Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Dream job of the 1960's - librarian

As a child I was brought up to visit my library regularly on a Saturday morning and to come out with brain food for the week whilst my mother shopped for real food at the local supermarket. In those days libraries were hallowed places of learning where you spoke in whispers in case you disturbed people who were reading or studying. Books were stamped out with a manual date stamp and a little ticket would be taken from a beige-coloured flap at the front of the book and filed away under your name in an index system. This made the librarian appear to be some sort of official - all that stamping with a satisfying 'thunk'! In my young mind then the librarian was a sort of friendly dictator with absolute control over the world of books.

No wonder then that top of my list of dream jobs as a nine-year-old was - librarian.

At home, we often used to play 'libraries' (yes, sad I know, what a geek) by making tickets and cards for all our books and pretending to be the lady at the counter. Quite a few of my childhood books have flaps stuck in the front so we could 'stamp' them using a stamp from my father's office.

Haldane Room Old Library 1950s LIS Library PD

As a writer whose publishing world is becoming increasingly digital, I mourn the loss of books from shelves and into devices, at the same time appreciating that this brings so many more books into the hands of so many more people. Think of remote villagers in the developing countries who are reading on their phones - fantastic!

But as a writer thinking of self-publishing, I recognise that without distribution the only way a POD book will probably get into my local library is if I take copies and donate them myself. This will give me no return and in fact cost me money - but I think of it as a payback, for all the years of reading pleasure that libraries have given me. And it would give me great pleasure to have my book on a real as well as a digital shelf. Shame that it will never have a stamp  - red =overdue!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Glove stretchers - a helping hand

In my mother's era (which my daughter assures me was The Dark Ages), everyone wore gloves and carried a handbag that matched their shoes. I don't think I have any accessories that match, they are all a random collection of scarves and gloves, usually designed to keep out the cold, and mostly lacking in any recogniseable style.

The most popular colour for gloves in the early twentieth century was white, which supposedly went with anything, but must have been a nightmare to keep clean. To keep them from dust, they lived in special glove boxes. Often the glove boxes had a space in the lid for glove-stretchers.

So what is a glove stretcher?

The most hardwearing were kid and leather gloves, but these turned stiff and wrinkled after washing, so glove-stretchers were needed to bring them back to shape. This is what they looked like, a sort of clothes-peg affair that you could push into the fingers.

This picture of some Victorian gloves with their stretcher came from, the auctioneers, and weirdly enough was right next to a 'lady's Pith Helmet.' (estimate £20) I have visions of an intrepid lady explorer wearing these gloves - but obviously it must have been somewhere where they didn't have OMO (see previous post) because they look quite grubby. Maybe she wrestled an alligator into a swamp or something.

I always fancied a pair of long evening gloves, but these needed to be powdered so they would be easier to get on and off.  For this you would use a glove powdering flask - a wooden container shaped like a pepperpot to hold talcum powder. I have often seen these at antique fairs without their lids, and thought they were some sort of odd little vase, but now I know what they are really for.

This picture below of these patterns for gloves to sew is from www.myhappy, so if you are hot with fabric, super-crafty or want vintage patterns why not pop over there and check out this great site.

In my last post I talked about going OMO (ok indie, if you must *sighs*), and paying for the copy-editing I needed. I'm not wealthy enough to stretch to that again for the proofreading, so I have asked for a helping hand (get it?!) from an army of writer friends to proofread my book and catch all the typos and glitches. Because I am hyper about spelling and apostrophes in the wrong places, and I am seriously fanatical about typos, I have gathered a small army to nit pick over the text. All those keen writerly eyes must be able to spot the things I missed. (Anyone spot anything in here?) So I am hoping that in the proofreading stage at least, many eagle eyes are as good as one professional.

Oh, and by the way, don't be expecting me to be saying 'buy my book' any time soon, these things take time, and I want to enjoy it rather than rush it. And from what I hear from indie authors, saying 'buy my book' is a fatal error, instead you should be engaging people. Well, OK, I said my post on gloves would be riveting, and it clearly isn't that, but it could be construed as mildly engaging.

'Construed,' now there's a good word.

My next post will be on 1950's Libraries - when librarians really did wear spectacles and ask you to keep quiet because 'other people are reading'.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Mid list crisis causes dive into Indie waters

So why is the first post on this brand new blog about OMO? Well, it's because I am going it On My Own. In other words I have left the safe harbour of traditional publishing and I'm starting again from scratch with a new pen-name and a new blog.

Am I mad? Well you might think so, but my three books published with a large publisher are still languishing in the mid-list, despite their excellent five star reviews, and indie authors are extolling the virtues of the indie life. Except that the term indie sets my teeth on edge, as if we are all some kind of 1980's pop stars. So I prefer to say I am going OMO.

My book is finished, and my first shock was the cost of professional copy-editing. I asked the copyeditor of my other books what she charges and the answer nearly made me faint. She earns more in a week than I do with royalties from my books in a year. More than £20 an hour, which I know in any other business would be looked on as quite reasonable as an hourly wage. But somehow as writers we get used to not being paid very much, as trad publishing royalties are so small. Peanuts might be an improvement.

Maybe that will change! Maybe my mid-list crisis is really the beginning of something wonderful? And by the way, I will probably melt my visa card to pay for the edit. After all, I can trust in the quality of what I would be getting and I do want my book to be a quality publication.  Of course then I'll have to deal with the edits, but at least that is something familiar. Actually, if the editor is very nice about the book I send her, a little voice on my shoulder is whispering,  is that because now I am the one who is actually paying? Hmmm. Guess I might have to have a whole new relationship with people who do my edits, cover design etc. If I am paying, will they tell me if my ideas are rubbish, or just rub their hands in glee and snigger behind my back?

Anyway, here is Esther Williams looking gorgeous in one of her underwater scenes - how did she keep her hair like that underwater? And smile and keep her eyes open?

If you want more of Esther, the picture is linked to an obituary page for her, with many more fabulous pictures and info on her life and films - well worth a look.

Oh, and if you know any other trad published authors who are going OMO, please tell them to get in touch so we can hold hands through these treacherous indie waters!

Meanwhile I hope to keep you entertained with posts on all things old-fashioned and vintage. Friday's post will be about gloves. If you're yawning already, don't. I aim to make it riveting.

Monday, 3 March 2014

1954 OMO washing powder - Old Mother Owl

When I was growing up there was always a packet of this on the kitchen windowsill, but I haven't seen it here in the UK for quite a few years, though I have seen Surf and Persil and various other Unilever products. Apparently it first appeared in 1954 and though discontinued here, it is still popular in other parts of the world.

Brazil, Turkey and Germany, Australia and Romania stll use OMO, and it has just been re-launched in Kenya where it was first available in 1953. In Pakistan the Surf brand has been so popular that it has entered the language and any washing powder is now 'surf' in Urdu!

According to Unilever's website, OMO was first registered in the United Kingdom as early as 1908, so it is the oldest laundry powder brand in the country. You won't believe it, but the acronym OMO which is a household name stands for “Old Mother Owl” - presumably because owls are associated with wisdom and it was supposed to mean you were making a wise purchase!

Actually, I remember making fake snow for our Christmas Yule Log table decoration by mixing OMO with water to form a snowy sludge. You can't do that with the new plastic capsules or tabs!

This is a great advert for Omo from 1960, in which 'all the girls' aprons' are sparkling white. 

More Vintage Omo images can be found at: 

From the Free online Acronym Dictionary:

OMO On My Own
OMO Open Market Operations
OMO Om Shanti Om (movie, India)
OMO Odd Man Out
OMO One Man Operated (now replaced by OPO)
OMO Other Military Operations
OMO Old Mother Owl
OMO Old Men Online (gaming community)
OMO Old Man Out
OMO Oracle Media Object
OMO Our Mother Ocean
OMO Oxford Millennium Orchestra
OMO Optical-Millimeterwave-Optical (TeraBurst)
OMO Operational Management Office

Any other suggestions anyone, for the OMO acronym?