Friday, 3 February 2012

Public libraries - what a good use of taxpayer money!

I’ve read a couple of autobiographies/memoirs in recent months in which the author has had his (yes they are both males) life transformed as a result of discovering the public library.

One was Jack Marshall’s memoir “From Baghdad to Brooklyn- Growing up in a Jewish-Arabic family in Midcentury America” 

Marshall grew up in Brooklyn, NY. He is the son of Jewish parents whose linguistic heritage was Arabic. (His mother was from Aleppo, Syria, his father from Baghdad, Iraq.)
Marshall discovered a world beyond his circumspect background when he discovered the Brooklyn library.

The other was “Learning to die in Miami. The confessions of a refugee boy” by Carlos Eire.  Carlos was one of the 14,000 “Peter Pan” children from Cuba who were airlifted to the United States between 1960 and 1962  


Cut off from his family, culture and heritage Carlos was more or less left adrift in the Greater Miami area.  He is first fostered by a caring anglo family.  When it becomes clear that his mother will never be able to leave Cuba (after the awful “Bay of Pigs invasion – ill conceived and mismanaged by JFK and his administration), Carlos has to leave this home, only to be more or less warehoused with other refugee children in another foster home – a place of deprivation and misery.  Carlos moves towards personal freedom and emancipation when he too discovers a public library in Miami.

Indeed, let’s hear it for our public libraries. They are terrific institutions.

Of course I have an android based “tablet”.  I have used it to download books (most recently for my trip to Australia). I am not opposed to e-books.

But I love to go to one or other of the Sarasota County FL public libraries. (I live about equidistant from three of them  [North Library, Fruitville Library and Selby Library] – I should be so lucky!

In these libraries I can wander and browse the stacks and then take out books which I might never have encountered otherwise, (those by Marshall and Eire being prime examples).

The books that I borrow often help me to become a more informed citizen and voter. And they introduce me to worlds which otherwise would have been beyond my ken.

So it is that I express my gratitude for the “gift” of public libraries, and at the same time hope that our cities and/or counties will fund them “to the max”.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

When I met Mr Shakespeare.

In about 1962 I became the proud owner of a Lambretta scooter.  Dad and I went down to a vendor of pre-owned scooters whose business was on Warwick Rd in the Easton part of Bristol.

The owner of the business had some sort of connection with the Plymouth Brethren -  so that (allegedly) made him more reliable.

The scooter was useful for my work -  I used it to travel the ten or so miles from my home to the Westminster Bank in Chipping Sodbury, Glos where I was a very junior clerk.

I was the last person in the world to have been allowed such a machine as I do not have a mechanical cell in my body.  In those days there were no electric starters for scooters -  and the kick starting could be a pain.  My Lambretta had a two stroke engine, using a mixture of petrol and oil.

Soon after I bought the scooter my Gospel Quartette friend Eric Pavey and I set out for a trip from Bristol to Coventry.  I yet had a “leaner’s licence” but Eric could be my passenger as he had a full licence.

We set out sans maps and travelled through the edge of the Cotswolds.  It was a cold and foggy day.  At a traffic light in Leamington Spa  ( ahem – I meant to write “Royal Leamington Spa”)  I failed and failed again in that process of letting out the clutch and increasing the accelerator to begin traction.  There was a long line of cars behind us, and soon a long line of angry drivers whose way I was blocking.

On arrival in Coventry we explored the Cathedral and then sauntered down to the pedestrian free shopping precinct.

There we happened upon an older gentleman who was taking his rest on a bench.  He was sweet, kind and gentle.  His name was Mr. Shakespeare -  that’s the truth!

Eric and I, being good Plymouth Brethren gave witness to our faith.  It transpired that Mr. Shakespeare was a member of an evangelically minded Church of England parish in Coventry.  He invited us to attend a “house group” meeting that evening, and so we did.  Indeed we not only attended the house group, but were also given lodging for the night.

My memory is a bit imperfect but I think that the Vicar of the Church was our overnight host.  What I remember clearly is that this evangelical parson had a minor obsession with the so-called “Shroud of Turin”.  He believed it to be authentic.

Even then it seemed odd to me that an evangelical parson (evangelicals base their faith on the Bible alone) – should be an advocate for the authenticity of a Roman Catholic relic.

Even then I was sceptical about the “Shroud”, as I am to this day!

But it was an excellent adventure for Eric and me.

The photo’ (below) is of a 1962 Lambretta Li. I suppose that mine looked a bit like this.




Monday, 30 January 2012

The art of the insult (via my friend Tess P.)

These are glorious insults from an era before the English language got boiled down to 4-letter words.

A member of Parliament to Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."
"That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."

"He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." - Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." - Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." - William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." - Moses Hadas

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." - Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.." - Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend, if you have one." – George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second .... if there is one." - Winston Churchill, in response.

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." - Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." - John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." - Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others." - Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up." - Paul Keating

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily." - Charles, Count Talleyrand

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." - Forrest Tucker

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" - Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." - Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." - Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination." - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Cats and Atheists


This is not one of my cats.  But  it is a genuine photo' of "Tootsie" who lives with Paul (a Facebook friend) up in Massachusetts. Tootsie is sitting on the back of a couch as she looks out of a window.

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I like this cartoon!