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Now an old man of 60! Busy, sorry - Mum in hospital, have been away for a week, son's wedding next Sat 24th - please bear with me!!

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since 28/08/2015


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 ...

Original Source Lime Shower Gel 19/06/2017

So zingy, mine had 41 limes!!

Original Source Lime Shower Gel I want to set things in perspective from the outset. The amount of enthusiasm I can generate over a shower product is limited. This particular product is actually my favourite, but if a shower gel smells ok, lathers well, and the container is sensibly shaped so that it doesn’t top over, I’m not brand-faithful. Mrs M works part-time and (until the end of July when I will semi-retire!) I work full-time. She is content to undertake the weekly shop. This means that I am fairly content with whatever shower gel she purchases (within reason). It’s as well. My patience is limited when it comes to supermarket shopping. If I had my way, every supermarket would have its own trolley police and wardens. Shoppers who leave trolleys unattended beyond a radius of 10 yards of their persons would be liable for an on-the-spot fine. Those who leave a trolley for over two minutes would return to find their trolley clamped and be obliged to find another empty trolley from the car park to transfer their shopping into, as well as being fined. Those who propel and steer their trolleys with their elbows rather than with their hands, stooped forward and with their projecting rears taking up precious shopping space would receive a reprimand for careless and inconsiderate driving and be sent back to the start of Aisle 1 for an awareness assessment. I would also make it compulsory for every supermarket to have at least 50% of its tills operated by a member of staff. Anyway, on to this product. As ...

Gorilla Glue 28/05/2017

For a "mushroom" but not a "g'riller"!

Gorilla Glue Okay, let’s get the corny joke out of the way first before the review proper begins. “Where did the chimpanzee put his toast? Under the g’riller!!” I’m no great shakes when it comes to DIY, but I DO know that there is no such thing as the perfect glue or adhesive for every purpose. All have their advantages and disadvantages. I’ve also found that, manufacturer claims notwithstanding, it pays to have a few types in the house and to rely on the tried-and-trusted trial and error method for selecting the best. I first saw the Gorilla brand of adhesive products in some of the never-ending stream of unsolicited mail order catalogues that I receive, and decided to buy a bottle. **********~~*** ******* PLEASE NOTE: No animal was hurt in the making of photo 2 (which I am struggling to get to "stick" - need some good glue!) The snail "stuck" itself to the underside of the ornament and wasn't gorilla-glued in place!! **********~~*** ******* The claims The packaging boasts that the glue bonds <><> Stone <><> Metal <><> Ceramic <><> Glass <><> Wood <><> Foam <><> “and More!” <><> 100% Waterproof Origins If this glue originated from China I would be wary of it containing ingredients from endangered African primates, but it was developed in America, home of Liberty and (as we shall see!) Litigation. I’m afraid that without a magnifying glass I can’t read very small print, but it apparently contains ISOCYANITES. The UK base of the product is Chorley, near Preston, ...

Calendula Flower 23/05/2017

"Pot" marigold for pots or borders

Calendula Flower Around this time of year, large numbers of people buy polystyrene trays of “African” or “French” marigolds. They’re bright and cheerful, yellow or orange and, in the case of the French ones, tinged with reddish colours. If they are wise they will also purchase vast quantities of slug deterrent in some shape or form. Even with such measures, the odds are that a good (or bad!) number of the plants will be reduced to a leafless stalk overnight. The standard blue slug pellets are highly toxic, and not only to slugs. Many naturalists are convinced that the big reduction in the hedgehog population is partly due to ingesting poisoned slugs and snails. The same is probably true of some bird species. When I was a child, it was fairly common to see a thrush or two in our suburban garden. When I see a thrush nowadays I almost feel as if I have seen a rare species. Calendula or “pot marigold” isn’t part of the same family as the “African” or “French” marigolds. They get my vote over them any day, though. You can’t often buy them as plants, but they are very easy to grow from seed. And it isn’t too late to grow them now to flower in late summer! The plant “Calendula officinalis”, to give it its Latin name, is an annual plant; that is to say, it grows and flowers in one year, then dies. There are a number of varieties with yellow or orange, daisy-like flowers, and grow from just less than a foot tall to almost two feet tall. They are bright, cheerful looking plants, easy to grow ...

SBS - John Parker 17/05/2017

"Not By Strength, By Guile"

SBS - John Parker The SAS (Special Air Service) attained sudden and worldwide publicity when they broke the “siege” at the Iranian Embassy in London in 1980. Despite its similar origins – a semi-irregular force formed within the British army during the Second World War, the SBS remains relatively unknown, and those serving with the regiment today seem quite content for it to be so. In part it is because its role is lower key than its better known counterpart. Its motto, “Not By Strength, By Guile” was coined after the Second World War, but is an appropriate summary of its rationale from its very origins. This book recounts its history to 2004. The book I have the paperback edition with 417 pages (excluding bibliography and index). It’s a little disappointing that, apart from the front and back covers (where the photos are clearly posed), it contains no photographs at all. It’s a slight compensation that an appendix contains some line illustrations and some examples of reports composed in 1953. I find the font comfortable on the eye (I find “small print” tiresome, sometimes in more ways than one!) The author John Parker is a journalist and former Fleet Street editor. He has researched many subjects including the Mafia and “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, and written a number of military history books. The approach and style As is to be expected, the approach is chronological. For the first edition of the book, published in 1996, the author was given access to former SBS ...

Cowslip 01/05/2017

Hard to slip up growing this plant!

Cowslip Please note that this is listed on Ciao as a herb; I cannot comment on its medicinal properties, effectiveness or side effects; its leaves have been used as a treatment for insomnia and other conditions. I am reviewing its suitability as an ornamental garden flower. Native wild flowers can be a blessing or a curse in the garden. Some are particular about their requirements and don’t thrive; others thrive far too well, and all but take over. Many grow disproportionately in the relatively fertile soil of most gardens. A lot of native species are adapted to growing in soil that contains few nutrients. Given high levels of nutrients they may to several times the height that they would normally grow to, but their flowers will be the same size and shape. Instead of being delicate, pretty plants they look rather monstrous and ungainly. On the other hand, carefully chosen wild flowers can be extremely useful. They are adapted to many vagaries of the British climate, and can withstand periods of drought, waterlogging, cold, and wind. Most are fairly resistant to damage by slugs and other pests. They require little maintenance, and if you like smaller, subtle plants and flowers rather than big, blousy ones, they look attractive, especially in informal or “cottage garden” plantings. Is the cowslip a friend or a foe?! Description The cowslip is part of the primrose family. It usually grows to a height of about 10-25.5 centimetres. The yellow flowers are borne on stems well ...

Sand In My Shoes - Ralph McTell 26/04/2017

Love, genocide, social injustice, parenthood - moving, evocative

Sand In My Shoes - Ralph McTell +++++ Music reviews don’t earn the writer a single penny regardless of what rates are awarded. You may want to bear this in mind when rating. On the other hand, it’s taken quite a bit of time to write and edit this review! +++++ Note that the title of this album is definitely “Sand in YOUR shoes” and not “…MY shoes”! It caused me some confusion when I was searching the site for it! I love Ralph McTell’s music. Firstly, his lyrics are often powerful, striking, and evocative. Secondly, he marries his lyrics to great tunes that fit the words like a glove. Thirdly, he is a very adept guitar player. Fourthly, his manner on stage is relaxed, down to earth, and engaging. The album I like the jewel case packaging of this album, enabling me to keep it in good condition. It plays for just over 68 minutes, consists of 14 songs, and comes with a 16-page booklet containing complete lyrics and some photographs. The tracks The songs cover social issues, genocide, a thought-provoking song about Jesus Christ (though I don’t agree with all its sentiments), love, family breakdown, and watching one’s children grow up and leave home to forge their own lives. I’ll confine myself to commenting on some of them. <<< Care In The Community >>> To me, the jazzy, upbeat sound of this contrasts starkly with the haunting, disturbing lyrics. It’s a series of word sketches about vulnerable people neglected and deliberately ignored. One man handles a knife in his pocket as a voice in his head ...

Kidnap in Crete - Rick Stroud 24/04/2017

"The real heroes were the Cretans themselves..."

Kidnap in Crete - Rick Stroud May 1941. Over 15,000 German troops embark onto nearly 600 aircraft bound for a Mediterranean island a mere 160 miles by 30 miles in size. They are highly trained and well equipped. Most are confirmed Nazi party members devoted to Hitler. The intelligence secured and conveyed to them is optimistic. The massive airborne invasion – the largest ever mounted – would be a pushover. It will provide a supply base for the campaign in North Africa. In the event, however, the intelligence was grossly inaccurate. Not only were British forces garrisoned on the island; and although the best of the Cretan army had been deployed to the Albanian border, the Cretan civilians proved determined and brave. A boy scout shot at German paratroopers from the roof of a bank. Cretan women armed themselves with knives and despatched many injured paratroopers. The island was eventually restored and, in measure, subjected to German control. German losses had massively outweighed expectations, and although the FALLSHIRMJAGER would fight in other campaigns, they would do so as elite ground troops only. Spring 1944. A plan is hatched by some British Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents on Crete to kidnap a German general. It will be a risky operation, entailing evasion from an intense manhunt, the negotiation of some of the toughest mountain terrain in Europe with a prisoner in tow, and a rendezvous with a Royal Naval vessel at the closely guarded coast. And against the gains, there was the almost ...

Slaters Menswear (Shop) 20/04/2017

Suits me, Sir!

Slaters Menswear (Shop) Some research is into a strange phenomenon that must be affecting many people, myself included, is long overdue. Clothes become prone to shrinkage. It’s the selective nature of this shrinkage that demands research. Neither trouser leg nor shirt sleeve lengths ever seem to shrink. But trouser waists and shirt and jacket widths most certainly do. Clothes that fitted perfectly a year or two ago become too tight as a result. It’s all very odd! As a result I found myself in need of a new suit for my son’s wedding. Initially Mrs M and I were geared up for a trip to the Trafford Centre in Manchester. We braced ourselves for the experience but then – almost on the eve of our trip, in fact – I was told of a gents’ outfitters in Manchester city centre, Slaters, to be precise. Why Slaters? Apart from helping me to evade the stampedes of the Trafford Centre, this place sounded good in its own right. The Manchester branch was almost slap bang in the middle of the city centre, and easy to find and to combine with a visit to other shops, if need be. I was told that they have a good selection of men’s suits, “proper” service and advice, and even a free alteration service. A glance at their website confirmed this, and stated that the Manchester branch is the biggest in the country. This review is of an actual store but although I can’t comment first-hand, it is worth noting that the website offers the following facilities for items ordered on-line: ~~~~ free delivery on orders over £75 ...

Dermot Byrne & Floriane Blanke - Dermot Byrne 17/04/2017

Jazz, world, Celtic, button accordion and harp - quite a mix!

Dermot Byrne & Floriane Blanke - Dermot Byrne +++++++ Please note: perhaps understandably, Ciao not only exclude music reviews from diamond awards and premium fund, but also pay nothing at all for music reviews. You may want to bear this in mind if reading/rating. On the other hand, it would be satisfying for me at least to earn a few extra points from posting a review. My music blog now contains a number of posts, some of which are adapted from reviews posted here, but others are new, if you are interested. +++++++ I came across this album by chance, and decided to give it a punt. It was going for the silly price of £2.00 – nothing to lose, really! I love instrumental folk music, and this one looked promising. Who? Dermot Byrne comes from County Donegal in the Irish Republic and learned his craft on accordion – and many tunes – from local players. Floriane Blancke comes from Paris, and has a classical background as well as having studied jazz and world music. She plays harp and piano This promised to be rather different – but would it “work”? The album Th album comes in the increasingly common card packaging, but at least the cover folds out to display brief notes about the artists and the tunes. It consists of 12 tracks and plays for about 46 minutes. The tunes It’s never easy to review am instrumental album, but I’ll do my best! >>>> Monaghan jig/The Templehouse Reel <<<< Dermot’s melodeon (button accordion rather than “piano” accordion) takes the lead in this, and Floriane’s harp underpins it. I ...

Somewhere Down The Road - Ralph McTell 15/04/2017

However far you have to travel to get it - get it!

Somewhere Down The Road - Ralph McTell ++++++ Please note: Perhaps understandably, Ciao no longer pay anything at all for music reviews. Any that I post are therefore purely for my own enjoyment – and hopefully some readers’ benefit. This is a re-vamp of my second ever Ciao review. I didn’t really do justice to the artist, my all-time musical hero. Also I will probably expand it slightly to post in my blog. Any rates won’t benefit my pocket, but would notch up my Ciao points! ++++++ Ralph McTell – he’s the guy who wrote “Streets Of London”, isn’t he? Not many musical performers have been in the business for 50 years and not only reached the top of their game but remained there. Ralph is one of them. His good friend, the comedian Billy Connolly has described him as a “national treasure.” I have been a keen Ralph fan for most of my adult life (I’m in my late fifties now) and took up guitar playing after listening to some of his vinyl albums (anyone remember those nice-sized, tactile sleeves with print that was easy on the eye and illustrations big enough to really enjoy?!) If you only ever associate Ralph McTell with “Streets of London” please stop! He is a master songwriter (more of this to follow) as well as a brilliant guitar player (he was “given” his stage surname by fellow musician Wizz Jones as an allusion to Ralph’s blues/ragtime playing influence, the recordings of Blind Willie McTell). I especially love this relatively recent album of Ralph’s because, whilst I like all his CDs, this one for me ...

By Tank into Normandy - Stuart Hills 08/04/2017

"How can its actual awfulness be described..?"

By Tank into Normandy - Stuart Hills The Allied “D-Day” landings required a number of specialist military innovations. One of the most remarkable was the secret construction of pre-fabricated wharves and jetties that were installed soon after the landings to enable the vast supply chain to be established from sea to land, and was known as “Mulberry Harbour”. Amphibious landing craft with watertight ramps were produced to ferry men and tanks from ships to shallow water. Specialist tanks were pioneered and produced, including ones that would clear a path through mines by means of flailing chains mounted in front of the tank’s body. One of the most daring developments – that in the event proved of mixed value – was the adaptation of Sherman tanks with a temporary waterproof screen and propeller that could “swim” to shore, hopefully over a distance of up to several thousand yards, to provide almost immediate support on the beaches for the infantry. As it turned out, the vagaries of local tides Wreaked havoc on many of these, and those that landed successfully did so largely because, contrary to orders, they were taken closer to shore than was intended. At the age of 19, Stuart Hills was the commander of one of these “DD” (“Duplex drive”) tanks. This book describes his experiences in the Normandy landings and on subsequent operations, including the seizing of Nijmegen Bridge in preparation for the ambitious but ill-fated “Operation Market Garden”, of which the battle for Arnhem is best known. I found it a ...

Wild Blue - Stephen E. Ambrose 28/03/2017

Wild Blue, the "Dakota Queen" - not what you might think!

Wild Blue - Stephen E. Ambrose The American and British Air Forces had very different approaches to bombing in the Second World War. To minimise losses, the RAF concentrated on night-time bombing. This was clearly a trade-off for a higher level of inaccuracy. By contrast, to maximise accuracy, the Americans concentrated on daytime bombing. No prizes for guessing where I came across this book! It tells the story of one squadron (741 Squadron) over occupied Europe. More specifically, it revolves mainly around one pilot George McGovern, and his crew, who flew B24 “Liberator” aircraft in missions from bases in Italy. The author Stephen Ambrose has written a number of military history books, including “Pegasus Bridge”, that I have reviewed. He also wrote the book “Band Of Brothers”, on which the movie “Saving Private Ryan” was based. I find his style engaging and exciting, though being pedantic about English grammar I have to take a deep breath at times with his Americanisms (such as “gotten” instead of “got”). This is a fairly minor and tongue-in-cheek criticism, however! It’s written in an easy to read style. Ambrose has taken huge pains to research this book, and no less than three pages (with three columns per page) list veterans and/or their families whose accounts helped in the production of the book. The book My paperback edition contains 262 pages of text, not including notes and sources of quotations for each chapter, and index. There are 11 chapters of around 20 pages each, which makes ...

Ledward Kaapana And Bob Brozman In Concert (DVD) 25/03/2017

Slightly exotic and authentic,but very accessible music

Ledward Kaapana And Bob Brozman In Concert (DVD) **** Please note that some of the criteria for DVDs don't apply to this one! **** There’s just something about traditional Hawaiian music. I don’t mean the stuff deliberately churned out for tourists; rather the genuine music and tunes that native Hawaiians themselves play and enjoy. To me, it sounds exotic enough to be different from western music, but familiar enough to be accessible. It can be slow and sweet or vibrant. The playing of Ledward Kaapana and Bob Brozman here ,and on CD, broke new ground. I’ll explain why, with some historical background. PLEASE NOTE: If you want to skip the next few paragraphs up to “The Performance”, feel free! Making the guitar sound better? The way a guitar is normally tuned sounds very odd and discordant if you brush your finger or thumb across the individual strings. To the Hawaiians (and people of a number of other cultures when they first encountered the instrument) it sounded plain wrong. Basically, they SLACKENED some of the strings so that when they brushed a finger across the strings (without pressing any of the strings down) it now sounded melodic, because the re-tuned strings now formed a harmonious CHORD. A range of different tunings gradually evolved. As with more conventional playing, the left hand was still used to hold down the strings to form different individual notes or chords (groups of notes), and the thumb and finger of the right hand were used to “pick” individual strings to play a tune, or to strum the ...

What are the main changes do you plan to do for Spring? 23/03/2017

Not quite ALL-change, but...

What are the main changes do you plan to do for Spring? 2017 looks like being a memorable year – full of excitement, apprehension as well as the mundane, of course! Sorry for the lack of photos... Another spring… Having recently written a review about gardening, I’ll pass by spring plans for the garden, except to say that I usually share surplus seedlings with colleagues from work. It’s a way of encouraging others to grow wildlife-friendly (especially for pollinating insects) plants. On a more mundane level, there is a job that is long overdue. Our previous cat suffered from a fairly acute skin condition that I think was triggered by a nervous reaction to the arrival of two very boisterous dogs next door that used to jump up at the fence and bark when he came up the drive. The skin condition also made him hyper-allergic to flea bites. We got in the habit twice a year of moving all the downstairs furniture to the middle of the room , hoovering the edges of the carpets, and spraying an aerosol insecticide that targets flea eggs and larvae so that the blighters don’t grow into biting adulthood. Mrs M has a chronic lung condition, so it will fall upon me to do the deed. On the other hand, it’s the motive to undertake a through spring-clean! Taking charge of care My Mum will be 90 years old in August. She still lives alone but I find that I need to take more initiative and decisions for her – even though she insists that she “can manage”! Much against her wishes, I have contacted a gardener to do some routine maintenance ...
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