Site update: re More Books

I read a good book the other day…

Regular readers may notice the new MORE BOOKS item in the menu above. When I started this blog I never intended to offer reviews of other author’s work, and I still don’t intend to do that, at least not in the sense of literary critique. I am not inviting submissions for review nor will I discuss books I did not like. Instead I’m going to tell you about some books I happen to have read and enjoyed. You might like some of them too.

Generally, I’m not going to give much of a précis of the story as many reviewers do. You can perfectly well read the author’s blurb to find that out. I’ll just say what caught my attention. First up to test the system will be a modified version of an old post about Peter May’s THE LEWIS MAN. I’ll add new posts from time to time in my usual haphazard way. Use the RSS feed or the email feed (sidebar, on the right) if you want notice whenever something new is added, and by all means add your own comments at the foot of any page, provided they’re not libellous or otherwise objectionable.

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The End of Winter, by T.D. Griggs

I read a good book the other day #2

So, this is my second book recommendation, and this will be the regular style.

Book jacket: The End of Winter

 

Crime thriller and, in the end, a love story too. What would you do if you came home and found your wife/husband newly dead, murdered, in the house? Phone the police? Sure, and what then? Get arrested on suspicion? No evidence, of course. The police fail to find the real killer. You’re a suspect forever until you uncover the real story, which is not at all what you expected. T.D. Griggs crafted the sort of ending that I really like. The truth is revealed, but T.D. leaves you wondering if you were in the protagonist’s shoes would you do the same? Five stars. Buy it now.

Click the jacket image to go to Amazon.co.uk

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Boiling bunnies: Oranges are not the only sauce

Podcast: download (duration 8mins/11mb)

Image: Tin of Spam.

Hold the thought: all will become clear.

Waiting patiently for my breakfast Shreddies to soak up the milk the other morning – coz I like ‘em soggy, y’know – I heard on the wireless about author Jeanette Winterson’s trollbashing on twitter after she tweeted about killing and boiling a rabbit that had invaded her garden. 

‘Rabbit ate my parsley. I am eating the rabbit.’  said Jeanette pithily.

(link to story in the Guardian)

Jeanette – author of Oranges are not the only fruit – put up a spirited defence against the critics who jumped on her black humour tweet.

I commend Jeanette for standing up to her critics. She made the cogent point that if you eat meat you ought not to cringe at the killing of animals for your delight. Jeanette’s tweet went viral and she has been swamped with comments both critical and favourable: Twitter red in bark and bite, you might say. You won’t find me on twitter, but the story set me thinking…

I once killed a rabbit…

It was a long time ago, but Read More →

Vindicated! Shares in Elastoplast set to soar…

I occasionally stand accused of being a curmudgeon. The persecution point to the facts that I’m not much into Skype or social media generally. You won’t find me on Facebook or twitter. I don’t even have a reliable home broadband connection, but rely instead on a mobile device that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I was eventually badgered by well-meaning relatives into having one of these new-fangled mobile ’phones, but hesitated the other day to open a PayPal account because PayPal wanted to know my number (Why?).

I admit to writing some time ago tongue-in-cheek about the precautionary sticking plaster that covers the lens of the webcam on my laptop. Faced with such damning evidence I plead guilty m’lud, with knobs on.

But whadayaknow? On the TV news this week I hear that an eighty-strong international nest of thieves and spies have been arrested for using software that can remotely turn on the webcam of your laptop and spy on you while you work (or whatever it is you do with your laptop…)

Call me paranoid, but if industrial espionage-ists (is that a word?) can do that then you can bet your boots there is some sad, twisted nutter out there who has nothing better to do than spy on you!

I confidently predict a worldwide rush on sticking plasters. In fact, I’m off to the corner shop now to buy a copy of the FT. Forget Pfizer/AstraZenica: What price are shares in Elastoplast today… :)

Spring Gardening & the Politics of the Workhouse:

One gardener’s eccentric philosophy.

Image: Bluebells.

Bluebells in my garden

Podcast: download (4 mins 52s/7mb)

Isn’t it wonderful to see the trees and the hedgerows turn green again in spring? All winter, between bouts of clearing away the wreckage of my workshop wrought by a succession of storms, I have been working on a re-edit of Sunset over Salhouse Broad for its forthcoming release in paperback. But recently, with the return of the sun and the slow draining of floodwater, like millions of my fellow citizens I found myself out in the garden tidying winter’s ravages and fettling the lawnmower, that tyrant of summer Sundays. Call me eccentric, but though I am always glad to put the mower away in autumn and enjoy a few months relief from the tyranny of ever-growing grass, I am just as glad to dig the thing out again in spring. It makes its annual debut in the garden along with the daffodils, soon after the snowdrops have wilted and nature spurs me to threaten the pink climbing rose with its annual haircut.

In my garden I am God… kind of. At least, I am in control to the extent that Read More →

Uncle Dave’s Advice:

 

Image: Cooking in a Beddsitter by Katherine Whitehorn.

Cooking in a Bedsitter by Katherine Whitehorn. Now available as an eBook with a jazzed up jacket.

Podcast: download (Duration: 5mins/4.6mb)

Learning to cook in one sentence with two clauses.

I grew up in a time when many families still had more than two generations living together. Mum and Dad both worked, Grandma cooked and ran the house. Provided each is happy in their role it’s an arrangement I commend to modern times, when children are expensively farmed out to a commercial nursery and old folks consigned to a residential retirement or nursing home at the first inkling of infirmity. The old arrangement made for a happy childhood in a household with enough income to provide for our needs, and a freedom from worry about what may befall the elders in their failing years. Grandma, who lived with us until her time came at the age of nearly 102, had a great fear of the Victorian workhouse.

Of course it has its disadvantages. Since Grandma ran the household and in her world little boys played Cowboys and Injuns while the girls learned to cook, I left home when the time came without the first clue how to cater for myself. I was saved by Katherine Whitehorn who wrote a little paperback called Cooking in a Bedsitter. I still have my copy and despite its unappetising cover (what is that thing hanging on the middle hook?) I commend it to anybody leaving home for the first time. An eBook edition is available on Amazon.co.uk. 

I wasn’t in a bedsitter as it happened. My first efforts at cooking came when I went to sea in a Read More →

Masterpiece or Fake?

Podcast: Download (5Mb/6mins)

The word windfall has been much in the news lately here in the UK, mostly in relation to so-called windfall taxes on predatory energy suppliers who ramp up their charges as another winter approaches. But windfalls come in a variety of guises, and not all of them are Heaven sent…

Image: Flatford Mill.

Flatford Mill by John Constable. This faded fake hangs on my bedroom wall…

A story on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow this week featured a Vicar who bought an old oil painting and was persuaded by the Roadshow experts to have it “restored”. It was later declared to be a genuine Van Dyke and valued at more than £300,000, which the vicar said would pay for a new peal of bells for his chapel.

Resisting an obvious joke about God working in mysterious ways, and leaving aside my ignorance in matters both religious and artistic, I do wonder if I can be the only person to query whether the restoration actually ruined the painting rather than restored it. As a lay person having seen the before and after pictures it’s my guess the vicar would be less reluctant to part with the masterpiece after the so-called restoration. But Whatever (as a stroppy teenager in my part of the world might say), at least the story served to set me thinking…

Up the workers, brother!

I watched another TV programme some while ago in which Read More →

Tinned peas: an Australian delicacy.

Image: Insignia and medallion.The hazards of miscommunication.

Podcast: download (7mb/7mins 56sec)

My dad was a gunner in the army during some part of his war service. It was because he was called away for some sort of special signals exercise or training that he became separated from his unit and was consequently some days late in crossing the channel, thereby missing the worst of the fighting on the beaches of Normandy, a great stroke of luck in my opinion, since I might never have been, had he landed in the very thick of it on D-day. Respect to all those who did. Dad was later in coastal defence and told stories of watching shipping leave the port of Harwich from his radar post in Ostend.

But speaking of signals, doubtless you’ll have heard the apocryphal story illustrating how messages get garbled in transmission. Major Ponsonby-Smythe sends a message by word of mouth from the trenches back to General Bagshot Withingstall-Hepworthy at Headquarters. “We’re going to advance. Send reinforcements”. The message is passed from mouth to mouth until it is rendered at HQ as We’re going to a dance. Send three and fourpence.

Well, something of the sort happened in our family when I was a young teenager. We were on holiday someplace and had to telephone home to check that grandma was OK in our absence. This was long before the invention of those handy devices so aptly presaged in Star Trek, the personal communication device strapped to the wrist by which, miracle of miracles, you could speak to anybody in the known universe right there and then, from wherever you happened to be. We call them mobile phones these days (yes, yes, cell phones in the US…).

Image: Red telephone box.

Down but not out. In 2013 this box on a bleak hilltop in Wales has seen better days but still had a working mechanism inside.

To telephone granny we had to find a red public telephone box. Even harder, we had to find a red public telephone box that had not been vandalised or robbed of its cash box, for in those days one had to pay for each and every call on the spot with coin of the realm, making phone boxes a target for thieves and miscreants.

This was just after the nation had gone decimal and the old penny (240 to the £) was replaced by the new penny (100 to the £), so that what had been a two-shilling piece, often called a florin by a generation older than me, was replaced by a ten-pence coin, which we youngsters promptly shortened to ten-p.

Having located a working box, Dad asked for the number, for in Britain not so very long ago you had to beg an operator to make a connection to anywhere beyond the hailing range of a man with strong lungs. Phone numbers then were a Read More →

God Works in Mysterious Ways

There’s a lot of hot air about the shortness of people’s attention span these days. But a short attention span is no new phenomenon…

Image: Ruined church.

The ruins of faith…

Podcast: download (7mins 34s / 7mb)

I’m often struck as I travel about the country by the sight of old churches, some ruined, some still well maintained, but standing sometimes in the middle of nowhere, green fields all around, few if any houses in sight, let alone nearby, nothing resembling a village within miles. You see them all over the eastern counties especially, a somewhat surprising phenomenon in a country as crowded as Britain.

Old English churches are substantial buildings of stone and oak, lead and copper, requiring foundations that go down beyond doubt if they are expected to stand for hundreds of years, as they do. The cost of labour, even in times when labour was cheap, must have been substantial. Even if the labour were given free by a godly populace hoping to curry favour with the Almighty against the dread day of judgement, the sheer tonnage of materials must have cost someone an arm and a leg.

Why go to so much trouble to build churches where there are not even people to attend them? The answers are Read More →

The Author’s Voice: Podcasting for the uninitiated.

Trials and tribulations of a podcasting virgin.

Image: audio player icon.Podcast: Download (6 mins/6mb)

Casting about for promotional ideas and unwittingly egged on by Joanna Penn of thecreativepenn.com (who I blame for the consequences…), it occurred to me that I might try a podcast; readings from my novels say, in my own voice. Not, that is, that I expect anyone particularly wants to hear my voice, but at any rate it seemed less trouble to do the readings myself than to hire a professional narrator (Oh! the hubris! The arrogance! Will this man never learn…?).

Fired with enthusiasm it occurred to me that readers might also like to hear my blog posts read aloud, of which this is the first. Let me know via the comments whether you think this a good idea. I’ll quite understand if you don’t.

You can get the result by clicking the link above or from my downloads page. It’s free of charge and runs for about 6½ minutes. Play it now by simply clicking the appropriate link, which will open your player gizmo thingy automatically, or you can download it to play later by RIGHT clicking the link and choosing SAVE TARGET AS.

Image: Save Target As...I’ve had fun making this first podcast but I have to tell you it’s Read More →