Wednesday 19 August 2020

Coming to a full stop?

To full stop or not to full stop? 

I'm riffing off one of Cultural Snow's (always excellent) blog posts here. In About punctuation marks and masks I learned that younger people consider a full stop at the end of a text message to be 'aggressive'. I just checked Wikipedia's entry on it and it's definitely 'a thing'. 

I am of a generation (and inclination) that still texts in full sentences with mostly correct spelling and appropriate punctuation. Admittedly I overuse the exclamation mark to the point where the full stop doesn't get much of a look in, and emojis feature heavily... which are safe enough, surely? 🍑🍆

But if, as you can see in my beautifully hand-crafted visualisation above, when you zoom in on a full stop it has a tiny little angry face, I’d better desist. Not that I text many young people. 

But what if there are other things I don't know? What if two question marks is a sexual invitation? What if brackets imply homophobia or an ellipses makes me a stalker... 

Help! I need to know these things.. please advise

Saturday 15 August 2020

Crossing paths

Did you ever wonder  whether you had crossed paths with someone years ago without knowing? 

This picture just re-surfaced from a bunch of slides my dad gave me about 20 years ago. It's just a snap he took of me (light blue anorak, looking at camera, aged 13) doing a sponsored walk in Birkenhead Park in 1977.

I remembered, when I saw it, chatting to the three bigger boys in the far left of the picture. They had tied their legs together to make it a four-legged walk and they were very jolly and witty. I remember deliberately keeping near them for the banter although I didn't know them.

Skipping ahead to 1998... when I got the slides off my dad and showed them to my new boyfriend it turned out the guy with the headband and Doctor Who scarf was him! 

I imagine it's quite rare to have documentary evidence that you have met significant others earlier in your life but wouldn't it be great to know about other occasions you have crossed paths with someone you didn't know at the time but later became a part of your life? My husband and I have both lived in this town for forty years and once worked in the same building at the same time, but we don't think we ever met. 

Does anyone else have examples of this? I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday 5 August 2020

What on earth is the 'Sunk Costs Fallacy'?

Don't you just love it when something you didn't know had a name... has a name?

I've been reading an intriguing book called Think Like a Freak: Secrets of the Rogue Economist from those Superfreakonomics chaps and of the many interesting points I picked up, the one that pleased me most was finding out about the 'sunk cost fallacy'. Sunk costs are the amount of time, energy and resources you have invested in an enterprise. The danger, or the fallacy, is that because you have spent these costs you must continue even if you are flogging a dead horse* by doing so. You don't want to end up losing all that money and effort over nothing, do you? 

Good examples of this are ordering too much food and feeling you have to eat it to 'get your money's worth' or keeping things you don't want or need because they were expensive.

I, and a small circle of friends, have been referring to this as 'the queue at the Blue John Mines' after a 1990's bank holiday trip spent in a long line whilst disputing whether to stay because we'd already invested hours in the trip or abandon the whole idea and recoup what was left of the day. The trouble with 'the queue at the Blue John Mines' is that it means nothing to everyone else in the world. (They weren't even mines, it turns out, but a cavern, but we didn't wait to find out as it happens.)

The other things in the book that really struck me include: the importance of admitting you don't know, defining the problem properly before trying to solve it, and the importance of premortems - imagining your plans going wrong and asking what would have been most likely to cause it. Also - and this is where the sunk costs fallacy comes in - the importance of quitting before you waste more time and energy going down a wrong path. 

There's a much longer piece about the sunk cost fallacy on You're Not so Smart... we all do it all the time!

* No dead horses were hurt in the making of this blog

Friday 31 July 2020

A Library Wedding

April 2017

Ok, so we didn't actually get married in the library itself (my bosses wouldn't let us) but we themed the whole thing around the fact that we had met in the library - and we photo-bombed it on the day!

I designed the invitations to look like Penguin book covers. Inside were Penguin cover postcards with menu choices on, so people responded by returning them and we used them as place markers.

We got married at Wallasey Town Hall, which has some resonance for us as we've both worked there at some point. In fact I think his team were kicked out of one office so my team could move in, although we never actually met.

We only have seven relatives between us, so our wedding party was mostly friends, who are our own hand-picked family.

The cake was a big pile of books (made by an ex-library assistant) and the tables centres were 'altered books' (made by another). The spines of the cake books spell out our story.

After the wedding breakfast, we had hired a mini bus to take most of the guests (sadly mum was too tired by then) to Wallasey Central Library - where I worked and where we'd met. See A Mysterious Package and The Plot Thickens for that story.

My colleagues had been primed to expect us - we had been decorating the library accordingly under the pretence of a 'spring romance' display!

The library was still open, but most borrowers were happy to join us for a glass of fizz and I had a competition going for people to get photographed with appropriate books... which probably deserves another post in itself. Other borrowers (like the chap at the end of the aisle on the right) seemed unaware of the whole thing.

I did get the photographer to make everyone say 'Shhhh...'

Wednesday 29 July 2020


I'm afraid I have been very neglectful of the the poor old blog for the last few… erm… eek… years! But I have reasons, both bad and good. (No dogs, no homework.)

I stopped blogging regularly in 2014 -  a real annus horribilis for me. Against a background of personal changes in my own life, my father became very ill, then passed away. I had a change of home, trauma at work, a bit of a meltdown and was suddenly my elderly mum’s ‘go-to’ person as she also changed home and came to terms with a new life. All pretty high-scoring stuff on the stress register!

But through all this was the loving and steadfast support of my erstwhile Secret Admirer. He made my life bearable, and ultimately delightful. Long story short... we committed, bought a house together and became Mr & Mrs. 

I’ll put some pictures up in my next blog... the wedding had a literary theme, as you may expect. Watch this space!

Things were mostly lovely, although there were still stresses... staffing was reduced 75% at work and we were required to work at 20 different branches at the drop of a hat. My hubby lost his mum just before our wedding and my mum now needed help (including moving again!). Then last year she passed away too, very suddenly

Anyway. The anxiety all came back and I wasn't coping well at work so I decided to leave it. I'm feeling much better now. More my old self... I've even started writing again.

So here I am... did I miss anything?

Saturday 8 February 2014

Batgirl, Borrowers and 'Sticky Books': it's National Libraries Day

Is my jumper too loud for the Reference Library?
I've been absent from here for a bit but I must blog today as it's National Libraries Day!

Since starting as a library assistant, I've found libraries a great source of ideas: I've written poems and short stories on everything from Batgirl's day job to the time the man who hangs around in History came in without his hat! Libraries (and there are some fab ones HERE) lend themselves to the imagination: they contain so much information, invention and passion - the sum of human experience. Their users, too - the 'Borrowers' - have their own passions and predilections. Then there's the library staff: the cliche of the skittish, be-cardiganned librarian, disappointed in love, too tempting to ignore, too tempting not to subvert...

Today I'll be performing some of my library poems along with some by the likes of Emily Dickinson and Charles Simic. My favourite is For St Jerome by Paul Farley. This will all be in Wallasey Central Library at 2.30pm and include two new pieces including this one:

Sticky Books

Here come the sticky books:
puppy books, freshly chewed, gluey
‘How to...’s and kiddies pop-ups, aromatic
from the nappy bag, slim volumes of bitter
poetry smeared with conciliatory chocolate,
novels fluffed from under settees, used, coasterwise
for beer cans, cat books itching with fleas.

Here come the sticky books: fumbled
from crumb-filled carrier bags after nights
at pensioners’ bedsides next to teeth and tinctures.
Gummy on the counter top, a reptile book
reluctantly returned by a man with filthy talons,
along with soiled allotment manuals, and well-thumbed
sex encyclopaedia, tacky to the touch,

Here come the sticky books: fished from
the flotsam of handbags, powdered and perfumed,
travel guides sandblasted, bleached and smelling
suspiciously of coconut, cookery books
dusted with flour, butterfingered, garnished,
eggs on their faces, pages with glazed crusts.

Here come the sticky books:
the coffee-cupped, hair-sprayed, bubble-bathed
and baked beaned books. The snotted on,
sneezed at hard backs, the wept over romances
with their rim of salt. The nautical adventures
and Haynes manuals, all well oiled
with perfect fingerprints for forensics later.

Here come the sticky books:
wanting a buffing with dusters and spirit.
Never lick your fingers in a library. I wouldn’t
like to test for substances between these sheets
– shit and semen, coffee, stamens, condiments
ash and ear wax, cat hair, gum, and dough
blood, sweat and tears - or is that just Bordeaux?

© Clare Kirwan

Don't worry - we do clean them up or chuck em if they come back nasty. And we get fresh new books every week - why not pop into your 'local' today and get the latest titles... but look after them nicely, won't you?

Tuesday 31 December 2013

Happy New Year

I haven't got around to doing a review of 2013 yet, and neither have I applied myself to quiet reflection on the year to come.  But meanwhile...