Books, life the universe

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Fat is an emotive issue

Is bashing fat people the latest sport in the UK? The Daily Mail seems to be having a crusade against the obese at the moment through the comments facility on its articles. Amanda Platell has recently written an article saying she doesn't think people should have weight loss surgery on the NHS because the problem is self inflicted. I understand this is just to get debate going but it is still a very dangerous statement.

If you're going to say any medical problem is self-inflicted then you need to apply that sort of judgement to all illnesses where an element of choice is involved - e.g. anyone suffering from the effects of too much alcohol, smokers, drug addicts, anorexics, people with sports injuries, people injured in car accidents which happened because they did something stupid, people using chain saws or any other dangerous equipment, people who burn themselves when cooking - the list is endless.

It is invidious to suggest that people should not be treated because their illnesses/injuries are self-inflicted. You could end up with hardly anyone being treated if you carry it to its logical conclusion.

I also don't like Body Mass Index as a measure of obesity as it is a nonsense when applied to people such as rugby players or anyone with well developed muscles. I understand that the value above which you are classed as obese has been reduced as well so that more people are classified in that category.

Same with testing for diabetes - acceptable blood glucose level used to be 7.8 and is now 5 and there's talk of reducing it. A friend of ours who is a pharmacist says there will be a lot of seriously ill people around if they take anything lower than 5 as the normal fasting reading. It seems to me there are more people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes simply because the goal posts have been moved.

Are they really concerned for our health or are the drug companies more interested in their profits? This was prompted by NHS Blog Doctor's post of 24 February 2009 which prompted a lot of comments about diabetes and cholesterol and the constant changing of what normal readings should be.

Off to read Susie Orbach's book Bodies to see if I can redress the balance.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

18 novels I could not live without

Inspired by Noreen over at Norn's Notebook - link at top of the page - I'm listing 25 adult novels which I could not do without:

  1. John Mortimer - The first Rumpole Omnibus

  2. Dorothy Dunnett - Checkmate

  3. Elizabeth Pewsey - Unholy Harmonies

  4. Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice

  5. Anthony Trollope - Barchester Towers

  6. Dorothy L Sayers - Gaudy Night

  7. John Hadfield - Love on a Branch Line

  8. Sharon Krum - The Thing About Jane Spring

  9. Veronica Heley - Murder in the Park

  10. Donna Leon - The Girl of his Dreams

  11. Josephine Tey - The Daughter of Time

  12. E F Benson - Mapp and Lucia

  13. E M Delafield - The Diary of a Provincial Lady

  14. Rumer Godden - In this House of Brede

  15. Alexander McCall Smith - The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency

  16. Catherine Fox - Love for the Lost

  17. Jerome K Jerome - Three Men in a Boat

  18. Phil Rickman - The Remains of an Altar

Well that's 18 so far off the top of my head! I shall have to do some research to decide on the remainder! maybe more tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009


Current books on the go: Elizabeth Aston - The Darcy Connection - another Jane Austen spin off; Julia Williams - Strictly Love - chick lit with a ballroom dancing background; M R Hall - The Coroner - very good psychological crime about cover ups on a grand scale.

I've just finished L C Tyler's The Herring Seller's Apprentice which was very Golden Age of detective fiction even though it's set in the present. Two narrators - novelist Ethelred Tressider and his agent Elsie Thirkettle. Elsie reminded me of Agatha Raisin with her robust physique and terrier-like qualities. The plot is excellent and I would defy anyone to work out what actually happened. Ethelred's ex-wife is found murdered and the police suspect Ethelred for a while as well as Rupert the man she left Ethelred for. Elsie at first thinks her client is innocent but starts to wonder about his apparently unbreakable alibi. I shall definitely look out for more by this author.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

A shrinking office

We are rapidly dwindling in our office and another one left today. Now she's gone we're down to 16 in an office that actually could hold 80! Great that we've got so much space but still a little strange. Someone else is retiring next month - soon we'll be like the 10 green bottles!

My cold is worse than yesterday just at this moment but hasn't been as bad today. I've been busy as well which has taken my mind off it - always a good thing.

I haven't been reading very much over the last couple of days because I've been going to sleep early but perhaps I'll feel a bit more like it towards the weekend. I'm having a day off on Friday and having my hair cut as it's starting to annoy me so once I've whizzed through the housework I'll have some time to spare.

Off to catch up on the news and then to bed to read for a while.

Monday, 23 February 2009

That's two days missed so far . . .

Actually though 2 days in two months is not really that bad. Anyway no point in beating myself up over it. I wasn't feeling marvellous yesterday and couldn't stop coughing, so I went to bed early, then didn't sleep well. Today I'm not coughing as much and at least my throat is pretty well all right now, though I am sneezing and blowing my nose. I went to work today because I didn't feel that bad - not like the last cold I had when I spent two days in bed! Hopefully I'm over the worst of it now.


I was intrigued tonight coming home on the bus to realise the teenage girl behind me was listening to what sounded like opera on her iPod. I thought it just serves to show that however hard I may try I still put people in pigeon holes - a salutary lesson!

Saturday, 21 February 2009


I could not have put it better myself!

In recent years I haven't had any negative comments about my childlessness but I used to get a lot when I was in my twenties. Most of them were along the lines of telling me I was selfish for not wanting children.

I have not regretted my decision which was made when I was a child. I did have a very idealised picture of myself at one time having twins and holding down a really high powered job. Somehow that never got close to being on the drawing board and I'm not at all sure where it came from!

I've never been interested in children and what maternal instincts I have are more than satisfied by looking after an ill partner and a delinquent cat, not to speak of being agony aunt at work.

Sore throat a bit better today but I've started sneezing. Don't feel too bad though - maybe it won't develop into anything much.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Feeling sorry for myself

I have an irritating sore throat and think I'm getting a cold. The first one for almost exactly two years - but that doesn't stop me moaning about it. I'm not sure where I got this from as everyone who's had a cold at work had theirs two or three weeks ago. Presumably I've picked it up going to and from on the bus.

Thinking about it there was someone on the bus on Tuesday who had one - so I'll blame him. By the way Boots own brand sore throat pastilles are excellent - I've get the lemon flavoured ones and they really do work and they're not expensive - £1.26 for 24. I usually find a packet will see me through two colds.

I think I shall have an early night tonight and see if sleep will stave it off or at least reduce its severity.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Plane crashes and books.

I was thinking today when I heard about the helicopter ditching in the North Sea with no loss of life of the recent crash in the Hudson River in New York. It seems as though water and planes do mix this year and I expect there was something similar going on astrologically on both occasions.

Both incidents are of course a tribute to the skill and training of both pilots and crew and in the case of the helicopter of the passengers as well. Anyone working on the rigs has to practice ditching in the sea regularly so they react like clockwork when it comes to the real thing. I'm really glad no one was seriously hurt in either incident.

I've just read Isabel Wolff's A Vintage Affair and as chick lit goes found it entertaining. There was a sub plot which was more hard centred than many and the descriptions of vintage clothes were interesting. Phoebe leaves her steady job with an auction house to realise her dream of opening a vintage clothes shop. How the shop changes her life and forces her to look at her own behaviour makes interesting reading. I hadn't read anything by this author before but I shall be looking out for others now.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The countryside

I was thinking about the Fens on the bus to work this morning. It was getting light and there was a mist over the fields like the start of an atmospheric film. What attracts me to this area is that it isn't full of chocolate box pretty cottages and tarted up fields and hedges. It is real down to earth working countryside. It's not pretty and to some people can be very depressing and gloomy in winter with all the damp fields and water filled ditches. I love it but then my ancestors lived here so I suppose you could say I'm rooted in the Fens.

At the weekend I had an e-mail from someone who'd seen my web site and wanted to know how work was getting on with the new multi-million pound pumping station I'd mentioned at St Germans near Kings Lynn. As I didn't know - having not thought about the contents of my web site for quite some time - I did some web surfing and found an excellent site maintained by the developers This has to be one of the best web sites I've seen for any sort of construction work in progress and photographs are posted regularly and frequently.

How this low lying marshy area is kept from sinking back into the morass it was at the time of Hereward the Wake fascinates me. It's a partnership between man and nature which seems to work because man never takes nature for granted or assumes he has her tamed. The internal drainage boards with such names as Black Sluice, Middle Level, Witham Fourth etc are quietly working away in the background making sure we are not walking around up to our knees in water for half of the year.

These days all the pumping stations have two sets of powerful pumps - one diesel and one electric - and they're computer controlled though people are still essential to their smooth running. During periods of heavy rain when all the pumps are going staff can be working very long days. The drainage board employees are the unsung heroes of this area in my opinion. They make it possible for all the vegetables which are grown round here to thrive.

During my journey to work I was also thinking about the Fen Slodgers - as people used to be called. This was because they used to get about on stilts through the marshy ground and I suppose the noise they'd make would be similar to the sound of the word. I wonder how many people fell in before they mastered the art of stilt walking!

Back to books tomorrow before I put off all my loyal readers!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Follow up to yesterday

I have just read that Alfie who apparently fathered a child at the age of 12 may open the DNA test results on live television - possibly Channel 4. I'm sorry but this is disgusting and sickening not to speak of ridiculous. How is this going to improve the state of the nation's morals?

I really hope public opinion puts a stop to this before it takes place otherwise there's going to be all sorts of children seeking to emulate him. I'm all for not being prudish about sex but this is taking things too far. I'm rapidly falling out with the 'no blame culture'. In this case someone is to blame and probably the parents who allowed this sordid state of affairs to happen in the first place.

It's no good saying children will do what they want and you can't stop them. Parents are responsible for children and whilst I don't agree with parents being tyrants, children need to be at least worried about displeasing them in order to keep them on the straight and narrow. Bring back old fashioned parenting and discipline which works.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Monday and thoughts

Work was not too bad today as it was bright and sunny so everyone seemed in a reasonable mood. What's more there was no frost or snow this morning - which must be the first time for at least two weeks. I'm looking forward to spring more than usual this year.

I have been wondering about the latest teenage pregnancy scandal - the boy of 12 who apparently made a girl of 14 pregnant. Apart from whether or not this was actually possible and it seems as though it is going to be tested by means of DNA; I was somewhat astounded by the immediate reaction of the families involved to try and sell the story to the highest bidder. In a way I suppose this at least shows initiative. But I am also seriously shocked by the whole thing.

At 14 - in the mid 1960s - boys were the last thing on my mind and in any case it was drummed into all children of my era that sex=babies=shame if you're not married.. As in Holland now, teenage girls becoming pregnant were regarded as stupid and lacking in respect for themselves. Old fashioned though such a view is I still think this is the right way to be. Children need to be told that sex is something to look forward to when you're older and can appreciate it for what it is.

I think the word 'respect' is the key to that last paragraph because children are not taught to have respect for themselves and their own bodies let alone for other people. If you take away the single mother's 'right' to a council house of her own, and make her stay with her parents we might get rid of some of these problems. Currently the ambitions of some teenage girls stop at have baby - get council house.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

How not to write a novel

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 mistakes to avoid at all costs if you ever want to get published by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman. Not exactly a handbook on creative writing but a collection of examples (made up for the book) of what not to write. I found it slightly too Americanized and with too many swear words but it was amusing in spite of these criticisms. The trouble is, having read it you tend to become more critical of any fiction you read. It's a sort of light hearted version of the recent spate of scholarly tomes about how novels work I suppose. It would be useful if you wanted to write fiction but weren't quite sure what should be avoided. I suspect the cover will serve to sell it as it shows a lovable kitten and a gun and the fact it's published by Penguin will make some people buy it. I don't think Penguin got the cover right as I find it distasteful - I bought the book because I was interested in the subject matter - in spite of the cover.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Saturday chores done

Well apart from the washing which is ongoing. The floors and the bathrooms are done - (sounds as though we live in a mansion but new houses these days almost always have a downstairs loo and an ensuite as well as a 'family' bathroom.) Whilst useful I think they're designed to give whoever does the housework more to do. Tesco have kindly delivered my shopping right at the very beginning of the two hour slot which is convenient. So I have just about one and a half days to relax before it's back to work on Monday.

Maybe more later perhaps about books I'm currently reading.

Friday, 13 February 2009

It's Friday!

I had half hoped the snow would be so bad this morning I couldn't get into work - but it wasn't! The roads were clear and I suppose there was about an inch of the stuff on the paths and gardens. Most of it has disappeared now because we've had a very pleasant sunny day.
Funnily enough there are strange mounds of snow in various gardens and open spaces where snow men were made about a fortnight ago! They look very strange as often there is no snow around for several yards.

Work is very fraught at the moment for lots of reasons I can't go into but at least the sun cheered everyone up to a certain extent and of course it's Friday and the weekend. Have a good one everyone.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Yet more snow . . . and chocolate

Haven't we had enough of the white stuff this winter? I was standing waiting for the bus to come home tonight just before 5.00pm and wondering whether I should have gone home earlier! There were very few people about - just some of the usual ones who catch that bus - it was snowing quite heavily and even covering the roads. Still, I thought, the driver will want to get home so we're less likely to get stuck going in that direction.

The journey home wasn't too bad though there was snow lying on some of the roads. There's been probably about 2 inches since 1.30 this afternoon. If it carries on I wonder what the chances are of buses running tomorrow? If there are no buses I shan't be going to work that is for sure.


I have discovered over the last couple of days that I seem more even tempered if I don't eat chocolate. I haven't had any since Sunday because I ran out and for some reason I just haven't bothered to get any more. Now that IS worrying as I really would not like to give up chocolate permanently in the interests of peace and harmony for the rest of the human race.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Sadomasachism for Accountants

Sadomasochism for Accountants by Rosie Barnes has such an intriguing title I felt I had to read it when I saw it mentioned on Anne Brooke's blog (link at the top of the page). Witty, quirky and surprisingly enough - not crude - it kept me turning the pages and I finished it in less than two days.. Paula is suddenly dumped by accountant Alan after 8 years of reasonably happy cohabitation because she 'is boring'. At first Paula takes up stalking as a hobby which nearly lands her in seriously hot water but then she stumbles upon a fetish club whose members accept her as she is. She decides to get rid of her boring image and try and win back Alan from the clutches of career girl Belinda.

Paula is ably assisted in her plans by various members of the club including the Man in the Mask - naked except for a mask; Luda - a transvestite builder and 'her' sidekick Dave; Gretchen the dominatrix with the heart of gold and her acolyte Slave Boy. All characters are eccentric and lovable and the plot is as strange and convoluted as it sounds but it is hilarious. It is very un-politically correct - if there is such an expression - and well worth a read if you want something different.

Thank you, Anne, for mentioning this book, otherwise I might never have come across it.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Short skirts

I have read on various web sites in the last couple of days about the teenager who was called a slut by a teacher - or classroom assistant - depending on which article you read. Said teenager was upset and the head teacher wrote to the parents and apologised. Why? I can imagine what my parents would have said in the same situation and they wouldn't have supported me!

I go back to the days of mini skirts the first time round and I can remember turning over the waistband of my school skirt to make it as short as possible. Even while I was doing it I fully expected to be told off if I was spotted by a teacher and I'm sure I would probably have been called worse names than slut and have deserved them.

Sign of the times? Are children not able to deal with such things any more?

I can only once remember being seriously upset by something a teacher called me - he described me as illiterate - which I knew I wasn't. On the same principle maybe this girl thought she didn't look like a slut but to my mind having a skirt which closely resembles a belt is very likely to merit the description.

Obviously I have turned into 'disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' or perhaps it's just the generation gap.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Housewife in Love

Housewife in Love by Alison Penton Harper is an excellent light read. It is fast paced and witty with eccentric and colourful characters. Helen is debating whether she should marry Rick. She can't decide whether it's worth the risk when she remembers the disaster zone which was her first marriage. While she battles with her doubts, sister Julia is battling with an unexpected pregnancy and friend Leonie is trying to stop her twin boys from blowing up the house with their new chemistry set.

Paul and Sally - the gay couple upstairs from Helen - let the bath overflow and force Helen to move out of her flat temporarily. Helen decides to move in with Rick only to find his estranged daughter in residence. Lola is the teenager from hell. Will she be able to stop Helen and Rick marrying? I love the style and the characters though this particular author seems to get some very negative reviews on Amazon for some reason. I would recommend any of the 4 books in the housewife series as good light reads. (Housewife Down, Housewife Up, Housewife on Top and finally Housewife in Love).

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Another book read

I finished reading Carole Matthews' The Difference a Day Makes which was all right but nowhere near as good as her two Chocolate Lovers books which were excellent. This latest one reads as though it was put together in a hurry to meet a deadline. I didn't feel I cared about the characters and it was all a bit slushy and sentimental apart from the antics of the unruly dog Hamish - some of which were just plain disgusting. I'm sure it will delight her many fans but it didn't do too much for me. I think I've read so many really good books recently my standards are going up.

I've nearly finished Housewife in Love by Alison Penton Harper which by contrast is hilarious with a lot of colourful characters most notably Paul and Sally the gays who live in the flat above Helen.

Several others in the pipeline to read of which more during this week.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Beautiful People

I finished reading Wendy Holden's Beautiful People last night and was quite sad when I finished the last page. Apart from being a light hearted romantic comedy it does have some serious points to make about celebrity in all walks of life and appearances in general. The last half of it is set in Italy where all the characters end up for various reasons and is excellent. There are some very funny scenes and some brilliant dialogue. The descriptions are beautiful as well especially of the food. Introducing a new main character half way through a book doesn't always work but in this case the introduction of Marco - restaurant owner and chef - works perfectly. The photographer, Ken, who suddenly takes off for Italy on a whim with no baggage and nowhere to stay is a gem as well. Loved it.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Another view of Jade
If you've read the tabloid media you may have noticed public opinion seems to be divided over whether she should have kept quiet about her illness. The above link is to a very much more measured article and is worth reading. I whole heartedly agree with it. Whatever you think of Jade her attitude to her illness is admirable.

Should she have suffered in silence? No I don't think so. Other people haven't - for example John Diamond - late husband of Nigella Lawson - who wrote a warts and all diary about his cancer. The attitude to Jade is in my opinion based on snobbery. She makes no claim to be intelligent but she has the brains to engage Max Clifford as her publicist so that she can raise as much money as possible to ensure her sons are looked after - full marks to her.

Bored with the weather . . .

It is snowing again but in a somewhat halfhearted manner. Most of what arrived yesterday has disappeared because of the drizzly rain. I was just watching it out of the window and when it's those very tiny flakes they don't all fall straight down. There's virtually no wind so they just sort of float lazily up and down almost like thistledown. Eventually they do land but the individual flakes are a bit like sky divers drifting on thermals. Fascinating to watch.

Currently I'm reading: Carole Matthews' The Difference a Day Makes; Bill Hussey - Through a Glass Darkly; Wendy Holden - Beautiful People; Alison Penton Harper - Housewife in Love; Anthony Trollope - Doctor Thorne. All very different books. The Carole Matthews is not as good as some of her previous books most notably the two Chocolate Lovers stories. I find her a very uneven writer. Beautiful People has grown on me - it's over 600 pages and seems a bit disjointed until page 300 after which it really gets going when all the characters are in Italy for various reasons. Through a Glass Darkly is definitely a daylight read for reasons I've already mentioned. Housewife in Love is just as good as the other three in the series. Doctor Thorne is rather more serious and sober than either of its predecessors. Plenty to keep me amused over the weekend.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

. . . snow actually arrived!

I looked out this morning at about 4.30am and there was nothing but when I got up at 7.30am there was masses. I am very glad I'd already booked the day off. It looks from the tops of the wheelie bins that there's about 4 or 5 inches of the stuff. It's supposed to turn to rain later this morning I'm glad to say.

The schools must be closed round here because the kids are building a snow man across the road. I'm a bit surprised the village school is closed because most people walk there but then I suppose the dreaded Health & Safety has struck again.

I'm off to read a good book or maybe the latest issues of Writing Magazine and Writers' News which dropped through the letter box this morning.

Have a good day everyone

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

More snow predicted . . .

. . . .but will it arrive? Who knows? It's certainly been cold today though bright sunshine all day.

As NAM says in her comment on my post from Monday - if the weather forecasters over predict bad weather no one really minds. It's only if they fail to predict bad weather that there is a problem.

Apparently you only have to go about 20 miles away from where I live to find quite substantial amounts of the stuff so we wait with bated breath to see if we'll be really hit this time. I'm quite glad I'm off for the next two days. Time to curl up with some more good books I think.

I've just started reading Bill Hussey's Through a Glass Darkly - horror set in Fenland probably near Ely. It's the sort of book that made me keep wanting to cross myself - and no I'm not Catholic or even particularly religious but this is really spooky stuff and very well written. I bought it because it sounded more crime - with echoes from the past - than horror and because it's set in my beloved Fens. I may or may not read to the end - and I certainly won't read it at night.

I finished reading The Art of Losing by Rebecca Connell, which is very well written if slightly confusing at times. Nicholas and Lydia have a brief fling but Lydia decides to stay with her husband, Martin. Nicholas attempts to forget and marries Naomi. Twenty years later Lydia's daughter, Louise assumes her dead mother's name and insinuates her way into the lives of Nicholas, Naomi and their son Adam. I found it slightly difficult to believe that no one realised Louise's connection with Lydia - especially as she was calling herself Lydia. Nicholas and Naomi had known Louise as a small child. However, children do change in looks so maybe this was just believable. I did enjoy the book and I especially liked how all the characters grew on you during the book. I started off liking Nicholas and ended up thinking he wasn't really that pleasant a person. I came to like Lydia's husband Martin and I thought he was really the only person who came out of it as someone admirable. This is a writer to watch.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Today . . .

. . . was sunny. Much of the snow has disappeared except from places like car parks. Odd bits of pavement were still a bit icy tonight and I notice the market packed up early.

The forecast is not too bad for here so maybe we won't get much more. I really do feel sorry for the rest of the country as just about everywhere seems to have suffered. Often this little bit of Lincolnshire seems to avoid what the rest of the country - or even the county - gets. I put it down to being virtually below sea level - as though we're in a sheltered hollow.

Everyone at work is getting fractious over trivialities at the moment. I'm hoping everyone will be calmer tomorrow but for once I'm just letting it roll over me and not getting involved. I have Thursday and Friday off - a break from work and the weather.

Monday, 2 February 2009


I had an interesting journey to work on the bus this morning. As the bus route doesn't follow the major roads there was plenty of snow about and some of the journey was a shade hair raising. An excellent driver though and I never felt in any real danger - I'm just not used to feeling a double decker bus sliding around! On the other hand once I got off the bus there was loads of pristine snow to walk through and enjoy - lovely!

I came home early because I really didn't want to be stuck 10 miles from home if it got worse as it was supposed to do. Now they're forecasting rain for us later tonight - which means, hopefully, that it'll be gone by tomorrow.

I love the look of the stuff but hate it if I have to go out in it - beyond the garden that is.

Enjoy the snow - if you've got it - and of course take care.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Skinny water??

I buy my Rescue Remedy amongst other things from Holland and Barrett ( and an advert for a product called Skinny Water landed in my in-box this morning.

Less than 10cals per bottle and tasting slightly of pomegranate juice as well as being fortified with chromium and other things. (I thought chromium was poisonous?) I cannot think of any reason why this should be better for you at 3 times the price of ordinary bottled water and probably 1000 times more expensive than tap water. Apparently it's used by celebrities - for bathing in perhaps? I always thought you drank water not used it.

To me this is an example of the old saying about there being 'one born every minute'.