Friday, 4 May 2018

How I learned to ride a bike


I learned biking late, and later still
heard how aged six, not understanding brakes,
I'd crashed against a wall. Eleven years,
while that unlearn eluded memory,
cycling balance eluded me too, made
bicycles a phobia. But –

"Rode Hugh's moped" is in my diary.
Not why, or who came up with that idea.
A stable drive was long enough for me,
longer than any pushbike I could fear.

For months, I risked no balancing on wheels.
Urged to a Christmas job some roads away,
too far for bus or walk, and to these skills,
I tried my sister's bike on Boxing Day.

The moped ride had not been fluke or fake.
I whizzed to the next village down the lane.
Uphill I found was harder. It would take
longer and the straight line was extra strain.

My ageing feet now say "Walk bad, bike good."
The prequel crash continues to elude.

The above was my contribution to the 26 Memory Maps project.  The map I drew for it is this:

The 26 Memory Maps project was the brainchild of Neil Baker (no relation).  Taking part in it did me a lot of good as I convalesced from a knot of health problems in the summer of 2017.  At the time of blogging, cycle journeys are again out of bounds for reasons of convalescence.  I have been putting this time to good use by following another creative project.  Work produced under that other project will be blogged, according to my usual rule, as and when it gets published.

Meanwhile, take a look at 26 Memory Maps.  50 contributions besides mine!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

The remembered village


After Mum and Dad's Golden was our first return.
We drove through steady rain uphill but missed
the turn, entered the village further west
by the school, followed the S-bend past
hall, vicarage, cross. Walked up the steepest
north-sloping churchyard path. It was mid-August.
In church, the numbers since Dad's time reduced.

After I reached fifty was the second.
Late at night, we drove uphill, northward, turned
in by the school, the village western end;
again the hall-and-vicarage S-bend.
The missed B&B; the phone call, turn round.
Next morning, in dampness, we were shown around
the church, the steep north-facing slope of ground.
We left the village at the eastern end,
Beacon Hill, water tower; homeward bound.

Dad's memorial service was the third.
In a bright March morning, we drove westward,
took the right turn; the water tower, crossroad,
again right, swooping north and down, past wood
gates, left, and left again into the farmyard.
The party walked the unpavemented road
west, south, uphill, the cross, the village grid,
the steep north-facing path in the churchyard.
The plaque unveiled, and many kind words said.
Then path, cross, downhill, left at chapel, led
west to where the Borstal had once stood.
We saw the new-built road named after Dad.

So my lines. They'd make an incomplete
map, lacking streets and homes once known inside.
Returning took from memories no heat,
and the troubled return dreams have not died.

The poem was written in December 2013 for the Holland Park Press 'What's your place?' competition.  It has now found publication in Orbis 180 (p. 6).  It has benefited, as poems in Orbis tend to do, from suggestions by the editor Carole Baldock.

You might like to read my earlier poem 'Wikipedia on the village' and the village's own web site.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

An impromptu imitation of Edward Lear

How this one came about represents the best of Twitter (yes, I'm aware that Twitter is not always at its best). The gardener and writer Harriet Rycroft tweeted a video showing her attempts to get a fledgling goldcrest out of her hair. I saw it when it was retweeted by Cambridge rare books librarian Emily Dourish. It drew the comment that the adventure was "like something from an Edward Lear limerick". This spurred me to the following, which appears here very slightly altered: 

There was a young Cotswold goldcrest 

Who mistook someone's hair for a nest 

When they said "You belong 

In an Edward Lear song" 

He flew off, that presumptuous goldcrest.

I'm not copying and pasting other people's entire poems into the blog, so follow this link for Harriet's own limerick on the adventure. You might also like her blog post about it, and about garden encounters with wildlife more generally.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A most welcome birthday present

Clare's present for my 60th birthday was to commission a musical setting of one of my poems from Kathryn Rose.  Clare pointed Kathryn in the direction of this Blurtmetry blog, and gave her a free hand in choosing.  The poem Kathryn picked was 'Apology' from 2010.

I blogged 'Apology' after Sue Butler kindly accepted it for her 'Walking with poets' blog at the Benmore Botanic Gardens near Edinburgh.  Thanks to Sue for encouragement in connection with the present post.

The song comes with a CC-BY-SA (Attribution-ShareAlike) Creative Commons licence.  You may photocopy it, share it, perform it, record it, do pretty well anything you like with it provided that

(i) you attribute its authorship correctly

(ii) you impose no copyright restrictions of your own on anything you make of it.

Here's the score.

And here's Kathryn's recording.

It was quite a thing, opening that on the day.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Bonus thing 24: Behind the scenes

A couple of other participants blogged their own response to Bonus Thing 24.  Not a lot for me to say except that my next learning adventure will be in software skills for librarians.  I'll be following that at home, and I fear the learning curve will be very, very steep.  Wish me luck.

And I will be pushing 'Moore methods' -- the long-term incarnation of the '23 things for research' videos -- to everyone who will listen.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Thing 23: The ultimate research tool

Reflect on and blog about the Ultimate Research Tool. Do you agree with our choice and what role does the tool play in your life? Will you use it differently in the future now you’ve taken this programme and watched the video above?

Absolutely agreed with the choice of the library as the ultimate research tool, though very conscious of falling short myself in the delivery of the service described in Georgina's post.

Also, take some time to reflect and blog about the overall 23 Research Things programme. What were the top things you learned? What Things were you not so convinced by? What tools and concepts will you take forward with you as you move on through your life and career?

The top things I learned -- the ones I will take forward -- will have been the sources of good pictures in Thing 14, Qualtrics as a survey tool from Thing 17, and Zotero for references from Thing 21.  I had better also say, having presented Clare Sansom as the scientist in my life in my blog post for Thing 16, that I was delighted by the pleasure Clare took in Altmetrics as demonstrated by me after Thing 22.

Thing 16 was about citizen science and the democratisation of science.  My post on that point could be described as hopeful but anxious.  Democracy's way of turning itself inside out has been hard not to notice in 2017.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Thing 22: Tracking success

Explore the analytics section of your Twitter account. What sort of things did you find out?

Good question.  I've been at the Twitter Analytics addictively since it appeared, and Georgina's post is valuable for urging me to explore the section more comprehensively.  I can confirm the report by 'Librarian at heart' that tweets generally get more seen and more responded to if they have hashtags and pictures in them.  And, in a subjective impression I haven't statistically confirmed, Twitter Analytics' list of my top tweets seems to have a lot of those other blue things in it -- links and Twitter handles.

The blue/popularity correlation reflects the experience of 'A waterfall of consciousness', that tweets did well when they reworked other tweets or combined subjects. I fear I cannot replicate that post's experience of success by a tweet "that tackled a controversial subject with a negative bent".

But it's gratifying to see that my own top tweets include this one:

Tnx Retford pharmacist, who didn't have my medication in stock so rang Retford's other pharmacists till one had it. Is this standard?

No blue text in that one; the tweet was presumably popular by the pharmacist's merit alone.  Quite right.

Track a URL using TweetReach. Try experimenting using a URL from an existing tweet

I have signed up to TweetReach.  I tracked the fortunes of a couple of hashtags I have tweeted about in the last week, but I can see I would need to be using Twitter more seriously before my use of this service became illuminating.

Add the Altmetric bookmarklet to your browser and test it out on some academic articles (either your own or from someone you know).

Use of this tool requires greater seriousness still.  True, it will tell you how often things have been tweeted, but the things in question have to be, as noted the comment of 'Librarian at heart', of a kind to have a Digital Object Identifier before Altmetric will work.  I got that, but I was slower to twig was that you had to have the article itself on the screen first -- the presence of a DOI wouldn't magically make an abstract or ResearchGate post Altmetricable.

For me, Altmetric would be a thing to recommend to researchers, not one that I'm likely to apply often to publications I have seen.  Like the other tools surveyed in this post, Altmetric will tell you where a publication has been.  It says less about what the publication did when it got there.