Birdsong and flowers


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Above is the view from the back door of my accommodation on Red Lion Row, I am sitting here drinking tea with birdsong, sunshine and flowers (see below). Most of the staff and volunteers living on Red Lion Row are gardeners and the photo shows some of the gardens the students each have to look after.

In just over an hour Doug is picking us up to take part in the Community Read with Robin Wall Kimmerer, an ecologist, lecturer and native American. In the meantime I’m reading the pack I was given yesterday, trying to orientate myself and making more tea!



Only the Virtuous…

The wicked can have only accomplices,
The voluptuous have companions in debauchery,
Self-seekers have associates,
The politic assemble factions,
The typical idler has connections,
Princes have courtiers,
Only the Virtuous have friends.~ Voltaire

In thinking about resurrecting this blog I found this quote sitting in a draft post and so am liberating it!

remembering X, I think of Y

I love archives. There is a discursive life to them. Almost any discovery of a fact, a quotation, or an image, seems to lead you into other territory. Moments of reflection and memories of previous ideas can open up whole new areas of potential thought. This pair of long vitrines are made to sit on a library table: to be part of the day to day work of looking, thinking and connecting, that goes on at Windmill Hill. They have a discreet echo in themselves of the long porcelain table pieces that would run down the dinner tables of great eighteenth-century courts at Meissen, installations to give pleasure and provoke conversation.

Edmund de Waal, Waddesdon Manor 2012

The art of reading books

I shall try and find time to write something more substantial soon but I was reading a often fascinating blog called ‘Letters of Note’ and found a letter by Harper Lee of which the following is an extract…

Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. Instant information is not for me. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it.

And, Oprah, can you imagine curling up in bed to read a computer? Weeping for Anna Karenina and being terrified by Hannibal Lecter, entering the heart of darkness with Mistah Kurtz, having Holden Caulfield ring you up — some things should happen on soft pages, not cold metal.

And while I am guilty on occasion of curling up in bed with my netbook and love my kindle not least because I can carry 100 books with me when I go away and have just installed the Kindle app on my smartphone Harper Lee is correct – some things just should happen (for the first time at least) on soft pages.

See the full letter at:



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Wordle: words

I have hit that point with this whole blogging process where I am have numerous half thoughts but don’t post anything. Why? Because usually I feel other people express it better, because I don’t spend the time to formulate my thoughts and work out what I actually think, because I avoid making myself vulnerable, and so I procrastinate from finding the words to put them them on paper (as it were).

It’s funny really because most people would probably say that I rarely struggle to find something to say – quiet is not usually used to describe me. The thing is most of what I say is on the surface, it doesn’t really matter, it’s noise, interference. If you want to know what I really think, what I really feel then you need to put me on the spot – actually ask and then be prepared for me to prevaricate and spend many, many words talking my way round to an answer.

Frequently it takes someone challenging me to vocalise my thoughts on a subject for me to even know what they are or to know what my decision is or to know how I feel about something. It’s not just how you know what I think/feel/believe but all too often it’s how I do too. And sometimes it a surprise to all of us! A colleague of mine once told me that they always knew what I was going to do before I did because I’d have been talking it through for days.

None of which was quite where I thought this post was going. What I planned to do was to mention a book I’ve just finished – Lisa Mckay’s Love at the Speed of Email. It’s more than the tale of a long distance relationship – though that’s a fabulous story!- it says things about singleness, society, passion, faith, home, love, life, and knowing yourself in a way I know I can’t better. Though Lisa’s life has very few parallels with mine her words resonate and have made me think.


It’s all about memory.

We can only know where we are going if we first know where we are – and we can only know where we are if we know where we have come from. No wonder so many people are now spending time and money trying to reconstruct their family tree, even famous people on the telly. We need to know who we are…

I liked this quote taken from Nick Baines’ blog and the rest of the post is worth reading to – you’ll find it here.




I like walk but am inherently lazy meaning I forget quite how much I like real walking until I do so again. The weather forecast for Saturday meant I had no excuse and having found what looked like a suitable walk here off I set with my camera and what turned out to be not quite enough water (though be not worried friends I did not give myself heatstroke…this time!). The sky was blue and glorious..ImageThere were woods with views…


And sheep who looked at me!


 And hills that made me realise quite how unfit I was though the views were worth it!

ImageIt was wonderful. And I do like walking…I just need to overcome my sense of inertia. But appear to have agreed to walk the Edale skyline walk once the days start getting longer again so maybe that will help to motivate me!




Don’t read this if don’t want my thoughts of Romans 8 and predestination but I was asked if I could put something I first voiced about 14 years ago in writing…and in case I’m actually brave enough to hit post here it is…

“Predestined” Manhattan/New York City/Inwood/190th Street 01-06-09 at 11:12 AM

Romans 8
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[I] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

I remember sitting in some friends’ living room doing a bible study on this passage when I spent my year in Norfolk and being the one brave/foolish/young enough to try and explain what this passage was saying and what I came up with was roughly the following but possibly tweaked as I’ve thought on it in the intervening 14 years…

Firstly you can only understand v30 in the context of 28-30 because it all hangs together. v28 He, God works for the good of those who love him (not that all is good but that it can be made good or good will come out of it…eventually) and are called according to his purpose – his purpose? That we love Him. He foreknew us because as Psalm 139 says he knit us together in our mother’s womb and before we were he knew us “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” And He created us, He made us in His image and predestined us to be like Him, to be in the image of His Son (Himself) so we are His sons and daughters, we were created to love Him and therefore are predestined to do so. And if we are predestined to be like Him, then we are called to love Him and therefore do His will, follow Him. If we chose (and that is where the free will bit comes in – He doesn’t force us to love Him, to serve Him, to follow Him – because where is the true love then?) to hear that call then we are justified (made clean, made one in grace and love through faith) and if we are justified through our faith and love how can we not be glorified?

Is that right, I don’t know but it works for me.




I spent the second half of last week in Brighton at a conference and when I wasn’t thinking about wikileaks, the morals of good and bad leaks and the ethics of the archivist’s reponsibilities or innovative leadership or competencies or managing digital archives I was thinking about vastness and smallness and perspective.

You may ask how this linked to an archival conference and the answer is in the view from my hotel window:

sea at brighton

Yes the sea (rather windy, wild and wet on Wednesday afternoon – not a day for crossing the channel). I miss living by the sea, even though I have spent more of my life living miles from the sea than otherwise, there is something about the untamed wildness of the sea that can make you feel small. Small in a positive way though, not small as in insignificant or worthless but small as in part of this greater whole.  Sometimes the vastness of the sea (or the hills or the sky) is all it takes to put things into perspective. Not necessarily big things just the everyday things that wear you down – the politics and frustrations of the workplace; the daily grind of laundry and shopping, and cooking. Somehow the power and vastness of the sea takes these away and exhilarates or brings peace depending which way the wind is blowing.

Sometime I may write more about the actual meat of conference but probably not…

Procrastination is…


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…the art of keeping up with yesterday.

I have always been an accomplished procrastinator – reading is more attractive than housework, walking than writing that talk, making a phone call than washing up (actually pretty much anything rather than wash up!) but procrastination as the art of keeping up with yesterday? So does that mean that as an archivist and custodian of the past that gives me an excuse?

I’m not sure where this blog is going to go or even if it will go anywhere and yes it is yet another example of me procrastinating…I ought to be mapping boxes from one of our current archive stores into the new building which is (possibly/hopefully/optimistically) almost ready for us to move into – let’s ignore the five litres of water the dehumidifier has extracted from each of the south stores in last 24 hours…

So if you might be interested in hearing more about living with a passively controlled archive store, working for a landed estate/charitable foundation/private family, knowing what I’ve been reading recently or what I ought to be doing then I might post here to let you know – but I’m currently not promising anything!

BTW the quote is by Don(ald) Marquis, an American humourist, journalist and author – who I must admit I know nothing else about but for a long time I thought he was a Don as in Quixote…