More than just books

It struck me on our travels through New Zealand, that Kiwi’s treasure their libraries.

Few can be any sweeter than  Glenorchy’s  historic library, first built in 1891,  by 1911 it had over 1,000 items  catalogued (they now have a modern library building too).

Glenorchy Library_

But what we did notice was that the libraries we spotted, seemed very innovative.

In Napier you didn’t  even need the library to be open to return a book, I’m pleased to see  the ‘loved it’ letter box is more worn than the ‘not for me’.

return books NZ

We should never underestimate the power of a library, or librarians, to change lives.

In Rotorua, they fund raise

Friends of library NZ.jpg

In Devonport, a suburb of Auckland, the library was open on Sunday.  Not something I’ve seen in the UK.

They weren’t shy at attracting visitors either, the trees outside were swathed in purple and white, in celebration of New Zealand’s proud history of women’s suffrage about which they were staging an exhibition.

Davenport Lib NZ

They’ve every right to be proud, 1893!

On 19 September 1893 the governor, Lord Glasgow, signed a new Electoral Act into law. As a result of this landmark legislation, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections

They can be proud of the new  library building too, it’s gorgeous.  And wait for it, its even got  microchip-activated cat door for elderly tabby Benjamin

The designers say the Devonport Library is being used in ways they hadn’t envisaged. Photo / Brett Phibbs

There is a lot going on in the libraries beside books; knitting groups, for example, some have gained international publicity recently,  which has led to an avalanche of orders. I loved the reaction to the demands for a certain beanie baby hat

Harry and Archie.

The group received thousands of orders for its hats, which are stitched in libraries and cafes around the country by volunteers. “It’s gone crazy, the orders have gone through the roof,” said Smith. “But there will be a delay for hats ordered now – the nature of our knitting groups is about community and nurturing mental health, so we don’t want pressure for anyone to make loads of hats in one week.



Time machine

Having seen astronaut Tim Peak’s landing craft, we thought we’d see if we there were any tickets available to see the exhibition of 12 Leonardo da Vinci drawings that was also showing. at the National Museum Cardiff,  ‘Yes’ they said, ‘two tickets available right now, come on in.’

144 of Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest drawings in the Royal Collection are displayed in 12 simultaneous exhibitions across the UK to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing features 12 drawings at each venue, all selected to reflect the full range of Leonardo’s interests – painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.

LD 12

I was surprised we were allowed to take photographs, but we were, so long as there was no flash used. Fumbling around with my phone to take a snap or two to upload to social media, I had a bit of a moment where I realised the phone was about to flash! I quickly bundled into the folds of my fleece, for fear of  a 500 year old de Vinci disappearing like invisible ink, in front of my eyes! (The Banksy incident was running through my mind).

LD 11

Was there anything he couldn’t draw or imagine?


Great feats of engineering and soft romantic portraits


The anatomical drawings are incredible.


Not only in terms of the observation,


but he clearly had a rich understanding of how the body works, which seems a head of its time, as the information  screen explained.


Leonardo da Vinci, wrote in backwards, ‘mirror writing’ as to why the jury seems to be out, but as a left handed dyslexic, who was made to write with ink  at primary school, yes a ‘dip pen’  it was 1968 not 1508! But I can remember the mess I made, so I can understand why he wrote the way he did, but not how!

And now I’m seeing the teacher responsible for insisting on me writing in pen and ink in this drawing, you get the picture?

Da Vinci 12

Afterwards we found our way to the coffee shop, to reflect that we had just been transported, from Tim Peake’s space travel, to five hundred years ago, when the polymath that was Leonardo da Vinci was sketching something remarkably like a helicopter all under one roof. Amazing.







Behind the Bling

The  third and final post about the John Rylands Library in Manchester

I started out calling this post ‘Behind the Bling’ but that felt a little uncharitable. I’m not sure The John Rylands Library in Manchester ever ‘set its barrow down’ to be ostentatious, more a philanthropic sharing of knowledge, the gift of education  and a celebration of art, architecture and craftsmanship. (Oh and the fact northern money was as good as southern!)

An on the hoof  exterior photo as we dashed for our train, in the fading winter light

John Ryland Exterior -1

Within  the building is a spectacular collection of historical documents and books. painstakingly catalogued and preserved for posterity.

John Ryland Reading Room -1

it is the third largest academic library in the United Kingdom, and the Deansgate building houses over 250,000 printed volumes, and well over a million manuscripts and archival items.

Many  are painstakingly shrouded for  their protection

shrouded books -1

I looked at these books and carefully stored documents

John Ryland Reading Room 4-1

and thought how I would be a disaster working in this field

John Ryland books -1

(as disastrous as I’d be as an air traffic controller! each to their own!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed our tour around, pop over and have a look at the secrets of a more modern building over at VWXYNot? Fascinating.

Spud on Sunday Part LXIXIII

As you can imagine things have been a bit hectic around here of late. It seems, and I’m sure Spud will vouch for this, like an age since he got to have his very own adventure. But he makes the most of it, in that Springer spaniel sort of way, along with a little help from his friends (thanks to Glo  who after last weeks post,  used her creative talents to visualise Spuds  canine dream for us mere humans).

(remember my  fever dream, at the creative hands of Glo?)

Spud likes to muck in with who ever is about and as ‘men and machine’ have been digging for victory in very wet conditions over the last few days, muck is indeed everywhere. Here Spud and Tom check todays progress

Spud tom-1

(Tom is also able to add to his geology homework by studying what our house is built upon (looking at that clay, it is no wonder the bed shakes like a jelly when anyone slams the back door!)

Spud will always seek a hug, muddy paws and all.

Spud tom 1-1

And look, I nearly forgot, Spud took delivery of nine tons of best Derbyshire limestone yesterday. What fun.

limestone -1

would you like to see some more mud?


Not So Freshly Pressed

Uphilldowndale, One Thousand Posts Later

This is post number 1,000, I’m finding it hard to believe, but there you go, the nice people at WordPress kindly provide a behind the scenes (or screen) page of statistics about my blog and the little counter at the bottom of the page says my previous post was  number 999 and  as I can’t recall ever deleting any of my posts this must be it.

I thought I’d dish up a favourite post, but I couldn’t decide, I couldn’t even decide on a photo (some of my favourite blog photos are huddled together on my flickr page). In the end I settled for this little chap, who fledged from a nest in the barn wall back in June 2008, (maybe its how I felt when I first started the blog, it was a bit of a leap into the unknown)

Little bird 2

Tonight  is a double celebration as I also pressed the send key, and dispatched the last piece of work for my course of study, off into cyberspace. Woooohoooo; me time beckons, the hills are a calling, time to get out and play.

Thank you all for stopping by and taking the time to comment, it wouldn’t be the same without you xx.


Back to School for the Autumn term

Michaelmas daisy 2-1

That’s it the summer is over, the boys are back at school (actually they went back last Friday, which seemed like an odd day to start, but never mind). Joe and Tom posed for the traditional ‘first day of term’ photo* before they left for the bus and I promptly sent Joe back in the house to change his trousers, it seems I hadn’t been rigorous enough** in the cull of trousers from the previous academic year, they were half way up his shins.

Tom got all new gear, now he in 6th form he is required to wear a suit. Thank goodness for Next Directory, it saved trawling round town with a teenager and any heated debates about suitability of said suit could be confined to home, excellent, for both of us.

* Easy to take such a simple family ritual for granted

** Idle would be a better description of the trouser cull

New Perspective

Unlocking Writers Block

I’ve a deadline looming and a few thousand words to haul together, it hasn’t been going very well. My desk is littered with books, notes ‘post its’ highlight pens and half drunk cups of tea and mind maps. I’ve done the reading (even if I did fall asleep at my desk, no easy task on a swivel chair) and I’ve deployed every ‘study aid’ tactic I’ve ever heard of, but  despite my tenacious daily  efforts the word count stays resolutely stuck (it’s not that I don’t write something, just that I swipe the previous work. ) I know from the course forum I am not alone, as there has been a major outbreak of assignment rage.

So I decide to take a fresh perspective on the matter (or maybe I was just looking for a displacement activity, to get away from the keyboard). So I moved my ‘office’ furniture around, instead of my desk facing the wall, it is now by the window. The aspect is pleasing.

Brighter outlook -1

Mr Uphilldowndale stuck his head around the door and declared ‘You’ll get nothing done, you’ll just be gazing out of the window, watching the birds go by’.  He is probably right, but I don’t care, the move was a quality of life decision.  I’ve still not broken the back of the assignment, but I’m in better mood, this evening I’m trying a study aid not listed in the books, a bottle of red. There may be quite a lot of editing required tomorrow. 


Today’s the day Tom got his GCSE results

I drove him over to school this morning to collect them, we parked up in the supermarket car park across the road from school and I was instructed to wait. So I waited, anxiously, as parents do; reflecting that it seems no time at all since his first day school, when he had to be peeled, clinging, from my leg by the headmistress. Now look at the size of him.

Eventually a text dropped into my phone, from Tom; it simply read Wooooohoooooo. Yes! my heart did swell with pride, and my eyes may have been a tad misty, but wait a minute, what  exactly does Wooooohooooo mean in teenage text talk? is it a variation on boohoo in which case I’d best prepare of incoming teenage angst.  I waited some more, knowing that Tom would now be lost in the ‘what ya get?’ conversations with his mates.  Impatient I rang Mr Uhdd to compare notes, but we were none the wiser, in the end I rang Tom.  Tom was a happy bunny, he was pleased with his grades, they weren’t what he expected mind; there gains and losses on what was predicted.  But now we know Whooooohoooooo is good.

Spud on Sunday Part XXXIV

Take me with you, Please!

Don't leave me-1

Spud  the dog tries to hitch a ride with Tom, who has set off on his Silver Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award expedition.

I shall protest if you leave me behind

I shall protest if you leave me-1

This part of Derbyshire is freckled with parties of teenagers yomping across the hills on their DofE expeditions. To date all Toms training trips have been on home turf, of which he has a pretty good knowledge, because of the ground he covers on his mountain bike outings; but this time he is off to the Yorkshire Dales, he will have to pay attention to the map.