31 Aug 2010


When does a word become a word? For the staff of the English Oxford Dictionary (OED) it is not a philosophical question, but a practical one.

A university researcher recently described his fascination at discovering vaults full of millions of 'non-words' that had failed to make the grade. They included 'wurfing', the act of surfing the Internet at work; 'polkadodge', the awkward dance performed by pedestrians trying to pass each other on the street; and 'nonversion'*, a pointless chat.

"What you have to remember,'" says OED's senior editor of new words "is that once a word has gone into he dictionary, it never comes out. So words have to pass a few basic tests before they can be deemed to have entered the language. They have to have been around a reasonable amount of time and be in common use." - Max Davidson, the Daily Telegraph. (Click HERE for full article.)

*Just as well this one didn't make it or I might have found myself being called 'nonversion' instead of Petty Witter.

And now for ....... some of the words that did make it.

Football fans will perhaps be unsurprised to learn that the VUVUZELA, has blared it's way into the OED as has:-

  • Carbon capture and storage - the process of trapping and storing carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels.
  • Geo-engineering - the manipulation of environmental processes to counteract the effects of global warming.
  • Cheeseball - Refers to someone or something lacking taste, style or originality.
- Sam Jones, the Guardian.

(To view the other words added click HERE)

But sad to say publishers of the OED have confirmed that the third edition may never appear in print. Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press said "The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year." Asked if he thought the third edition would appear in printed format, he said "I don't think so." - the Guardian.

Annoyed by TEXT-SPEAK? Well, It turns out that it's nothing new. No really! the British Library claims text-speak is sooo 19th century.

If you are annoyed by the vocabulary of the text generation, then a new exhibition at the British Library should calm you down. It turns out they were doing it in the 19th century - only then they called it emblematic poetry, and it was considered very clever.

Devoted to the English language and demonstrating how quickly language can change, the exhibition which opens this winter will explore 1,500 years of history from Anglo-Saxon runes and early dictionaries to not dropping your H's and rap. - Mark Brown, The Guardian. (READ MORE)

I dumbed down claims Ian Rankin, the Scottish author of the Rebus detective novels. The author said he sees himself as an entertainer rather than a wordsmith. "Writers like me are part of the entertainment industry," he said.
"We're not winning Nobel Prizes for books that are difficult to read or written in an ornate language." - Laura Roberts, the Daily Telegraph. (FULL ARTICLE)

And finally .......

Women who write intellectual books are seen as strange and unnatural.

Women who write smart, demanding novels are perceived by critics as strange and unnatural, "like a dog standing on it's hind legs" the novelist AS Byatt told the Edinburgh international book festival.

Byatt, who won the Booker prize in 1990 and was shortlisted for last year's award, said it was very hard for women to be accepted if they wrote intellectually challenging fiction.

The British novelist has (also) been vocal in her criticism of sexism in the literary world and hit out at the Orange prize which is limited to only women novelists. "The Orange prize is a sexist prize," she said. "You couldn't found a prize for male writers." - Charlotte Higgins and Caroline Davies, the Guardian. (Click HERE for full article)

Just one more thing (promise):

England's Durham University is to offer a Harry Potter course as part of its education degree.

30 Aug 2010


A favourite of mine, I love visiting Trac over at WELCOME TO OUR WORLD who just recently has been giving out tips on the alternative uses of various cleaning products/household goods - SALT and VINEGAR has uses other than putting it on your fish and chips? Who would have thought it!

Anyway one of her latest posts took a look at an astringent for oily skin - it seems that the following is an effective 'remedy':

Combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons vodka, 1 tablespoon distilled water and 1 teaspoon witch hazel. Apply with a clean cloth or cotton balls to skin, then rinse. Do NOT use this on broken skin as it will sting! This will keep in the refrigerator for a week. - Trac.

Which made me think of a household tip of my own ........

Husband dearest likes a tipple of whisky every now and then and the sister-in-law is a jeweller. "So, the connection being?" I hear you ask. Well ...... Many moons ago said sister-in-law informed me that whisky was a good cleaner for my diamond engagement ring.

Wonderful! I poured a tipple into a glass, put my ring into it and left a note informing Hd that I had done so. Safety first, I didn't want him drinking the whisky and swallowing my ring.

Anyway the next morning there was such a scene.

"What was that your ring was in?" demanded enquired Hd.

"Some of your whisky," I replied, "S says it's good for diamonds."

"Which whisky exactly?" spoken as if he was talking to a particularly unintelligent 2 year old.

"I don't know, it was just the first one that came to hand."

"(Exasperated) The first one that came to hand! Do you have any idea just how much that whisky cost?"

(Shakes head) "No." (By now I'm almost wishing he had swallowed said ring.)

"No, I didn't think so. It was only ?????"

(Gulps) "Oh dear" - or words like that.

The moral of this story being inexpensive whisky works just as well when used for this purpose - save the good stuff for it's intended purpose.

29 Aug 2010


You remember a while back me telling you of a book challenge I was hoping to participate in? Well, unable to easily/if at all obtain the books I decided to give the BIRTH YEAR READING CHALLENGE a miss and decide instead to go with the SEPTEMBER SPECTACULAR BOOK CHALLENGE AND GIVEAWAY (click on the link or see the icon at the top of the page for details) which, as the title suggests, is not only a reading challenge BUT also a giveaway, the idea being:

The challenge will start September 1st and go on through September 30th.

There will be a 5 book reading challenge, ( one book a week) that you will have to read. Which books? Any 5 you want. Its your choice... Easy huh. At the end of that week you will post your review on your blog and add your link to the Mr. Linky at the bottom. ( If you don't have a blog you can either post a comment, letting everyone know what you think about the book or sent me an email with your review) * September first starts on a Wednesday so you can start your first book on Sunday the 29th if you want.

At the end of each week a giveaway will be posted. That's 5 giveaways!! The only thing you have to do to enter is, link your review on that weeks Mr. Linky. Plus get an extra entry if you add the September Spectacular button to your post or sidebar! ( Open Internationally) - Stephanie, The Thoughts Of A Book Junky.
Sound interesting?
I'll be reading:
29th August.

3rd September.

12th September.

19th September.

25th September.

28 Aug 2010


A non too bright man* gets a letter in the post this morning, it lands on the doormat, it says on the envelope "Do not bend!"
He's still wondering how to pick it up.

* I won't lay claim to any one group of individuals (blondes, Tracys)/nationalities (the Irish) though it is perfectly ok (isn't it?) for me to lay claim to the sex of the individual - after all NO woman could be so stupid.

26 Aug 2010



It was winter, 1901. The ancient facade of Cresswell Manor surveys a vast and rich estate - but the land has fallen into decay. A broken gate hangs open - always about to be mended - while the workers' cottages are in dire need of repair. Mortimer Cresswell is an old man now, about to breathe his last, and at his deathbed his family waits, patiently to scrap over his fortune. Only Hannah, Mortimer's daughter, can see that the family has become consumed by private ambition, jealousy and greed.

When Stanislas von Ehrlich, a self-made man of fortune, moves into the neighbourhood, the natural order of things change. Stanislas - ruthless in his desire to succeed - has his eye on Mortimer's land, but the Cresswells refuse to sell, sparking a massive feud. Where tempers flare, passion may follow. Esmeralda von Ehrlich - headstrong, spoilt and beautiful - has never been refused. When she finds herself drawn to a member of the Cresswell household, she is determined to exact her will and exercise her desire.

Bound to another by conflict, passion and betrayal, both families are set on a collision course so powerful, it will completely alter their world.

....... From the outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: "How goes the enemy?"

MEMORABLE MOMENT: "That's too much!" Mrs Gilroy shouted, picked up the pie she had been trimming and threw it at Jose, who ducked. It hit the wall.

A story of two families - one 'old money', the other 'new'. A story of two estates, the families who own them and the workers who work them. A story of the 'have's' and 'have not's'.

Typical of it's genre perhaps best describes this novel - like a hundred other books of it's type there was nothing new about the story and with nothing of real interest happening until well over page 100 The Broken Gate is a bit of a late starter which never seems to fully bloom.

Full of stereotypical characters - many with wonderful names (Lavendar Potts and Dolly Pepper to name but two) - the women are especially badly written and seem to fall into one of two groups - weak and oh so nice or strong and thoroughly awful. The men, however, fare little better and also seem to fall into being either totally weak willed individuals or pantomime villains. The estate owners being shown as people who either love or loathe the 'workers' (there is no middle ground) whilst the workers themselves are written mostly as good characters, 'salt of the earth' types with the odd 'baddie' thrown in for good measure.

Not a good read by any stretch of the imagination, it is never-the-less readable. The main problem being the author seems to start a strand to the story only to end it in the most easy and convenient way which almost always proves predictable and does not make for very interesting reading.

The first book in a trilogy - will I be reading parts 2 and 3? Never say never but I shall not be going out of my way to obtain any further books.

25 Aug 2010


As I've mentioned several time Husband dearest and I have a 14 year old German Student, LISA, staying with us until the end of the month. Not too confident about writing a post for Pen and Paper (why I'm not too sure as her English is probably better than mine) Lisa was happy to answer some of the questions put to her.

You've been to England before, London wasn't it?
(Nods head)
A bit of a naughty question, do you prefer London or Newcastle?
That's difficult. Newcastle is better.
London has got good shops but is too busy, dirty and noisy.

Do you understand the language and in particular us Geordie's?
Yes, I understand the language because we learn it in school but I don't always understand Geordie.

I know you have been reading Harry Potter in English. Did you enjoy it and who is your favourite character?
Oh God! Yes, harry Potter is one of the best books I've ever read. Ooh my favorite character? (Thinks) Serius Black, the dog I think because he always tries to help Harry and never leaves him alone.

We went to see Eclipse, what was it like hearing how the actors actually spoke?
I liked Eclipse better than New Moon.
You saw this in German?
Yes, last November I think.The actor's voices were quite different because I have never heard them before.
So, are you an Edward or Jacob girl?
Hard to say. I don't like Edward, he's cold, pale and unfriendly. I like Jacob better, he is always friendly and he laughs a lot. I've got three favourite characters. Alice is different then the other girls and that's ok. Emmit is a good friend and tries to help whenever he can but the best is Riley.
Riley? But he is a baddie.
I don't think so. When Victoria changed him into a vampire she always told him she loved him and he believed her.
So you felt quite sorry for him?
Yes, because until the end he fought for her love and died knowing she played with him.

You don't eat meat or fish. How have you found the food in England?
(Laughs) Food shops are great, they have more choice than in Germany.

We know you don't like marmite, who does? What food have you enjoyed?
Ooohh. I like peanut butter and blackcurrant jam.
Urgh, no. I like the different sorts of crisps because we don't have them in Germany.

English people like to talk about the weather, how have you found it?
The weather? The weather here isn't really good. It rains too much in my opinion and when the sun is out it isn't really warm.

Anything you really do or don't like about England?
(Smiles) If I say something wrong they won't let me back into Germany (Laughs). I really like peanut butter which we can't find in Germany and I really liked the coast and York and I've never heard so many accents in one place which is great of course.
Ok. We know you don't like the rain, anything else?
Marmite and that you drive on the wrong side of the road.

What has been your favourite activity so far?
Oh? (Thinks then swears in German) Oh, I haven't got a best, I liked it all, York and the coast.

Arti asks how you say goodbye in German.
We have different ways. Auf wiedersehen means see you later. Tscüss, ciao which haven't got a special meaning. Bis bald which means see you soon. That's it.

OK, thanks Lisa.

24 Aug 2010


"If mankind had to choose between a universe that ignored him and one that noticed him to do harm, it might well choose the second. Our own age need not begin congratulting itself on its freedom from superstition till it defeats a more dangerous temptation to despair." - E.M.W. TILLYARD, THE ELIZABETHAN WORLD PICTURE.

22 Aug 2010


Not unlike CHINESE WHISPERS, I saw this idea mentioned by KELLY though she got the idea from DORTE who got the idea from ......

The idea of the 'game' being you finish the sentence by adding the title of a book you have read this year.

In high school I was: The Girl With Glass Feet (Ali Shaw).

I will never be: The Herring Seller's Apprentice (L.G.Tyler).

My fantasy job is: How Will I Know (Sheila O'Flanagan).

At the end of a long day I need: The Good Man Jesus And The Scoundrel Christ (Philip Pullman).

I hate it when: (I'm) Dead To The World (Charlaine Harris).

I wish I had: (A) Little House On The Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder).

My family reunions are: A Step in The Dark (Judith Lennox).

At a party you'd find me with: Dracula: Un-Dead (Dacre Stoker).

I've never been to: Heck: Where The Bad Kids Go (Dale. E. Bayes).

A happy day includes: (A) Return To 100 Acre Wood (David Benedictus). *

Motto I live by: I Am What I Am (John Barrowman).

On my bucket list: The Good Thief (Hannah Tinti).

In my next life I want to be: The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie (Alan Bradley). *

* Read but yet to be reviewed.

20 Aug 2010


Why did the scarecrow win a prize?
Because he was outstanding in his field.

How I wish this post hadn't put me in mind of the scarecrow in THE WIZARD OF OZ - now I can't stop singing the song .....

I could while away the hours,
conferrin' with the flowers,
Consultin' with the rain.

And my head I'd be scratchin' while
my thoughts were busy hatchin'
If I only had a brain.

I'd unravel every riddle for any individ'le,
In trouble or in pain.

With the thoughts you'll be thinkin'
you could be another Lincoln
If you only had a brain.

Oh, I could tell you why The ocean's near the shore.
I could think of things I never thunk before.
And then I'd sit, and think some more.

I would not be just a nothin' my head all full of stuffin'
My heart all full of pain.
I would dance and be merry, life would be a ding-a-derry,
If I only had a brain.

19 Aug 2010


A nation of tea drinkers, we also like our biscuits but shock, horror! .......

It seems that the end is nigh for the good old English biscuit. According to those in the know no longer popular are the humble RICH TEA, CUSTARD CREAM or DIGESTIVE for while sales of 'basic' biscuits fell by 4.5 per cent over the last 12 months, sales of gourmet biscuits increased by as much as 20 per cent in the same period.
Jenny Rea, a leading supermarkets chief biscuit buyer said "In these tougher times people are working harder than ever. They feel they deserve a better biscuit and only the best will do." 

Supposedly a difficult language to learn, what do you think is the most commonly misspelt word in the English language?

Would you be surprised to learn it is 'separate'? The eight letter word came top to to the regular placing of an 'e' where the first 'a' should be. Second in the list was 'definitely', which often falls victim to a string of mistakes including mixing up the second 'i' with an 'a'.
A spokesman for the market research company OnePoll.com, which carried out the study on a sample of 3,500 said "There seem to be some words which we always struggle to get down. A common mistake is writing a word the way it sounds which leaves us muddling up one letter with another and getting it wrong."

Known for our reserved ways, many of us Brits shudder at the mere thought of greeting each other with a kiss, much preferring the good old handshake but what is the key to a good handshake?

A firm squeeze, a cool and dry palm and three shakes. Yes, no surprise that scientists have come up with the formula for the perfect handshake.
More than 70 per cent of people said they lacked confidence when it came to performing the gesture according to a survey.
On average people will shake hands 15,000 times in a lifetime (I want to know who counted) but the poll found nearly one in five, or 19 per cent, hated the act and was unsure how to do it properly. Problems included sweaty palms, limp wrists and lack of eye contact.
Professor Geoffrey Beattie who devised the equation said "The rules for men and women are the same: right hand, a complete grip and a firm squeeze ..... a cool and dry palm, approximately 3 shakes with a medium level of vigour, held for no longer then two to three seconds, with eye contact kept throughout.

All articles courtesy of the Daily Telegraph.

17 Aug 2010



Atlanta lawyer Miles Lord is thrilled to be in Moscow for such a momentous event: After the fall of Communism and a succession of weak governments, the Russian people have voted to bring back the Tsar, who will be chosen from among the distant relatives of Nicholas II. Miles is assigned to perform a background check on one of the candidates, but research becomes the least of his concerns when he is nearly killed by gunmen on a city plaza. Suddenly Miles is racing across continents, his only guide a cryptic utterance of Rasputin's implying that the infamous 1918 massacre of the Romanov family was not the last chapter in their story. The prophecy's implications are earth-shattering - not only for the future of the tsar and mother Russia, but also for Miles himself.

.... From the outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (from the prologue): Alexander, Empress of all Russia, turned from her bedside vigil as the door swung open, the first time in hours her gaze had been diverted from the pitiful child lying prone beneath the sheets.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: A great lover of Russian poetry. One of Radishchev's verses read: God's angels shall proclaim Heaven's triumph with three peals of Hell's Bell. Once for the Father, once for the Son, a final for the Holy Virgin.

What to say without giving too much of the plot away?

I, like many of you, am aware of the story of the last Tsar of Russia and all the controversy surrounding his and his family's execution.. This is a story of what happens when the people of present day Russia decide to elect a new Tsar.

The Romanov Prophecy is a novel of modern Russia but with a good dose of the story of the last Tsar thrown in for good measure. A winning combination, this is one of the best books I have read this year.

Spanning two time zones as well as several countries, this is a thrilling thriller which easily manages to combine a fascinating history with a present day twist. Seamlessly combining fact with fiction, it is fast paced, full of drama and filled with exciting characters.

Billed by the Florida Times-Union as "Berry pulls a Dan Brown", I actually think this story is better than any offering by Brown. Much more intelligent and plausible, Steve Berry manages to take a well known reality and ask 'but what would happen if ....?'

I shall certainly be on the lookout for Berry's other books - THE TEMPLAR LEGACY and, THE THIRD SECRET  - you can't get a better recommendation than that.

The Romanov Prophecy was ex-library stock.

16 Aug 2010


Downright bizarre -  some of the things that get bought and sold at auction.

Churchill's Teeth bought for £15,000.
False teeth worn by (wartime British prime minister) Sir Winston Churchill during his Second World War speeches have sold for £15,200.
Auctioneers said the partial upper plate was bought by an unnamed collector who already owned the microphone Churchill used to announce the end of the Second World War.

Medical instruments and other implements used in the post mortem examination on Elvis Presley and the subsequent embalming of his body are to be sold at auction.
The sale includes an identification tag tied to the singer's toe after his death. All of the items used in the examination and funeral preparations will be sold, from rubber gloves to forceps, to a comb and eye-liner.

15 Aug 2010


As many of you are aware, Husband dearest and I have a young German student staying with us until the end of August. Lisa is 14 and hails from Western Germany.

Used to having the house to ourselves, we were never-the-less delighted to be asked to act as hosts to Lisa but were worried that, with no children and leading a fairly dull existence (I read and blog, Husband dearest goes to work and helps run the local social club, Lisa may find us a little, well, (dare I say it?) middle aged.

Anyway, having e-mailed and FaceBook(ed) for a few weeks, Lisa arrived safe and sound last Wednesday. A truly lovely girl with manners her mum must be proud of, it has to be said though that we have never met a 14 year old quite like her - very curious as to how we live and the differences between England and Germany she keeps us on our toes by asking many questions.

Anxious to learn more about England, so far Lisa has experienced an English city, library, college and hospital (don't worry no one was ill, I had an out-patients appointment), has had a Greek meal with an English family (Husband dearest's. She will meet mine this afternoon), has tasted typical 'pub grub' (chips with a PASTIE* and baked beans) as well as Spanish Tapas, English style, and has been to the pictures (cinema) to see Eclipse which was interesting as she has never heard the actual voices of 'Bella', 'Edward' or 'Jacob' as in Germany they are dubbed into German using the voices of other actors. What else? Oh yes, Lisa has also handled more English money that she ever thought to (she helped us count well over £1000 at the club) and has tried, as well as a pastie, several other English delicacies - STOTTIE (she liked) and MARMITE (she didn't) included.

So what else have we in store for Lisa? She is going to visit HADRIANS WALL with some friends of ours and it is hoped we will take her to BEAMISH MUSEUM, the coast where she may discover just how cold the North Sea is and tomorrow she will get to see a typical English pub quiz team in action.

Hopefully though Lisa will do a guest post on Pen and Paper and tell you of some of her thoughts and experiences - I hope so.

*Grief, I have just discovered that Pastie has quite a different meaning in certain parts of the world, I'm so glad I included a link to the English meaning or people may well have wondered just what we were doing. (See Wikapedia's entry for Pastie to compare.)

12 Aug 2010


Bram Stoker's Dracula is the prototypical horror novel, inspiration for the world's seemingly endless fascination with vampires. Now, written by a direct descendant of Bram Stoker and a well-known Dracula historian, comes a bone-chilling sequel based on Bram Stoker's handwritten notes for characters and plot threads from the original book. Twenty-five years after Dracula "crumbled into dust" Van Helsing's protege, Dr. Seward, is a disgraced morphine addict and the band of heroes that defeated Dracula is being hunted down one by one.

...... From the outer back page.

FIRST SENTENCE (from the prologue, a letter from Mina Harker to her son): Dear Quincey, My dear son, all your life you have suspected that there have been secrets between us.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: .... his novel Dracula would soon become lost on some forgotten shelf in the back of a bookshop, whilst Oscar Wilde's Picture Of Dorian Gray would no doubt go on to be known as the greatest Gothic novel of its day.

I'm really not too sure what I thought of this book. On the one hand, I was disappointed in it as it in no way compares with the original story, is over long and is overly reliant on the original story and yet, on the other hand, it is not without it's merits.

Written by Bram Stoker's Great Grand-nephew, Dacre Stoker, and self confessed horror geek, Ian Holt, this novel is, in many ways, much more 'grown up' than Bram's Dracula. In places much more gory and yet, in others, much more sensitive to the feelings of the individual characters.

Part Gothic thriller, part pure romance and not without humour, I thought the reintroduction of characters such as Jack and Mina Harker and Van Helsing amongst others very clever.

Also pure genius was the addition of Bram stoker himself as a character - a writer, all he "had done was merge his own story with the fantastical tale that had been told to him in a pub"  - as well as all the social issues of the day that were included - Jack The Ripper, the fight for free education for all, the advent of motor cars, the record-breaking non-stop flight from London to Paris, etc.

Not so pleasing however was the strong sexual element. In the original there was always a hint, an understated sexual undertone whereas in Dracula: Un-Dead this was much more blatant, often only just falling short of being overly erotic.

A book I would recommend to all horror fans including those who enjoyed Bram Stoker's Dracula though I feel that the Dracula 'purists' out there may be a little annoyed by some of the changes to the original text that were included but changed in this sequel. Also recommended to all Twilight fans who may be interested to discover just how different the vampires of 'old' are compared to the modern version - unable to tolerate sunlight and with an aversion to crosses and garlic, these old vampires are much darker characters.

Dracula: Un-Dead was a library book read.

11 Aug 2010


Way back when, when I was at school we were forced asked to wear a school uniform, one of the reasons being "it made us feel part of a community". OK, so it could be argued we were indeed a community but within that community there were so may different groups - the clever kids, the attractive kids, the sporty kids, the swots, the geeks, I could go on but won't. Me? I was of the group of kids who people almost never realised were there. Not particularly academically clever, not one of the attractive kids and certainly not one of the sporty kids - we were the group who just quietly went about our school day - as I say people could almost be forgiven for forgetting we were there.

Why talk about this now when it is (coughs and whispers) 26 years ago that I left school? 26 years? I got such a shock when I realised this. Anyway, I digress. I bring this up now as Friday night I went to a school reunion.

Advertised on FaceBook some months ago I hummed and hahed about whether to go as, after all, there was a very good reason why I had not seen these people in 26 years. However, in a moment of madness I found myself pressing the button that said 'accept invitation'. What had I done?

Anyway, the now dreaded night dawned and I found myself leaving the house, having booked my taxi so that I could spend just enough time there so as not to seem rude.

Quite disappointed and yet strangely relieved, I discovered there were only nine (7 women, 2 men) of us there and, yes, just like when we were at school, we somehow managed to break away into 'them and us'. Them being 6, we being 3 - myself and two other women who I had been friends with at school and who I had recently found on FaceBook.

Did I have a good night? Yes, it was good to catch up with my two old school friends who I have arranged to meet up with again. As for the others? Well we were never friends at school (I'm surprised that they even knew who I was) and, funnily enough, we aren't friends now? Any surprises? Yes, I had expected there to be lots of exaggeration going on, people reinventing themselves so that they had really well paid, exciting jobs, so that they lived in hugh houses, drove expensive cars (you know the kind of thing) but there was none of that though I think this may well have happened if there were more of us there - who knows?

So have any of you attended school reunions? What were your experiences? If you haven't attended, would you love/hate to meet up with your fellow pupils again?

10 Aug 2010


Should I or shouldn't I? I'm very tempted by this challenge that I read about over at MY READERS BLOCK. Started by Hotpot Cafe, the BIRTH YEAR READING CHALLENGE runs until the 31st of December, the idea being:-

What books were published the year you were born? This challenge encourages you to find out, and then read some of them. You might even draw some conclusions about what was going on in the literary world that year.
Wikipedia has lists of books by year published. Literary prize lists are a great source, and Googling “best books of _____” will also give you interesting results. *

Ready to join? Leave a comment (on the above link to the Birth Year Challenge and not here) and a link to your post!  (We promise no one will make any snarky comments about your age.)

The rules?

1. Join anytime between now and November 30, 2010. The challenge ends at midnight EST on December 31, 2010.

2. Books may come from your TBR pile or list, but they don’t have to.
3. Overlaps with other challenges are allowed and encouraged.
4. Change your list at any time.
5. Reviews and reactions are encouraged, but you don’t need to have a blog to participate.
6. All genres and formats are eligible. If it’s a book, you can count it.
7. One candle is awarded for each qualifying book you read. There is no limit on how few or how many candles you can earn.

Anything more?

Yes, there are prizes to be had. When you meet your reading goal, we’ll let you select a book from our library – most likely a gently used trade paperback – and mail it to you. But keep reading because . . .

On January 1, 2011, the three readers who’ve earned the most candles will be entered into a drawing to win a collectible first edition/first printing copy of Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2008.

OK. So was there anything of interest published in (uhum) 1968?

Chariots of the Gods: Was God An Astronaut?  -  Erich Von Däniken.
Although in the years following it's initial release, some of Von Daniken's theories have been proven to be somewhat spurious, much of the material in this book is both fascinating and valid. (And let's be honest, if somebody makes a lot of claims, some are going to be proved wrong at one point or another...)Chariots of the Gods explores the possible relationship of mankind's history with beings from other worlds. Was Jesus an astronaut? You may find the concept a little (or extremely) wacky, but read this book, and by the end, you'll be wondering. Absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in offbeat ideas, and almost as important to anyone else who needs to broaden their ideas of the world a little. However strange those ideas may be... (Amazon)

Forfeit - Dick Francis.
Bert Checkov was a Fleet Street racing correspondent with a talent for tipping non-starters. But the advice he gave to James Tyrone a few minutes before he fell to his death, was of a completely different nature. James investigates, and soon finds his own life, and that of his wife, at risk. (Amazon)

Star Quest - Dean R Koontz.
"In a universe that had been ravaged by a thousand years of interplanetary warfare between the star-shattering Romaghins and the equally voracious Setessins, there seemed now but one thing that might bring the destruction to an end..." (Powerset Wikapedia Articles)

Colonel Sun (A James Bond novel) - Robert Markham.
When Secret Service chief, M, is violently kidnapped from his house, "Quarterdeck", James Bond follows the clues to Vrakonisi, a Greek Aegean island, where he, and Ariadne Alexandrou, a Greek Communist agent, plan to rescue M. Meanwhile they must thwart the complex military-political plans of People's Liberation Army Colonel Sun. Sun is sent to sabotage a Middle East détente conference (of which the Soviets are hosts) and blame Great Britain. (Powerset Wikapedia Articles)

By The Pricking Of My Thumbs - Agatha Christie.
In the nursing home where Tommy Beresford's aunt Ada now lives, fellow resident Mrs. Lancaster stirs up worry among those in charge with her bizarre, disjointed ramblings about 'your poor child' and 'something behind the fireplace'. Intrigued, Tommy and his wife Tuppence, who are now in their sixties, conduct an investigation that leads them down some dark and dangerous paths, and possibly into a confrontation with a child killer... (Powerset Wikapedia Articles)

2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C Clarke.
When an enigmatic monolith is found buried on the moon, scientists are amazed to discover that it's at least 3 million years old. Even more amazing, after it's unearthed the artifact releases a powerful signal aimed at Saturn. What sort of alarm has been triggered? To find out, a manned spacecraft, the Discovery, is sent to investigate. Its crew is highly trained--the best--and they are assisted by a self- aware computer, the ultra-capable HAL 9000. But HAL's programming has been patterned after the human mind a little too well. He is capable of guilt, neurosis, even murder, and he controls every single one of Discovery's components. The crew must overthrow this digital psychotic if they hope to make their rendezvous with the entities that are responsible not just for the monolith, but maybe even for human civilization. (Amazon)

* NB. I found the following site to be of much more use when researching books published in 1968 - POWERSET.COM. To use simply click on the link add the year to be searched (1968 for example) followed by In Literature.

8 Aug 2010


As some of you may be aware SCARBOROUGH, a seaside resort on the North Yorkshire coastline, holds fond memories for me as I visited there every year as a child plus it was one of the first places where Husband dearest and I holidayed as a couple.

Having friends now living there we have returned for a short break for the last three years - last week being our latest trip.

Everything started well, leaving the keys with a friend who was busy decorating our spare bedroom, we sat, cases all packed, train tickets remembered, waiting for our taxi. Me in a high state of nerves, Hd, as usual, trying to reassure that all would be well with Madge (my wheelchair for those of you new to Pen and Paper), that there was no chance that I'd get stuck half way up the ramp into the taxi AND even less chance that I would fall off said ramp. Some deeps breaths taken, the taxi arrived and so-far-so-good but then ........

Disaster struck - Madge lost all power. Now was the time to panic and panic I did. What to do? Luckily Madge has the option of us disabling her motor in order that, if needs be, she can be pushed as a manual chair. As I was now half way up the ramp, we decided to continue to the station and worry about things when we got there so Hd, on his knees, checked over Madge as we continued our 15 minute journey to the train station, telephoning the company who sold us Madge as we went.

What an amazing service from ALTONAIDS - "No problem. Where are you? OK, we'll send an engineer out to met you there." And true to their word, five minutes after our arrival, an engineer turned up, pressed one button (it turns out Madge has a safety feature which automatically cuts off all power if her motor capacity is compromised) and we were on our way to sunny (fingers crossed) Scarborough.

THE ROYAL HOTEL where we stay. *

Our bed - the size of a football pitch. (If you click to enlarge you can see Bear Necessity on the pillows). Never have we known a telephone right next to the toilet. What call could be so important? **

* Photograph courtesy of Scarborough Tourist Information.
** Photographs by NJ Terry.

Coming next time: A chuckle, A midsummer night's dream and a naval battle.

7 Aug 2010


Thanks to:-
"A prolific blogger is one who is intellectually productive, keeping up an active blog with enjoyable content."


Here are the Rules:
1.) Get really excited that you got the coolest award EVER!! (Already done!)
2.) Choose ONE of the following options of accepting the OMB Award:
Get really drunk and blog for 15 minutes straight, or for as long as you can focus.
Write about your most embarrassing moment.
Write a "Soundtrack of your childhood" post.
Make your next blog a "vlog" (video blog). Basically, you're talking to the camera about whatever.
Take a picture of yourself first thing in the morning, before you do anything else (hair, make-up, etc.) and post it.
3.) Pass the award on to at least three, but preferably more, awesome bloggers. Don't forget to tell them.

Ok,  I don't drink so that's getting drunk out of the way. I've already posted about one of my most embarrassing moments - remember the HEDGEHOG INCIDENT? A soundtrack to my childhood as also been done (Pretty Little Angel Eyes, as my grandad called me, by Showaddywaddy)  A vlog is still way, way beyond my capabilities so that leaves me with a picture of myself first thing in the morning. Yet again, far too scary - I'm going to have to go with a piece of music that I'm embarrassed to say I love - click HERE to listen to Donald Wheres Your Troosers.

6 Aug 2010


Hows this for the latest in beauty treatments? Fancy a FISH PEDICURE?

When you think of a pedicure, you expect one beautician to be attending to your foots wants and needs, right? Well, not this time. Say hello to the fish pedicure.
If you haven't already heard of the bizarre form of tootsie TLC, the fish pedicure, you don't need to know much; the name is a dead giveaway... Hundreds of tiny carp-like fish nibble on your problem areas - hard skin, cracked heels and blistered skin, leaving you with smooth, sandal-ready feet.
The 30-minute treatment begins with washing your feet with a wet towel (obviously these fish do not tolerate filthiness.) You slowly and slightly precariously place your feet into the chilled water and in no more than 10 seconds your feet are covered in tiny little fish - Cosmopolitan magazine.

OR if the price tag of £15 sounds a little pricey how about a perfect home pedicure not involving fish?

◦Give your cuticles a weekly massage with a cuticle oil, this will keep them hydrated and is excellent for the nail plate.
◦Give your nails a weekly buff to gently remove any ridges, leaving them healthy, shiny and smooth. This will also help when applying polish.
◦Where possible apply a sticky base coat, not only will this shield your nail from the polish it will also help the longevity of your varnish.
◦If you have a summer wedding or special occasion, pick a varnish that is hinted in your outfit, if patterned, or a colour that will compliment the look.
◦If going for different colours on your fingers and toes, try to choose colours from the same palette, using the lighter shade on your finger tips.
◦Be sure not to apply too much polish as it will take longer to dry (especially in the heat) and is more prone to chipping and peeling away.
◦Always apply a non-yellowing Top Coat, this will help with colour fade and changes to the varnish you have chosen - a real must in the heat.
◦When removing varnish, use a cotton pad soaked in non-acetone remover, hold over the nail for a few seconds then gently wipe off .
◦If your nail polish is very thin, open the bottle and leave it for a couple of minutes before applying.
◦Give your nails at least 1 hour to dry, although they may feel dry to touch they can still be tacky and prone to scratches.
◦Regular manicures and pedicures as these will greatly increase nail growth whilst keeping them shiny and smooth.

4 Aug 2010


Did you miss me or did you not even notice I'd been missing? Although I scheduled posts to appear, Husband dearest and I have actually been away visiting friends in sunny Scarborough which means I haven't done a lot of visiting over the last few days and so I hope to catch up with you all very soon and will hopefully post about some of our adventures over the coming week-end but until then .......

I've been naughty, very naughty. I don't know quite how it came to this but I seem to have quite a n number of book reviews waiting to be published and as I may be a little busier than usual over the next few weeks I thought that this would be an ideal time to schedule some of these posts to appear on Pen and Paper.

So, what's happening that means I could be a bit busier than usual?

Well, Husband dearest and I have agreed to host a 14 year old German student for a few weeks this August. Named Lisa, she is hoping to improve her English and will be staying with us as one of the family, experiencing our daily lives and, fingers crossed, seeing a little more of the north east of England.

Anyway, what book reviews are awaiting publishing:-

  • The Broken Gate by Anita Burgh.

  • Return To The Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus.

  • The Amazing Story Of Adolphus Tips by Micheal Morpurgo.

  • Do You Remember The First Time by Jenny Colgan.

  • The Declaration by Gemma Malley.

  • The Resistance by Gemma Malley.

  • The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry.

  • False Ambassador by Christopher Harris.

  • Heretic by Bernard Cornwell.The Secret Life Of A Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill.

  • The Conjurers Bird by Martin Davies.

  • Dracula: The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt.

  • The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie by Alan Bradley.
Not just book reviews though, I'm hoping that I can also bring you some photos of the activities we share with Lisa and who knows she may even write a little about her experiences as an honourary Geordie.

Until then ..........

3 Aug 2010


A woman is sitting in a bar when she hears a small voice - seemingly coming from a bowl of peanuts, she hears them comment on her fabulous figure, her wonderful haircut and how well dressed she is.

Confused she asks the bartender "Is that the peanuts talking about how attractive I am?

"Yes, madam," replies the bartender, "Well, they are complimentary peanuts after all."

2 Aug 2010


A young woman walks home by herself, the tapping of her high heels the only sound. At two o'clock in the morning, it's cold, the streets are deserted, and she thinks she's all alone. Waiting for her, sleeping soundly in his bed, is her baby son. When he wakes the next morning his mother still isn't back. She's never coming back. Because the streets weren't as deserted as she'd thought.
Three women are dead, and Detective Inspector Lorraine Hunt is searching for a serial killer. In Houghton-Le-Spring it's Feast week. A time when all hell is let loose as the fair comes to town, and a frenzy of celebration and decadence provides a temporary distraction from the grim realities of everyday life. It's not a good time to be searching for a stranger. It's not a good time to be a woman alone.
...... From the outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (from the prologue): The little boy watched the other children playing.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: He lifts her face to his and kisses her, claiming when she's dead what she owed him in life.

A much read copy if the condition of this library book is anything to go by. After having read the debut novel (Run For Home) by 'local lass' Sheila Quigley I just had to read the second instalment in the Seahills series to see how the author was developing.

A much better read then the first book, Bad Moon Rising has a lot less swearing and is altogether a better constructed novel with more of a story line and characters (some new, some returning from the previous story)  that are more rounded and better developed.

Though not totally realistic and certainly not a portrayal of Houghton-Le-Spring as I know it this is never-the -less a compelling read. Set at the time of HOUGHTON FEAST Sheila brings in to play some of the prejudices shown against 'the travellers' which is an interesting aside to the main story which involves the murder of several young women, all with dark hair.

Returning from the first book are friends Mickey and Robbie - both lovable rogues - they continue to grow and develope as characters who I'm sure we'll grow to love. If only the same could be said of D.I. Hunt who, in my opinion, remains the weak link in an otherwise interesting cast of characters.

Will I be reading part 3? I didn't expect to be but I must say I'm hooked and have Living On A Prayer on order at the library - lets hope that this one will continue the trend of little swearing.

Bad Moon Rising was a library book read.

1 Aug 2010


1985: A man runs for his life - exhausted, wounded, mercilessly hunted by a woman assassin known only as The Head Hunter. At the end he has just enough energy to spit in her face.

2001: Sixteen-year-old Kerry Lumsdon runs across the same terrain. She runs to win and she runs to forget. When a headless body is found in the wastelands of the Seahills Estate, Detective Inspector Lorraine Hunt is called in to investigate.

Kerry and Lorraine, different ages and from different worlds, come together when Claire Lumsdon, Kerry's sister, is violently kidnapped - the fourth in a series of abductions of young girls.

Headstrong, wilful and convinced the police can't help, Kerry sets out on a frantic search of her own. But her hunt takes her to a world she never knew existed: a violent underworld; a sixteen year old murder; and finally, to secrets about her own past which her mother hoped she'd never have to face.

...... From the inner front cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: Jake was running.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: Kerry was running, her legs a blur as she pounded up Newbottle Street, pas the site of Houghton Pit which was now a reclaimed grassed-over area, and on towards Grasswell.

Not a bad debut novel - it certainly had me wanting to know the outcome. But why all the swearing? In a prologue just short of 4 pages, I counted no less than 29 expletives.

A book I would not normally have read but, having met the author who lives in the town where Husband dearest grew up and where we started married life, I felt the need to do so.

Strange to see in print actual places that I knew (see memorable moment) though I think a great disservice was done to the people of the town in that, without exception, each and every one of her characters swore profusely. That aside, many of the characters were quite likable and you certainly got to care what happened to them. The 'twist in the tale', however, was predictable and I figured it out a long time before the 'big' reveal.

All of the woman in Run For Home were flawed characters with cores of steel that made them strong and determined despite their many hardships. The men, on the other hand, were all real 'rough diamonds', likable rogues who, not beyond breaking the law, had their own moral code. Huge stereotypes of what it is to be a male/female living in the north east of England and I would not say reflective of the actual population.

The first book in the Seahills Estate (a fictional place based on a actual estate in Houghton-Le-Spring) series, there are another 4 (Bad Moon Rising, Living On A Prayer, Every Breath You Take, and, The Road To Hell) available in print with a 6th book  (Thorn In My Side) due for release in September.

Run For Home was a library book read.