Category Archives: Online

Paddington and friends go to town

Paddington Bear books32 Windsor Gardens, one of the most celebrated addresses in literature, is, as many pilgrims have discovered, sadly fictional. But film fans have been delighted to see the home of Mr and Mrs Brown, their children Judy and Jonathan, their housekeeper Mrs Bird and a bear called Paddington brought to life in the enchanting new film. Much of the film was made on location in London, including a lengthy scene – obviously – in Paddington Station here in Westminster as well as Portobello Market in the neighbouring borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

When you’ve seen the film, why not revisit some of the books, which have been loved by children and grown-ups alike since they first appeared in 1958. Readers of a certain age will remember Paddington appearing in Blue Peter annuals. Completely uncoincidentally author Michael Bond worked as a cameraman on the programme.

Good Wives, by Louisa M AlcottPaddington is not the only famous character from children’s fiction to have visited Westminster. Little Women’s Amy March visited as part of her Grand Tour in Louisa May Alcott‘s Good Wives:

Today was fair, and we went to Hyde Park, close by, for we are more aristocratic than we look. The Duke of Devonshire lives near. I often see his footmen lounging at the back gate, and the Duke of Wellington’s house is not far off. Such sights as I saw, my dear! It was as good as Punch, for there were fat dowagers rolling about in their red and yellow coaches, with gorgeous Jeameses in silk stockings and velvet coats, up behind, and powdered coachmen in front. Smart maids, with the rosiest children I ever saw, handsome girls, looking half asleep, dandies in queer English hats and lavender kids lounging about, and tall soldiers, in short red jackets and muffin caps stuck on one side, looking so funny I longed to sketch them.

What Katy Did, by Susan CoolidgeKaty Carr, heroine of the What Katy Did books by Susan Coolidge, stayed in Batt’s Hotel, Dover Street (a real hotel of the ‘second class, especially adapted for families’ according to the Victorian London site. Katy was particularly excited about seeing Wimpole Street, not because of its connections with Elizabeth Barrett Browning but because of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park:

“Wimpole Street!” she cried suddenly, as she caught sight of the name on the corner; “that is the street where Maria Crawford in Mansfield Park, you know, ‘opened one of the best houses’ after she married Mr. Rushworth. Think of seeing Wimpole Street! What fun!” She looked eagerly out after the “best houses,” but the whole street looked uninteresting and old-fashioned; the best house to be seen was not of a kind, Katy thought, to reconcile an ambitious young woman to a dull husband. Katy had to remind herself that Miss Austen wrote her novels nearly a century ago, that London was a “growing” place, and that things were probably much changed since that day.

Fairies were first spotted in Kensington Gardens in 1722 when the perhaps justly forgotten poet Thomas Tickell wrote a poem about them:

“When Albion rul’d the land, whose lineage came
From Neptune mingling with a mortal dame,
Their midnight pranks the sprightly Fairies play’d
On ev’ry hill, and danc’d in ev’ry shade.”

Peter Pan, by JM BarrieHowever it was JM Barrie who immortalised them. In 1897, Barrie met George Llewellyn-Davies and his nanny in Kensington Gardens. He soon became friends with the entire family which included the boys’ uncle Gerald Du Maurier, later to be the first Captain Hook on stage. Barrie invented stories for George and later Jack Llewellyn-Davies about their younger brother Peter who he claimed could fly (which was why there were bars on the nursery window) and who ran away to live among the fairies.

This grew into the tale of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, later turned into a stage play and the more famous Peter Pan and Wendy:

You must see for yourselves that it will be difficult to follow Peter Pan’s adventures unless you are familiar with the Kensington Gardens. They are in London, where the King lives, and I used to take David there nearly every day unless he was looking decidedly flushed. No child has ever been in the whole of the Gardens, because it is so soon time to turn back. The reason it is soon time to turn back is that, if you are as small as David, you sleep from twelve to one. If your mother was not so sure that you sleep from twelve to one, you could most likely see the whole of them.

You can visit the Peter Pan statue by the Long Water and amaze your children or friends by getting a phone call from Peter… if you know how.

Changing Guard at Buckingham Palace, by AA Milne and EH ShephardWhen he wasn’t hanging out with Pooh, Eeyore and the gang in the Hundred Acre Wood, AA Milne’s son Christopher Robin was a London boy who liked nothing better than a bit of pageantry:

They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace –
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Alice is marrying one of the guard.
“A soldier’s life is terrible hard,” Says Alice.

From Changing Guard at Buckingham Palace by AA Milne and EH Shephard

The real Christopher Robin has a somewhat ambivalent relationship to his alter ego – you can read about growing up as a National Treasure in his memoirs The Enchanted Places.

The BFG, by Roald DahlSlightly more recently, another visitor to Buckingham Palace was Roald Dahl’s BFG who even manages to have breakfast with the Queen

She found it almost impossible to believe that she, Sophie, a little orphan of no importance in the world, was at this moment actually sitting high above the ground on the window-sill of the Queen of England’s bedroom, with the Queen herself asleep in there behind the curtain not more than five yards away…

Harry Potter booksThe part of London most associated with JK Rowling‘s Harry Potter is of course King’s Cross Station in neighbouring Camden, but many key scenes in the books do take place in Westminster. Notably, Diagon Alley, the wizard’s shopping centre with the extended opening hours, is located just off Charing Cross Road:

Seconds later Harry’s feet found pavement and he opened his eyes on Charing Cross Road. Muggles bustled past wearing the hangdog expressions of early morning quite unconscious of the little inn’s existence. The bar of the Leaky Cauldron was nearly deserted. Tom, the stooped and toothless landlord was polishing glasses; a couple of warlocks having a muttered conversation in the far corner glanced at Hermione and drew back into the shadows.

The opening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince has a suspiciously Blair-like Prime Minister being visited in his office (presumably in Downing Street) by his opposite number the Minister for Magic, whose own office is just down the road in Whitehall. Anyone who thinks their daily commute is bad should feel grateful they don’t have to clamber into a public lavatory as the ministry staff do in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and be whisked to their office via a drain.

You can find all the books mentioned above in Westminster Libraries and if you’d like to research the authors, why not check out the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and Contemporary Authors – both part of our 24/7 Library, just log in with your library card number.

[Nicky]

The Great War and your ancestors

"The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time" - Sir Edward Grey, August 1914

2014 marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War I. This centenary anniversary has made remembrance even more poignant.  Remembrance Sunday in November helped mark the event which brought an end to this conflict.

There is more we can do to remember though; we can look at how the war affected the lives of our families back then, which is what I and several others did at a recent session using the Ancestry Online database in Kensington Central Library. This resource is available in libraries in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham.

Ancestry home page - accessible on library computers in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham

Ancestry home page – accessible on library computers in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham

The pictures we built were often very interesting viewing Census records as well as military records which allowed us small insights into people’s lives. But it was often also very sad – families left without sons (in one instance losing several within a very short space of time) and fathers listed and remembered on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website. It made us think of how sad it must have been for them, and their friends as well.

Luckily these online resources make it easier to look back and see what our family did during the war (and before). Whether it is from the medals they won, who they served with, or information from the CWGC website, which lists 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars.

As well as family history records for the British Isles there are other records from the same period around the world, including Canada, the USA, Germany, and France.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website can be accessed from anywhere and can provide a lot of information – more than you’d expect. And there are many instructional books available which can help you search through records and find out more about the Great War.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission home page

Commonwealth War Graves Commission home page

You may find newspaper resources interesting and useful in building a picture of the time and possibly a picture of your ancestors too. The Times Digital Archive is the most popular of these but there are other newspapers available in Westminster. The Gazette (official public record) also allows you to search for medals awarded.

Another online family history resource which is available in Westminster Libraries is Find My Past: this contains some different records to Ancestry.

[Owen]

This post was first published on the RBKCLibraries blog.

The Great Interior Design (Library) Challenge!

The Great Interior Design ChallengeFans of the BBC’s ‘Great Interior Design Challenge’ will know that the series reaches its final tomorrow, 2 December. The original field of 27 designers has reduced to just two finalists, who will be working on three rooms each within a converted stately home.

Earlier in the series, a lovely ‘Cote d’Azur’ style bedroom was created in a seaside cottage in Brixham by one of our very own library staff, Lacey.

I wondered if working amidst the library’s wide range of source material had been useful to her in her interior design exploits:

“Working in libraries has definitely played a big part in helping me with my journey in interior design (educational and personal), due to the flexible nature of the job and the wide variety of resources to choose from.
I practically used all of the amazing collections of DIY, art and design books to help me - whether I was taking inspiration from the books and resources (including magazines available in the library or e-magazines such as House and Garden, Ideal Home etc) or finding a book on the returns trolley or on the new book stand – it’s definitely been a real goldmine!”

Lacey obviously doesn’t work in every library across the three boroughs (Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham), but no matter – it’s easy to find and get hold of books and other stock using the joint catalogue. Lacey recommends:

Bright Bazaar, by Will Taylor The perfectly imperfect home, by Deborah Needleman Kevin McCloud’s Colour Now, by Kevin Mccloud Decorating with style by Abigail Ahern A Girl’s Guide to Decorating by Abigail Ahern Colour: a journey by Victoria Alexander

Top row, L-R: Bright Bazaar: embracing colour for make-you-smile style
by Will Taylor; The Perfectly Imperfect Home: how to decorate and live well
by Deborah Needleman; Kevin McCloud’s Colour Now: an expert guide to choosing colours for your home, by Kevin McCloud.
Bottom row, L-RDecorating with style by Abigail Ahern; A Girl’s Guide to Decorating by Abigail Ahern; Colour: a journey by Victoria Alexander.

Finding foreign newspapers in your library and online

NewspaperAlthough I regularly direct library users to newspapers from other countries, it was not until I began researching material for this blog that I really appreciated the full extent of the library service’s coverage! It’s quite something.

A quick search of the Periodicals catalogue (known as WULOP – see below for more information) reveals Arabic, Farsi, and Chinese language newspapers. Other Asian language papers include Bengali, Punjabi and Urdu titles. European languages are represented by French, German, Italian and Spanish titles. America is represented by the European editions of the International New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Some of the foreign titles are also written wholly or partly in English, so provide a useful alternative current affairs perspective for non-multilinguists to use.

Other titles aimed at specific ethnic groups such as The Voice or the Jewish Chronicle, while published in the UK, should not be forgotten as they contain detailed news coverage relating to the West Indies and Middle East respectively, as well as their British coverage.

In addition to these physical copies located within libraries, an enormous number of foreign newspapers can also be read online using the 24/7 online resource Library PressDisplay. We’ve posted about this amazing resource before – see previous posts.

Come in and have a look, or use your library membership card to search Library Press Display – there’s a whole world out there!

[Francis]


How to search WULOP

Go to WULOP

Westminster Union List of Periodicals (WULOP) search screen

As you can see from this image there are several ways of searching for a specific title or titles.

  • Search by Title – either type a title in the box or use the drop down menu to display an alphabetical list and select from it a specific title. Click on the chosen title to display locations and holdings.
  • Search by Subject – this drop down menu includes countries, eg: Iran and Iranian. Choosing this will display foreign newspaper titles relevant to that country or region.
  • Search by Location – this will display all newspaper and periodical titles subscribed to by a specific library.
  • Search by Keyword – this will find keywords either within a title and/or a subject term assigned to each specific title.

Sing Tao entry on WULOP

This is the entry for the Sing Tao Daily Chinese newspaper. The catalogue entry displays library locations for this title and also the back issue file length. Note different branches often have different file lengths so use WULOP to discover which library should have the required issue. It is advisable to contact the library before visiting to check whether the specific issue is in stock, as occasionally issues are stolen :-(. A more common reason for a library not to have a specific issue is simply that the newsagent did not receive any copies at all on that particular day. A number of foreign newspapers are imported and then, via wholesalers, sent to newsagents. Poor weather, strikes and other issues can delay or prevent issues from reaching the newsagent.

Adventures on the Internet

ICT training in Westminster LibrariesThe thing about our public computer training sessions is that they are attended by the public. Real people, people from outside libraries, who have real lives and urgent things they need to do on computers. This is very good.

For example, I do a session on shopping online – “get the bargains and stay safe”. I prepare a plan of attack, based on my own experience, feedback from previous sessions, together with some essential stuff about safety on the Internet.

I’m not at all bad at this preparation, but after a few minutes of interaction with the people who turn up to the course, things start to fizz. Your average punter doesn’t want to know about online commerce in any theoretical fashion – he/she wants actual fashion, specific goods and the best possible service. It’s all very well me using Amazon as an example, although it’s a very useful example. If someone has heard that Etsy is the go-to place for retro dresses, that’s what we talk about.

I’m not going to give you a lot of coy stuff about not being an expert on retro dresses, because that’s not the point. I can probably help the frock-hunter to search out what they’re looking for, and I can use any selling website to demonstrate how you can protect yourself against unnecessary risk.

I always have a Powerpoint slideshow of screen grabs in reserve, in case we run out of genuine requests and questions. I don’t often have to use it.

“Adventures on the Internet”, a series of six public training sessions starts at Mayfair Library on Tuesday 25 November, at 11.00am. And if you miss any of those, we will be doing them all again at Church Street Library in March and April!

Adventures on the Internet - public training sessions

[David]

A new Blue Plaque in Marylebone

Blue plaque for Sir Fabien Ware, Wyndham Place W1In the last week of September Marylebone gained another blue plaque with the unveiling in Wyndham Place W1 of a plaque to Sir Fabian Ware, the founder of the Imperial War Graves Commission (now known as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

Using the English Heritage Blue Plaques search, I was astonished to discover that there are 282 plaques within a mile radius of Marylebone Library. This area also incorporates the eastern part of Fitzrovia and also Bloomsbury over the border in Camden. However a sizable proportion of this total falls within Westminster’s borders.

In total the City of Westminster contains 303 plaques, almost a third of London’s total of 887. Added to this Westminster total there are another 62 local Westminster Green Plaques on buildings. The majority of these celebrate former residents. The remainder were erected to record standing significant buildings such as the Savoy Theatre or to record the site of a former building such as the Queen’s Hall in Langham Place.

The English Heritage website is solely a location finder for plaques rather than a biographical tool. Clicking on an entry will display details of the plaque’s location and text together with details of the material used in the plaque’s construction. For further biographical details of an individual, consult the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log in with your library card) and also the Library catalogue for autobiographies and biographies of individuals.

(Non)plaque to William Hogarth in ReadingMany other towns have set up their own commemorative plaque scheme, but not all plaques are official. For several years in Reading’s Zinzan Street this unofficial example brought a smile to the face of many a passer by…

[Francis]

Reading Black History

October is Black History Month and there have been several events in Westminster Libraries (don’t miss Dr Miranda Kaufman’s talk on ‘Africans in Tudor and Stuart London’ on 29 October!), as well as displays of key books in the libraries. But while October serves as a focus for black history, these stories are relevant and interesting throughout the year. To this end, we have compiled a set of book lists – recommended reading for Black History Month and beyond. You can find them linked from the left hand menu on the library catalogue.

BHM book list

Black History Month, known as African-American History Month in America, is an annual observance in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African Diaspora. Wikepedia states

“The precursor to Black History Month was created in 1926 in the United States, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass on February 14, both of which dates Black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century.”

In the United Kingdom it has been celebrated since 1987 and takes place throughout October.

The books listed are a selection of recent novels by contemporary Black writers for both adults and teenagers. The latter are will be found shelved in ‘The Zone’ within Westminster Libraries.

A further list is of a selection of books relating to the contribution the Black community has made to history, culture and society in the United Kingdom.

There is also a selection of biographical and autobiographical works of significant members of the Black community in Britain and elsewhere.

Details of the background to Black History Month can be found on Wikipedia. Details of events taking place nationwide can be found on the UK Black History Month website (which also provides a more extensive reading list).

BHM logoTake a look at our lists and if there’s a book – or a topic – that you feel is missing, please tell us!

[Malcolm]