A real book day

Yesterday was a real “book” day for me – though realistically every day is – but I guess it is because of the slightly out of the ordinary encounters.

First, something personal – collecting a parcel of books from the post office.   Always a bit of a palaver, as parcels are only handled either by the Accra general Post Office (located just off the High Street) or at the slightly newer (but that is a very relative term) Accra North Post Office which is near Circle [the real name is Kwame Nkrumah Circle]…  Luckily I didn’t have any problem finding a parking place this time – on one occasion I went round the small parking lot three times before eventually getting somewhere to put my car.  I know the deal now, so I come prepared:  a  photo ID, money, and a knife to open the parcel + of course a pen to sign the slip.  It was all pretty straightforward, including my usual slight bantering about having to pay to receive books – which I try to maintain are duty-free!   Needless to say, I still end up paying…

So what did I come away with?  A rather motley assorted of novels and non-fiction, including some more literary ones, as well as lighter ones.

Later, I attended a talk by Kathy Knowles and two of her Ghanaian colleagues, on their work in setting up and running children’s libraries (see http://www.osuchildrenslibraryfund.ca/ ).  I had been briefly to the new Nima-Maamobi centre, though unfortunately I hadn’t met any of the people involved in running it).  The stories related by Kathy and colleagues were truly inspirational.   I was saddened to hear though of the bureaucratic behavior exhibited by some local agencies hindering the progress of deprived communities.  I also found it disappointing to hear about the lack of involvement of the Ghana Library Board, or any of its representatives, but then I wasn’t surprised either.

Book item three of the day was the launching of Ivor Agyeman-Duah’s book , An economic history of Ghana (see http://www.ayebia.co.uk/publications_aehog.html ) .   I thought I would be late, but wasn’t – and noticed that there were quite a few police around directing traffic – a signal that a high powered visitor might be expected?  Not surprisingly the function didn’t start on time, but it wasn’t too late, plus I did see several people I know…  Some of the speeches were OK, but unfortunately one was very, very long, and I suspect that the audience may have tuned out a bit.   Certainly there was such a made rush at the end for refreshments that those of us who were buying books, and chit-chatting to friends and acquaintances, went home both thirsty and hungry.   Ok, I shouldn’t grumble; there were a lot more people present that the organizers expected – which is good.   The book doesn’t look like a heavy academic tome, so it should be easy to dip into…   And already a couple of colleagues have said they would like to read some bits of it.

Motley reading

I read for much of my day.  At work mostly on screen, with a quick scan through some of the local Ghanaian newspapers at the beginning of the day, usually when the Internet is not working!   I suppose the nearest thing to relaxed reading at work would be the online serialisation of Alexander McCall Smith’s latest novel, Corduroy Mansions, which is on the Telegraph website.  It has a large cast of characters, of whom I do tend to lose track, especially when I don’t read a chapter or two for a few days!  I love the illustrations on the web pages as well..

At home, it is a more motley group.   I’ve just started Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish policemen’s union, which my sister recommended.  Another complex crime novel with elements of alternate reality.  And it does take a bit more work than some of your average crime fiction.  Unusually I have two non-fiction on the go:  The long tail by Chris Anderson and Emma’s war by Doborah Scroggins.  I remember hearing about the former in one of the British Council’s Management Express newsletters [wonder what happened to them?].   It contradicts the usual notion that 20% of goods sold make 80% of the money… and is applied very much to e-based products, though not exclusively so.  Analogies to the beginning of Sears Roebuck in the US were interesting from a historical point of view, especially with the major current changes in retailing going on in the US, Europe, and more affluent parts of the world.

I do have to get on with reading the other non-fiction book, as it is a selection for the Accra Book Club, whose selections I have been reading, but whose meetings I have missed over the last year or so – due to R’s not being well, and my own guilt feelings about being out.

To help me sleep I usually read something – mostly library journals from the UK and the US, and most recently Ghana.   I hardly finish an article before eyes close, I turn off the light, and fall asleep to the BBC which will go off after half an hour or so.

Serendipity is not always the answer

There is something to be said for serendipity [that is, if I can spell it correctly without recourse to a spell-checker – ouch!].  Finding three books I had been “looking” for and wanting to read – in one bookshop, in Accra, is a little unusual.   Normally I tend to rely on browsing, and seeing if anything strikes me.  A big achievement – worth celebrating?

I had to do some errands yesterday morning:  several tasks which mostly have to be done during working hours.  So with slight guilt, off I went.  Dropped in to say hi to ex-colleagues at the BC, but there weren’t too many around – I guess it was early?  Plus heard someone else had left, and that she was travelling in the evening.  Then to the bank at Liberia Road.  TG there weren’t too many people there, but it still took over half an hour to get a bank draft, and cash a cheque [but this time no luck with coins].  Still, I shouldn’t complain as people are pretty pleasant there, so I continue to bank there.  

Got R’s medicine – or at least one month’s supply, and as usual I managed to forget to bring his insurance card!   One day, I will remember!   The last step was to reward myself so I went to Vidya’s to see if there was anything new or interesting which would strike my fancy.   

And was thrilled to see a copy of The great Gatsby (by F Scott Fitzgerald) which is going to be read on BBC, the irony of which strikes me every time I hear the trailers… [given the fact that the book is set in 1920s New York before the crash of 1929!].  There were also several titles by Paulo Coelho, including his most well-known title, The alchemist, so I had to snatch that up, because if I didn’t there is no guarantee that it would be there the next time I went.  And last but not least I saw Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish policemen’s union, which my sister had recommended several months ago, and which I had put on my wish list in Amazon.  That wasn’t all, but I did feel very pleased with myself.   

Of course, I actually have to get around to reading these books, which will probably take a while, given that I already have a couple of shelves waiting to be perused…

I miss big bookshops – no matter how long I live here.  I had hoped (though not very realistically) that the new Accra Mall would have one.  So far it doesn’t.

Wish I could have finished this yesterday, but the lights went off – second time this week.  Not sure that this bodes well for the future!

Questionnaire junkie?

Iam not quite a questionnaire junkie – not quite – but I do like answering questionnaires.  I suppose it is my way of expressing my opinion, in a kind of safe mode!

Another one landed on my home desk this evening, on another area dear to my heart:  my radio listening habits.  Oh, and I had to include my TV watching habits too, which are not interesting at all.  Plus the people who put the questionnaire together forgot that there are some households – admittedly not that many here in Accra, though a growing number – that do have satellite, either DSTV or GBS…  Twits!   Anyway, I tend to stick to certain stations at home or in the car:  BBC mostly, with Joy and Citi in the mornings, and occasionally VOA, and even more occasionally Atlantis, Radio Gold and Vibe…   If I am alone in the car, I prefer listening to people speaking.   When there are others with me, then music is OK, as we will probably be talking to each other. Bu

I started off talking about the latest questionnaire – on media…   Must remember the bit on the last page about newspapers!  hmmm.

Another recent questionnaire was one on eLearning in Africa, a follow-up to the eLearning Africa conference which I attended in Accra in May this year.  It took me about four tries before I managed to actually get to the questionnaire, not to talk about filling it in!   I think the speed of the internet connections I have at home and at work sometimes do act as a constraint to rapid communication!

I’ve also noticed that the students at work do like giving out questionnaires – as part of their social research methods and other courses.  Why not oblige?  It doesn’t really put me out and I can answer these pretty quickly – especially if the questions aren’t too open!   Latest topics included work table/desk space (mine is cluttered), clothing (I suspect I spend relatively little on this, compared with other women), and car rental (rather hypothetical, but still).  At least these ones are in hard copy, so I can write comments when I don’t like a question or the alternative answers proposed, not always the case with the online variety.

A beginning in blogging

I spend most of my working days dealing with books and information, through being in a library, and some would say that is enough.  But I have always been a reader, and a fairly eclectic one at that.   Several people have suggested that I write a blog; hence this beginning.

I am not sure exactly what form it will take, but I know I will talk about the books I am reading, or want to read, including the challenges of accessing these in the environment in which I live, which is the Ghanaian capital of Accra.