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Archive Entries for December 2021

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Friday December 31, 2021

Books in December

  • High Island Blues by Ann Cleeves [Read by Se├ín Barrett]
    BOM-HighIslandBlues.jpg This is the last of the Palmer-Jones series, written in 1996. The plot is excellent, starting with an investigation into a possible fraud, which is then disrupted by an old friend needing help in the US as he has become the prime suspect in a homicide. George and Molly's relationship is realistically observed as they pursue their enquiries from opposite sides of the Atlantic - a certain tightness in communications, but with the mellow tolerance of an older couple. As often with Ann Cleeves, I found all the details about the birdwatchers most engaging. Their particular foibles are very familiar territory, as well as the more general aggravations you endure (and contribute to!) when being on holiday with a "Group". Not that any groups I have travelled with have been driven to start murdering each other - but for all I know it may have been close.

  • The Dead of Winter by S.J. Parris [read by Daniel Philpott]
    BOM-TheDeadOfWinter.jpg A perfect set of three short stories to complement the Giordano Bruno books. The author has taken us back to Bruno's early life as a novice monk in Naples. She has crafted the stories very cleverly, and completely convincingly brings out the character of Bruno in his youth. [I have noticed that other authors who have tried to do this - giving their ever ageing historical characters further adventures set at an earlier time - are not quite so adept at creating the younger man].
    In his later life, Bruno is very worldly wise - with the exception of his understanding of women, who always seem to be his Achilles heel, and which is firmly reinforced here. It's made very clear that his "elders and betters" approach him rather like an errant schoolboy, giving him as much leeway as they can while trying to guide him wisely to cope with the complex political machinations of Italy at the time. Needless to say he is oblivious to their tolerance, and indeed, acting much like an errant schoolboy. He always seems to believe that he will be able to persuade some influential (and rich) figure to sponsor his ground-breaking academic research and writings, when it is pretty clear that anyone achieving power and influence at that time cannot afford to see him as anything but a heretic. Sadly that seems to be wholly true of the real character on which the author bases her stories, right through to the end of his life.
    The three stories work well read together in sequence, and can be enjoyed whether or not you have read any of Bruno novels previously. If you like historical fiction, you will love these stories.

  • Moonflower Murdersby Anthony Horowitz [Read by Lesley Manville and Allan Corduner]
    BOM-MoonflowerMurders.jpg I can't believe I waited so long to listen to the follow-up to the Magpie Murders - maybe I've been "keeping it behind my ear for a rainy day" to nicely mix my metaphors. Following the pattern set in the first book, we have another "book within a book" - where the clue to the current mystery resides in an old (fictional) Detective Atticus Pund novel. Hence the two narrators who delineate the "real" story from the "fiction".
    Needless to say I really enjoyed it - Lesley Manville is a terrific reader and actress, even though I'm not sure this suited her to a T quite as much as The Thursday Murder Club. However, now I discover that we are to be treated to a new TV production of Magpie Murders, starring none other than: Leslie Manville - which is bound to be terrific (she always is); sadly for me though, at the moment only on Britbox..
    [I feel I might have slightly missed out on an underlying joke (in this as well as Magpie Murders) owing to my my limited perception of writing styles; Anthony Horowitz is a very clever and dedicated writer, and I feel sure he must have created a satirical style for his fictional author, Alan Conway. However, I can state with conviction that it's a great and fun book to read even if this part of the humour passes you by.]

  • A Capitol Death, The Grove of the Caesars, and A Comedy of Terrors by Lindsey Davis

    Set against the background of Domitian celebrating his victories in Dacia, [fairly accurately depicted as blatant propaganda], Flavia looks into what appeared to be a suicide, until a witness came forward suggesting otherwise. Her husband should be investigating, but as an aedile he is bogged down with organising elements of the Triumph, about which everyone involved is deeply cynical. The couple's household is expanded by the addition of a new steward, and a "country girl" - with an abiding interest in elaborate hairstyles - who is determined to brook no opposition to a (non-existent) position as Flavia's maid. Although entertaining, I enjoyed the second book better.
    Here, Manlius is again absent due to a bereavement. Flavia is left to mind the shop - that being her husband's building firm - and is witness to the discovery of a body while her team are clearing a site in Caesar's gardens. It soon becomes clear that this is not the first such event, but most of the disappearances over a period of years it seems, were ignored by the Vigiles as they were deemed to be prostitutes or vagrants of no importance. Flavia takes a different view and is soon in danger of being next on the list. This uncovering of a serial killer in the ancient world is told in the author's usual contemporary style, and, rather sadly, is highly reminiscent of a specific recent case, recently reviewed in the media, where investigations were less than thorough due to assumptions about the status of the victims. There was also a sub-plot about faking antique documents, which was passingly amusing but where the author seemed to be metaphorically winking at the reader with literary in jokes that somewhat passed me by.
    Finally: Saturnalia - my favourite time of year. Lots of fun projected in a very contemporary manner, with domestic scenes we can all recognise. It's lots of fun, but this one could never complete with my absolute favourite "Saturnalia read by Christian Rodska.

    BOM-ACapitolDeath.jpg BOM-TheGroveOfTheCaesars.jpg BOM-AComedyOfTerrors.jpg

Posted on December 31, 2021 at 6:25 PM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Wednesday December 29, 2021

Christmas Jigsaw


This year's jigsaw was a Christmas present - and now our guests are gone, we can take over the dining table. Smaller than last year but still some challenging areas.

Posted on December 29, 2021 at 6:24 PM. Category: Staying at Home. | Comments (0)

Monday December 27, 2021



Actually we were far from "staying at home" over the holiday, as we joined our siblings (separate groups of four...) for festive meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. My present high points were the the most delightful vintage Picquot Ware tea service from George's sister - now lovingly displayed on my vintage mid-century sideboard - and a "Poundland" Christmas Gonk from my sister (to replace the one I lost at Butlins in 1966).

With these turkey dinners safely behind us, we cooked a joint of beef for the ceremonial handing over of the now famously preannounced MinMe Reindeer Cardigan (plus pixie hat).


Posted on December 27, 2021 at 7:31 PM. Category: Staying at Home. | Comments (0)

Tuesday December 21, 2021

Exchange of presents at the Hogsmill


We took the precaution of meeting outside - once again at the Ewell pond hoping to see the kingfisher - and as before, at the end of our walk up and down the river, we found her fishing from her favourite branches. I say "her" as Rob has now confirmed the field marks for the female. It's such a lovely sight on a mild December day.


Posted on December 21, 2021 at 2:55 PM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Monday December 20, 2021

Reindeer Cardigans


I saw this pattern and could not resist it.
No, I don't want to actually make it - The Man already has a cardigan lovingly created by yours truly some years ago. No, that's not the reason.... it's because it matches the child's version that I posted as POM for November in 2012.
Described as a "Western Frontier Jacket in Big Ben" it appears to be the absolute identical pattern - word for word - just knitted in thicker wool. Needless to say I shall be posting it alongside the child's version in the near future.

And on the subject of reindeer cardigans, I have made a mini-me version of the one I made in 2011 - so grandfather and granddaughter can be twinnies over Christmas. I transposed the background pattern from the Martin Storey adult's pattern on to a "Scandinavian" cardigan from a vintage Vogue "Knitting on the Go" book Toddler Knits. The cardigan is too small to work the reindeer from Martin's pattern, so I returned to "Chart B" from the child's version of the vintage P&B pattern (referenced above), knitting a blank panel on the fronts, on to which I could swiss-darn embroider the little reindeer.


To "cap" it all (pun fully intended) I made a girl's hat from a vintage "silver" P&B booklet in the same colours. Whether said girl will tolerate wearing it is another matter.... but it is fun.

Posted on December 20, 2021 at 12:56 PM. Category: Knitting and Crochet. | Comments (0)

Thursday December 16, 2021

A little supplement


I've acquired a tiny vintage Stitchcraft Gift Book - originally given free with the monthly magazine for November 1953. Obviously these booklets were very easily cast adrift from their mother craft so I have never seen it before, but it's in amazingly good condition.
The thing that impresses me most is how many items are included in this teeny tiny booklet. So much so that it's something of an eye test to make use of the patterns without a strong magnifying glass (assuming you wanted to), given the diminutive 6 x 4¾ inch page size, and the really small fonts needed to pack in all that variety.
Despite all its charm, needless to say, today's sophisticated consumer would probably not be entirely thrilled to receive these items as "gifts" for the up coming Christmas season.
But I am tempted...

... for Baby
... and Little Sister
... for Big Sister
... presents for the home.
Lots of pretty things to sew and knit... ... for Mothers and Aunts.
Practical Knitting ... for the Men-folk
... for Grannies
... and Cousins.




Posted on December 16, 2021 at 6:41 PM. Category: Knitting and Crochet. | Comments (0)

Wednesday December 1, 2021

Hogarth at the Tate


My second day up to London since ... well, unless you've been living on the moon I guess you know when. Rob is doing an on-line art course so he wants to look at some specific paintings. One is in the National but today we went to Tate Britain to see the Hogarths, and listen to a lecture - both very rewarding. The exhibition is actually entitled "Hogarth and Europe", and his works are shown alongside other - some satirical - European artists of the time, (indeed, some so satirical that the meaning of the painting is now obscure - though the overall sense of fun remains).

Masks off momentarily in order to snatch lunch in the cafe.


Posted on December 1, 2021 at 6:30 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)