Monday, 26 November 2012

Major prize for book about Southport shoreline

If you look south off the end of Southport Pier you will view the amazing stretch of shoreline that Jean Sprackland has written about in her book Strands

I got an email this morning from  a supporter of our Save the Libraries campaign attaching a news digest from the Bookseller I noticed that one of the articles was about the Portico Prize for non fiction.which Jean Sprackland has won.As the report says:
Sprackland beat a non-fiction field comprising Simon Armitage, Henrietta Heald, Patricia and Robert Malcolmson, Keith Richardson, Alan Shelston, Chris Wadsworth, Bill Williams, Jeanette Winterson and Keith Wrightson. 

Jean Sprackland used to live in Ainsdale and was a guest at the Literary Festival that is part of the Southport Flower Show this year. The festival was sponsored by Broadhust Books an excellent independent bookseller in the town and which doubtless pay their taxes in full unlike some of the giant online operations I could mention.

The publishers describe her book as:

........the ultimate beachcomber's book. A series of meditations prompted by walking on the wild estuarial beaches of Ainsdale Sands between Blackpool and Liverpool, Strands is about what is lost and buried then discovered, about all the things you find on a beach, dead or alive, about flotsam and jetsam, about mutability and transformation - about sea-change.
Every so often the sands shift enough to reveal great mysteries: the Star of Hope, wrecked on Mad Wharf in 1883 and usually just visible as a few wooden stumps, is suddenly raised one day, up from the depths - an entire wreck, black and barnacled, and on either side two more ruined ships, taking the air for a while before sinking back under the sand.
And stranger still, perhaps, are the prehistoric footprints of humans, animals and birds on the beach: prints from the Late Mesolithic to mid-Neolithic period which are described as 'ephemeral archaeology' because they are preserved in the Holocene sediment, revealed briefly and then destroyed by the next tide.
Strands describes a year's worth of walking on the ultimate beach: inter-tidal and constantly turning up revelations: mermaid's purses, lugworms, sea potatoes, messages in bottles, buried cars, beached whales and a perfect cup from a Cunard liner. Jean Sprackland, a prize-winning poet and natural storyteller, is the perfect guide to these shifting sands - this place of transformation.

Well worth a read and available from Broadhurst's

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Horwood revolts over 'a nasty, vindictive little clause'-Osborne so called employee ownership

At 7.53pm Martin Horwood 5th November (Lib Dem Cheltenham) spoke in the Government's Growth and Infrastructure Bill Column 663.  Below is his thoughts on Osborne's daft suggestion on employees being asked to swap their employment rights for the illusion of ownership

Then we come to the extraordinary clause 23. I proposed a policy on employee ownership and workplace democracy to this year’s Liberal Democrat conference. I would strongly commend the contents of that and its many recommendations to Government, including the option to bid for employee ownership at the time of transfer of an undertaking, which we believe could result in a step change in employee ownership. However, we strangely overlooked the need to link that to the trashing of people’s employment rights. Why should we remove the right to request training, when we are supposed to support training? Why should we allow more unfair dismissal, when we support fairness? Why should we remove the right just to request flexible working, when we are supposed to support flexible working? I have worked in business, and I have employed many people, and I have never found it very motivating to threaten my team’s employment rights. These rights have never deterred me from employing anybody. This looks like a nasty, vindictive little clause and Ministers should chop it out completely.

Martin's website records:

Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood has voted against the government's Growth & Infrastructure Bill tonight (Monday 5 November)...................

Martin commented: 'None of the ideas in this hastily-written bill were in either coalition party's manifesto or in the Coalition agreement. The planning proposals will disempower local communities and cause enormous resentment. The attack on people's employment rights is vindictive and reminiscent of the discredited Beecroft report favoured by George Osborne. This bill is unworthy of a government that has championed localism, fairness and the environment and I would encourage ministers to quickly, quietly drop it.'

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE BOOKS- Save the Library campaign

Pete Rimmer has brought to my attention this posting by Sean McPartlin  the full posting can be found here          .  The writing is distinctly superior to our usual standard. I hope you will follow the link and read the full posting


In 1959, when I was 7,  I moved to Southport, in Lancashire, and stayed in the suburb of Birkdale.

At the end of our road there was an imposing Victorian building which became very much part of my everyday routine. Going to the shops, the station, or the bus stop involved passing it, and to a young lad it was a fascinating sight.

Set back from the road, it had a parking area in front of it, used as a taxi rank, and at one end a building with  a huge clock tower.

By the time I moved there, most of the building was unused. It had been built in 1872 as the Town Hall for Birkdale, the buildings at the other end comprised a police station and courts and a fire station, and between them, completed in the early years of the century, was a Carnegie Free Library.

However, by 1912, Birkdale had been subsumed by the County Borough of Southport and these civic buildings became surplus to requirements, hence their unused state in the early sixties.

However, the Library remained open. And it was much to my benefit. Most Friday nights, around 6.30, off I would go to the Library  - initially accompanied by my mother, but quickly, as it was only about 100yds from our house, alone.

It was quite an experience for me initially. You can imagine the appearance of Victorian grandeur, high ceilings, carved plaster work, dark stained wood panels and glass partitions. The very smell of the place was atmospheric – dry paper, polish, dust, and that indefinable aroma of books.

The children’s library was separate to the adults’, on the left as you entered the building; the grown up section, to the right, was out of bounds for a few years yet.

I grew to love those Friday evenings, especially in the winter. Out into the cold, my breath on the air, pushing against the heavy door, a blast of warmth, and then the enveloping silence of the shelves.

There was an excitement in searching to see if a certain ‘Famous Five’ or ‘Secret Seven’ book was on the shelf this week, as I worked through the titles by authors like Enid Blyton: The Sea of Adventure, The Rilloby Fair Mystery, The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage. Scanning the shelves was part of the thrill, and I soon came to enjoy books by other authors – the ‘Flame’ series by Eric Leyland, “Jennings” by Anthony Buckeridge, “Billy Bunter” by Frank Richards, Richmal Compton’s ‘William’ – and books long forgotten by authors such as A Stephen Tring, Lawrence Meynell (the same person!), books about cricket that still resonate –“Out in the Glare” by G Appleby Terrill and ‘Playing for the School’ by Jack Hemming.

Many of these books were written pre-war, but such were the worlds that they created that I never really noticed the anachronisms; the ambience was so perfectly created that even the rarified atmosphere of Edwardian upper middle class society seemed perfectly accessible. Did life really change so little in the middle of the twentieth century? Or was I captured by the strangeness of it all. As an only child, I certainly found friends in the characters in these books, as their mannerisms and expressions became familiar to me.

Then, three books chosen (only three! The agony of putting back one or two books, hoping they would be on the shelf next week!) there was the comforting thump, stamp, thump of the somewhat forbidding librarian as she issued the books for the two weeks I knew I wouldn’t need, and a brisk walk home, to start the serious business of getting lost in these somehow familiar places.

We don’t recognize the value of what we have while we are having it I suppose. I look back now and am thankful for all that Birkdale Library gave me. The comfort of reading and the practice of regularly extending my vocabulary was a painless and even enjoyable way of attaining the skills that would help me when study became important. A career as an English teacher, a life in which writing – published and unpublished – has featured, a house always filled with books, always another to be read, all of this, I suppose, was influenced by those happy Friday evenings in that imposing building.

But, as my son said when I mentioned this to him, “It was not just about the books”.
The ‘free libraries’ endowed by the wealth of my fellow Scot, Andrew Carnegie, made a bold statement in many ways. Carnegie himself, on libraries, said:

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”


“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.”

In a sense, that original Carnegie Library in Birkdale proved the point – physically, as well as in its contents and opportunities.

It was a grand building that made a statement; in that library, with all its hushed tones, dark wood, imposing stonework, you couldn’t help but know you  were in somewhere that mattered. Books, and all that they implied – about knowledge, learning, self reliance, choice and self discipline -  were to be taken seriously. In the old fashioned  architecture and hushed atmosphere of that library, I learned so much about what is important; I found a part of myself; I prepared, unknowingly, for my future.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Time for Northern Lib Dems to be resourced to punch their weight in the North

I have to struggle sometimes to remember that we have so many Northern MPs. That is in part a reflection of how the party uses the talent up here.

Chris Davies was up in Southport last week speaking at the excellent Kew Ward meal organised by Fred Weavers. I got to thinking that one option would be to appoint regional spokepersons so that we can improve our media coverage. I am impressed by Michael Moore and Willie Rennie would have a brief that ranges across all departments in Scotland. Kirsty Williams in Wales also exploits her all Wales brief to great advantage. Isn't it about time we did the same up North

UKIP's Bootle boy expences


A bid to send Bootle Labour’s Library Closure plan back to the drawing board narrowly failed on Thursday night, 1 November.

Ainsdale, Birkdale and Churchtown Libraries are all under threat of closure in Southport. Birkdale Lib Dem councillor Iain Brodie Browne and four fellow councillors used a special council procedure to “call in” the closure decision made earlier in October

However their attempt to persuade Sefton Council’s Scrutiny Committee to force the Bootle Labour-dominated Cabinet to reconsider was defeated – with Ainsdale’s Tory councillor Terry Jones voting with Labour.

Cllr Brodie Browne commented: “Local residents were quite rightly appalled at the original decision. We are particularly concerned that a number of sensible alternatives have not been adequately worked out or costed – options like community managed libraries and the possibility of greater use of volunteers.”

“Lib Dem councillors called this in because we have serious doubts about the soundness of the decision taken on 11th October by the Bootle Labour Cabinet. What is absolutely staggering is that Ainsdale Conservative councillor Terry Jones voted to agree that he was not concerned about the Labour decision.”

Ainsdale Lib Dem councillor Haydn Preece was one of those who signed the ‘Call-In’ and he attended Thursday’s meeting. He added: “I just don’t understand what Terry is up to. His actions are an absolute kick in the teeth for the thousands of Ainsdale residents who have already mobilised to try and save our library.”

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Hillside Bridge-danger to predestrians

I received an email from a local resident about the state of Hillside Bridge. this is what he had to say:

Is there anything you can do regards the overgrown shrubs & trees on the bridge especially the ones along Hillside Road.

In some places they are encroaching 5-6 feet across the pavement and have become a danger to pedestrians using that stretch of road as they are having to get close to the kerb line if there is more than 1 a breast.

I regularly use this stretch of pavement and this year the shrubs are particularly bad as they are losing there leaves and are hard to spot on these darker nights.  This is made worse by the fact that some of them are around the base of the streetlights and reduce the amount of available light.

I have taken up his complaint with the Highways Department and will report back shortly