A brief history (not a CV)

I was born in Enfield, then in Middlesex, now in Greater London, and educated at Enfield Grammar School.
After A-levels I went on to study French and Spanish language and literature at Bristol University. I emerged from this with a B.A. Hons. degree.
In an interview with the careers advisor I made it clear that I wanted to do something useful that did not involve making the bosses even richer than they already were.

The range of options included the usual things – Civil Service, BBC, etc., and … librarianship.
Having failed to get into the BBC and, based on my father’s experience of working in the Inland Revenue, decided against the Civil Service, I decided to try my hand at librarianship, despite having a very hazy idea of what was involved.
So it was that I began my working career in Westminster City Libraries where in the course of three years (including one year at Library School obtaining a Diploma in Librarianship) I rose from junior assistant to second-in-charge at Charing Cross Road Music Library. This last post included several months acting-up while the boss recovered from the shingles.
I would have stayed there much longer, but a unique opportunity arose to work in Rotterdam at the headquarters of the Universal Esperanto Association. I was there for four years running their mail-order book sales. Given that I was working alone and mostly unsupervised, and in view of the large and growing turnover, this was probably the largest financial responsibility I have had at work.
I met my future wife Maria while working there. Sensing a need to increase my income, I decided to return to London and look for library work. The result was my longest-running spell of employment, in Hackney Public Libraries, in charge of the Music Library in Stoke Newington.
Maria and I were married in 1975 and had two daughters, Leonora (1977) and Debora (1979). Sadly Maria died of cancer in 1982.
My work in Hackney was brought to a premature end in 1992, by a prolonged spell of ill health. At the time, the Borough was going through great political and financial difficulties and its libraries were understaffed and underfunded. When I was offered medical retirement I saw this as an opportunity to get out of a sinking ship and perhaps find other work later on when fully well.
Over the next six years I continued library work in a variety of temporary placements including the Science Library (where I reclassified their Pamphlets Collection), the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, where I classified the previously unclassified library, and, best of all, eighteen very happy months at the British Library’s National Sound Archive where I classified and catalogued the book library and had a spell of several months as a cataloguer for sound recordings.

In 1998 I took the opportunity to leave London and set up home in a rambling old house in a small village in Suffolk, not a million miles (more like 25 miles in fact) from Peel Acres. This inevitably meant an end to paid work, but I am still busy, as what follows will show.


What I am up to
Something over 20 years ago I was given the chance to do some unpaid work in my non-existent spare time. Perhaps surprisingly, I accepted the challenge.
So it was that I took charge of the Montagu C. Butler Library of the Esperanto Association of Britain. At the time the library was in London; it is now at Barlaston in Staffordshire. This was (again) a one-man-band unsupervised job which I did on Sundays. Since then Parkinson’s Law has taken its toll and I now work about 20 hours a week on the library, with assistance from other people.
Information on the library (in Esperanto) can be found at http://biblbut.wordpress.com/ . Put briefly, it is a collection of some 13,000 books, various sound recordings, an archive of some thousands of photos, and a documentary archive, hard to quantify but pretty big and steadily growing.
Current activities include developing the library website into an information resource in its own right; creating an on-line catalogue (which in fact involves recataloguing and reclassifying all 13,000 volumes); republishing (on the website), and updating, the library’s specialist subject classification scheme, as well as developing one of my own; and, over a period of years, compiling a history of Esperanto in Britain. A lengthy project to transfer the library’s sound recordings (some dating back to 100 years ago) onto CD is well under way.

What else I am up to

The garden takes some looking after, and the house (above) does not clean itself. I also have to keep myself clean, fed and clothed. This sometimes makes it difficult to find time for more interesting things.
According to my daughters I am just interested in too many things. This is probably right, but I’m not sure what to do about it.
Music takes up a great deal of my time; listening to it, playing it (as a mediocre pianist) and very occasionally composing it. I am currently transferring my collection of audio cassettes to CD and have so far (Sep 2013) made about 1100 CDs. By the time I finish this, CDs will themselves be out of date and I shall doubtless have to start transferring them to something else.
I am passionately political, but, although I am a paid-up party member, my political activities are mostly confined to convincing my daughters that my ideas are not just old hippy stuff but still relevant; and, of course, to persisting in voting for the party even though its local prospects are pretty hopeless. Likewise in social issues; I am convinced that everybody but myself is working far too hard* and people need to loosen up a bit – another lost cause.
I also spend a good deal of time in a vain effort to keep up with reading the magazines I subscribe to, and to make some inroads into the impressive collection of unread books that spill out of a large box at the foot of the stairs. Likewise, as broadband is now well settled in our village, I am at last getting to some of the interesting internet activities that were not practical before.

Things I can do
I have already indicated that this is not a CV, and I am not actively looking for work. On the other hand if work came actively looking for me I would certainly give it a hearing; so I shall list my skills with no attempt at undue modesty. I should mention that unless such work was home-based some hefty travel expenses would be involved.

Words. I am not in any way a creative writer, but I do have an ability to knock other people’s words into shape. I can produce correct spelling and grammar, in a style which is usually clear and simple, though perhaps old-fashioned.

Languages. I have reading knowledge of Dutch, Esperanto, French, Italian and Spanish; so with a little more effort I can read (for example) German and Portuguese. Aural understanding of these is also good. I am fluent (almost bilingual) in Esperanto and can speak French with ease. I can do coaching (but not full-on teaching) in these languages and am prepared, in hopeless cases, to break the news gently.

Music. Many years of library work, as well as my own interests, have given me a good knowledge of the history and theory of music and of actual music in many styles, especially classical, folk, country, Americana, singer-songwriter, rock and indie.

Translation. The biggest translation job I have ever done was commissioned by the Observer newspaper, a 300-page account of life under the Nazis in Hungary, translated at breakneck speed; but I have also translated tourist brochures, private correspondence, and even the instructions accompanying some bootleg medicine. I can translate from any of the languages mentioned above into English or Esperanto.

Computer skills. No programming and very little tinkering inside CPUs, but all-round computer literacy on the software side of things, with experience of LocoScript (which I still use for data), WordPerfect, Windows XP, Open Office and Magix Audio Cleaning Lab. Until about 10 years ago I only had LocoScript but I have been learning quickly and will continue to do so. A venture into Linux may follow; but, believe it or not, I am much less interested in the arcane workings of software than what you can do with it. Even so, I would dearly love to escape from Windows (not what is usually meant by defenestration) and one day I may achieve this.

Your old cassettes and LPs onto CD. Of course anyone that has a computer and suitable software can do this, but it takes patience and a certain amount of skill and judgment to do it well. This is one activity in which practice makes perfect, and I have had quite a lot of practice. Also, of course, many people do not have the necessary playing equipment. I can copy cassettes, and vinyl of any size (except those very rare 13” records) or speed (33, 45, 78 rpm but not 16 rpm). I can’t (yet) do open reel tape. These will be copied onto computer and given such treatment as is desirable and possible (removal of surface noise, cassette hiss, FM hiss, clicks, pops and bangs etc.) I can also make corrections to pitch and speed, join up or separate tracks, and to some extent re-balance the sound. And I can then return you the result as an MP3, WMA, OGG, FLAC or M4A file), or on cassette, or on CD. Any hassles with copyright are of course yours not mine!

If any of this is of interest to you feel free to contact me. Other, more interesting, pages are being added when time permits, anbd these will eventually  make an autobiography of sorts.

*In February 2007 UNICEF published a report on the life of children in 21 developed countries; Britain came bottom of the list. A BBC News report finished with the conclusion that British children are blighted by “the pressurised and unforgiving world they are growing up in”


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