Another day, another challenge. Today’s a pretty big one...
Here I am in Worthing Library, with nine other Great War
Project Volunteers, all ready for a three hour training session on indexing newspapers. I have been given my very own disc (it has my name on it, so I know it’s mine) containing digitised images of every single issue of the Worthing Gazette
between July 1916 and September 1916 inclusive. That’s 104 pages of newspaper, all in all, to be indexed for significant events and interesting people.
was really pleased that Mr B offered to drive me to the Library, rather than leave me to wait for a bus in the pouring rain. This generous Act of Random Kindness on his part meant that I didn’t (i) arrive at my destination looking like the proverbial
drowned rat and (ii) consequently spend the whole three hours steaming steadily as I dried off. Even more importantly, because I arrived a bit early (Mr B always arrives early wherever we go. I mean, always) I was able to “nab” one of
the five available computers. Later arrivals had to make do with some rather ancient-looking laptops while the very latest arrivals had to just sit and listen without being able to investigate the electronic delights ahead of us.
We are given a folder containing hand-outs which aim to set out, in the clearest possible language, exactly how we are to carry out our allotted task. A certain level of computer savvy will be required,
our trainer warns us, and I wonder how savvy I will need to be. If we are really stuck, he tells us, we can call on our project manager, Emma, who will sit at a computer with us and spend as much time as we need guiding us through the motions. Emma doesn’t
look too excited at this prospect, though nor would I be, in her position, faced with un-savvy types like us. I dare say I will only know whether I am sufficiently savvy when I start work. Our trainer advises that we will need to spend two to three
hours a time on our work, if we are to get into the necessary groove. I think about my diary and wonder what I will need to re-arrange in order to fit in my indexing slots.
What we must do, we are told, is not allow ourselves to get too carried away with information in our newspapers which is not related to the Great War. Adverts, for example, are not relevant. This starts up a minor argument between our trainer and one
of our number who points to an advert for a haberdashery shop proclaiming that it now stocks khaki wool – presumably for knitting socks and balaclavas for “our men on the front line.” The group is divided on whether this is significant
enough to be included in our indexing. Our tutor says that we will be faced with such decisions all the way through our task – it will be, he says, “a tough intellectual challenge.” I don’t think he was referring to the
knitting of Socks for Soldiers either (though the turning of heels has been known to flummox many a knitter...)
It is almost 4 p.m. and we have been concentrating
for two and a half hours. My thoughts have turned to the possibility of a cup of coffee and, even, a biscuit or two. Nothing was said about refreshments at the start of our session but surely, given that we are volunteers after all, we will not go un-refreshed
all afternoon. Just as this unworthy thought crosses my mind, our trainer announces that we will have a short break. I gratefully accept a cup of coffee and help myself to a couple of biscuits (a custard cream and a chocolate digestive – I know
you like to keep a check on these things.) We volunteers discuss progress on our case studies – one is researching a German who came to live in Sussex in 1912 and finds himself the subject of much anti-war sentiment. I tell them about Ernest
George Richardson – they aren’t as over-whelmed as I hoped they’d be. Can it be the way I tell it?
I have no trouble at all catching the bus
on the way home. We both - that is, the bus and I - turn up at the bus stop at exactly the same moment. When I arrive home I find Mr B is ferreting about in the recycling bin trying to find the Mail on Sunday because he hasn’t entered the magic numbers
on the back page into his computer yet. We may miss out on our “reward” because I was too quick to tidy up.
Now if only he was looking for the Worthing
Gazette for July 6th 1916......