Management Training Day

So at least today wasn’t as odd as yesterday, which started with the ex-Lady M walking in on me as I was about to step in the shower. Did I not mention we’d hired her as our cleaner? 

It’s going rather well, leaving aside the “completely forgetting she was due in” moment. The Ladies M get on like the proverbial house on fire, albeit with less broken glass and things exploding, and I am famously so laid back as to be practically horizontal, so it works out and is just fodder for winding people up at #Tuesday or in casual conversation.

Her dry comment that “well this really couldn’t get any weirder” was the perfect caption for the day as a whole, even without the Warlord’s Lollipops Incident.

Today was the first part of an pilot scheme to extend inductions to the new wave of duty managers, and was based at our central depot at Drill Hall in Dorking. I’ve been there before so I knew where the heavy traffic would be and planned my journey accordingly.

If only I’d remembered to double check the start time, I could have avoided the rush hour shenanigans. Instead I was an hour early in a town that has a frankly disproportionate number of antique shops in its High Street. Fortunately a coffee shop was open within comfortable walking distance, so I engaged in the time honoured tradition of people watching and noting characteristics that I can use as colour in my stories. 

Yes, I am incorrigible – a label I’ve had applied to me by several people, so it must be true… Admittedly it’s usually while I’m winding them up or being wildly inappropriate, but that’s half the fun of word play.

Anyway, cutting a long ramble short, the training was, to my surprise, actually quite useful and took the form of discussion and coaching and mentoring around expectations, and identifying support, and a wider view of the library service and it’s focus…

I know, here’s me not taking a scathingly cynical view of something in my workplace. Don’t worry, I haven’t been kidnapped and a robot put in replacement. Normal inappropriate shenanigans will continue shortly.

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Served by the Warlord

And so another #Tuesday has rattled by, fuelled by beer, slightly cramped musicians, and a lightly bedraggled pub dog called Bailey.

There weren’t many of us in there tonight. At one point the band outnumbered the patrons, and I was glad of the rings on my fingers clattering loudly as I clapped the table top in applause.

Even so, the various Ladies M (ex-, current and honourary) were in fine form, discussing bra fittings, the power of Baby Groot, and how well the Charleesi is doing in preparation for her A Levels. 

It was so quiet – in terms of customers rather than volume – that our irrepressible landlord began to serve us at the table; and a fateful message relaying key events to Lady B was hit by the joys of Autocorrect. In an instant, our landlord was transformed into our warlord. 

Oh it's that time is it?

As he was handing out lollipops at the time, this has now become immortalised on social media as being “that time of the night when the warlord hands out lollipops”

Derek may never live this down as we will be using his name in vain for quite some time. Derek the Warlord has a certain charming ring to it, and I’m sure he will turn up as a character somewhere, either on game night or in a story. We may even explain the joke some time…

So, not the most riotous night, despite the near ignition of Lady M’s bag, the near-licking face-off, or the attempts by the band to get their own back, but as ever a great milestone in what has been a weird day and entertaining week.

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Book Review: The Devil’s Detective – Simon Kurt Unsworth

I picked this book up on a whim, and after a couple of false starts I was able to devote some time to this dense police procedural set in Hell. I’m glad I persevered with it.

Hell, as depicted here, is definitely other people. The days of burning brimstone are long gone, and instead a crushing and labyrinthine Bureaucracy exists. The Damned don’t remember why they are here, only that they deserve the brutality of demons and crushing banality and squalor around them. 

Our protagonist, Thomas Fool, is one of Hell’s Information Men, tasked with solving or at least reporting on crimes committed against humans. There’s usually no resolutions or punishments and it’s another thankless and unending task that is as much a punishment as anyone else’s.

Brutalised bodies start cropping up, an angelic delegation is in town on an inspection and to administer a lottery of souls to be released from Hell, and Thomas knows that all eyes are on him.

The violence is grisly and the misery unrelenting, and yet like Dante’s Inferno there are new visions and even a beauty in the unfolding structure. I feared I was in for an extended short story by someone who had read too much Neil Gaiman, but I was relieved that instead there was an individual voice and inventiveness at play. This is a story that puts it’s own stamp on the tone and narrative.

There’s some intriguing world building here, and I was pleased that it wasn’t spoon-fed to me, leaving room for ambiguity and inquisitiveness to match that of the weary narrator and protagonist. Not every plot twist was a complete surprise, but by the same token nothing felt entirely pulled from a hat, staying in keeping with the established rules of the setting.

What was a pleasant (for lack of a better word) turn of events were the changes to the status quo along the way that served to underline the treacherous nature of Hell. I’m torn between wanting more books in this setting and being happy with it as a standalone tale.

Over all, an engaging read once I got to grips with it, with unrelenting misery that serves a purpose. Four out of five pitchforks.

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Freshly Recharged

I’ve had a lovely weekend, and even better it feels like a new reinvigoration to go along with it. Work is going well, and I have days off liberally sprinkled through the month to give me some nice pockets of time off in the next few weeks.

This weekend saw a charity event at our sort-of local, The Plough – scene of many a #Tuesday. The ex-Lady M has got involved in her local residents association and got roped into running a stall at the Winter’s Market they decided to run this year.

She in due course corralled Lady M into helping out on another stall, and so the scene was set for a pleasant, if chilly, Saturday.

We’d also invited Lady B from my Monday gaming group along. We’d all met up socially during the summer at Arundel Castle and had been making noises about seeing each other again ever since and not quite making it happen.

For context, and the benefit of those just joining us: the Monday night game takes place online, using Roll20 and Google Hangouts to connect players and GM no matter where they are.

So as we’d been talking about it a while at the end of recent game sessions, I threw out there that this event was happening and the stars aligned. 

Despite the best efforts of public transport, a Lady B duly arrived and we spent a good portion of the afternoon supping beer and relaying food and drink to the two Ladies M as they conquered and assimilated half the stalls. 

A rather confused Lord D (also a veteran of the Monday group) was in attendance as well with his son; and we witnessed a rapid succession of expressions on his face as he recognised a familiar face in an unexpected context and company.

The Charleesi arrived at the tail end of the afternoon, having finished work and done her own battle with TFL, and we all thawed out in the light and warmth of the pub’s log fire.

Given her horrendous journey to us, and the disclosure that she had seen neither Guardians of the Galaxy, or Deadpool, we offered Lady B a bed for the night and a lift home when required.

So began a gentle evening of chatter and silliness, followed by more of the same pretty much all day Sunday as well. It’s been such a wonderful break from the drama and trauma and sickness of late that we’ve all come away smiling and relaxed, positive and shiny for the first time in what feels ages.

We’ve even been organised and already arranged a date in the new year so we don’t bumble along so long before meeting up again. 

Good company, food, entertainment, a deepened connection, silliness and laughter. It’s done us all a power of good.

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Back to the Scene of the Crime?

Time’s flown incredibly fast. I just realised that I’m now in the third month of this new job – and with it has come a new challenge: returning to manage the library where I was previously “just one of the guys”.

I’ve likened the experience to slipping on an old comfortable jumper in asmuch as I know where everything is and who everyone pretends to be, both as staff and customers. The very first words said to me by staff as I walked in were: “we haven’t changed anything, it’s all exactly as you left it.”

Now, I’m choosing to interpret this as their being pleased to see me, and as respect and wanting to reassure me. It almost certainly has nothing to do with the intimidating ogre image that I quietly half-joke about. It does mean is that I won’t be running to assimilate new information about the people and place I find myself in. 

What I do need to focus on instead is on consolidating the lessons I’ve already learned. It would be easy to relax at this point and assume it will all be plain sailing, but that’s dangerous. 

I have some training lined up for myself, both structured and self-driven online, and need to push staff towards training of their own in a way that balances their limited time with the fun and frolics of working with the public.

As long as I don’t fall back into interacting with people in the same old ways, but remember that this time I’m on the opposite side of the fence, then I can keep some momentum with the job and keep my interest strongly engaged.

So, a new month and a new set of challenges that aren’t what you might expect when you’re treading what looks like old ground. What’s not to like?

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Struggling With Motivation

I think if this year has taught me anything, it’s that there can always be something else that goes wrong, or another wrinkle in the story. 

I can be talking on the macro socio-political stage or on the most personal levels of self-set goals, and you can bet that I will get an answer to my perennial question when starting a new course of action:
What’s the worst that could happen?

Now I don’t for one moment believe that the universe actually takes that statement as a challenge; it just feels like it. I just don’t let it stop me.

What has happened though is that my writing has taken a bit of a back seat recently. I’ve preferred instead to sketch and doodle. Quite a few of these I’ve put up on Instagram or Twitter, and links should appear on the Twit-Feed bit on the bottom right of this page when I do.

The appeal has been that it’s been more free-form, and hasn’t required access to a computer or other electronic device other than the camera in my phone. 
With writing I need to sit and type away and it feels like a lot of effort for something that has only been getting the occasional flash of inspiration.It hasn’t helped that my tablet seems to short out or drain it’s battery rapidly. I should probably get it looked at, but it’s not high on my agenda.

What has been topping my agenda instead has been caring for Lady M in what has been a year of downright misery, disappointment, and ill-health; and I just haven’t had the energy or motivation to do much else aside from lose myself in books, games and drawing.

What I hope to start doing more regularly here is at least review some of the stories I’ve read. I hope that keeping the site going on that front will kick-start me into writing properly again at least. I certainly need to find some form of motivation – I’m feeling pretty hollowed out.

Applications for muses will of course be looked upon favourably. You may need either a shovel to dig me up, or a firearm to keep pointed at my head though; the ember’s pretty dim right now.

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A Library Conference

I’ve spent today at a conference for staff working either in, or in support of, my library service. I approached the event with a mixture of trepidation and bemusement based on a number of anecdotes related by colleagues that suggested it would be a massive waste of time. How bad could it be?

I’m relieved to be pleasantly surprised by the experience, and even inspired by some of the speakers. A lot of time was devoted to looking at innovative approaches to developing library spaces for and in conjunction with their communities – enabling them to tell and enhance their own stories. 

This may sound wishy-washy, but providing safe, open and free spaces that promote learning, growth and expression really lights a fire in me. Seeing people of all ages and backgrounds blossoming as they discover or create things is absolutely one of the best things about this job.

So discussion of makerspaces, artistic collaboration, coding workshops and generally shaking up people’s perception of what can happen in a library was meat and drink to me. I’ve already thrown a couple of ideas at management and had thoughtful agreement in principle, so hopefully I’ll soon be writing about at least one of them that involves local musicians.

Normal grumpy cynicism will be resumed shortly.

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