Here are seventeen books we recommend you read this year! 1. The Humans by Matt Haig This book is about an alien’s trip to earth, but it’s also about what it means to be human.… More
It might not quite feel like winter yet with the warm weather but the great drifts of brown leaves on the surrounding steps and the library packed with good natured East European revellers writing postcards home tells us it’s time to strap on our red noses and pass round the Winter Warmer.
We try and keep the good cheer on tap all year around with the Chelsea coffee morning where a group of twenty plus regulars meet every Wednesday at 10.30am to share homemade cake, traditionally prepared Croatian sausage and gossip about the human condition. Among them an expert Musicologist, a financial whizz investing in a new post-Brexit currency, QuikCoin, and a mysterious lady who hands out fortune cookies in the lending library.
In November we had busy craft events using some of those huge yellow leaves that look so much like abandoned kippers. They were turned by Diane into bushy squirrel tails. The mini-beasts were back in the children’s library- the slinky black millipede made a break for the air conditioning vent but the quick thinking of new staff member Atlas, using an old copy of Biffer and Chips, prevented the escapee making the children’s library his permanent home.
One of our recommended reads this month is Charles Beaumont’s Perchance to Dream, the collected stories from the Twilight Zone scriptwriter and spinner of fantastic tales. Beaumont is great at unpicking the dreams and fears of 1950s America, the killers and the recurring dreams of a beautiful unchaperoned woman on a rollercoaster .
Find out more about one of Kensington and Chelsea’s community groups, Kensington Mums (who have blogged for us before), a support network for local mums and mums-to-be, and join them at their Family Christmas Fair on the 27th November. Over to our guest blogger, Dina…
Award winning ‘Mummy group’ and parenting support network, Kensington Mums, has reached its 5th blog anniversary and to celebrate has announced its second Family Christmas Fair which will be taking place this month on 27th November 2016 at the stylish Kensington Close Hotel from 10am to 5pm in support of the charity Best Beginnings.
Throughout the fair there will be lots going on to keep little ones entertained: arts and crafts, face painting, hair braiding and nail stamping to name but a few of the day’s activities and surprises. Parents, in the meantime, can enjoy festive shopping, with various exhibitors at the fair, including Bambini and Me, Club Petit Pierrot, Hesper Fox and Finns of Chelsea. The exhibitors at the fair are also mums in business, and Kensington Mums use the fair as a way of supporting and financially empowering these entrepreneurial mothers.
How did Kensington Mums start?
Kensington Mums founder, Dina Maktabi, first created the group when she found herself living in Kensington as a new mum. She was two thousand miles from her Beirut homeland with just her husband for support and the challenge of new motherhood hit hard and she struggled in isolation for months with Post Natal Depression.
More than eight years ago, with her new born in her hands, she recalls grabbing handfuls of outfits in high-street stores in the pretence of shopping, and retreating to the changing rooms to breastfeed, as the high-street had yet to cater to mothers and babies effectively.
Thankfully there has been some progress in societal views around breastfeeding and its public acceptance, but the isolation which many new mothers experience remains, particularly for ex-pat mums who are without the support network of their own family to cushion them through the early stages of starting and raising a family.
Kensington Mums was birthed in 2011 out of Dina’s desire to reconnect with other women and create the support network she was missing, and has become a celebrated free support network open to mothers from all over London.
“The friends I began to make through the launch of Kensington Mums became my family and inspired my desire to reach and help other mothers who might be experiencing the same thing. It turned out that I was not the only one. In 2014 Nathalie Bernadotte came on board and now we are an unstoppable duo with a growing ‘family’” says Dina. Today the network command an audience of over 24,000 London based mothers, many of whom live outside of the Kensington area but tap into the community for its blend of events, advice and connectivity.
The group has many awards under its belt: winning the Mumpreneur UK’s bronze award for Best Website; shortlisted for the Brilliance in Blogging Awards; and was listed as a Top 100 winner of the Mumsclub Business Mum Award. Kensington Mums has also garnered support from celebrity mums Tamara Beckwith, Tamara Ecclestone, Caprice Bourret and HRH Marie Chantal and their vision is to expand their offering and reach mummy communities internationally. In 2014 sister site Mums in Beirut was launched in the Middle East, becoming an instant hit with mothers in the region, and is now viewed as Beirut’s answer to ‘Mumsnet’.
Keeping Mums in the loop with the latest trends and family outings, Kensington Mums provides everything from family friendly healthy and delicious recipes, to regular competitions giving families a chance to win prizes from a host of well-known brands. Kensington Mums has become a destination website for honest reviews of products and services for London families. The ‘mumthly’ events held in a host of desirable London venues, have ranged from inspiring mum get-togethers to nutrition coffee mornings with expert advice on the impact of diet on toddlers and expectant mothers. The brand’s online motherhood exhibition was included in New York’s Museum of Motherhood in 2013 after the success of their original exhibition in Chelsea.
“When the opportunity to team up with Dina came in 2014, I didn’t think about it twice. I wanted to help and be part of the community that once helped me so much. Not having family close by and being the first to have a baby within my close circle of friends, I often didn’t know who to talk to – about my labour and birth fears or who to ask advice and share tips on breastfeeding, burps and naps. I felt very lucky to have found Kensington Mums which brought me amazing friendships and helped me gain confidence in being a mother every day” says Nathalie.
In 2014 Kensington Mums launched a (free to download) KM App, meaning modern mums have instant access to the online magazine’s resources. The App is available on ITunes and GooglePlay.
Boasting an increasing group of ex-pat mothers who connect with the network before they have even made their move to London, the need for support and shared experience by like minds is evident. In an age where networking has become increasingly digital, Kensington Mums are successfully illustrating that the online landscape can be a fantastic resource for creating relationships, which cross over into ‘real’ life.
Look here for further information on Kensington Mums Christmas Fair on 27th November 2016, and here for Beirut Mums.
Dina Maktabi, Kenisngton Mums
We in RBKC libraries can’t understand why people aren’t falling over themselves to sign up for our free online courses! We know there are other online courses out there but all you need for ours is a library card and the inclination. Our offer extends from employment and personal development to leisure and personal interest courses. There’s also a specific course for passing the driving theory test and one for candidates preparing for the Life in the UK or British citizenship test.
If you’re in work and wanting to upskill or looking for work and wanting to ensure your skills are up to date then Learning Nexus is the suite for you. Below you can see their main menu so if you’re wanting to avoid the “not waving but drowning” feeling or looking to improve your skills on the quiet just ask a member of staff to log you in and you’ll see the full range of courses in each of the categories listed below.
Universal Class offers a broader range of classes aimed more, but not exclusively, at leisure and personal interest topics. Below are the categories available and within each of those there may be dozens of courses to choose from, for example, in the Arts, Crafts and Hobbies category there are 75 to choose from – from Cake decorating to Yoga! For each module of a course you submit your work to a real person who will give you personal feedback.
Accounting Alternative Medicine Arts, Crafts & Hobbies Business Career Training Computer Training Entrepreneurship Finance General Education Health & Medicine History Homeschooling How to / Do It Yourself Language Arts Law/Legal/Criminal Mathematics Office Skills Parenting and Family Personal Care Pet and Animal Psychology Real Estate Science Self-Help Social Work Special Education Spiritual Studies Teacher Resources Test Preparation Web Development Writing Skills
For Universal Class courses you can just register at home (or wherever you’d prefer) with your library card.
Go Citizen is the online version of the latest official study materials for the Life in the UK test, licensed from the Home Office, the people who write the handbook. It includes hundreds of practice test questions in the same format as the official test and has additional interactive learning resources and teaching aids to ensure you pass the Life in the UK test first time!
Just register for this with your library card.
Theory Test Pro should allow you to pass the Driving Theory Test on your first attempt!
It contains all the official test questions licensed from the DVSA ( the people who set the tests), gives you unlimited access to all the official questions from the DVSA in the same format as the official test and realistic hazard perception video simulations. So why pay for the official books and dvds when it’s all available for free with your library card?
All these online courses are free and can be accessed at www.rbkc.gov.uk/learningonline
Our special Halloween session took place at the usual Baby Rhyme Time hours – 10.45am till 11.15am. The turnout was brilliant with no space left for a single extra pumpkin or bat suit, with 40 children and 36 adults jammed in our under 5’s section of the library.
Many children and two members of staff (including yours truly!) were fancy dressed for the occasion. The children in all colours and shapes – gorgeous smiley pumpkins, a bumblebee, a batboy, princesses and even a tiny beautiful vampire dressed to kill. The staff dressed in black, with hats and all, offered a striking contrast to the colourful surroundings in the Children’s library. Our Halloween displays, prepared in the weeks leading to the event, benefited from the drawings and colouring contributions of customers as seen below!
Apart from our usual selection of songs, we also sang a few tunes suggested by parents and nannies. However, the cherry on the top of the Halloween cake was to sing a special Halloween song for the 1st time together at North Ken’s Baby Rhyme Time: the Halloween version of one of our most popular and requested classic, “The (Spooky) Wheels on the Bus”, by Elizabeth Mills.
We finished off by handing out one small bag to each child filled with some goodies to nibble at. There were smiley faces all around. We all had a party! Watch this space for more parties – it’s that time of year already!
Silvia Sousa, North Kensington Library
I love these electronics workshops! This is the second time we’ve had one to replace Code Club over a half term and the kids just love them. They usually have an understanding of how the various pieces of kit work and can’t wait to get hands-on while the parents love it and generally have no idea how the things work!
Today the kids were able to learn how to play a tune on bananas (!), race cars round a race track on the floor controlling them with iPads, 3-D print rings to take away (4 minutes printing time) and, the one that produced most squeals from the boys as well as the girls, experiencing Virtual Reality. They could choose between swimming with dolphins, being in a shark cage, a roller coaster ride and several others but they were the most popular. I also saw a Raspberry pi and one attendee playing Tetris with a post-it note instead of a smart phone.
We were lucky enough to have a DigiLab session at four of our libraries over half term so around 45 – 50 kids would have benefitted from them and I was also able to drum up some more joiners for our regular Code Club.
If these sessions do nothing more than enthuse the kids and stimulate their curiosity then I’m satisfied it’s a job well done. I hope they’ll have learned and experienced new things that will sow a seed for later in life, whether that’s in their secondary school or beyond.
It was half-term last week and we made the most of it!
With an exciting program to keep our youngest patrons entertained, there was something for everyone and much fun to be had.
Take a look at what we got up to!
The second book in my Booker Prize Reading Challenge is The Sellout by Paul Beatty. This book is set in ‘Dickens’, a farmland area just outside of Los Angeles. A man is recalling his childhood of growing up under a very peculiar father who carries out experiments on him and the wonderfully colourful people that he knows.
The only problem is that he is going to embark on something which is so profoundly against popular culture and society that he is not just going to be a sellout but the ridicule and laughing stock of America.
I cannot give away too much about this book but it is at times hysterically funny – I’ve had quite a few laugh out loud moments on the tube home. It leads me to think that Beatty could have had a career as a stand-up comic and his political monologues are very prescient, almost Doug Stanhope. The characters are really well drawn, also very very funny but people who you could sympathise with, especially the main character. The problem with this book (in my opinion) is that it doesn’t quite grab your attention the whole way through.
I think it is a very original piece of work and it’s probably the funniest book that I have read.
A considerably older woman (Eileen) is looking back on her life to when she was a 24 year old. Living in ‘X-ville’ with her drunken and disturbed father and without a Mum she has a very restricted life of a job she really can’t stand, people who she doesn’t really want to work with. The odd crush on the security guard keeps her going. That is until a new colleague, Rebecca turns up and breathes new life into her. Their friendship leads to an even darker place and Eileen has some radical decisions to make.
This is a deeply unsettling book but it was so compelling that I could not put it down. The microcosm of Eileen’s young life is fascinating and her inner world is fuelled by awkwardness, self-loathing and flights of fantasy. You cannot help but cringe in parts, but that’s down to Moshfegh’s brilliant writing. I am not going to spoil the ending but it is seismic. Think of works by Patricia Highsmith and Donna Tartt and you are getting close.
So thus far it is my favourite on the shortlist as it feels like a complete novel – it is chilling, diabolical and her descriptions of the landscape make you feel as if you are living inside it. Brilliant.
It is 1991 in Canada and a young girl and her mother who are originally from China welcome into their home a family friend who has just fled Tiananmen Square and martial brutality of the army. The young woman begins to relate a series of stories to the young girl and a bond is formed almost instantly between them. The book takes us back to before the Cultural Revolution where two sisters carve out their own lives and families who later come to diverge and interplay on one another. As the rule of Mao Zedong and his dominance deepens across China it has varying consequences for all they are and who they love.
This is a grandly epic novel and it feels as if its written by someone who has spent years on it – it deserves to have been shortlisted. Each character in the story is perfectly drawn and the way that it starts out as a series of stories begin to coalesce into the history of a family. One reviewer mentioned that they were ordinary but as 3 of the main characters are superlative musicians and composers I would disagree!
There are 2 criticisms that I would level at it. Firstly, the later scenes in Tiananmen Square are very rushed and it did not feel as authentically written or matter as much as the earlier histories which the family occupied. Secondly, at nearly 500 pages it was not a large book but it could have had 50 pages edited out of it.
Overall, it’s a very affecting piece of work and is a powerful reminder about how one person’s or governments blind control can turn us into different people in order to survive. But what will survival actually turn out to be and what remains for those who have been left behind?
In our last ’50 books that make great films’ post, we round out the list with the final 10 selections. A huge thank you to the staff members that participated in this series – it wouldn’t have been possible without you, and I hope it’s been as fun to follow as it was to organise!
Visit our previous posts to see the other 40 titles. As usual, let us know what you think in the comments section below!
Naxos Music Library (NML) is now available for RBKC library members!
With an unparalleled depth of classical music content, extensive background information, and improved search facilities that remain simple and effective, NML is a pleasure to use regardless of your prior music and/or technical knowledge.