Sunday, 13 February 2011

Window Haunting

One of my favourite things to do is to scurry and lurk, scurry and lurk past people's windows. I walk fast down a chosen street and then, invariably the glimpse of an interior induces me to dawdle as I peek into the lives of the inhabitants.

It's partly the reason why I love the autumn so much, as for months my prying will have been hindered by the fact that I was in plain view. The onset of early darkness aids my hobby as I am covered by its velvet complicity.

Virginia Woolf writes wonderfully about windows in Street Haunting;
"high among the bare trees are hung oblong frames of reddish-yellow light - windows; there are points of brilliance burning steadily like low stars - lamps; this empty ground, which holds the country in it and its peace."

But , Woolf reminds us that we must be careful not to dig 'deeper than the eye approves' and I remember this when I am walking past people's houses, watching them sit down to supper or slumped in front of the TV or admiring their bookshelves. A glimpse is all I need to imagine their lives. As I was walking home the other evening I approached my own house and glimpsed how it might look from a fellow street haunters perspective. So I took a photo - which is above. I wonder what Woolf would have made of it?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

I'm a World Book Night Giver!

I woke up this morning to a lovely email from the organisers of World Book Night. I have been selected to be a ‘giver’ which means that on Saturday 5 March I will be distributing 48 copies of C.J. Sansom’s Dissolution to people in Oxford as a celebration of literature, literacy, reading and the value of the written word. It is doubly exciting as it’s the night before my birthday so I can combine this bookish escapade with my birthday celebrations!

As yet, I am undecided as to where exactly I will be giving the books. There are so many ideas to choose from. Should I give them out at one of the many homeless shelters or hospices? Or, should I use this as an opportunity to join forces with those who are campaigning against the closure of 50% of the local libraries in Oxfordshire?

I don’t want to get political especially as this is not about politics; rather, it’s about ethics and ideology. The devaluation of local libraries as a resource for local communities is, in my opinion, unethical. Libraries are not just places for people to borrow books from. They are centres for community groups to meet, for people to access the internet and places for people to explore ideas and learn.

There has been much campaigning across Oxford against the proposed funding cuts and closures. I wrote to my local MP who wrote back, which I was grateful for, however she spelt my name incorrectly. She has since written to keep me updated as to what she is ‘doing’ about the cuts; spelling my name incorrectly again. Now, I could go on a rant about this slapdash illiteracy. I won’t, but I would like to point out that perhaps she should go to her local library and borrow a book on both manners and spelling.

The author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, Philip Pullman, wrote a fantastic piece about the cuts which you can read here. He lives in Oxford and has been at the forefront of the campaign.

To be part of World Book Night is an honour and so exciting. I will keep you updated as to what I plan to do with the books. Any ideas are more than welcome! And if you are a ‘giver’ in Oxford, let me know and we could combine forces!