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Two weeks away - mega catch-up needed... bear with, bear with...

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since 28/03/2003


Death of a Liar - M. C. Beaton 25/05/2015

Highland Untruths

Death of a Liar - M. C. Beaton Hamish Macbeth is still enjoying the relatively easy life of running the two-man station in remote Lochdubh in the highlands of Scotland. He could maybe do without current side-kick Dick Fraser's eternal presence on site, but has to admit that the man's cooking skills and his tendency to whip out a stove and frying pan in the remotest of locations do have their advantages. Still and all, it's not doing our eternal Sergeant's love-life any favours. This is the 30th in the Macbeth series or possibly the 31st depending on whether you believe the book cover or the author's website. As the story opens it is a rare beautiful day and our heroes have nothing better to do (indeed is there even any better to do?) than to sit in deckchairs in the garden, with the sky blue and rowan berries red as Hamish's hair and Sconsie and Lugg (for a time content) lying at their master's feet. Then the phone rings. Liz Bentley. At Cromish. In total distress – she's been raped. Liz it turns out is the Liar of the title. There has been no such crime. She's famous locally for her stories and fabrications. A cry of 'wolf' that gets its come-uppance soon enough. All stories of vicious criminals on the loose are satisfactorily discounted until a Liz actually is found horribly murdered. Hamish & Dick are sent to investigate. Meanwhile, there's another mystery brewing closer to home: one involving the newcomers to Loch Dubh – southerners who've bought the old school-house, but don't take kindly to the ...

Best Western Chiswick Palace, London 24/05/2015

Un-palatial But Chiswickly Comfortable

Best Western Chiswick Palace, London It's All A Question of Priorities We all have our own list of ranked priorities when choosing a hotel, and that list, or at least the weighted order of importance, may change depending on whether we're travelling for business or pleasure. Whenever I've stayed at the Chiswick Palace, it's been for work, and when we're talking work, top of my list of priorities is location. As a non-driver, I want a hotel that is either close to the rail station, or close to where I need to be for the job in hand. Or preferably both. Chiswick Palace hit the 'both' category. It's a few minutes' walk from Turnham Green tube station and only a few minutes more from where I was delivering training. This mattered hugely on one of the trips, because I had with 14 ring-binders full of training collateral – as well as the usual 50% of my in-box, reading material for my time off etc. Trust me, this is not the kind of gubbins that you really want to be hauling around the streets of London, cabs or no cabs. To be fair – it's also not the kind of weight you want be manhandling through the tube interchanges either. Turnham Green might be a tube station, but actually the line is elevated rather than sunken at this point. None the less the station has steps! It was probably worth it though to see the look on the face of the kind Ozzie who offered to help the poor old biddie with her bag and wouldn't take my word for it that it was heavy. He was just about smiling at the bottom of the stairs as he said ...

Pyramids - Terry Pratchett 23/05/2015

It's Probably Quantum

Premier Inn Earlsdon Park, Coventry 12/05/2015

Butt I can't get Inn

Premier Inn Earlsdon Park, Coventry I spend a lot of my work time away from home. Every so often I get to stay in a nice hotel, with lovely grounds and room service. Mostly, I live in Premier Inn. Lack of outdoor space and room service apart, I have no gripes with Premier on the whole. You know pretty much what the room is going to be like, you know everything will work – and if it doesn't they'll fix it fairly quickly – and I can confirm following an experience in Manchester that if you invoke the 'good night guarantee' they will not quibble about it. What, Where & Why the Butts? I'm hard-pushed to see exactly what the overwhelming attraction of Coventry is, but it it's clearly sufficient to support no less than 5 Premier Inns. I'm usually ensconced in one of the outskirts hotels, but there are two listed as City Centre – "Earlsdon Park" (i.e. this one) and "Belgrade Plaza" (which for those who know the City is in Bond Street). In the last few weeks I have twice stayed at the Earlsdon Park hotel – on one occasion because I was heading out that side of the City in the morning, on the other because I was coming in on a late train and this is within a few minutes' walk of the station. The full address is 53 Butts Road, Coventry, CV1 3BH, which is just outside the central ring-road to West of the city centre. There is no on-site parking – but there is a 30-minute drop-off zone at the front of the building. The railway station is about a ten minute walk: cross over the construction site that is the main ...

What is your favourite song of all time and why does it mean so much to you ? 09/05/2015

In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets

What is your favourite song of all time and why does it mean so much to you ? How do you even begin to pick one all-time favourite song? The whole point of music is to move our emotions… to cheer us up when we're down, to move us to tears when we actually want to be sad (and sometimes we do, it's healthy to weep), to spark a little joy for no other reason than the sun is shining (or it's snowing). Music probably comes second only to aroma is sparking very specific memories of times, places, people, and the way we felt way back then. Sometimes it catches who we are, sometimes it's who we'd want to be. Sometimes it matters who's singing – there are those versions of songs which are definitive and should not be attempted by anyone else, ever again. Sometimes it's irrelevant whose rendition it is, it will have the same impact, maybe different versions spark different memories. So picking just one doesn't make a whole lot of sense. How and where do you start? I started with my funeral. No I aten't dead yet… but we did recently finally get around to writing wills and included in them our preferences for our send-offs, which in my case got right down to detail about poems and music. So clearly, the two songs I picked for that event have to be something like my all-time favourites. Which just leaves me to pick one of those… Springsteen's Thunder Road opens with soft sweet harmonica and keyboard... The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves, Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays Springsteen himself says that when the door slams, ...

If I Fall, If I Die - Michael Christie 09/05/2015

Nothing Can Really Hurt You

Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett 03/05/2015

In Thunder, Lightning or in Rain

Shadows Of The Workhouse: The Drama Of Life In Postwar London - Jennifer Worth 03/05/2015

A Long Shadow Indeed

Sourcery - Terry Pratchett 26/04/2015

Inne Juste 7 Dayes I wille make You a Barbearian Hero!

Sourcery - Terry Pratchett The Lawyers of Fate Demand A Loophole in Every Prophecy Very early on the Discworld series (and to be fair we are still very early on) Pratchett had differentiated between different types of magic. That carried out by Witches for instance was all about helping and healing people. It was mostly herbs and stuff with a heavy dose of headology. Meanwhile up at the Unseen University, the Wizards delved into deeper things or – mostly – tried very hard not to. They'd learned the hard way that strong magic isn't necessarily good for the body or the soul. The Librarian might disagree, because one early outing with some of the strongest magic ever had led to him being turned into an orang-utan and despite all persuasion has steadfastly resisted being returned to human form. most of all he liked the way all the big questions of existence had suddenly resolved themselves into a vague interest in where his next banana was coming from. It wasn't that he was unaware of the despair and nobility of the human condition. It was just that as far as he was concerned you could stuff it. Meanwhile… everyone tried to ignore the fact that once upon a time there had been even stronger magic. Right back at the beginning of things there had been the great thaumic wars between the real magic-wielders and the gods. Back at the source, there had been, naturally enough, Sourcery. Parts of the disc were still reeling from this ancient catastrophe and the wizards, old and genial and mostly harmless as ...

Long Mynd, Church Stretton 25/04/2015

Free Your Mynd

Long Mynd, Church Stretton The Long Mynd Mynd is Welsh for mountain. I should have known that. If I had known that, I might have known how to pronounce it. The local pronunciation is minned, though I'd guess a closer approximation to the Welsh would be mnd. Either way, not mined which is how I've always read it in my head. Just about every time I come across a reference to The Long Mynd the expression whale-backed will be used, and it always makes me smile. Why? Because I'm the kind of person who crams for exams and some of the stuff that you cram for your O-levels still lurks in the brain 35 years later… I have no idea whether the Mynd is a drumlin, but I do know that whenever I hear the expression 'whale-backed' in connection with land formations it needs to be followed by the word 'hummock'. And I know that a drumlin is a whale-backed hummock, and is evidence of glaciation. We were given a rationale for how they were formed, but recent trawls of the knowledge on the www suggests that those that know, aren't actually sure. Then memories continue to kick in… drumlins, kames and eskers. Kames cut across the ice flow and eskers lie along it. All of which leads into memories of physical geography with one of my favourite teachers… none of which is remotely relevant… especially if the Mynd turns out not to be a drumlin at all. (But at least Mr Sykes will be pleased to know I did learn something.) The Long Mynd sits above the Onny Valley in Shropshire between Church Stretton and Craven Arms, and is ...

Little Gods - Anna Richards 19/04/2015

But Really About the Goddess

The Deceived - Brett Battles 18/04/2015

Cleaning Up

Mort - Terry Pratchett 17/04/2015

Death Isn't Compulsory

Mort - Terry Pratchett If you're keeping up you can skip this bit Regular readers will have grasped by now that following the death of my most beloved author ever, I undertook in tribute to re-read all of his books again, and to catch up on those that have somehow passed me by. Because the Discworld is where I came in that is where I started. I'm ashamed to say that I seem to have not bought copies of all those I borrowed in the early days. I'm downloading to Kindle at present to keep up with the salute, but I know 'proper copies' will be needed at some point to complete the collection. I've also committed to donating a penny a page to the Alzheimer's Society in his memory. First payment will be due at the end of the year. Reviewing series books is always fraught with the problem of the prequel spoiler. I'm going to take a Discworld approach to this, which is: if you haven't started at the beginning, that's not my fault. If you don't want to know what's gone before stop reading here and go back to before. We'll wait. Death's Apprentice Most people will list Death as one of their favourite Disc characters, and he is one of the originals. By his own judgement he is no more than an anthropomorphic personification of an idea… but one of the key themes of the Disc novels is that what we believe becomes true. At least for a given value of true. Likewise real, for a given value… you get the idea. What we believe is that Death comes for us all in the end. Not quite true… he delegates quite a bit. ...

Brundall, Norfolk 17/04/2015

Lost Gardens and a Resurgent Fen

Barclodiad-Y-Gawres Burial Chamber, Aberffraw, Angelsey 12/04/2015

Not So Big A Giant

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