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Archive Entries for May 2022

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Tuesday May 31, 2022

Books in May

  • The Cook by Ajay Chowdhury
    BOM-TheCook.jpg Overall, despite its having a decent plot and potentially interesting characters, this book was not really to my taste. I don't think that should put anyone else off reading it - my taste is by no means everyone's. Kamil Rahman appeared first in The Waiter, and although I prefer to read books in order, when the publishers via Netgalley kindly offered me Kamil's second outing to review, I decided to read it first. I feel that may have been my mistake. Reviews of The Waiter, explicitly mention the vivid interweaving of cultures by alternating between past events in Kolkata and the present in London being so enjoyable. However, unlike the first book, the action here is based solely in London, and I found it very hard to engage with the characters and the communities. Even though I the fault may be with me, (in that the age and background of the players is well outside my demographic), I think the author should have made me engage more, and thus given me more of an interest in things about which I know little. I have the slight impression that the author said all he wanted to about the characters in the first book, (perhaps an indication that they are a little shallow?). Even the themes of homelessness and domestic abuse - which are shocking and ever-present in our society - failed to raise the emotions in the way they should have.
    Despite the good story, I felt Kamil's investigation came across as implausible; the concept of a familiar crew getting together to solve a mystery on their own smacked almost of children's books. All books with "amateur detectives" have this kind of inherent problem - I heard one experienced author saying: "why would a person in reality accept being questioned by anyone other than the police?". However, again, I think it's the author's job to answer that question, and make me suspend my disbelief. Despite all this, I am still keen to read "The Waiter", and I hope we might get improved characterisations as the series - and the author - progress.

  • A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz [Read by Rory Kinnear]
    BOM-ALineToKill.jpg Of course, as with most of Anthony Horowitz's (may I call you Tony? no?) output - I loved this next book in this series. The plot is good, the characters wonderful, and ... well, what more can I say?
    As this was an audio book - and I would say again what an appropriate reader they have found in Rory Kinnear - they followed an apparent trend, by including an interview with the author at the end. I found this really interesting, not only in Anthony's opinion and insights about writing this and other books, but in his sheer irrepressible enthusiasm for his craft. This is reminiscent of some anecdotes I heard from friends who worked with him in his youth in advertising, when "all he ever wanted to do was to write and write".
    I was also very pleased to discover that far more books are in plan for this series, (beyond the "three book deal"). True to the professional he is, Anthony explained that he will need to vary the form in those future books, and how he might do so, to avoid his own fictional role as "Watson" becoming stale.

  • Hot to Trot by M C Beaton with R W Green [read by Penelope Keith]
    BOM-HotToTrot.jpg As Marion Chesney died in 2019, I thought this would be the last Agatha Raising book I would read; however, this book credits Rod Green as a co-author, and it seems clear he will continue to write the Agatha books*. He makes it clear that Marion worked with him and supplied him with some future storylines - as well as approving his first few chapters on her behalf - before she passed away. I think he really has done a good job, although I do detect a slight mellowing - and I suspect he will be unable to bring himself to make Agatha quite as outrageously foolish as she has been under Marion's watch. (I always likened Agatha to an adult version of Blyton's Noddy - he is based on naughty 3 year old mentality, while she is a naughty 50 year old.)
    * R W Green also seems to be continuing the Hamish McBeth series - a delight yet to come for me - I loved the TV series with Robert Carlyle, and was rather put off to discover that it and he ("not a Highlander!") were intensely disapproved of by Marion. I hope sooner or later Green will achieve full credit for the books that he's responsible for.

  • Swallowdale and Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome
    [Read by Gareth Armstrong] BOM-Swallowdale.jpg BOM-PeterDuck.jpg
    Swallowdale takes place the year after Swallows and Amazons. The Swallows - so excited with the prospect of another summer holiday in the Lake District - have to deal with an accident which holes their boat, putting it out of action for the duration of the story (a couple of weeks); this means they cannot camp on Wild Cat Island until it is mended. Instead they find a "secret" valley in which to camp, and a cave - both of which in fact remembered by their relatives from when they were children. Not to mention the "shipwreck" itself at the start of the book, again, there is a very scary element when a sudden mist descends while the the two youngest children (by then, aged only 8 and 10) are making their way back to camp on their own after an "expedition", and they become lost. Once again - despite knowing the outcome - this is especially frightening to read as an adult where you can not only clearly see that, for all their certainty, they are nowhere near where they should be, as they try to follow the (wrong) beck, but you can also fully understand the true peril of being lost and exposed on the fells.
    Peter Duck is quite a different sort of book. Although it still features the S&As, and although it is described very realistically, it is definitely a bit of a tall tale of adventure. Peter Duck himself is a (fictional) old seafaring man living in retirement on the Norfolk Broads. He is referenced in Swallowdale more or less as Titty's imaginary friend, and she names the "secret" cave after him. It is suggested that this is a story made up while the S&As were staying on a Norfolk wherry with Captain Flint, during the winter between the first two books*. Because of he nature of the story, Ransome has a degree of freedom to write an exciting thriller with somewhat larger than life villains and heroes - and yet at the same time staying on the edge of reality - definite shades of Treasure Island.
    * [I see wikipedia describes it as "metafiction"]

Posted on May 31, 2022 at 9:57 AM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Sunday May 29, 2022

Bletchley Park


I was unexpectedly invited to join a friend and (long ago) colleague on a "works outing" through the company social club (* see note).

It was a terrific day out, and the group was treated to an excellent lunch and tour of the site - and of course we got to see the (or one of the) all important enigma machines. I could thoroughly recommend it as a day out for anyone. The atmosphere of the place has been recreated with dim lighting, recording, and projections - everything looking as though the occupants had just stepped out for a moment.

Below is the bright and airy Library inside the Mansion - but the huts where the coders worked were more or less windowless and very eerie. [And highly reinforced externally with concrete structures.]



Towards the end of the afternoon Sally and I went across to the National Museum of Computing, which is adjacent to the site. The staff gave us 100% attention and considering it was the end of the day, were still stunningly committed to their task of explaining the history of the machines on display. I was totally gripped - Sally rather less so, as by that time we were both pretty tired and still had to drive home....
We still managed a retail visit to stock up on our "careless talk costs lives" coasters, and the posters about saving gas and electricity, which I felt highly appropriate to display in our house today... though maybe not in order to build more aircraft...

* Note: It's a real shame that after a century of existence, this year sees the demise of our "works social clubs" after the company announced they will no longer support them. Personally, I think it's really mean spirited since the cost involved - the level of actual monetary support having been progressively cut year on year since I joined in the 1980s - must be really trivial for such a large multinational (and profitable) organisation. However, I also see that the reality is that the interest in the clubs has dwindled. Frankly, I think younger employees probably have better things to do with their free time, with social media filling this particular gap, enabling them to more easily access a "club" environment on a broader scale. This is not true for the "retirees" section though; although retirees potentially have the same opportunity for broader social interactions, the club enabled them to retain those loose bonds with old colleagues that they no longer met every day at work - every outing was a kind of class reunion.

Posted on May 29, 2022 at 7:46 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Thursday May 26, 2022

Betchworth Castle Walk


Following the relatively uninteresting (and hot) walk along the river Mole last month, I was told that one could walk in the opposite direction on a footpath to Brockham - so we did. After stopping for a cup of tea and a cake at the Reading Room coffee and cake house in the village, we walked back and took a diversion following signs to Betchworth Castle. The latter is not a castle but a derelict medieval house, in process of being saved as a scheduled monument.



Below is an interesting object sighted on the banks of a fishing lake, on the way to Brockham. Someone has set up a wooden hunter - viewed through the hedgerow, it certainly had us fooled for a while...!


Posted on May 26, 2022 at 3:36 PM. Category: Days Out. | Comments (0)

Saturday May 14, 2022

Sonning - Busman's Honeymoon


Lord Peter Wimsey - upper crust sleuth - has married his lovely fiancee, Harriet Vane. But his honeymoon bliss is shattered when the dead body of the house's previous owner turns up in the cellar.

It seems long ago now that I signed up for this outing to The Mill - and after much rescheduling - here we are again. I did hear a radio production of this story in 2014 with Ian Carmichael, from which I remember the plot was slight enough and a cactus played a leading role. Nonetheless, (ignoring the cactus who was a bit wooden), the acting in this production was probably the best I have seen at Sonning* - at best it's challenging in such a small and intimate space. James Sheldon as Lord Peter was really excellent, convincingly depicting Wimsey's determined gaiety as he tries to overcome his somewhat fragile mental state, as well as his sheer joy at being with Harriet (Kate Tydman). I should really mention all the cast as they were a brilliant set of experienced supporting actors - and I was delighted to find Noel White stepping up as the police Inspector one again, (though the audience refrained from cheering on this occasion and probably quite appropriately as it was a less tongue-in-cheek production!).
I also need to say - the meals provided at the Mill are really excellent, and it was so good to enjoy the experience with the usual group of friends and colleagues, especially now I have retired.

* I was interested to read a rather critical review which to me hardly described the same play that I saw - all I can say is it must have been an off day, and since the reviewer admits, he may have eaten too much beforehand I can only conclude it affected his judgement, though why it would have done so negatively I cannot imagine...

Posted on May 14, 2022 at 3:43 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Wednesday May 11, 2022

Ryeland Sheep


I went to pick up two Ryeland fleeces from a neighbour - hoping that someone in the Guild might like to spin them - otherwise I shall do so myself. Above are the two boys in person - very friendly and interested in the prospect of nibbles. Not looking quite as teddy-bear like as they are before shearing. These are chocolate Ryelands and the fleece has some grey so it will be interesting to see what the yarn turns out like.

Also, as always on this day, I am thinking of my school friend Kate, whose birthday it would have been. Today particularly I'm remembering her, and her sisters, as they commemorate and celebrate her life.

Posted on May 11, 2022 at 12:09 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving. | Comments (0)