A Couple of Curiosities

There was the usual in-flow of books today.

Thursday, as I may have said before, is the day when a surprising number of people decide to have a clear out and then bring in boxes and bags, and more boxes of books.

I have no idea why Thursday is the day – and of course there are other donations on other days, but Thursday is never without a lot of book sorting.

So despite the fact, always the optimist, I had a list of interesting other things planned, I spent the afternoon sorting.

Among the boxes – did I mention there were a lot of them? – I found a few little treasures.

None of them worth anything much in case you were getting excited at the prospect of a great find.

One had the marvellous title of ‘From the Romans to B&Q – a history of Wyberton’ I take my hat off to the local historians who came up with that. (They do live in Lincolnshire….)

And then there was the lovely art nouveau cover of a travel/photography book on the Norfolk Broads.

And finally, I found a diary from 1946 in which someone had almost filled with his (I am guessing from the handwriting it was a he, but I could be wrong,) translation of words from Beowulf into modern English.

And there was a notebook with more words translated.

These have no monetary value whatsoever but it was very nice handling them and knowing that someone had spent hours and hours working through Beowulf.

Perhaps,he was a Beowulf scholar and came up with a great modern English version.

I will never know, but I couldn’t bring myself to put them in the re-cycling sack.

So, just as someone must have been clearing out their parent’s home and decided to get rid of these old notebooks, no doubt someone will find them when they clear out my stuff – so one day they will end up in a sack but not tonight.

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I want stuff that works – and someone to help with our CDs

I am a big fan of quotations and of Douglas Adams, and two of my favourite quotes by him came to mind today.

He wrote, ’ We are stuck with technology when what we really want it stuff that works.’

‘Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.’

If at this point you are expecting the writings of a middle-aged woman baffled by some aspect of technology that a babe-in-arms would handle, then you are more or less right, and you might want to go off and do something else.

I  am not at all sure why you cannot have two Twitter accounts from one email address? More than that, why the hell not?

I have set up a twitter account for the Oxfam shop – called, just in case you live locally – OxfamBookPetersfield.

(It would not surprise my friend Anthony to note that yes, I meant to put OxfamBooksPetersfield – but didn’t proof read and so I am stuck with the missing S as I have no way of knowing how to amend it.)

I tweet badly and in a desultory fashion – not because I am not interested but I don’t think I have much interesting to say and I am not attuned enough to be re-tweeting really interesting stuff.

I want this account to be accessed from my laptop as well as my phone and my other twitter account, the one you find me on, to be accessed from my phone too.

Why is that too much to ask?

Anyway, we badly need to find someone locally to take on the DVD and vinyl & CDs side of the Oxfam bookshop business.

Our two music and film experts have taken it into their heads to move to the West Country and the very nice young woman who offered to take it on, has taken it into her head to go travelling in a VW camper around New Zealand for a year.

So, I reckon we need a young person who can do the aforementioned stuff, and at the same time run a Facebook account for the shop. And indeed, if I could find someone to do just the Facebook stuff, it might throw up, as it were, a young person or two who likes music and film.

But I am useless at Facebook – these blogs only get out there because WordPress took the whole issue of my hands and do it for me without so much as a by your leave, or further bothering my not-so-pretty little head about it.

(And, I don’t like Facebook. I really don’t need to a see a picture of your Sunday lunch or know that you have just bought a fab pair of jeans…..)

I need a digital native.

Which I me definitely not, but even at my advanced age there are some things which I take for granted – Google and email, for example. (Though I can remember a time without them …..)

I heard the bright people at Oxfam in Huntingdon, faced with the same mountain of books they had to re-cycle, had contacted local art college and offered them the ‘dead’ books.

These are then used to make paper sculptures and other artworks as part of their course, and displayed in the shop window.

Never one to worry about stealing a bright idea, I fired off an email, suggesting a chat about it, to the head of visual arts at Petersfield School. ( No, we don’t have a college – we are a small, insignificant, but rather nice, market town.)

I think emails are better than a phone call, in the first instance, because a phone call can ambush someone and an email gives them time to think about their response.

Well, that is to say, think about it for a bit – a short bit. Emails are there to be responded to quite quickly even if it is only with a, ‘ Let me have a think about it and be in touch shortly,’ kind of email.

Not so in a school environment, it would seem…….

Human Sympathy

If the story of some 70 people dying an agonising death in a lorry in Austria after, no doubt, risking life and limb to escape some brutal war, does not move people, god knows what would.

For a while now my best beloved has been collecting facts on immigrants and refugees – and no they are not the same despite the best efforts of some to conflate the issues.

I want to get something as cogent as the Daily Mail but from the other side. I am sure it is out there, but I haven’t laid my hands on it yet.

I want something that I could take to the pub and silence the voices that say, ‘Yes, I know, those poor people. But we are a small and overcrowded island and really we just can’t take any more.’

I haven’t got that killer piece in my hand, so I will just carry on with what I have got.

Here are just a few facts that might come in handy tomorrow night in the pub.

At the end of 2014 there were 19.5 million refugees worldwide.

Some 42,500 people a day left their homes and their usual lives to try and get to a place of safety.

Not only would the journey be dangerous but it is important to think about what it would be like for us if we had to leave our homes and set out to try and find a place of safety. Just what would you carry across a dessert or sea? Probably nothing. That means leaving all your life behind.

Some 86 per cent of those people ended up in developing countries. Not rich countries, developing countries.

There are 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. It has a population of just over 4 million.

Germany is taking tens of thousands and Angela Merkel has stood up to extreme right-wingers and said that it is the duty of her country to help.

And, do you know what, hundreds of ordinary German people are coming out to help and I am pretty sure the same would be true here.

Meanwhile, the UK government said there would be a ‘modest expansion’ in the number of Syrian refugees accepted into the UK, and a figure of 500 by the end of 2017 was cited.

Last year we took 187 people.

The government says they would rather put money into the region – and in fairness some £400m has been sent to aid refugees in countries like Jordan and Lebanon.

But I think the problem is that we have allowed a conflation of the issues around immigration and refugees.

There are issues around immigration and yes, there does need to be a re-think on how immigration works – maybe.

(However, we know that the NHS would collapse without immigration. See Jamie Oliver on C4 news saying all his businesses would close without immigrant workers. Ask any fruit farmer about finding pickers from say Liverpool or London.)

We need Cameron to have the leadership and guts to distinguish between the issues of immigration by people who want a bit better standard of living, and those who are fleeing persecution & war.

He needs to say that we, as a nation, cannot stand by and let desperate people die in Mediterranean.

He needs to say that we will be an integral part of a European response to the biggest refugee crisis since WWII.

And that involves more than sending dogs and razor wire to Calais.

(According to local sources, there were some 5,000 people in Calais trying to get into the UK in July. I am sure that the argument will be that if we let in those 5,000, another 10,00 would be hard on their heels. But 5,000 people is hardly a swarm.)

He needs to look his eurosceptic back-benchers straight in the eye and tell them to wind their necks in and search around in their copious pockets to find some human sympathy for people who have nothing, and need our help.

I’m not holding my breath on that one.

Medals II

For anyone who read the previous piece about the cap badge, here is a quick update.

I wrote up the badge’s regimental history and also some blurb to go with the rifle medal and the WRVS medal and decided to put them at the centre of a display of military history books. (Always a good seller in our shop  –  I may have mentioned we are knee deep in retired naval officers.)

I happened to be on the till that afternoon and so could see that the medals in the window had lots of people stopping to look and read. So, I gave myself a small pat on the back and tried not to look too delighted.

Then a woman came in and bought a card and, as she left she stopped to look at the medals, and then came back in.

It turned out her uncle had been in the Rifles regiment but only at the end of WWI. He had been in the Salvation Army so, though not a full conscientious objector, had been a cook behind the lines – and driven an ambulance I think.

But as the war drew to a close and every man was said to be needed at the front, he was given a gun, no training and sent out.

He was killed a week before the armistice.

This woman’s daughter had researched a whole lot of stuff about him and the war and had collected some memorabilia, but had never had a cap badge – now she has.

PS. The rifle medal sold too but I have no idea who to, and why anyone would want it.

It left the military history display lacking a certain something, so yesterday we changed it to a table full of crafts and hobbies books – who would have thought one shop needed four books on origami?

Leaving Brussels

The other day when I was in the cellar, I came across a lamp base with a red sticker on it.

It brought back the memories of leaving Brussels so I will now share with you what I wrote then and why the red sticker bought back memories….

We are leaving and that means ‘sorting out’ the largest house I am ever going to live in – from extensive and ‘stuff’ -filled basements and yes, we have them in the plural, to guest rooms in the attics.

We both had August off to do this but then I got a batch of work which meant hours on the computer and phone. That, as anyone self-employed will know, means that you spend your time in your ‘office’ thinking about the packing up and the time packing up thinking about who you need to phone.

Nick, like many men has a clear focus of what this sorting out involves.

I am tornado-ing through the house, throwing things out, giving things away, generally trying to reduce our belongings so that when we eventually have somewhere to permanent to live we won’t be deluged with stuff that makes you think, ‘ What on earth possessed me to think I would ever want to see this again?’

Meanwhile, Nick has sorted his ‘papers’, talked about putting all our many books into boxes in alphabetical order and polished his silver photo frames. (It was me of course, who rang the removal company and got them to deliver the boxes and so far, they are still flat packed. My suspicion is that our books may not be in perfect order when we unpack them.)

Yes of course, I am being a bit unfair.

One of the problems is that we are leaving said (huge) house, going to stay in a rented (very small) cottage for three months and then moving to a yet-be-found ( no doubt tiny because of the rental costs) apartment in Paris.

So, we have to guess what will need to come out of storage in Antwerp and be delivered to Paris and what should be left for a couple of years – maybe longer, maybe shorter, who knows. And delivered God knows where and to what.

I have devised a colour-coding system but I am always better at the bright idea than the follow through so I can see blues being confused with reds and sent with yellows to where only whites really should have gone.

The optimist in me says it will be a) fine by moving day b) I will get nice surprises when finally, some years hence all is delivered c) life is too short to worry about this stuff d) I have to maintain at least the semblance of an organised, efficient type so it will do.

The pessimist is in the corner wailing and renting (unpacked) garments and reaching for a large glass of wine.

Oxfam Medals

As every second household in Petersfield and the surrounding area seems to have spent the summer clearing their bookshelves, we have had an avalanche (or tsunami depending on your preference for natural disaster metaphors) of books into the shop.

Needless to say they were not all of the highest quality so a lot, a very lot, of sacks have been filled and stay piled up in the back room until the strong young man comes to collect them on a Friday.

But enough of all that – I certainly have had recently.

Donated last week were a couple of medals, one a Women’s Voluntary Service medal from the second world war and, another which says it was presented by the Society of Miniature Rifle Clubs ( a very small clubhouse or a very small gun – who knows?)

And we had a tin cap-badge which had ‘Peninsular’ on it and we thought was from the Peninsular War.

The best beloved did a bit of research into the cap badge and found that the regimental museum was in Winchester – a hop and skip away.

On Saturday we decided in a rather spur of the moment, raffish way, to go to this museum and see what we could find out about the badge.

It is a very nice museum – given that it is all about war – and there is an amazing model of the Battle of Waterloo, but also had on its premises, the curator – which was a real bonus.

So we got to find out that it was not a cap badge from the Peninsular War but a later one and worth not much at all – we hadn’t had big hopes on that score so not a disappointment.

And now we have its history, I am planning to have a display of military history books with the medals and their backgrounds on the shop table.

So, are we Oxfam volunteers so easily delighted.

(Should you be interested in the Rifle medal here is what I found out http://www.rifleman.org.uk/Society_of_Miniature_Rifle_Clubs.htm)


Bring on Autumn

I am quite looking forward to Autumn.
I do realise that for most people the idea of the nights drawing in and the weather turning worse does not put a spring in their step – if you will excuse the awful play on words. (It has been a while since I put fingers and brain to keyboard.)
But Autumn and Winter are the seasons I most look forward to.
Now I am a fully-fledged Sussex housewife, I have been keeping a beady eye on the elderberries (ready to be transformed into elderberry vinegar which is surprisingly nice) and the blackberries, and the rejuvenated crabapple tree.
My best beloved keeps talking about ‘nature’s bounty’ but then he is not the one to haul out the jamming pan from the depths of the cellar and make time to make preserves.
Though I have to say, upfront, this is not why I look forward to Autumn.
(Actually all that preserve-making always reminds me this is not the way I foresaw myself using my allotted span.)
I look forward to polo-neck jumpers, going out with a rucksack to gather kindling, seeing the log store full, and, oh yes, oh yes, putting the Aga back on.
Occasional storms that mean power cuts and filling the kitchen with candles, our amazing Rowan tree which every year turns from being a bit of boring number all through Spring and Summer, into a blaze of red berries for ages and encourages the thrushes back.
Snow, of course, is a bonus and one we haven’t had much of for a while but I can live in hope.
I do realise that this is all romantic rubbish and most of the time it is a slog to walk the dog in the mud and rain, there is a point when just because it is going dark at four does not mean it is time to start cooking supper, the grey days are relentless by February and very depressing.
And when we did have snow, I loved it for two or three days of only being able to walk to the village and then I was bored and very pleased to be eventually able to drive to the giddy delights of Petersfield.
But still I look forward to it. And there is still the bottle of Lebanese red wine bought from the very nice Lebanese man who gets it from his family’s Lebanese vineyard (are you sure you understand that this is special Lebanese wine?), which we have been keeping for a couple of years for that night when it is ideally cold and wintry, probably with a snow storm raging , a delicious meal of some sort which I have concocted and am secretly very impressed with and even best beloved says is a great accompaniment to the wine, the log burner going full blast, the dog asleep on her rug, maybe a few candles…..

(I have, in all honesty, to say you might just as well catch us having a bottle of cheap white from Lidl and a risotto and an episode of Lewis, but a girl can dream.)