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Archive Entries for November 2015

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Monday November 30, 2015

Books in November

  • Deadly Election by Lindsey Davis BOM-DeadlyElection.jpg
    By the time I read Enemies at Home, Helen had already got her hands on this, the latest book, (a signed copy!) while at the annual Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival.
    I think I liked this book a little better than the previous ones, but there is a certain style - also evident in the Falco books that I do not like. It's a sort of street-wise cynicism and way of thinking which I do not find convincing or appealing.

  • Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs BOM-BonesNeverLie.jpg
    I'd forgotten how we left Tempe and Ryan in the previous book, but glad to see them back on track; in fact their soap opera life rather than the actual plot line is of great interest to me. That's a bit unkind as some of the plots I find fascinating (like Cross Bones which I would have been riveted by even without the thrills and spills involving Tempe). This is story takes them all over the place geographically and was ... fine ... but I did not feel thrilled by the action and was not caught up in the sense of the danger with the renaissance of an old nemesis.

  • Hiss and Hers by MC Beaton BOM-HissAndHers.jpg
    Again I turned to other reviewers to check against my own thoughts; it seems we all think this is a tired franchise. I don't mind formulaic plot lines but there is nothing truly new here. Some readers commented as I had always thought that these books are really novellas ie short, so I was not tempted to abandon the read. However I think one key point for me was: new readers (had not read previous books in the series) commented that none of the characters seem very likeable - and I do not think that was true initially - maybe Beaton finds them less endearing herself now and that comes through. The other key point - now that Agatha's huge personality is no longer so novel in itself - it becomes much more apparent that all the characters lack depth, and you feel they are interesting enough to be treated a little better in the writing.

  • The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler [read by Tim Goodman] BOM-B&MTheBurningMan.jpg
    As I read this, I was not keen on the way that Arthur seemed to be increasingly "unwell". It then began to dawn that he was not likely to be magically recovering - and then found out that this is written as the last in the series...! A bitter blow as I feel there are lots of aspects to explore with these characters and in sharp contrast to the series above, the characters not only have great depth (all of them not just B&M) but also the author intentionally does a lot with the back story to make each book appear fresh. Fowler's blog entry as he has just finishing the writing the book is very clear - he leaves the door open for more (just a sliver) but basically as a commercial writer this series does not offer him much - a lot of effort for a few though loyal obsessives like me...
    He says in the blog from 2014 that he is very pleased with the writing and I would agree with him - it is an excellent swan song for the detectives - though very sad for all the rest of us....

  • FrancisMatthews.jpg Cast In Order of Disappearance
    As I am so fond of Francis Matthews (still grieving) I was interested to hear him as Charles Paris in this play of Simon Brett's work. It's from 1984 and played totally straight. Matthews comes over (in all things) as a "thoroughly decent chap" so does not fully bring to life the rather dubious qualities of the hero.... however, a good play nonetheless.

  • BillNighy.jpg An Amateur Corpse
    Having listened to the above I am now wholly convinced of how brilliant Bill Nighy is as Charles Paris. He has is utterly convincing as the weak willed, and clearly attractive hero.
    Of course, he is helped along more than a little by the dramatisation courtesy of Jeremy Front. He brings a whole new and modern dimension to the character with great wit and (presumably added) contemporary jokes.

  • PlinyAndMe.jpg How to Survive the Roman Empire by Pliny and Me
    Radio dramatisation by Hattie Naylor, inspired by the famous letters of Pliny the Younger; Kieran Hodgson as Pliny, and Nigel Barrett provides the narrative in the persona of Venta the slave.
    It is a humorous offering but conveys how deeply threatening it was to live in Rome under the emperor Domitian - especially when he sends you a gift.....
    This is written in a very contemporary manner but worth noting that the actual letters of Pliny themselves are also very readable.

  • GeraldHarper.jpg The Psychedelic Spy
    This is a weird and wonderful offering written by Andrew Rissik in 1990 but set very convincingly in 1968. Interesting to hear Joanna Lumley and Charles Gray - with James Aubrey as the hero, Lisa Rowe-Beddoe as his girlfriend, and Gerald Harper as Sir Richard Snark (his evil boss - clue's in the name). Clearly influenced by early James Bond and the era of psychedelic drugs.

  • MartinJarvis.jpg Lucky Jim
    Lovely to hear this all over again read by Martin Jarvis.
    Part of R4 Extra marking the 20th anniversary of the death of Kingsley Amis. Lucky Jim was his first novel written in 1954 while he was himself a junior lecturer at Swansea, and provides a classic satire of university life.

Posted on November 30, 2015 at 10:47 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Sunday November 22, 2015

Stir-Up Sunday

Apparently I have not done any stirring up (on this blog at any rate) since 2008 - and rather like that year, it all seems rather early.


A week ago I made some rather splendid cranberry and clementine marmalade - Waitrose 3 for 2 having produced a localised domestic glut of clementines and then to my surprise, Sainburys having fresh cranberries in stock. In fact, I had a recipe for this from a Sainsburys magazine, which I then lost and could not find on line. In principle of course you could use any marmalade recipe but the proportion of sugar is harder to gauge when you vary the the fruit. But... Caroline to the rescue with the recipe on her perfectly splendid blog The Patterned Plate... and delicious it has turned out to be. [Flushed with success I went on to make ginger marmalade - which was yummy though did not taste quite as much of ginger or oranges as I had expected {was driven to stir in whisky} - the main attraction was that it also involved apples - see reference to "apple glut" below...]

This weekend I made my Christmas puddings. In 2008 I claimed I "always" used Jocelyn Dimblebey's recipe - which was true until 2010. In that year we discovered we had a quince tree in France - a bit naive about quinces, we thought they were rather hard pears that never ripened and grew fluffy mould! That same year Alison referred me to Nigella's recipe which involves quinces and I have used it ever since. It is very fruity and also involves marron glacé - yum - which Waitrose staff always irritate me by claiming is unheard of and yet is always in stock! (This year as a variation they tried to press pureed chestnuts on me.)
I also found that Nigel Slater has an online recipe with quinces - and figs which will be ever more perfect if our fig tree ever produces any - so I have also tried that one. Note that in both recipes the quinces can be replaced by grated apple, and like my original favourite pudding they are both made with a base of breadcrumbs. [There was some mixture left over that I made into a tiny "taster" pudding which we ate right away and it was simply delicious - hard to see how the flavours could mature to be even better!]

We also have a glut of apples from the garden here so for the cake of the moment (to eat now) I made my Almond Apple cake - originally from Mary Berry so bound to be good.

Posted on November 22, 2015 at 9:11 AM. Category: Kitchen and food.

Thursday November 19, 2015

ATP tennis at the O2 - again


Another grand day out watching Federer win his match at the O2. I also enjoyed watching the Bryans win, though that was tempered by the fact that they were beating Jamie Murray and John Peers - who were frustratingly close to winning the champions tie-break at 9-5... [Though it could be argued they deserved to lose allowing a lead like that to slip away.]

This years knitting was a nice plain sock - which I was very discreet about after the tirade that ensued at Wimbledon when a commentator spotted a woman spectator with her knitting.

Posted on November 19, 2015 at 12:15 PM. Category: Days Out.

Monday November 9, 2015

Disturbed Ground


This was so beautiful and perfectly formed I had to take its photo. I looked it up and feel it must be the "orange peel" fungus which is fairly common and pretty distinct. It's a "cup" fungus - and there are other examples in the garden that demonstrate this more clearly - but this one is wonderfully distorted - and the most fantastic colour.
Apparently it is edible but not very tasty - so no temptation to put that to the test.

Posted on November 9, 2015 at 8:23 AM. Category: The Garden.