Thursday, 20 January 2011

the love of reading

Do you have fond memories of spending hours with your nose between the pages of a book?  Were you fortunate enough to lose yourself in a time/place/land that wasn't the one you could see from your bedroom window?  Did you make friends there?  Laugh and cry with them, share their sorrows, joy and adventures?

Know what?  You were lucky, as was I.  I don't remember learning to read, but I know I loved reading from an early age.  I used to get off the bus at the library every day from the ages of eleven to thirteen, and take out two new novels every day.  I would read one of them as I walked the remaining mile or so home, then do my homework, and start to read for pleasure again.

When my daughter was very small I enrolled her in our local library.  She couldn't walk, but she could stand at the large boxes of "baby" books and pull out the ones she liked the look of.  I used to buy her Ladybird books, cheap and cheerful, from the age of about three months.  She loved the nursery rhymes, the repetition and the rhythmic qualities.

Only the very richest families can afford to buy all the books a child needs to lay their hands on.  Libraries fill the gap - new books to enjoy every day if they wish, or every week.  They can change their favourite authors as often as they change their favourite food - it doesn't cost anything.

And now our government is considering closing some of these wonderful resource centres.  What are they thinking of?  Oh,  yes, saving money - of course!  In an era when so many children leave school unable to read and write competently, wouldn't it be better to spend more money to make libraries vibrant, interesting spaces where children want to visit?

If you hook a child's attention early enough, you have them for life.  I life of literacy is infinitely more appealing than one bereft of the pleasures of reading.  If you can read, you can learn just about anything, whether for pleasure or out of necessity.  The increase in book clubs must surely be an indication that reading is still a valued pleasure.

So, if anyone asks you what you think about the idea of closing libraries, what will be your reaction?

Saturday, 15 January 2011

out of communication

Over the past few weeks I've noticed that the phone doesn't hold its charge very long, and friends have commented on the occasional "beep" that they could hear, which I couldn't, I got temporary silence instead.

It seemed clear that the phone was poorly, and I decided to buy a new one, a simple corded one, not another portable one on a docking station.  I don't like the infra red all the time, and I'm certain that corded phones are more reliable.  Now that mobile phones are the norm, the convenience of portability is less important.

Whilst we were suffering from flu, we weren't interested in using the phone.  A couple of times it rang, but the reception wasn't good.  We didn't have the energy to do anything about it.  It could wait.

One day we picked it up to use it and it was very crackly.  Then it was worse ... it was silent!  We forced ourselves to go out an buy a phone.  We came home, unpacked it and plugged it in.  It, too, was silent.

Drat, it was the phone line, not the phone!  I filled in a report form on-line, the broadband was fine.  I carried my mobile around with me.  nothing.

Next day we drove into town and called in at the showroom, where the young man allowed me to use one of their phones to call the service centre.  After hanging on the phone for about twenty minutes, I finally arranged for an engineer to call round.  The next evening.

I was given a three hour time slot, and the engineer arrived early on in the slot.  He established that the line was viable where it entered the house, then asked to come inside.  He offered to put on plastic overshoes so as not to make the house muddy!  Ten out of ten for consideration, Virgin:-) 

There was no dialling tone inside the house.  In next to no time, he'd removed the socket from the wall, found some of the contacts to be rusting, replaced the socket, tested the line and was on his way.

Brilliant.  I'm now back in phone contact with the world.

Monday, 10 January 2011

New Washing Machine

It has to be one of those laws, too numerous for us all to remember the names of, that says that any piece of household equipment will choose one of the most inconvenient times to die.

Here, in sunny Lancashire (!) the week before Christmas saw me removing laundry from the washing machine which was dripping.  When I recovered from the shock, I wrang the clothes out over the sink, then walked up the icy roads with my trusty shopping trolley heavy with still very wet washing, to the local launderette, where I invested two twenty pence pieces in using their spin drier.

The trolley weighed considerably less on the way home!

We decided that we might find a pre-January sale bargain if we held on until after Christmas before we bought a new machine, so I repeated the journey to the launderette with a couple of loads of washing - I'm sure some unkind folk must have thought I was the new "bag lady" of the area!!  Fortunately, the charity book shop is just one minute's stroll from the launderette, so there was no problem as to what to do with my time whilst I waited for the giant machines to work their magic.  Lucky that, eh?

Did we see any pre-sale bargains?  Well, let's say there were as many of those as there were effective chocolate tea pots.  However, I did decide that this time I was going to buy a top-loader, rather than the more common front-loader.  They take up a smaller footprint on the floor, and can be very energy efficient.

What I found surprising, as I wandered round the shops, was that every machine was cold-fill only.  Whether I planned on spending a couple of  hundred, or a thousand pounds, I would only be using one hose inlet, not the usual two.

I finally opted for a Hoover, with an A+ AA rating, and it's been busy handling the backlog of washing very well.  It's cold-fill, as I said, but I can't see the point in using electricity to heat the water, when my hot water in the home is heated by gas, which is still cheaper than electricity, even though it's creeping up.

So, when I've filled the drum and added the washing liquid, I run the hot tap at the sink, then carry six kettles full of hot water across the room and pour the steaming contents over the washing, before starting the machine.  That way, I use far less electricity than I would otherwise, and it speeds up the wash time, too.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Hello, and goodbye!

Well, I have to finally concede that the bad cold was, in fact, flu - although I don't "do" flu.  We're both still recovering, and will be fit to travel on Monday.  Or fit to drop.

I actually managed to walk down to the supermarket on the docks yesterday, the first time for ages.  I was shattered when I got back.  At least all we have now is the residual cough.  I've been coughing since Novemeber, so I'll miss it when it finally leaves me!!!

This morning, I actually felt well enough to go through my wardrobe and pull out some clothes to pack:-)  Until then I really wouldn't have worried if the holiday had been cancelled, I had absolutely no interest in it whatsoever.

The good thing about having flu?  I got some reading done as I tossed and turned in bed.  I've read several short stories, to suit my short attention span!  I've read Ursula le Guin's Tales from Earthsea, Anne Fine's Frozen Billy, some of Charles Dicken's Christmas Stories, some Murder for Love short stories, most of The Twelve Days of Christmas assorted short stories, My Best Friend by Laura Wilson, Terry Pratchett's Maskerade, and Alan Titchmarsh's Knave of Spades.

I'm taking Philip Pullman's Northern Lights away with me to re-read ready for my friend Claire's book club.  I'll have to find something else to slip in my bag, too, but I'm not sure what as yet.

Be good whilst I'm gone, and stay healthy.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you all.  I hope that 2011 will be kind to you and yours, giving you everything you need, plus just that little bit extra!

I've spent the last couple of days in bed, so my greetings are a little late, but just as heartfelt.  I've got the really bad cold that's flourishing around here.  It has to go, and soon, as we fly out to Malta in a few days, and I will not allow it to spoil my holiday!!!

The pretty white snow has disappeared here, but the contents of my water butts would still make excellent ice cubes for a giant's g & t :-)  It's amazing how long a solid block of ice can take to melt, isn't it?

The birds are back to scrabbling in the soil, rather than relying on the apples and fat balls we've been putting out for them.  A greater spotted woodpecker sat on top of a fat ball, pecking away at it from the top.  The first time I've seen one in my garden.  A redwing came to pay a first visit, too, enjoying the berries on the holly tree out front.

Sorry, no photos of them, you'll just have to take my word for it.  Maybe one day I'll buy a camera that can take good photos through windows, if such a thing exists!  Opening a window to take a photo seems to be a farewell to whatever bird I'm watching:-(

If you made a new year resolution, I hope it hasn't yet been broken.  I gave them up years ago.  I'd rather just try and live a reasonably good life, causing as little damage as I can to other people and things.  I'm not sure how well I do, it's difficult to quantify, don't you find?

Whatever your intentions, I really hope that the coming year will be good for you and yours x