Sunday, 4 May 2014

The changing face of Children's books

I don't seem to get the time these days to read as much as I'd like, but I've been an avid book reader for as long as I can remember. I don't really know where I got the love of reading from as I don't recall being read to that much at home, but I devoured books as a youngster.

I mainly read books either through the public library or through items purchased through the school book club. I read as much as I could - all the classics you might expect, Jamie and the Giant Peach, Charlotte's Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ... but my absolute favourites were ... the Famous Five - I had all of them at one stage, eventually growing out of them and either myself or my mum giving them away. I loved those adventures and even the body blow dealt by the 'Comic Strip presents' couldn't dull my favourable memories:

For some reason I never got into The Secret Seven (maybe I saw them as arch-enemies') but I was reminded of all this childhood enthusiasm when finding these two books in one of my random assorted boxes:
Book 10 - The Secret Seven witnesses a house burn down, and after that a precious violin stolen. Are the two incidents related?

Book 9 - The Secret Seven find that a girl, called Elizabeth Mary Welhemina Sonning, has disappeared after she is blamed for stealing some money from her teacher's desk. Will the Secret Seven find her, and solve the mystery, or will the police do it first?

Despite the condition of the dust jacket, these two first publications from '57 and '58 are in good enough nick to hang onto and share with my little 'un when he gets to the right age, but I find myself wondering about their relevance - do children nowadays read Enid Blyton? It would almost seem a fantastical age to them - almost another 'fantasy' world. "Why do they not have mobile phones daddy?"

I'm interested to know - is Enid Blyton still widely read to or by children nowadays? Is she too politically incorrect or plain irrelevant?

Friday, 25 April 2014

Books and the History they hold

I love second hand books. This is not the Yorkshireman in me being particular fond of a bargain – of course I am, but that’s not the real reason. I love to think about the history of the book – how it’s been loved and cherished and the various hands it might have been through. I also look for the books with inscriptions “To X with Love” etc. which signify something of the background to the book.

One specific example of this (and I have a small number of my own) is the school prize book (do they still do that now?). Two of my own I remember (which are lingering at my parents somewhere) were ‘Legend of the Stars’ – a book about star constellations and the associated legends and a “Diary of Yesterdays’ – famous incidents on every day of the calendar year from past times.

So I was especially intrigued when I found this in one of my various boxes:

Uncle Tom's Cabin c 1904

It’s one of my older books – coming in at 110 years old and certainly looks like it might have been a rather grand book in its day (the picture not doing the contours and colouring any justice) but it’s not the age, per se, which intrigues me. It’s the certificate on the inside:

City of Leeds Education Committee – School Prize for attendance and Good Conduct to ... is it Mabel Hammond, possibly Isabel or Anabel but I’m erring towards Mabel.

I’m plagued by many questions...

Was this a school specific prize or a city wide prize? How many such prizes were given out – as above the book looks like it might have been a good one and I don’t suppose the average everyman would have been reading this book in 1904.

What about Mabel – how old was she, was she receiving what might seem to be a good education, given her age would she more likely have been married with children by the onset of world war 1 rather than forging a working life (or both) – if married did her family survive the war? My own Great Grandfather would also have been a child in 1904  -he lost his life one week after joining the war in 1917 having seen around 1500 of his ‘Bradford Pals’ colleagues die on the first morning of battle.

This is not a book I want to put on ebay or particularly give away to a random stranger. What I’d really like to do is find out about Mabel, find out about her family and find a descendant to hand this piece of family history over to wherever they may be. Other than paying the likes of I don’t really have the faintest idea where to start, but I have a desire to do it. Where is the ‘Who do you think you are’ team when you need them?

All help and suggestions warmly welcomed

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Books By Bike reborn

What seemed like a good idea in the depths of last winter quickly turned, well not sour, but not exactly all sweetness and light.

I was under a 'hernia' cloud for the first few months of the year as my op kept getting postponed for a variety of reasons and then in March / April my garage was broken into and both my trusty Boardman commute (and 'books by bike(BBB)') bike and my Specialized road bike got nicked ... I contributed to this a little I guess in not making the garage more safe than it was and not securing the bikes inside that well , but still ... dirty rotten scumbags ....

Books by foot / Tram / Car just didn't have the same appeal .... and although an extended family member (who was now hooked on expensive road cycling) came to my rescue by letting me have the bike above from his garage, new wheels, tyres and other bits still set me back a bit.

Before I had chance to get it ship-shape however I finally had my hernia op in May, which really knocked me for six physically. It took a lot longer to get back into the swing of things exercise-wise than I'd anticipated. Having lost about 9 lbs over the first couple of BBB months I ended up putting 11 lbs back on - this including a week where I lost half a stone being sick as a dog.... I'm glad to say most of that has come back off:

I've actually managed to get rid of quite a lot of books via the local Altrincham charity shops (and BTW - make sure you gift aid - SCOPE and BHF both provide updates on how much money your items have fetched ..) I still have box loads I can get be giving away. I established some RULES back when I started which pretty much hold true but I'll be changing them slightly  - I also want to link contributions to local foodbank, but more on that in future posts.

First books to be added when I've updated the various linked accounts!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

One Month in ... January Summary

  • Books Delivered: 10
  • Bike miles travelled: 159
  • Weight Lost: 2lbs
  • Charitable Contribution: ~£25

Before I review / remind you where I am, I have some book catching up to do:

Six Of Swords (12miles) – slight diversion, in that this was posted to a colleague in our US office but I did cycle into work with it.

Lawrence Dallaglio: It’s in the Blood (12 miles) – a handover in the Kings Ransom car park, occasioned by difficulties in matching schedules... a lady requested it for her husband who used to play rugby (injury i think) and she hadn’t told him what it was when I handed it over, which was kind of sweet

Gray’s Anatomy (12 miles) – I considered keeping this but it would have sat on my shelf gathering dust so go it must. A 200yd diversion on my way into work (Note to self: I must do a post on Sale)

Picasso (12 miles) – another diversion... chap lives in Bolton but we tried to hook up in Altrincham as he was in town – we got snowed off. So i’m dropping it off on my way up to a meeting in Preston as it’s just a short hop from the Motorway

There’s one more to share but that’s a separate post.

So, the overview. I resolved at the start of the year to give away a huge pile of books (and I mean huge) using the range of social media at my disposal. I wanted to get off to a good start so used Freecycle which is where the bulk of Januarys books have gone. It has the benefit of people who want free stuff go on there and they’re all local!

Next Social Media. Twitter first, recently joined by a FB page and more esoterically Pinterest and Librarything (click on all links for my accounts). The last two being a repository for cover pictures and available book details respectively.

As a reminder, for every book I deliver by bike I add £1 plus 5p per mile travelled on the round trip to a charity pot which I’m pushing through to Justgiving once a month. In addition I also forgot that I also committed to £5 per lb of weight lost... the Justgiving page is: and I’m also happy to take donations in addition to what I’m putting in there myself.

A number of things I have learned already:

  • I don’t know the hidden depths of the wider area I live very well – I’m discovering all sorts of wonderful things and sharing as many of them as I can
  • Investment in a new winter hi-vis jacket with additional inbuilt rear light was a sound one
  • I need to be more curious without being nosey – it’s a fine balance but people love to talk
  • I need to keep re-explaining what I’m doing otherwise some posts just won’t make any sense

Thursday, 24 January 2013

A Trip Down Memory Lane

The previous delivery provided a trip down memory lane (or memory track?) and this one had a tangential trip down memory lane of its own.

After a previous book on the History of the FA was claimed I received an email from Sue whose 70+ yr old father suffered from Dementia. He had been a long time football fan and the book would have provided (provoked?) some memories of days gone by… I knew I had to do something, so I advised I’d find something appropriate.

Age does funny things to us in terms of memory, we all get affected by short term memory loss – we can keep it relatively agile through various techniques but in those with Dementia short term memory loss is a permanent feature. Short term memory stores all those things happening to and around us, it takes things in, filters it and decides what should flow through into long term memory which in itself is divided (simplistically) into event based memory – dates, things that happened etc. and more functional memory – the things we don’t even consciously think about – riding a bike, boiling an egg and such like. In the later stages of dementia, these longer term memories start to be affected and our need for care increases.

Long term memory is a powerful thing – we can probably all think of a song that evokes our first love and brings to mind, sounds, sights, smells. Caring appropriately for memory in those with Dementia can really improve quality of life. So as a football fan, Sue’s father might not be able to remember the current manager of Aston Villa1, or who plays at the Keepmoat Stadium2, but could probably reel off the starting 11 from the 1966 world cup final or in my case it would be the Leeds Untied FA cup winning team of 19723 (despite being an infant at the time).

Burnden Park c/o 
So this book was perfect – The Football Grounds of England & Wales, but before Keepmoat, Ricoh, DW, Emirates et al provided some of the money which built spanking new stadiums of seemingly opulent luxury (if the ticket prices are anything to go by). The book was printed in the mid 80s so there aren’t any behemoth Premier League stadia in there… Roker Park, not Stadium of Light, Burnden Park not the Reebok Stadium .. well you get the picture. My hope is that upon receiving the book ,  the memories of standing on a freezing cold terrace on New Years Day with a cup of Bovril and a Meat Pie of questionable provenance came flooding back and a smile arose at the thought of George Best dancing down the wing as various ruggedly built defenders tried to decapitate him.

I don’t know whether it was irony or sod’s law or something else, but I printed off a map for the house and because I kind of knew where it was I didn’t really refer to it again. As I turned into what I thought was the appropriate road (no signs) I knew this wasn’t quite right… which I found out after posting it and then cycling past the right road … happily I had labelled the pack so book was eventually happily received ….

1.        Still Paul Lambert at the time of posting but hanging on.
2.        Doncaster Rovers
3.        Harvey, Reaney, Madeley, Hunter, Charlton, Bremner, Giles, Lorimer, Gray, Clarke, Jones

ASIDE: I’ve changed my donation rule – I’ll be donating 5p per mile on top of the £1 per book which makes a 40 mile round trip a £3 donation instead of £1.40 which seems more proportionate.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Heatley & Warburton Station (Disused)

On Paper this was a lovely Sunday ride. Out on the Trans Pennine Trail to Warrington and back along the Bridgewater Canal. In the main it was pleasant, if a little cold. However with lots of recent rain the stretch of the canal from Warrington to Lymm was like Glastonbury in a bad year. Mud everywhere – a nice 20 mile route felt more like a hard 30 – but all to the good I suppose.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
I enjoyed this one for another reason. The lady that responded to my latest Freecycle ad had a purpose. She provides transport for a young man with Learning Disabilities who has an obsession with the Chronicles of Narnia and with Harry Potter and this book would be very well received. She’d wanted to pick it up on her to the young man as he lived near me but I explained my project which she really liked and I lined the weekend up for delivery – I’m told the book was well received.

I wanted to talk separately about the section of the Trans-Pennine that I ride on quite a bit. This particular section, from Altrincham to Warrington was once known as the Lymm Railway but has been transformed into a walking / cycling / running / horse riding thoroughfare. Like many such railways it became increasingly little used as a result of the growth of the motor car ad roads to support – it became one of many victims of the Beeching Report – testaments countrywide to the once formidable power of the railways. Many lines are being reopened largely due to volunteers but I doubt this would ever see the return of trains – only in ghostly apparition, smoke billowing in the night.

The Station
About 4 miles into the straight, flat stretch there is a station building and platform, overgrown, but recognisable – I often think when I pass it that if I won just enough money to indulge passions I’d but the station and set up a little cafe for the many passers by whatever the mode of transport. Perhaps a corner of the cafe could contain history of the railway and any images we could find that folk could peruse whilst sipping their tea and eating their homemade cake / bacon butty. There would be space for locking of bicycles and chairs along the platform to drink in the sun when it deigned to put in an appearance..... And back to reality

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Two for the price of One

The Canal Boat graveyard was a ‘should have bought my phone moment’ – I’m sure I’ll be back that way again, but it was an unexpected sight whilst pootling along the Bridgewater Canal in the mid-section of this particular book delivery. You’ll either need to go there or await my return with camera / phone.

The two book thing was a little bit of a cheat to be honest. The communication skills book has been added to the ‘work library’, which essentially means its bulking out the shelf on the bookcase in my office. Of course there are a few people I could recommend read it but I’m much too diplomatic for that (maybe I’ll add the diplomacy book later).

However, the good thing was that work was on the route of one of the ways I could get to the second drop off, so I got to ride a decent section of the Bridgewater canal  which runs from Runcorn to Leigh. To press the furthest west I’ve been is Lymm and this trip extended the route East to Stretford (it does run all way into Manchester). Between Altrincham and Stretford it’s a tale of second half good, first half not so good, to reverse a caricatured Sven Goran Eriksson quotation. From Altrincham to Brooklands Tram station is rutted and gets extremely muddy and is not for the faint hearted (particularly of a winters evening). Past Brooklands and its had some good investment and attracts cyclists, runners, people walking their dogs and others just out for a stroll – a vision of what all urban canal sides should be.

Having located the drop off point I manoeuvred my way back to the Trans Pennine WayNational Cycle Route 62 – of which more in later posts I think. Suffice to say that the mid stretch of this, which cuts through some woods adjacent to farmland was heavily flooded with patches of up to 50 metres at a time of the pathway under water. Luckily a ‘serious’ MTBer had passed me earlier but was struggling to shake me off and he acted as my guinea pig to make sure they were passable (they were just – good test for the bike in its first off road excursion)

All in all it was a good Sunday ride out, 20 miles bagged, 2 books delivered and £2.20 added to the charity pot. Shame about the lack of photos though.