Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Ruth Rikowski's 37th News Update

This months News Update contains a number of items. This includes information about the latest entries on my ‘Serendipitous Moments’ blog and a couple of new additions to our website - an article by Steve Osmond about mental health provision and an article by me about Dorothy L. Sayers. Also, the latest information about Chandos Publishing and a report on an interesting talk that I heard by Shane Godbolt at a CILIP in London meeting about international development and health information provision. In addition, news about Patrick Ainley and Martin Allen’s latest book; and about our friend Anne Gray who is standing as a parliamentary candidate for the Green Party for Tottenham in the forthcoming general election. Also, a report on a Teach-In against education cuts at King’s College, London, in February 2010 that Glenn and I went to. Then, delving deeply, pushing further forward my thoughts in regard to making sense of the world, a few of my thoughts and reflections on my recent readings of Wittgenstein. Finally, there is a write-up on two very enjoyable musical events that Glenn and I went to recently. And, then there is the latest in regard to our son Victor’s band ‘Cold Hands & Quarter Moon’, including the fact that they recently performed live, to much applause, at a Cabaret at Bangor University and at the Belle View in Bangor.

There are 5 new items up on my ‘Serendipitous Moments’ blog. This includes details about two more novels by Melissa Hill that I recently read and really enjoyed - ‘Wishful Thinking’ and ‘All Because of You’. Every book of hers I read is turning out to be great; I find myself quickly engaged, they are real page-turners, and the plots twist and turn and go to places that one could never imagine. It is almost as though Melissa Hill is purposefully having fun with the readers mind. Still, it all makes for a fun and interesting life! Then, there is a short entry about some exercise classes that I have been attending recently; followed by an entry entitled ‘Feminism and the Novel, 1880-1920 and Thomas Hardy’. In this blog entry I talk about the fact that the author Patricia Stubbs of ‘Women and Fiction: feminism and the novel, 1880-1920’ (1979) makes the point that Thomas Hardy was able to get into the minds of women quite easily. She says: “Hardy showed how women's lives were distorted simply because they were women, trapped in a moral order rooted in sexual discrimination, and in a social structure which refused to acknowledge them as complete human beings." (p. 80) I have always really enjoyed Thomas Hardy’s books, so I found all this absolutely fascinating. Then, there is an entry about a play that we saw recently at the National Theatre, London‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour’ by Tom Stoppard and André Previn. This is a play about political dissidents and madness. There were many very clever as well as witty lines in it. At one point, for example, the Doctor says to Alexander, the political dissident: “Your opinions are your symptoms. Your disease is dissent.” (p. 28) The play makes one both think and laugh, and I would highly recommend it.


I have written a long piece about the famous detective writer Dorothy L. Sayers, which is now up on our website, ‘The Flow of Ideas’. Graham Coult, the editor of Managing Information recommended Dorothy L. Sayers to me, and in fact kindly lent me a biography about her by James Brabazon, the first volume of her letters and several of her detective novels. Reading all this material helped me to move on, following on from my father-in-law’s death last year. Dorothy L. Sayers was a fascinating person. She was one of the first women to obtain a degree from Oxford; she was a devout Christian, whilst also being a very jolly, upbeat sort of person. For any that might not know, Lord Peter Wimsey, the detective in her novels, was basically her ideal man, and Harriet Vane, the detective writer in her novels represented Dorothy L. Sayers herself. The plots are clever and intricate, whilst at the same time they contain a lot of humour, and also address some important social issues. Anyway, much more about all of this, and some of my thoughts and reflections on both her detective novels and Dorothy L. Sayers herself as a person, can be found in this article of mine.

(Print Friendly Version)

There is a new article up on the ‘Contributions’ section of our ‘Flow of Ideas’ website. This is entitled ‘A Staff Development Model for Cost Effective Mental Health Provision’ and it is by Steve Osmond. The article outlines a staff development model for cost effective mental health provision and looks forward to “…a science of social work, a science of education and a science of therapeutic intervention that is cost effective and applicable to all professional care and education fields.” This is radically different to traditional models because it suggests that those with expertise in social, emotional and behavioural disturbances and have worked with young people “…have developmental opportunities to a level where much therapeutic practice can be provided as part of their roles, leaving specialist mental health service to be called upon only in times of extreme difficulty.” (p.2) There are certainly some interesting ideas here and this is very much work in progress.

I recently received a copy of the latest Chandos Publishing catalogue; my cheque for book royalties and a letter outlining recent developments at Chandos Publishing. The letter noted, in particular, that there are now sizeable markets for Chandos books in China and India. Also, that Chandos signed a deal with Neal-Schumann Publishers in New York for exclusive distribution of their books in North America, which will obviously enable a considerably wider distribution of Chandos books. Neal-Schuman will be exhibiting at major North American conferences and exhibitions throughout 2010, such as the American Library Association. There has also been steady progress on the development of the Chandos electronic platform, ‘Chandos Publishing Online’.

The Chandos Publishing website is

I heard an interesting talk given by Shane Godbolt about health information provision in the developing world that was held at a CILIP in London meeting on 9th February 2010.

Shane has basically spent a lifetime encouraging and supporting the creation of health libraries in the developing world. She talked about her relationship with library partnerships in this field, especially in regard to Partnerships in Health Information (PHI). PHI is a British charity that works with many partners in the UK and overseas to help to improve the health of people in the developing world, particularly those in Africa. It has a special focus on health libraries and aims to support local health information professionals providing health information. PHI supports established partnerships with libraries in Kenya, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Shane Godbolt was a PHI Trustee for some 15 years, and became the Director of PHI in 2006. Shane explained how she first got involved with this work through her British Council work in India in 1977 and that this experience changed her forever.

Shane noted that there are several drivers involved in health information provision, including Traidcraft, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign. She also referred to the contribution of and her involvement with, various professional bodies working towards improving health information provision in the developing world. This includes working with IFLA (the International Federation of Libraries Associations and Institutions), CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), ILIG (the International Group of CILIP) and FAIFE (Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression).

Shane said that she has had a very interesting and fulfilling life and has connected and worked with many interesting people and organisations. She mentioned the fact, for example, that she went to Africa with Professor Paul Sturgess, from Loughborough University, on one occasion, and she showed us some slides of this visit.

Shane Godbolt and I first met at a Gurteen Knowledge Café. Shane also knows Melinda Taylor at Chandos Publishing, as they both work in the health/information sector.

Here is some more information that is being circulated in regard to the School Librarian’s E-petition on making School Libraries Statutory, which I included information about in previous newsletters.

Recently and in response to this rejection of the petition by the government, Biddy Fisher, the President of CILIP, signed an Open Letter to Gordon Brown.

There is a news item about this on the CILIP home page – see

The news item includes links to the text of the letter and some other items.

Many blogs have also covered this important topic, including the blog of Bob McKee, the Chief Executive of CILIP.

The President has also written letters to the education spokespersons of the three major parties, asking them to commit to holding a national seminar on school libraries, in order to consider making school libraries statutory.

Pat Ainley, a friend and writing colleague of ours, has a new book coming out which he has co-written with Martin Allen. Here are the details:

‘Lost Generation: new strategies for youth and education’ by Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley, Continuum: London, 2010
ISBN 9781441134707 (pbk)

The book looks at what has gone wrong in schools, colleges and universities and how this relates to the changing relationship between young people and educational qualifications. It goes right through from primary schools to postgraduate schools. Ainley and Allen argue that a new pedagogy is needed, along with a new educational politics, which will bring students and teachers together in new concepts of education and democracy.

Wes Streeting, President of National Union of Students says that the book is
“A thought-provoking critique of the education system at a critical time for Britain’s “lost generation” of young people.”

To place an order, email

This book builds on and develops Martin Allen and Patrick Ainley’s previous publication which is:

‘Education Make You Fick, Innit?: What’s Gone Wrong with England’s Schools, Colleges and Universities and How to Start Putting it Right’, Tufnell Press: London, 2007. ISBN: 1872767672; 978-1872767673

I think that what this book is about is fairly self-evident from the title!

Glenn and I attended an important event on 27th February 2010 - a teach-in against the current round of education cuts that was held at King’s College, London.

The event was hosted by the ‘London Education Activists Network’ – see

Speakers included: Jim Wolfreys, President KCL UCU and a Lecturer in French Politics at King’s; Juan C. Piedra, Justice for Cleaners; Sarah Young, Sussex University occupation; Terry Eagleton, literary theorist; Lesley McGorrigan, Officer Leeds University, UCU; Jenny Sutton, UCU Branch Secretary, CONEL/Chair FE London Region UCU; Nikos Lountos, Panteion University, Athens and Marieke Mueller, No Cuts @ Kings/AEiP

Our friend and writing colleague, Patrick Ainley spoke at one of the workshops on the theme ‘Education for Liberation – what should our education look like?’ Gargi Bhattacharyya, author and Professor of Sociology at Aston University also spoke at this workshop. Glenn and I went along and there was an interesting and lively discussion. The basic thrust of the meeting was to ask how we can get education back to being something more meaningful that develops the individual, enabling creativity to shine etc., as opposed to an education system that focuses on developing employability skills. I thought, in particular, that Gargi Bhattacharyya’s concluding comment was great and really spot on:

“None of us are yet what we could be.”

Indeed, life should surely be about aiming for self-realisation and self-fulfilment. As I said to Gargi, I think this is one of those quotes that should go down in history and that I would definitely include it in my newsletter (and so here it is!).

In regard to the main speakers, I was particularly heartened to hear about the victory at Leeds University, as reported to us by Lesley McGorrigan. Following on from political action at Leeds, but before the strike actually went ahead management at Leeds University removed their threat of compulsory redundancies. This can give us all some hope, I think.

Marieke Mueller concluded by providing us with more information about what had been happening at King’s College, London. She made the point that, traditionally, King’s has been very conservative, but perhaps because of the scale of the cuts, it has now become very politically active. She said that the attacks at King’s are, indeed, very vicious. Last year the Department of Engineering at King’s was slashed and this year the Humanities Department has been hit very hard indeed. Meanwhile, Somerset House has just been purchased by King’s and Jim Wolfreys remarked about style taking over from content. Marieke also informed us that there had been a small victory at King’s, in that the café in the library was shut down, but has now been re-opened.

Over 300 people attended the event and all-in-all it was a very successful day with plenty of discussion, followed by various calls for action.

Anne Gray, a fried of ours, will be standing as a Parliamentary candidate for the Green Party in the forthcoming general election in Tottenham (London). Jenny Sutton of the ‘Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition’, who also spoke at the King’s College, London Teach-In Day against the education cuts (see item 8 above) will also be standing. Both will be standing against David Lammy MP.

Anne joined the Green Party in 2004 and has been very active in the party since that date. More recently, she has been involved with campaigning about benefits for unemployed people and against the anti-terrorism laws.

As Anne rightly says:
“The root of the problem is a capitalist system in which markets are somehow sacred and people are allowed to pursue their own financial interest in thoroughly unproductive ways.”

She also notes the fact that Tottenham is one of the worst places in the country for child poverty.

To find out more about Anne Gray and her political views in general, read this interview with her at:

It will probably surprise readers to know that I have recently been reading Wittgenstein. I first tried reading Wittgenstein in my early 20’s but with little success! But recent discussions with our eldest son, Alexander, inspired me to try again. Alex, who is in his third year of a Philosophy degree at King’s College, London, is a great admirer of Wittgenstein’s. In fact, Ludwig Wittgenstein is his favourite philosopher, closely followed by Marx.

So, I have now read Wittgenstein’s ‘Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus’ and ‘Philosophical Investigations’. They are indeed, opposing approaches to philosophy and are known as the ‘Early Wittgenstein’ and ‘Later Wittgenstein’. The former being based on rationality and logic in order to construct a coherent theory whilst the latter takes a completely relativist stance, where coherent theory is not possible. I am currently involved in a piece of writing that will be drawing upon Wittgenstein’s work and, in fact, Wittgenstein really helped me to clarify my own thinking here. I now quite agree with Alex, that Wittgenstein did a lot of good through his work, and that his work can, indeed, also be very therapeutic.

Yet, I am now of the opinion that Wittgenstein’s 2 philosophical perspectives represented two extreme ends of the spectrum. In ‘Philosophical Investigations’, for example, he argues against the possibility of theory. If this were the case, we could not say anything meaningful about anything, in my view, and it would be impossible to make any real and lasting progress. It is only through a Marxist theoretical analysis that we can understand the intricate workings of the capitalist system, for example, and then seek to move beyond it. David Papineau also thinks that Wittgenstein’s position in regard to theory is incorrect. However, he thinks that there are therapeutic aspects of Wittgenstein’s method that can help us to deal with the problem of consciousness and that this is, indeed, very valuable.

Well, I am finding all this very fascinating, I must say.

I think that the ‘Tractatus’ and ‘Philosophical Investigations’ can be seen to be kinds of ‘Bibles’ of these two opposing philosophical perspectives. Thus, although they are too extreme, it was necessary that they were written, and written in this way. This is what made Wittgenstein a genius. His aim was to leave no stone unturned; each work represented a totality in this way. They had to be written in this total way, before anyone could seek to move beyond them. Otherwise, faults could be highlighted in the arguments within the positions themselves, rather than realising that the positions were internally sound, but that they in themselves did not solve everything! Bertrand Russell in the Introduction to the ‘Tractatus’ said, for example:

“As one with a long experience of the difficulties of logic and of the deceptiveness of theories which seem irrefutable, I find myself unable to be sure of the rightness of a theory, merely on the ground that I cannot see any point on which is it wrong. But to have constructed a theory of logic which is not any point obviously wrong is to have achieved a work of extraordinary difficulty and importance. This merit, in my opinion, belongs to Mr Wittgenstein’s book, and makes it one which no serious philosopher can afford to neglect.” (p.xxii) (Routledge and Kegan, 1974)

Thus, there were no faults in the theory of logic as presented in the ‘Tractatus’; and a lesser person could not find fault with the work, through any inconsistencies in rationality and logic. And so it was rightly left to Wittgenstein himself to uncover what were the essential failings in this work.

As it is, Wittgenstein died with the relativist position clearly dominating, and indeed, the whole of Philosophy has been heavily influenced by ‘Philosophical Investigations’. Perhaps, if he had lived longer, Wittgenstein would have seen the possibility of another approach, between these two opposing approaches. But of course, we will never now know. His work has greatly benefited humankind anyway, and it is something that we can now very much build on.

I certainly now think that Wittgenstein did a wonderful service to humanity, with his over-riding aim to get to the heart of matters; his critical analysis of Philosophy and his exploration of what Philosophy could and could not do; along with his over-riding desire and drive for clarity of thought. The value and importance of philosophical thinking has been greatly enhanced through Wittgenstein’s work. Along with all of that his work is also very therapeutic. Wittgenstein was, of course, a genius, and he aspired to reach this pinnacle from a young age. He was greatly inspired by Weininger on these matters. Information about all this and much, much more is explored in Ray Monk’s superb biography about Wittgenstein – ‘Ludwig Wittgenstein: the duty of genius’, Vintage: London, 1991.

Glenn and I went to two very good and enjoyable music events in February; both of which had quite a strong element of folk music in them.


The first was held at ‘The Forest Gate Hotel’, (our very local pub) in ‘Jenny’s’ (a room and bar at the back of the pub) on Friday 26th February 2010. We found out that these wonderful music events take place once a month and are called ‘Forest Roots’. Each month, a variety of musical artists perform; playing ‘Country, Folk, Blues and Beyond’. The evenings are also all completely free.

However, we also discovered recently that there is a proposal to convert this space into flats. So, let us hope that that one does not come about. Yet something else to get politically agitated about! Anyway, let us not dwell on that one right now.

There were many good musical performances but the main act, and the absolute highlight of the night, as far as we were concerned was seeing the group ‘The Kittiwakes’ perform. On the flyer advertising the whole event it said that ‘The Kittiwakes’ are a “Highly regarded English folk trio with self-penned songs inspired by the Lofoten Islands.”

The songs, all composed by Kate Denny (lead singer in the band) are all set in the Lofoten Islands in Norway and their Debut album is called ‘Lofoten Calling’. The concept of the album is based on the people, wildlife, landscape and folklore of the Lofoten Islands.

‘The Kittiwakes’ band consists of: Kate Denny (vocals and violin); Chris Harrison (accordion) and Jill Cumberbatch (violin, mandolin and guitar).

The group only formed a couple of years ago, and they have already received much praise, and are performing in a variety of gigs all around the country. The BBC had this to say:

“The in-your-face attitude in Denny’s singing combined with some haunting and poignant writing as well as their intricate but always robust playing, makes this a wonderfully bright and highly original debut.”

High praise indeed! We certainly really thought that they were wonderful!

The Kittiwakes website can be found at:

Also, I have just joined the Forest Voices choir and we sang ‘Mary Mac’ at this ‘Forest Roots’ event, which was fun.

The other music event that we went to was in ‘The Cellar Upstairs’ (near Euston Station) on 27th February, 2010. These musical events are also held regularly but once again, it was the first time that we had been to one. We went at the suggestion and recommendation of some friends.

The main act was Leon Rosselson, who is a song writer, and was actually introduced as being Britain’s best song-writer (rather to my bewilderment, I have to confess!). The lyrics he writes are amazing; but the tunes don’t exactly match up for me! His songs cover a variety of themes, including the comic, tragic, political and personal. But he is particularly known and liked for his very clever political lyrics, I understand. He sang a wide variety of songs which was all very enjoyable.

Leon Rosselson talked about what he called his ‘Talking Blues’ songs. He rather jokingly said that he composes a song on this theme about once a decade. In 1957 he went to Moscow to a Festival, for example, and wrote a political song, including lines such as “See you later, deviator”, which I thought was very funny. Then, in the 1960’s he wrote a song about Alex Douglas-Home, the leader of the Conservative Party who stood against Harold Wilson, but lost of course – “Dead loss in the House”. Then, in the 1970s there was Grunwick, mass picketing and Arthur Scargill. But “The TUC sat firmly on the fence.” He forgot about the 1980s and 1990s though and I know exactly what he means there!

Then, he wrote a good song, which he sang, about Democracy/democracy blues. There were many clever lines in this song, including:

“Different faces, same old spin.”
“Do your duty, make your choice
Thank them for giving you a choice.”

“Democracy, so fine, so fair
How comes it landed us with Blair?”

He sang many other songs, including ‘Bad Driver’ and a song about William Morris.

Other people that performed during the evening included:
Les Levidov, Alison McFarlane, Blinking Buzzards, Tom Daily and Bob Wakelay.

Our middle son, Victor Rikowski’s recently formed band, ‘Cold Hands & Quarter Moon’ goes from strength to strength. They recently did some live performances which were very well received and three of these songs are now up on YouTube. All three of the songs were composed by Victor Rikowski, and other versions (band practices) of these songs are already up on YouTube (links in previous newsletter). All this shows, of course, how quickly the band is progressing and developing.

Here are the links to these three live performances (note also the enthusiasm and applause from the audience!):

‘Simon Says Get Out’
being performed live in February 2010 at the Belle View, Bangor

‘Stagnant’ being performed live at the Belle View, Bangor in February 2010

‘Human Herbs’ being performed live at a Cabaret at Bangor University, in Feburary 2010. The cabaret was organised by the Bangor University Music Society

The line-up for these three songs is:

Victor Rikowski on vocals and guitar
Louie Ashton-Butler on backing vocals
Jack Rennie on bass
Andrew Kingham on Djembe
Nick Frost on violin

I have also received two more offers for ‘Cold Hands & Quarter Moon’ to perform. The first is at one of the ‘Forest Roots’ music events (referred to in item 11 above) and the second is at the ‘Student Experience Network’ event on activism and student politics which Pat Ainley plans to organise for June 2010.

Victor is also in another band, a Celtic band at Bangor, which he plays the flute in. This band also played at the Cabaret that took place at Bangor University, in February 2010. One of these numbers is also up on YouTube – see:

Best wishes


P.S. Leading on from item 9 above, I should add that although my overall political perspective is fairly self-evident, I do not belong to, or support any one particular political party.
3rd March 2010