Port De Soller Mallorca

Port De Soller Mallorca

Friday, 28 March 2014

Dinner and Ballet at The Royal Opera House

So, you'll recall I mentioned that Ishbel and I travelled up (you always travel UP to London, no matter where you are in the country!) to London last month, that time where we had intended to go and have lunch at Carluccio's restaurant in Covent Garden, that time where we paid for lunch instead of using the very nice Xmas gift of restaurant gift tokens from Isabel's brother David and his partner Yvonne....  Anyway before we left Covent Garden we popped in to the Royal Opera House to see what was on and upcoming events and decides to purchase tickets to see The Sleeping Beauty.

Now we know that Ballet and Opera aren't everyone's cup of tea but I have always, well since I was around 18 and was attending an event in Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin, well when I say attending that's not strictly true, I was in the British Army, posted to that fine city, and coincidentally that's where I met Ishbel too, but I digress.  Anyway I was on duty dressed up in my parade uniform with Cock Feather on display in my Glengarry and the music for the evening was classical.  My first introduction to it, and there was also a short opera piece as well.  I never understood a word of it but the music was absolutely wonderful and the melodious tone and strength of the voices of the singers gave me goosebumps. Its a bit like some modern music today also, sometimes the lyrics just wash over me and I have no idea what they are singing about, not even picking up on the meaning of the song but, the sheer beauty of the voice and the tune and arrangement of the music just make me want to immerse myself totally in the voice and the music and leaves me quite sad when it ends and I find myself pressing the replay button until eventually I have to tear myself away and get on with my day ......  but enough of that I may do another post on all of that another time.

So, back to the night in hand.  Times have changed when attending places like the Royal Opera House , once the preserve of the rich and famous and those supposedly more cultured than us common peasants or plebs, when it cost you an arm and a leg for a ticket and you had to dress up in evening suits and gowns and the ladies would be in the latest haute couture with their diamonds and pearls on display.  No, it's not like that that at all these days, tickets are available at a variety of affordable rates and there is no need to dress up to the nines and restrict yourself in a corset and tight fitting suit, I mean gown, of course I don't need a corset (sheesh), many folk there on Tuesday were in casual clothes and indeed jeans were a common site too. Having said that, Ishbel and I do like to dress up for an occasion and as we decided that this was going to be an early 38th anniversary present to us, from us ...... so as you can see above we did make a little bit of an effort.

We started off the evening with an early dinner reservation at the Amphitheatre Restaurant within the ROH, there are a number of restaurants here and you can choose any one of them.  The Amphitheatre is really excellent and is available to ticket holders only on the evening of a performance and the table is yours throughout the night.  You can have starters and a main course before the performance and then pop back for dessert and drinks during the interval and if you have ordered wine with your meal the bottle and your dessert are waiting for your return, on the table.

The menu is varied and excellent and really good value at London prices, considering the very excellent service from the waiting staff, the quality of the food and the ambience of the setting.

We both had champagne to start with, a glass, not a bottle, opting for champagne and not the 'Wild Strawberry Bellini' from the menu. Then Ishbel started the meal with the 'Dorset crab mayonnaise and toasted sourdough'.

Ishbel followed this up with the 'Fish Pie', she does like seafood and I thought she might have opted for the 'Cod, saffron potatoes and bouillabassesauce' but no it was the 'pie' which I am assured was absolutely delicious.... and it did look scrumptious.

When eating, let alone eating out these days, I really need to be careful as you know this 'wee' tumour is causing me all sorts of problems not least of all in the eating and digestion department and the reflux and gagging reflex can be pretty bad.  Ishbel has learned now to keep her hands and wrists well away from me at these moments as I grab her and crush her hand as I grip for dear life during one of these attacks.  But having visited with the registrar last week, you'll recall him, I know Ishbel does, 'Handsome Ewan', he upped one of my meds and it does seem to be giving some amelioration to my wee problem.

So, I started of with the 'Caramelized leek and blue cheese tartlet and apple coleslaw'.  Gawd,  it was to die for, absolutely deliciously tasty, to be honest I would quite happily have settled for another one or maybe even two more of these, they were that good.

For mains I opted for a medium rare, 'Rib eye steak, bearnaise sauce', with minted heritage potatoes. The steak was cooked perfectly and as long as I cut and nibble small pieces, I am fine and so thoroughly enjoyed this too, and I was too busy cutting and eating to photograph it, sorry.....

There was still a half hour before the start of the performance but we elected to save desserts until the first interval, so we made our choices and then enjoyed another glass of the excellent wine we had ordered and some more chat and of course some people watching!  Because Ishbel was having two seafood dishes we opted for a white rather than a red to go with my steak and white with leak, even although blue cheese is deserving of a good sturdy red or even a port, white is just as fine... so we had a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape white, which while not as good as the red was very tasty indeed.  And for those of you who like useless information, translated,  Châteauneuf-du-Pape means, 'The Pope's New Castle'.

For dessert Ishbel had ordered 'Amaretto, orange and caramel trifle' along with a glass of Disaronno amaretto on the rocks, she does knock it back when she gets going, bless and I had the truly magnificent 'Lemon and pistachio pavlova' I truly was in heaven and the wine was an excellent accompaniment to that too.

It was then off to the performance; 3 hours with 2 intervals.  The only downer to the ROH for me at least and maybe it's because I have a large bum!, is that I have never found the seats particularly comfortable and I fidget, but once the orchestra strikes up with the opening bars, I normally settle down as I did on Tuesday to be assailed by site and sound of performers at the top of their profession.

The whole performance, from members of the Royal Ballet and the Orchestra, was truly wonderful and Vadim Muntagirov had, I believe, his debut at the ROH that evening in the role of Prince Florimund and was just wonderful and of course Yuhui Choe, who had been promoted to the role due to injury to Natalia Osipova, as Princess Aurora The Sleeping Beauty gave an impressive performance, as did the rest of the performers.  I noted however, bearing in mind that Ballet and Opera, while no longer the reserve of the hoi polloi, there are still some snobby gits out there and I saw one comment on a social media site complaining that she wished she had known that Miss Choe was replacing Miss Osipova as it would have given her the opportunity to sell / get rid of her tickets, dear, dear me ....... 

All in all, a truly wonderful night and a special mention to Carlos B, our waiter for the evening, who couldn't have been more attentive and helpful.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Book Review: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

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A very short book, only 133 pages published in 1926. To be honest I have no idea why I downloaded this. I have a vague memory of listening to a radio programme on the author some time ago, which I found interesting, so it must have been that!  Gibran is described in Wikipedia as, 'the third best selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Laozi.'  

The book is written in bible-esque so if you are not a fan of that or indeed of religion it may not be a book for you.  On the other hand and bearing in mind this was published in 1926 almost every passage can be related to every single one of us and our lives today.

There are no chapter numbers in this short volume but they are defined by the questions asked of 'The Prophet' by the assembled town folk as he prepares to leave them, returning to his 'home'.

Eating and Drinking 
Joy and Sorrow
Crime and Punishment 
Reason and Passion
Good and Evil

So many of the words written by Gibran over 80 years ago, must surely, if you are tempted to purchase this book, resonate with something in your life today and his simple but reasoning outlook will remind you to step back and reflect on how you look at life and maybe think that there is something that you can do to change, for the better, on how you interact with others and with yourself!

I'm not saying that I have had a religious or moral epiphany while reading this book, I personally still have no idea whether I am an atheist, agnostic or just a plane old fence sitter waiting for something different or better to come along, if that is indeed possible.  I did write somewhere in regard to the Bible, and I suppose in the same tone the Koran would be included, that I look upon the former as a good novel and if only more people would read it (them) without the religious zealotry and bigotry surrounding it (them), the world would probably be a far better place for all humankind, but that aint gonna happen.  But that should not take away from the fact that there are important life lessons in these works that are as relevant today as they were when they were written, as Mr Gibran's words, I believe, fall firmly within that description.


Editing for Kindle: 4 out 5 
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Page length: 133 


Saturday, 22 March 2014

DEATH CAFÉS and that unmentionable topic

Saw a tweet this morning from The Guardian which took me to an article on Death Cafés, check it out,   http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/22/death-cafe-talk-about-dying?CMP=twt_fd , 
(c) Cartoonnetwork
it makes for interesting reading. It's all about the growing movement of a cafe, whether it is in an actual cafe or in someone's front room, where folk gather to talk about and discuss Death!

A morbid subject you might think, and about a year ago I might have been of the same mind. But, since being confirmed as a person with cancer in May last year and then being giving 'about' a year to live from last September, death is a bit of a constant companion. Oh, don't worry too much about me, as I've said in other posts, I have come close to this on a number of occasions before, and told Mr D to go take a flying F*^k and he has, and I'm treating this little episode in exactly the same way.

Having said all of that, you do have to also deal with the reality of it all, and things do need to be discussed within the family, with friends and of course with work.

I think I caused a wee bit of upset within my close family circle over the news of my impending death as I accepted it and thought we should discuss it openly, even informing the Grandkids, aged 10, 7 (3) and 2, although of course the latter was excused as it would mean nothing to her until she noticed I am gone when that finally happens.  There were tears especially from Ishbel who steadfastly refused to enter into any kind of discussion on the mater at all for weeks and weeks and even now, still has difficulty in talking about it.  But it has to be done as things do have to be sorted out:

(c) cartoonstock,com
Finances including  mortgage, insurance, shares, premiums bonds that may be in individual names, pension funds 
Transference of certain accounts, that in many instances are in the male partners name such as Telephones, cable TV, water, gas and electricity, mobile phone accs the list can go on
Notes on how to change the telly from TV to Wii to DVD not everyone knows how to do this .......

So, as you can see there can be lots to talk about. 

For example, when I was 'thrown' out of the Army I received a military pension after being shot. The thing about this pension is, it only survives as long as I do, or until I reach retirement age, and then I lose it. So, if it's the former, Ishbel needs to know how to contact them to let them know I have shuffled off so that payments can be stopped, otherwise when they do find out they just go straight back into the account they were paying into and take whatever overpayment they have made in one go, regardless of the surviving partners financial state of affairs.....

Now that wouldn't be a problem, if the surviving partner has forgotten, and as long as the partner dying has taken out life insurance to leave the survivor comfortably off, after paying off the mortgage and any debts you might have had, but if you haven't done that THEN SORT IT OUT, NOW.....

Honestly people, if there is one thing you take away from this post, it should be that YOU NEED SUFFICIENT INSURANCE COVER, not just enough to pay off the mortgage and debts but enough to leave the surviving partner with a comfortable standard of living.  

(c) carttonstock.com
Regrettably, I haven't done too well in that area. That's not to say that we haven't got a few pounds stashed away and there is a cushion there but Ishbel is not going to be able to become the Merry Widow, partying, dancing and hitting the high spots of Thurrock, after my passing, no, she is going to have to work until retirement age in that miserable shopping mall next to the Dartford bridge/tunnel.  Not that I am advocating that you, the survivor, should stop work after the passing of the partner, as the comfort and support and routine of getting up and out to work and interacting with work colleagues can be just as important as that from family and close friends and in many instances today, family do not always live close by, so continuing to work may be a good option.  But, you could be losing a large chunk of income when one partner goes, if it is the male partner (sadly we still earn more salary than our wives, in many instances) who departs the mortal coil.  

Your mortgage will hopefully be paid off, your debts even. But again you don't get a reduction on your cable or utility bills just because the household has gone down from two to one and these bills still need to be paid along with council tax here in the UK, although I do note on that last one, you can get a 20% reduction on that when one of the household kicks the bucket.... Who says local and national governments are heartless, oops me, I think, but every little helps.

I know for a fact one of my kids hasn't got any insurance, nor her partner. I was talking to a friend recently, they have a very large mortgage it is in one partners name, and one of them isn't insured, bad mistake friends, very bad.  Even if it isn't an illness that grabs and takes you, it could be that you walk round the corner and someone knocks a flower pot off their window ledge onto your head, lights out, dead, partner and family stuffed... SORT IT OUT PEOPLE, TODAY, PLEASE.

And of course the final message here is, Talk about these things, they are important 

But do keep SMILING xxxxxx

Friday, 21 March 2014

Book Review: Stone Cold by C.J. Box

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Mr Box took a little break from writing about Wyoming Game and Fish Warden Joe Pickett and the ensemble cast of characters that inhabit Joe's world to give us 'The Highway' but he has come back with a real cracker.

Nate Romanowski kicks off this book and he appears to have finally gone of the reservation and who could really blame him for that considering what happened in 'Force of Nature

Joe is back in Saddlestring and is found trying to retrieve ANOTHER trashed department truck that has been buried under snow on top of a mountain for months.  Dave Farkus is with him, you'll recall Dave from 'Nowhere to Run' and that oft repeated line,  ‘Shut up Dave’, and he is just as dumb and talkative in this one too....

There is a new director in charge of the department, Lisa Greene-Dempsey or LGD as she likes to be known, and like all of her predecessors, she doesn't much like Joe Picket either.  Joe has been reinstated, again and this time has his old badge number, 26 back, and of course his seniority, thanks to his association with Governor Rulon.  

Sheridan is still at college in Laramie and is now a Resident Assistant looking after freshmen and has a 'gut feeling' about a new student, April and Lucy are still at home and April seems to have changed from being vlad the impaler to April 'sunshine' but the interest of Dallas Cates in her and Joe's dislike of him is about to change all that, again... all in all business as usual in the Picket household with Marybeth as the peacekeeper in the middle dodging the bullets.  I oft think of my son in law Steve on reading about the Pickett family as he too is in a household with four strong willed women..... 

It's been over a year since he has had any contact from Governor Rulon and out of the blue receives a call to tell him the Governors private plane will be arriving at Saddlestring airport to collect him and deliver him to the State Capitol, the proverbial S... is going to hit the fan again.

The Governor sent a state CID officer to Medicine Wheel County at the request of the Feds. Apparently he fell asleep smoking in bed in his motel room; It burnt to the ground, with him in it.....

As the Governor's 'Range Rider' he tasks Joe to be briefed by FBI agent and old 'friend' SAC Chuck Coon with both informing him that he only needs to go there, sus out the lay of the land, try and find out what is going on with Wolfgang Templeton a retired Financial whiz kid and who has recently bought up most of the county, oh, and to find out if Nate Romanowski is involved... Under no circumstances is he to ask any questions or get under anyone's skin.  Observe, note and report back ... yeah like that is gonna happen.

The rest is up to you guys but you just know that when Joe Pickett sees wrongdoing of any kind he just cant help himself, so go on do yourself a  favour get this and the other Joe Picket books and buckle yourself in for a great read 

One of the best lines in this book was from a barmaid to a customer. "Don't flatter yourself cowboy, I was looking at your horse!"   Loved it 

Editing for Kindle: 5 out 5
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Chapters: 31
Page length: 336 no page numbers on electronic devices

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Dying, it really can be frustrating...

So, you all see the photos of me that I post from time to time and let's be honest, even almost a year after being initially confirmed as a person who has cancer I still look pretty good if still somewhat rotund ....

If the doctors are to be believed I now only have 7 months left of the year they estimated that I have left to live, but again being honest I really don't even think about it except along the lines of, yeah, right.  No, I think I will last the seven months and like the Duracell bunny I'll just keep going on and on and on until one day suddenly the cancer will probably sit up and say, ' hey, this tit is giving me a run for my money so I think I'll up my game a bit and make him suffer!'

Well if that's the case then so be it, but until that date it can go and get stuffed and I will continue to grab onto life and enjoy it with Ishbel, the kids and the Grandkids  and with all you wonderful folk popping in from time to time to keep me company.

Since the day the surgeon suggested it wouldn't be a good idea to operate I have been resigned to the fact that my death is going to come a lot earlier than expected and there is no doubt that I did feel more than a tad down about that especially as the Grandkids, apart from one are at ages where it will hurt them the most, with the youngest Lacey Mae still too young to comprehend what would be happening and even when she missed me she would still be so young that she would soon get over it and forget me apart from the silly stories her mum, and sisters would relate to her to try and remind her of me.

Death is not something, we as a family dwell on too much apart from me using it as a means to an end ... 'what, you're kidding, I can't do that or go there, I'm dying, give me a break...', usually to be told to piss off by Jennifer with the added rejoinder, you're taking your time then......

And then I get the call from the GP 'a surgery from a new nurse inviting me in for my annual asthma check up. On learning that she is new I ask if she has checked my records, no, not really, she replies. Oh, right, says I, so you don't know I have terminal cancer and there is not much point in me coming in, is there.

To be honest and thinking about it later I felt like a complete shit putting her on the spot like that but again I have never really been a fan of that annual check up. My first question to the old nurse ( who wasn't old really) was usually, have you found a cure yet for asthma. No, she'd reply. Then why am I here then, I've got better things to do with my life than take time out to come here ONCE A YEAR ...... yeah I know what an arse hole,  I know, I know......

And then I have to attend the hospital every two months at the moment and these oncologists are busy folk, there seems to be a lot of cancer patients to see and I imagine that it wears them down.  But with the cancer, apart from attending Broomfields hospital, there was just something about that place that really got to me and my irritation did show through, but generally I have accepted my fate and just get on with it. I attend hospital, I sit there and feel sorry for some of the others who look close to deaths door and clearly with much further advanced cancer than me and I feel sorry for them BUT glad that it isn't me ...

Not once have we attended the hospital and been seen by the oncologist or registrar anywhere near to the time of our appointment.  Today was typical of that.  Our appointment was for 4.15 and as usual I turn up a good 50 minutes early, a) to get a parking space and b) in the hope that I might get in early! Not much chance of that, but I keep trying anyway. We were finally called to see the registrar at 5PM, 45 minutes after the scheduled time.

It's one of those things and as I said earlier, there seems to be an awful lot of folk with cancer to be seen and I've noticed that depending on how poorly or well the person looks like going in, depends on the time spent with the doctor.  I also imagine as well that where a person is having difficulty in dealing with their situation and maybe tearful , etc, I can't imagine the doctors rushing through the consultation and throwing them out of the consulting room. It's just the way it is.

So then there was this one guy there today.  He looked a good bit younger than me, which also may have accounted somewhat for his attitude, but he also looked about as bad as me and you know what I'm saying here... Not that bad, considering the diagnosis .... So, he had been in there when we arrived. I noticed him as there were plenty of chairs in the waiting room, which was it's usual busy self, but he was perched leaning against the window ledge, staring at the corridor and the consulting room doors.  Eventually one of the nurses spoke to him and the next thing we hear is him ranting at the nurse. 'I've been here for ages, all these others are coming in after me and they're being bloody taken in to see the doctor in front of me. I've only been given 6 months to bloody live and I've got better things to do with my bloody time than to stand here and be ignored ....'

And with that he turned and stormed out the door.

Now, I can and do understand his frustration. You can see from my own experiences above, that I too, along with every other cancer patient attending the clinic, have to sit for long periods and the first thing you do on turning up, you look at the board.  Today it said, 'waiting time for Dr Chan, 30 minutes' but mine was 45 minutes.  Is there not enough oncologists and registrars, clearly not.  Is that the fault of the doctors, probably not? Is it the fault of the nurses, most definitely not?

Obviously I don't know this chaps particular circumstances. And my attitude, again as you know, having been shot, stabbed, crippled, nearly drowned (3 times) and all that as an adult and then of course there was all the near misses I had as a kid, I really was reckless and nearly died on a couple of occasions between the ages of 6 and 12 as I didn't recognise the danger of situations I put myself into, I accepted, quite calmly the news that my days were finally numbered.  Having accepted it, I now just get on with living my life enjoying almost every minute of it and dragging myself out of bed to go to work every day, even when I really don't feel like it.

Will this state of mind continue as my condition begins to deteriorate, I would like to think so, but who can tell.  I just hope this chap comes to terms with his situation, for his sake and those close to him.  All the doctors and nurses who look after me, and him, at Basildon hospital really are there to help and assist and make life as comfortable for us as they are able to and through no fault of theirs, we, the cancer patients, will always outnumber the number of people who are giving every day of their lives to look after us to the best of their ability, training and calling.  They are not there, when we turn up, huddled behind a closed door, drawing our names from a hat, to see who is going to get seen. Some patients condition are much more progressed than others and some have conditions that are much more complicated.

Some of us, need to have the information given to us by the doctor repeated ad infinitum, and in simple terms that we can understand.  This isn't a visit to the GP that you know will only last 5 or 10 minutes and the sooner that poor chap comes to realise that, hopefully for him, he can get on with living his life and maybe, just maybe getting rid of his anger may slow the progress of his deterioration.

BTW: I didn't get to see pretty wee Olivia Chan my oncologist and ended up with tall handsome Ewan, her new registrar, which pleased Ishbel no end as apparently he was delicious ...... Sheesh and all I got was an increase in meds.  ah well, maybe  I'll get wee Olly next time .....

Monday, 17 March 2014

Book Review: The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

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Move over, Cornwell, Stockwin, Sidebottom and Iggulden and any other writers of historical dramas/fiction that are out there, a 'new kid' has firmly arrived on the street... Matthew Reilly has continued his blockbusting cinematic writing style of contemporary novels with his latest novel, The Tournament set in the Middle Ages.

He has taken 13 year old Bess along on  a journey, accompanying her teacher and Royal Court attendant, Roger Ascham, with Mr Giles, the latter, King Henry VIII's choice of representative in the worlds first Chess Championship to determine who truly is the best Chess player in the world......

The Tournament is invitational only to be held in the Ottoman capital of Constantinople at the invite of 'His Exalted Majesty Suleiman The Magnificent, Caliph of the Sons and Daughters of Allah, Sultan Lord and Ruler of All That He Surveys".

Thirteen year old Bess, if you haven't read the clue above, is the daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII and will eventually rise to become Queen Elisabeth I of England. Ensconced in Hatfield House, away from Court she is under the tutelage of Roger Ascham a Cambridge Scholar and a firm believer that a good 'education' is not something to be trifled with, even if his methods sometimes bring down the wrath of the King!

It would be difficult to review the story of this book without giving away many spoilers, so in broad terms only, Suleiman The Magnificent has issued invitations to the main and upcoming rulers of the day in all known Christendom.  Contained within that invitation is a secret message and all are instructed to send their own chess champions along with a 'gift' for the Sultan.

King Henry consults Ascham as to his friend and fellow Cambridge teacher, Gilbert Giles, as to whether he is 'the best chess player' in the land.  Ascham confirms that it is his belief that he is, and so Giles, accompanied by Ascham, Bess and the Ponsonby's, chaperones for Bess, set off across Europe for Constantinople.  Bess is also allowed to take a travelling companion and chooses Elsie Fitzgerald who around 5 years older than Bess and much more worldly, and a very interesting character, finds herself in a whole heap of trouble.

However, notwithstanding Elsie's liaisons, there is much more trouble and intrigue in the Royal Palaces of Topkapi and Hagia Sophia in the heart of Constantinople.  The city is being terrorised before the tournament by a murderer who once the murder has been committed , then skins the lower jaw of his victims leaving the skin, jawbone and teeth exposed and then leaves the bodies on display.

On the opening night;s ceremony's Bess leaves the banquet hall to get a better view of a fireworks display and is met with the sight of Cardinal Farnese, an envoy accompanying the Holy See's player and an outspoken opponent of Allah and the Moslem faith, dead, in a courtyard pool, with a disfigured jaw!

All in all there are 6 murders over the remaining pages and after the first The Sultan tasks Mr Ascham with finding the killer after hearing from Michaelangelo - did I mention that this book is sprinkled with many famous characters from history, yep Michaelangelo of Sistine Chapel and other famous works of arts and invention, and an old friend of Mr Ascham's -  that he has some detective skills.

That's all I can really tell you without giving the whole thing away, suffice it to say Mr Ascham does on more than one occasion come close to losing our future Queen in the most terrible of circumstances....

Matthew Reilly writes big descriptive scenes, he lays it all out there like a cinema screen and you are visualizing these scenes in your minds eye as you race through this book and it does become a race as he writes so intelligently and with a fluidity that makes it difficult for you, the reader/ watcher,  to stop turning pages.

He has done some marvellous research both on Chess, and the period of history described, that he almost convinces you, like those fine authors mentioned in the opening paragraph and in their historical pieces, that the events unfolding in front of you, DID REALLY OCCUR.  He weaves true events into the story line and informs us that even some of the maladies of our own time started even before the setting of this tome and continue to vex as now as they did then and we realise, that just maybe, there are no solutions to the ills of man and religion so long as 'faith' has followers and the predilections of the weak willed are covered up by their unswerving following and adherence to that 'faith'..

This really is a marvellous read and your reading enjoyment will only be increased by adding this to your TBR pile, but when you start it, you wont be able to stop. I should warn you though, that this book, like most of Mr Reilly's other published works, is not for the faint hearted.  The descriptions of priests, and others,  and their 'use' of young boys and others, could offend and there are, through Elsie Fitzgerald's descriptions, some 'racy' sexual encounters too.

At the end of the book Mr Reilly informs us of the material he used for reference and also reproduces an interesting interview he gave on the subject of the book 

Editing for Kindle /iPad: 5 out of 5
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Page length on kindle /iPad: Not given, but about 432 pages in length
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Foot Note.  If you want to get a taste, FOR FREE of Mr Reilly's writing and of Mr Roger Ascham then I recommend his little FREE prequel to the Tournament, Roger Ascham and the King's Lost Girl The whole thing is about 88 pages in length with only about 25 of them a very short and interesting tale of murder in Cambridge, introducing us to the analytical mind of Ascham.

Amazon UK 
Amazon US

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Book Review: Henry Wood Detective Agency Time and Again (Book 2)

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Book 2 in the Henry Wood Detective Agency series, Time and Again was every bit as good as the first, my review of that first book is here in fact Mr Meeks, or Brian to me, as I follow him on Twitter at @ExtremelyAvg seems to be getting into his stride and I actually enjoyed this one even more than the first, which clearly bodes well for number three in the series....

So, we are still in 50's New York and Henry has settled in to his new office in the Flatiron building with some of the quirky characters, such as Bob, turning up here again , this time helping Henry in a new case.

Can it be called  new case though.  Henry receives a visit from one of New York's finest telling him that he needs to come with him, there's been an accident!

On arrival at the scene of the accident Henry learns the news that his mentor and boss, Michael Thomas Moore a PI, who trained Henry in Detective work, is the victim of a hit and run, while that in itself is a crime, the police are looking at it as an accident.

It doesn't take Henry long to look at it as a crime, a street full of parked cars and where the only gap is, a bunch of dog ends discarded from someone sitting in a car ... waiting and watching.

Henry asks to look at the body and lifts Mickey's note book from it to look at later.

Henry soon discovers that his old boss, mentor and friend hasn't changed his ways and that the notes of the case he was working on are all in code but he does discover that he was working on a case that involved the shady side of the art world with secretive collectors who were willing to pay vast sums for black market art.  Interestingly and as an aside I recently watched The Monuments Men at the cinema and Mr Meeks does touch on this in this book, without actually referring to that film title, I suspect, like the rest of us he did not know of their existence while researching for this one but he does describe what was happening to works of art during WWII in the same way as the movie, which makes for a contemporary and fascinating link!

An old flame appears on the scene, well not really, more a case of unrequited love on Henry's part which complicates the mix and a secret auction being set up to buy a piece of lost art that most people, even in the art world, had never heard of.  Henry finds he needs to call in reinforcements and enlists the help of Big Mike, from book 1, who has accumulated leave from the NYPD and Professor Dr Brookert from NYU. He even manages to get a secretary to manage his life, I mean office, and things begin to pick up in that area but the case has more twists than a spiral stair case.

The strange cabinet in Henry's wood work cellar makes a couple of appearances disgorges clues once again, but Henry so wrapped up in the case and the reappearance of Katarina in town, that he misses the first set of clues, which he believes, had he found them, may have prevented Mickey's death and this troubles him greatly.  I'm sure that in book three, or at least I hope, in book three that the mystery of this time shifting magic cabinet will be explained and while it is an anomaly it somehow doesn't seem to out of place here!

Mr Meeks does need to slow down a little and maybe take a little more time in editing, before pushing the upload button to find and correct the few minor errors sprinkled throughout, but and I do emphasise that they were  minor, they did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the story.  My only criticism of the story line would probably come at the end of chapter 54 leading into chapter 55.  I finished off the chapter started the new one and then had to go back as I thought I had missed either a chapter or at least a couple of paragraphs as some of the main characters were being followed to a destination and then suddenly seemed to have somehow been kidnapped by other unknown characters.  It did confuse a little but did become clear in the end!

All in all, another good book from Mr Meeks and Henry Wood ......

Editing for Kindle /iPad: 4 out of 5
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Page length on kindle /iPad: 225 with proper page numbers too. Oh what joy....
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Recipe: Roast Rack of Lamb

Ishbel loves this, me, I can take it or leave it but when the boss likes it who am I not to prepare it...

So get your self a decent wee Rack, ask your butcher for the best end

There are many ways you an prepare this, drizzle it with garlic, chopped rosemary and a light olive oil and bake it off but one of Ishbel's favourite ways for me to prepare it, is with a bread crumb and herb dressing.

I was serving this with Dauphinoise potatoes, so let's start there and remember this is just for two;
Pre-heat the oven to 160c/320F

What you will need:

A couple or three large potatoes I used Maris Pipers, but King Edwards are good too
A clove  of garlic
300ml /10 ozs double cream
Salt and pepper


Doesn't matter, your preference, peel or not the potatoes,  and slice thinly about 1/2 inch thickness
Rinse through to get rid of any excess starch
Arranger in baking dish
Grate the garlic and scrape into the dish with the tatties season with salt and pepper
Mix all of the above

Pour over the cream and mix again topping up to just below the top layer of potatoes, and place into the preheated oven for 1 - 11/2 hours. Check regularly, you may need to top up with a little more cream and also to ensure the cream is not splitting, if it is your heat is too high ans should be reduced

For the Lamb

You can trim the fat off before adding the crust and cooking, if you wish

Preheat the oven to 200c Fan 220c conventional

Make some breadcrumbs, you can
season these with whatever dried herbs
takes your fancy

One decent sized best end rack of lamb
and for this I used two dressings 
1 large teaspoon of dijon mustard
1 large teaspoon of elderberry and port jelly

usually I would use just either the jelly or the mustard but being a bit adventurous here!

Spread the mustard on one half of the fat (tip; usually I would brown the rack on both sides before adding the dressings, I forgot as I fell asleep and was pushed for time to prepare for Ishbel coming in!)

Cover with the bread crumbs
I usually at this point just drizzle a tiny drop of light olive oil over the breadcrumbs
and place in the oven

depending on your preference

8 minutes should get you very Pink
10 minutes should get you medium
12-15 minutes for well done

I served this up with some some carrots and soya beans 


Sunday, 2 March 2014

The debate on gambling, what's your take?

(c) vectro.rs
All week on the news here in the UK, there has been yet another debate on gambling machines in betting shops and the addictive power they hold over some of the punters.

As I understand it if you go into a pub or a takeaway where you find gambling machines you are limited to how much cash you can actually put into these machines which is a few pounds, but in betting shops, as I understand it, you can bet hundreds of pounds at a time.

Also, and in particular to say, takeaways, your time is limited to how long you are in there waiting on your order to be made up and given to you and then you are out of there and of course the amount you can win is also a few pence to a few pounds while in betting shops you can sit in there all day and put as much as you want in, from a few pounds to a few hundred pounds with the returns also being that much greater, possibly!

The debate I have heard this week is about the gambling industry introducing voluntary controls where, when you put the first coin or note into your machine you are given the option to set a time limit and an amount you want to gamble up to.  So, you can start and say to yourself that you only want to spend an hour on the machine and you only want to gamble a maximum of £200.00.    

I have to confess to only having two addictions in my life that has been detrimental to both my pocket and my health. The first one is the dreaded fags if you haven't guessed it and even now after having been diagnosed with terminal cancer, although I hasten to add, according to my oncologist, my particular cancer is not linked to the cancer I have and my plan was to finally kick the nasty habit when it was thought that it could be cut out and that after the operation I was going to be in hospital for at least three weeks and that then, would be the perfect time to kick the habit, ah well the best laid plans, and all that.  So, I have continued to smoke but there is a plan now in effect and the first step is the pharmacy today to buy one of these new fangled electronic fags and try again, but this timeI am I hope, more determined.

The second addiction was booze.  I came from a hard drinking community and family, I can only remember seeing my father drunk more often than sober and I can remember well, being more than a tad upset when I was thrown out of one of my favourite watering holes when I was fourteen after been drinking in there for about a year, when a new barmaid started who new, " Hey, you're one of Agnes's kids aren't you ...." And you can imagine the rest.  Mind you it didn't help, that Agnes, my mother was in the trade and I used to volunteer regularly to clean and tidy the cellar under the bar and this was at a time when most beers were in 'screw top' bottles in crates and that made it easy for me to go round a crate of beer, unscrew the top and take a swallow and as long as I managed to keep the levels equal and not take too much, I could guzzle a lot of beer in each 'cleaning' session!

I then joined the Army at 15, Junior service and then at 17 transferred to the Regulars and my Regiment was in Berlin. Part of the British Army on the Rhine, shortened to the acronym BAOR, then lengthened by those serving at the time to the 'Boozy Army on the Rhine', as booze in the NAAFI/PX was so, so cheap.

Well, you probably know the rest, got married 76, first child Marie came along in 78 and from that moment I gave up the booze only occasionally to today, having the very odd tipple.  I found that relatively easy but the fags, clearly not.

So back to the gambling and the debate of the week which now has the government stepping in and telling the gambling industry that rather than them introducing a voluntary code of practice, the government is going to make them mandatory.  Fine, let's make them mandatory, but is this really a way forward to help those who have this addiction? It seems  to me that the new rules,  whether introduced voluntary by the bookies, or mandatory by government, is a bit like pissing in the wind. Is it not like an alcoholic finally admitting his addiction, joining AA and then being applauded for their courage in finally admitting, coming to terms with it and then joining their first AA meeting, to be told, "just in case you need it, there is tea, coffee and water over in the corner, oh, and there's a bottle of Whisky, there too, just in case ........."

The warning is there on the slot machine and it flashes up on the screen to tell you to put your time/£ limit in, but the button is there for you to over ride it at any time, and unlike the AA meeting there are no like minded people also trying to fight their addiction sitting in a circle willing you on to win the fight and to resist the urge.... It's just you and the machine and the easy button to override your desire to feed your addiction, the machine and the profits of a vastly rich gambling company before you head home to your wife and family with empty pockets and wallets, again. and I suppose that's easy to do when you can bet £100.00 every 20 seconds! (BBC news)

As an aside, at 57, I can report, that I can count on my right hand how many times I have actually been inside a betting shop in my life....... and why are they called shops any way? A shop is a place where you can purchase goods or services, can't see you can do that in these places.... And if you know me you know I don't have five digits on my right hand ........