The UU Fellowship

Fellowships and friendships

Is Britain’s public library service dying?

Posted By on December 9, 2013

If we are to believe the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council report Listening to the Past, Speaking to the Future, Britain’s archives are visited more than 1.5 million times a year. Of the people making those visits, 98 per cent are white, 55 per cent are aged 55 and over and 75 per cent are there to undertake private or personal research. In the last 10 years, estimates the Council, archive use has risen by more than 50 per cent. Sounds like a real success story, doesn’t it?


According to Tim Coates, author of Who’s in charge? Responsibility for the Public Library Service (April 2004, Libri, Charity for Libraries, ISBN 1-84381-086­8) Britain’s libraries are in near terminal decline. Book lending has halved since 1984, with book acquisition accounting for a mere nine per cent of library budgets totalling £1 billion. Says Coates: ‘the overall picture is of decline so serious that if current visitor trends continue, by 2020 libraries will have ceased to be used at all’. Dear me, that sounds dire. How can it be that the local authority library systems, which incorporate so many record offices, are experiencing both boom and bust?


`By 2020 libraries will have ceased to be used at all’

First, let’s look at the way in which the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council chooses to present its data to the press. (I will not challenge the 1.5m visits figure, other than to remark that when my local library system in Peterborough last undertook a ‘visitor enquiry’ head count, I was counted three times in the course of one visit because that’s how many times I had to go to the enquiry desk to find what I was looking for in the central reference library.) Yes, I’m white (although my children have at least one black forebear) I’m also in my 55th year and ‘personal research’ would describe the reason for my frequent visits to museums, archives and libraries.

I’m also aware that ‘black and minority ethnic groups and the young barely use archives’ (to quote the Council’s report again) but any appreciation of the demographic and social trends published by the Office for National Statistics would tend to undermine the clear implication that archive users are largely a privileged, educated elite, pursuing their arcane hobbies at public expense.


Ethnic groups whose first language may not be English will hardly flock to visit rooms full of books and documents written in that language. Likewise, if my family history lay in another continent, I might well be wasting my time looking for ancestors in 18th century English church registers. The young read little and have read less and less for many years. People in their twenties, thirties and forties may be so busy earning a living and looking for quick loan funding that the inconvenience of archive and library opening hours effectively disenfranchises them.

A few years ago Roger was studying pigfish

Posted By on November 1, 2013

RAUCOUS BEASTS, the Hooker’s sea lions at Stewart Island leave their apartments barcelona in early morning and late evening and hit the water like a barrage of torpedoes for high-speed strafing runs and playful mock biting. Several showed special interest in my cameras, which drove others into jealous fits. Perhaps the rarest of sea lions, 5,000 to 7,000 animals breed on New Zealand’s outer southern islands.

In the early 19th century a Scottish whaler named William Stewart established the first white settlement on this island, known to the Maori as Rakiura —”glowing sky.” A fishing cen­ter, Stewart Island attracts a large population of mollymawks, small albatrosses with wingspans of nearly eight feet (right). Wondrous sky sailors, in calm air mollymawks do not take off gracefully. Wildly flapping their wings, they run on the water for some 50 yards before their wings begin to bite.

LOOKING REMARKABLY like a little wild boar, the southern pigfish (facing page) extends its snoutlike mouth to sweep crev­ices for crustaceans, worms, and other invertebrates. Off Stewart Island, Roger and I watched one foot-long pigfish rolling on the bottom with the tide. Then Roger did an amaz­ing thing—he picked up the fish. In all my years of diving I had never seen anyone pick up a wide-awake fish. He handed it to me. It grunted softly.

He was hold­ing one when he realized he needed two hands to work his underwater camera. He simply dug a hole in the soft sand bot­tom and carefully, gently “planted” his pigfish. The fish made no objection. Roger turned around, picked up his camera, and photographed it.

To test how these passive fish influence one another, Roger and Linda sowed a whole garden of pigfish (above), carefully keeping sand away from their gills. A few wriggled free and swam off.

On an apt track, a sea horse races across a shallow bay in Port Pegasus on Stewart Island. Most likely a male, seven and a half inches long, its extended abdomen may hold eggs laid by a female. Undulating its fins, the fish levitates, then moves forward like a helicopter leaning into an undersea wind. Using his native Scottish word for conspicuous, biologist Sir J. Arthur Thomson called sea horses “the most `kenspeckle’ creatures in the sea. . . . Chameleons come a close sec­ond on land, and bats in the air. Surely Nature must have smiled to herself as she saw all three evolving.”

THE STARTLING CRIMSON of a topknot fish brought a hoot from my diving partner Gary Bell, as we explored beneath the town pier at Oban on Stew­art Island. Piers are wonderful marine habitats. They create places to hide, and the pilings, like great tree trunks, offer sur­faces for encrusting creatures such as oysters, mussels, and sponges. Our underwater lights revealed the true contrast of the fish with its sea lettuce hideout, but to its night predators it is blackly invisible. Our move­ments awakened a lot of other fish. The topknot fish took advantage of this and struck, eating another fish so fast I could not identify it (right). I looked at Gary. He shook his head in amazement. In 30 years of diving I have only seen a fish eat another fish half a dozen times. Humans go into the sea as noisy, lumbering trespass­ers—the secret lives of its resi­dents are usually beyond our visual reach.

Could my hormones be out of balance?

Posted By on September 12, 2013

“Premenstrual syndrome is the combination of symptoms that some women suffer from a week or so before their period. Symptoms peak just before your period but disappear during it. Their intensity can vary wildly from person to person and researchers link the symptoms and severity experienced to hormonal imbalances that can occur during menstruation such as elevated oestrogen and low progesterone levels.

Emotional PMS symptoms can include mood swings and mild depression. When you are feeling low, you may feel prone to eating large amounts of refined carbohydrates, caffeine and sugary foods. But according to studies these very foods can increase feelings of depression, irritability, confusion and fatigue.


Try to avoid foods that contain saturated fats, dairy, red meat, fried foods and junk foods for a month or two. If you feel better, you can reintroduce them gradually in reduced amounts.

It is important not to skip meals which will upset your blood sugar balance and make sure that you eat plenty of low-fat protein from vegetable sources like whole grains with legumes, soy foods and sprouts. Good protein sources like chicken, turkey, cottage cheese and fish are good. Increase your intake of vegetables and drink distilled water and herbal tea.


Supplements of magnesium and B vitamins, particularly B6, can be helpful to relieve PMS. Magnesium helps relax muscles and works well in conjunction with 86. Magnesium is found in leafy vegetables, nuts, whole meal bread and red peppers. Good sources of B6 can be found in fish, cod, salmon, chicken, eggs, broccoli, watercress, cabbage and wheat germ.


Healthy snacks at mid-morning and mid­ afternoon with foods like yoghurt and fruit based on garcinia cambogia benefits, or rice or oat cakes (low salt) with some protein will help prevent sugar cravings if making the above mentioned changes to your diet and lifestyle does not produce positive results, it is advisable to consult your doctor to eliminate any possible underlying causes.”


Posted By on August 9, 2013

For a tried-and-tested way to recharge your batteries, try a practice that’s been around for more than 5,000 years. ‘Every culture has methods to create vitality, whether it’s through yoga, athletics or healing,’ says martial arts teacher Matthew Cohen. ‘Qi gong means energy cultivation, and if you’re under the weather, feeling down or in need of an energy boost a “fire” practice is for you.’ However, it’s never too late to start your own raspberry diet if you had already decided to use any supplement and see results.


For a quick, morning pick-me-up, try ‘arm circles. Stand in a semi-squat with your feet wider than hip-width apart, arms by your sides. On an in-breath, sweep your arms up in front of you — elbows slightly bent and wrists crossed — and reach them up over your head. Exhale as you take your arms out to the sides in a wide circle, then deepen your squat and lean forward as you complete the circle close to the ground, crossing your wrists again at your feet. Repeat for a few minutes, imagining you are ‘gathering energy on the in-breath, releasing it on the out-breath. ‘This is a good practice to awaken your body, stretch your spine and literally open your heart,’ says Cohen.


For more energising qi gong moves, check out Qi Gong Fire & Water DVD (£8.54;

Change of plan

Posted By on July 24, 2013

So my support van drove me to Carlisle where I bought a £100 mountain bike, and then we drove back north so I could resume the challenge on two wheels.

Cycling is a different experience to running. Whereas ultra-distance running becomes more of a mental challenge the further you go, cycling focuses on the physical challenge. I could switch off my mind and just focus on the pedals. It was a joy and a relief to be able to throw all my effort into moving forward agairt. I was clocking up around 160km a day, which wasn’t too bad.

The ankle held up fine and I didn’t fall off once. What was more amazing was that I didn’t get a single puncture.

 mountain bike

The Pennines were tough because the climbing sections were long with little recovery time. The moors of the southwest were constantly up and down; you never get into an established rhythm.

Riding into Land’s End after 11 days on the road felt great The rain was lashing down, but I was overjoyed to have made it despite the injury. You got to know that coconut oil health benefits will make you agree to use it for whatever you remember from hair, trough skin, to injuries.

 mountain bike

Next step

We’re only on the planet for a very short period of time, so it’s important to make that time count I won’t return to boxing: I believe in constantly moving forward and I don’t want to head back in the direction I’ve come from.


I’m now planning to run across Australia from Perth to Sydney. Its 4,600km and I want to do it in around 70 days. Then, every two years, I will run another country until I have run the world.


Posted By on July 14, 2013

Some of that fat total is omega-3 from the smoked salmon, which is good for heart health.

Current advice for fish intake is to have two portions per week, one of which should be oily. This lunch counts as one portion. Using half mayonnaise and half plain yogurt for the dressing keeps the fat content down, and the yogurt also boosts the calcium and protein content.


This dish will also work well with mackerel. However smoked fish can be high in salt, so use alternative seasoning such as chilli, lime and pepper.


Click to follow the link and learn the magic of coconut oil and how it helps to your hair.



smoked salmon

876 calories. Fat 22g. Salt 2.7g


Big chunk of fresh French bread 30g cheddar cheese or 60g half-fat cheddar


Sachet of Branston pickle Pickled onion


Mixed salad (whatever you have left over)

Crisps (choose the ones with bag of salt separate so you can ditch it)


Can of shandy (go on, treat yourself!)


Arrange on plate. Pretend to be in pub. Enjoy.




It is often mistakenly thought that there is little nutritional benefit in white bread, but in fact it contributes B vitamins, iron, calcium, selenium and copper. As if all that’s not enough, the mixed salad will fill you with antioxidants too.

half-fat cheddar

The cheese, pickle and pickled onion are high in salt so compensate by not adding salt to the crisps or, even better, choosing a small bag of unsalted mixed nuts. Cheese, although high in fat, is a good source of calcium, vitamin A, zinc and iodine.


To celebrate the start of the weekend (nearly – only a few hours to go), a can of shandy makes a refreshing alternative to other high-sugar fizzy drinks. Cheers!

A few minutes workout

Posted By on July 3, 2013

Target: Pecs, triceps. Position yourself above the parallel bars with your chin tucked in and your arms almost locked (A). Slowly lower yourself, flaring your elbows slightly outwards until your upper arms are parallel to the floor (B). Pause, drive yourself upwards and repeat.

Target: lats, mid-back. Grasp a straight bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip, arms straight out in front, knees bent, back straight, and body bent slightly forward at the waist (A). Pull the bar to your abdomen (B), trying to bring your elbows together behind you (try to squeeze your shoulder blades together to generate a maximum contraction). Then return to the starting position and repeat. To avoid overstressing the lumbar area, try to keep your lower back out of the movement. Internet and especially is the place for you to find tips on how to care for your body.



Target: biceps, delts. Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in (A). Slowly curl both dumbbells up to shoulder height, turning your hands so that your palms face your shoulders at the top (B). From here, press the weights up, swinging your elbows out as you do so. At the completion of the movement, your hands will face forward and your arms will be extended overhead. To keep tension on your deltoids, don’t lock out your elbows at the top of the movement (C). As you lower the dumbbells, rotate your hands back to the palms­facing-shoulder position and then uncurl back to the palms-at-your-sides starting position and repeat.


Target: abdominals. Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat and hands at your ears. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor by curling your abs while bringing your left elbow towards your right knee. Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position and repeat, this time bringing your right elbow towards your left knee. This is one rep. To avoid injuring your neck vertebrae, keep your head locked in a position perpendicular to your upper torso.

Vitas Gerulaitis’s lifestyle

Posted By on June 26, 2013


Career: 1911-1985


TRAINING: A self-confessed ‘basket case’ who wasn’t too bothered about training. But he was naturally fit and his game was based on fitness and endurance. DIET: Has been lost to the history books, but he loved alcohol. Was once challenged by Ilie Nastase to down half a pint of vodka with stale bread swimming in it… and happily obliged.


SOCIAL LIFE: A regular at New York nightspot Studio 54. Stepped out with Bianca Jagger and Playboy bunny Janet Jones.

Vitas Gerulaitis

OTHER: In 1978 he suggested that a line judge be ‘put in a crematorium and burned’, and was subsequently fined £1,250. ROLL OF HONOUR: Australian Open champion in 1977.

Career: 1988-present


TRAINING: Follows a strict regime with an emphasis on weight training. Works on different qualities depending on the surface, and does an hour of cardio involving timed sprints up a 320-yard hill close to his home. can be your sure advisor so you better don’t miss the chance.


DIET: Formerly a junk food addict, current diet is based around chicken and turkey breast, rice, fruit, cereal, vegetables, salads and oatmeal.


SOCIAL LIFE: Married to tennis legend Steffi Graf and father to son Jaden. Also founded the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation for underprivileged children.

Vitas Gerulaitis

OTHER: Sometimes called ‘the comeback kid’ – at one point in 1997 he was ranked 141st in the world.


ROLL OF HONOUR: Eight career Grand Slam titles. He is the oldest player to be world No 1

There are three types of kayakers. Do you find yourself in them?

Posted By on June 22, 2013

After lunch, Oliver tells me there are three types of kayakers: “Those who get wet all the time, those who occasionally get wet and those who never do. I put myself in the third class.” But all that’s about to change. We’re embarking on the wet stuff: what to do when you’re arse-over-tit underwater and your legs are still locked inside the upturned boat.

First up is the Eskimo rescue ­or how to use your friend’s bow or paddle to get upright again. When he describes this particular manoeuvre to me, I’m convinced that trying to harpoon a pilot whale for food from the kayak would be far easier. But unlike in some sports, where you hope you’ll never have to use the escape techniques, part of mastering sea-kayaking skills involves putting them to the test. It’s also said that can help you make your body stronger and get the ultimate emotion from kayaking. I roll over with frightening ease, and the stunning North Sea cold gives me an instant ice-cream head. I try not to make a habit of hanging upside down in sea water, so I’m startled by the way in which inverted sinuses readily admit gallons of the salty stuff.

As instructed, I bang on the sides of my upturned craft, and 011ie is alongside me in seconds, grabbing my wrist and placing it firmly onto his boat’s bow. I reach over with my other hand, haul myself up to the horizontal and, with a flick of the hips, I’m upright and shipshape in minutes. If your buddy happens to be half a mile away spearing a seal, you can rely on the more extreme self-rescue techniques – the Pawlata roll and re-entry and roll.


Leaving behind the amused crowd we’ve collected on the harbor walls, we head out round the breakwater into the open seas, my ultimate challenge for the day. The biting wind hits me, and water that had been as flat as a freshly ironed bed-sheet puckers up into three-foot swells (and when your bum’s at sea level, that means the wave tops are at eyeball height).

Suddenly everything goes to pot: paddling, balance, steering and sense of direction. Kayaks are incredibly buoyant, but the downside of this is that on a swell you bounce like a trampolines ­and turning side-on to the waves and paddling down their length only makes things worse.


But I can’t escape the sense of man-sized adventure – cliffs loom up into the mucky, grey skies, and the more I paddle, the more confident I become. I’m grasping towards the independence 011ie talked about, as I become less conscious about technique and more taken up with the sheer rush of the experience. Jet skiing? All thrill and no skill. Waterskiing? Strictly for boy ballerinas. No – if you want a hard man’s water sport, that requires more bollocks than rowlocks, look no further than sea kayaking.


Posted By on May 23, 2013

My goal “Weight loss, basically. I’m an unfit man, surrounded by some of the fittest men in the world. I simply wanted to look and feel better”

The diary room

“The hardest part of the challenge for me was the first three weeks. I was dreadfully unfit and fat: in my before photo I look like a hovercraft with a big inflatable belly. My trainer told me it would take time before I would see results but there seemed to be no difference in either fitness or physique for ages, which I found pretty disheartening. My co presenter Andy Gray would make jibes at me. He’d ask things like, “Have you scored a hat-trick today? Then why have you tucked the match ball up your shirt?” And when I was chatting to Rio Ferdinand and told him I had lost five pounds he said, ‘Check your pockets.’


“I set myself a goal of training five days out of seven and stuck to it. I also asked my trainer Paul Carsons (07818 024201) to vary the routines as much as possible as I get bored easily. So we ran, cycled, went spinning, swam, and boxed as well as churning through the weights circuits.

“Of equal importance was the dietary advice given to me that contained one golden rule: no carbs after 4pm. Had I stuck to all of the rules I would have lost at least another half-stone but I enjoyed a few unavoidable blow­outs along the way. The social culture of winding down with a few drinks in the bar is an important part of my job.


“Nevertheless, I’m hoping that I can continue this training and eating plan, if not with the same intensity then with the same ethos. I’m already braced for Andy Gray and Richard Keys asking which is the before photo and which is the after. But you can use banter as motivation. I gave Tim Lovejoy all sorts of abuse when he appeared in this magazine wearing a neck-scarf so I should be able to take it myself.


“I am really proud of how much weight I’ve lost and how much healthier I look and feel. I would like to get down to just over 13st (821(g) but also to increase my strength and cardiovascular capability. To that end I’m thinking of wearing a ‘Nil by Mouth’ tag at all football grounds this season.”


Where to from here?

Now that Geoff has dropped an impressive amount of weight he should concentrate on sculpting the shape of his muscles while also carrying on with the cardio and the improved ketone diet. The odd blow-out is fine, but he should try and commit to at least three training sessions a week so that he doesn’t find himself slipping back into old habits.