Friday, 29 April 2016

The Light Between Oceans - M L Stedman

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                                                                    Tom Sherborne is a lighthouse keeper on an island off the West coast of Australia.  He fought in Europe in WW1, got a gong for his bravery, and desparately tries to keep his feelings and his memories of that time deep inside himself.  When he meets Isobel on shore leave, he is so struck with her and his feelings for her he can think of nothing else, and so, three months later, when he again is on shore, he asks her to marry him and she accepts.  So Tom and Izzie start their married life, on their own, on a tiny island where they can just be themselves, and their early days are a joy - until the first miscarriage.

I have never lost a child, never borne a child, but it is obvious that the first loss hurts, the second loss is even more painful to both Izzie and Tom and there are more heartbreaks to bear as the years pass.  Until, that is, the day when a boat washes ashore.  In that boat is a dead man and a living baby.  As a lighthouse keeper, Tom must report the findings and Izzie knows that - but begs for just one day with the baby before he telegraphs his report. 

The results of her plea form the rest of the story.  A story so sad that I couldn't read too much at a time because I just knew that bad things were around the corner on the next page or two.  But of course, one always wants to get to the end of a good read, and there will be many twists and turns before the last page.  I liked this very much, even though it was a heartbreaking tale for most of the characters.  Well written, with a good feel for the place and the time, I can recommend this, but do bear in mind that the story is about a child who has lost one mother but found another and that like real life, it will not be all blue skies.

Monday, 25 April 2016

British Home Stores - how did that happen?

Yet another chain on the decks and I have steam coming out of my ears..... this morning I heard someone say that they just didn't move fast enough when Primark arrived on the high street.

WHAT????  Primark arrived at least 20 years ago, didn't they?  Well, yes, they did - the first Primark store was in Derby in 1 9 7 3 ...yes, that's right, 1973.  OK, OK, I know that it didn't spread to every town very fast, but to say that BHS didn't move fast enough - they've had a long time to move, haven't they?  So let's  leave Primark out of it.

The Verdant Green (you know who I mean) sold BHS to the current owner for £1 just a few years ago, after he gained a knighthood for services to retail.  He's got a lovely luxury yacht now, and today, in a tiny fit of guilt perhaps, offered some of his own millions to pour back into the pension pot.  Mmmmmm.

And did you know that someone or other sold BHS franchises to places outside the UK?  There's one in the Falklands;  one in Bahrain too (would you go there on holiday and then, spotting BHS, say "ooh, lovely, must just pop in for some knickers?).

I'm not a business person.  But it seems to me that if you could not compete with a cheapo but popular store like Primark, maybe you should have got out of the clothing business some years ago, and revamped to make yourself a chain of just  "Home" Stores.  Yes?

So all those staff can only be paid until the end of this month, and goodness only knows how much all those pensions will be worth after this lot.  Remember Comet?  The same scenario. 

Is it only me that gets bloomin' cross about this sort of thing?  Poor show.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Wonder - R J Palacio

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August (Auggie) is a child with a facial disfigurement.  He will tell you about that at the beginning of the book but he won't actually describe himself.  What he will do is to tell you about his family, his dog, and his first year at school following his homeschooling regime by his mother.

Other people will tell you about their connection with Auggie too - his sister and people at school have voices in this book too - and you'll get a background.  As you go forward you will also find out what exactly is wrong with Auggie's face, the medical term for it, how rare it is, and how he deals with it and how other people deal with him.

This is a fiction, and if you change things round just a little, it is the story of how a "different" child copes with life in the real world.  Insert the "different" you want, i.e. Aspurgers, other religion, different language, other colour........ No, it isn't a preachy kind of book, it's just a book about a child who has learnt to live with his difference, and how others  have to learn how to do that. 

It's aimed at the YA market, but I think any good reader from around 10 years up could read this.  I am an adult who happens to like YA reads, and I thought this a clever approach to a difficult subject, and (very important this) a great book to read.  I ploughed through it wanting him to find good friends at school, wanting him to be accepted, wanting what everyone should have - a normal life.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Victoria Wood, a woman of my times, dead at 62

"Prawns?  They hang around sewer outlet pipes, treading water with their mouths open".

That line, or something very near it, was written for Julie Walters.  I loved everything Victoria Wood wrote, but most of all I loved those lines which were surely overhearings, kept and treasured and then added to either a comedy routine or a sketch.

I loved the song "Let's Do It";  I loved the pathos Julie Walters brought to the "Two Soups" sketch;  I loved Housewife 49 in which she starred herself, and which was not her usual comedy poke in the eye.  In the old days of video recorders I kept loads of her shows to cheer up a bad day or a wet evening.

I loved "Acorn Antiques" - her clever and funny observation  of all those bad soap operas - especially the lines for Mrs Overall.   "Another cup of coffee Miss Babs?" doesn't have a whiff of a smile about it until you see Julie Walters delivering it as she was meant to.

Goodbye Victoria - You made me laugh.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Special Celebrations for an old un!

So there are times when something special comes along.  A family member has reached 90 which, although she is in good health considering everything, is a bit of surprise as both parents died at 64.  Myself and another (step)family member decided that a "do" in a posh hotel might be nice if she would like that.

She would!

So we organised a hot buffet lunch for 30, and met up in a very old and rather nice hotel in town.  She didn't know about the cake, but as the day was one week before her actual birthday, and she had chosen the words for the invitation as "I'm nearly 90, and I'd be delighted....etc" I thought about that as the wording on the cake.  A rich fruit cake with royal icing was just too much.  A sponge with soft white icing would be just too sweet.  And then I found a cake maker who would do just what I wanted!  This was a heavy sponge, flavoured with real lemon juice.  It had two layers of buttercream inside and on the outside, it was covered in buttercream (not too thick!) done in ombre (on all sides a darker colour at the bottom graduating to nearly white at the top).   The top is a sheet of soft icing, marked to look quilted, and the flowers  edible.

And for the slogan?  "I'm nearly 90!" of course!  She loved it, and it just goes to show that sometimes a special day can be marked with something different from Happy Birthday.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Spring Cleaning without breaking the bank.

Found this on another blogger's website.  As it comes with it's own label from the originator, you can see it, and I don't have to ask permission to reissue it.  Even if you only find one new way to clean up on the cheap, I'm glad I could help.

Anyway, I thought this was a real treat (and an eye opener) for those of us who don't want  to spend so much on cleaning products.  The Amazing one was Coca Cola...... if it cleans toilets, what does it do to human pipe works haha!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers won the FA Cup. J L Carr

You don't need to love football in order to enjoy this little book.  I see that Penguin are re-issuing it this Spring, and I hope that it will find some fans.  Yes, it's about football - well, sort of.  So let's just  have a look at the premise.  A small village team of mostly amateurs beat Glasgow Rangers and win the FA cup.  Is it true?  Well, it could be, but records seem to be missing.....  The teller of the tale, a young man who writes the rhymes for birthday cards, becomes the secretary of the club, and so the recorder of meetings where decisions are taken, the team is chosen, and the notetaker of all the Chairman's decisions and asides. The team is built around a set of "postulations".. from Doctor Kossuth, a Hungarian schoolteacher residing in the village, who takes the time to observe football games and comes back to the team with his thoughts on which to build the team.

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At just 140 pages, I laughed to myself throughout.  Improbable characters are somehow very familiar. Apart from Doctor Kossuth, you'll meet the Chairman of the team (and chair of every committee in the village as well as a successful beet farmer) Mr Fangfoss;  Alex Slingsby (short career professional footballer and team captain, and various other colourful characters.

J L Carr who died in 1994, is more famous for another short book, A month in the Country.  He  was a schoolteacher for many years, and produced a lot of short novels.  The style is 1920s, rather than 1970s when this was first published and you might like a dictionary for a few words no longer in common usage.  But it doesn't matter.  If you are outside the UK and an anglophile, you might just enjoy this! (and you don't need to know the rules of football either).  If you like football at all, you might enjoy it; if you want to be amused, you might enjoy it.  You just might enjoy it and have a few quiet chuckles to yourself just because you came across it.

Early One Morning - Virginia Baily

I was attracted to this novel purely by the cover (as I suppose this is meant to happen!) and it has very little about the contents on the b...