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since 28/03/2003


Lapponia Cloudberry Liqueur Lakka 22/06/2015

Finnish Nectar

Lapponia Cloudberry Liqueur Lakka A bit of context Sometimes in life you stumble across people who such a joy to be with, that any time that you spend with them is a blessing. Such time continues to be a blessing even if they (or you) are having a hard time and the joy is muted by pain. Pete and Paula are two such people. They aren't a couple; they are some-time occasional colleagues. They are friends. I hope I can say that they are also friends of mine. Paula certainly, though we've not met up in a while, I need to put that right. Pete, erm, maybe… I'd like to think so, but maybe from his perspective I'm relegated to the box labelled "client". Who knows? He's given me enough support and laughter over the years, and the occasional kick up the whatsit, to count as a friend from this side of the fence. What has any of this to do with a review of a liqueur I hear you ask. Well, allow me one more deviation… A decade or so ago, my work-life was not exactly blissful. It was, on the contrary, extremely stressful. My hard-won position was being undermined (as in 'about to be deleted'), the firm was setting up a structure that was never going to work, under a manager who was never going to survive with us. My position was deleted, the structure didn't last long, neither did the manager concerned… but that's ancient history… the bit that matters for this story is that I walked out of my 'consultation' meeting and immediately said to myself "FCK This! I'm going to Finland!" And I was only going to Finland because ...

Moving Pictures - Terry Pratchett 20/06/2015

You've Got To Have A Dream...

Moving Pictures - Terry Pratchett Space...the final frontier... Except of course that you can't have a final frontier, because there'd be nothing for it to be a frontier to… Welcome back to the Disc. A place very much like earth only more so, and different. Different in that it really is flat (apart from the hills and stuff) and that it glides through space on the back of the four elephants who stand on the back of the Great A'tuin the space turtle. Welcome back to the joyful world of someone who knew that writing is absolutely the most fun you can you have by yourself. Not his world, per se, but the one he created and then shared and created a kind of feedback loop for, picking up ideas from fans and others and using them… Moving Pictures is the tenth in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and like many of the others it opens with a quote, sonorous and portentous, which it then flattens with a light touch of reality. Reality – the nature thereof – is the theme of this book, as examined by a review of the growth of Hollywood – or somewhere very much like it. Thirty miles turnwise of Ankh Morpork there's a beach, and on the beach is a driftwood hut, where Deccan Ribobe, Last Keeper of the Door, is about to die. His death isn't itself significant, but that 'last keeper' part is. Because if the door is not kept, not guarded, well it might just find its way to open again and then anything could find its way through. And does. It starts with a touch of magic. Not your everyday wizard magic, but silver screen ...

Are children too reliant on television and tablets to keep them entertained ? 19/06/2015

Stories, Games and Business Ideas - but there's other stuff too

Are children too reliant on television and tablets to keep them entertained ? I'm sure there are lots of young people who never pick up a book, go for a walk, play sport, talk, cook or "turn off their TV and go and do something less boring instead" – but ignoring what impact that might have on them or society, let's first be clear about the question here: it isn't what impact an over-reliance on TV or Tablets might be – but whether the children actually are over-reliant upon them. In general: are they? I'm not a parent nor even an aunt, so maybe unqualified to judge. But let me speak of what I see… Every year I walk a few miles across town on Christmas day. Whilst for a year or two this was a quiet and depressing experience, nothing like the yuletide mornings of my own childhood when you couldn't wait to get outside (apparently!), more recently it has shown a shift. Now I invariably see new bikes, footballs, skateboards (yes, again) – and it's not just the boys playing with them. The primary school over the road has after-class sports on the light nights – mixed rugby anyone? I see games being played at lunch-break much the same as the ones I remember playing forty-odd years ago – implausible premises maybe (we had something to do with spaceship-beams which meant we had to freeze whenever the sun came out, and could only move when it dipped behind a cloud) – but basically just an excuse to run around the field, letting off energy. Who knows what their story is? During the party season, I see little princesses who have refused to remove the gown ...

Rise - Karen Campbell 18/06/2015

On The Run In the Wilds of Scotland

Delhi - Sam Miller 17/06/2015

A Capital Walk

Delhi - Sam Miller Sam Miller was born the same year I was, and in the early 1990s he was the BBC correspondent based in Delhi. Married to an Indian, he returned in 2002 (not necessarily in that order) and has remained there ever since. Which just goes to show that he has done more with his life than I have with mine. My normal injunction at this point is "Ah! But is he happy?" If this book is anything to go by, then I'd say: yes, he probably is. Not ecstatically, deliriously, joyful of every minute of every day – Delhi would never allow that – but content, certainly. Lucky soul: but then, is it not said that we make our own luck? Miller is probably one of the best people to take you on a tour of Delhi. He's not a native so has no in-bred partisanship, but he does love the place so will make sure you do too, but mainly because to begin with he HATED it… so he will understand if you don't share his ironic good humour about the shit squirter or the fact that sometimes the only way to cross the road is to take a rickshaw taxi. He's definitely the best person to take me on a tour of Delhi because he has an absolute conviction that the only real way to experience any city is on foot. Walking is the only way to see the life of a city – not just its monuments old and new – but the people who live there doing ordinary things… gossiping, working, playing, shopping, eating, living and (yes) dying. When he first moved to the Indian capital wandering around on foot was seen as just too bizarre ...

The Lotus Quest - Mark Griffiths 16/06/2015

So Many Lotus

True Blue - David Baldacci 14/06/2015

Once A Cop, Always A Cop

Ty Newydd Burial Chamber, Anglesey 13/06/2015

Ty Newydd

Ty Newydd Burial Chamber, Anglesey Bumbling and Discovering For those of us who live here, the UK is a bit of an ordinary sort of place. It's quite small if you put it in the context of Europe or Asia or America. It's even quite small if you stop comparing our tiny island with whole continents and settle for countries… India, Australia, America, Canada… erm… ok, scale down a bit… let's just compare ourselves with countries rather than continents. One website still puts us at 77th on the list. Well behind the obvious suspects like the US, Canada, Russia, India, China, Brazil… but also behind such local neighbours as Spain, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Poland & Italy… But that's just acreage. What about population? In those terms we come in at about number 23. Still behind France and Germany but way ahead (if that's the right expression of any of the Scandinavian countries. All any of this proves is that we're actually quite a small place and we have a lot of people living here. It is surprising therefore just how much of ancient history survives if you only know where to look for it. Whilst I do spend a fair amount of my wander-time actively seeking out history in the shape of museums and landscapes and country houses and derelict factories and glorious engineering achievements and so on and such forth… I take greater delight in the stuff I stumble across. If I bothered to read all of the guide books I pick up and that get sent to me by virtue of my subscriptions to various charities, then life would be the ...

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper - Fuchsia Dunlop 11/06/2015

Not Just About the Food

Humber Boy B - Ruth Dugdall 10/06/2015

When Justice Isn't

The Black Echo - Michael Connelly 08/06/2015

Echoes of War

Premier Travel Inn Watford - Centre East, Watford 07/06/2015

Central Watford

Premier Travel Inn Watford - Centre East, Watford When & Why It's June 2015, a month I thought I might actually get to spend at home, but no, it seems I am continuing my ad hoc tour of the country's collection of Premier Inns. No, panic not, I haven't set myself another impossible challenge... although it might be one for my retirement. This is just another work-day too far away and/or starting too early for me to face a pre-dawn traipse to the train station. The natural alternative is another night ub another Premier Inn. Booking & Check-in As always I booked through Premier's own website. Unlike with some other chains and local hotels, you will never get a better rate than is available direct through While we're talking about booking and rates here's a couple of things… • Premier rates vary widely depending on all sorts of things. As with much in life if you can be flexible, you can get some exceptional deals… £29 for a room sleeping your whole family? Yeah, ok, not often, but not impossible. I regularly manage to get a room in some parts of the country for under £40, just by a bit of forward planning. This isn't just about early booking – it's about knowing what might be happening in the neighbourhood. Big events have a ripple-out effect on availability of hotel rooms – so while you might not think Watford is the centre of the known universe, my experience elsewhere would suggest that if something massive is happening in London, you'll find rates out here edging upwards. • If the local ...

Eric (Big Book) - Terry Pratchett 07/06/2015

The One with Lavaeolus and a Wossname... Parrot

Eric (Big Book) - Terry Pratchett I don't know whether it’s the change in publisher (this one was published by Gollancz in association with Corgi, rather than the straight Corgi deal that curated the rest of the oeuvre) but the cover of this short outing has the word ''Faust in dutifully gothic script and struck through to be placed with the more emphatic ERIC. It is, in other words, the only one I'm aware of, where the publishers didn't trust the readers to get the joke. OK, so let's go along with them and assume that you haven't heard of Faust and Mephistopheles… According to Wiki ~ and why not? ~ the basics of the earthly legend are thus: Faust is bored and depressed with his life as a scholar. After an attempt to take his own life, he calls on the Devil for further knowledge and magic powers with which to indulge all the pleasure and knowledge of the world. In response, the Devil's representative, Mephistopheles, appears. He makes a bargain with Faust: Mephistopheles will serve Faust with his magic powers for a set number of years, but at the end of the term, the Devil will claim Faust's soul, and Faust will be eternally damned The term usually stipulated in the early tales is 24 years; one year for each of the hours in a day. During the term of the bargain, Faust makes use of Mephistopheles in various ways. In many versions of the story, particularly Goethe's drama, Mephistopheles helps Faust seduce a beautiful and innocent girl, usually named Gretchen, whose life is ultimately destroyed. However, ...

The Lost Army - Valerio Massimo Manfredi 06/06/2015

On Campaign With The Ten Thousand

We Danced All Night: A Social History of Britain Between the Wars - Martin Pugh 31/05/2015

Face The Music

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