A random fact

Random fact from the private discussion boards of Lib Dem voice:

Catholic priests were unable to stand for election to Parliament until 2001, when the law was suddenly changed, when, er Labour selected a Catholic priest.

Judging by the speech made in the Lords by Lord Bassam of Brighton, the prohibition was on both present and former priests.

Reading through the debate for a minute or two following on the link above, there are some fascinating contributions, including the 5th Earl Russell, whose book I haven’t read.


White Glove Shipping

Amazon.com is offering me “free white glove shipping” with selected HDTVs.

As someone who has bought DVDs in the past, they say, I might be interested in recent price reductions in their top of the range TVs.

Doubt it.

But what is white glove shipping?!

Todays buzz-phrase

This phrase came up at a planning pre-meeting this afternoon: “Distress purchase”

Apparently, this is what those small, late-night stores are for.  Common distress purchases are bread, milk, chocolate and fags.

Book tag

Intelligent Person's Guide to LiberalismIain Dale tagged me yonks ago to write about books. I’ve been rather avoiding answering. Although I love reading, I seldom read anything of any weight. I snatch hours here and there to read detective fiction, but even when I do have longer periods, it does tend still to be the same old tec fic. I carried An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Liberalism around in my bag for months but never got beyond the first chapter. My Dad gets the Booker Prize winner for Christmas each year because he likes weighty fiction, but I haven’t read one of them before giving since Pat Barker’s Ghost Road.

1. Name one book that changed your life.

That’s a very tall order. I was always very taken by Mr Tickle. Just the idea of being able to get biscuits from the kitchen without ever having to get out bed…

2. One book you’ve read more than once.

Marked for Life by Paul MagrsMarked for Life by Paul Magrs.

Back in 1995, I was working at Ludlow Library as my Saturday job during my A Level years. It was a very good job for me since at the time I did a huge amount of reading. I jobshared with someone I only met once or twice, because we were both language students and we were both likely to take time off for travelling. I used to borrow huge amounts of books, CDs and the like for free. Whenever anything interesting came over the counter, I snaffled it for myself. So often, I learned my library card number so I could type it into the terminal: R2206004395.

Another of the perks was that books about to be published got promoted to the library. We used to get a deck of filing cards with titles, and a very brief synopsis. Something about the book grabbed me – it could just have been the word ‘gay’ in the description. I marked the card as one I wanted the library to buy, a few weeks later, the book showed up, I borrowed it, read it, and was wowed. I bought it for myself a few days later. Now I can’t really remember much about what was in the book, but magical realism featured. Something that really sticks in my mind was a sex scene between the tatooed guy the book is named for and an invisible guy who’s only visible at all because of a glow-in-the-dark condom. Marked for Life is the first in a trilogy, the others are Does it Show? and Could it be Magic? Some of the characters from these books also turn up in Magrs’ Dr Who fiction, which is an interesting crossover of genres.

All these books are amongst the very large stash of my books in my parents’ attic. They’re in a box that says I have to look at them again in ten years from when they went up there. That must be coming up soon. Gawd only knows where in this house they’ll go!

3. One book you’d want on a desert island.

This one looks like a good idea.

4. One book that made you laugh.

Tough call – go for the Pratchett or go for the Fforde? I did hoot recently when re-reading The Eyre Affair at the idea of a perfomance of Richard III given the full audience-participation of Rocky Horror. (“When is the winter of our discontent? ‘NOW is the winter of our discontent.'”) And The Big Over Easy was full of terrible jokes all the way through. Then again pterry manages whole books predicated on one bad pun…

5. One book that made you cry.

Grinny, by Nicholas FiskI’m not sure anything has for decades. I do remember being very upset as a nipper by the book You Remember Me! by Nicholas Fisk, a sequel to Grinny and by the same author as Trillions, and A Rag, A Bone and a Hank of Hair. The cover of the Puffin edition of Grinny makes it look like a charming, quirky little story for quite young children. I remember it as a horrifically frightening book – one of those books that scares you witless, but you go back to and read again and again for the thrill. This teaching site lists it as a Key Stage 3 text, which is age-range 11-14, but I think I must have read this at 8. I was probably a wee bit too young. Anyway, I would ly recommend Fisk to anyone with children interested in science fiction. The reviews for Rag sum it up:

i first read this way back in the 70’s and, to be honest, i scared me witless for years after. maybe i was a sensitive child or something. so i came back to it a cynical adult and after the first twenty pages i was laughing at my previous fears, but then the plot really kicks in and remarkably for a thirty year old kids book it hasn’t dated.

6. One book you wish you’d written.


7. One book you wish had never been written.

Oh, what kind of a question is that?

8. One book you’re currently reading.

I’m currently reading 80 Days Around the World for Librivox. Draft files here. I really need to find some time to record more chapters. An actual book? – I have Monster by Jonathan Kellerman on the go, one of the Alex Delaware series.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read.

I bought that Kennedy biography, but haven’t got off the first page yet.

10. Now tag five people.

I don’t tag people. If you want to do the list yourself, knock yourself out.

Calendar tip

If you’re laying out calendars as part of your campaign this year, you might find this site useful.  Lib Dems like calendars with candidates name on and the key message because hopefully people will find the calendar useful, stick it on their wall, and then spend the rest of the year looking at the names of your candidates and your key message.
The site lets you define the calendar you want and produces it in plain text, you can more or less copy it into your artwork.  Or ask me for mine in a day or two…

The other interesting thing the site does is works out all sorts of interesting dates and times based on any input you give it.  When will you have your 1,000,000,000 second?

I’ll have both my 15 millionth minute and my 250 thousandth hour sometime on February 9th next year.

Radio 4 addicts

… will like this take on the worst programmes on the network.

Although his list of the worst programmes is a little ideosyncratic. I like most of those.

Quote… Unquote can be dire, but sometimes it’s not too bad.

Loose ends. Well. With him on that one.

Comedy – oh, there are some pearls amongst the dross. Most of the ones he lists are OK.

Something Understood. Yup, Don’t like that.

In Our Time. Well, I quite like that, but not enough to work my way through the MP3 library of every programme there’s ever been.

The Afternoon Play. Don’t hear it too often, except when really late for work like today. Today’s was, erm, interesting. Weird. Kind of the airwaves equivalent of magical realism.

Today. Oh, gotta love Today. What else to wake up to?

The Learning Curve Oh, poor Libby Purves. She’s great.

Moneybox Always makes me feel guity I haven’t reconciled my bank book since 1998. Hell, I haven’t seen my chequebook since we moved.

Any Answers? Oh, no question. Full of loons. Worst 40 minutes in the schdule.

Book reviews

The Council has asked councillors for book reviews to display in libraries during Local Democracy Week.  Here’s what I wrote:

The Alphabet Mysteries, by Sue Grafton

I’m going to be greedy and not just choose one book.

I’ve always been a huge reader of murder mysteries and crime novels, from when I started to read Famous Five books as a nipper to when they let me into the adult library for the first time, and I got through the entire back catalogue of Agatha Christie stories.

Even now there’s nothing I like more than to take an evening off and curl up with a good murder story and over the last year, I’ve been working my way through Sue Grafton’s books about private investigator Kinsey Millhone.

It was a very ambitious thing for Grafton to start one book “A is for Alibi” and the next “B is for Burglar”.  It’s saying upfront “I’m not just going to write one or two books, I’m going to write at least 26!”

But Grafton is managing to keep up the pace and has got all the way through to S is for Silence, and shows no sign of slowing down.  And all the books are great – you know what you’re getting when you pick one up.  A fast paced thriller, bad guys, good guys, and a PI who cuts her own hair with nail scissors.  Who could ask for anything more?

On a different tack, as a politician, you could say I like the sound of my own voice.  I make recordings of public domain texts through an international project www.librivox.org  —  it’s a group of volunteers from around the world who make MP3s of public domain works.  We’re always looking out for more people to help, both with reading, and with the admin side.  And there’s hundreds of free audiobooks on the site too!

Talented and Gifted

I’ve just spent a bit over an hour at a secondary school in my ward having a conversation with one of their Year 11 Talented and Gifted groups. It sounded rather daunting, but I think it went very well. Some of the group were a bit quiet, some of them quite outspoken, but they were all very well behaved, and had loads of helpful and sensible things to say and ask.

I’d gone in with a few things prepared in my mind to talk about, all on the “what councils and councillors do” type of thing, so I could have had “what I’ve done this week” (Full Council, residents’ meeting, group meeting, work activities, casework), “what does the council do”, “what say do politicians have in my school”, “what sort of things do neighbours of the school write to me about”.

But in the end, the conversation seemed to me to flow pretty well, and took in a huge amount of Council service areas, and I surprised myself with how much I already knew the answer to. We spent a disproportionate amount of time on rubbish, recycling and collection, possibly because I’ve just started turning up at a Waste Steering Group looking at the future of waste disposal, so it’s at the top of my mind.
There are one or two topics the pupils have asked me to raise in the Council, which I will, and their teacher asked me if he could give my details out to other teachers running similar groups at the school. I’d be more than happy to go back.

When I first started out as a councillor, three and half years ago, I wondered about writing to all the schools in my ward to say, I’m here, I wouldn’t mind visiting if you think I can help out in any way. I didn’t in the end, because that sounded hopelessly self-involved. “*Jazz hands* Here I am!” Maybe I will if and when I get re-elected.

The other thing in the back of my head, as one of my “what-if” plans has been, knowing that I don’t intend to do the politics thing for the rest of my life, I could go back to uni and do a PGCE.  But all I know about schools is what I remember from being there myself.  They’ve changed a lot in the last thirteen years.  The classroom I was in today had a pen-board marked up with WILF WALT boxes for the start of each lesson: What I’m Looking For and We Are Learning Today.  My teachers were good, but I’m not sure they were always so organised!