was a problem. To be fair it wasn’t National Rail’s fault, there was a fatality on the line. So there we were two hours later, after wolfing down our Gregg’s sandwiches getting ever more desperate for the loo. I eventually gave up and looked for it but I hate using loos on trains they are just eww.

Once the British Transport Police cleared up, we were on our way and within five minutes we were at the Train Station where we believed we were half an hour late for the train.

The thought of coffee was swirling in my mind, visions of the black elixir was making my throat really dry so we popped in to the little Cafe. It was gooood – that and the Victoria Sponge Cake – the holiday was back on track.

…but wait, Nick was fiddling with his phone, the train waited? and it left a minute ago? Nooooooooooo. No announcements, no information nothing. There was nothing for it but to wait for the next train to Par. (Yes it’s actually called that!)

So phase one of the journey was complete, and apart from the little incident of the girl who fogot her art portfolio we got on the train in time. Woohoo. Until they decided to change the train staff unexpectedly in the middle of nowhere. This meant that we would be late getting to Par. dah dah, DAH.

We were getting more and more worried as we had worled out we were going to be late AGAIN but this time because of (it seemed) incompetence, we should already have been there! Anyway soon after the conductor came down and asked if anyone was going to Newquay so of course my arm shot up like an arrow. She smiled and said don’t worry the train would wait or we would get a replacenment bus service at St Austell. Great but she didn’t tell us what was happening after this. Did the train wait? Were we supposed to wait for the next stop and get the bus? Again, no information was given to us.

We decided to chance our luck and get off at Par, which we did and she was on the platform saying the train had waited. Trouble is you would have had to know to get off the train to know this. I wonder if anyone got caught out?

We’re there and it is now 6pm, remember we have been travelling since 8.15.

We made it, queue dramatic music and huggie scenes. Our hotel was the Bay hotel two miles out and I would love to tell you we walked for hours but we didn’t forty minutes of gorgeous stroll with amazing views and we were there.

The Bay Hotel seemed a bit of a disappointment when we arrived. It was right next to the beach but it had scaffolding over the front of the hotel. Ok we got a deal right? I can live with this.

Check in was efficient and we arrived at our room which I would describe as cosy. There was no fridge or minibar and the bathroom was miniscule but I don’t go to a hotel for the bathroom.

We stepped over to the window and had a breathtaking view of the beach marred by the scaffolding directly outside our window. What time would the workman come we asked out loud? Being as we were talking to each other there was no answer.

The phone rang and the reception called and asked if the room was OK. As we are typically British we said it was lovely.

We were absolutely starving at this point and headed down for our free meal which was part of the deal. I had no complaints about THAT. The meal was absolutely delicious apart from the tingly lips which worried me that I was going to have an allergic reaction but Nick had it too so there was some kind of tingly garnish thing on the starter. By the way, the steak was to die for.

The next morning the light blazed into our room and we woke with cotton mouths. I am a person who really feels the cold, but this place was way too hot. We opened the window but had to keep the curtain closed because of the scaffolding – nightmare.

Breakfast was excellent as you would expect – they even had soya milk! I was impressed. I was getting more and more sneezy each time I entered the restaurant and it turns out it was the flowers on each table by the window.

So we had a walk along the beach, which was beautiful. The light had a magical quality to it that I haven’t seen anywhere else. We had a coffee at the other end of the beach and walked back for lunch where I had the steak sandwivh and NIck had a freshly squeezed… sorry made pizza which I am told was delicious. These guys sure know how to cook.

We hung around, went in to the spa where the pool was amazing. The spa was clean but just a little perplexing.

There was a guy where you had to sign in but he didn’t say anythng. We clearly did not know what we were doing and the least he could say is, that we could take a towel from the open air shelving as we walked by. But no, we snuck past the towels like thieves, throwing anxious glances around, taking one before darting in to the changing rooms with our prize.

There was a sauna, steam room, large pool and jacuzzi. As I said before it was clean and while we were there they took samples of the water to test. Very efficient.

Dinner was in the restaurant again and I went for the duck and Nick went for the steak – a complete switch from the previous night. This time we asked the waitress to move the flowers and this time I wasn’t sneezing and snotting everywhere. Ahh romantic.

Another night of extreme heat and we packed ready for the road before going down for breakfast. Rather than ask the waiter who was busy with customers, we moved the flowers from our table so I could eat in peace and went to pick up breakfast. We got back and the flowers were back, taunting me as if they had never moved!

So again, as typical Britishers we just shrugged and carried on, the only difference was that I had a tissue tucked into my palm.

After breakfast we went to checkout. Nick had put stuff on his credit card which was a mistake. They accidentally put the room on the bill. As it was early and I am not a morning person I didn’t spot this so it was lucky it was Nick’s card. We questioned it and the bill reduced by £200, phew!

The journey back was uneventful, we stoppped to get our hair cut in Newquay but we caught the train we booked and we were home at the time we expected.

Would I recommend Newquay? Absolutely. Would I recommend the hotel, yes with reservations, if you know what to look out for then it was lovely. Don’t put things on a tab as the bill was confusing at the end and you’ll be fine.

 

 

 

 

Riddle Me This for libraries

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

Friday, 7 December 2007

Riddle Me This

When I began this job less than a year ago I was shocked at how few of the children knew how to find a book using the Dewey Decimal System. I’m not one to stand there and lecture them until their eyes glaze over, so I had to find a way to make them want to learn how it worked – enter the Daily Question!

The Question

This can be anything as long as an object is the answer. I find riddles and jokes the best. I put them on a board with a hint or clue. If you want to repeat this be ready for an onslaught of cat, house or outer space (anything that pops into their head) before they give up and use the clue provided.

The Clue

Just the Dewey Decimal number is best but if you have two books with the same classification like we have, then we put the page number on so they can work out if it is the correct book.

Example:

Here on earth it is true, yesterday is always before today, but there is a place where yesterday always follows today. Where?
Hint: Dewey Decimal, 423
Countless of hapless victims have been tricked into looking for books with just a number. I recommend using this method. It’s useful now as I can just give them a DD number when I am busy and they can toddle off to find the book, but when they go to university it will be an invaluable time-saving skill not just for them but for the University Librarians!

The Birds & The Bees

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

 

Thursday, 6 December 2007

The Birds & The Bees

It’s that talk every parent is supposed to dread, but what if you’re just the Librarian? Well, my assistant (Y) who used to work in a public library seems to have the perfect answer.

Picture the scene:

It’s lunchtime, you have a room full of teenagers, chattin’ away and reading or doing homeowork. A group of the gigglers (Year 8s) have just come in from a ‘Biology’ class. They want to find a book on reproduction.

“Fine,” you might say, “just this way” and lead them to the human biology section. They take the book and disappear into the corner.

The next five minutes are taken up by loans and requests for help on homework and then they come back.

“Miss, I don’t understand?” one of the girls say.
“What don’t you understand X” asks my assistant.
“I don’t understans what this page means” she replies.

The assistant has a quick look look to see what she is referring to and hides a grin.

Oh OK, read out to me what you don’t understand and I’ll try to explain it.

The girl starts to read quietly.

“I’m sorry X, I can’t quite catch what you are saying, can you say it a bit louder please?” My assistant asks with a deadpan expression

The girl glances around, no-one is looking at them so she carries on louder. “…and the man puts his thingy in…”

“What was that?”
“His thingy.”
“It doesn’t say that surely.” Y picks up the book and takes a closer look. She turns it back round and hands it back to the girl.
“No it doesn’t say that, you need to say the words or it won’t make sense”.

A look of panic crosses the girls face “He puts his penis in…” Her friends let out a peal of laughter and they all ran out of the library.

Funnily enough they’ve not asked us to explain it again…

Kidz! Who’d have ’em, eh?

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Today was another busy day down the mine, or should I say Library. 40 kids running riot around a library with me running around shouting shh, shhhhhhhh. …or the other favourite, QUUUIIIEEEETTTT.

We have a reading zone – note the careful choice of words there – Reading Zone. Do you see chat anywhere in that sentence? Nope, neither do I. So out of the 40 or so children about 15 were in the small reading area, blithely chatting away as if talk was going out of fashion.

We have a lovely reading area, a lovely black leather sofa, a couple of comfy chairs, a small square table and a few bean bags. The plan was to create a lovely environment where they could feel they could read in peace. Of course in practice that is not what happens…

Several year 7 and 8s descended on the library at 3.50. Huh? The school day doesn’t end until 4.00. Anyway, they come in, sign the sheet and head straight for the ‘reading zone’. I check they’ve signed in and follow them giving them the riot act, ie. this part of the room is for reading, I expect to see it after in the same condition as they found it and no, they can’t chat and yes the guiness book of records is OK as long as they are quiet about it.

Job done for ten minutes, I go to sit down back at the desk. Wait! what’s that, is it giggling I hear? After a long heartfelt sigh, I close the cataloguing window again, (will I ever get any work done in the late shift?) and lock the computer screen and trundle back to the corner where the reading zone is kept.

One boy is lolling on a bean bag groaning with the other kids pointing and giggling. I manage to calm them down with crossed arms and a magnificent glare (if I say so myself) and get told “Miss, he got hit in the ghoulies with a football’

Now what I ask you was I supposed to reply to that?

How to not advertise making homemade tea bags

 

The funniest things happen at work, especially when you are not expecting it.

I have a colleague, the nicest, friendliest person you could possibly meet, who is very active in her local community. She is in her fifties and is very into homemade products. In fact she was selling some very nice homemade jams the other day.

The lady was organising a ‘how to make homemade tea bags’ demonstration. Apparently you fold a bit of paper…. but I digress. In full voice she announced the date to a community meeting and made a very nice poster promising a wait for it …  teabagging demonstration!

Of course the next day there was a gasp in the office when she mentioned this. She was surprised, and even more surprised when one helpful colleague described with glee – in detail – another possible definition of a teabagging demonstration. The lady left work a little early that day, I would bet on her way to removing a certain poster in a local Community Centre?

…the moral of the tale? Always, I can’t stress this enough, ALWAYS have the Urban Dictionary on you – just in case.

I do have a slight confession. I didn’t at first know what it meant but knew it was rude. I was actually quite shocked when I looked it up. There are some things I would rather not know – but then knowing means I am unlikely to make my colleague’s mistake.

The RSPCP – Calling all pen lovers

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past from when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. So this is part of a series from my old BattyLibrarian Blog…

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The RSPCP – Calling all pen lovers

 

I work in a secondary school library (High school equivalent for any Americans). Reading the Vampire Librarian blog reminded me of the RSPCP faze around last February.

My assistant was checking some pens and throwing them away when they were dry. A group of Year 7 girls (11 year olds) caught her in the act of throwing them in the bin.

For about a month we were then lambasted for being cruel librarians with no thought for the feelings of the poor hard working unwanted pens. Can anyone else hear those violins? It was so serious they were going to call the RSPCP.

What is the RSPCP you may ask? Wait for it… The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Pens. I ask you, has anyone heard of anything so daft. The good news was it kept them busy for the rest of one lunchtime composing a letter to the this mythical society.

Ahh the joy of a school librarian.

Birds are now breaching copyright law…

…according to a media company…

Slashdot has been abuzz with the news that a nature video enthusiast was accused of ‘borrowing’ copyrighted sounds and putting them on his video.

It turns out the media company actually meant the birdsong. The uploader claims that the video was taken in the wilderness and the sounds were all natural birdsong.

Youtube (from reports on Slashdot) then disputed the video and it was claimed that the video was confirmed to have violated some copyright. As a result, adverts would be put on said video and the proceeds would go to the copyright owner.

This can only mean that all birds are thieving varmints and we should round them up and put them in some sort of bird jail lest they trick some other unwary nature lover into recording their song and perpetuating this heinous copyright theft. What other animals are stealing our sounds? Will we have to put whales in an underwater jail? I mean I have heard recorded whale song, this means that anytime a whale communicates to another whale they should be paying some sort of royalty to the whale song recorders. They could pay in fish?

How dare our feathered friends steal our music. It’s copyright theft now but if they get away with it who knows what will happen next? They will be taking our homes and Alfred Hitchcocks’ The Birds will become reality. We cannot let this happen!

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In other bird news, a council in Devon (UK) has cut down a copse of trees to stop starlings from settling there. Apparently their droppings are poisonous and rather than respect the right of birds to nestle in trees we should evict them in case some idiot decides to eat their droppings.

The world is going mad.

Five Reasons Why I Loved/Hated Being a School Librarian

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Five Reasons Why I Love/Hate Being a School Librarian

 

I’m finding writing this blog quite cathartic, so I thought the next thing was to write about five reasons why I love and hate being a school librarian.

Why I absolutely love it

The children
The children do make it worthwhile. I love the way they think, the enthusiasm and the way they seem to appreciate what I do for them.

The challenge
Every day is a challenge. From the moment you unlock the library to the time you leave, its non-stop. Remember at those job interviews they ask you about prioritization? Well, if you are rubbish at it then you’d have to resign the next day! There’s so much to do the time just flies by. …and don’t get me started on multi-tasking…

The books
Well this was an obvious one – who’d become a librarian if they didn’t like books! There’s always the thrill of spending someone else’s money on books, but most of all I love the smell of them as well. mmmm, Bisto

The creative side
Where can I get started on this one. From the creation of leaflets, posters to computerising the accounts and arranging the furniture. If you want to use your creative side then this is the job to do it!

The quiet!
When break and lunch ends and its just the sixth formers quietly studying I almost think it is heaven…

Why I hate it

The Library as a dumping ground
This means the naughty children who get sent in because the teachers don’t know what else to do with them to being the place equipment gets dumped because we happen to be open all the time. My favourite is laptops and cameras. We only hold them because no-one else wants the responsibility and the reason mentioned before. I love the way teachers come in to book the laptop and expect me to know a) what software is precisely on the thing and b) to know how to fix it if it goes wrong. If I wanted to be an IT bleeding consultant I would have done an IT qualification not a MSc in Library studies! …and then the idiots go an lend it to another teacher without telling me and the others expect me to know where the stuff is at all times. I’m stuck in the library – I can’t go chasing after errant staff members all the time! Grr.

Prep
Looking after 50-60 children on my own after school ends. I’m not trained in childcare and I dread that something bad will happen. Unfortunately it is the one thing I really do not like about my job. It is impossible to control that many children but I am expected to. If I complain then I am told that is what the job entailed and they explained it in the interview. I never dreamed that I would be expected to look after that many though and I’m pretty sure that it would scare a lot of other librarians as well!

Management
I am in charge of the library but still have a line manager, which made sense when I was new to the job. However what is the point of a line manager who does no personnel reviews, doesn’t make decisions or give important information when needed? For example, if something is arranged for the library we don’t always get told. Just the other week a meeting was arranged in the middle of baby-sitting duty (Prep) one night and the first we found out about it was when the canteen staff delivered the drink for it around mid-day. I had to chase my line manager to find out what was happening!

Lack of Communication
Unfortunately the library staff is neither part of the teaching or admin staff. we are classed as other and get forgotten. I have to constantly chase people to find out what is happening. I also have to take every opportunity to collar teachers to find out what they are teaching and what kind of resources they need for the library (They never turn up for meeting – they forget).

The hours
I work part-time as a lot of school librarians do. It is very difficult to get the work done in the time allocated. I know I criticise CILIP a lot but they do acknowledge that a full time librarian is needed in schools which includes working in the holidays. I work approximately 75-80% of term-time. Personal development has to be done in my own time. fair enough I do that anyway – Its just annoying.

Oi App Developers, not everyone has good eyesight!

The BBC has an article in their technology section talking about a new app which should be available in the future on iOS and Android devices. I’m all for Apps to make my life easier which is why I originally wrote A Simpler Guide to the best free Android Apps (my attempt at keeping track of the useful ones!)

The app on the BBC website is primarily designed for blind people so that they can type on touchscreen phones but the article mentions the designers hope that people with full sight will use it for when they want to type but are busy watching something at the same time. …teenagers in their maths lessons? Sorry cynicism kicking n.

Regular readers of my blog will know of my despair with app developers who assume everyone has 20/20 vision when designing their apps. Although the worst offenders, (Google+ app for example) have no way to increase the text size on their apps there are others who would get ‘could do better’ on their school reports. These are the developers who limit their text size options.

An example of a ‘could do better’ app is Docs to Go. I love this app, it is very useful, but it also has its problems. The designers in their infinite (*lack of) wisdom have decided to limit the text enlargement to 200%. I’m sorry, but that is just not good enough. I need bigger. If you have bothered to put the ability to enlarge text you should allow your customer to know what their vision needs are. There are so many types of sight problems and vision levels that you should design your apps so that they can be enlarged to an extent where one word fits the screen. There is probably a lot of people out there where even this extreme size would help.

My point for this article is that people with sight problems are customers too. There are a lot of people ageing out there and a lot of them with cash burning a hole in their pocket. By making your app difficult to use you are alienating a demographic with money to spend. I’m not a businessman but to me that just sounds silly.

Developers, pretty please, make your apps accessible…?

Betraying the people of the Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands were settled around two centuries ago by British people. Argentina was invaded by other Europeans  in the sixteenth century. So both places were settled by Europeans. The people of the Falklands therefore have a long history of residency on the islands.

The Dutch were in the Falklands first, then the French followed by the English. The Spanish then took over by war and then left. The English then settled from then on. There was a permanent colony since 1840.

In the eighties, Argentina decided they wanted to EXTEND their territories by starting a war to claim it as their own.

It should be noted that the people want to be British, the Argentinians have no more right to the place than the British but the residents who have been there for generations shouldn’t lose their homes because new powers would like to try out being Imperialist. Just because the British, French and Spanish countries did it centuries ago does not make it right to do it now.

No country should extend their territory in the 21st century. Democracy should be the rule of thumb. No country should impose their rule on another by force. I don’t agree with Iraq either but if the people wanted it, then I don’t see how other countries should interfere. I don’t know enough to comment on that. If the people are British, have always been British and want to be British they should have that right.

One of the arguements for Argentina forcing itself on the Falkland Islands is its proximity to Argentina. Going by the distance that means that Canada should belong to the USA and France should own Britain. France would love that but I wouldn’t be so keen.

I’m not saying that oil has no bearing on why Britain would like to keep the Falkland Isles and if there was no oil then the people from the Falklands would probably be betrayed by the British government. I am saying that it doesn’t matter, it gives the people of the Falkland Isles the opportunity to get what they want. It is their country. They can’t go home. That is their home. They shouldn’t have to pay because another country is sabre rattling.

I’m for the little guy. I just want to point out that I am Welsh. We were one of the first countries to be colonised by the English Government. I have a weird perspective. There has been a call for independence for centuries in Wales but it would be a mistake to be independent. Then again if we really pushed for it now we would get it. The Scottish are getting a referendum. My point is the British Government for the most part listen to the people it governs. It gave back Hong Kong because the people wanted it. The people of the Falkland Islands want to to British so they shouldn’t have old movie stars telling them that their and their ancestor’s lives are irrelevant. By that logic, Sean Penn should go back to the country where his ancestors came from which was most definitely European and leave the country to the Native Americans. What, you don’t want to? I thought not.

Why can’t we all just get along?

LJ Smith removed from writing Vampire Diaries and the Secret Circle

It’s every writer’s worst nightmare. You’ve created a successful series that you’ve poured your heart and soul into. You are excited that it has been turned into a tv series and who knows it might become a film one day. Then you are fired from your own books.

Sounds too farfetched to be true? This is what happened to LJ Smith according to the about page on her website.

To her legions of fans this is old news but I am surprised it isn’t more well known. Apparently there was a clause in her contact to do with writer for hire which meant she lost control of anything she wrote in these series. She was effectively fired from her own books.

This is a cautionary tale for new writers to understand the contracts they are signing but also for the fans of authors to make sure they are buying the book they are expectimg. If a book says created by LJ Smith, it is probably written by a ghost writer with minimal to no input from the ‘real’ author. I for one would never buy a book in those circumstances.

The great freebie giveaway experiment

It is far too early to work out if it’was successful or not but last weekend I decided to give away my A Simpler Guide to Gmail, Second Edition book for free for one day only.

As you might have already guessed A Simpler Guide to Gmail is a non-fiction book about of all things, Gmail, not a romantic story set in 1920s New York (although it could be a great time travel tale given enough time and plot!) I’ve come to the conclusion that giveing  away non-fiction books may not be the best idea.

As I mentioned it is too early to make a decision whether it is a success but I did give away hundreds of books on Saturday. So much so that I bottled out around midnight UK time and cancelled the rest of the 24 hour promotion.

Now I’ve taken part in giveaways before, the last one was with Fantasy Island Book Publishing for my Children of the Elementi book. The value of giving away books on Amazon is that your customerscan lend those books to their friends using the Amazon system. Of course at the moment this is only true for the US but it will expand in time to other countries.

The market for non-fiction is smaller. That is why traditionally the books are more expensive. You wouldn’t begrudge someone a living from their talents would you? I would agree that non-fiction is not necessarily easier or harder to write. After all fiction book are all in the inagination, but historical novels do need a certain amount of research. Still the market is smaller.

Another thing I did not take into account inmy great experiment is that it appears normally, the freebies available are not all full-blown books. I didn’t realise this but a Saturday of downloading lots of books revealed that most of the books were teasers or promotional material for services. Oops. I gave away the Full Monty, the Real McCoy (too many cliches?) – the complete book. I seemed to have missed a trick there!

My only hope is that people who have downloaded it find it useful enough that they will think to review it or at least tag it. If receiving is not on their minds, my sevond hope is that they lend it to their froends – before April when I take it off the Kindle Select program. Gmail was my biggest seller on Barnes and Noble and you could argue that I was putting all my eggs into one basket by only selling it on Amazon.

Time will tell!

Republishing with KDP – Customers don’t automatically get changes.

I’ve had a few problems moving from one edition of my Gmail book to another. I didn’t want to delete the other one as it sold well and was highly ranked. I would have to start from scratch. I tried putting a message in the original book to people who already bought it offering them the new one. I was expecting them to refund the book and get the new one. Turns out they weren’t getting the changes!

The reason I didn’t want to keep the old edition because the name was wrong (my maiden name instead of married name) on the customer facing details. It was fine on the KDP admin side and I had contacted Amazon a few times, it seememd sorted but would revert after a while.

Anyway, turns out if you have made changes and republish your ebook, you need to send an email to Amazon asking them to send the new file to your customers.

Here’s an extract from the Amazon website explaining further. Customers can also request a later version of the same book to be sent to them.

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3-16 Do I have to re-buy or re-upload my book to get the updated copy I re-published? If you’ve already purchased your book and subsequently revise the content and re-publish the updated version, you don’t need to re-purchase the book to get a copy. At this time, it’s not possible for publishers to receive the updated file without contacting KDP Support for help. We’re working to automate this feature and appreciate your understanding with our existing solution to manually send the updated content to your device.

We request your explicit permission, and will do the same for any customers who contact us to receive the updated content, prior to sending the revised file because the new version will not have previously saved Highlights, Last Page Read, Bookmarks, and the location of notes may not match. If this is acceptable, please email [email protected] confirming your permission and which title/s you’d like to have re-sent. Thank you.

Note: Customers who purchased the old content can also contact our Customer Service department to have the new file delivered.
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I hope this helps.

Ceri