Friday, 18 February 2011

Four leeks a leaping

Spent a happy day teaching at Bore Place yesterday - we made soup, spicy Mexican-Scottish fusion mince (delicious, I promise), focaccia, mayonnaise, cheese, and lemon polenta cake, with fifteen young people from a local secondary school, and then sat and ate lunch together. What a pleasure! After days at my desk it's a joy to get out and work with good colleagues doing something practical - and it's wonderful to see how excited young people can be about food and farming.

I'm shattered physically but mentally refreshed after a day on the farm, so for dinner I needed something quick - I pulled some leeks in the dark and cracked some of Blossom's eggs to make omelettes. Something made me look at the leeks' roots against the ceiling light - an explosion of leek delight!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Suddenly, the coliseum appeared ...

Last night - at about 8 oclock - I was walking through Tunbridge Wells and looked up. In the moonlight, the circular exit ramp of our lovely 60s concrete multi-storey car park was transformed into a thing of beauty, light pouring from the ranks of vertical windows, quite coliseum-like under a clear night sky.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Library love

No, not some kinky under-the-bookshelf-behind-the-large-titles kind of love - simply, I love my library. It's on the high street in a small town - really a jumped-up village - about three miles from here. It's warm and light, it has a great selection of books, and librarians who are passionate about sharing them. It's always busy with readers, children's story groups, students on the computers, locals chatting to their councillor. Small town it may be, but it has broad horizons. Last year I was chatting idly with one of the librarians about short story collections - next time I went in, they'd gathered anthologies from around the county library service and created a whole new display to share the joys of short stories with all their readers.

At the moment, my library isn't under threat as far as I know. But it's only a matter of time - as money gets tighter, local authorities across the country are starting to slash their library services. They say, 'It's a choice between protecting children, and lending books.' They say, 'Who needs librarians? You can just order online and swipe the bar code on your way out.'

Well I say, of course we have to protect our children, care for our older people, put teachers in classrooms. But we should also keep our libraries open, recognise that they're a vital and egalitarian way to give everyone access to knowledge and culture. If budget cuts mean no libraries, we're cutting too far - we can't get them back once they're gone. We'll be left with a country whose financial capital may be sound, but whose cultural and educational capital has withered on the vine.

What kind of society are we where only the already educated have access to knowledge, where we close our library doors to the curious child, the adult who didn't concentrate at school, the engineer who wants to read Victorian novels for the first time, the pensioner who wants to use email but can't afford a computer - or the bus into the city where the only library is left? Libraries unite us, and bring the diversity of life to every community which has one. It's not a middle class educated thing - libraries are for everyone.

If you want to know if your library is under threat, this site has a map of planned closures, and information about read-ins and other protests. Shout it loud - I love my library!