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2mennycds

2mennycds

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You can't have everything - where would you put it all?!

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since 28/08/2015

251

Colron Wax Repair Sticks 19/08/2017

De-Colron-ron-ron, de Col-ron-ron...

Colron Wax Repair Sticks Be honest, we’d all like to shell out a tenner or so for a product that, with a single application, will make a battered piece of furniture look like new, or, a little more realistically, restore a loved but scratched table or chest of drawers to near-pristine condition with the same ease. Is this what we have here? Description The product comes in a blister pack of three wax sticks of approximate dimensions 7.5 cm x 1 cm x 1 cm. The sticks are of three shades that correspond roughly the same shades as commonly available brown shoe polishes; light, medium, and dark. The wax is fairly hard, similar consistency to candle wax. The pack also comes with a spatula. The purpose of this is to shave small pieces of wax from the sticks, and, if need be, to blend shavings from more than one stick to optimise colour match with the surface to be treated. Ingredients “Colron Wax Repair Sticks contain a special blend of soft waxes, including beeswax…” is the only statement on the packaging. Beeswax is an effective restorative and maintenance ingredient for wood. The sticks weigh a total of 24 grams. Whilst not cheap, there's a lot of wax here, given that it's for scratch repair! Directions The packaging advises the following: 1 Shave off small pieces of the wax with the spatula provided 2 If matching to a specific colour, blend the shavings from any of the three sticks on a suitable non-porous surface 3 Press the required amount of wax gently into the area needing ...

250th Ciao Review 17/08/2017

My 250th review - retirement retrospective

250th Ciao Review A third of a century (just over, actually!) 34 years’ service with one employer is a long time, especially as I’ve only really worked in two departments in that time. I’d never have imagined myself working in a financial environment for so long, but I seemed to find a niche for myself, and have never been particularly ambitious. ~ ~ ~ ~ The highs ~ ~ ~ ~ The public sector has a poor reputation, often deservedly, but the departments in which I’ve worked have thankfully laid great importance upon accuracy, conscientiousness, and customer service. I’ve always found it satisfying to help sort out someone’s problem, whether that of a member of the public, or a colleague. I’ve also had the good fortune of being in posts where my level of performance is very evident to me and to others. This can be a mixed blessing if going through a difficult patch, but by and large it’s helpful to have evidence of your level of performance. It’s been a reality check for me on occasion and a confidence-booster at other times. Generally speaking, my immediate colleagues have been good team-players; we’ve all pitched in to help each other. Dealing with people of varying personality types is just part of life. Frankly, there have been times when one person or another has rubbed me up the wrong way; it’s sobering to reflect, though, that I’ve probably had the same effect on them at times! I also confess that there have been colleagues with whom I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye whose help and ...

The Long Walk - Slavomir Rawicz 13/08/2017

From Siberia to India without maps or tents - and little food

The Long Walk - Slavomir Rawicz Try to imagine, if you will, undertaking a trek from close to the Arctic Circle in Siberia to India, crossing half-frozen wastes and the fearsome Gobi Desert, as well as the mountains of Tibet. It’s a journey of around 4,000 miles and will take about a year to complete. This book tells of such a journey. It’s no backpacking adventure, however, far less a carefully planned journey with accommodation pre-booked or with makeshift camps provided en route by a support team. It’s a flight from hard labour in a Russian “gulag”. The first section of the journey entails avoiding detection and re-capture. It’s a journey without tents, and with scant provision, most food and water being foraged or, later, freely donated, on the way. It’s a journey without maps, tents, cooking equipment or utensils, or a box of matches. It’s a journey where clothes and footwear have to be repaired along the way, and moccasins crafted from leather. It’s a journey undertaken initially by seven men, joined by an additional fellow fugitive along the way, a seventeen-year old girl. It’s a journey that would claim the lives of some of the travellers. Days at a time without food, shelter or water in the desert and the Himalayan mountains would take their toll. Those who survived the entire journey were in fact far sicker than they realised. Would they survive the damage their bodies had sustained even with intensive hospital treatment? It’s a true story. It’s a story that I found gripping, harrowing, yet ...

Essence of Bessie Smith - Bessie Smith 11/08/2017

Nobody knows you when you're down and out...

Essence of Bessie Smith - Bessie Smith ++++++++++ Sadly, although the most mundane – and conversely, the most expensive consumer products – earn money as well as points on Ciao, music reviews aren’t only exempt from Diamond awards and Premium Fund – like books – but don’t earn a single penny in the writing or for any rating received. Sharing some great music was my main reason for joining the site. I think it’s the poorer for the absence of music reviews, and despite earning no money for writing them, I still want to recommend some worthwhile listening. ++++++++++ Not many people can claim, single-handed, to have threatened and chased off a group of Ku Klux Klan members as they opposed a black music show. Even fewer black people could make such a claim. Bessie Smith is probably the only black WOMAN to have done so. She later disdainfully described them, as “just a bunch of sissies!” She was a large, potentially intimidating woman, whose physical presence and strength were matched only by the power of her voice. Who? Born in 1894, Bessie and her six siblings were was orphaned in childhood. She and took to singing on street corners for passers-by. She began to sing in travelling vaudeville shows, and made quite an impression. When she made her first recording, (“Down Hearted Blues”) for Columbia, in 1923, it sold 780,000 copies – a quite remarkable achievement in its day. Many of her songs cover poverty and its attendant concerns and miseries (including crime and imprisonment), but into this mix were ...

Blackcurrant 08/08/2017

Easily and currantly available fruit bush

Blackcurrant What’s the link between growing a blackcurrant in a pot and building the pyramids? In my case, quite a close one. I decided to grow mine in a pot, and purchased a pretty hefty clay pot from my local garden centre. It’s made of the same kind of clay as that used for drainage pipes so is thoroughly frost-proof. I lined it the inside (apart from the base) with a cut-down empty compost bag to reduce evaporation, put some stones in the bottom for drainage, filled the post with some soil-based compost, planted the bush and watered it in. Mrs M watched much of the proceedings from the dining room window. When I had finished mopping my fevered brow, she mentioned that I had placed it where the washing on the washing line would drag across the bush and damage it! Fortunately, I had an old broom and a crowbar in the garage. Having sawed the broom handle into several lengths and prised the pot enough to slide them under, I manged to roll it a few yards to the other side of the patio. I could have featured in a reconstruction of the building of the Great Pyramid. It didn’t do my back a lot of good, but at least I was confident that my precious crop wouldn’t get damaged by the washing… Blackcurrants Blackcurrant is a shrub that is native to parts of central and northern Europe. The fruit is a little sharp in taste, and usually eaten cooked or as a preserve, and is very rich in Vitamin C. Requirements +*+*+*+ Location, location… Blackcurrants can be grown in sun or part shade. ...

H is for Hawk - Helen Macdonald 05/08/2017

Life's triumphs and tragedies - aided by a hawk

H is for Hawk - Helen Macdonald Not easy to categorise, this is at one and the same time a nature book, an autobiography, and an evocation. Whilst it won’t be to all tastes, I found it spellbinding, poignant, and beautifully written. Essentially it tells, in the first person, of the fulfilment of one woman’s ambition to own a particular kind of hawk and to train it. I have a fascination for wildlife, and a particular fascination for birds of prey. For my fiftieth birthday, my family treated me to a day at a falconry centre, where I had several different birds and spent most of the afternoon with a falconer and a Harris hawk on a hunt for rabbits. We encountered one very fast and lucky rabbit, but the pleasure came from watching the hawk in its natural mode, switched on for tell-tale signs and super-alert as it perched and flew. This book is much more than the tale of a fulfilled ambition, though. Helen Macdonald recounts her bonding with the bird, the ups and downs, the progress and disappointments – and the triumphs, and doubts, along the way. She relates these with candour and from the heart. But it’s even more than this. At the time of obtaining the hawk from a breeder from Ireland, Helen was grieving for the loss of her father. The hawk, which she named Mabel, proved both a therapy and a challenge for her. Whilst she doesn’t cry on the reader’s shoulder, she is disarmingly honest about her feelings, reactions, and vulnerabilities. At times, I felt like cheering; at others, a lump came to my throat. ...

We Die Alone - David Howarth 03/08/2017

Sweden-bound through avalanche, frostbite, - and German patrols

We Die Alone - David Howarth March 1943. A small fishing vessel sets out from Shetland with a secret and precious cargo. Six days later it arrives at its destination on the northern coast of Norway. Remote and sparsely populated – and with less of a German presence than further south, it seems a feasible location firstly for a four-man raid on an airbase, hopefully long enough to allow a convoy to pass undetected, and, secondly, to establish a remote base to train and equip local volunteers to take armed action against the occupying Germans. The boat contains the four Norwegian men who would make landing, and also a store of weapons to equip others. The bold plan rapidly came unstuck, and one man alone – Jan Baalstrud – survived a German ambush that was triggered by the group’s betrayal This book tells of his attempt to elude capture, and to make his way to the safety of the Swedish border in view of the mission’s failure. It really is an against-the-odds tale par excellence; it also tells – very movingly, in my view – the great bravery of those who risked helping him. The author David Howarth’s involvement in the Second World War was as a spy-ring chief. He died in 1991. He heard the outline story during the War, but much of the detail was then unknown. Only after the War did the full story unravel – or as much of it to emerge as was likely to. Despite some missing detail, the author states in his introduction that whilst a certain amount of deduction has filled in some gaps, no imaginary ...

Unstoppable (DVD) 25/07/2017

A runaway train with a vengeance

Unstoppable (DVD) ++++++++++ FILM ONLY REVIEW ++++++++++ In 2001 in Ohio, a train left its yard to begin a 66-mile journey. That’s hardly newsworthy or inspirational material for a film. The circumstances most definitely are, however. The cab held no driver (or “engineer” as our Transatlantic friends designate them). As the train began to move slowly he left his cab to change a point. He thought he had set the train’s braking system correctly, but heh hadn’t. The train began to pick up speed; it was no “mere” runaway in neutral gear, but was fully powered. And, as if this true incident wasn’t enough, two of its tank wagons were full of molten phenol – both highly flammable and toxic. The plot Two men in a different train, one an experienced driver serving his compulsory redundancy notice, Frank (Denzel Washington) and the other a novice assistant/conductor, Will (Chris Pine), initially find themselves threatened by the rogue train, then begin to pursue it in the hope – somehow – of slowing it down and even stopping it before disaster strikes. The cast DENZEL WASHINGTON, to me, is the film’s real asset. Brave and level-headed – and, of course, experienced – his character seems to fit him like a glove. He also has some sadness in his family life, as well as being faced with unwanted redundancy. To me, he plays his part very convincingly. CHRIS PINE is his “buddy” in the film. It’s a tried and tested chalk-and-cheese formula, but Pine does a fairly solid job of his role in my view. His ...

Parker Jotter Ball Pen 18/07/2017

"A bit dear, but very nice, M'Lady!"

Parker Jotter Ball Pen It’s probably psychological, but I struggle to write neatly with a cheap ballpoint. I start of okay, then my writing speeds up and becomes increasingly untidy. A lot of the time it doesn’t matter over-much, provided that others can read my writing reasonably easily. The problem comes if I need to take a little more pride in my writing, such as greeting cards or my collection of book quotations (no “Secre[t] which member inspired me to do this in one of her reviews – thanks- you know who you are!) My first instrument of choice is a cartridge pen, but a lot of paper is too cheap to take the ink, which seeps with feathery or spidery outlines as I write… Appearance The Parker Jotter is available in a variety of finishes: plastic barrel with brushed Stainless Steel upper section/top; entirely brushed Stainless Steel; brushed Stainless Steel with a gold coloured clip; brushed Stainless Steel with coloured lacquered barrel. It’s also offered as part of a set with a fountain/cartridge pen or with a mechanical pencil. I have a PLASTIC AND STEEL Parker ballpoint pen that looks okay with its plastic barrel (available in various colours) and stainless steel upper section/top. The ENTIRELY BRUSHED STAINLESS STEEL Jotter is undeniably a classier looking pen. It is entirely of stainless steel, with a chrome clip or with a gold-coloured one. The latter is undoubtedly the classiest looking version of this pen, in my opinion. But… well, no, we’ll come to that later. The Jotter is ...

The SAS In World War II - Gavin Mortimer 11/07/2017

An illustrated history par excellence

The SAS In World War II - Gavin Mortimer Until the remarkable storming of the Iranian Embassy in 1980 to break the terrorist siege, relatively few had heard of the SAS, and certainly few realised that “The Regiment” – as its soldiers call it – has its origins in World War Two. This book tells its early history from its formation by David Stirling. I have the hardback edition, which I prefer for a generously illustrated book due to its more robust format. The author Gavin Mortimer is an acclaimed military history writer, and Osprey, the publishing house that produced this book, is an established and highly respected specialist publisher of the genre. According to the inside cover, Gavin Mortimer was given access to the SAS Regimental Archives (a mark of the confidence that he had established), and interviewed veterans. It’s one of those military books that I like best, actually. It’s a fine blend of narrative history that gives the book cohesion and personal accounts that bring it to life and engender my empathy. It’s weighted more heavily to narrative than quotation. The illustrations The book’s subtitle is “An Illustrated History”, which, to be honest, is almost an understatement. On average every page contains a photograph, and most are large enough to see as much detail as the image resolution will allow (given that they are almost entirely amateur wartime photographs). These are, in my opinion, extremely comprehensive. There are photos of key characters and locations, photographs of training, and, of ...

Collected - Mary Black 09/07/2017

Lovely vocals, arrangements and moving songs

Collected - Mary Black ++++++++++ Although music reviews earn nothing on Ciao at all (no money, only points!), it seems a shame not to spend some time and effort in writing the occasional one nevertheless! You may (or may not) want to bear the non-PF AND non-payment category in mind if reading/rating) ++++++++++ I first heard Mary Black’s singing on a compilation of Irish folk music (“The Essential Irish Folk Collection”, Dolphin Music) and decided to get one of her own albums. This, a compilation of her work, seemed a good place to start. Who? Mary Black is an acclaimed Irish singer who sings contemporary songs – including some lesser known – as well as traditional Irish songs. She has received a number of awards in her own land, and, according to an article on her website “What Hi-fi” magazine ( I presume this means “Which hi-fi?”) uses her CDs to play on, and compare, hi-fi systems. It seems that the clarity of her voice is a good test for making comparisons. Her main work has been as an artist in her own right, but she was part of an early line-up of the band De Danann. The album The album plays for 42:13 and contains 10 tracks; I think that this isn’t especially generous for a compilation that by definition is released at relatively low cost The songs ~~~~ Song For Ireland ~~~~ Sung to a gorgeous piano accompaniment, this is a solid rendition of a great song. I have a rendition (on the Irish music compilation referred to above) by Barleycorn that has fewer vocal trills and ...

Feliway 07/07/2017

An expensive but effective "way" to go/.

Feliway Our current cat is a rescue cat, Rosie, and I’ve posted a review about her and how we gradually won her confidence – it is pretty obvious that she had been mistreated in the seven years or so before we took her in (“R is for Rescue Cat Rosie”). Anyway, a month or two after taking her in, we decided to try a Feliway diffuser to help to soothe her fraught nerves. What is it? Feliway is a pheromones product. It contains the chemicals found in cats’ own hormone-scents, for example when rubbing themselves against furniture (or owners) to put their own scent on them (hence the joke about cats owning their “owners”!) In effect it is a natural “feel good” product for cats. The pheromones How is it used? The product is available as plug-in diffuser that is best left permanently “on” – it will last for about a month and easily treat one room. It’s also available as a pump-action spray, and as wipes. It must NOT be applied to the cat itself. What is it used for? The product claims to help to calm and correct a number of behavioural problems such as urination in inappropriate places, aggression, and timidity. Rosie spent much of her first few weeks with us in a state of considerable stress, spitting, hissing and cowering. Over three years later she can only be picked up if at our feet; any walking towards (or behind her) arouses her suspicions as often as not, and any attempt to approach her with outstretched arms throws her onto the defensive. She struggles within ...

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot - Robert Macfarlane 04/07/2017

A series of thoughtful, reflective journeys

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot - Robert Macfarlane Some time ago I read and reviewed here a book by Robert Macfarlane (“The Wild Places”). Ever since, I’ve been intending to read another of his books. This and another of his (“Landmarks” which has been declined for review) were on offer in my local The Works recently, and I snapped them up! The genre Macfarlane’s books are hard to categorise, and are probably best described as “evocations”. More specifically, they are based around journeys that he has undertaken and interwoven with the descriptions are the author’s reflections, historical facts or other natural history detail. Quotations from other authors abound, often with some of Macfarlane’s own comment, and, in my view, invariably well selected. This book is no exception. It may sound either contrived or dull and boring, and some people would undoubtedly find it so. I actually find it rather appealing and engaging. I don’t find that it blows me away, but I do find that it makes a lovely read. Some passages are delightful, beautifully phrased and moving either with the beauty of a particular location, or, perhaps, pathos as he describes a former friend whom he lost. In his preliminary note, the author describes its subject as “the relationship between paths, walking and the imagination”. He says that “it tells the story of walking a thousand miles or more along old ways in search of a route to the past, only to find myself delivered again and again to the contemporary.” Some may consider it “spiritual” in the way ...

First Light - Geoffrey Wellum 01/07/2017

"Hold on, little clouds, I'll be up there in a minute"

First Light - Geoffrey Wellum This book is a memoir of a Spitfire pilot who survived the Battle Of Britain and a number of missions to protect convoys and as part of a fighter escort to RAF bombing sorties over France. It tells of the half-expected but dreaded day when he was considered over the hill and due to be sent from an active fighter squadron to a training one – at the age of 20! For me, its main fascination lies in its personal take; not only is it written in the first person, but it is also replete with the author’s feelings and reactions to the events that made him, stretched him, overwhelmed him and, at times of course, almost killed him. It’s a moving, and, at times, disturbing insight into the experiences of one man who found himself at the sharp end of one of the War’s key campaigns. The book I have the paperback edition of this, which I found in my local The Works. It contains 338 pages and consists of 16 chapters of varying length. It also contains 16 pages of monochrome photographs from the author’s own collection, which are unfortunately printed on the same mediocre quality paper as the text. This compromises their definition somewhat. The author As indicated above, the author served as a Spitfire pilot in the Second World War. He survived the Battle Of Britain and the rest of the war also. In the prologue, he tells of a spur-of-the-moment jotting down of some of his wartime experiences 35 years after the end of the War. In the first chapter, he describes himself in ...

Memoirs Of A Fellwanderer - Alfred Wainwright 20/06/2017

A moving. witty, evocative memoir

Memoirs Of A Fellwanderer - Alfred Wainwright A Wainwright (1907-1991) is best known for his series of illustrated guides to Lakeland paths, later supplemented by a series of books of sketches, and for some reluctant television appearances. His guidebooks remain a delight, with hand-drawn maps and sketches and with accompanying text that, also hand-written in clear print, is attractively justified, with a near-perfect alignment of both the right and left sides of the text – and without resorting to hyphenating words, which he considered cheating! He also virtually created the “coast-to-coast” from St Bees on the Cumbrian coast through to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Yorkshire coast. Born and raised in Blackburn, he found himself entranced by the beauty of the Lake District on a day visit by bus; he later secured employment with South Lakeland District Council, based in Kendal, and fulfilled his dream of living and “belonging” in the area. The man “AW” – he hated his first name and preferred to be called by his initials – was a very private and introverted man who, at times, could be brusque and offhand. This book is essentially a memoir of his love for the Lakeland fells, but of course it sets this in context with chapters about his childhood and adolescence. He all but pioneered popular walking in the Lake District. Some would say he became a victim of his own success. Part of the reason he frequently encountered his nemesis – groups of chatty fell walkers (or, worse still, tourists!) that he considered an ...
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