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Archive Entries for June 2016

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Thursday June 30, 2016

Books in June

  • Raiders of the Nile by Steven Saylor
    BOM-RaidersOfTheNile.jpg I struggled a bit getting through this - but it is excellent that Saylor has moved back in time and given Gordianus not only a new lease of life chronologically but can also explore the younger version of the character. He has done well I think - most noticeable to me was a greater emphasis on the young man's sex life, which although of little interest to me personally (!) has to be a major driving force of an adventurous young man in his 20s. He also has the struggle between his obvious love (as well as then lust) for Bethesda and his sense of propriety required between a man and his slave.
    It's easy to accept the concept of slavery and "benign" masters in the context of Ancient Rome but maybe we should not be so accepting, given the not uncommon reports of modern day slavery in our country even today.

  • Gallows View, A Dedicated Man, A Necessary End, The Hanging Valley
    by Peter Robinson

    I always knew there were books associated with the Inspector Banks TV series but it never occurred to me to read them before now. It is interesting to see how different the TV character appears to be from the man in the books. It is possible they have tried to keep the fundamental "man" in the drama but his personal circumstances differ quite a lot - at least in these first 4 books. I seem to remember Aftermath being one of the TV shows and that is quite a long way into the series of books so maybe the circumstances change.
    Again these earlier books were from the 1980s and it is once again interesting to remember the forensics of the time (or lack of) and other things commonplace now but unavailable then - the most obvious is the internet when you are thinking of investigation, but also mobile phones which changed a lot of the dynamics in thrillers - in fact you often find in modern thrillers that the mobile phone "cannot get a signal" at crucial moments, which although maybe true to life is only a device for the purposes of the plot
    However.... the most noticeable thing for me in these books was the constant references to smoking and drinking! I was actually alive and holding down a job in this era and I do not remember it being at all like that. Quite astonishing the police seem to drink HUGE amounts - several pints over lunchtime and scotch or gin (or whatever was on offer) at every social interaction, with each other and with people they are interviewing. References such as "he had 5 pints but that's not very much for him to be drunk" - blimey I would be under the table.... And I suppose it's not so much that this might be unrealistic - either at the time or even now - but that it is referred to so much in the text. They are either in the cafe eating teacakes and coffee or in the pub with pies and a pint (or vice versa...).
    As to the smoking - very much of its time of course. I started work when smoking was allowed in offices, though it's hard to remember what that was like, and about 5 years later it was stopped. Banks himself tries to give up in book 1, moves to a pipe in book 2, gives up and goes back to cigarettes in book 3 - has a minor dalliance with cigars - and all the while is endlessly debating while visiting witnesses and suspects whether or not it's acceptable to smoke in their houses..... and invariably does so, bewailing the unbiquity of non-smokers these days.
    After all that you can see I have not mentioned the story lines very much - however they were certainly very good, but overall simply police procedurals. I wonder if they improved over the years to deserve the subsequent awards and accolades from the likes of Ian Rankin. Hence very much looking forward to reading more (though maybe a bit of a break after 4 on the trot).
    BOM-GallowsView.jpg BOM-ADedicatedMan.jpg BOM-ANecessaryEnd.jpg BOM-TheHangingValley.jpg

  • Die of Shame by Mark Billingham
    BOM-DieOfShame.jpgThis is a stand-alone story where Mark (may I call you Mark?!) has the usual reader resistance (me) to new characters. However it did not take long to become wholly absorbed in the story. Actually the new detective is not very sympathetic - but she is interesting - I think Mark has tried for a very different type of person here and needs to get a bit more underneath the character he has created if he intends to introduce her in more books. At the moment she has traits and a domestic life. The other characters however are much more fleshed out; in fact none of the characters (the suspect list essentially) is very sympathetic but they are all utterly fascinating.
    Mark has also moved to a structure for the book of moving between two separate time frames, chapter by chapter. I have to admit I cannot remember if he has used it before but here it is very evident. In general I find this a gripping technique but also annoying - I am following one thread and then it stops - I get into the next one again and then I'm moved back. It is used much by Peter May, and Joanne Harris - and it cannot be denied, does work.
    There are references in passing to the characters we already know - but the appearance of Tom Thorne for 5 minutes at the end is simply wonderful, leaving you in absolutely no doubt that justice will be served. [I rather wish that the same could have been said about Rush of Blood. I had hoped he would come back to that in some way in a later book to tie up the loose end. I like my fictional murderers to be bang to rights....].
    Mark receives much praise from others about his observational detail on the characters - which is well-deserved - and he reminds me of Camillieri in this respect. The descriptions are so splendidly visual that they could almost be used a stage directions to move them straight to a dramatisation.

  • Agatha Raisin and the Blood of an Englishman by M C Beaton
    BOM-BloodOfAnEnglishman.jpg I have run out of things to say about Agatha. The book was hugely enjoyable as usual, though I should have read it at Christmas time.
    What I will write though is: I was finally able to catch the TV depiction of her but I was a bit disappointed. I can completely see why they did what they did but it lost its charm for me. Although the books were written not so very long ago and in keeping with the time, they reflected a village society from a slightly lost era, which I felt was rather the whole point: Agatha thrust into this gentler (maybe... apart from the murders!) society with all her "modern" towny ways. However they have been revamped and - plausibly - brought up to date for the TV - and completely sanitised. Everything is a bit toned down - Agatha is less childish, selfish, promiscuous... just less; what happened to her Brummie background, accent and general insecurities? And although the actress playing Mrs Bloxby (oh - and it's all Christian names in the TV show) is excellent I regret the loss of her genteel character and importance as Agatha's "only" friend - and the Reverent Bloxby is just someone else entirely. Roy is a far more reasonable chap on the TV, less self serving and more competent at his job - and rather than simply camp, is explicitly gay which he was not in the novels (as I remember it) and not because of any general inappropriate reticence on the part of the author.
    Lots of complaints about the show by other readers like me - but possibly not fair because simply as a TV show it is passingly amusing. The critics seem to like the idea of Penelope Keith playing Agatha as she did in the radio productions - but even though age essentially precludes her, I am not sure she is my perfect Agatha either. However finding my own suggestion for an Agatha is more difficult than it seems - all my ideas are for women about 20 years too old.... so far in the right age range, I find Samantha Bond, Tamsin Grieg....

  • NoelCowardMystery.jpg Death at the Desert Inn - A Noel Coward Mystery
    More of Noel Coward as a sleuth.
    The Desert Inn was the scene of one of Coward's greatest cabaret triumphs, and makes a great backdrop for "a highly probable Noel Coward Murder Mystery" .
    Stars Malcolm Sinclair as Noel Coward, with Eleanor Bron and Tam Williams as his devoted staff. also features Judy Garland... (Belinda Lang).
    Lots of fun.

  • P-Division.jpg P Division
    Condition Purple: another of the police procedural series set in Glasgow, from novels written by Peter Turnbull. Good bread and butter crime stories - this one originally published in 1989. I listened to Two Way Cut earlier in the year.
    Ralph Riach as DS Ray Sussock, Martin McCardie as PC Hamilton, Gerard Slevin as Reynolds, Martin Cochrane as DCI Donoghue, Gaylie Runciman as Karen, John Buick as DC King, Frank Gallagher as DC Montgomery and Alex McAvoy as Tuesday Noon (I think he's an informer!).

Posted on June 30, 2016 at 4:33 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Saturday June 25, 2016



I dashed back from the Lakes to make time to go to Lesh's 60th birthday party. This served to remind me that (a) I have not seen him for 10 years (!) since his 50th (!) and (b) that I have been writing this blog for 10 years as his last party was one of my earliest entries.

If he looks a little peculiar (below) it's because he is sporting the tasteful gold diamante 60th spectacles I gave him as a gift. It was a fun time catching up in a lovely relaxed atmosphere.


In other news, Chris has become a published author - one seriously academic tome Humans: from the beginning: From the first apes to the first cities and a slightly more accessible Prehistoric Investigations.

Posted on June 25, 2016 at 8:34 PM. Category: Red Letter Days.

Friday June 24, 2016


My day at Woolfest was heavily overshadowed by the result of the EU referendum. I think the country is left a little stunned (those on both sides of the argument). It made the purchase of fluff seem a little irrelevant.

However I bravely knuckled down to shopping and ... among other things... I made a purchase of a delightful ceramic sheep. It is lovely but more astonishingly, I showed the sheep via Facetime on the iPad to my friend in the US in the evening and just on the basis of that, on that very day, she went immediately to her pottery class and made copy and sent me a picture of it in the drying room.


The original was on Sarah McCaig's stand as a Woolly Jumper kit (just add wool). However the actual ceramic work is from Clare Farley of Pinfold Pottery

I hope the designers will forgive the plagiarism - and regard it as the best form of flattery - as it's for her own use only and she will not be attempting to go into business on the back of it - but it is a really charming design - so if you want one of your own use the links to Pinfold Pottery

I also dithered a lot over a "hatbox" wheel which the Threshing Barn had on offer. It was brand new as it seems Louet did a new limited edition run of them. I could not bring myself to make a decision though. Similarly I drooled a bit over a wool picker but as I am not a commercial preparer of fleece I can't practically think of spending that kind of money.

Posted on June 24, 2016 at 11:40 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Saturday June 18, 2016



Just a quick photo of our general meeting at the Box Hill village hall decorated to mark the Queen's 90th birthday. Very festive.
I spent the meeting gossiping and knitting socks for Terry which will probably end up being completed tomorrow (actually on his birthday, but not able to be delivered...). I also picked up a couple of patterns: one for another blanket - a simple concept in thick yarn using slipped stitches, and two, a pattern for a kind of cricket cardigan by Martin Storey (wouldn't you know?) that I have been after for some time; not for a chap this time though, probably for me, if I ever make it.

Posted on June 18, 2016 at 9:00 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Thursday June 9, 2016

The final variation on the theme

Here is the final colourway evolved from Kaffe KAL 2014. Its a simple granny square version using the sets of 4 colours originally specified for each square - but I have reversed the colour order within the squares on some pieces and also randomised the layout. I also made some mistakes in the colour combinations on some squares which I left "in" the design.
It's resulted in a very colourful blanket - smaller than the original knitted versions as each square is smaller; I could have increased the size of the squares with extra rounds but I preferred the balance as it is.

Posted on June 9, 2016 at 9:49 AM. Category: Knitting.