Back to work on a Saturday and so far there have been comments about sick on a carpet that turned out to be a water pipe leak, a query about lone working for a teenager in a quiet library, the payroll/HR system not being available, and the sun shining straight in my eyes while I’m on a call. A pretty ordinary morning so far then. I’m usually senior cover in my libraries about once a month and by far the most noticeable thing about that is that the geographical range of things that I get pinged about is more diverse. This is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination as it keeps me aware of the wider state of how things are going rather than just on my patch. It’s also generally not an onerous duty as the staff are proactive and engaged and usually just need a nod to continue.
The building I work in is one of those radio shadow lattices from all the metal in its construction that plays merry havoc with mobile signals – which includes the official wifi – and so connectivity for me in this location has become a matter of hotspots via strategically positioned work mobiles and uncapped data tariffs. Never underestimate the creativity of library staff to overcome data issues.
My challenge for this evening is to not forget that I have counselling – unlike a fortnight ago where I got caught up in watching something on TV and then realised I’d missed the whole thing and saw the reminder texts from an increasingly concerned counsellor that I hadn’t seen because I normally have my phone on silent. Oops.
Another day closer to the procedure, and after yesterday’s ultrasound scan today was mostly about PCR tests, sorting laxative prescriptions, and going into isolation. Being a conscientious sort I have of course been keeping colleagues and staff appropriately briefed and told them I’m going to be unavailable for a couple of days. In accordance with the book of sod, this has then meant that my phone has been pinging non-stop with notifications and questions. I may have quietly growled at the last person to call me and have now put my phone on “do not disturb”.
One nice thing to have happened this week has been the introduction of a new colleague at my level, taking over the Farnham area libraries – and as it transpires I already know them a bit. They used to run the local Harris + Hoole coffee shop in the local Tesco a couple of years back. They still had the stunned expression of information overload that everyone has when being shown round and introduced to everyone, but hopefully that will ease quickly enough. I think they’ll get their feet under the table quick enough.
I’m still not sure if the twist in my stomach is illness or anxiety.
Its my Saturday on duty (I get about one a month) where I’m one of the senior staff available to back up the branch managers, call in reinforcements, or provide some direction as required – and its the first time this year I’ve stepped back into one of the libraries as I’ve been partially isolating ahead of the hospital visits over the next few days. For the most part this has me sitting in my office working through a series of tasks I’ve prioritised while listening to the heavy thud of large raindrops on the window sill and roof edging next to me. It’s underlaid by the wet hisses of cars driving through standing water on the roads, and the faint clunk of doors opening and closing elsewhere in the building.
The biggest surprise for me this morning though was the anxiety that gripped me about coming in. There was a dread about getting up and getting in and being back in a public building – not because of any fear about the job but I think mostly tied in to my anxieties about the hospital and the active preparations I have to make next week for it. I may just take the next few days off as sick leave so I can focus on and deal with whatever needs to happen or that comes of it all – and I know that I’ll be supported by all in doing so. Indeed, there was some surprise by staff that I was in given they know how unwell I’ve been recently. I’m certainly not feeling chipper, as much as I wear the mask at the moment. I’m not sleeping properly, and my appetite has fled, leaving me with a hazy fog in my brain that isn’t doing any wonders for my mood.
I think its partly a legacy of working in the public sector on the frontline for so long that I want to fly the flag and be present as much as I can be. I appreciate the value of being visible on many levels, and one of those is just the reassurance that there is a more manager-y manager around on the weekend – that the wider support structure and hierarchy is up and running and so business as usual can take place. There’s also buried in there a guilt about being unwell that I just can’t shake – some kind of conflation of sickness as some kind of failing that I know is utterly false, and yet I can feel it dragging claws in my guts quite separate from the discomfort of whatever is wrong with me.
Right now, my mood seems to match the rain – a cliche, but then they all have to come from somewhere to be so widely recognised. Here’s hoping for a break in the weather in a bit.
Christmas is now going to be perpetrated – that’s about the best way I can describe it – across our various households and I have just finished wrapping a hefty chunk of the gifts I’m passing around this year. Our planned trip up north has fallen foul of – well I’d like to just wave my hands vaguely here at world events to encompass the chaos – so a smaller and more intimate gathering is planned round with boy s and the cub to welcome in their first Christmas in the new flat.
To facilitate that, I’ve spent most of this week running around patching and fixing as many little things at work as I can, and now I’ve stepped away and trust the people I manage to carry on being amazing. As is traditional at this time of trying to get away for a holiday, a massive piece of work landed in my lap around lunchtime. Fortunately, being the organised and professionally paranoid person that I am, I had everything I needed documented so was able to complete it with a minimum of growling – which was just as well as I then had a call from the school.
There had been an incident.
Fortunately nobody was hurt beyond some feelings, and the cub’s lesson has been to pay more attention to his verbal filters and to perhaps not make hand gestures when arguing with people. He’d already done all the self-flagellation by the time I got there so beyond some light teasing and a reassurance that he wasn’t in trouble, that was the end of that.
So. Hello my first holiday in a while – if we can just hold off on any seasonal colds, that would be lovely.
There’s an unseasonal warmth to the air that has been playing havoc with asthmatics locally, and that led me just now to note with bemusement that I was walking around outside in the middle of December in a tshirt. I’ve just got back from dropping some furniture round to boy s and bringing back in turn some coffee and the present of a new bottle of bramble gin. He’s really been able to start turning his flat into a home and is getting houseproud to a level that many people who have known him for years will scarcely recognise – mostly because this is actually his home, not just somewhere he’s living. It’s lovely to see – both for his pride, but also because I recognise the same behaviours from when I move in to somewhere new as well.
This week is mostly focused then on wrapping up as many loose ends as possible before the Christmas and New Year break – all while also spinning contingencies for any changes to what we can offer as a service in light of the growing prevalence of the omicron variant of covid. I have a mental list of things I need to prioritise tomorrow because they directly impact people’s pay and hours, but I also have no doubt that new and strange things will also pop up that need my input – oh, and I have a training course in the afternoon too – so that’ll keep me occupied.
I suppose I should also add into that list of things to do the need to finish wrapping people’s christmas presents. A fair portion of my family have had deliveries and hampers, but I also have a wardrobe stuffed with things and I really need to go through and double check I have got things for everyone. I’m pretty sure I have. I’m trying not to go overboard this year – so we’ll see how I do with that..! I’m now very conscious of all the people I’ve wanted to spend time with that I haven’t been able to this year – and trying to resist overcompensating with presents, and also to not torment myself given how odd and complicated the last eighteen months or so have been. Being mindful of how artificial most deadlines are goes a long way to helping with that.
On the plus side I do now have a large chunk of empty space where I can sort out some proper shelving in the living room.
My day started with one of my branch managers phoning me while they were having a panic attack on top of what turned out to be an acute asthma attack. They were worried that they might have to close their library as they were working on their own. There’s a lot to unpick there, and once I’d talked them through getting their breathing a bit less on the edge of collapse I wasted no time in telling them that I couldn’t care less about closing the library – their health is far more important. This is an individual who is new in their job and feels they have a lot to prove, despite my telling them many times over that they are doing a great job and literally have nothing to prove and they need to slow down.
While still reeling that in I got a call about another member of staff wrenching their back while reaching for christmas decorations in a cupboard, had an update on another person about to undergo surgery, and had calls from the cub’s school that he wasn’t well and could someone come and retrieve him. I may have growled about that as he’d pranked me this morning by walking out of his room with red vaseline around his mouth so that it looked like he had foot and mouth but was thankfully at that time okay. Lady M meanwhile had called in sick with a heavy cold, and while down in Portsmouth boy s had also succumbed to the same cold.
It turned out that the cub has, you guessed it, got the same heavy cold as Lady M and boy s – so I’m chalking it up to Con Flu from the weekend. Lateral Flow Tests have remained negative.
Me? I haven’t got time to be ill. I had school runs, building health and safety inspections, job shortlisting, event risk assessments, and partnership meetings to sort out – and retrieving boy s from Portsmouth after hours. Tomorrow I have more of the same, so I’ve quarantined everyone else in the flat in the other rooms and laid claim to the sofa. If I get this in the same week that I’ve had my blood pressure medications increased, I won’t be happy.
So, could you all just stop falling apart please? I haven’t finished my turn yet.
I’m just back home from doing a quick tour of my libraries this morning and it has at least given me a chance to be outside the four walls of my flat. There are a number of things we’re doing while we’re closed in preparation for when it is safe to reopen, and they range from some simple maintenance of the buildings to measuring up for potential protective measures. The libraries are big enough that we can observe social distancing while a few of us go in to sort these things out, but it still feels strange to be doing so.
The first library was just a very brief stop in before we handed the building over to decorators. I was there the other day clearing surfaces, but today was the official start of works. I’ll not be returning there until works are completed on some repainting and minor repairs and the company hands the building back to us. Having been there for about two or three minutes, it was then on to the biggest of the libraries to catch up with a fellow manager while we went through and started throwing out outdated manuals, empty biscuit tins, and all the minor detritus that seems to build up in workrooms and staff areas to take over every surface.
Along the way we found training manuals for IT systems that don’t exist any more, procedures printed out from seven or eight years ago that have been superceded, and new homes for all the cash paying in stubs that we need to retain for a few more years. Waste disposal companies got politely prodded to come and actually empty bins that weren’t; air conditioning units got inspected and maintained; water tanks and sinks checked for legionella/water temperature controls – and yes, okay, we gossipped and caught up on how things are going because these things too are important.
The other libraries it was just a quick glance on the way past to check the doors were still locked and nothing looked out of place. We’ll get to them next week – we’re pacing ourselves.
More importantly the majority of our conversations are debates on how to interpret the guidance being wafted around in such a way as to promote safe access to services and buildings for staff and public alike. We’re already pushing our digital services and online presentations – with rhymetimes, storytimes, and craft events all being presented online via social media – on https://www.facebook.com/surreylibrariesUK/ – and a big part of our debate is how we can safely restart doing these activities in the branches. We’ll just have to see what happens.
That said, I’m not too worried about not blogging on the day about it as so many schools have decided to do things on the Friday before the weekend rather than have dress-down days. Only this morning I had a number of Harry Potters appear for Rhymetime, making me wish I’d brought in one of my replica wands with which to join in the fun and practice some spells with them.
Yesterday was the day itself though, and as libraries we did our best to fit it in with our general mission of getting interesting books in front of variously interested people of all ages. I was unable to convince any of the staff working with me to actually dress up as anything, so I was left to fly the flag and adopt most of my Harley Quinn cosplay while still remaining professional and unscary to the majority of our customers. In other words: no weapons, no facepaint, no fake tattoos, or blood (fake, or otherwise).
In practice this meant a white shirt, the red and black waistcoat made by Lady M, and the old red and black nail varnish. This was fine, and bemused a number of elderly customers who didn’t dare ask what was going on. My staff are used to it, so all was well. We just didn’t get any children older than two and a half in all day. You might think therefore that this was a waste of time, but I say any excuse to wear cosplay at work and be paid for it is no bad thing. Then again, I am famous for having no shame over these things.
I couldn’t be bothered to remove the nail varnish last night, so I’m still wearing it today, along with my more general casually smart library manager attire. So far I’ve had ten people admire and compliment my nails while I’ve been serving them. I’ll take that.
Well, I must have needed that – having had a fairly heavy day sorting out a variety of issues and feeling like my head was about to implode, I got home to find Lady M already in bed with a migraine. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and thought “I know, I’ll snuggle down for a little bit with her.”
Then my alarm went off and it was seven in the morning. So, yes, that happened…
Its just as well as today sees the first day for a new member of staff, and a fair amount of things happening at work event-wise so I’m chalking it up to my brain deciding that my conscious processes were going to get in my own way and forcing a reboot..
I do feel better for it, but I’m still looking forward to the end of the day so I can properly switch off for a bit.
One of my libraries has a building site next door – as in, just the other side of the wall of my office – and it has been a noisy year as they demolished the old buildings and then started to build the development from scratch. One of the big complaints from people in the area was that it was removing an architectural feature from the area – specifically the imposing front of what had been a college, complete with an impressive facade – even though the site had been closed and falling apart for quite some time.
As I was walking in to work the other day though, I could start to see the final shape of some of the buildings in the development coming together as the peaked roofs are added to the bare bones of concrete and metal. The shape and colour of the tiles is reminiscent of the older building that had been there before – and I thought it a nice touch. Then I noticed on one of the roofs a lighter coloured V shape, which looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place it. I mentioned it to a member of staff whose family has been in the area for generations and she got excited enough to jump out and go round to take a picture.
Apparently it exactly replicates signs of bomb damage from World War Two, where a device hit the road a short way away from the school (as it was at the time), and lightly damaged the tiles of its roof where it faced the explosion. Builders rapidly replaced the tiles from bombed out buildings nearby so that the school could keep running but the colour didn’t quite match. This left a distinct lighter coloured V shape that was never repaired or replaced until the building was demolished last year to make way for the new buildings. It had become part of the fabric of the local community – a sign of it pulling together in war and adversity to help its members – and so the reappearance of this V in the tiles on the same alignment and location of the original has been grudgingly admired as a nice nod to the past and the continuity of that spirit.