My first memory of a library dates to the time that I was a Cub Scout. From an early age I was a prolific reader and so it was only natural that when I joined the cubs I was entered for a badge in book-reading! This meant that I would need to be examined by a librarian, so I was taken to the County Library for the examination.

Libraries have always fascinated me. They are repositories of the world’s knowledge freely available to anyone with an enquiring mind.

A couple of years ago I joined the British Library, on some counts the world’s largest library, almost as a challenge to myself. I’d heard that on the one hand the librarians there were notoriously fierce, but on the other that anyone could apply for membership. I did my research and went one day to apply for membership. To my surprise, I was given a Reader’s Ticket! (The secret is to actually have something that you would like to look up. If you just turn up expecting to be given a ticket for no reason, you will be disappointed.)

The British Library is for reference only. Ideally you need to reserve your books ahead of time for the simple reason that it can take over an hour for a librarian to find the book for you and deliver it to one of the reading rooms. When you visit your first job is to check in your coat and bag, and to put anything you need (pencils, computers…) into a see-through carrier bag. When that’s done you head off to the reading room. Next, you find a desk to leave your possessions at (briefly), take a note of the desk number, and head off to collect your reserved item. Once you are done you return the book to the librarian’s desk and head out to collect your belongings. It feels rather a privilege to be able to dip into the country’s book collection in such a way, and I carry my Reader’s Ticket in my wallet with pride.



Sorry folks, I didn’t get to do the March 1st post:

(A) I’ve been crazy busy.

(B) It snowed!

I have a story brewing up in my head for April 1st… about libraries. 😍

Big Data

For a while I’ve been worrying about my online presence. I have a couple of Facebook accounts and three or four email accounts, and they all add up to a pretty large footprint that anyone can take a look at. I don’t just mean the likes of NSA but the actual platforms themselves. Google makes its money from manipulating the personal data that people give it, as do Facebook and Twitter. And the data can be compromising. I don’t want a potential future employer to know how often I use the word ‘fuck’ online.

So it’s time for action.

I took a look at how much data Google hold on me the other day. You literally can do that, and download a copy of the data-set if you want. I tried, and failed. The compressed file was in excess of 1 gigabyte in size. My WI-fi couldn’t handle that big a download.

It’s time for action.

I then did the same exercise with Facebook. The compressed file was a more manageable 120 megabytes. Still a tad more than I was expecting. I wasn’t expecting to see a list of phone numbers from my cellphone there, though.

It’s time for action.


Over Christmas I have been reading a novel by Georges Simenon, one of his ‘Maigret’ series. They are suitably mysterious mysteries, not just because of their topic but because they describe a past that is long gone. Christmas and New Years is about looking back, but also about looking forward – with expectation and hope.

The Hill

I climbed the hill yesterday, and when I got over to the other side I saw there were some cows. As I approached one I stretched out my hand to say ‘hello’ and the cow licked it!