A bit of a stink

image_proxySometimes in libraries we think about poo. Not necessarily because we want to but because our public toilets sometimes get blocked, sometimes books get Suspicious Stains on them, and sometimes we wonder how many royal toddler toilet training picture books there are…

And if you really think about it poo is quite important, and you certainly can’t escape it. So, I’ve been poking around a few of our resources to see what I can find about poo and sewage and other stinky things like that.

Searching on our catalogue the keyword ‘poo’ and the Official Subject Heading (we librarians do enjoy a good subject heading) ‘feces‘ finds a lot of children’s books – not unsuprisingly, but it also brings up entries from Access Video – an eResource featuring lots of fascinating documentaries – about sanitation in the developing world.

Sanitation has an interesting history in Christchurch. We’re all familiar with more recent issues in this area, which has been carefully documented by CEISMIC, however there’s a long history to explore.

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The Christchurch Drainage Board has a well documented history – so vital for a city built on a swamp – and according to John Wilson‘s Christchurch – Swamp to City Ōtautahi has ‘been the best drained and and most efficiently sewered city in the country’ (p11). The importance of pumping stations in the city has been recognised as part of the Architectural Heritage of Christchurch Series – reminding us that the functional doesn’t have to be ugly. Underground Overground Archaeology (I don’t think they employ any Wombles) has written a great overview of sanitation in Christchurch.

If you’ve ever wondered what the poo of our native wildlife looks like, then DigitalNZ is the website you need! Searching for ‘poo’ brings up a lot of helpful visuals to assist you in identifying that mystery turd, plus a positive plethora of poo-related media articles, research papers and videos.

I also had a look on Papers Past for poo related content. However the 19th century and first half of the 20th century were more conservative eras so ‘poo’ and ‘excrement’ don’t bring up a huge amounts of hits – although there is definitely content for those with an interest in public health. I’ve also found out about pakapoo – a Chinese lottery game brought to New Zealand by gold miners – and The Mikado.

Do you have any #codebrown stories you’d like to share? [Ed: we welcome the use of euphemisms for the benefit of those with delicate sensibilities]

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Try not to lose your head over this series

Murder, history, politics, religious reformation. Watching Queens come and go. Good Catholics  having their saints and idols removed from churches, their monasteries dissolved and monks thrown out into the streets. And all because your Monarch, who you are fast going off, wanted a divorce and it wasn’t granted by the Pope. Oh, and murders and the solving of them of course.

It’s all here in this fabulous series of chunky reads, The Shardlake series.

We join Matthew Shardlake, barrister at Lincolns Inn. It’s 1547. Henry VIII is on the throne and has, with the help of Thomas Cromwell his right hand man, divorced his first Queen and broken away from the Church of Rome.  Matthew is clever, honourable, reliable, a reformer… and a hunchback. Cromwell knows of Shardlake’s reputation as man who can be trusted with confidential matters and who doesn’t give up until he’s sorted it, and has approached Matthew to solve a murder in a monastery that is about to be dissolved. The King’s man has been killed and he wants to know who and why. The times are extremely tenuous; there are spies everywhere. No one is safe. Anyone outspoken on religious matters is likely to end up on the rack. Shardlake just wants a quiet life. Cromwell wants answers. So starts the first book Dissolution.

Cover of Sovereign

I’m not a big fan of mucked about history, so love the way C. J. Sansom weaves his stories around the events of the time. His descriptions of the filth in the streets, the fear of the common people, the conniving of wealthy families, both Protestants and Catholics, manoeuvring their daughters and nieces into the King’s circle in the hope that their family/beliefs will benefit, the buildings, the rubbish rotting on the banks of the Thames when the tide is out, the heads on spikes outside the Tower.  That’s not even accounting for the murders Shardlake and his assistant, Jack Barak, are called on to solve.

For Tudor history its hard to go past Hilary Mantel, author of  Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, who presents us a view from inside the Royal Court and the life of Thomas Cromwell, who started life as a blacksmith’s son and achieved greatness as Henry VIII’s Chancellor. Not forgetting Susanna Gregory who also writes historical mysteries with the protaganist of Matthew Bartholomew.

Having recently sung the praises of these books to my brother (he promptly read one after the other until there were no more) and to several library customers their  response was the same, “read that one, where’s the next?” The Shardlake covers are not enticing but don’t be put off. My colleague Roberta Smith is also a fan as you can see from her blog on Serial killers.

Do you like history? A good murder mystery? Being gripped by a good story? The Shardlake series could be to your taste, methinks.

Already a fan?  What is it that got you reading the series?

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