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Saturday April 23, 2022

Spring lambs


I made these as a bit of fun for our Guild meeting.
They were quite popular but I think better in look than taste - but then I'm not fond of marsh mallow. Probably more fun with kids for both eating and creating.

Posted on April 23, 2022 at 10:41 AM. Category: Kitchen and food. | Comments (0)

Sunday April 17, 2022

Easter Sunday


So we hid the hand-crafted eggs around the garden for the almost-two-year-old to find in the Grand Egg Hunt - but unfortunately the magpies found them first... however I suspect they must have been very disappointed when they found no actual "egg".

Posted on April 17, 2022 at 5:13 PM. Category: The Garden. | Comments (0)

Friday April 15, 2022

Summer Pots


I copied a commercial collection to create these pretty pots for the summer - however, they include French lavender with saxifrage and primula, which are not a compatible seasonal combination, so I will no doubt be replacing some of them in a couple of weeks, as they die back.
Below are extravagantly pretty pink "parrot" tulips that somehow escaped the attention of the squirrels last autumn.


Posted on April 15, 2022 at 11:12 AM. Category: The Garden. | Comments (0)

Thursday March 31, 2022

Books in March

  • Troubled Bloodby Robert Galbraith[Read by Robert Glenister]
    BOM-TroubledBlood.jpg I guess this is another one of those I'd been saving up for a rainy day, and it did not disappoint. It is a long book - I believe JK Rowling has been criticised for this in general - but fans are as much interested in the story of the characters as in the mystery plot so I can't see there will be many complaints. As to the plot: it is pretty complex and, in hindsight, highly improbable; however it's told in such a way that disbelief is suspended and it becomes wholly convincing. Strike and Robin investigate a 20 year old unsolved missing person case - with little hope of resolution after so many years. On the plus side, as they are not the police, and as it is all so long ago, some witnesses are more forthcoming than they were at the time - whilst on the negative side, others are more determined than ever that some facts should never be revealed. Add to this a fascinating diversion into the occult as they try to decipher the long-dead DI's casebook, (written as he descended into a mental breakdown), and we are all set for a jolly time!
    Robert Glenister is a simply brilliant reader, and to me he particularly excels himself with this book. He is truly narrating rather than acting out but manages to voice each character quite distinctively, and even includes the "stage directions" as written (yawns, coughs etc) without ever over-doing it or becoming a distraction from the text.
    I think this illustrates a bit of a loss for Mark Billingham's books, which are now narrated by the author; Mark is brilliant, but a comedian first and actor second, (actually I should revise that immediately as I think that these days he has to be classed as an author first).

  • The Edge by Dick Francis [Read by Tony Britton]
    BOM-TheEdge.jpg Dick Francis' books always have a "theme" and they are always at their best when that theme sticks to racing. However in this book the "theme" is not only racing but also a good deal about the Canadian railway system, as the entire action of the plot is on board a racing "special" which is transporting owners and horses between the race venues.
    Some other readers noted - as did I - that the more gripping elements were a bit diluted since the hero, working under cover throughout, never really confronted the the villain of the piece in his true persona. But in truth, the book was not among his best because it was published after Mary had died, and I think there is no doubt when considering the Francis catalogue, that she put the true magic into the books. I think his technical information, structure, and plotting are all sound, but the gut-wrenching emotion, and thrilling sense of jeopardy, are missing without her influence.

  • The Department of Sensitive Crimes, The Strange Case of the Moderate Extremists , The Talented Mr. Varg, and The Man with the Silver Saab
    by Älexander McCall Smith [Read by Saul Reichlin]

    This is an amusing set of tongue-in-cheek mysteries from "Älexander" McCall Smith. It satirises the "scandi-noir" books, dwelling excessively on philosophy and ethics (somewhat at the expense of plot). Enjoyable rather than ground breaking.
    It's a particularly nice touch to have Saul Reichlin's gravelly narration, as heard in the famous Dragon Tattoo (Millenium) series - and others.

    BOM-TheDepartmentOfSensitiveCrimes.jpg BOM-TheStrangeCaseOfTheModerateExtremists.jpg BOM-TheTalentedMrVarg.jpg BOM-TheManWithTheSilverSaab.jpg

Posted on March 31, 2022 at 11:15 AM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Monday March 21, 2022

The Duke


Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren pretending to be old - but in fact portraying characters from the 1960s that were well over 10 years younger than the actors are now. [To be fair I think working people had generally much harder lives then]. Anyway - a lovely film, a great cast, and a courtroom drama and script approved of by the Law Society Gazette.
Based on the true story, Kempton Bunton is shown as a charming if hopelessly irritating man with a practised line in standing up for working people and OAPs. I dearly hope they took the script from his actual testimony in court, but, even if so, I'm sure it had to be much edited to avoid dull procedural legal guff in what is billed as a comedy.

Posted on March 21, 2022 at 11:51 PM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)

Sunday March 6, 2022

Spring Pots


My Autumn bulbs in the beds were been decimated (or worse) by squirrels digging them up to eat - a lack of acorns this year due to the oak processionary moth. However, I protected some small pots with chicken wire....

Posted on March 6, 2022 at 10:33 AM. Category: The Garden. | Comments (0)

Monday February 28, 2022

Books in February

  • Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
    BOM-LessonsInChemistry.jpg I chose to review an early copy of this book (courtesy of Random House and NetGalley) because, as I trained as a chemist, the title interested me. To be clear, I did not expect it to be about chemistry, and - if my friends are anything to go by - I need to reassure other readers that it is not really about chemistry. It is a brilliant piece of story-telling with a fair mix of triumphs, tragedies, and humour, but with a set of very serious messages - which you can either enjoy - or ignore.
    The major problem in life for the heroine is misogyny in science - and the secondary problem is her uncompromising attitude to it. The author is able to magnify these points as the book is set in the America of the early 1960s, where women do not have the brains to pursue serious careers, and when they do, must be suitably modest, and accepting of an inferior role. Although much less overt today, we know that underlying attitudes (unintentional bias at the very least) still severely limit women's success in science (and any other professional fields you care to mention). I read that the author "worked widely in the fields of technology, medicine, and education" and suspect the book is a reflection of her experiences, first or second hand.
    I notice the book's publicity blurb focuses on the central character - but the book is crammed with delightful characters - all brimming with idiosyncrasies, and who are in many ways easily as interesting as her: the precocious daughter, the abused neighbour, the vicar who doesn't believe in God, the slighted secretaries... the dog... In fact they are the real "enablers" who, through their extraordinary natures and kindnesses, give her some degree of freedom to be so fiercely determined in her outlook.
    I can't recommend this book enough - like Nigella Lawson, I was sorry when it came to an end.
    [I read that it has already been taken up by Apple to become a TV series - an obvious development - but I dearly hope they do it justice.]

  • The Appeal by Janice Hallett [read by Aysha Kala, Daniel Philpott, Rachel Adedeji, and Sid Sagar]
    BOM-TheAppeal.jpg I think this is an astonishingly good first novel; the major thing wrong with saying that is that it makes it sound as though it "could be improved on with practice" and this is definitely not the case in my opinion. In fact, it's a really intriguing mystery, presented to the reader in an highly original manner. A series of emails and other documentation is shared with us, as it is in the process of being scrutinised by some junior members of a legal team in preparation for an appeal hearing. It is fascinating to eavesdrop on these messages, as they gradually reveal a conspiracy (and then a murder) as well as the characters of all the players - and they really are "players", all being stalwarts of village society and members of the local amateur dramatic society. The "appeal" is a clever title referring not only to the court appeal, but also a potential fraud relating to a charity appeal.
    I'd also like to confirm that it has a very satisfactory ending - always a key point for me!
    This book was a Christmas gift, but I actually listened to most of it as an audio book. Given the nature of the presentation (emails, post-it notes, facsimiles of flyers, whatsapp messages etc), representing it off the page was pretty challenging, and, once again, very well done. [On some occasions I was glad to have the book to refer to, but I think it would have worked well enough without it].

  • Cry Baby by Mark Billingham [read by Mark Billingham as narrator, joined by a host of others including Robert Glenister and David Morrissey ]
    BOM-CryBaby.jpg A prequel: we've gone back to 1996, and the point in Thorne's life where he's breaking up with his wife, and in the process of purchasing his famous north London bachelor flat. It's a case involving a child abduction which is doubly traumatic for Thorne as he is still haunted by dreams of a previous, and similar, case which ended all too tragically.
    In the epilogue, we return to the present with Thorne briefly reflecting on the case. My only reason for mentioning this is that Mark now puts (lovely) Helen definitively in the past (yes, I'm still annoyed), with Thorne relishing thoughts of moving on. I can see from a writer's point of view, it's easier to have new characters to explore, and I would also say that this inability to settle is very "real" but we have now got to the stage where Thorne will for ever be playing at Jack the Lad in his (I interpret) slobby flat, continually moving on as each new woman finally observes his feet of clay.
    The most interesting thing about this audio book was that it was presented almost as radio drama. The prose was narrated by Mark - so the complete book was actually read out - but all the dialogue was voiced by individual actors, and it really worked so well; all credit to the actors and editors for making it come across so naturally, (because I suspect it was not like a play where all the cast can be recording in one room as a piece). David Morrissey got to reprise his role as the voice of Thorne, and Robert Glenister, who was missing his role as narrator on previous books, had a chance to be included. I would not like all audio books to be adapted in this way but it really was very original and refreshing.

  • Flowers for the Judge by Margery Allingham [Read by David Thorpe]
    BOM-FlowersForTheJudge.jpg As I mentioned when I read the Campion novel last month, I have read only one other Margery Allingham book previously, (Black Plumes), and I found it fairly light-hearted and none too riveting. Mr Campion's Farewell was very much in the same vein - but then, it was not actually written by Allingham, although I had thought it a fairly good pastiche. Hence this book was all a bit of a surprise - a pleasant surprise. It had an interesting plot, and, as far as I can judge, was pretty well written. I was quite captivated by the dramatic descriptions of the coroner's court and the Old Bailey.
    [I note that a reviewer on "Good Reads" states "at times, this is one of the best books that Allingham has written" - and also mentions the courtroom scenes which confirms to me that this may be one of her better Campions.]
    A point of interest to me: the inquest seemed to have a jury - which I thought a bit odd and was driven to look it up; it seems that they have been "rarely used" in England since 1927, and are only mandatory in very specific circumstances - since 1977, their rulings do not commit a person to trial, (a change which took place after Lord Lucan was charged in 1975 - presumably in his absence). As is often the way, having never noticed them before, I subsequently saw a coroner's jury performing in an old black and white movie.

  • Slow Horses, Dead Lions, and The List
    by Mick Herron [Read by Seán Barrett]

    My friend Tony recommended these books some good while ago, and I was pleased to find them in audio book form. They are really gripping and well-written and I can hardly wait to continue with the series.
    The overall style owes a lot to Le Carré, who popularised a much more dangerous and less- glamorous view of spies - intentionally a polar opposite to the cinematic version of James Bond. Personally, I enjoyed these stories more than Le Carré in general, (probable exception being Tinker Tailor...), who is more cerebral, and much more poignantly sad. I can't comment intelligently on the comparative writing skill, but although these retain the introspection, sense of anxiety, and tragedy, they are more overt thriller than psychological thriller, and each story has a comforting sense of resolution at the end, (which always suits me better in this type of fiction!).
    Apparently they are due to be released on April 1st as a 6 part series on Apple TV. Gary Oldman plays Jackson Lamb (a kind of subverted George Smiley) - hard to imagine since Lamb is overwhelming fat but from the pre-release photos they seem to have focussed on other characteristics - and Kristin Scott Thomas (a personal favourite of mine) is perfectly cast as Diana Taverner.

    BOM-SlowHorses.jpg BOM-DeadLions.jpg BOM-TheList.jpg

Posted on February 28, 2022 at 7:06 PM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)