31 Dec 2009


AULD LANG SYNE, translated from the Scottish to the English as "Old Long Since".
A beautiful song isn't it? Credited to the Scottish poet Robbie Burns it is traditionally sung on New Years Eve at the stroke of Midnight when standing in a circle, arms crossed, we hold the hands of the people on either side, singing and moving our hands up and down in time with the music before kissing/shaking hands and wishing each other a Happy New Year at which point I'll generally burst into tears.
Why the tears you ask? Well, always an emotional time of year, saying good-bye to the old and bringing in the new, it is doubly so for me as New Years Eve was also my Grandad's birthday - a night as children we always spent with him and my Nana when we were allowed to stay up way, way past our bedtime to sing Auld Lang Syn and greet the New Year.
Also a tradition in many households (though it seems to be a tradition that is slowly dying) is the FIRST FOOT who is the first person to cross the threshold of a home on New Years Day and is seen as a bringer of good luck for the coming year.
Typically a tall, dark, handsome man, the First Foot would enter the home bringing several 'gifts' - generally a coin (symbolising wealth), a drink (usually whisky) and cake (both symbolising a year of plentiful) and a lump of coal (symbolising warmth) though this varies from region to region.
As a child I can remember my father being sent out with a coin, whisky, cake and a lump of coal just before midnight to knock on my Grandparent's door seconds later. Really quite strange as looking down the street you could see the same scene being repeated door after door. Aah such happy memories.
Today of course, many still celebrate, even if it is in a slightly different way, with fireworks seeming to be more and more common every year - you'd have thought we would have had enough in November with the 'celebration' of GUY FAWKES but it seems you can't have too many.
So how will you be celebrating tonight? Husband dearest and I shall be celebrating with friends for the first time in many years as before this we'd always had Niece #1 and Nephew staying with us and then, for the last few years, one or the other of us has been recovering from surgery.
Whatever your plans, may I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year full of love and laughter.
And just in case you were having some difficulties with the lyrics on the video of Auld Lang Syn, here is another site where the versions Old and Modern are given - just click HERE. Oh and please come back tomorrow for the Pen And Paper version of The New Years Honours List.

30 Dec 2009


Some weeks ago as part of the Freeverse meme hosted by Cara over at OOH .... BOOKS! , Jenners at FIND YOUR NEXT BOOK HERE shared some poems that were very personal to her, including some which were read at her wedding. Inspired by this I decided to do the same.

Three years ago, on September the 2oth 2006, Husband dearest and I re-newed our Wedding vows and as part of the service, standing, facing each other and holding hands we read this INUIT love poem - The words highlighted in red spoken by me, blue, Husband dearest and purple, both of us.
You are my Husband
You are my Wife.
My feet shall run because of you
My feet dance because of you
My heart shall beat because of you
My eyes see because of you
My mind thinks because of you
And I shall love, because of you.
Beautiful words aren't they? And everyone of them meant.

29 Dec 2009


When Niece #1 and Nephew were small we always gave books as presents which they loved to have read to them but as they got older, bedtime stories were no longer on the agenda and they certainly weren't going to choose to read a book for themselves, we, largely, stopped buying them unless it was a football related book for Nephew and even then games consoles and the computer soon took over meaning buying books was a total waste of money. Such a shame as we would love for them both to know the joy of reading. Thankfully Niece #2 still enjoys her books and is at that age when some of them also appeal to me - I've just borrowed one of her JACQUELINE WILSON books, HETTY FEATHER, which I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing.

Christmas is a great time for children's books and I've enjoyed reading so many wonderful blog posts on the subject, thank you. Also interesting is the television adaptations of so many stories - on Christmas Eve we had the recent 2005 film version of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe and then on Christmas Day itself we had a wonderful adaptation of one of my favourite books, THE GRUFFALO by JULIA DONALDSON, which brings me to today's post which is about children's books/authors in the newspapers.

Firstly comes this lovely 'interview', Donaldson On Donaldson.

I think that perhaps my favourite bit of The Gruffalo are the roasted fox, scrambled snake and owl ice-cream. Originally the mouse was just going to say "I'm going to have lunch with a gruffalo", and the predators were going to say "Oh help" and run off. Then Jerry (my son) said to me "But they're all a bit stupid because they could quickly eat the mouse" so I thought, yes, the mouse needs to say he's going to have lunch now, here and that the gruffalo's favourite food is them. Then I thought that's a nice bit of scope for a little joke.

The gruffalo wasn't necessarily going to look like that. But the mouse has got to describe different bits of him, so obviously if you're in a rhyming metre they've got to rhyme and scan. If ears had rhymed with something he might have had some funny ears, or horns, or a tail that was odd in some way. You have to think of lots of different ways of saying it and see what rhymes. But what rhymes is just one little part of it.

- the Guardian.

But of course it isn't only books by 'new' authors that are popular, there is a growing trend towards the authors that I (perhaps you) read as children.

Take ENID BLYTON for example. One recent article in the press had a very interesting article claiming she had been banned by the BBC for almost 30 years (click HERE to view story) whilst a second article brought us this news .....

The old girl's done it again! She has emerged as one of the top 10 best selling authors of the decade, as defined by sales on Amazon.

Her continuing popularity 40 years after her death only goes to prove that there is nothing on earth so unremittingly reactionary as a new child reader.

- An edited version of an article by Lucy Mangan, reporting in the Guardian.

And also making it into the news is this list of the Top 10 Child Narrators In Literature at least according to JM of the Guardian. (* Indicates it is a novel I have read.)

10. The Story of Tracy Beaker - Jacqueline Wilson. *
09. Hideous Kinky - Esther Freud. (Judging by the title, surely not a book FOR children.)
08. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson. *
07. Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain. *
06. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer.
05. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time - Mark Haddon. *
04. Now We Are Six - AA Milne. *
03. Songs Of Innocence - William Blake.
02. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle.
01. Down With Skool - Geofffrey Willans.

Agree or disagree with the list, which books narrated by children would you include?

28 Dec 2009



Catherine Tinsall is dreading Christmas. As the 'Happy Homemaker' she is an online sensation, but the reality couldn't be more different. With her marriage in tatters, her children running wild and her mother's forgetfulness, seasonal cheer is running low.

Husband Noel also hides a secret; he's facing the axe at work. Until he chances upon the village of Hope Christmas, which could be the second chance he's been searching for. If he can save it from the developers .....

In Hope Christmas itself, Marianne Moore is trying to heal her battered heart. But memories of what she's lost haunt her at every turn.

Meanwhile, Gabriel North faces a lonely Christmas. Will his wife ever come home? Or does love lie elsewhere?

All four need a Christmas miracle. And it might just happen - courtesy of a mysterious guardian angel. Forced to reassess their lives, will they discover what the meaning of Christmas really is?

...... From the back cover.

First Sentence (from the prologue): Marianne sat back in the comfort of Luke's brand new BMW M5.

Memorable Moment: Diana's version of the Nativity had to rate as the most bizarre Marianne had ever seen. It followed the story of a mouse who on Christmas Eve was sent to his room for not sharing his toys with the poor little mice who lived down the road. The mouse then encountered a magic fairy (with her her half a dozen very tiny fairy companions, who did a rather long and baffling dance) who took him on a journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas, by way of Santa's workshop, some selfish children, a poor little matchgirl, Bob Cratchit, various animals, and who eventually found himself in Bethlehem.

My third and final book in this, my first book Challenge.

Set in the village of Christmas Hope with a cast of characters, many of whom have Christmas related names - Noel Tinsall (Tinsel?), Gabriel North and, perhaps most Christmassy of all, Ralph (pronounced Rafe, short for Raphael) Nicholas (shortened from St. Nicholas) - this novel is what can only be described as nice.

Though not all the action takes place at Christmas it is, on the whole, a seasonal story, full of mince pies, nativity plays, presents and family disputes. Also very topical, the plot deals with floods, large (not always ethical) businesses and the closure of amenities which are the hub of rural life, all issues being faced by many small villages here in England.

Rather too sweet and somewhat a stereotype (we have seen similar characters to this in countless other books), central to the story is the rather mysterious Ralph, an elderly gentleman who, not all that he seems, makes it his duty to sort out the complicated lives of the central characters. If only everyone had their own Ralph.

As I say, a nice story, nothing too complicated and what I call a lazy day read. As the front covers informs us "Christmas comes but once a year - thankfully". The same, I believe, could be said for this novel which, when all is said and done, isn't very well written and really relies too much on the nostalgia and goodwill surrounding the season.

MY RATING: 3 out of a possible 5.

27 Dec 2009


To go back in time - it's Wednesday the 24th of December 2009. Husband dearest is off to the Dental Hospital. Pooter and I are busy scheduling my blog posts for the next few days so that I can visit all my blogger buddies without worrying if I have enough time, WHEN ........

DISASTER. A notice type thing (I'm as technical as ever as you can see) appears on the screen - YOU HAVE A VIRUS. YOUR SECURITY DETAILS, INCLUDING YOUR BANK DETAILS, ARE AT RISK.

Me: "Oh dear,"(or words to that effect), "What to do?"

Pooter: "Panic?"

Me: (After beginning to panic) "No, don't panic."

Pooter: "Send text message to see if Husband dearest is finished at the hospital?"

Me: "Good idea." (But no he obviously isn't it.)

When, off goes the electricity - another power cut. Oh well, I suppose that rather limits my options until some time later (electricity back on) Husband dearest, now finished at the hospital, calls to tell me not to panic, all will be well, he'll sort it out when he gets back and, in the meantime, do not switch Pooter on.

So began my Christmas holidays.

Apologies then for not being able to visit you all before the 'big day'. I hope you all had a wonderful time, full of love and laughter.

Anyway, onto the 25th where we spent the day with Husband dearest's family. Really nice to be together again, the time was passed eating, drinking and generally being merry. Niece #2, with a lap-top as a present, was introduced to the delights of Pen And Paper and spent most of the day annoying her dad by playing Dominick The Donkey (again and again and again) until even I was almost (but not quite) sick of hearing it. Our thanks to you all for the wonderful presents but especially to bro-in-law #1 for the, as usual, terrific food and sis-in-law for putting up with us all - not always an easy task. Which brings me nicely to our departure home.

Despite the fact that I claim some six foot of snow has fallen over the last 5 or 6 days, it's been more like six inches but as it has been freezing almost as soon as landing the paths and roads have been pretty treacherous and it was particularly bad here so accompanied by 3 men (Husband dearest, bro-in-law #1 and Billy our taxi driver) I made my rather tentative way to the car managing to slip only once. And so it was with much disabelief that I managed to survive icy paths without falling, only to trip up a 2 centimetre (or so) step in the house, re-breaking the toe that I had broken earlier in the year. just my luck!

Onto yesterday, the 26th and what is traditionally known as BOXING DAY. Usually we spend this day entertaining my family and a small group of friends at home but, circumstances being what they are (mam's growing frailness and sister now working, etc), this year Husband dearest and I travelled to visit my mam where yet more presents were exchanged meaning we can now almost see the dining room table. Quite a sad occasion that, once again, we weren't able to all be together but one, I'm sad to say, I think I'm going to have to get used to.

And finally, onto my other news. My 1000th visitor target was met (and passed) over the holiday period, WHOOPEE and I reached level 30 on Farmville so can now 'buy' my greenhouse.

25 Dec 2009


Dear Friends,

After what has been an extremely busy year and a even busier 24th of December Mrs. Christmas, the Elves and myself are off on a short holiday.

Petty Witter apologies that she didn't get to visit you all, Pooter caught a very nasty virus and was quite ill, however she hopes to catch up with you all very soon.

Thanks for the milk, biscuits and other nice things you all kindly left. The reindeer thank you for the carrots and other nibbles.

Be Good,

Father Christmas. x

24 Dec 2009


Only joking, of course I've been good this year - would you really expect anything less of me?
On what is the busiest night for Father Christmas (English), Sion Corn (Welsh), Santa Claus (America), Pere Noel (France and Canada), Papai Noel (Brazil and Peru), Gwiazdor (Poland), Grandfather Frost/Ded Moraz (Russia), Joulupukki (Finland), Kris Kringle (Germany), Babbo Natale (Italy), the list goes on (click HERE for more), I found this wonderful site that allows you to follow his journey around the globe. Fascinating, I could sit and watch it for hours. To join me just click HERE, sit back and enjoy.

And finally, what would Christmas be without some festive music? Tired of listening to all those carols and shop-piped music? Then how about my alternative seasonal ditties?
************** Seasons Greetings. My best wishes to you and yours, Petty Witter.

23 Dec 2009


Good morning/afternoon/evening to you all from another cold, icy day here in the North East Of England.
Only another two days to go for those of us who celebrate Christmas. Funny how this being somewhat challenged in the mobility department changes how you view this time of year. Once-upon-a-time I was rushing round like there was no tomorrow (I can see so many of you nodding your heads), trying to be superwoman, making sure the house was spotless (I swear you could have operated on the kitchen work-tops), the cards were written, the presents bought and so on. How that has all changed. Now I do what I can, as does Husband dearest (thank goodness for him), and as for the rest? Well it gets done eventually. Not that I don't get frustrated because I do but when this happens I take a deep breath, count to 10 (OK so it's generally nearer 30, sometimes 50) and remind myself that it's only ONE day. Much more important is that I'm 'fit' and well enough to spend it with those nearest and dearest.
Anyway ..... it's Wednesday so I'm off to Cara at OOH ...... BOOKS! for a spot of FreeVerse. Care to join me?
This week, along with some chocolate brownies, I'm taking along two poems - both of them re-writes of that wonderful poem 'The Night Before Christmas'. The first one, 'THE KNIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS', comes courtesy of the talented UberGrumpy whilst the second, 'A PARENT'S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS', Pooter and I found on the Internet. Simply click on the links and away you go. (Apologies that I have posted them directly but, for one thing, they are too long and, for another, I don't want a repeat performance of the 'spacing' incident that I had last week.)

22 Dec 2009


(Not exactly the best of photographs) I'd like to introduce you all to our good friends and fellow quiz team members. I would give you our name but, as I think I have mentioned, this changes from week to week as the fancy takes us. I'm now trying to think what our latest name was (some obscure band or other if memory serves) and failing miserably but other weeks names have included (desperately trying to think) 'Just The 5 Of Us', '4 Men And A Little Lady', 'Tracy's Island' and, named after the world's strongest beer, 'TACTICAL NUCLEAR PENGUIN' and then there was the time we decided to use a symbol, some squiggle or other, instead of a name just for a change.

I'm being very rude now, let me introduce you properly. On the right we have Paul, (hiding behind him) not a regular team member, his wife, Julie, (wearing my snowflakes, how very festive of him and further proof he doesn't altogether hate Christmas) Husband dearest, myself, Bruce and then, last but not least, on the near left, Micky.

For months now we have been saving any winnings from the quiz for our Christmas Night Out. Like a child, I was soooo excited as I never get to go to any Christmas parties - everyone say aaahhhh - but last night, just like Cinderella, I did get to go to the ball.

SIMPLY GREEK in Newcastle's BIGG MARKET was our destination. A popular choice with husband dearest and myself, Simply Greek is simply a great night out. Delicious, authentic Greek food with good size portions and, if you are really lucky, live music, Greek dancing and the traditional breaking of plates which unfortunately didn't happen last night though I did say the gang could come back to our house where we could smash some plates in the garage - an offer they didn't take up (can't think why).

Anyway a great night was had by all, we just need to keep winning those quizzes to pay for a Summer Night Out.

However, for me, that wasn't the end of a wonderful night - oh yes, more was to come.

On getting home, Husband dearest decided to down/up load (whatever it is you do) the photographs and tuned into my blog only to discover that, whilst out, my 50th follower (shouts with joy) had signed up and it was none other than UBERGRUMPY who, since we discovered each other not so long ago, has been a regular on Pen And Paper. Thanks Uber and, of course, all my other blogger buddies. Now I just have to reach my 1000th visitor (only 35 to go) and on Face Book's Farmville reach level 30 (only 200 or so points to go.)

P.S Anyone have a name for our quiz team on Sunday the 27th of December? All suggestions will be considered as if you don't come up with a name I have the must awful feeling we'll end up calling ourselves 'Anyone For Turkey' or 'One Sprout Too Many' - something too silly too mention anyway.

21 Dec 2009


A Petty Witter news review, this week with a bit of a difference.
Christmas - the season of good will to all mankind or is it? Not if you read the following articles it isn't.
8 minutes 22 seconds is how long the average Briton will wait before loosing his or her rag (temper), according to a new survey. The 'Point Of Impatience' as the broadband provider Talk Talk calls it, arrives after 3 minutes 38 seconds if you're waiting for a website to load, 5 minutes 4 seconds if you're holding on the phone, 5 minutes 6 seconds if you're watching the kettle as it boils (as you do. PW) and 1 minute 3 seconds after Simon Cowell (a man we 'love to hate'. PW) opens his big mouth.
OK so the last statistic probably isn't true but the survey did also show the following .......
It takes 8 minutes 38 seconds if you're waiting to be served in a restaurant, 10 minutes 1 second if you're waiting for friends to show up, 10 minutes 43 seconds if you're waiting in for a tradesman, and 13 minutes 16 seconds if you're waiting for a reply to a voicemail or text.
So what happens beyond this so-called Point Of Impatience?
37% cancel a service, 38% demand to speak to the manager, 27% start shouting, 26% slam down the phone, 14% walk out, and 3% throw something across the room.
And it's getting worse. Most of us admit to reaching boiling point faster than before, with 'frustrated youngsters' almost five times more likely to get physical as the over 45's.
Certainly well beyond the Point Of Impatience were these two neighbours who now face a £160,000 legal bill.
A row over six square metres of front garden cost a battling neighbour about £160,000 in legal costs.
A COUNTY COURT judge ruled last year that the plot, which is home to a few shrubs between two driveways, belonged to (we'll call him) 'A.' Not happy with the decision, his neighbour 'B' took the case to the COURT OF APPEAL where he was unsuccessful again, and was ordered to pay the costs of the whole action.
One side's legal bill was estimated at £70,000 after the county court hearing, and the appeal court case is expected to add £10,000 on each side.
All of that money spent on a mere six square metres. Was it really worth all that arguing over?
And talking of arguing there's been a fair amount of that happening at the World Pie Eating Championships.
The world pie eating championships proved once again to be a controversy-strewn battleground as the sole woman competitor stormed out and officials banned gravy after rumours of doping with cough mixture.
Drama also engulfed Harry's Bar in Wigan, the contest venue, as the owner entered a protest against the exclusion of Wigan pies in favour of rivals from nearby but 'foreign' Adlington.
"We were stunned," said one of the town's local pie-munching favourites. "My mate and I have been practising for weeks on small soft Wigan pies, and at the last minute, they've substituted these monsters." (For the full version of this saga click HERE).
And finally, ROAD RAGE. Said to be on the increase, and though thankfully rare, there have even been reports of people being killed as a result of it. Is this traffic light the answer then?
Among the winners of this years Red Dot Design Awards one concept is catching the imagination of the online gadget community: the EKO traffic light. Damjan Stankovic's design is much like any other stop light except for one crucial difference - it incorporates a progress bar so you can work out how long you'll have to wait.
A good idea or bad? Thinking of some of the other places that have similar gadgets (the x-ray department of our local hospital, a post office which, OK, doesn't tell you how long you'll have to wait, just the number of people in front of you) I'm trying to think if this makes the waiting any easier and therefore increases the length of time before we reach our own personal Point Of Impatience or not. Probably not but it does give us something else to moan about which might, just might, take our minds off how long we've ben waiting. - at least for a while.
All today's newspaper articles were edited versions courtesy of the Guardian.

20 Dec 2009


Yule - also known as Alban Arthan (Druid), Jul (Norse), Yuletide (Teutonic), Feill Fionnain (Pecti-Wita), Gwyl Canol Gaeof (Welsh), the Longest Night, Midwinter and, of course, Christmas (Christianity).
Brightly burns the Yule log tonight
Magic dances in firelight
Hold my hand and join the song
Raise the Sun King bright and strong
Dark is giving way to light
As brightly burns the Yule log tonight.
- Yule chant adapted by Akasha Ap Emrys.

Tonight at sunset (here in the northern hemisphere) sees the beginning of the Winter Solstice - Solstice being derived from the Latin 'Sol' (Sun) and 'sistere' (to stand still).

One of the lesser festivals, Yule is a celebration marking the death and rebirth of the Sun in Midwinter and is the second of two solstices dividing the year - the first being Litha which celebrates the Sun at it's peak in Midsummer.

Marking the longest night and shortest day of the year, Yule celebrates the birth of the Sun God, born of the Goddess after her return from the underworld. Fires and candles are lit to welcome the return of the Sun God's light while the Goddess rests after delivery and the hardships of her Winter in Labour.

Particularly important to our ancestors, occurring at a time when many were not expected to live throughout the winter, this Midwinter festival was a their last feast before the deprivations of Winter set in.

Traditionally the festivities would see streets, homes and churches decorated using natural resources such as Mistletoe, Holly and Ivy (sound familiar?). Their use bringing both colour and life into the home, acting as a means of contact with the spirits of nature.

The Druids especially prized Mistletoe with it's white berries representing the male aspects of the Sun God invoking fertility (hence the Christian tradition of kissing under the Mistletoe at Christmas?) and on the Eve of the Winter solstice would harvest the plant with a Golden Sickle.

Equally sacred was the Holly, a wreath of which was hung on doors to protect the home, as when all the other trees have lost their leaves, the holly's evergreen nature symbolised immortality by adding a splash of colour to an otherwise barren woodland, the red berries seen as a representation of the menstrual blood of the Goddess.

And finally, Ivy. Another evergreen plant, it is associated with one of the most popular of the ancient Egyptian Gods, Osiris, a God of the Sun, Agriculture and health.

And so for all those who will be celebrating Christmas this year, please remember this much more ancient celebration as you decorate your home and sing your carols.

For more information about Yule, it's symbols and customs please click HERE whilst to view the words of the carol, The Holly And The Ivy, click HERE for I think many of you may be surprised just how connected these words are to Yule.

19 Dec 2009


I seemed to have either stored up lots of animal stories or, friends knowing my love of all things furry, been sent them so today I thought I'd share some of them with you.

Firstly, and yes I know I've mentioned this once or twice before but for those of you who haven't already heard it, Dominick the Donkey is now available right here at the top of my sidebar - and for those of you who have already heard it, well, listen to it again.

* Bosses at a North aquarium are increasing security on one of their displays in a bid to end the late night excursions of an adventurous crab.

The shore crab, who's been nick-named Herbie by staff, loves to explore the aquarium when visitors have gone home but on his latest excursion he was totally unaware that he'd had a brush with death.

Herbie was found dangerously close to the otter enclosure, which immediately prompted staff to put a stop to his nocturnal ramblings, because he could end up as a midnight snack for the crab-loving carnivores.

- An edited version of an article by Coreena Ford, reporting in the Sunday Sun.

Also finding themselves in danger were:

* A cute kitten who miraculously survived a 900 mile journey - trapped under a train. No one knows how he got there, but a rail worker has adopted the ball of fur and named him Diesel.

* A hapless hedgehog who was treated at a Devon animal hospital after eating one too many fermented apples and getting drunk.

- Thanks to friend (S) for sending those.

But how's this for clever?

* An orangutan has become one of the world's most popular Internet snappers after keepers gave it a camera.

- the Sunday Sun.

But even stranger is this article found on Internet site WAYODD about an orangutan who stripped and mugged a French Tourist. Yes .....

* A French female tourist was stripped of her pants, shoes and socks while SHE took photographs of a wild orangutan in Malaysia.

Meanwhile over in England

* Cows in Beaminister, Dorset increased milk production by 15 per cent when farmers Jozef Andrezejk and Tomas Piotr switched off the classical music they'd been playing them. The herd much preferred Queen's We Will Rock you.

- Thanks to friend (C) for sending this via e-mail.

And finally

* If your four-legged friend answers to Rover or Kitty, it's a sure sign you are behind the times.

Recent research reveals a growing trend for pet-loving Brits to call cats and dogs by more human names with the

TOP 10 DOG NAMES IN 2009 being

10. Millie
09. Jack
08. Alfie
07. Holly
06. Max
05. Rosie
04. Ruby
03. Poppy
02. Charlie
01. Molly.

And the

TOP 10 CAT NAMES in 2009

10. Gizmo (Hardly human that one. I don't know too many Gizmo's, do you? PW)
09. Lucy
08. Oscar
07. Alfie
06. Tigger (Another uncommon human name? PW)
05. Poppy
04. Daisy
03. Smudge
02. Molly
01. Charlie.

- An edited version of an article by Tom Parry, reporting in the Daily mirror.

18 Dec 2009



Meet seven very different women - all on the same route to school.

Home loving Harriet is wondering whether her marriage is on - or off.
Widower Nick is struggling to cope with his troublesome teenage daughter.
Working mum Pippa is waiting for some potentially devastating hospital results.
School teacher Kitty has accepted a bet to find a man in a week.
Step-mum Evie has to save her career - and find her missing husband.
French Au pair Martine is about to run off with a married man.
Distraught Betty watches by the roadside for the driver who hit her son ...

Little do they know that over the course of one week the school run will have become a collision course, connecting their lives in more ways than one.

..... From the back cover.

First Sentence: The phone!

Memorable moment: My precious daughter,
I hope you are well and that your employers are not giving you so much work now. The children sound horrible but I have heard that the English abuse their children with artificial drinks and television.

What I would call a light and fluffy read. To be honest there wasn't really much to The School Run though it was enjoyable enough.

Not having children and being unable to drive I've never actually experienced the so-called school run for myself and I must say, if the book paints an accurate picture of what it's like, I'm not missing out on anything.

Story-wise. As I said light and fluffy. With some of life's major events being skimmed over, there is nothing at all heavy going about this read.

Character-wise - On the whole not very well written, stereotypical and not well rounded. Apart from the exception of 2 (maybe 3) of the main characters, Nick, Kitty and, perhaps, Betty whose story I felt could have been dealt with in a different, more thorough way, I found them to be not particularly likable and as for the children? There was only Nick's daughter, Julie who was portrayed as anywhere near a decent human being. I know the rest of the children had 'issues' to deal with (as did Julie) but how's this for beastly?

"No, Mum, I said I wanted a Croatian Au pair. Not another French one. I bet he can't even play football. Look at his picture - he's a real prat with those sticky-out ears and goofy grin. And turn off the radio. I don't care if you're on Desert Island Discs next week. I want to hear MY music. If you don't do what I say, I'll get my stutter again."

MY RATING: 2.5 out of a possible 5.

17 Dec 2009


Well this is all very strange - after yesterday's mystery that was the spacing of the poems (not even Husband dearest could figure out what I'd done),today I came to do this post, clicked on 'new post' (fine so far) only to discover that the font had been changed AND the 'font option' button along with the 'colour option' button .... gone. Erm, stranger and stranger.

Never mind!

Before I bring you this post proper, I must tell you of my latest discovery. Husband dearest (aided by work colleague M) came across this wonderful Christmas song which they chose to share on a certain Mad Priest's blog as he has a series of posts called
'OH NO, NO - IT'S HO-HO-PHOBIA' in which he deals with such things. You must make time to visit though be warned it's one of those totally annoying songs that, once heard, you'll be humming it all day - for Husband dearest there is NO ESCAPE, he has me singing it at home and M singing it at work. So to hear the wonderful DOMINICK THE DONKEY, simply click HERE to visit, you won't be sorry you did.

Well, yesterday was certainly very frustrating,not one of my better days, what with the computer not doing what it was told, I hate it when things go wrong and I don't know why or how to put it right (aaggghhh) and then there was the little matter of Physiotherapy.

Yes, I started another series of therapy with the physioterrorists as I lovingly call them. Another one new to me, I had, once again, to go through all the details of why I was there, any other health problems I may (or may not) have/have had and the list of all medications I was taking before we could start anything of a practical nature.

To re-cap a little. Twenty-two years ago I fell down a hole (nothing huge you understand,it was only 4 inches or so deep)shattering my tibia and fibula (shin bone) which resulted in the insertion of an external fixator (imagine a metal bar attached with 4 metal pins to my lower leg)and several operations though I won't go into them. Anyway all of this left me unable to put my foot flat on the floor, I literally walked on my toes on my right foot which, as you can probably imagine, wasn't too comfortable but, hey, I got by .... for a while. Sad to say, the human body isn't designed to walk in such a way and all these years later I was beginning to have problems, big problems - basically my toe joints were crumbling so something had to be done.

Cue one orthopaedic surgeon who wished to replace said toe joints BUT (A) I was deemed to be too young and (B) with me still walking on my toes, any artificial joints would wear out extremely quickly. So instead he lengthened my Achilles Tendon in the hope that would help - it didn't - so onto, what was now, Plan C, an ankle fusion which basically involved the breaking of my ankle joint and the insertion of two bolts which would hold it in place. Oh what fun, that meant 3 months in plaster, not only over Christmas but also my 40th birthday but on the plus side I'd now set off shop/airport security scanners wherever I went.

Anyway,to cut an increasingly long story short, two years on I was diagnosed with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome which in a nutshell means my brain is receiving incorrect pain messages with the slightest touch leaving me in terrible pain and so, several therapists and therapies later(I won't bore you with these), this latest therapist has decided that I should (1) consider acupuncture, (2) be referred to the hospital's pain management team in order to see if they can come up with anything and(3)have our G.P. make an appointment for me to see the 'bio-mechanic' team in order to have my walking gait analysed. Sounds like fun.

To those of you who have made it this far and are still reading - sorry to have bored you, very selfish of me I know but I had to get my thoughts down in writing.

To leave you on a, hopefully, happier note, on Monday Tina at THE CLEAN WHITE PAGE did me the honour of giving me an award, one of the conditions being I list seven things my fellow bloggers didn't know about me. So .......

1. As a child, every Christmas morning we'd go to my grandparents house and eat hotdogs for breakfast.

2. When I was little we had several hamsters, as well as our dog. One night Hammy (hardly an original name for a hamster I know) escaped and after making it up the stairs, got into my parents bedroom and terrified my mam.

3. I always wanted to be a bridesmaid but never was (sob).

4. I liked to buy Husband dearest a 'silly' Christmas present. One year it was a big jar of pickled onions (best not to ask) and then, another year, it was a black dolly which it seems he had wanted but never got as a small boy.

5. As a girl, I had every common childhood illness going apart from measles though I didn't get Mumps until I was 19.

6. Wanting to be traditional, on our wedding day I had 'SOMETHING OLD' (a bracelet given to me by my nana, the last Christmas present she ever bought me), 'SOMETHING NEW' (most of it actually. My dress, my shoes and so on), 'SOMETHING BORROWED' (my ma-in-law's pearl necklace)and 'SOMETHING BLUE' (the traditionally worn garter).

7. I literally look up to Husband dearest as at only 5 feet, 3 inches, I'm a full foot shorter than him.

16 Dec 2009


2009 - The year poetry hit the headlines. First, there was CAROL ANN DUFFY, who made history when she became the country's first female POET LAUREATE, a mere 341 years after Charles II's inaugural appointment of John Dryden. Duffy, who has won every major UK prize for her generous, plain-spoken poetry, attached her own remit to the position -

"I will write what needs to be written. I wouldn't write a poem if it felt forced. But if something occurred at a public or political moment, and it genuinely felt truthful to me, then I would do it."
So far, she's 'stuck to her guns', limiting herself to a handful of offerings, including the caustically reworked 'TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS'. And the quality and integrity of her official output are such that, just months into her tenure, the issue of her gender has already dropped off the radar.
- Edited version of an article by Sarah Crown, reporting in the Guardian.

And now over to Cara at Ooh ... Books! for our weekly FREEVERSE visit.
This week, as promised, I decided to bring you some festive poetry. Both written by persons unknown, or certainly long since forgotten, they are centuries old and yet show that things haven't really changed over the years.
Now thrice welcome, Christmas
Which brings us good cheer,
Minced pies and plum porridge,
Good ale and beer;
With pig, goose and capon,
The best that may be,
So well doth the weather
And our stomachs agree.
Observe how the chimneys
Do smoke all about;
The cooks are providing
For dinner, no doubt;
But those on whose tables
No victuals appear -
Oh may they keep Lent
All the rest of the year.
With holly and ivy
So green and so gay,
We deck up our houses
As fresh as the day,
With bay and rosemary
And laurels complete,
And every one now
Is a king in conceit.
- Published 1695.
O you merry, merry souls,
Christmas is a-coming;
We shall have flowing bowls,
Dancing, piping, drumming.
Delicate minced pies
To feast every virgin,
Capon and goose likewise,
Brawn and a dish of sturgeon.
Then, for your Christmas box,
Sweet plum cakes and money,
Delicate holland smocks,
Kisses sweet as honey.
Hey for the Christmas ball,
Where we shall be jolly;
Jigging short and tall,
Kate, Dick, Ralph and Molly.
Then to the hop we'll go,
Where we'll jig and caper,
Maidens all-a-row;
Will shall play the scraper.
Hodge shall dance with Prue,
Keeping time with kisses;
We'll have a jovial crew
Of sweet smirking misses.
- Published 1740.
Apologies, there seems to be some problem with the spacing, doubtless my fault, I shall rectify it as soon as I am able/when Husband dearest gets home from work.

15 Dec 2009


I know I've blogged about this before, albeit briefly, but today I wanted to dedicate a whole post to Husband dearest's (not so obvious) love/(more in evidence) hate relationship with Christmas.

For some reason known as the Bah Humbug type (perhaps it's the HAT though I have been informed that a more traditional one has been supplied thanks to one of his work colleagues who is determined he WILL enjoy Christmas), today I will set out to prove that this isn't altogether the case.

EVIDENCE A - Seasonal Films.

Two of his favourite films happen to be seasonal ones. ELF and MUPPETS CHRISTMAS CAROL. So they might not be up there in his top ten but he still has a copy and, what's more, watches them.

EVIDENCE B - Shopping AND Singing.

Whilst shopping for Christmas presents (OK so Internet shopping was unheard of at the time), singing along with shop tannoy Christmas songs (hard to believe I know but it's true) Husband dearest was approached by a woman who gave him 50p obviously thinking he was collecting for charity (I refuse to believe she was paying him to shut up.)

EVIDENCE C - The Tree (1998).Would someone who hated Christmas bother to decorate a tree with such care? Honestly you've no idea the time spent on this, hours and hours (and that's only getting the thing in it's pot straight). And though he would never admit to it, he can remember where we bought every decoration and refuses to buy a new star for the top because this was the very first Christmas decoration we bought as a married couple. (Now I really am ruining his reputation.)

EVIDENCE D - Playing Santa (1986).

Always someone who enjoys dressing up (but you don't want to know too much about that) Husband dearest has played Santa to various community groups over the years. Yes, he even played Santa this year ..... in JULY such is his enjoyment of the festive season.

EVIDENCE E - Christmas Cheer (1986).

Need I say more? I think I'll let this photo speak for itself -except to say that here he is full of (shall we say?) the Christmas 'spirit'.

I rest my case. Husband dearest isn't altogether anti-Christmas, he simply refuses to celebrate it in October/November/early December and dislikes all of the commercialisation involved as his latest BLOG ENTRY testifies.

So what do you, the jury, think - Husband dearest, guilty or not guilty of being a seasonal killjoy?

14 Dec 2009


Look as hard as I did, there just weren't any really laugh-out-articles in this weeks newspapers - what with the semi-final of STRICTLY COME DANCING (known as Dancing With The Stars in the USA, featuring 'celebrities' with their professional dance partners competing in Ballroom and Latin dances) and the final of THE X FACTOR(a British singing talent competition contested by aspiring singers drawn from public auditions who, if chosen, have to go through a number of different stages in order to make it to the final) and, then, something called Christmas (an annual event, I believe it happens at this time of year most years). However, I did manage to find these odds-and-ends, all of them with a rather festive theme.
Niece #1 has the advantage of looking several years younger than her twenty years and last Christmas, wishing to buy some Whisky liqueur chocolates as a present, was asked to prove she was over eighteen years of age therefore I'm sure she'll sympathise with the young man in this first article.
A store demanded shoppers prove they were over 21 before being allowed to buy .... Christmas crackers.
Lee Frost, 27, was stunned when a woman cashier refused to sell him a 99p box of crackers because he had no identification to prove his age.
Lee said "It is health and safety (Considering the time of year, shouldn't that be 'elf 'and safety?) gone mad. I told her to pull the other one."
Fellow shopper Nia Strong, 26, faced the same problem. She said "I had to show my driving licence. It really is crackers." (I wonder how many more puns about Christmas crackers they could come up with giving enough time?)
Also, whilst on the subject of blunders, how's this for a story?
A group of tourists who travelled 280 miles to visit one of Europe's busiest Christmas markets ended up at a closed car boot sale after their driver got lost.
The tourists from Hull, travelled overnight to reach Belgium's Winter Wonders festival in Brussels. But they were stunned when their coach arrived at a shabby market with empty chalets.
It was only when they got home that they realised the intended market was just three miles up the road.
Next ........ I can't make up my mind whether this is romantic or not. Whatever the case might be, surely it's a good example of re-cycling. What do you think?
A couple are keeping the spirit of Christmas past going - by sending each other the same cards for 31 years.
Stephen and Glynis Woolner had only been married six years when they first bought the festive cards in 1978.
The following year, Stephen, now 58, spotted the card he'd sent Glynis - showing a man in fetching purple flares decorating a tree (Hardly romantic then but it is the thought that counts) - among their old Christmas decorations and gave it to her.
Glynis, 58, took her revenge on her Scrooge-like husband (Aha, not romantic at all, simply too mean to buy a new card?) by sending him her old card - a cat in a pink scarf with the message ' Christmas Greetings Sweetheart'.
Luckily, both cards are A4 size with enough room for the romantic messages penned inside. One heartfelt sentiment from Stephen to Glynis reads "All my love now and always. Thank you for your love all these years."
Glynis says exchanging the cards has become a family Christmas tradition they won't let go and added "If Stephen tried to give me a new one, I'd flatly refuse it. We exchange the cards when we get the decorations out on the Monday before Christmas. We're going to carry on this tradition and will stick in extra pages when we run out of space."
Stephen added "Some people assume we're skinflints but these cards mean a lot to us. (OK, I'm convinced, very romantic) It's great to have memories written down. I hope we can pass it down to our daughter and grandsons."
And finally, what could be more romantic than cuddling up with your loved one?
It's a blanket with arms. For two.
A blanket with four arms! Basically it simulates what would happen if you and your partner were eaten by the sofa.
Eaten by the sofa? Not exactly romantic, more the stuff nightmares are made of. So, just what is this 'blanket with four arms'?
It is, of course ..... a Siamese Slanket, available at the bargain price of $40.99 (approximately £26 sterling) from http://www.theslanket.com/
FOOT NOTE: All of today's articles are from the Daily Mirror apart from the Siamese Slanket which was advertised in the Guardian.

13 Dec 2009


Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is a favourite BOOK of mine - an extremely short story (it's only twelve or so sentences long), it's the fabulous illustrations that I really love.

Way back in October (was it really that long ago?) I did a POST about the film adaptation, just released in the USA, where many were reporting that it was way too scary. Released here in England on Friday (the 11th of December), what do our movie-goers think of it?

Well, the general consensus seems to be that the 101 minute film is about 80 minutes too long and instead of being fun-packed, 'Max's adventures have become a sort of emotional travelogue to a land of temperamental monsters with issues to work through (and) as a result, adults will feel like children again, and children will feel like running off and having a wild rumpus in the foyer' - the Guardian's Guide magazine.

Hmm, hoping to see the film over the Christmas holidays, I'll reserve judgement until then.

Another book to be adapted for the silver screen, it had it's premiere here in London last month, is Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. I won't go into too many details about the story for fear of spoiling it for those of you who have yet to read it (click HERE for the synopsis if you wish) but, needless to say, the film version isn't going down too well.

Directed by Peter Jackson (of The Lord Of The Rings and King Kong fame) and starring Rachel Weizz, Mark Wahlberg and Susan Sarandon, the film has a PG (Parental Guidance) Certificate and, as such, is missing the major event as occurs in the book.

"Might the fault lie with the source novel? Alice Sebold's best-selling book held up Susie Salmon's (the lead character) innocent fancies as a kind of talisman to ward off evil. It dared to spin a sentimental fantasy out of a grisly tragedy, offsetting the tang of sulphur with the sweet taste of candyfloss. The difference (between this and the film) was that Sebold's novel was not scared to look the central horror in the face.

The screen version, by contrast, is so infuriatingly coy, and so desperate to preserve the modesty of it's soulful victim that it amounts to an ongoing clean-up operation." - An edited version of an article by Xan Brooks, reporting in the Guardian.

Not a film I intend to see, I read the BOOK at my Book Club and was totally unimpressed with it. "The author sets out to use shock tactics rather than any real character development" was one comment I made.

And finally, it had to happen.

Remember my REVIEW of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith? Well, a film version is in the pipeline (thanks to Husband dearest for that piece of information) - set to star Natalie Portman though very little else is yet known about the project.

12 Dec 2009



Shadowmancer takes you into a world of superstition, magic and witchcraft where nothing can be taken for granted, and the ultimate sacrifice might even be life itself.

Obadiah Demurral is a sorcerer who is seeking to control the highest power in the Universe. He will stop at nothing. The only people in his way are Raphah, Kate, Thomas - and the mysterious Jacob Crane.

Packed full of history, folklore and smuggling, this tale of their epic battle will grip both young and old. The thrills, suspense and danger are guaranteed to grab the attention and stretch imaginations to the limit.

.... From the outer back cover.

First Sentence: It was a still October night.

Memorable Moment: Think of a world where we are not the most powerful of creatures, where the laws of time and space had been suspended. A place where power and control mattered more than love or charity.

A book written with older children/younger teenagers in mind, Shadowmancer is a book that can be read and enjoyed by the more mature reader as well though I'm sure they will view the novel in a much different way to it's younger fans due to the very nature of the author's writing.

'Shadowmancer takes you into a world of superstition, magic and witchcraft' says the 'blurb' on the outer back cover. Very true, there are some creatures from old legends included and there are some spells cast BUT more than anything else the book is based largely on Christian theology with many of the characters loosely based (very loosely in some cases) on well-known biblical characters - take Riathamus, the God worshipped by Raphah, for example, surely he is the God worshipped by Christians the world over, in everything but name. Then there is Raphah (Jesus?) himself who, capable of 'Miracles', enables a deaf boy to hear again.

Not a bad story overall though I was disappointed that there was not more magic and witchcraft. Kate was also a bit of a let down as so much more could have been made of her as a main character. Very angry she undoubtedly was but this never materialised into her being shown as a strong, capable female which I thought was a shame as well as a wasted opportunity. Ending very neatly, Shadowmancer leaves the way wide open for further book(s) in the series.

MY RATING: 3 out of a possible 5.

11 Dec 2009


Today at sundown people of the Jewish faith celebrate the eight day Festival Of Lights known as Hanukkah or Chanukah.
Jews celebrate Hanukkah to commemorate The Miracle Of The Oil. The Hebrew word Hanukkah means 'dedication'. Over 2000 years ago the Jews in Judea rebelled against their Syrian ruler (Antiochus) because he insisted that all Jewish people must worship Greek Gods. After three years of fighting, the Jews defeated Antiochus and, to celebrate, they restored The Temple Of Jerusalem - which had been taken over by the Syrians - and rededicated it to their God.
As part of the celebrations they lit an oil lamp which should have been kept burning all the time, even though they could only find enough oil to keep it burning for one night. But a miracle occurred, and the oil lamp stayed lit for eight days, which was the time it took to make new oil for the lamp. This was The Miracle Of The Oil.
It was then declared that every year, Jews would remember the day with an eight day Festival Of Lights and celebrate the miracle of the oil by placing eight candles in a MENORAH which is placed in a prominent window or near the front door. Lighting one candle (though electric lights are sometimes used if an open flame is thought to be dangerous) for each evening of the celebration reminding those passing by about the holiday's miracle.
During Hanukkah, people also exchange gifts and give to the poor and needy with food playing an important role for, like most other Jewish festivals, this one comes with it's own FOOD TRADITIONS AND RECIPES.
PETTY WITTER SAYS: Of course there are many sites looking at Hanukkah, here are the links to a few of my favourites.
* A site dedicated to Hanukkah POETRY.
* TORAH TOTS which explains everything in an easy way whilst playing rather enchanting music.

10 Dec 2009


December 1883. There's a chill in the air on the streets of East London but as Christmas approaches not everybody is wishing goodwill to all men.
When thirteen-year-old Gracie Phipps sees a young girl shivering on the street, she finds herself drawn into the search for Charlie, a missing donkey.
But as Minnie Maude Mudway talks, Gracie realises she has more to worry about than just the loss of the animal. Charlie disappeared the day before when Minnie's Uncle Alf, a rag and bone man, fell from his cart and died.
As the girls dig deeper into the events surrounding Charlie's disappearance, what starts off as a hunt for a lost donkey becomes something far more sinister as they realise Alf's fall may not be as accidental as it appears. With the help of wise Mr Balthasar, a local shopkeeper, can Gracie and Maude learn the truth about Alf's death - and find Charlie - without somebody else getting hurt?
.... From the inner, front cover.
First Sentence: The week before Christmas, the smell and taste of it was in the air, a kind of excitement, an urgency about everything.
Memorable Moment: It was a child's imagination, and she was old enough to face the real problems in the world, like cold and hunger, illness and how to pay for things.
The second book in my Christmas Reading Challenge.
I didn't really enjoy this novel which, at 152 pages, was described as a novella. To me it just didn't make too much sense. Uncle Alf is dead, possibly murdered, and here we have a family that is showing no signs of grief - indeed, most of them are more concerned about Charlie, a missing donkey. Then there are the conclusions that they jump to in order to solve the mystery, from seemingly nowhere and with no obvious evidence, they just seem to know certain things that help them piece together the puzzle.
As for the ending? Once again, the actions of the characters seem a little strange to me and result in an finish that is both sickeningly sweet and nonsensical.
The only thing I really liked about this was the name of certain characters - Minnie Maude Mudway and Jimmy Quick, terrific.
MY RATING: 2 out of a possible 5.
(To view the first book read in the Christmas Reading Challenge, click HERE.)

9 Dec 2009


It's Wednesday and we all know what that means - a visit to Cara over at Ooh ... Books! where her weekly meme FREEVERSE is proving ever-more popular.

But firstly, I'd like to share this newspaper article with you - all about using verse to market products, I thought it would fit in nicely.

ROBERT GRAVES, the war poet, once remarked "There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money either." Poverty has been a repeating motif for poets throughout the ages, but advertising has always been one possible source of income for the modern jobbing wordsmith.

Two prominent adverts, both of which lean heavily on the emotional appeal of poetry, are currently airing on our screens (at least here in England) - a David Morrisey narrated ad for McDonald's ("the Gothy types and scoffy types and like-their-coffee-frothy types were just passing by" - click HERE to view), and a Pete Postlewaite narrated ad for Cathedral City cheddar cheese ("On the A47 it's cheese with cucumber/It's lunchtime for her as the rest of us slumber" - click HERE to view).

In recent years we've also seen poems used to advertise the AA (a car breakdown assistance and insurance company), Waitrose (a supermarket), Center Parcs (a holiday company) and the Prudential (an insurance company). But what do poets feel about this unsteady dance with commercialism?

"It doesn't always please me," says Roger McGough, the Liverpudlian performance poet. "It's like when you hear music used in an advert and you feel it has degraded it. But as long as the poems are used respectfully I think it can be ok."

- An edited version of an article by Leo Hickman, reporting in the Guardian. (For full story click HERE.)

Now onto Poetry On The Metro and the final two poems in the series.

I twist and turn into the night
Uncertainly, I flap my wings
I see the world in black and white

A glowing bridge it lights the world
A river flowing to the sea
Black windows curving and bending

Tall black towers reach the sky
White eyed man watches over us
Watches over my city.

- Catherine, age 11.

We have
our very own
shimmering big glass slug
living on the banks of the Tyne

- Ryan, age 9.

I hope you have enjoyed all the poems in this series - don't we have some talented bairns (children) here in the North East of England? To view all of the poems again or to put a face to the name of our poets, click HERE.

See you all next week when I shall be bringing you some festive poetry.

8 Dec 2009



Led by her yapping corgis to the Westminster travelling library outside Buckingham Palace, the Queen finds herself taking out a novel by Ivy Compton-Burnett. Duff read though it is, the following week her choice proves more enjoyable and awakens in her Majesty a passion for reading so great that her public duties begin to suffer. And so, as she devours work by everyone from Hardy to Brookner to Proust, her equerries conspire to bring the Queen's literary odyssey to a close.

..... From the back cover.

First Sentence: At Windsor it was the evening of the state banquet and as the president of France took his place beside Her Majesty, the royal family formed up behind and the procession slowly moved off and through into the Waterloo Chamber.

Memorable Moment: It transpired that with no prior notification to her attendants the Queen had abandoned her long-standing lines of inquiry - length of service, distance travelled, place of origin - and had embarked on a new conversational gambit, namely, "What are you reading at the moment?" To this very few of Her Majesty's loyal subjects had a ready answer (though one did try: "The Bible?")

A Book Club read and probably not a book I would have picked up for myself. Written by Alan Bennett, an author for some reason I wouldn't have thought of reading, and with a rather plain red cover, this book would, more than likely, have stayed on the shelf - just goes to show how wrong I could be.

"A beguiling bedtime story for grown-ups" claims the Daily Telegraph. "A masterpiece of comic brevity" says the Observer. The Uncommon Reader is both of these and so much more.

At only 121 pages, it may seem like a short read and it is but, that said, it's long enough - any longer and I think the author may have been in danger of ruining what was a wonderful, at times, laugh-out-loud novel, full of witty observations - I just love the idea of the Queen neglecting her royal duties (not to mention her corgis) in order to read.

With an ending that both Husband dearest and I found ever so slightly disappointing though I really can't say why without giving away some of the plot - all I will say is, this book is well worth the read.

MY RATING: 5 out of a possible 5.