31 May 2010


The second BANK HOLIDAY within four weeks, a traditional time for getting out and about (despite the fact that rain is guaranteed, it always is on a Bank Holiday week-end) I thought I'd take you to visit some of the wonderful attractions that are near to us - some of them very close to us, others a couple of hours drive away.


Dating from the 12th century, Whitby* abbey adjoins the site of a Saxon Monastery that was established in A.D. 657.


Just ten years ago, The Alnwick Garden site was derelict and forgotten - it is now a vibrant place, with beautifully landscaped gardens, magnificent architecture and unique features, all brought to life with water.


Under construction for more than 40 years, the cathedral was completed in 1133, and today is Britain's largest, best-preserved Norman stronghold.


Perched atop a rocky island crag, this romantic 16th-century castle is accessible only by a causeway at low tide.

* Whitby, of course being the setting for part of BRAM STOKER's novel, Dracula. (Click HERE for the story on-line)

"But, strangest of all, the very instant the shore was touched, an immense dog sprang up on deck from below, as if shot up by the concussion, and running forward, jumped from the bow on the sand. Making straight for the steep cliff, where the churchyard hangs over the laneway to the East Pier so steeply that some of the flat tombstones - 'thruff-steans' or 'throughstones,' as they call them in the Whitby vernacular - actually project over where the sustaining cliff has fallen away, it disappeared in the darkness, which seemed intensified just beyond the focus of the searchlight." (READ MORE)

30 May 2010


For those of you who were unable/chose not to watch last night's Eurovision I apologise for my witterings BUT ......
I must confess to loving the Eurovision Song Contest despite, maybe because of, all of its 'cheesy' (slang for inferior, cheap, chintzy, according to Dictionary.Com) songs and it's history of 'BLOCK VOTING'.
Every year we sit, large bowl of popcorn between us, marking our favourites out of 10 points each. So what did we make of this years event?
Hosted for the second time by GRAHAM NORTON, this years offerings weren't, for the most part, typical Euro in that there was only one really, really 'over-the-top', fun record - France's 'Allez Olla Ole' sung by 'up and coming artist' Jessy Matador. However that said, the programme as a whole was fun and we especially enjoyed all the 'Euro Street Party' scenes taken from across Europe. After all, say what you want about the event itself but wasn't it great to see all those people brought together for the night, singing and dancing in the streets? - that's the real spirit of the event for me.
On the negative side - to me, it was a shame that only 6 out of the participating 25 countries chose to sing in their native language AND as for Cyprus's entry 'Life Looks Better In Spring' sung by Jon Lilygreen & The Islanders - it hardly seems fair that whilst the lyrics were penned by two Cypriots, the song, itself, was sung by a Welshman.

Our top three three acts:-
  • 1st -Greece with 'Opa' sung by Giorgos Alkaios & Friends (20) (140) (Click HERE to view)
  • 2nd - Ireland's Niamh Kavanagh with 'It's For You' (19) (25) OR France (19) (82) as mentioned above.
  • 3rd - Armenia with 'Apricot Stone' sung by Eva Rivas (18) (141)
And 25th, bottom of our list:- Iceland with 'Je Nais Sais Quo' sung by Hera Bjork (4) (41)
The actual top three acts:-
  • 1st - Germany's 'Satelite' performed by Lena (246) (16) (Click HERE to view)
  • 2nd:- Turkey with 'We Could Be The Same' sung by MaNga (170) (17)
  • 3rd - Romania, 'Playing With Fire' performed by Paula Seling & Ovid (162) (13)
And 25th, bottom of the actual list:- UK's Josh Dubovie with 'That Sounds Good To Me' (10) (7)
* Our marks out of a possible 20.* Actual scores as recorded on the night.
For BBC details of the event click HERE AND for Digital Spy's list of how each nation performed click HERE.

29 May 2010


A bit of a three in one post today for I'm going to be reviewing a CD (a first for me) and not one but two DVD's.
A few weeks back I made a big 'boo-boo' whilst reviewing the book PRIMAL FEAR, stating that it would make an excellent FILM (Doh! Of course it already has been made into one starring RICHARD GERE as lawyer, Martin Vail). Anyway, never having seen it (OR heard of it as it turns out), a copy was duly rented and watched. So how did I find it?
Disappointing I think just about sums it up, with none of the tension of the book, scenes were missed out that I thought were central to the story.
Character wise I thought Gere played the part well, with the sexual tension between him and prosecuting lawyer, Janet Venable (played by LAURA LINNEY) positively sizzling but much more impressive was EDWARD NORTON who, in his debut role as Aaron Stampler, was quite spectacular, none more so then in the final few scenes.
Next, MEAT LOAF's eleventh offering, HANG COOL TEDDY BEAR.

Inspired by Kilian Kerwin, a friend of Meat Loaf, the CD is "the story of a soldier (who has been) in battle and he's lying face down on the ground. He can't move, but he turns his head and starts to see blood run across the ground, and so he thinks he's going to die. They always say you see your life flash backward when you're about to die. But his life flashes forward - into what possibly could happen. He sees what his life could be: the good and the bad. The songs are the different scenarios he finds himself in. It's not always the same time or the same place, but it's always the same woman.”- Meat Loaf (click HERE for more.)
Now I'm a big fan of Meat Loaf and thought the CD was wonderful, the best one for a while if I'm being honest - even Husband dearest enjoyed it which is saying something. With songs like 'If I can't have you', 'Like a rose' and my personal favourite 'Did you ever love somebody?' (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN) there really is something for everyone.

And so onto NEW MOON.

I'm a self confessed glutton for punishment (an idiom that means to willfully take on difficult or disagreeable tasks that may be very uncomfortable) so it's no huge surprise that despite disliking the first offering, TWILIGHT (I seem to remember the words 'anti-climax' being used. Click HERE to see my review), I still went back for more. No, what surprised me was that Husband dearest actually settled down to watch it with me without having to be bribed, threatened or tied to the chair.
So did we enjoy this film any more?
For myself I have to say Yes AND No. Better than the first offering, I was slightly less bored.
Remaining largely true to the book, I still had the problem that most of the characters weren't as I had imagined them but that said some, Jacob (MEET HIM HERE) in particular, are growing on me though I have to confess that I spent much of the film wondering whether or not the 'long haired Jacob' and the 'short haired Jacob' were played by the same actor - they are so I'll just have to content myself with the fact that it's amazing the difference a hair cut can make.
What about Edward then? More likable than in the books, he didn't come across quite as moody as he did in Twilight.
No, all the brooding was left to Bella this time round, simpering, pathetic and overly moody, I wanted something awful to happen to her just to put her out of her (and my) misery.
However most impressive and making the film for me was actor MICHAEL SHEEN who played VOLTURI leader ARO. Dark and menacing, there was none of the politically correct, sensitive, new age vampire about him, he really was a vampire of the 'old school'.' PW
As for himself? Click HERE for his thoughts on the film.

28 May 2010


A giveaway prize of my choice received with thanks from GMR at SATISFACTION FOR INSATIABLE READERS . Having read all about this novel on several blogs, I so wanted to enjoy it but sadly didn't.

When Milton and Marlo Fauster die in a marshmallow-bear explosion, they get sent straight to Heck, an otherworldy reform school. Milton can understand why his kleptomaniac sister is here, but Milton is - or was - a model citizen. Has a mistake been made?

Not according to Bea 'Elsa' Bubb, the Principal of Darkness. She doesn't make mistakes. Or tolerate them. She personally sees to it that Heck - whether it be at home ec class with Lizzie Borden, ethics with Richard Nixon, or gym with Blackbeard the pirate - is especially; well, heckish for the Fausters. But the principal just might have underrated Milton's smarts and Marlo's nerve. Will the two find a way to escape? Or are they stuck here for all eternity, or until they turn eighteen, whichever comes first?

.... From the outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (From the foreword): As many believe, there is a place above and a place below.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: The only unbland things about her were her eyes - dark and dangerous as an abandoned well - and the fact that she was cutting out a dress pattern with an ax.
All throughout the reading of this book, I couldn't help but feel that the author was somhow trying to step into the shoes of the late Roald Dahl - something he failed at totally. Perhaps it was the characters, many of whom seemed to fall into that kind of 'revolting but with redeeming features that made them rather lovable' that Dahl was so good at or maybe it was the way the other, truly revolting, characters (adults on the whole) all seemed to get their 'just rewards'.
But you know to me the main problem with Heck is that the author just couldn't quite decide what age group he was aiming for and as a result the book seemed to be somewhat a mish-mash.

I think the whole would work well as an animated film where you can get away with relying so heavily on pitching things at both an adult as well as a children's audience but with a novel this just doesn't work.

Too full 'toilet' humour for my liking and relying way too much on puns, I managed an occassional smile reading this novel but never a laugh. Not nearly as clever or as funny as the author seems to think it is, I couldn't help but be disappointed.

27 May 2010

AWAY WITH .......

Inspired by KISSED BY AN ANGEL who, in a recent post, was telling us all that that week she had (and I quote) .......
"been away with the .....

..... fairies."

An expression I am of course familiar with but much more commonly used by my nana (who else) was the idiom 'away with the mixer'. Both meaning pretty much the same thing but just where did they originate? I'm now a women on a mission to find out.


Meaning : Not facing reality; in a dreamworld.
Origin : This phrase has its basis in the Scots/Irish Gaelic tradition of belief in a set of folk myths, the cartoon version of which is a belief in the existence of 'the little people'.
In a mythology that compares with the current fad for stories of abduction by aliens, Irish folklore had the alien role played by the Sidhe, a dominant, supernatural clan of fairies. The stories involved the Sidhe appearing from some hidden place, either their underground lair or from an invisible world, equivalent to contemporary science's notion of a parallel dimension, and spiriting people away. In another link to current scientific understanding of relativity, the stories usually involved the victim returning after what seemed like a few hours only to find that many years had passed in the world of humans.
The everyday belief in a nether world populated by fairies, elves, pixies, leprechauns, goblins and the like was commonplace in mediaeval Europe, as was the belief in their interaction with the real world. A letter to the Scottish poet William Drummond, dated October 1636, contained the following:
"As for the Fairy Queen, of whom you wrote to me, her Apparitions of late have bewitched so many, that I find sundry ready to dance with the fairies."
The belief in people being taken away by the fairies was very well-established by the time that the phrase 'away with the fairies' first came to be used - which isn't until the 20th century. This earliest example of the expression that I can find in print is in the New Zealand newspaper The Otautau Standard and Wallace County Chronicle, May 1909. This retells a story from Ireland, in which a Michael Coyne attempts to convince onlookers that he hadn't murdered his rival, James Bailey:
[Coyne] "Don't mind your son; that is not him you see there." Bridget Bailey understood that he meant that her brother was away with the fairies.
The phrase didn't begin to be used in its current figurative sense until the late 20th century. This item from The Washington Post, June 1987, is typical of the examples of the phrase that are commonly found from the 1980s onward:
"Still away with the fairies, the fey and gentle Incredible String Band epitomised the hippie ideals of the Sixties." - The Phrase Finder.


As I said of similar meaning:-

"Not quite in touch with reality, in a dreamy state". (Merseyside British use) - Urban Dictionary.

And whilst blogging about, I came across this on Husband dearest's site. (Do I have a bone to pick* with him about it? You bet I do).

A while ago he had the nerve, the cheek, the sheer audacity to post a joke on his site. Something I had to stop straight away - after all jokes are MY thing.

Anyway, it seems he's been at it again. No, not with a joke but with something else - this time he was posting about one of those weird (I'm not going to add wonderful) products that I can't resist posting about on Pen And Paper. Go visit him to learn all about the LAPTOPBURKA.


Bone to pick," dates back to the 16th century, simply refers to a dog chewing endlessly on, and "picking clean" a large bone. A "bone to pick" is thus a subject or issue that is expected to require considerable discussion or argument. A similar phrase, "bone of contention," meaning an issue over which two people argue, also dates back to the 1500s and refers, appropriately, to two dogs fighting over an especially choice bone.

It has a slightly different meaning in Ireland. 'I have a bone to pick with you' means 'I believe you have done me wrong and I want to know why.'

In the States the meaning is the same. A 'bone to pick' is an issue to be discussed and resolved between individuals. - Answerbag.

26 May 2010


Brought to you as part of Inspirational Women Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Aine over at THE EVOLVING SPIRIT, I dedicate this post to our good friend Urszula and all the wonderful Polish women I met during our exchange visits there.

Anna Walentynowicz.

August 1929 - April 2010.

Anna Walentynowicz, who died, aged 80, in the recent air crash that killed so many of the Polish leadership past and present, was "in a way, the godmother of the SOLIDARITY trade union", according to the major of Gdansk. But she was more than that: a tireless activist in the union's cause, arguing feistily face-to-face with all comers, even the national leadership.
Born in the city of Równe (now Rivne, Ukraine), and orphaned during the second world war, she became a communist party member after she started working at the Lenin shipyard in 1950, first as a welder and, later, a crane driver.

For a while, she was a model worker, but she rebelled when she encountered what she saw as corruption or any move against free speech, to the point of leaving the party. Indeed, her disillusion sharpened her resolve to distribute the underground newspaper Robotnik Wybrzeza (the Coastal Worker) to as many people as she could, including communist activists.

In the 1970s, she began to help set up independent trade unions, making no secret of her opinion that the political leadership of Poland was doing little to improve workers' rights, freedom of speech or the social or political lives of ordinary people. The authorities were nonplussed by such behaviour, at one stage declaring that she had lost her mind. Meanwhile, she was quoted as saying that she felt free to take such risks because she was a widow and her son was in the military. It came as no surprise to those who knew her well when, in August 1980, not long before she was due to retire from the shipyard, she was sacked.

The angry and largely spontaneous reaction of her fellow workers made history - their response to stage a strike and occupy the plant.

Within a few hours, a strike committee had been elected, and a list of demands had been tabled, including better pay and conditions as well as Walentynowicz's wishes for free trade union rights and an end to censorship of the local press. Within a matter of weeks, there were strikes in shipyards, involving roughly 1 million workers, all along the Baltic coast. Thus, Solidarity came into being, with Walentynowicz a key activist until 1991 when she finally retired from the ship yards.

In 2000, she turned down an invitation to become an honorary citizen of Gdansk, though in 2005 she went to Washington to accept, on behalf of the union, the Truman-Reagan Medal Of Fredom from the VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM MEMORIAL FUND.

Walentynowicz appeared in a clutch of documentaries and played herself in the Polish drama MAN OF IRON (1981). Her activism also provided the inspiration for a 2006 German/Polish movie, STRIKE.

READ MORE about Anna.

25 May 2010


You can keep all your Digital book readers such as SONY'S E-READER and similar gadgets as call me old fashioned but to me there is nothing quite like the feel and smell of an actual book.

There has been a buzz however surrounding ETHER BOOKS since it launched at the London Book Fair last month.

Ether has created an iphone app that allows customers to download short stories onto their phones. HILARY MANTEL, whose work appears on the site, is all in favour, suggesting that Ether's publishing model can "reach new readers" and give short fiction a "new and different life."

Short-story collections are notoriously hard for publishers to sell. This way you can just pick out what you want like a music download. - Anna Goodall, The Independent (READ FULL ARTICLE).
Still not convinced though the fact that it may help up-and-coming authors get their short stories published does appeal.
Of much more interest to me was this short article in the Daily Telegraph.
Children have helped to create the first increase in library book borrowing for a decade, according to new figures.

A total of 310.8 million books were borrowed from libraries across the country in 2008 - 09, shows a report from The Chartered Institute Of Public and Accountancy (CIPFA). This is a one percent increase on the previous 12 months. The number of children's books borrowed increased 5 percent last year with 95.4 million taken out compared to 90.6 million the previous year.

But why do we so love our books and reading? A group of literary critics are to scan the brain to find out just why we love to read.

It is the cutting edge of literary studies, a rapidly expanding field that is blending scientific processes with the study of literature and other forms of fiction. Some have dubbed it "the science of reading" and it is shaking up one of the most impenetrable corners of academia - "neuro lit crit" is where it's at.

Later this year a group of 12 students in New England will be given a series of especially designed texts to read. Then they will be loaded into a hospital MRI machine and their brains scanned to map their neurological responses. - Paul Harris and Alison Flood, The Observer. (READ FULL ARTICLE)

24 May 2010


Some more news - Petty Witter style of course.


"New York's Museum Of Modern Art (MOMA) is well accustomed to the challenges of protecting it's priceless collection from visitors' prying hands. But in it's current show it has rubbed up against an unexpected problem.
"The Artist Is Present features a rotating set of actors in teams of eight who stand facing each other or lie on the floor, dressed only in their birthday suits. The directors of MOMA knew the production would push against the boundaries of propriety for some, but what they hadn't anticipated (doh!) was that a few of the visitors would be overly tactile in their interaction with the art." - Ed Pilkington, the Guardian.


"An airline passenger ate his £8,930 winning scratch card after he was told he could not claim the money immediately.

"Ryanair crew on board the flight confirmed he had won the prize but told the passenger he would have to collect the jackpot directly from the company that runs the competition as it was such a large sum.
"The man then became frustrated and started to eat his winning ticket (well it was probably tastier than your average in-flight meal), ruling out any chance he had of claiming the prize money which will now be donated to charity." - the Sunday Sun.

(It seems that the days of leaving teacher with an apple are long gone.) "A survey by The Association Of Teachers And Lecturers has unearthed an embarrassment of extravagant gifts lavished on teachers by their students, including a Tiffany bracelet, England cricket match, and even a brace of pheasants.
"Other gifts reported by the union's grateful members included £1,000 worth of gift vouchers, a Mulberry handbag and £200 worth of opera vouchers." (I'll take the handbag, thanks very much.) - Rachel Williams, the Guardian. (FULL STORY)

It seems us women have more of an influence on men then we might have otherwise thought.

"A women's touch makes men more likely to gamble (I bet it would have stopped that 'idiot' from eating his winning ticket as well) new research shows.

"The Caress of a woman makes them feel more secure, and correspondingly more willing to take risks (A dangerous thing in the wrong hands, don't you think?), the study found. Experts say the effect stems from the feelings created from being held as babies.

"Tests showed that receiving a pat on the back from a woman made men willing to chance more money than a similar pat from a man. A handshake or a few words did not have the same effect." - Kate Devlin, The Telegraph. (Results published in the journal Psychological Science which is currently being updated and therefore results are not available on-line at this time.)
(Tell us something we didn't already know) HAPPINESS IS A MAN PREPARED TO WEAR MARIGOLDS*

"Research, featuring thousands of couples, dating back to 1970, shows that the greater the amount of housework a man does, the less likely the couple are to separate." (So that's what has kept us together all these years!) - Barbara Ellen, The Observer. (FULL STORY)

And finally, an article from Husband dearest.


"Almost everyone stood when the bride walked down the aisle in her white gown, but not the wedding conductor, because she was bolted to her chair.
"The nuptials at this ceremony were led by I-Fairy, a 4ft seated robot with flashing eyes and plastic pigtails. The wedding today was the first to be led by a robot, according to the manufacturer, Kokoro." - Jay Alabaster, the Guardian. (FULL STORY OR to view video, click HERE.)

* DISCLAIMER: Other household, rubber gloves are, of course available. (Do they have the same effect? I don't know but expect so.)

22 May 2010


Would you believe it? Here are some of the wonderfully weird excuses that motorists have given in order to avoid being fined for motoring offences.

An man claiming to have spotted a UFO said he was so shocked that he couldn't help but stray into a bus lane.

Another driver claimed his bad parking was down to his ....... colour blindness meaning he "thought the yellow line was green."

"It was raining. I thought I could park anywhere if the weather was bad."

"I had a residents' parking permit on the dashboard but my parrot must have knocked it off."

"I can't help it. Someone has hypnotised me to park illegally."

"I had to take an injured dog to the vet and did not want the animal to endure any unnecessary extra pain limping further to the car."

"I parked on a yellow line because I had three puppies in the back and I wanted to keep an eye on them while I popped into a shop."

"I was sleeping in the back of the car. The parking attendant could have asked me to move the car instead of giving me a ticket: although he would not have seen me as I had a blanket over my head."

But parking is only the half of it ......

"I wasn't wearing a seat belt because I'm an exotic dancer and the seat belt pinches my nipple rings."
"I won't lie. I should know better than to speed on that stretch of road because I ran a woman over there last week."
"I didn't know the officer was trying to pull me over. I am sorry for going so fast but, to be fair, I'd had a lot to drink."

"My mother-in-law was nagging me that she would be late for a function."

"I know it was a no stopping zone but I had to let my dog out to relieve itself."
"I have to break the speed limit when going uphill or my van will stall."
"There was a strong wind behind my car which pushed me over the speed limit."
"The speed camera was triggered by a jet plane flying overhead, not my car."
And finally I dedicate this last excuse to my (naughty?) little sister who is terrified of bees and wasps.
"There was a bee around my head so I sped up to 80 miles-per-hour in the hope that it couldn't fly that fast and would have to stay in the back seat area and not distract me."
As reported by Tim Spanton in the Sunday Sun. All these 'excuses' came from Southwark council in South London.

21 May 2010


The fourth book read for the TYPICALLY BRITISH READING CHALLENGE - I'm now up to 'Gordon Bennett' level. Click on the relevant link to view the 1st, 2nd and 3rd books read.

Sinhala, India, 1914.

Married at eighteen to the dashing Jack, beautiful Elizabeth Ravenhart is devastated when her marriage is cut tragically short.

Left Penniless, Bess is persuaded by her domineering mother-in-law Cora to return to England, leaving her infant son Frazer behind until she can afford to send for him. But Cora has no intention of parting with the child, and Bess's desperate attempts to track him down come to a shattering conclusion.

Twenty years later, a knock on Bess's Edinburgh door sets in motion a chain of events that no one could have foreseen. For Frazer has come to claim his family - and his birthright, the majestic Ravenhart House. None of their lives will ever be the same again ....

... From the outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: On the boat, sailing from India, Bess Ravenhart thought about her child.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: Crouching down, they pulled turnips from the ground, hardly bothering to dust off the soil before eating them raw.

Not a bad read, just not a particularly good one either - average and slightly disappointing are the two words I'd use to sum up A Step In The Dark.

At over 600 pages long, it is a fairly substantial book and yet it's too short for its overly cramped, complicated plot and myriad of characters.

Overall the plot is too complex and, with huge gaps left in the narrative, it fails to flow freely. Also overcrowded by too many characters, many of whom seem surplus to the story, most annoyingly of all a whole new plot line and character are introduced with only 70 or so pages left to read making for an exciting ending though I'm afraid to say it's a case of 'too little, too late'.

As I said, not all bad - the novel's main characters (especially Bess) are well observed and I found myself having a certain amount of empathy with some of them. It's just that there is nothing fresh, nothing new in the story so much so that it was like reading so many of the books you have, doubtless read before.

20 May 2010


A bit late I know but I've only just been catching up with this weeks newspapers where I came across a lovely picture depicting a scene from South Korea's Coming Of Age Day.

Celebrated on the third Monday every May, Coming Of Age Day officially sees a young persons transition from childhood to adulthood - in Korea, this being aged 20 instead of 18 as in England.

Click HERE for more images from the 2008 celebrations.

19 May 2010


It was whilst making the comment 'Laugh and the world laugh alone' on someone's blog that I got to thinking about just where the saying had come from.
The result - not only the information needed but yet another poem for Cara's FreeVerse which can be found at OOH ... BOOKS! every Wednesday..
Who Said It: Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
When: 1883.
The Story behind It: These lines begin "Solitude," first published in the Feb. 25, 1883, issue of the New York Sun. The author was Ella Wheeler, and the inspiration for the poem came to Miss Wheeler on a day in early February, when she was to attend the governor's inaugural ball in Madison, Wis. She was on a train, enroute to the celebration, when she noticed a young woman dressed in black sitting across the aisle from her. Since the woman was crying, Miss Wheeler sat next to her and sought to comfort her for the rest of the journey. When they arrived, the poet was so depressed that she wondered how she could possibly attend the scheduled festivities. Later on, with the incident behind her, Miss Wheeler prepared for the inaugural ball. As she looked at her own radiant face in the mirror, she suddenly recalled the sorrowful widow. It was at that moment that she wrote the opening lines of "Solitude".

1855 - 1919.

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;

Weep, and you weep alone;

For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,

But has trouble enough of its own

Sing, and the hills will answer;

Sigh, it is lost on the air;

The echoes bound to a joyful sound,

But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;

Grieve, and they turn and go

They want full measure of all your pleasure,

But they do not need your woe.

Be glad, and your friends are many;

Be sad, and you lose them all, --
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life's gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

18 May 2010


There really are some weird and wonderful things out there - some of which are to be added to my wish list, others not.

To be added:-

  • Membership to the HUMAN LIBRARY MOVEMENT which offers you the chance to borrow people instead of books. You simply walk in to a participating venue, select someone you would normally do everything to avoid and then sit down with them for a face-to-face talk for 30 minutes.

  • CHOCOLATE. Nothing new there you might think but, aha, think again - it turns out that chocolate's not just heavenly to eat, it's also good for the skin. Looking for a glowing complexion? Then reach for those cocoa beans. They have a fibrous coating that breaks down harmful 'free radicals' and bestows antioxidant benefits. And as for the smell! The smell of chocolate can trick your brain into releasing feel-good endorphins similar to a stint in the gym. - Zoe Burn, the Sunday Sun. (READ MORE).

  • A FAIRY TALE BUBBLE-BLOWING FROG PRINCE for the garden. Simply fill it with bubble-making solution (that's washing up liquid to most of us) and, because of its built-in motion sensors, it'll blow bubbles when anything passes by. Available from http://www.giftideas.co.uk/ for the princely sum of £14.99 plus postage and packaging.

  • A KNORK - a cross between a knife and a fork, ideal for pizza.

Definitely not to be added:-

  • Anything made from RECYCLED CHEWING GUM. Costing UK councils in the region of £150m a year to high-pressure hose the stuff off pavements, communal seats and walls etc, designer Anna Ballus "suddenly realised that chewing gum is already a rubber, and rubber can be recycled and made into stuff, so why not gum?" - The Observer magazine. (Read FULL ARTICLE).

  • CHOCOLATE FLAVOURED HAGGIS. You have had to have tasted haggis to even begin to imagine how awful this would be (sorry all you haggis eaters out there) - Scotland's national dish, the HAGGIS "has been deep fried, smothered in whisky cream and rolled in oats but now the great chieftain o' the puddin' race has undergone the final indignity: it has been made into chocolate". Well sort of, not actually blended with the traditional sheep's liver, heart, lung and suet that go into haggis but rather recreated using nutmeg, mace, black pepper and oatmeal, I'm still not convinced. - Amelia Hill, the Guardian. (READ ALL).

  • The latest fashion trend -SKEGGINGS# - an all-in-one skirt and leggings designed to hide all your lumps and bumps (of which I have plenty) while still having the sexy feel of wearing a mini skirt. (#Article courtesy of The Budget Babe website).

  • This rather SCARY GIFT. Hardly the ideal birthday present - for £400, Swiss actor, Dominic Deville will dress as a creepy clown and stalk someone for a week and then turn up at their party and splatter cake in their face.


  • CRISPS. More Husband dearest's thing than mine but Walkers Crisps have just announced their 12 new varieties to be released just in time for the football World Cup. *Japanese chicken teryiyaki * Scottish haggis * Argentinian flame-grilled steak * English roast beef and yorkshire pudding * Dutch edam * South African sweet chutney * Italian spaghetti bolognese * Spanish chicken paella * Irish Stew * French garlic baguette * American cheeseburger. (READ ARTICLE)


  • A recruitment agency in the West Midlands, England, has a vacancy for a SLEEPING BAG TESTER. Those willing to snooze on the job (am I ever) can earn £600 a week seeing which sleeping bags give the best night's sleep.

17 May 2010



A sainted bishop is murdered - and not just murdered, but mutilated and dismembered. An angelic young man, Aaron Stampler, is found moments later hiding in the bishop's confessional, covered in blood and clutching the murder weapon, a butcher's knife. His only words are that he's innocent.
Martin Vail is the most brilliant lawyer in Chicago. He's so good he's managed to infuriate every judge, prosecutor and politician in the state. Now they have the opportunity to exact their revenge - they force him to defend the accused murderer. But Aaron's innocence looks increasingly plausible to Vail: and what he eventually unleashes in the cause of justice has consequences that reach shockingly beyond the limits of a single crime.
..... Inner, front cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Summation to the jury): 'I believe in the law.'
MEMORABLE MOMENT: To Goodman, there was always something incomplete, yet eerily personal, about the scene of a homicide, a sense that somehow the victim would not really be dead until the place was cleaned and painted and restored to its old order and until all evidence f violence had been eradicated.
A book which started slowly and, for a while, seemed to be going nowhere but then soared, taking your breath away - I really cannot praise Primal Fear highly enough.
Following the murder of a bishop, this novel follows the legal process that will see Aaron Stampler either condemned to death or facing a lifetime in an asylum for the criminally insane. Being English, this was a process that was totally alien to me but held my fascination throughout.
A wonderful read, full of totally believable characters, a plot that twists and turns often with the turning of the page and an ending that was unexpected and explosive - it truly took my breath away.
Character-wise I really liked the fact that as much attention to detail was given to characters both major and minor. Prosecuting and defending lawyers (Jane Verables and Martin Vail) were particularly well written and 100% believable - so alike, ruthless, driven and with such a great desire to win, they were both strong individuals, making for good reading.
Also believable, and a particular favourite with me, was psychologist/psychiatrist Molly Arington who though strong and determined, is, at the same time,very feminine and somehow quite vulnerable creating a wonderfully complex character. Then there is Aaron Stampler himself - hugely readable as a character, he is by turn highly vulnerable and then very sinister.

A truly thrilling novel, I can see this being be made into a film.

Primal Fear was passed on from my mam who rated it ten out of ten.

16 May 2010


A bit of a mixture in that in this week's Inspirational Women Wednesday* (on a Sunday) I take a look not only at the drug which was to revolutionise women's lives but also at one women, Margaret Sanger, who led a campaign to desensitise the general public on the matter of sex, and another woman, Raquel Welch, who, it turns out, has a slightly different view.

Fifty years ago this month The Federal Drugs Agency (FDA) approved the use of the birth control pill - the first product to be approved that "was not designed to treat an illness but rather to modify a normal process" - Read more by clicking HERE.

Cited as one of the most important medical breakthroughs of the 20th century, 'the pill' was to have a major impact on the lives of millions of women, their marriage and family life.


Margaret Sanger led the campaign in the US that would gradually -- over decades -- desensitise the general public on matters of sex. A brilliant and remarkably tenacious woman, she wrote pamphlets, published newspapers and books, smuggled birth control devices, founded birth control clinics and got arrested -- all to raise the issue of birth control from the perspective of women’s rights, at the same time publicly downplaying her own anarchist and eugenicist leanings She succeeded in her efforts, and she and her friends were pleasantly surprised when after the pill’s release in 1960, popular opposition to birth control rapidly diminished - Read more by clicking HERE.

I wonder then what Margaret would have made of actress, RAQUEL WELSH**, blaming the pill for the decline of marriage, by saying:

The widespread use of oral contraceptives had led to a breakdown in sexual morality and added to the growth of promiscuity among young people.

The situation had become so serious that "these days nobody seems able to keep it in their pants or honour a commitment"(And) Whilst it carried some benefits, the enduring legacy of The Pill was social anarchy - Simon Caldwell reporting in The Daily Telegraph (Click HERE for the full article.)

* Inspirational Woman Wednesday is hosted by Aine over at THE EVOLVING SPIRIT.

** Not usually one to sit in judgement but under the circumstances I think it's fair to comment that all this sounds a little ironic coming from a woman, who in the 1970's was voted as 'the most desirable female' by Playboy (a well known 'men's magazine') readers and has three failed marriages behind her.

*** Read what other bloggers have to say on the matter by clicking HERE to visit Mad Priest's Of Course, I Could Be Wrong.

15 May 2010


A man drowned in a bowl of muesli. A strong currant pulled him in.

The invisible man married the invisible woman. Their kids weren't much to look at.

Did you hear about the man who fell into an upholstery machine? He's fully recovered.

14 May 2010


Ok, so I can't decide just what to read next, wanna help? Of course you do.

I've just received my latest book package - a set of 6 books, all of which have been shortlisted for the ORANGE PRIZE but am hopelessly lost as to which to read first. Please choose for me.

When George and Sabine Harwood arrive in Trinidad from England George instantly takes to their new life, but Sabine feels isolated, heat-fatigued, and ill at ease with the racial segregation and the imminent dawning of a new era. Her only solace is her growing fixation with Eric Williams, the charismatic leader of Trinidad's new national party, to whom she pours out all her hopes and fears for the future in letters that she never brings herself to send. As the years progress, George and Sabine's marriage endures for better or worse. When George discovers Sabine's cache of letters, he realises just how many secrets she's kept from him - and he from her - over the decades. And he is seized by an urgent, desperate need to prove his love for her, with tragic consequences…
Jay Porter is hardly the lawyer he set out to be. His most promising client is a low-rent call girl and he runs his fledgling law practice out of a dingy strip mall. But he's long since made peace with not living the American Dream and carefully tucked away his darkest sins: the guns, the FBI file, the trial that nearly destroyed him.
Houston, Texas, 1981. It is here that Jay believes he can make a fresh start. That is, until the night in a boat out on the bayou when he impulsively saves a woman from drowning—and opens a Pandora's box. Her secrets put Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family, and even his life. But before he can get to the bottom of a tangled mystery that reaches into the upper echelons of Houston's corporate power brokers, Jay must confront the demons of his past.

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey's clerk, and later his successor. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages. From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage.

Set just after the events of September 2001, it is a story about Tassie Keltjin, a twenty-year-old making her way in a new world and coming of age. Tassie is a “smile-less” girl from the plains of the mid-west. She has come to a university town, her brain on fire with Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, and Simone de Beauvoir. In between semesters, she takes a part-time job as a nanny for a family that seems mysterious and glamorous to her. Though her liking for children tends to dwindle into boredom, Tassie begins to care for, and protect, their newly adopted little girl as her own. As the year unfolds, she is drawn even deeper into the world of the child and her hovering parents, and her own life back home becomes alien to her. As life reveals itself dramatically and shockingly, Tassie finds herself forever changed — less the person she once was, and more and more the stranger she feels herself to be. 31st August 1939: the world is on the brink of war. As Hitler prepares to invade Poland, thousands of children are evacuated from London to escape the impending Blitz. Torn from her mother, eight-year-old Anna Sands is relocated with other children to a large Yorkshire estate which has been opened up to evacuees by Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, an enigmatic childless couple. Soon Anna gets drawn into their unhappy relationship, seeing things that are not meant for her eyes - and finding herself part-witness and part-accomplice to a love affair, with tragic consequences. A story of love, loss and complicated loyalties, combining a sweeping narrative with subtle psychological observation, "The Very Thought of You" is a haunting and memorable debut.
The Lacuna is the heartbreaking story of a man’s search for safety of a man torn between the warm heart of Mexico and the cold embrace of 1950s McCarthyite America. Born in the U.S. and reared in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd is a liability to his social-climbing flapper mother, Salomé. Making himself useful in the household of the famed Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and exiled Bolshevik leader Lev Trotsky, young Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution. A violent upheaval sends him north to a nation newly caught up in World War II. In the mountain city of Asheville, North Carolina he remakes himself in America’s hopeful image. But political winds continue to throw him between north and south, in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach – the lacuna – between truth and public presumption. A gripping story of identity, loyalty and the devastating power of accusations to destroy innocent people. The Lacuna is as deep and rich as the New World.

Too late, Husband dearest has decided he'll read The Lacuna first. That leaves us with the other five.

13 May 2010


(Click HERE to view enlarged version)

I love cats so was delighted to find that ALEXI'S BOOKS AND SUCH was taking part in a meme, Cat Thursday, dedicated to our feline friends (click HERE to see her last offering).

Now call me prejudiced if you want but I happen to think that as far as cute cats go our four, though sadly no longer with us, are as cute as cute can be.


(Zsar's sister) DOTTY - 'CAN'T YOU SEE I'M SLEEPING?'



(And how could we forget?) PEG - 'MAN'S BEST FRIEND'

12 May 2010


Did you know the oldest surviving love poem was inscribed on a clay tablet around 3500 B.C.? In it, a priestess offers her love and her body to a king.
Part of a MESOPOTAMIAN festival of fertility and power called Sacred Marriage that took place each year to affirm the King's potency and land's fertility and 'marriage' to the Goddess of love and war, INANNA (portrayed right) - this is a translation.

Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet,
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet.

You have captivated me,
Let me stand tremblingly before you.
Bridegroom, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber,
You have captivated me,
Let me stand tremblingly before you.Lion,
I would be taken by you to the bedchamber.

Bridegroom, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savory than honey,
In the bedchamber, honey-filled,Let me enjoy your goodly beauty,
Lion, let me caress you,My precious caress is more savory than honey.

Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me,
Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies,
My father, he will give you gifts.

Your spirit, I know where to cheer your spirit,
Bridegroom, sleep in our house until dawn,
Your heart, I know where to gladden your heart,
Lion, sleep in our house until dawn.
You, because you love me,
Give me pray of your caresses,
My lord god, my lord protector,
My Shu-Sin, who gladdens Enlil's heart,
Give my pray of your caresses.
Your place goodly as honey, pray lay your hand on it,
Bring your hand over like a gishban-garment,
Cup your hand over it like a gishban-sikin-garment.

FreeVerse is a weekly meme brought to you by Cara at OOH ... BOOKS!

11 May 2010


Having been told by his medical team that he must rest for the next 4 to 6 weeks, I thought writing this review might keep Himself out of mischief - at least for a while. Please feel free to argue with him if you have read the book and have a differing opinion - he won't bite (well only a slight nip) and enjoys a good debate.

Blueeyedboy – Joanne Harris
DoubleDay March 2010.

This book is the second of my Easter week purchases, in an attempt to lift my head from the text books. Having spent much of the last 3 months trying to understand the theory of Free Will I was hopeful of something not too challenging to enjoy.

Having read and enjoyed Chocolat a few years ago (Post-cinema and theological discourse on Christ as chocolate) I had not otherwise read anything by Joanne Harris and was looking forward to a similar journey. But Woe! The brief newspaper reviews I had seen and a snatch of TV interview with the author, which had whetted my appetite, enticed me to engage, were to disappoint.

“Blueeyedboy is a pointless, plotless, incoherent mess.”
Emma Thompson –
Amazon Customer Reviews, from a confessed Harris fan.

This is a fairly concise summary of my feelings about the book, sadly witnessed after the fact. Part of the attraction to the book was that it is in form presented as blog entries by the eponymous Blueeyedboy, with occasional comments from his regulars and the occasional blog post from one or two of them to provide some externalised perspective. Therein the first level of disbelief is suspended as we begin to see a story of familial breakdown, child abuse and its collateral damage. He presents this for us as a fictional account, a blog of creativity albeit written as biography; the pattern of his psychopathy, smelled, seen and heard indeed experienced through his avowed synaesthesia . This does bring forth an intrigue which takes the reader into the first third of this book which is a dark tale, presented by its Freudian central character, planning and plotting the demise of those who get in his way.

Where this story becomes hopelessly lost for me is in the format of blogging as a narrative tool. I take it that Harris is fascinated with the world of blogging but only as a means by which she can examine a deeper fascination with identity, personality and the masks that people wear. The Internet is of course a pace wherein we can adopt and adapt the personae that we are or would wish to be with all of the limitless anonymity, fantasy and creativity it can afford. And here is where the characterisations in this story become hopelessly lost. Once “the big twist” is revealed, (not really, saw it coming a mile off), the rest of the book becomes formulaic without interest and I refer you to Emma’s comment above. Having been invited to suspend our disbelief, the notion that the story is not fictional but biographical coupled with our now natural distrust of our narrator leaves us with no-one or nothing in this tale in which to invest our interest. As it rolls on and we discover that other characters in the book are not who or what they may or may not have promised to be it simply loses any value of investment of time and effort. By two thirds of the book down I was out of it, lack of plot development unengaged by the characters that were no longer identifiable even within the disbelief. I ceased even to care about any of them as a mutually abused and abusing collective. There are no danger of spoilers in this review as by the end I still couldn't tell you who killed who or why or who is approaching who we believe might possibly be the narrator for the denouement, which we don’t even get to read about.

The undefintion of this story in plot and character is all very post modern in its desire and its use of internet themes and blogging as a vehicle is gently techno-punk in its construction but the book fails utterly to say anything of significance about either. Even the most fantastical suspension of disbelief (for therein is the attraction of fiction) does need to have some fixed point, a doorway or an anchor through which we can connect and be drawn into the alternate reality. This tale provides neither.

So I’m going back to trying to combine compatible determinism and hard determinism…it’s easier to see the point.

Neal Terry

May 2010

10 May 2010


It's criminal (pun intended) just how stupid these thieves are.

* A thief wasn't so flush when he was caught short making a getaway. He was forced to stop for a wee - and he left his £600 haul on the cistern of the public toilet in Klagenfurt, Austria.

(My favourite) * Two would-be robbers tried to speed up their heist in Connecticut, USA, by ringing up the bank in advance telling them to have the cash ready for them. When they arrived, they were surprised to find police waiting for them in the car park.

* A masked gunmen who tried to rob a bank in Kirchheim, Austria, turned up on it's early closing day. Staff - who were undertaking a training session - laughed as the man, who was wearing a mask of President Obama, banged on the door to be let in.

* A drunken thief who stole a bottle of schnapps from a grocery store in Wyoming, USA, attempted to hide in a nearby building, only to discover it was the ...... local police station.

* A thief who stuffed 75 glass bottles of body lotion down his trousers failed to make a clean getaway. Police in Massachusetts, USA, caught him because he was so weighed down by the five gallons of lotion that he couldn't run. (Brings a whole new meaning to the Michael Jackson song, Smooth Criminal. Body lotion - smooth. Ok so it wasn't that funny.)

(Talking of music) * Police are feeling confident about catching a thief spotted on camera snatching cash from the till of a music shop in Christchurch, New Zealand. Just moments before the robbery, the hapless thief had reserved a Pink Floyd album at the store and left staff with his name AND address.

* Lovesick crook, Stephen Bennet, 20, became so attracted to a woman he robbed that he returned to her home in Ohio, USA, two hours after the crime to ask her out on a date. Unsurprisingly, he was promptly arrested.

(Just to prove that it isn't only Austria, New Zealand and America who have brainless criminals.)

* The manager of an Asda store in Lancashire, England, thought there was something familiar about an applicant he was interviewing for a job as a self-stacker. Then he remembered he'd spotted Simon Holden, 22, on CCTV footage earlier in the week stealing four boxes of lager off the supermarket's shelves. (Mmm, I wonder if he got the job?)

(I shouldn't have laughed but I did) * In England, some Essex jewel thieves chose the wrong getaway driver in John Smith, 18. He has no forearms and needed someone to change gear for him. He drove 30 miles before crashing.

(Back across 'the pond') * On-the-run bank robber, Mark White, 32, was arrested after he hitched a ride with an undercover police officer in Michigan.

9 May 2010


Celebrating it's 75TH BIRTHDAY this year, publisher, PUFFIN, the children's division of the company, which has just celebrated its 70TH BIRTHDAY, has compiled a list of its 70 best books of all time for children.

FROM The Very Hungry Caterpillar to gothic horror Dracula, publisher Puffin compiled a hot list of its 70 best books of all time for children.

Fantasy classics Peter Pan and Alice In Wonderland, pirate adventure Treasure Island, and the tear-jerking Watership Down also make the line-up for young people aged from babies to their teens, marking Puffin's 70th anniversary.

The books are split into categories including best mischief and mayhem, weird and wonderful, sugar and spice, best swashbucklers and derring-do, as well as books to cuddle up with.

There is also a section on the "best alternatives" to Stephenie Meyer's massively successful Twilight books, which were turned into a series of films starring Robert Pattinson.

Suggestions include Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl and Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.

Roald Dahl has his own entire "phizzwhizzers" category, with his classic tales The BFG, Matilda, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, and Fantastic Mr Fox.

Dahl sells more books every year than any other Penguin author in both the adults and children's categories - and his sales rocketed by 35 per cent in 2009.

Watership Down and Charlotte's Web are among the best weepies, The Borrowers is included in best friends and family, and Alice In Wonderland and Peter Pan are among the best weird and wonderful books.

The poignant Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank is in the best war and conflict category.

Modern best-sellers are also featured, such as Diary Of A Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney among best mischief and mayhem, and Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan and Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer included in best heroes.

Charlie Higson's thriller The Enemy is also named among the best blood and guts - along with Bram Stoker's classic horror Dracula and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound Of The Baskervilles.
The best books to cuddle up with category includes The Very Hungry Caterpillar which still sells one copy every 30 seconds somewhere in the world.

Top 20 in the list is:-

  1. The Twits by Roald Dahl
  2. Diary Of A Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  3. The Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog by Jeremy Strong
  4. The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend
  5. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  6. The Truth About Leo by David Yelland
  7. Two Weeks With The Queen by Morris Gleitzman
  8. Charlotte's Web by EB White
  9. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  10. The Bog Baby by Jeanne Willis & Gwen Millward
  11. Peepo! by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
  12. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy by Lynley Dodd
  13. The Enemy by Charlie Higson
  14. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  15. Being by Kevin Brooks
  16. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  17. Captain Flinn And The Pirate Dinosaurs by Giles Andreae & Russell Ayto
  18. Young Samurai: The Way Of The Warrior by Chris Bradford
  19. Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
  20. The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • Marked in red = Have a copy on our shelves, I've read this book.
  • Marked in blue = We do not have a copy but I have read the book.
  • To see the complete list of 70 books, click HERE.