Port De Soller Mallorca

Port De Soller Mallorca

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

What a year, 2013 was!

2013 has been a memorable year for me and Ishbel.

As you know we have 5 grand kids and as they get older they get funnier and our love for them just keeps getting stronger and stronger.  They have managed to bring so much laughter into our lives and I am sure they will continue to do so.  Even as I 'pen' this little year end tale I can hear Holly Kennedy laughing and giggling, she has just been to the loo determined not to copy grandmas's earlier disaster who apparently went to the loo, got her onsie off only to discover she sat on the loo with the sleeve of said garment IN THE LOO, and then proceeded to pee on it, what can I say, it is New Years Eve and she did have a glass of the red stuff with dinner ..... which caused much hilarity and rolling on the floor holding sore sides from laughing at poor grandma. Me I don't have that problem with my onsie as mine has a double action top to bottom and bottom to top zipper, oh yeah we guys have it easy, don't we.....

From L to R: Shannon (7), Lacey May (2 &3/4s), Holly (7), Charlie (7) and Mollie (10 &3/4s) 

Although I do feel for poor Charlie sometimes when the five of them get together and he is outnumbered and outflanked at every turn, bless him.

Talking of onsie's, Jennifer has been threatening to buy one for me for months and I said she shouldn't waste her money as I would never wear one, but she could bury me in it, if and when I ever die; as usual, she ignored me and so as dad's and granddads do all over the world, I had to bow to the inevitable ......

On the left with Charlie and Holly and on the right with Lacey Mae, Mollie and Shannon...

The things we have to do to please our loved ones and in doing that nothing else really matters does it?

2013 was entered into with the same note of optimism that Ishbel and I enter every New Year, hoping that the new Year will always be slightly better than the last.  And, all in all it has been a good year.  The kids continue to grow in stature (well apart from poor Mollie who continues to not grow horizontally, but that smile....)  as well as in learning. Their love of all things life, is inspirational.  We continue, as their Mums and Dads do, to always learn something new and to read everything they can get their hands on.  Charlie won a reading competition a few months ago and his prize, to manage the local library in Raunds one Saturday.  He asked if Holly could be co manager and so she too joined in on that.  I did get a pang at that as she can be a right wee bossy boots and I pictured her in my minds eye marching up to some unsuspecting patron to demand that they keep the noise down and that they should turn the pages quietly, but apparently it went off without a hitch. All 4 biggies continue to get praise and awards and certificates from their respective schools and they love the learning process too.

We had some great days out too during the year, tiring but great with visits to fun parks and picnics in the park, the kids continue to face time me relentlessly, checking up that I am not overdoing it and taking it easy.

Since the news in May of the dreaded cancer it has put a bit of a damper on things, but I am determined to not let it spoil anything for me, Ishbel or the kids.  Mindful that the outcome is probably inevitable and it surely must be as I made one phone call to the insurance company, they sent a one page questionnaire and then paid out within a couple of weeks with no further contact, so that was helpful and stress free and I hope that anyone else in my position is treated with the same stress free helpfulness as I was,  so well done and a big thank you to Legal and General for that.  The thing is, and much to the annoyance of loved ones to begin with,  I have been more than a little blasé about the news, primarily I suppose since joining the Army in 1971 I had come close to death on any number of occasions: having been shot, crippled in a parachuting accident that nearly killed me, trapped down a pot hole after a storm started and it began to flood, trapped on my own in the middle of a riot while serving in Northern Ireland, canoe sinking on me twice, once in the middle of the English Channel and then in the middle of the not so Blue Danube, Rock climbing and abseiling incidents, couple of 3 ton military truck crashes, entering a clearing in Kenya and being confronted with an angry herd, is that the correct collective name, of Baboons and the list goes on. So, as you can see it has been a long time coming and while the greatest fear for me since leaving the Army was being confronted by a keeky nappy, heysus, I can face down death but put an eeky baby bum in front of me and I just want to run and hide as it always made me gag.... but it had to be done, sheesh.  So the threat of my impending doom from cancer was just another one of those moments.

I wont say that I haven't shed a tear since the news, but they have always been in those special moments we have with our children and our grandchildren or when suddenly a thought pops into my mind about something one of those wonderful five grand kids had said to me recently or remembering something that they had done which made me laugh or smile and there are plenty of those moments, and I suddenly think, hell I'm not going to be about for long to see them grow up and turn into the wonderful caring human beings that I know that they are going to turn out to be, and I do choke up a little and have a bit of a blub, but it soon passes and I am back to being stone heart again accepting the inevitable.  Apparently I probably have less than a year but do you know what I think that is the worse case scenario.

I went on the chemo and felt fine during the first three weeks.  Started the second three week session and felt suicidal so they took me off it.  Once it was out of my system a couple of weeks later I was back to feeling great again. And that's how it has been since July.  There has been the odd week when I thought the damned thing was going to do a John Hurt (from the original and best Alien movie,)on me and burst from my chest shouting 'Baby, I'm home'

Having said that, generally I feel great and I know that I am going to be around for a while yet and with what I hope is my own positive outlook and that of my family and friends I reckon that I will be around to write another year end review at the end of 2014.

Bobby, Jim and John my brothers are all keeping in contact although I seem to have lost Bobs number, tit that I am.  Marylin Shepherd Warner keeps a candle burning for me in the Cathedral of the Plains and +Julia Barrett +Michael Hicks @ian_beckett +Brian Meeks @Julianstockwin from twitter and google all keep me on my toes with their support and friendship as do many many others who keep giving me unstinting support, love and friendship and even although I have largely scaled back my social media interaction you should know that I love you all and appreciate every kind thought and word and not so kind one from Hicks, but I suspect he knows that I know that one of these days Ishbel are gonna turn up on the doorstep and I'm going to take over the kitchen and force feed him whether he likes it or not in Florida and to Jules and Oscar too in Napa ..... one of these days

Have a great New Year my Friends and I'll see you all in 2014 

And finally thanks to my girls Marie and Jennifer and to Brian and Steve and Peter and especially to Ishbel for their love and support and to Jennifer for constantly reminding me to 'stop milking it'


Monday, 9 December 2013

Book Review: A LUMBERJACKY CHRISTMAS by Penny Watson

As you may or may not have surmised my interaction in other folks wonderful blogs has been fairly
Penny Watson (c) PennyWatson 
minimal of late, for reasons you are all probably aware of and so, I have just been dipping in and out and sometimes I miss things, like this beautiful little FREEEEEEEEE TO DOWNLOAD vignette of a story from the delightfully Tiara Adorned, Cocktail Loving. Lumberjacky Aficionado PENNY WATSON over on her blog Penny Romance.

Cabin in the woods (c) PennyWatson
Hannah Watson decides to take a sabbatical at Christmas away from her family and friends in deepest snowy Vermont to complete a project she is under pressure to get handed in on January First.     Deciding to go snowshoeing for the first time ever she gets stuck as the weather closes in and thinks she has broken her ankle, cold wet, alone and feeling completely miserable on Christmas Eve.   Rescue is at hand in the form of  bearded Lumberjack hunk, David Green who,  after loading up his chopped wood for his cabin,  is about to drive away when he spots Hannah and comes to her rescue.

As it turns out David is a famous children's author with writers block and coincidentally Hannah is an illustrator for children's books, awe isn't that lovely.....

Well as it happens, yes it was.  Just 17 pages on a word document of smart, easy reading with a dialogue as crisp as the snow falling outside the cabin.  A little schmaltzy but not out of place at all in this story where the two with similar problems, find each other and collaborate to bring each other out of their predicaments, I found it totally sweet, engaging and romantic and for a short Christmassy story, totally loved it

You can download your very own FREE COPY  of this delightful little tale over on Penny's blog HERE

5 out of 5 stars from me

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Can you do anything, if you try hard enough?

Ah, but there is always the exception to the rule that you can do anything Marylin My Sweet....... it's me off course.

That was my opening response to another wonderful letter from Marylin Shepherd Warner on her weekly letter to her Mom who has dementia and Marylin's letters are her way of recording the many wonderful things that her Mom taught her growing up and that she herself has passed on to her own children and grandchildren.  you can read her latest letter here:

Things I Want to Tell My Mother

I then went on to explain, that for some of us, learning, a particular skill set is; really beyond our ken ........

(c) www.millsycartoons.co.uk
Another example of that was Friday. For the first time ever Ishbel and I decided that we would put some Christmas lights out in the garden so I asked my electrical contractor at work to put a socket out there.  He did. Proper double sockets with safety cut out switches and in an all weather box, just the job.  I duly plugged the lights in closed the lid and broke it .... Now don't think he put in a cheap box, no, not at all, best on the market.  It is just that I am so cack handed at anything DIY that in almost 38 years Ishbel has learned not to get me to do anything as I am so useless at it.

Hanging paper, not a chance. Did it once when Ishbel was out. she came in walked in to the kitchen and said, 'very nice dear, but do you know what would have been better, if you'd managed to hang all the strips running in the same direction!' Oops, and of course as it usually tuns out too, I always seem to get the paste mixture wrong and you will be sitting there one day in the not to distant future when a strip or two will start to peel in a corner and then gravity kicks in and it rolls down the wall.... Eyes are raised, and I just shrug 'what did you expect'.

Same with rawl plugs in walls, I can never seem to match the hole to the plug or the screw for that matter and whatever I hang normally falls off quite soon after been hung. If visiting, check to see who hung what above the chair you choose before sitting, it may be a life saver ......

(c) www.millsycartoons.co.uk
Taking the oven door off to clean it properly. I had watched the engineer do this recently as he took it off to carry out a repair.  Easy peasy. Lift the catch on both hinges. grab the handle pull out and up in one fluid motion and off it comes, what could be easier. To put back on, line up the hinges slide in and gently push down.  hah.... £89 call out charge to replace one bent and useless hinge is what happened next ...... I could go on and there are plenty of these stories but even the grand kids cover their eyes in fear of what is going to happen if they see me with as much as a screw driver in my hand let alone a power tool

Mind you I could jump out of airplanes, shoot almost any weapon on the planet in my day, blow up things, pot hole, canoe, sail, map read, but then again I was shot, stabbed, crippled almost drowned in the English Channel and on the Danube and down a flooding pot hole system, had a touch of hypothermia, been in a couple of crashes (not involving other vehicles) Rock climb, abseil, you name it I've probably done it, I even managed to sew buttons on my uniforms in the army and darn a sock or two in my time but nothing more basic than that

So, pretty useless, BUT I am a survivor and that's my overriding goal at the moment, to survive so that I can keep annoying Ishbel, the Kids and the Grandkids for years to come and to keep reading your wonderful and inspiring weekly letter to your beautifully gifted and talented mother ......

oops.... Just been reminded about two crashes involving vehicles, one into the back of a UPS truck and one when Ishbel was in the car too and was pretty shaken up but no physical damage. memory problems too you see


Thursday, 28 November 2013

Mr Fat: Thanksgiving

While we in the UK do not celebrate this particular holiday I thought it might be an appropriate time to say a little thanks for all the support, kind thoughts and well wishes I continue to receive from Family and Friends, far and wide. And, for those of you who celebrate Hanukkah too, here's to a happy one of that as well....

I am still keeping not to bad if just lacking in energy all the time and just want to, or rather am, almost permanently asleep. Many would say that's ok coz if he's sleeping, he's not being irritating, unless of course I am farting and snoring when asleep, but then it's only Ishbel and the family who get irritated by that when I'm asleep in bed or on the sofa during a family gathering... but as I am asleep, I don't care.

So, how have I been, well ,as I said, largely fine; had a scan last week and there is no deterioration in my condition as yet and over the last couple of days I have been waking up feeling as if nothing is wrong with me and I could take on the world but by days end I am so knackered and suffering from a sore back I am almost doubled over.  The scan didn't reveal any clues as to why this should be and wee Olivia Chan my wonderful and beautiful Oncologist at Basildon Hospital is reluctant, at this time, to put me back on Chemotherapy after the last time where I was sinking into an abyss of quicksand and so, wants to keep that, along with radiotherapy and whatever else she has in her wee handbag as a reserve.  Oh, just a point of interest, Ishbel came with me yesterday as she thinks Flirting with Dr Chan and Mel and the other nurses may not be conducive to my overall health, in that continued skelps on the back of ma heed fae her, may not knock some sense into me, but would make her feel a whole lot better, sheesh, I jis cannae win......

Anyway, I am to take some steroid tablets to see if that increases my energy levels and I'll probably end up looking like The Hulk or Mr Muscle and of course that will be problematic too if I bulk up and am even bigger than I am now, sheesh glad I will not be required to carry my own coffin at days end ...... but that my friends is a long way away and anyway apparently there is also a candle burning for me in the Cathedral of the Plains too.

It's 28th November today and that means it's two days to my wee bro Johnny's birthday in Coatbridge on St. Andrews Day, I wonder why he was never called Andrew! And three days to December 1st and you know what that means, FUN and GAMES on the official NORAD tracks Santa site before we get to the 24th of the month and I can sit and track Santa on his sleigh with Mollie, Shannon and Lacey Mae who are arriving on 23rd December to spend Christmas with Ishbel and me, oh the excitement is really building to that, especially as Ishbel and I are having so much fun, even if our pockets aren't, while doing the Christmas shopping and NO Jennifer and Mollie I will not be wearing a onsie for Christmas ...... but you may bury me or burn me in it if you like, regardless of what mother says and if you do I want an open casket ........ It's the only time I will be seen in one and Jules, no comment required on that one thank you very much .

Well, that's it for now, sorry to all those blogs and tweets I haven't been visiting I am trying, hush your mouths, I meant trying to visit not trying your patience, sheesh a jis canne win ...


Sometimes; but not for me

(c) All cartoons copyright to somebody else 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Book Review: The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith

If you have not read Mr McCall Smith, why not? He writes gentle humorous stories filled with a cast of star studied characters who seemingly make the the most innocuous comments on life but at the same time can be so thought provoking.  Homilies of a bygone time when respect for our, families, friends, fellow man and neighbours was once upper most in our minds .....  and he reminds of us those times in a modern day setting with Mma Ramotswe in Botswana.

The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency is in a state of flux as 'associate' Detective Mma Makutsi takes maternity leave to have her and her husband Phuti Radiphuti's first child, mind you, as usual when Mma Makutsi doesn't want to discuss something, she won't and so the fact that she is pregnant and the subject of maternity leave are not open for discussion until it is to late, not to late in that something goes wrong except for the fact that another encounter with a cobra brings the pregnancy to an end and the delivery of a healthy boy is announced.  So snakes do come in useful, sometimes, and this again proves to be the case in dealing with a Radiphuti aunt later on, so funny .....

Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, husband to Mma Ramotswe and owner of Speedy Motors on Tlokwen  Road, has a desire to become a more modern husband and enrols in a new course at the university and then Mma Ramotswe finds him, for the first time ever, helping to prepare dinner, but she is gentle with him in explaining,

"So you are mashing them now?’ He nodded. ‘And it’s rather hard work, Mma.’ ‘You’re mashing them even before you have cooked them, Rra?’ He frowned. ‘You cook them first?’ Mma Ramotswe reached around him and took the pan from his hands. It was half-filled with water in which fragments of raw potato floated morosely, like a soup. Very gently she poured the mixture down the drain. ‘I will show you how to start with new ones,’ she said. ‘You cook the potatoes first and then you take them out and mash them up with butter and salt. That is how mashed potatoes are made, Rra.’ He turned away sheepishly. ‘I was only trying to help, Mma.’ She felt a warm rush of affection for the man beside her. ‘But of course you were, Rra. But I am quite happy to cook mashed potatoes."

In the background of course there are two cases to be solved as business still has to continue even without the assistance of the Associate Detective and Mr JLB Matekoni's lack of cooking skills, but he is still an excellent mechanic...

These books are for anyone who wants a gentle meander through the countryside surrounding the city of Gaberone in the wonderful country of Botswana or so it appears to be from the descriptions in these books, waiting on the rains to revive the country and it's people's, dealing with the serious and the not so serious.

For the first time in reading though I have only two small criticisms; 1. We don't get to read the outcome of the case with Mma Sheba the Lawyer, although we know what Mma Ramotswe wants to do, it is left somewhat unresolved, and 2. how did the cooking of the sausages go with Mr J.L.B. Matekoni?

Editing for Kindle: 5 out 5
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Chapters: 17
Page length: 256

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Book Review: Reaping the Harvest (Harvest Trilogy book 3) by Michael R Hicks

What can I say about Hick's 'Harvest' trilogy people, if you haven't read any of the three books, you really should, and he even makes it easy for you by giving the first book in the trilogy, 'Season of the Harvest' free across all e-book reader formats, so whatever you read on, there is no excuse.

Hicks weaves a tale of terror across these three books borne out of his mistrust of GMO's, or rather his mistrust of the self regulation of the companies behind GMO's as allowed by the US government. 

An organism has been discovered by a few people that seems to have been around on planet earth for hundreds of years. It has achieved sentience and can mimic human form.  The organism believes that it is the ultimate life force on the planet and that human kind are nothing more than a food supply for them, but as yet and even after being around for lord knows how long, their numbers are too few to take what is rightfully theirs, the whole planet.

They devise a plan to genetically modify wheat that once ingested will wipe out the human population.  

Once in human form the harvesters as we come to know them, are undetectable except for the insane frenzy that they send cats into when they come near them.  They kill by deploying a poisoned stinger from their bodies and they take the form of any human they kill with all the knowledge that the human possessed, after digesting the body.

Reaping the Harvest is a non stop blood bath from beginning to end with first the Russians nuking large parts of their own and adjoining countries, including Moscow and then the Americans doing the same to some of their own cities in a bid to slow down the spread of the larval harvesters.  These creatures have not and will not attain sentience, they only have one goal to consume anything in their path human or material, anything that is carbon based is digestible to them and as they eat, they multiply and there aren't enough high explosive rounds or bullets or manpower on the planet to stop them from spreading.... The age of the human is not just collapsing in on itself it is being consumed and it's final annihilation is only months away in this final book of the trilogy.

Can Jack Dawson and Naiomi Perrault find a solution that will slow their demise down and reverse it ......

Hicks has written a clever series here and joins up all the dots for all three books.  He writes well and gives you a story that is gripping as it is horrific but compels you to turn page after page......

Editing for Kindle:  5 out 5 
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Chapters: 43
Page length: 373 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Book Review: High Heat (A Jack Reacher Novella) by Lee Child

16 year old Reacher is on school holiday from South Korea and is passing through New York en route to visit his older brother who is a cadet at West Point Military Academy.

It's July 1977 and it's hot. Son of Sam is on the rampage and a sweaty guy is slapping a sweaty woman in the face......

Even at 16, Reacher has already established a code of honour and conduct, and a guy slapping a woman on the face falls outside of what is permitted....

Reacher prevents the guy from doing any more harm to the woman and a night of cat and mouse with a local drug lord ensues although as usual Reacher, even at 16 is not the hunted but the hunter in the blacked out streets of New York dodging fires and looting as a city wide power cut takes affect.  In between making the drug lords life unbearable, he finds time to hook up with a co-ed a and is introduced to a special first time encounter in the front seat of a sports car and then to assist a suspended FBI agent with information on Son of Sam.

These occasional diversions by Child into Reachers past are as entertaining as the 'up to date' titles. They show us the boy who became a man growing up inside the Marine Corp and being enveloped by a system of honour and do right at all times, even if that means taking extreme actions to find a solution to a problem.  As long as the solution achieves the aim of winning the contest / solving the problem, then it is the correct way to go.......

There were a couple of small issues with the editing for the Kindle with extra spaces between words, but other than that no problems.

Editing for Kindle: 4 out 5
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Chapters: none
Page length: 77

Friday, 1 November 2013

Book Review: Caribbee by Julian Stockwin

Number 14 in the Thomas Kydd series from Mr Stockwin detailing the life of 19th century Royal Navy mariners as they protect England and it's dominions from the threat of Napoleonic domination.

Caribbee sees Thomas Kydd and his Frigate L'Aurore dispatched from the successful but ill fated attack on Buenos Aries to the Caribbean to request a relief force. 

On arrival, station Admiral Cochrane denies the request and informs Kydd that he and the Frigate L'Aurore are now under his command and that he and his crew will patrol the Caribbean to protect British interests from the French and Privateers! 

With Napoleon issuing a decree that makes all trade with Britain and her colony's illegal the economic threat to Britain and the Crown is a crushing one and added to the threat of capture most trading and commerce is brought to a standstill.

Once again Stockwin draws us in to this 19th Century world and throws everything at us, from hanging on for dear life in a ship and soul destroying hurricane (chapter 7) where you end the chapter relieved but drained, to heart pounding chases of sighted enemy vessels, to formal dinners where upon at one it is revealed drunkenly in front of peers and local aristocrats of Kydd's humble and lowly beginnings ....  Can he recover his status after that 

It is revealed that there may be a secret French base commanding ships and privateers in the local and Nicholas Renzi is firmly in the firing line after gathering information that leads to an attack by British forces only to find that there is no evidence that a base of operations ever existed.... Can Nicholas recover from the embarrassment of being a failed master spy too....

All in all another exiting read from a master storyteller and very much worth the annual wait for the next instalment 

Editing for Kindle: Hardback 1st Edition
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Chapters: 13
Page length: 347 including authors note

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Book Review: The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell

On a recent visit to hospital I was advised that as well as having cancer I have a heart condition, such is life, and then I settle down to read the latest Bernard Cornwell offering, 'The Pagan Lord' featuring Uhtred of Babbenburg and Cornwell nearly kills me off along with the hundreds of Danish horde that his creation Uhtred dispatches throughout this latest in 'The WARRIOR Chronicles' as my heart is pounding almost from the opening paragraph to the very end. Dear Lord Sir, but you can write!

Uhtred is in trouble from the beginning, again when he sets of with son number two and a small band of warriors to retrieve son number one who has become mixed up with the Christians, them Christians will be the death of poor Uhtred one of these days.... Only to find that son Uhtred has converted to the faith and has become a priest.   

In trying to retrieve his son from this folly Uhtred inadvertantly, for a change, kills of a Bishop and disowns his son renaming him Judas and promoting son No 2 up the ranks to be henceforth called Uhtred........

On returning to his hall he finds it burning and Sigunn his woman gone. Cnut Ranulfson has visited to exact his revenge, and while he and Uhtred are sworn enemies, on this occasion Uhtred has no idea what he has done, this time.....

Cornwell goes on to describe Uhtred's criss crossing the country and the seas to Frisia.  It starts off on horseback crossing these green, pleasant and wonderful lands, at a trot and then into a full canter before galloping across blood filled fields and streams and rivers with Uhtred and his small force of loyal men attempting to reclaim his home of Babbenburg.

Once again and to save the Christians he so loathes but time and again saves from destruction giving them England from the massed armies that Cnut Ranulfson has been building,  to finally take over Wessex and Mercia to once and for all create a Daneland and to consign the English to what they deserve, Slavery and Death.

No spoilers from me here suffice to say that Cornwell really is a master story teller spanning the 20th and 21st Centuries and his characters and stories pull you in from page one and get you turning page after page into the wee small hours gasping for air as another wave pounds over the longship as she fights the storms or gasping for breath through the blood and snot and sweat as you take up position in a shield wall with the blood lust screaming from every pore as you wait to kill or be killed ....   you become part of the story, you are involved and you have a vested interest in it's eventual outcome.  Cornwell has clearly mastered the art of making the reader feel all these things, making you cry out in despair when you get to the end and find that there is still more to come and you are left hungry waiting in anticipation for the next stanza in this epic tale of the birth of England and it's rescue from the Danish hordes.

Editing for Kindle: 5 out of 5
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Chapters: 13 (in 4 parts)
Page length: 321 but again not evident on Ipad or  Kindle devices, sort it out folks for goodness sake

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Lunch on the Thames....

Ishbel, hiding her large glass of red
from you
Ishbel and I received a voucher from our Daughter Marie and our Son-in-Law Peter for Christmas 2012.  We had meant to take advantage of it earlier in the year but with one thing and another happening, being diagnosed with cancer for one with little prospect of survival, we forgot all about it until last week that is when Marie, reminded us again, with the portent that it was likely to be expiring soon, I know how it felt then!

So, with that thought I went on line and then made a call to book the cruise. As luck would have it we were able to get a booking for the 2nd October, Ishbel's Birthday so once on and with  nice glass of red in her hand and a soft drink in mine we toasted both her birthday and last Christmas, hopefully looking forward too, to this Christmas!

It was a fairly murky day in town on Wednesday but not cold.  You couldn't even see the top of the Shard when we first got on, but never the less you could still see all that was described to you in the commentary, once the cruise got under way.  Ishbel and I are pretty good with our knowledge of London and her many wonderful sights.  But the commentary was informative, even imparting some stuff we didn't know.

The waiting staff, on board were attentive, we had the lovely Lucia, waiting on us and she took our order for drinks while pointing out the menu to us, asking if we were happy with it or did we need to change to vegetarian? No, it all looked fine and as it tuned out it was more than fine..

Smoked and Poached Salmon Roulade with pickled cucumber (forgot to take photo)

Chicken En Croute with Celeriac mash and green beans

Vanilla Pannacotta with chocolate macaroon

The amount of food was just perfect and well presented the only slight, and it was slight, was the macaroon which was just a bit over baked, but never the less thoroughly enjoyable.

The only downside and again it was only a minor complaint, was that you didn't really get any time to spend 'on deck' but then it was a 'lunch cruise' after all.

Other than that it was, as I never looked at the prices, before hand,  an enjoyable, pleasant  and value for money, couple of hours from our KIDS and BATEAUX LONDON and BUYAGIFT.COM  

A murky London skyline (but still a pleasant day) 

Some photos from our table view:

Saw this and thought it said: PORN FREE
Canary Wharf and odd shaped buildings 

Quite busy on the river today, cruise ships and working barges 

Passing under Tower Bridge
Sir Francis Drakes Golden Hind

Shakespeares Globe, Courtesy of American Sam Wanamaker

After our lunch cruise we decided to head up into town to Soho and Carnaby Street where we bought a couple of birthday gifts for Son-In Law Steve who had taken a few days off work to decorate the hall, stairs and landing for us, bless, he really is a good lad even although he might look like one he is little bit past the lad stage now turning 31 on the 3rd,  so Happy Birthday kid,  and thanks.....

It was a great afternoon with Ishbel. stopping off at side street bars for the odd glass of wine to fortify her walking legs, so she says and enjoying all the shops and weird looking folks who inhabit or visit this city and listening to Ishbel's acerbic comments as we pass yet another 'unusually attired' walker, she can be so funny in her descriptions of them, and as I say to her, they are just different, the eyebrows raise quizzically as if to say, 'yeah right!'

The Blue Cockrel on a plinth in Trafalgar Square, WTF!
A street performer. sitting on air! 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Book Review: Never Go Back (Jack Reacher 18) by Lee Child

No 18 in the Jack Reacher series and there isn't much to say that hasn't been said before. I read a review recently that tore into Mr Childs and his character of Reacher commenting that it is all repetitive with Reacher just stumbling along finding the same old same with different names and graphically detailing how he takes apart the same old villains in a blow by blow account making it unreal and unnatural......

Yeah, well hard to argue too much with some of that as Reacher does wander about finding those in need of help who are being ground down by the little bad guys supported by the brainless hulks BUT, and especially if you are British, it is a bit like marmite you either love it or hate it, me I love it. The thing is though that Childs has mastered his skill as a writer over the years and while it may seem to be a tad repetitive he writes a flowing dialogue that is pretty seamless and you find yourself just turning page after page until you get to the end.  The previous book I read (not a Childs one), really engaged me,even allowing for the errors in it, but it took me nearly three weeks to finish it, a Reacher book, if you aren't careful you could start in the morning and probably finish it be the evening, easily, and  supposing you set aside your other life commitments like work and family and life and that I suppose is the mark of a good writer. Someone who gives you a narrative that flows along and compels you to keep reading his or her words!

On this occasion though it isn't your typical small town nice folk who are in need of help but Reachers contemporary a female Major now running his old unit, the 110th MP.  Reacher, we don't know why, has phoned the old unit and spoken with Major Susan Turner.  Liking the sound of her he decides to head to Virginia from South Dakota and turn up unannounced and ask her out to dinner.  On arrival he finds that Major Turner is no longer in charge and some stuck up Colonel is running the unit.

Reacher finds that,  a) Major Turner has been arrested and placed in a cell off base, b) he is accused of a 16 year old murder and c)  that he has fathered a child and being sued for maintenance and of course the 'icing on the cake' well as far is the efficient Colonel is concerned, is that he has just drafted Reacher back into the Army as a Major, making him subject to all military regulations.  He should have read Reachers file in a bit more detail and he would have known, like us, that Reacher was never one to really pay much heed to those regulations the first time round and so we knew he wasn't going to pay much attention to them on this little merry go round.

We then spend the next 417 pages finding out why these old cases have reappeared and what is the connection to Maj Turner who has been arrested and jailed.  I have to say here, even allowing for the comments above about my love for this character and Childs flowing writing, that I did find the story of two Deputy Chiefs of Staff  being involved in a nefarious enterprise and the poor 'help' they employed to take out Reacher and Turner more than a bit weak overall.  The introduction of a daughter who on first introduction was, well never mind, no spoilers, but it was an intriguing side bar to the story and it is entirely believable that Reacher may well have killed someone in the past as he beats down on them,  leaving them on the sidewalk and walking off into the sunset. Who's to say that one of his victims hasn't then died and he never knew ............

As a side issue, not really, but for the first time in 18 books I did find a little error; the e was missing from like in one sentence, oh my, but.........

Editing for Kindle: 5 out of 5
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Plot: 4 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Chapters: 69
Page length: 417 and evident on my devices, see it can be done!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Book Rev: The Desolate Garden by Danny Kemp

Liked and loathed this book!

When reading on my Kindle it is easy to make notes and highlight passages and excerpts in a book and I have even started doing this as I now write these reviews when reading a 'paper' book.  It's easy then to go back in and review what I thought at the time

Up until now, the number of notes and highlights have numbered no more than 15 and they have been more in marking interesting phrases or passages than errors,  on this particular book though, if you have an absolute abhorrence of poor grammar and spelling you just might wish to avoid it as I have 63 highlighted spelling and or grammatical errors with a couple of formatting issues thrown in for good measure......  You have been warned.

Having said that the author, on his first attempt did write an intriguing novel. It revolves around the Paterson Family who have been the British Governments Secret Bankers for generations, funding everything that the governments of the day would rather the public did not ever find out about.  The management of the bank is passed on from generation to generation and only the highest echelons of government and ministers are aware of its existence.

Harry Paterson an ex Army officer is informed about his fathers murder and then his brother, the latter who is running the bank today, is also found murdered. Is this an attack on the Paterson s, a titled family, an attack on the bank or an attack on the Government? Who knows, Harry certainly doesn't  and he has little or no knowledge of the bank or its affairs and has been estranged from his father for years and on first hearing the news of his death shows little concern at the news, caring little for the fact that he is now elevated to 'His Lordship' at his fathers passing.

There begins an investigation by the Secret Service with Harry being assigned a 'minder' whose job it is, is to get Harry to tell her everything about his Father, Maudlin Paterson s past and what he knows of it.  Nothing is to be excluded.  Every detail of their lives is to be scrutinised in the hope that the identity of the murderer can be discovered before another Paterson is killed.

It does get a bit convoluted in places and the 'action' switches from Harry's interrogations to Russia as we find out that Maudlin fathered a child to a Spanish woman during the civil war and they fled to Russia at Maudlin's insistence, the mother dying, and Harry's half brother growing up and becoming one of Russia;s top officials and a spy, funded by Maudlin and the Paterson Bank......

This is, I understand Kemp's first book and not withstanding my opening comments, he has done well in stringing  a long and convoluted story together.  It does become a little tedious in places but if you can stick with it, it is a good story and has a surprising revelation as the killer in the final few pages, really never saw it coming which is always a good indication and promising for future books.  If you can be kept guessing right to the end then the author has done what he or she probably set out to do when penning a thriller.

Editing for Kindle: 2 out of 5
Reading Enjoyment: 4 out of 5
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Chapters: 45
Page length: 334 apparently but not evident on my kindle or iPad app - just % read

Friday, 27 September 2013

Don't Mess with an Old Lady!

Don't know where this came from, but it's a keeper.......

Two businessmen were sitting down for a break in their soon-to-be new shop...
As yet, the shop wasn't ready, with only a few shelves set up.
One said to the other, "I bet any minute now some pensioner is going to walk by, put their face to the window, and ask what we're selling."

No sooner were the words out of his mouth when, sure enough,

a curious old woman walked to the window, had a peek, and in a soft voice asked :

"What are you selling here?"

One of the men replied sarcastically, "We're selling arseholes."

Without skipping a beat, the old dear said, "Must be doing well . . . only two left."

Lesson: Don’t mess with the wisdom of the old .   .  .  .  .  .  .  we are not yet brain dead!!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Mr Fat: An Update and an End Game !

So, I started to write this post yesterday morning and was well into it before heading off to see Mr Jayanthi our consultant surgeon and the nursing staff.  Before I go on, and just to lighten the mood I thought I would sprinkle a few cartoons throughout, because while life can sometimes seem hard, there is always something waiting round the next blind corner that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and even make you bust a gut laughing about the sheer absurdity of life!

Angel of Death, take me now, well I thought it was funny and I imagined Ishbel and me in this situation in many years to come but, unfortunately that does not seem to be the case......

So, the meeting Friday.  We arrived at Broomfield in plenty of time for our 2.20 PM appointment only to find Mr J was held up in the wards, me feeling irritated as usual, although not his fault and there are more people than me he has to deal with, it's just that I always have never been able to sit around for anything and there is something about that bloody hospital that apart from the main atrium there appears to be nowhere else inside that frigging building where you can get wifi, aaaarrrrggggghhhhh.  Anyway, I digress.  Mr J welcomed us in, pleasantries were exchanged and then we got into it.  It seems that the Doctor who increased my chances of surviving the surgery, on giving me the results after the recent Cpex test had more than a little over reached himself in the information available and according to MR J and agreed with the Thoracic surgeon who would also be working on me at the same time; my chances of surviving surgery and tumour removal are pretty slim at the most!  Life can sometimes be a bugger, can't it.

Mr J went on to explain that it had nothing to do with my weight, he doesn't care how fat the patient is, he likes to dice and slice into anyone, loves his job, bless, but really it was down to the rest of my major organs not being up to the task.  You'll recall, my first visit to Broomfield showed I had a heart problem, it seems also that smoking since I was 11 has taken its toll on my lungs, who knew,  and during the op they would have to collapse one of them while they were having a good old dig around inside my chest and oesophageal cavities.  It may not have been as bad if I had only allowed myself to get fat but continued to at least keep fit at the same time, apparently my fitness regime like that on the right just wasn't cutting it, Oh dear!

He then went into, in great detail, the problems that I would have if I elected to still have surgery, the main one being that he and the other surgeons really thought my chances of being revived are pretty slim and even if they did manage to keep me alive then the prospects weren't good as it was likely my remaining time could be spent on a ventilator, if I was lucky! "So, I wont, as planned and as I had told everyone, be going back to work within three weeks then, says I........." "Not an option. Says he.  "I wouldn't like to say when or even if, you would be returning to work."

Not good I suspect and many of you are probably beginning to feel sorry for me now, but don't! Enjoy your lives, TAKE MORE CARE OF YOUR OWN BODIES AND LET THIS BE A SALUTATORY  LESSON TO ANYONE READING THIS - TAKE BETTER CAR OF YOUR BODIES WHILE ENJOYING LIFE.

I feel sorry not for myself, well maybe just a little bit, as I really did want, and expected to be around for many years to come. Ishbel and I have only been married for a short 37 years and she keeps telling me that women in her family live well into their 90's even knocking into the century, so while I always expected to expire before her I had hoped for at least another 20 to 30 years of making her life miserable........

Then of course there is Marie, Jennifer and Brian my wonderful kids, even although Brian seems to have fallen out with me for some reason I love them dearly and they make me laugh, often it is gut busting laughter and I in turn, do what all good dads do, I make them groan in despair at another stupid antic of mine.

Mollie, Shannon, Charlie, Holly and Lacey Mae my five adorable gorgeous smart intelligent grand kids who I so desperately wanted to be around to see them grow and develop and get into their teens and go to college and maybe university and then getting great jobs as astronauts, engineers, doctors or computer programming geniuses.  Well I hope they do go on to do some of those things, but whatever they end up doing they should know their Grand dad, him with the big belly and the bald head and the funny face will always be so proud of them and love them for eternity, even when I am not around to see and hug them.

And of course there is family and friends, especially those two bright sassy nieces who terrorise the populace of Inverness on their nights on the town and who can reduce people to speechless dumbassidy (new word) by their witty, cutting and cerebral retorts to the more idiotic of the human species who have the misfortune to be dumb-asses when the girls are around.

Brothers and sister.  We have never been a particularly close family, splitting to the compass points as soon as we were old enough to leave and make our own way with only Jim, the one above me keeping in occasional contact, that's the way it is with some families but there should be no regrets on anyone's part, it's just the way of the world.

And then of course there are the many wonderful friends, truly wonderful friends I have made on twitter and can I just say, if you are an author and you have been writing a series of books that I am reading and you aint finished that series, if you want your computer to crash at inopportune moments or the lead in your pencil to be continually breaking by incorporeal means - then don't finish the series before I pop off. On the other hand ......... just saying ........

Anyway I'm going to wrap up this with the final thought of by not going for the surgery as I have chosen as I really do not want to go in for an operation in the next week or so in the knowledge that I may not wake up again or even if I do I will be dribbling and comatose and wheezing and being a pain in the arse to everyone who come into contact with me, so I am going to enjoy the next few months or year and get a laugh out of every day and so to should you Get on with your lives, enjoy them, love your family and friends and SMILE, I am

oh and now that we have an end game of sorts I am going to try and be more interactive again on twitter and blogs, be warned .....

Love to you all