University libraries that anyone can use

22 06 2011

I just came across this list of university libraries from around the world that anyone can access and had to share it. An amazing list of resources I never knew were available!.


Free Summer Fun

8 06 2011

The summer holiday season will soon be upon us and who doesn’t know someone who’s going somewhere that makes you green with envy? At this time of year, it can feel as though you’re no one if you’re not going somewhere that’ll make everyone green with envy.

I don’t know how many of you watched the BBC TV series, Beautiful People, but there was an episode in which Simon’s family had been telling everyone they were going away on a fantastic holiday, but found themselves too short on cash to actually go, so, to keep up appearances, they locked themselves in their house for a week and carried on as though they were on holiday. They decorated the house, dressed in their holiday clothes and held holiday-camp-style competitions in their living room. They had a whale of a time.

I’m not suggesting that you go to the lengths of lying to your friends, family and general acquaintance about your whereabouts, but here are a few ideas for fun holiday activities on a shoestring budget.

House Swap

If you fancy getting away, how about swapping houses with a friend who lives in another area? You can have fun making lists of local sights and activities for one another and you won’t have to worry about finishing absolutely everything in the fridge and getting someone in to water the plants and feed the pets.


Picnics are vastly under-rated. You can go where you like, within legal limits, obviously, and eat what you like, when you like. You don’t need to be near a café or restaurant, you don’t need to comply with their times, you won’t find that there’s nothing you like on the menu or that everything’s over-cooked. It won’t be hideously expensive. Basically, it’s all on your own terms and you don’t have to be on your best behaviour!


Spend a pleasant summer’s day by a river, enjoy being outside, take a picnic and maybe a book or a radio and you’ll maybe get something to take home for tea. It’s not free to fish everywhere – you need a ticket or club membership in many places. has information on where you can fish for free and what you can catch there.

There really is something very satisfying about catching your own food!

Free Days Out

For ideas on free days out, try There’s also a list of free museums provided by the Department for Culture. It would also be worth checking your council’s or local attractions’ websites, to find out whether admission is free or discounted for local residents.

Discover your home town

Very often, we look further afield for our holiday fun, but how many of us can say that we’ve taken the tourist trail round our home town? Get a guide-book out from your local library and find out what you’ve been missing out on.

If you can get hold of a walking tour map itinerary, you could give yourselves the full-on tourist experience. Go in a large group and you can take turns at being the guide and being the tourists. Why not go the whole hog and create characters for yourselves?

Cycle paths, bridleways and green lanes

The countryside and, for that matter, towns are full of paths and shortcuts you would never see from public transport or your car. They say a change is as good as a rest, so why not look at your town from a different perspective?

Scavenger Hunts

These are great, in that you can easily make them age-appropriate and you can even sneak a bit of learning in there.

For those who don’t know, on a scavenger hunt, each participant has a list of items they have to find. The first to return with the full set of items within the allowed time wins.

They’re nice because you can pass time with spin-offs. A rainy-day project could be making or decorating bags to carry collected items in. The journey could be spent making up the item list in the style of the game ‘Granny went to market’.

Let the Children Camp in the Garden

Just because you’re not going away, it doesn’t mean you have to stick to the term-time routine. Why not let the children camp out in your garden? You can have a quiet night in and they can imagine they’re anywhere – American pioneers, heading west, nomads in the desert, circus performers, a travelling fair, jungle or arctic explorers – the world’s their oyster! If you have a sandpit and or a paddling pool, they could create their own beach. They could put on their own circus act with your friends. It gives a taste of independence, with the safety net of running back in if they need to.
Maybe they could cook on a camp fire, under adult supervision? Some easy cooking ideas:

  • Baked beans – cook them in a pan then eat them out of a mug
  • Jacket potatoes – wrap them in tin foil and put them in the embers of the fire, once it dies down
  • Marshmallows or toast – put them on skewers and toast them over the fire
  • Cocoa – make it in a pan over the fire, then pour into a mug. It goes really well with marshmallows.

When you’re camping in the garden, you might see all kinds of wildlife you wouldn’t see in the daytime: hedgehogs, foxes, owls, badgers etc.

Free plant demo

27 05 2011

B&Q are offering a free demo this Sat & Sun at 2pm in all stores! They will be discussing plants, soil, plant types & more. They also offer You Can Do It Classes. These are open to over-18s, range from 2-4 hours and start at £10.


24 05 2011
I know that the mere mention of DIY sends shivers up some people’s spines. Although it’s often time-consuming, noisy, messy and or smelly, it really doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. I’m really selling it here, aren’t I?
Personally, I enjoy DIY once I get started, but I find the getting started difficult – I just can’t motivate myself to do it – what if I get half-way through and find I want to stop and can’t? What if I get a room into a state in which it can’t be used and then don’t get time to finish? I don’t worry that I can’t do it, I worry that I just won’t do it, which can be overcome – it’s a case of determination and mind over matter.
Many people do worry that they can’t do it, though, or they don’t know how to go about it and don’t know where to start. There’s also the potential problem of not having the kit for the job.This is all sounding a bit negative, isn’t it? Let’s cut to the good bits.

There are now LOADS of free resources online. With the continued popularity of DIY shows in recent years, the BBC and Channel 4 (and probably other TV channels) have lots of videos and step-by-step instructions on their websites (links at the end), as do hardware stores, such as B&Q.

The larger hardware stores, including B&Q, also offer tool hire, so there’s no need to shell out huge amounts of money for equipment you’ll only use once or twice.

B&Q and, again, probably other stores, offer free demonstrations of how to perform various tasks in their stores – details are provided on their website and are also tweeted by @BandQ on Twitter.

So, it’s time-consuming, messy, noisy and all that other stuff we mentioned above – why bother with DIY? Firstly, it’s cheaper than paying someone to do it for you and means that jobs that wouldn’t be worth spending the money on can be done. Secondly, you can get a great sense of pride and satisfaction from looking at something that you have completed, particularly if you’ve pushed yourself out of your comfort zone and done something you’d never done before and perhaps thought you couldn’t. Thirdly, our surroundings are important to us. If our home looks shabby and things are broken, we sub-consciously start to feel that we don’t deserve good things and over time it wears us down.
As a Bunty annual I had as a child stated, “the first step towards feeling good is looking good”.I’ve just searched Twitter for #householdpride and there are no tweets – let’s get it up there.


Free stuff

12 05 2011


Just in case anyone hasn’t come across it, I thought I’d make a quick mention of Freecycle. Here’s the description from the Freecycle website:

Welcome! The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,944 groups with 8,449,161 members around the world. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by entering it into the search box above or by clicking on ‘Browse Groups’ above the search box. Have fun!

Free Books

Recently, I’ve noticed quite a few people looking for books in my local Freecycle group. I find that I have more books than I can possibly read available for free, so I thought it would be worth sharing that information too.

Local libraries

Until recently, I hadn’t visited a public library in 10-15 years. I was very much impressed by the quality of service on offer. I was registered and issued with a card and PIN very quickly, which allows me to use the reference library, withdraw books, DVDs, CDs, audio books etc, access the catalogue from home and request books, extend loans and make suggestions for new resources. I can also now log in to the e-Library and download e-Books and audio books in a variety of formats for a range of devices.

Google Books

Google Books offer quite a range of e-Books. Some are free and some paid. They can be downloaded or read online.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg offers over 33,000 e-Books to read online or download in a range of file formats. There are also human- and computer-read audio books. Additionally, there is a range of digitised sheet music, although this project is currently dormant. has just under 4,000 audio books available for download. The books have been read by volunteers and can be downloaded as MP3 or ogg vorbis files. is another site with free audio books. It is run by a group based in Mexico. is another free audio book site.


It seems to have become standard that people expect to have to pay for computer software. In fact, there is a vast array of free software available, ranging from computer operating systems to smartphone apps.


According to wikipedia:

Linux […] refers to the family of Unix-like computer operating systems using the Linux kernel. Linux can be installed on a wide variety of computer hardware, ranging from mobile phones, tablet computers and video game consoles, to mainframes and supercomputers. Linux is a leading server operating system, and runs the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world.

What does that mean? It means that, rather than paying for Windows or Mac OS on your computer, you can run a free Linux operating system instead. Linux tends to be less resource-hungry than other operating systems and can give an older computer, struggling to run the latest version of Windows, a new lease of life. As it is less widely-used, there tend to be fewer virus targetting it than Windows and updates are issued frequently due to the fact that it’s community-driven and people all around the world are contributing.

Personally, I run Ubuntu on my laptop. From beginning the installation, my laptop was up and running and connected to the internet within two hours. I didn’t need to install hardware drivers once the operating system was installed – it was just ready to go. I have not found anything that I have been unable to do with it. is a free suite of office applications, compatible with the pricey Microsoft Office. It is also very useful for recovering corrupt Microsoft Office documents, which Microsoft products can no longer open.


Free anti-virus, anti-malware, firewalls and anti-spyware software are available, negating the need for expensive and resource-intensive products such as Norton Internet Security.

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