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EDITIONS
Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
Still making the net pay
Hambledon during the floods; Nick Spurrier; Kathy Lines
We revisit three people who have featured in our weekly Real Time series: an online bookseller, a flooded villager, and a beaten ambulance officer.

When second-hand bookseller Nick Spurrier spoke to us in January, he had shut his shop in Kent because selling online was more lucrative.

My area of trading continues to expand and this is down completely to the internet. I have now sold books to 59 countries.


Books are starting to disappear from the net as people snap them up

I make about 1,000 a week - internet sales account for half of this.

This is steady but not rising, which could be because more book dealers are putting more of their stock online.

The internet is great for finding that one out-of-print book you've been searching for for years. But what's starting to happen is that these books are disappearing as people snap them up.

Search and you shall find

But what the internet has done is find more customers for the hard-copy lists I send out every six weeks.

Conservative Party manifesto 1983
Nick can find a buyer for most any publication
I think there will always be a place for catalogues or lists sent out directly to the customer by "snail mail".

People inevitably open their letters and are more likely to look at a list through the post than a list sent by e-mail, or an e-mail referring to a catalogue on a website. After all, e-mails get put in files and overlooked or simply deleted.

However, I'm a specialist dealer selling books mainly to university libraries, academics and researchers. Those who deal in more collectable books may be having even greater benefit from the internet.

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Remember last autumn's floods? There was no chance to forget for one Hampshire village which was underwater for months. Resident Nick Bailey explains.

Today in Hambledon we are dry. The last cellar dried out in the middle of May and since then there has been frantic rebuilding activity throughout the village.

Villagers joked that theirs was the Venice of Hampshire
The Venice of Hampshire
White vans are parked outside at least 50 houses - it's a field day for builders, carpet fitters, and other trades.

About 130 properties along the old riverbed were flooded in varying degrees of severity. Up to 20 properties were abandoned and only in the last month have some householders been able to return.

The two councils - Winchester City and Hampshire County - have commissioned a firm of engineering consultants to make long-term flood alleviation recommendations before this October. These ideas can only be implemented next year at the earliest, provided funding can be found.

What will winter bring?

Many householders are dipping deep into their own pockets to try and improve their own flood protection - I'd say the costs run into the millions. The insurance industry is being very supportive to the village.

Sandbagging
Volunteers lined the streets with sandbags
My wife and I endured three months of rebuilding, followed by a month installing a new central heating system.

After the nightmare of endless furniture moving, floorboards rising, copper pipes appearing through the ceilings, books and all the trappings of modern living being dragged from room to room, we need a break.

Our dogs with dried-out joints are back with us fulltime, but they are completely baffled by the continuous presence of workmen and dustsheets.

We hope to be back to some form of sanity by November, a full year after we were first flooded. But our serenity will not return. What will this winter bring? Have we done enough, spent enough, to hold back the floodwaters?

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The blackened eye of Kathy Lines stares out of posters condemning attacks on ambulance staff. She last spoke to us in February, having just returned to work after being assaulted.

I'm still not working nights, and I'm a lot more cautious than I ever was before.

Every shift, I hear of one of my colleagues getting into some sort of trouble. I've been OK, but have had a few run-ins.

Ambulance Service poster
Kathy was photographed two weeks after her attack
The one that disturbed me most was a set-up. We got a call from someone with a broken leg, saying they'd be at a different address from the one they were calling from. That seemed a bit odd - I didn't see how they were going to move from one place to another with a broken leg.

When we turned up, a bunch of kids aged about 12 or 13 started hitting the ambulance with an iron bar. By the time the police arrived, they'd scarpered.

It was so deliberate, that's what upset me more than anything, and the fact that they were children.

If they make me go on night shifts again, I'd have to seriously consider whether I want to stay in the job. I just wouldn't feel safe.

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Real Time gives people a chance to tell their own stories in their own words. If you've got something to say, click here.



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