Books, life the universe

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Nearly another week gone . . .

I think time goes quicker in winter - or is that just my perception of it?

I don't seem to have done anything useful this week though I did have some good news earlier - the mammogram I had just before I went back to work was clear. Though having read through all the spiel in the letter about not all cancers are detected by mammograms and the person reading years may make a mistake . . . . I started to wonder whether it was good news after all. I know they have to put all that in because you might have it and they didn't find it but a simple yes or know would be sufficient for me and I'd take all the blah as read. Still, we're all different.

I've just finished reading A A Milne's The Red House Mystery originally published in 1922 and recently re-issued. It stands the test of time well and has all the ingredients for a good country house mystery including a restricted number of suspects as most of the guests were playing golf. I can't really say much about the plot without giving most of it away but it's well worth reading if you like crime. This is one of the classics of its genre.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Time flies . . .

I'm not sure where that week went but it's Friday again and whilst I have started getting stuff for Christmas I really haven't got very far with it. I've been quite tired this week though my arm seems to be standing up to the strain quite well, though today it's been a little bit achy - probably because of the damp weather. Sounds like a good excuse for a rest this weekend.

I finished reading How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day by Kath Kelly. The author announced to some of her friends that she was going to do this to save for her brother's wedding present. The pound a day didn't include rent - just food and other day to day stuff. It's an amusing read and does make you think about how much money you might waste. In a way she was lucky because she lived in Bristol and anyone who lives in a city probably has more chances for free events to go to than someone who lives in the country. Shopping at supermarkets when they're reducing stuff, looking for coins dropped on pavements - she gave these to charity at the end of the year - looking for free events which provide you with food and drink, take part in surveys, ask for free samples, have a holiday for free by volunteering, hitch hike, walk, cycle. etc etc. Whilst no one will probably follow all her ideas there must be something in the book for just about everyone - even if you only want to stop spending for a short time to save for something.

I also finished Priscilla Masters - Scaring Crows - a convoluted crime story which opens with two bodies in an isolated farmhouse and involves family relationships and feuds in the farming community. This author's books are well worth reading in my opinion and deserve to be better known.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Sunday, 16 November 2008


I finished reading Veronica Heley - False Step the other day and very good it was too. This is a new series which started with False Charity and features widow Bea Abbot who runs a domestic agency. This one involved a suicide which turned out to be murder and a corpse who isn't what he seems. I thought it was the best one so far.

I've also just finished Alison Joseph - A Violent Act which is the latest in the Sister Agnes series. She is a very unconventional nun with a penchant for fast cars, good food and wine. In this story she has to face unfinished business to do with her father who died some years ago. Her friend, Father Julius, wants her to visit a lady who is dying of cancer and an inmate of the hostel for homeless young people which she helps to run dies of an overdose. An excellent complex plot with more serious issues than the average who done it.

Paul Gallico's Flowers for Mrs Harris is a charming short novel - Ada 'Arris - London char falls in love with the idea of owning a Dior dress. So she saves up until she has enough money to fly to Paris to buy one. What happens to her and the people she meets is a gorgeous heart warming story. I had read this author's Too Many Ghosts and The Hand of Mary Constable so this was another one to add to the list.

I am currently reading Trisha Ashley - A Winter's Tale. This is sort of chick lit but also almost an historical novel in modern dress. Sophy inherits Winter's End a rambling manor house, estate and a garden which is in the process of restoration. There are two eccentric great aunts who live on the premises and a cousin who expected to inherit and who is trying to persuade Sophy to marry him so that he can get his greedy paws on the property. Excellent light reading.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Nearly the end of the week

I think I've pretty well caught up with the reading at work - and boy was there a lot of it - most of it not terribly interesting and all of it irritating. I hate management speak! The favourite in e-mails when you're telling someone something they won't like is 'Happy to discuss.' Translated that means 'You can say what you like but that is my final decision.' I thank that's the one which really bugs me at the moment. That and 'By close of play . . .' What are we? Cricketers?

For the next few weeks I'm intending to do a 4 day week by having Wednesday off. This should give my arm a chance to become acclimatised. It is holding up well actually and I'm managing to organise my work so that I give it a rest regularly. Then of course there's Christmas coming up - aaaaarh!!! I haven't done anything about that yet.

Off to have a shower and relax with a book - more about books read at the weekend.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Back to work tomorrow and books

No I'm not looking forward to it! I'm sure I'll feel different when I get there. The trouble is I have really enjoyed these last few weeks of liberty. I think I would feel differently if there was no possible way out until retirement age - but there is. I could apply for early retirement and would probably get it. Being an adult and having responsibilities I have to consider things from that stand point. If I only had myself to consider I would be applying for it as soon as I get in to work tomorrow - but I don't just have myself to consider.

No more reading books for a large part of the day - ho hum! I've read over 50 since the end of August. The latest is Kate Muir's West Coast about Fergus a photographer who leaves his childhood home on the west coast of Scotland in unfortunate circumstances and makes his fortune in London. Having done so he realises that happiness was probably back in Scotland. In a sense a boring story line but the writing lifts it above the banal. The start of his time in London with its ambiguous sexuality is well done as is his gradual disillusion with the art world. This is a far better book than the same author's Left Bank in my opinion.

Currently reading - Alison Joseph - The Quick and the Dead, Kath Kelly - How I lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day, Paul Gallico - Flowers for Mrs Harris.

Enjoy your Sundays everyone.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Modern Childhood

I've just read this article by Ulrika Jonsson:
This is an issue which seems to crop up in the media quite a lot these days with articles usually formulated around clothes for small children which closely resemble those of the most provocative streetwalkers. Thongs for 5 year olds should in my opinion not be sold. Do people really want children to become aware of how to attract the opposite sex at that age?

In this case Ulrika's 8 year old daughter had heard about a makeover party for girls her own age and knew her mother wouldn't allow her to attend. Encouraging children this young to wear makeup and worry about their appearance suggests to me they are being made to grow up at far too young an age.

It's all very well saying girls like dressing up but there's a huge difference between dressing up and worrying about whether you should have cosmetic surgery or go on a diet. No one's self confidence should be tied up with how they look. One person has commented on the article saying that a woman who does not bother about her appearance condemns herself to a life without men. This is absolute rubbish! I have never worried about my appearance - apart from ensuring I look neat and tidy - and I have never been without a man in my life! For a short time I did wear make up regularly but even that was against my better judgment.

If you want to lower the teenage pregnancy rate then you need to educate girls - by example - that there are more important things in life than appearance. Getting the best educational qualifications you are able to and finding a job you enjoy are more important. Looks don't last - your mind and personality do.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Most moving picture of today?

The Rev Jesse Jackson hearing the news of Barack Obama's victory. He must have thought countless times that he would never see a coloured US president in his life time.

Seeing this shot of him on television certainly moved me to tears.

Picture as shown on

America and the NHS

No the two things aren't linked it's just the two news items which are hitting the headlines at the moment.

It is an historic day for America and probably for the world. Barack Obama's success in the presidential elections must mark a turning point in American politics. On the other hand you could say that if America is an egalitarian country - as it is always trying to say it is - then the colour and origins or even the sex of the president are irrelevant. It is certainly a triumph for America's version of democracy.

The NHS - the co-payments issue. I do have mixed feelings about this. Yes it seems immoral people should be penalised by having to pay for drugs the NHS cannot afford to fund. I do not think we are creating a two tier system as we already have that in the sense of private health insurance. Also people have always had the option to pay for private treatment if they wish and can afford it. Why not have the best of both worlds?

What does worry me is that drug research, because there are almost always vested interests involved, is not always reported fairly and accurately - see the book Bad Science mentioned in yesterday's post. Patients, when seriously ill, may not have enough information to make an informed choice about which drug is best for them because drug companies are in the business of selling drugs and making a profit. They could end up paying a fortune for something which may not prolong their lives as much as they have been told it will. It must be difficult to make a rational decision in such circumstances.

On the same theme, I have yet to read a story where someone has been denied a drug by the NHS which will actually provide a cure for their condition. Which is food for thought.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Books read

I've been reading at a great rate knowing I'm back at work next week. Most notably:

Carol Goodman - The Sonnet Lover - Rose Asher has built up a prestigious academic career in New York and has almost forgotten her first love - Bruno - who she fell for twenty years ago in Italy. When circumstances conspire to send her back to La Civetta near Florence she wonders whether old wounds will be re-opened. She is on the trail of some missing manuscripts which may reveal the identity of Shakespeare's Dark Lady of the sonnets, but her search will bring her into physical danger before the mystery is solved. It's well written with an interesting literary mystery at its heart - it kept me reading.

Ben Goldacre - Bad Science - shows what's behind all the medical scare stories we read in the press and how research is manipulated to give the horrific headlines. It is worth reading for its chapter on the placebo effect alone. Easy to read even if you are not scientifically minded and gives you the knowledge to find the facts in a scare story.

Elizabeth Aston - The Second Mrs Darcy - A Jane Austen inspired story which features Octavia Darcy - widowed after a very short marriage to a Darcy cousin. She returns to England from India and decides she will not look for a husband - scandalising her half sisters. An unexpected legacy make sit possible for her to set up her own establishment. This is reminiscent of some of Georgette Heyer's novels with headstrong heroines and interesting heroes. I enjoyed it.

I have also put a review of Noreen Marshall's - Dictionary of Children's Clothes on Amazon. For anyone who wants to read my reviews on Amazon they are now posted under the pen name of Damaskcat.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Otto the octopus

I've just read this:
An octopus in a German aquarium didn't like the spotlight shining on his tank so he found a way of squirting water at it to short circuit it. Trouble was this put the rest of the creatures in the aquarium at risk because the electricity went off. He seems to love tourists and is bored now the place is closed for the winter. Amongst other things he has been seen juggling with the hermit crabs, throwing rocks at the glass and rearranging the lay-out of the tank to suit himself rather than the other marine life he shares it with! Obviously an octopus with attitude.