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Book Crossing

Posted on 22nd August 2011 in Book Crossing/ colchester free festival/ guest post

Let me introduce you to a Guest Post from @nneerraakk

Enjoy reading? Like random reading? Book club not for you?

How about a book club where there’s no set book? No feeling that you should have a definite opinion on a book? One where it’s possible to “like”a book or “not like” it? No pressure to “discuss” the book? Sound appealing?

Not only appealing but already happening….

Bookcrossing is a scheme started in the US around 10 years ago whereby each book is registered on and given a unique number. Currently it has around 800,000 members all happily passing their books around – free. They simply leave books lying around for someone else to find and read, keep, pass on or they go to a meetup wherever there are and meet some like-minded souls and swap books around. The website costs nothing to join and there are no spam emails as a result of joining. A computer is not necessary to join in as the concept is sharing above any other and the book will always (eventually) turn up again at some stage.

Bookcrossers in Colchester meet up every month at the Fox Pub in Layer de la Haye on the 3rd Thursday at around 7pm. There are a few faces that show regularly and a lot that show sometimes.

Everyone brings what they’ve read or have spare and puts the books on the table and then whoever fancies a book or 6 simply takes them home. With any book on the table at least one person will have an opinion on it. Some will be elaborate opinions, some not so elaborate. It’s a cheap, friendly way of expanding your reading involving no more cost than your drink(s) since all the books are free. Conversation never stays on subject so this is not a long drawn out literary evening!

We also have book release walks where we wander around town interspersed with pubs and leave books on bank machines, benches, pub tables etc.

As an international organisation there are meetings all over the world and wherever a person travels they are always able to contact someone on the website and see if they fancy meeting up while they’re in the area or simply to ask where the local stash of books is.

In Colchester we have had visitors at the meetings from further afield in Essex, Suffolk, Derbyshire and Holland and in other instances some of us have acted as guides in Colchester to Bookcrossers from Finland, the States and Holland simply because the people have looked on Bookcrossing, got in touch and asked us to.

If anyone wants to become a part of Bookcrossing without attending a meeting they are very welcome on this basis. There are shelves of books in the Purple Dog, Eld Lane, Slack Space Queen Street, Hospital Arms Crouch Street, Jardine Bistro Wivenhoe and Fox Pub Layer de la Haye. Please do stop for a coffee or more if frequenting a pub or cafe.

As an experiment we decided to have a stall at Colchester Free Festival. It turned into a rather larger than expected experiment with people donating to us around 2,000 books to give away. Please do come along and help yourself.

Any questions eg is there Bookcrossing where you are, where’s your local meeting, can you get a lift to a meeting or simply to have a chat about how it works please call Karen on 01206 729238 or twitter @nneerraakk

Sex education – a dad’s perspective #guestpost

Posted on 7th February 2011 in guest post/ only dads/ sex education

Guest Post – from @OnlyDads

I think Bob has touched on an issue here that a lot of us hide from. Where do you even start? I think Bob’s 4 points below are very true – but like Bob I do wonder if I’m brave enough to answer them. Particularly number 4!

Please let Bob know in the comments section below what you think. Any suggestions? How did you tackle it?

I know P, my eldest daughter (13) thinks grown women are totally obsessed by menstruation. I know this because she told me. “Dad”, she said, “why does every woman I meet start talking about periods”?

Both Grandmothers, three Aunties , three female neighbours, two mother’s of friends, four or five ad hoc  female friends and  even a couple of ex-girlfriends got in on the act. All have told me they have had a conversation with P “just to make sure everything is OK on that front”.

It is interesting that they all tell me after the event. “I’ve spoken with P” Note the past tense.

I’m not knocking it – I am sure the desire to help with this aspect of my parenting comes from a good place…what was it @coffeecurls told me over twitter one evening when we were discussing periods…(we just were, OK) ”there are things about periods that as a man you won’t even know!”

That phrase “you won’t even know” struck me. It serves me now as a reminder that there really are things I simply couldn’t comment on with any degree of confidence. That said, I thought I actually knew loads about periods – they come once a month, they hurt, you need hot water bottles and tea, you can use tampons or towels (best to experiment to see what works for you), they alter hormone levels and you can become tearful and maybe even a bit shouty, and they also have something to do with the moon or tides. I think. Um, that’s it.

Come to think of it – thank you ladies one and all.  You were right in your assumptions. Like most men, I guess I do know next to nothing about menstruation.

What really strikes me though is that this small platoon of women, while seemingly falling over themselves to talk about menstruation, are not pushing themselves forward to talk to my daughter(s)about sex. Do they really think that this is a subject best taught by their Dad or school or mates or that marvellous life lesson of trial and error?

It’s an interesting question – and one answer might be, if we are honest, for the majority of us (and I know I can speak for many Dads) this whole area of sex education just feels a bit uncomfortable. I will use the word “embarrassing”.

I’ll share a story with you. In our house the subject of sex education was first raised when P came home from Primary School (year 6) and asked me outright:  Dad, is it true that girls have a button and that if you stroke it, it makes you feel nice?”

Once I picked myself up from the floor and finished choking, I simply asked in an effort to divert the direct questioning,  “who told you that”?

“My teacher, Miss N…” came the reply.

Quickly putting all thoughts of Miss N’s “button” to one side, I replied, rather sheepishly, that I am sure Miss N was right. At that precise moment I had rediscovered belief in God and was praying nineteen to the dozen that the conversation would stop right there.

I have been thinking about writing on this subject for some time, and it strikes me that there are four levels of sex education that could really be taught best at home as well as in school:

1 – the basics – the actual mechanics.

2 – sexual health  – avoiding unwanted pregnancies and STI’s etc…

3 – the fun bits

4 – insight into the deeper emotional and relationship perspectives

Thinking this through, I am on safe territory talking about levels (1) and (2) to my own kids. Get me onto level 3 (the fun aspects of sex) and I am, very suddenly, completely out of my depth. I am sorry to say that I am one of those parents who will provide their daughters with what @venaramphal describes as the “good girls script”. It’s depressingly true – the sex education I will deliver to P and A will extend to something akin to “Here’s how to do it, be safe, and try not to do it until you’re much older”

Half an education!

And the saddest thing of all is that as their Dad, I feel unable, incompetent, and unqualified to talk through the emotional issues that will arise when they start sexual relationships. Not just because they are girls and I’m a man, but as with menstruation there will be things I just won’t know, but it seems to me that like most men, talking about relationships and emotions does not come as second nature. Couple that with the fact that I have already admitted that sex is not really something I want to talk to my girls about anyway, and my inarticulate ramblings would become well, just that. Inarticulate.

And the thing is…all of this I have just written – well I think most Dads and maybe some Mums will be able to relate to at least some of it…but for me, I have this feeling that it just might not be good enough. I know much of this is taught in schools (probably a much better education than we had at school), but look at any UK statistics in this area and the picture is one of rising STI’s, especially among women under the age of 20, and ever rising numbers of unwanted pregnancies.

As they get older I want my girls to enjoy healthy sex and have fulfilling relationships. Of that there is no doubt. But, against this worrying statistical backdrop I have this growing, rather unpleasant feeling, that if I am to do my bit to help them achieve this, I may need to shake myself down, find the right words and the right time and work my way through some difficult conversations!

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