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“Books, Travel…and Staying at Home During Lockdown”

Monday 1st June 2020

LRC staff can’t quite claim credit for this week’s theme. That lies firmly at the feet of our Marketing department who placed this wonderful quote from American author Jhumpa Lahiri on their Twitter feed a couple of weeks ago. 

It is so fitting for current times. Although it appears that some travel restrictions are being lifted around the world, our own government is talking about implementing quarantine measures for travelers returning to the UK. Whatever does happen in the coming weeks, chasing the summer sun and exploring the sights and cultures of other countries is going to come with a certain amount of limitations. So we decided to recommend some of our favourite books that we’ve read that can help our minds, thoughts, and sometimes emotions become veritable globetrotters – from the comfort and confines of our own homes.   

First up is Paola with her offering of Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. She says “for me it is travelling in time as well. I love detective stories and archaeology, a perfect combination for me”. She also lists Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne as a firm favourite. “I read it when I was a young teenager and read it again in my 30s and 40s. This says it all”

Glenn suggests “The Beetle Leg by John Hawkes which is set in the old west and Barbarian Days by William Finnegan which is a journalist/surfer memoir from around the world. Both made me feel like I was there in some way (without having to move my feet)” 

As ever, there has to be a mystery involved with Alison’s choices. Death in Zanzibar by MM Kaye is “an old-fashioned whodunnit in the warm climate of Zanzibar with its hints of British colonialism. I loved the setting once the characters had finally arrived but equally loved the detailed description of air travel in the 1950s. It was a slow business” whereas the very modern Scrublands by Chris Hammer is “set in the hot, dusty vast Australian outback – sitting in my currently sunny Surrey garden, I can almost feel the dry, persistent heat emanating from the page. It’s a character in itself” 

The Good Life : Up the Yukon without a Paddle by Dorian Amos has been selected by Sarah “if you have ever dreamed of escaping the modern world for an adventure in the remote Canadian wilderness then you must read this!”. Another suggestion is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. “I enjoyed reading this book about love, loss and self discovery. It made me feel like I had travelled to Italy, India and Indonesia!”

And finally Sian who has chosen two books by Bill Bryson. First up is The Lost Continent of which she writes “this book made me feel as if I was in the car with Mr Bryson on his very funny travels around ‘Small-Town America’. It’s good to have a picture of where Bryson comes from too. I would love to visit Des Moines in Iowa at some point in my life.” Her second title is A Walk in the Woods “Bryson treks the longest continuous footpath in the world…the Appalachian Trail, which spreads through 14 states in Eastern America. I felt free when reading this. I need to do this too one day, but only with a really great friend…And an even greater backpack!”

Sian is such a great fan of Bill Bryson that she had also reviewed another of his books a little further on.

And what are people reading during lockdown?
A recent article in the Guardian has highlighted research that suggests that since lockdown the time that the British public spend on the simple pleasure of reading has almost doubled. It also found that the most popular genres were that of crime and thriller. But why crime? 

As one crime author, Louise Doughty, says in the article it is “a mistake to assume that during difficult times people want light, escapist reading or heartwarming tales. People want to be absorbed”. Getting involved in the intricacies of a well written crime story can certainly be an absorbing and hugely welcome distraction to daily life that is being constrained day in day out by the same four walls.

Most Julys (not counting 2020), one of our team heads up to Harrogate, home of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. The Crime Novel of the Year is presented at the start of the weekend and although there’s physically no festival this year, the award is still going ahead and the longlist of books has been announced. If you head over to the Festival website, you will be able to hear interviews with all 18 authors on the list as well as podcasts of interviews from previous years. 

#KindnessMatters
Since our last blog entry, we have had Mental Health Awareness Week. Sarah had consolidated the information provided by Mental Health Foundation (see slides) and talked about their theme of kindness. She then looked to her work colleagues to see what acts of kindness they’d encountered during lockdown.

My neighbour left a small bag of plain flour on my doorstep as she knew I didn’t have any to make my birthday cake! I took a photo of it as I have never been so grateful for a bag of flour before! A small gesture but gave me so much joy!” Sarah, Library Assistant

“My friend, Carol got out her sewing machine and made  a face mask to keep me safe during the Covid crisis. She even made it in my colours!” Angela, Library Coordinator

“My friend had a milestone birthday during lockdown. She was about to turn 40 and her sister-in-law came up with the idea of asking her friends and family to compose a short video each which she then edited together to present to her on the day itself. It meant so much to her and is a lovely keepsake of a truly memorable day.” Deborah, Library Coordinator

“We have a community group for the road I live on and a few weeks ago a neighbour had been ‘Zooming’ with a friend who volunteers at a local food bank. The friend commented on how lacking they were in certain items. My neighbour offered to have a collection based on what was needed. For the last few Mondays, everyone on the road’s email list gets a shopping list of what the food bank is short of for that week. People in the road then pick up a few bits each and drop it off on Wednesday with the neighbour who has organised it all. Her friend then collects the bags the following day. The two photos are from 2 separate weeks but are an indication of how generous people are being. I doubt whether this is unique to our road – there must be loads of groups up and down the country doing this.” Alison, Assistant Librarian

And from Sian, Library Assistant…

…A tale in three acts

“One of the neighbours in my road had been sorting out their CDs. They didn’t want these any more, so had a free-for-all for anyone to keep. How lovely is that?! We took about 5.”

“My mother-in-law was nearly in tears recently as she missed our kids so much.So I had a thought about how I could cheer them up and decided to do a ‘cream tea bundle’ for VE day. 

My kids and I got busy a few days before and baked sausage rolls, white rolls, wholemeal rolls and some scones. My neighbour said he had a lot of jars of plum jam that he’d made for a food fair that never went ahead, so I bought a couple. One for my in-laws and one for us, and with it, he gave me a free lemon drizzle cake. We added strawberries, clotted cream, creme fraiche, milk and tea bags. I drove it round to their house with kids in tow. We placed the bundle down on their garden path, rang the doorbell and stepped back.

I will never forget the look on their faces when they saw us standing there. They didn’t even notice the bundle on the floor at first! They gobbled through their bundle over the 75th anniversary of VE day and the next few days.”

“On a walk, we came across this little library where you can pick a book and exchange it for another one, or just keep it. How sweet is that?!”

Volunteers’ Week 1st-7th June
Today marks the start of Volunteers Week – a week where organisations and individuals get to say thank you to the people who give up their time to help others. Ordinarily, there would be many organised events and activities up and down the country which would be focusing on the people who help deliver a wide range of services and contribute to their success. Officially, the NCVO – the organisation very much behind the week – is not supporting this year as it’s inappropriate amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give a shout out to all the volunteers out there, some of whom are busier more than ever due to the nature of their work – ask anyone who works in a food bank how their current workload compares to that of a few months ago. Although some volunteers haven’t been able to continue in their roles, there have been new volunteers emerging – people who have found themselves furloughed but want to keep busy helping an ever increasing number of people that need it.

Here’s just one example of an initiative helping people put their newly found free time to good use. I wonder if ‘furlonteer’ will make it into the Oxford English Dictionary?

Furlonteer : meet the group matching furloughed workers with volunteering opportunities

World Environment Day 5th June
Friday 5th June is the day designated by the United Nations for encouraging awareness of our environment and actions that we can take to protect it.

From the official World Environment Day website:

“The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature. 
Yet, these are exceptional times in which nature is sending us a message. 
To care for ourselves we must care for nature. It’s time to wake up. 
To take notice. To raise our voices. 
It’s time to build back better for people and planet. This World Environment Day, it’s time for nature.”

Paola has collated some slides on the subject here.

Book Review
Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson
Rating 5/5

Mother Tongue is a fascinating insight into our English language and how it survived/is surviving through time. It makes you think about where words come from and how spellings have originated over time. But Bryson, being Bryson, makes it funny and he works his ever-so-easy-to-read magic upon it. Who knew that (when this book was written in 1990) there were/are two soft drinks in France called Sic and Pschitt and a Plopp was/is a chocolate bar in Taiwan. Also not forgetting the lovely sound of Super Piss which gives its catchy name to a Finnish de-icer. There is also an enlightening chapter on swearing. I definitely recommend this book.

– Sian F

We’ve also had a book review from one of our students who agrees with Angela’s previous one for Mike Gayle’s The Man I Think I Know. Who found it ‘very enjoyable to read’ and gave it 4 stars out of 5.

Any College member can submit a book review. Simply fill out this form

We love…

Bookcases
Surely there can be no one out there who has missed the vast array of bookcases being displayed to the nation on a daily basis. Whether it’s a politician, a TV presenter, an actor or a quantum physicist, the majority find themselves being interviewed or commentating in front of a bookcase. Do you ever wonder how strategic those books are? Do you get the impression some are more bothered about what they show to the public than others? Some people suddenly find themselves in the midst of a social media storm because they forgot to remove some politically sensitive titles from what is now on public display.

This particular bookcase is not at all controversial. However, I think from this photo, Gregg Wallace could well do with the help of one of our carpentry students. 

Yep, as you can see there’s a whole twitter account dedicated to bookcases. They can be quite fascinating to look at. 

Some people with a little extra time on their hands have rearranged their bookcases and have shown the finished results to the world by social media. One such book-arranger was JK Rowling who incurred the wrath and support of librarians in equal amounts when she showed her own replacement for the trusty Dewey Decimal System – colour coding. 

However, she must have taken some comments to heart as she tweeted to a fellow book-arranger “Prepare yourself for a LOT of librarian hate. Someone also called me a sociopath”. No one in our LRC would dare call anyone names, especially someone who more recently has released The Ickabog – “an original fairy tale…for children in lockdown” – for free to all who want to read it. Please check The Ickabog out on Twitter (rather than her bookshelves).

Jane Austen and virtual tours
This is a great website for those who love a little bit of  history, visiting stately homes and Jane Austen. It features places used to bring the homes and locations in Austen novels to life – 10 virtual tours for lovers of Jane Austen

This is also a great excuse for giving this Austen based verse (created by Brooklands College LRC) another outing before its packed away until next year’s National Limerick Day, especially as I believe the Emma/Miss Bates exchange happens at one of the locations in the virtual tour.

There was a young man called Knightly
Who would talk to young ladies politely
But along came Miss Woodhouse
Whom he put in the doghouse
For not talking to Miss Bates quite rightly


Students

JISC vocational learning resources
Whether you are a Brooklands College student or tutor, please take the time to look at these excellent JISC vocational learning resources available in construction, digital and IT, education and childcare, health and social care and hairdressing. They include videos, guides and learning and assessment activities and JISC are offering colleges free access to these until the end of July.

Access our virtual library online
You can search for e-books on the library catalogue or directly through our e-book providers Dawson and Proquest. Click on the Shibboleth login if requested and select Brooklands College. 
Heritage Online | Proquest | Dawson

If you need a little help with ebook access, check out a guide to Dawsonera and a guide to Proquest

LRC Subject Guides
LRC staff have created subject guides for all courses – they are  located in your Tutorial Hub on Google Classroom. Here you will find links to e-books, online databases and useful websites.

Book Loans
Worried about fines? No problem. All loans have been renewed and fines waived while the LRC is closed.

Don’t forget to follow us on @BCLibraryWA. We will be posting useful information on a regular basis.


Please contact us at library@brooklands.ac.uk if you need support with e-books, e-resources or anything else.

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