Books, life the universe

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The end

Jillysheep is now up and running at Wordpress. I am still getting to grips with the layout and what to put where but there are two posts on there to be read - one about the Mountjoy novels of Elizabeth Pewsey/Aston/Edmondson and one about Jane Austen sequels, prequels and continuations.

Thank you everyone for your support over the last few years and I hope you will continue to visit jillysheep at

I hope to resurrect Lady Sophia as well and start writing regularly about feminism again and I think Lady Sophia will also migrate to Wordpress in due course.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

New home for jillysheep

I am currently in the process of setting up jillysheep on I seem to have a lot of problems with blogger with it throwing me out from time to time and not letting me comment on other people's blogs even when signed into my account. It has been known to not let me amend my own posts and locks me in a loop of signing in and then throwing me out. So I decided to move house as it were.

I am currently finding my way round Wordpress and will let you know when I feel that it is ready for visitors - might be later today or might be later this week. I intend to post more in the future and be rather more professional about it as well so there will be more in depth book reviews and occasional long posts on my favourite series and authors. I will also post essays on such topics as Jane Austen sequels, the ebook phenomenon and other book related themes.

I had considered changing the name of the blog but rejected that idea in the end as people seem to recognise jillysheep. The address for the blog's new home is and I will let you know once I have decided whether to re-post some of the entries from here on to the new blog. It is likely that this edition of the blog will stay as it is and the Wordpress version will be the blog which will be updated in the future.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A marvellous book of short stories

People Tell Me Things by David Finkle - this is not my usual sort of reading by any means. It is by an American writer and the stories are set in the literary and art world of New York. But something appealed to me about it and I accepted the review copy I was offered a few weeks ago.

I am really glad I did. The stories are some of the best I have read for many years. They are full of compassion for the human condition and gently humorous. The amusement does not arise from poking fun at the foibles of the characters but springs naturally from the situations and descriptions. There is a wamth and compassion which is lacking in so much writing this days. I found it really enjoyable to read an author who clearly loves people for their personalities.

The stories left me with the feeling I was eavesdropping on real life but not in a voyeuristic way. Small everyday actions have unforeseen consequences and repercussions. Characters think they know what is going on and then find the situation isn't as they believed it to be and the piece of the jigsaw they hold does not belong to the jigsaw they thought they had. The dialogue is realistic, the characters are believable and idiosyncratic and the situations could translate to almost any milieu because human behaviour is universal.

It is difficult to give a flavour of these stories because they are so different from anything I've read. They leave me with a warm feeling that there are still people left in the world who don't want to find amusement in cutting people down to size or dwelling on extreme sex and violence to the exclusion of the good qualities in human nature. These stories are unique in my opinion and deserve a wide audience.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Latest reading

The Psychic Tourist by William Little - the author buys his sister and her daughter astrological chart analyses for Christmas. Unfortunately they both say that his sister and niece need to be careful about being near water. This stops his sister travelling by boat or even being anywhere near water. Feeling responsible for restricting her life, William Little sets out to discover whether the future really can be predicted. He consults psychic, mediums, astrologers, gypsies, palm reader, Tarot readers and physicists. The verdict? Perhaps it is possible to predict the future but no one really knows. Fortunately he is able to eradicate his sister's fear of drowning and takes her out in a rowing boat to show her she is quite safe. This is an interesting read with some thought provoking findings especially in the field of science.

Mansfield Revisited by Joan Aiken - it is a credit to this book that I have been carrying it around in my bag for months and only reading it when I'm waiting for things to happen such as in doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms and yet I still managed to retain my interest in the story. I actually took it out of my bag and read the last 30 pages because I wanted to find out the ending. The books starts a few years after the end of Mansfield Park. Sir Thomas Bertram is dead. Fanny and Edmund have two children and are about to leave on a trip to the West Indies to oversee family business interests there. Susan - Fanny's sister - has grown into a sensible young woman with more sparkle than her older sister. Mary Crawford - a much subdued Mary Crawford - returns with mixed results. There is a marvellous failed trip out to discover Roman ruins which is worthy of Jane Austen herself. This is worth reading in its own right as well as a continuation of Mansfield Park.

The Plague Maiden and A Cursed Inheritance by Kate Ellis - Further episodes in the Wesley Peterson series which mixes modern crime with archaeological discovers with conspicuous success. I found both of these compulsive reading. There is little on the page violence or bad language and they are dark stories with many ramifications between past and present. Human nature is both good and bad. Tensions are growing between Wesley and his wife Pam and the constant conflict between work and home life is well done.

When Last I Died by Gladys Mitchell - the inimitable Mrs Bradley is drawn into a cold case when she rents a house which formerly belonged to a lady who may or may not have been murdered. There is a marvellous haunted house featured in this absorbing and psychologically well crafted story. I read nearly all of it one evening and found it totally absorbing.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

More reading

Falco : the official companion by Lindsey Davis - one of the best companions to a series of books that I've ever come across. It includes short descriptions of all the books; details of the major series characters; lots of information about life in the Roman Empire in the first century AD; amusing essays about the author's own life and how she came to write the books as well as the difficulties involved in writing a series such as forgetting your main characters have a young child which they have left at home and having to find a baby sitter from the remaining characters!

Just the Job, Lad by Mike Pannett - continues the author's experiences as a policeman in North Yorkshire. I find books about people's jobs fascinating reading and this author brings life in North Yorkshire vividly to life. Crimes are relatively minor in comparison with crimes in cities but all human life is here.

The Doctor Will See You Now by Max Pemberton - the author is back working in hospital in geriatrics and psychiatry. The incident which really stuck in my mind was the case of the schizophrenic with a broken shoulder who no one was prepared to treat BECAUSE of his mental illness!! The way elderly people with mental problems were treated varied from the barbaric to the wonderful as well. I found it a very disturbing book to read - probably because of my age. Why don't we treat older people properly in this country?

Poseidon's Gold by Lindsey Davis - Falco's uneasy truce with his estranged father and trying to unravel his late brother's complicated business affairs without bankrupting the whole family in the process.

An Unhallowed Grave, The Funeral Boat, The Skeleton Room, A Painted Doom, The Bone Garden all by Kate Ellis - more Wesley Peterson crime stories mixing archaeology and modern crime.

Domesday Book - the latest Penguin translation - no I haven't read it cover to cover but it is fascinating to dip into.

A sixty year old look at education - Jane Hope's One Term at Utopia. Life in school is recognisable even though this book was first published in the 1950s. There are disruptive pupils, thick pupils who are unable to write their names or follow simple instructions, trouble with parents when pupils are disciplined, and lazy and incompetent teachers. Major difference is that there was corporal punishment available and teachers were not afraid to use it. Now no one could get away with describing teachers as 'child-beaters' as Jane Hope does. Refreshing reading if only to remind you that political correctness didn't exist until recently.

Currently reading:

The Making of the British Landscape by Francis Pryor - a study of man's effect on the landscape over the last several thousand years. Well written and informative and a joy to read.

Conversations with Mr Prain by Joan Taylor - Stella is New Zealander running a second hand bookstall in Camden Market. Edward - Mr Prain is a customer who invites her to his country house for tea. The book consists of their various conversations about art and writing and descriptions of the various rooms in the house. I've read about half of it and I'm really not sure whether I like it or not. It is somehow compelling but . . .

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Books and decorating

I have been making a start on the decorating as well as doing other boring mundane chores which practically drive me demented but need to be done if we're not to live in a mess. I have practically finished the dining room/kitchen thanks to a very useful gadget - a Dulux Paint Pod. It is basically an electrified roller system. Much quicker than using a roller normally as you don't have to stop and re-load the roller - you just press a button.

I'm the world's messiest decorator so anything that promises no mess is a bonus for me. It really is no mess as well. It also cleans itself - fill a chamber with warm water and switch on. Empty the chamber at the opposite end of the machine when done and everything is clean and just needs drying - including the roller itself. I'm far from being a gadget freak but I just love this. I wonder when they'll bring one out that works with gloss paint? In the meantime I'm tempted to emulsion everything!


The Devil's Sonata by Elizabeth Aston - very good - supernatural influences in a co-ed boarding school which occupies a former monastery. A violin which seriously affects the girl who plays it and an American researcher studying a grimoire in the library.

Anna, where are you? Catherine Wheel, The Case of William Smith all three by Patricia Wentworth and all are among her best work for sheer complexity of plot and character analysis. I only have about six more to read by this author.

The Merchant's House and Armada Boy by Kate Ellis - archaeology and modern crime - fascinating. All the police characters get on as well which makes a change from many police procedurals.

The Hanging Wood by Martin Edwards - another episode in the Lake District series of mysteries. A very enjoyable crime story with a truly horrific ending. I love the concept of a residential library - now that is my idea of heaven! I thought the characters were well drawn and I like the way the relationship between Daniel Kind and Hannah Scarlett is being developed slowly and sensitively.

The Secrets of Pain by Phil Rickman - thanks to a mix up over publication dates I have the ebook version of this which is not actually published until September. I think by the time Amazon realised their mistake my copy had already been downloaded and they haven't asked for it back! It is the latest in the Merrily Watkins series and very good it is too. Not so much about the exorcism side of Merrily's job but enthralling just the same.

The SAS feature in the form of Syd Spicer - the vicar who was in The Remains of an Altar - currently temporary chaplain to the SAS, his old regiment. He is trying to deal with something unpleasant which would be better left to Merrily but for reasons of secrecy he has to keep it to himself. Hereford police - in the form of Frannie Bliss and Annie Howe have their own problems with the murder of a farmer and the murder of two girls. The book kept me reading late into the night when I got to the last third of it as I had to know how it all worked out. At least with ebooks it is more difficult to flick to the end and make sure all your favourite characters escape unscathed!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Books read and reading

Rattle his Bones by Carola Dunn - one of her Daisy Dalrymple series. Daisy is researching a series of articles about the Natural History Museum and is inadvertently one of the first people of the scene when one of the curators is murdered. The professional rivalries are extremely well done in my opinion. This series is growing on me.

Flights of Angels by Victoria Connelly - chick lit with angels - which could have been twee and sickly and is actually really well done. First published in German and made into a film in Germany and only recently available in English thanks to the e-book revolution which enables authors themselves to produce their own ebooks.

Death of a Sweep by M C Beaton - latest in the Hamish Macbeth series. Milly Davenport comes home from a shopping trip to find her husband dead and stuffed up the chimney and the sweep missing. Hamish eventually gets to the bottom of the mystery.

Ivory Dagger and The Brading Collection - both by Patricia Wentworth. Cosy mysteries in the classic detective story mould with Miss Silver imperturbably knitting, watching and listening.

How to Leave Twitter by Grace Dent. I thought it might enlighten me about why people join Twitter in the first place. Seems the reason is because everyone else has joined. I can see that people can like watching it - in a sort of car crash fascination way but apart from that it really isn't something I actually want to take part in. I might change my mind - but not yet.

Currently reading

Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell by M C Beaton. Agatha is married to James Lacey but things aren't as blissful as she had hoped.

The Devil's Sonata by Elizabeth Edmondson (AKA Elizabeth Aston and Elizabeth Pewsey) This is a story set in a Yorkshire girls' school located in a former abbey. Zuleika has come over from the USA to study a Grimoire discovered hidden in a pillar in the cloisters but she is unhappy about the atmosphere.

Mountjoy fans will be pleased to know that the rest of Elizabeth Pewsey's Mountjoy series will all be available in e-book format by the end of this month.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Yet more books and matters medical

Books first: I'm still enjoying Lindsey Davis's Falco series. Last night I finished listening to an audio book of Saturnalia - which is one of the later books in the series. This sees Falco - married to Helena Justina and with two small daughters - trying to wend his way through the Roman celebrations of the feast of Saturnalia keep a clear head, solve a murder and find the missing Barbarian Priestess Veleda as well as rescuing his brother -in-law Justinus. I've also read Venus in Copper - which is number three in the series and have just started number four - The Iron Hand of Mars.

In between forays into ancient Rome I've been reading some more of Patricia Wentworth's excellent crime novels featuring Miss Maud Silver, who knits imperturbably through all her cases and still manages to unravel the mystery by staying, unnoticed in the background. The two books I've read in the last few days are Latter End and Eternity Ring - both excellent mysteries which kept me guessing until pretty nearly the end.

I am currently reading Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen about Lady Georgiana - 34th in line to the British throne - who has a Bavarian princess billeted on her by order of the Queen. Princess Hannelore is the 'pain' of the title. The book is set in the 1930s and is quite amusing and well written. I should have started with the first one but as this one was only 0.99 in an Amazon ebook sale I thought I'd try this one first. I am enjoying it and I think I shall probably go on to read the rest in the series.

Matters medical

My OH - MJR - has a chronic lung condition, lung fibrosis, for which there is no known cure apart from a transplant and for which the only treatment is oxygen. He has been on oxygen at night for the last 6 years and it was increased from 11 hours to 15 hours in every 24 late last year. He also has a portable cylinder for use when he is out of the house.

Every so often he has to wear a machine which measures his oxygen levels and pulse rate overnight and whose results can be downloaded to a computer and analysed. He had one of these machines in March. Yesterday he received a letter saying he could stop using his oxygen because the results of his test in March were good.

My immediate reaction was what??!!!! accompanied by one or two rather stronger words than that. In May he had an operation and it was touch and go whether that went ahead because his oxygen levels were so low before the operation. All the time he was in there they were giving him oxygen - every time he took his mask off to drink the alarms went off. We think on reflection that they may have thought that the machine he wore in March was while he was not on oxygen when in fact it was while he was on oxygen - or that they've got him mixed up with someone else.

He has a pulse-oximeter himself and wore it last night to see what the results were without oxygen and is currently downloading them to a computer ready to print out and send to the hospital with a fairly strongly worded letter. When he was wearing the machine yesterday and just lying in bed his oxygen levels were 88% - a normal healthy person would have oxygen levels in the high 90s. I know when he was first put on oxygen our GP said if it went down to 85% regularly during the day he would have to be on oxygen 24 hours a day.

I'm usually very complimentary of the NHS especially in this area but now I'm getting annoyed with them. In January MJR ended up in hospital because he'd been given too high a dose of Warfarin to prevent blood clots and was bleeding from his kidneys. Once again the GP has done the same thing and given him too high a dose for too long and his INR is dangerously high which means if he has an accident he could bleed to death. I'm keeping him away from anything sharp.

He has avoided hospital this time only because he isn't bleeding from anywhere - well as far as we know he isn't - and he has stopped taking Warfarin for a few days and is due to have it checked again tomorrow. So this is the second time in just over six months that he's been give the wrong dose for a sustained period of time. They use a computer programme to assess the dose but clearly there is something wrong with it as they were getting on better deciding on the dose themselves as it was almost always stable and needed little variation in the number of tablets he took.

We are not happy bunnies.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Books read and heard

I have belatedly discovered Lindsey Davis's Falco series about a Roman private eye. I listened to the audio book version of See Delphi and Die - which has to be one of the best titles for a book - and was hooked. I'm not sure why I was never attracted to this series before but it could be because I tried Cadfael and couldn't get into that. Not logical I know but there we are. I have so far read The Silver Pigs and Shadows in Bronze and have just started the third one - Venus in Copper.

Why do I like them? Falco's attitude to his own successes and failures; the characters themselves and the way Falco often finds common ground with those he's investigating; his ability to tell it as he sees it to the Emperor and get away with it; the fascinating details about life in ancient Rome. Then of course there's the humour which is priceless. Even though I am now reading the series in order they can be read, or listened to, out of order as each book stands alone. If you go for the audio books then Christian Rodska is an excellent reader in my opinion.

I have just finished Jane Shaw's Talking to Zeus about the year she spent in Greece working in a garden on a hillside. Not a travelogue but a slice of life with some marvellous and eccentric characters both human and animal. Zeus by the way is a stuffed lion.

I really enjoyed the latest in Veronica Heley's cosy crime series featuring Ellie Quicke - Murder my Neighbour. Ellie is married to Thomas and struggling to combat her daughter Diana's latest demand for money as well as deal with the failing health of her housekeeper and friend, Rose, when she is presented with a mystery to solve. One of her neighbours has moved out of her house supposedly to take up residence is a retirement home - but she never arrived there.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Solar panels

In response to a comment on my previous post from kcm:

Our installation got off to a good start on the day before it was planned as the electrician turned up and asked if he could start his bit of the work early. The electric bit is quite straightforward. It involves running a cable from the roof outside the house in trunking and into the house near the fuse box. Nothing goes into the electricity meter.

Provided you've got a spare slot in the fuse box - called consumer units these days - it is straightforward. I think if you don't have they can add something on to it fairly easily. There is a big red switch with all sorts of warning notices on it as if you're doing any electrical work in the house the solar panels need to be isolated as well. Above that there's a small meter - which looks like the electricity meter which your electricity company reads. This can tell you how much you've generated and how much you've used yourself.

Maximum output from our panels is 2.5kw and we've generated 60.2kw since last Wednesday in relatively dull conditions. We've used 48kw. No one needs to come and read this meter as it transmits the data to the company via the mobile phone network. In our case what electricity we use we get free and what we don't use the company gets paid for by the government/energy company as it feeds back into the national grid. If you pay for your panels then you get paid for what you generate but don't use by a corresponding reduction in your bill or by direct payment - not sure quite how that works as it didn't apply in our case.

Apart from the meter and the switch there is what is called an inverter in the loft which converts direct current to alternating current. This is about half the size of the average microwave. Then there are panels on the roof which slot into metal tracks so that if one needs replacing it can be taken out and replaced. There is no need to take the roof apart or any tiles off for that matter. I think - but I don't know as I didn't watch - that they drill through the tiles into the beams of the roof so that the panels are well and truly anchored and no the roof won't leak afterwards - I asked.

The only mess involved was brick dust in the hall where the electrician had been working which he swept up and some brick dust outside which quickly blew away and I've found the odd screw in amongst our slate on the front garden. They drilled holes in the wall outside so that they could insert steel eyes by which to anchor their portable scaffolding - though they did ask first if it was ok and they've filled them in again - well I assume they have as I can't find them!

The problem we had with ours was that on the day it was supposed to be done - last Tuesday - the guys doing it didn't turn up until lunch time because they'd been given the wrong panels and equipment and then when they arrived with the right stuff and measured the roof they found they couldn't arrange the panels how they'd been told to. That necessitated a manager coming out and telling them it was all right to put them the other way round - portrait instead of landscape. I laid down the law to the manager - this was 2.00pm - and said because of MJR's recent operation I did not want them doing the work that day as it meant they'd be working into the evening.

The manager in the end was very grovelly and agreed that it would be done the next day. The next day they turned up early and got straight on with the work. By 11.00am they'd just got to put the panels on and they were waiting for another gang to finish with the pulley system they needed - 'elf and safety! In the end it was the wrong one when it turned up but there were about six men here by that time and the panels were put on. So the problems were caused by lack of organisation by the company itself not by any unwillingness to work on the part of the people involved.

I must say that in spite of the organisational problems I was very impressed with the attitude of the people doing the job as they worked hard and didn't keep stopping for breaks and clearly knew exactly what they were doing. Mess created was an absolute minimum. There was a fair amount of noise but for a relatively short space of time. They reckon they can do the job normally by about 1.30pm if they start at 9.00am.

I've seen solar panels on houses which face East/West - in fact I can see one if I look out of the window now so I'm not sure how critical the direction is. What is more important I think is whether your roof is a plain straightforward roof with no little gables or windows and it mustn't be hip-ended - i.e. coming to a point in the middle. They want the biggest expanse of roof possible. It is not just how much sunlight I think but whether or not your roof is always in shadow since we are generating at the moment - only about 0.9kw - even though it is dull and cloudy and the sun isn't actually visible. It basically just has to be light but to work at full capacity it needs sunlight.

It's worth looking on even if you don't think your house is suitable.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Solar panels

We have just had solar panels fitted to the roof. We're fortunate in that our house faces almost due south and gets the sun at the front virtually all day. But solar panels work on light not just when the sun is visible - which I didn't know until the other day. The maximum we can generate is 2.5kw. Of course it has been cloudy since we had them fitted on Wednesday so we haven't been able to generate the maximum amount most of the time. On Thursday it was quite sunny and I looked at our electricity monitor and it was showing we were using no electricity even though the fridge/freezer was on, two computers were on as well as a pedestal fan and various others odds and ends.

What is even better than the reduced electricity bills in future is that the panels were free and are maintained free for 25 years. It's part of a government sponsored initiative and was done through this company - Anyone can apply and they will tell you whether your house is suitable without sending anyone out to see it by looking at your house on Google Earth. Not everyone gets it free - though I've no idea how they decide whether you have to pay or not. I know we could have been asked to pay £500 and we were considering whether we would do it if we had to pay. But as it turned out we didn't have to pay.

Hated expressions and abbreviations

I really detest the following abbreviations/expressions which seem to be in common use:

'My bad' when people mean 'I was wrong'

'Addy' when people mean 'address'

'Baggy' when people mean 'bag'

Those three expressions are like chalk squeaking on a blackboard to me!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Books read and unread

I have been most impressed by two books over the last few weeks:

Dead End by Leigh Russell - the third book in the DI Geraldine Russell crime series. In my opinion this is the best book so far in this excellent series. Abigail Kirby - headmistress of a local school - is found murdered in a particularly gruesome fashion. At first there is very little evidence and the team fall back on the tried and trusted suspect - Abigail's husband, Matthew. But Geraldine herself is not convinced. It is when someone who saw Abigail in the last few hours before her death disappears that the pace of the investigation hots up and the tension mounts up. I found myself saying - I'll just read one more chapter, then realising I'd read three more!! I read over half the book in one evening and I can thoroughly recommend this series -especially this latest book - Dead End.

Gently in the Sun by Alan Hunter - Gently is sent to a Northshire village to investigate the murder of a visitor Rachel Campion. There is a heatwave and the first thing Gently does is buy himself some colourful shirts and a straw hat and sandals not to speak of an Ice cream. The portrait of a fishing village with the fishermen who seem unwilling to tell him anything is excellent as are the descriptions of the effect the incredibly hot weather has on people. The description of the thunderstorm across the wide skies of East Anglia towards the end of the book is brilliantly atmospheric.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Cookery books and others

I was fortunate enough to receive a modern reprint of Eliza Acton's Modern Cookery for Private Families. It is an absolute gem and a marvellous book to dip into even if you don't want to try any of the recipes. Some of the author's comments are surprisingly modern as well. She says she thinks there is a shocking waste of perfectly good wholesome food in many households. She also says that many illnesses are caused by habitual indulgence in cakes!

I'm still trying to make up my mind about Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple crime series. I've read two of them so far -the most recent being The Case of the Murdered Muckraker. I did enjoy it but . . . . Possibly their best read in order and I've been getting them whenever one has been offered at a bargain price. Maybe I'll try another one and see if I can finally make up my mind.

Books to be read

Dead End by Leigh Russell - third in the DI Geraldine Steel crime series. I seem to have overlooked this in my to be read list so I have moved it to my reading folder on my Kindle and will be reading it in the next week or so.

Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey - an unknown quantity as the only book by Josephine Tey I've read so far has been The Daughter of Time.

Gently in the Sun by Alan Hunter - number six in the Gently series.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Books and matters medical

I have been rather busy over the last few days because my OH has just had an operation - a Nissen Fundoplication. Do not Google it if you are squeamish! It's a cure for acid reflux basically but the after effects are probably more than most of us would care to experience. He has to be on a virtually completely liquid diet for the next couple of months though he can manage things like rice pudding if he eats small amounts - and I mean small - less than a dessert spoonful at a time.

Eventually he will be able to eat a more normal diet but may never be able to eat bread again. He has done well so far as he had the operation last Saturday and came out on Monday. He was expected to stay in about 5 days because of his serious lung problems and his diabetes but is recovering much better than was expected.


Trollope by Victoria Glendinning - a comprehensive biography of the author which makes many references to his books and really brought the man to life for me.

Here Come the Girls by Milly Johnson - an enjoyable romp of a book which was a very welcome read at the weekend. Four friends go on a cruise. It changes all their lives - for the better.

Gently Through the Mill by Alan Hunter - the fifth book in the Gently series. 1950s crime in a flour mill with Gently involved because the body is that of a petty London villain.

Ellie Andrews has Second Thoughts by Ruth Sabberton - Again an enjoyable light read with Ellie reminiscing on her wedding day. The reader does not know exactly who she is marrying or whether the marriage will go ahead until the last few pages.

Current Reading

Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey - the classic novel about Richard III. Still good even when you know some of the text off by heart!

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy - I'm still reading this in small chunks which you might think would cause a problem trying to remember what has gone on. I must have read the books many times back in the 1970s because I'm finding I have no problem recalling the story line.

The Perfect Hero by Victoria Connelly - Kay moves to Lyme Regis and opens a B&B. Her first guests are some of the actors involved in a new film production of Jane Austen's Persuasion.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Books - updated

I have decided - reluctantly - to delete my previous post on the McCann case. It seems there are too many people on the internet who, however much they might advocate free speech, only like free speech if it supports their own views of a subject.

There are many unanswered questions about this tragic case and of course not all the evidence gathered by the Portuguese police has been released to the public. What is clear to me is that the Portuguese police having failed to make a watertight case against the parents were not really interested in finding any other explanation for Madeleine's disappearance.

In order to be fair to everyone - all comments - whoever they are from - will be deleted from this post.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Books, books and more books

  • Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon - I am re-reading the Guido Brunetti books in series order as e-books. Unfortunately the first and the third are not yet available as e-books so having bought the first in paper back I'm trying to decide whether to do the same with the third book or wait for the ebook version. However I did enjoy this one - the second in the series. Some people don't like them because there isn't always a cut and dried solution to the murder and there isn't always a criminal brought to justice. This doesn't bother me as I enjoy reading the story anyway. Maybe the journey is preferable to the destination?

  • The World the Flesh and the Bishop (Divine Comedy)by Elizabeth Pewsey - see previous posts - Just as good as ever - I always love the incident where Titus and Quinta rescue Lydia from the orgy! Unholy Harmonies is now available as an ebook

Currently reading

  • The Forsyte Saga - John Galsworthy - up to book six which is the last of the novels which are purely about the Forsytes.

  • Unholy Harmonies by Elizabeth Aston - see above and previous post

  • Trollope by Victoria Glendinning - biography of the Victorian author. It shows how his experiences were translated into fiction as well as describing his life.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Royal Wedding and books

I wasn't going to watch the wedding but I wanted to see what 'the dress' was like so I ended up watching some of the guests arrive and then the service itself. I thought Catherine looked absolutely gorgeous - simple and elegant. The bridesmaids were well behaved as well and Philippa looked good too. I can't understand the people who say the dress was too plain - no one wants to look like a meringue with sparkles on their big day. It was nice too that the Royal School of Needlework did a lot of the work.

Books read

  • Landed Gently by Alan Hunter - the fourth in the Gently series. Gently is invited to stay with the Chief Constable of Northshire over Christmas and enjoy some pike fishing. A man is found dead at the foot of a staircase at nearby Merely Hall on Christmas morning - did he fall or was he pushed?

  • The Surprise Party by Sue Welfare - women's fiction with a bite. Liz and Suzie organise a surprise party for their parents' ruby wedding anniversary but there are surprises in store for everyone before the evening has finished.

  • Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon - the first in the Guido Brunetti series. This is a re-read but even better the second time writing. Her writing is subtle and understated and I saw things that I missed the first time round.

Currently reading

  • Them by Jon Ronson - conspiracy theorists he has known. So far they come over as misguided and all too human. New World Order and twelve foot lizards mix with more ordinary terrorists

  • Death on the Downs by Simon Brett - second in the Fethering series

  • The World the Flesh and the Bishop by Elizabeth Aston - this is a retitled ebook version of a book originally published as Divine Comedy.

Elizabeth Aston and Elizabeth Pewsey are the same person. As Elizabeth Pewsey she wrote the 6 Mountjoy novels - Children of Chance, Divine Comedy, Unholy Harmonies, Volcanic Airs, Unaccustomed Spirits and Brotherly Love. As Elizabeth Aston she has written 6 Pride and Prejudice sequels - Mr Darcy's Daughters (also titled The Way of the World), The Exploits and Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy, The True Darcy Spirit, The Second Mrs Darcy, The Darcy Connection, Mr Darcy's Dream. She also wrote a modern Jane Austen themed novel - Writing Jane Austen. I'd read all these before I realised it was Elizabeth Pewsey under another name.

She has also written as Elizabeth Edmondson - The Frozen Lake, Voyage of Innocence, The Villa in Italy, The Art of Love, Stones and Shadows - which is published this year and Devil's Sonata also due for publication this year. I have only read The Villa in Italy of her Elizabeth Edmondson novels and found it extremely good.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Happy St George's Day; and books

Why can't we have a Bank Holiday for St George's Day? We're falling over Bank Holidays this Easter but I still think we should have one for our national saint.

Books read:

  • Death in the Physic Garden by Karen Lowe - murder and garden design. I first read this a few years ago and enjoyed it but thought I would re-read it before I read the next one featuring Fern Green - Death in the Winter Garden.

  • Gently Down the Stream by Alan Hunter - murder and family secrets set in the Norfolk Broads with lots of Norfolk dialect - though nothing too incomprehensible for those not familiar with it!

  • Summer of Love by Katie Fforde - good light reading. I haven't enjoyed her later books but in this one she is back on form.

  • Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer - Regency with a Gothic theme. This is the only Heyer which has ever reduced me to tears.

  • The Missing Marriage by Sarah May - man goes missing off the Northumbrian coast in a kayak - but is he really dead? I found it a very confusing story with some relatively unsympathetic characters.

  • The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett - the first in the Fethering series. I read it some years ago but it was still enjoyable the second time around. Touches of delicious humour and a pair of mismatched sleuths - what's not to like?

Currently reading

  • The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer - one of her most interesting heroines in my opinion

  • Death in the Winter Garden by Karen Lowe - Fern is asked to resurrect an overgrown art deco garden but the skeleton of a baby is found when the digging starts

  • Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon - the first in her Guido Brunetti series set in Venice - worth more than one reading as her style is understated and I'm seeing things I missed first time round.

Happy Easter people!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

More books

Recently read:

  • Death of a Nag and Death of a Bore by M C Beaton - both Hamish Macbeth and good light reads with darker undertones if you choose to look for them

  • Life from Scratch by Melissa Ford - this was a free e-book download and very good it was too. Rachel splits up from her husband and takes a year off from her job as a graphic designer. She starts a blog about learning to cook and makes a new life for herself. Fact or fiction? Who knows? Good reading though - set in New York.

  • Lizzie Harrison Loses Control by Pippa Wright - Lizzie is in PR dealing with celebrities. She is really organised but life - in the shape of out of control celebrity Randy Jones - is about to knock her sideways. Feel good read with enough serious insights to keep you reading

  • Gently Does It by Alan Hunter - the first in the Inspector George Gently police series. This one is set in a loosely disguised Norwich. I can remember my mother being a huge fan of Gently and I can see why. They are well crafted crime novels without too much violence with an interesting main character the peppermint cream eating Inspector Gently from Scotland Yard.

  • The Way to a Woman's Heart by Christina Jones. Love it! Feel good women's fiction with a touch of magic set in the Berkshire countryside. It came out last year but I have been waiting for the e-book version to come down to the paper back price.

Books currently in progress

  • Gently by the Shore by Alan Hunter - second in the Gently series

  • Housework Blues by Danielle Raine - about why we don't like housework and how to think differently about it. This is a good example of how e-books could develop with active links to books and websites mentioned in the text.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Doesn't time fly . . .

Not sure that enjoy is the right word since too much of my time has been taken up with medical appointments of various types - only one of which was mine - my six months dental check up. Anyway - back to books M C Beaton - Death of a Charming Man, Death of a Gentle Lady - two books in the Hamish Macbeth series. Beatrice Goes to Brighton, Deborah Goes to Dover and Yvonne Goes to York - the last three volumes of the Travelling Matchmaker Series - which I really enjoyed. Light hearted early 19th century romps which could appeal to anyone who likes Georgette Heyer. S J Bolton - Now You See Me . . an atmospheric thriller about a series of murders carried out by a potential Jack the Ripper copy cat killer. Definitely kept me turning the pages and not a book to read on your own at night! Georgette Heyer - The Nonesuch - with one of my favourite heroines - Ancilla Trent and one of the most obnoxious young female characters - Tiffany - a spoilt brat heiress. Peter Lovesey - Skeleton Hill - very good crime story involving, among other things, a Civil War battle re-enactment.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Books read and reading

M C Beaton - Death of a Prankster; Death of a Glutton and Death of a Travelling Man - all good light crime novels with some interesting things to say about human nature.

Georgette Heyer - Arabella and Faro's Daughter - I really loved Arabella and had completely forgotten how amusing it is. I think Arabella is one of my favourites among Heyer's younger heroines.

Andrew Matthews - Happiness in Hard Times - Australian self help guru writing about his favourite topic - happiness. Count your blessings and read the inspiring personal stories.

Currently reading

Georgette Heyer - The Unknown Ajax - heir to the Darracott property indulges in a little bit of deception.

H R F Keating - The Perfect Murder - the first of the Inspector Ghote mysteries set in India. I've only read about 50 pages so far but it seems very good.

I'm also still plodding on with the Forsyte Saga and the Way We Live Now as well as listening to the audio book version of Faulks on Fiction.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Books, books and more books

Plenty of crime and other things mainly historical:

M C Beaton - Emily Goes to Exeter, Belinda Goes to Bath and Penelope Goes to Portsmouth - the first three books in the Travelling Matchmaker series - light reading set at the beginning of the nineteenth century. I'm waiting for the last three to come out at the end of this month. If you like Georgette Heyer then you may enjoy these.

Elly Griffiths - The House at Seas End - the third in the Ruth Galloway series set on the North Norfolk coast. This one is about six skeletons uncovered by a cliff fall which turn out to be rather newer than the skeletons Ruth is normally interested in. Excellent atmospheric writing with an out of the ordinary heroine.

M C Beaton - Hamish Macbeth mysteries - Death of a Cad, Death of an Outsider, Death of a Perfect Wife, Death of a Hussy, Death of a Snob - these are all good light reads with Hamish displaying not only his laziness but his good knowledge of human nature. While they are light crime stories they often have some deeper aspects which raise them out of the ordinary.

Ken Moody - The View from the Surgery - short pieces by a GP based in Scotland with some very Dickensian pseudonyms for the patients.

Amy Bratley - The Girl's Guide to Homemaking - chick lit - but interesting chick lit. Juliet moves into a new flat with her boyfriend only to discover he has been cheating on her with one of her friends. From there on in her life disintegrates. How she deals with that disintegration makes interesting reading.

Carola Dunn - Styx and Stones - poison pen letters in 1920s rural England. This is the first book I've read in this series and I think I shall be looking out for the others.

Edmund Crispin - The Case of the Gilded Fly - Golden Age crime set in Oxford. Good reading and the solution to the murder is so simple when you know it!

Currently reading:

Georgette Heyer - Faro's Daughter

John Galsworthy - The Forsyte Saga - I'm on volume 5 - The Silver Spoon. I can still see the people who played the characters in that long ago BBC adaptation!

Anthony Trollope - The Way We Live Now - very topical even if it was written in the 19th century.

Simon Parke - One Minute Mindfulness - short passages providing food for thought.

Friday, 25 February 2011


Mainly crime this last week or so.

Agatha Christie - The Mysterious Affair at Styles - the first book featuring Hercule Poirot. A classic poisoning mystery.

Stephanie McAfee - Diary of a Mad Fat Girl - Graciella (Ace) and friends try to free Chloe from her abusive marriage. Interesting plot and rather too many swear words and American expressions but I thought it was an interesting read.

Georgette Heyer - Lady of Quality - one of my favourites - set in Bath with an older heroine and an abrupt but humorous hero.

M C Beaton - Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage - Agatha is going to marry her neighbour, James Lacey, but is her husband Jimmy Raisin actually dead?

Maggie Sefton - Knit One, Kill Two - detective story with knitting interruptions set in Colorado. Good light read but not as good as some.

M C Beaton - Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist - set in Cyprus where Agatha goes to try and woo James Lacey. I think this is one of the best in the series.

Christina Hopkinson - The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs - about the niggly things which annoy everyone about living with someone else. I could not get on with this and abandoned it after 100 pages. It is fiction but could equally have been factual. I just did not warm to the characters at all. I usually read all of a book but this one had me beaten.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Yet more books and heating update

The heating is still working and we have been surveyed. The surveyor was not happy because the old oil tank has still not been taken away, the oil pipe underground was not replaced and the gubbins which stops the system silting up was not installed. We really don't want that done but we've been told we've got to have it done. But he did say because they have to drain the system again to do it they will need to take responsibility for any damage they might cause in the process and they will be told that in no uncertain terms. So we wait and see. In the meantime we have heating and hot water so we are happy - and warm - bunnies.


Theodore Dalrymple - Second Opinion - short and astringent essays about the seamier side of life from a doctor's point of view. I find it best to read these a few at a time as they can cause you to lose any faith you might have had in the essential goodness of human nature.

Hugh Hunter - Our Man in Orlando: Murder, Madness and Mayhem in the Sunshine State - the work of a British Consul in Florida. The British abroad are just disgusting but the book was interesting as I'd never been quite sure what British Consular staff do - now I know.

Georgette Heyer - Charity Girl - not perhaps my favourite Heyer novel but still enjoyable

Tilda Shalof - A Nurse's Story - memoirs of an intensive care nurse in Canada. Thought provoking, funny and sad and raises many questions about 'striving officiously to keep alive'.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Books read

The first few in the Agatha Raisin series by M C Beaton: Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death; Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet; Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener; Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley. I like Agatha Raisin because she is not the conventional heroine. She is outspoken and a good organiser and she she is insecure about her ability to attract men. She does her best in any situation but her attempts at detection do not always go to plan. These books are a light and amusing read but well written. I have read all three before but they will bear re-reading.

Carmen Reid - New York Valentine - the latest in the How Not to Shop series. Chick lit at its best with Annie Valentine wading in where angels fear to tread to sort out clothes shopping nightmares.

Patricia Wentworth - The Lonesome Road; The Chinese Shawl; Miss Silver Comes to Stay. All three are excellent examples of Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver books.

Elizabeth Edmondson - The Villa in Italy. Set in the late 1950s. Four people unknown to one another arrive at the Villa Dante in accordance with a will. They have to find a codicil which is hidden somewhere in the Villa and they have thirty three days in which to find it or all the money will go to charity. The plot may seem a bit of a cliche but everything is in the writing and the writing of this novel is excellent. The characters are interesting and I wanted them to sort out their problems with or without the money. I felt quite sad when I read the last page.

Gladys Mitchell - The Mystery of a Butcher's Shop. A body of an unpopular man is found neatly jointed in a butcher's shop - but the head is missing. Another case for the inimitable Mrs Bradley.

Theodore Dalrymple - Second Opinion. A collection of short pieces about the flotsam and jetsam of society as represented by inner city dwellers and prisoners. Ascerbic and judgemental - Theodore Dalrymple will either delight or horrify you and may completely destroy your faith in the basic goodness of the human animal.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The good news

The boiler is working now and so we have heating and hot water - success!! Now we have to get the company who did it to clear up their mess and to give us the forms that says it's been installed properly. As we've not heard from them at all since last Tuesday I think we may be waiting a while and MJR seems reluctant to chase it up.

On the plus side we have a very quiet apparently very efficient boiler and a room thermostat that you can progamme down to decimal points of a degree. The house is not in a mess any more though outside still is. Was it worth it? I reserve judgement. I have learned more about the operation of central heating systems than I knew before or ever wanted to know.

It's funny when you have anything new like a central heating boiler and it must be a bit like having a new baby as we keep tiptoeing into the utility room to check it's still breathing!!

The surveyor is coming out on Friday to inspect the system - which will be fun - though I think basically that the system has been installed properly it's just that things haven't been done that were supposed to be done and it all took far longer than it was supposed to.

We are also fortunate that we had the insurance on the Boilermate otherwise we would have been left out of pocket for what was supposed to be free. As it is we've paid our own plumber to do some of the work. Would I recommend the Warmfront scheme to anyone? Yes with the caveat that they make sure that it isn't one particular company doing the installation - name supplied on application to me via e-mail!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Some progress

The man from Gledhill - who make the Boilermates - came out on Friday and virtually replaced everything in the Boilermate - which now works both normally and on emergency heating and hot water.

We did have the boiler working for a time - in spite of the absence of the installer who again failed to turn up on Friday. The boiler is now having a hissy fit again and we're back to the emergency heating. We are not letting anyone else touch the Boilermate again! Full marks to Gledhill - they've done a brilliant job and he had all the parts he needed with him - which seems to be pretty unusual these days.

Personally I suspect a fault with the only bit of the system which hasn't been replaced - the oil line under the ground from the tank to the house. This was supposed to be replaced and hasn't been. We're supposed to be having a surveyor come out to check the work has been done properly so he will have his ear severely bent when he does turn up as we have an ongoing list of what's happened and not happened.

To look on the bright side we do have heating - at a cost because it's electric - and we're not cold. We shall get it sorted in the end no doubt but when is anyone's guess.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The nightmare continues

Still no heating or hot water!

Electrician and the heating engineer came on Monday and they eventually got around to firing up the new boiler - which immediately went bang and blew a fuse in the Boilermate. It turns out there was a fault in the new boiler among other things. But we only found that out because we spoke to our normal boiler man and he came out and had a look and isolated the burner from everything else and the fuse didn't blow.

On the strength of that MJR called Bosch who make the boiler and they came out yesterday and confirmed what we knew and came back today to replace the relevant part. Now the boiler will work but the Boilermate won't. Added to which it shouldn't have been us chasing around to get that side of it sorted it should have been the company which is responsible for the installation doing it.

The heating engineer was supposed to have been here on Tuesday but we had a phone call to say he wouldn't be coming because another job took longer than expected. He came yesterday and did bits and pieces for an hour or so and said he would come back on Friday to drain the system again and fit the gubbins which should have been fitted last week and which stops the whole system silting up.

The local expert on Boilermates is coming out on Monday and we've got someone from the Boilermate manufacturers coming tomorrow and our usual plumber to see if he can throw any light on the situation. In the end I think we're going to have to have the Boilermate taken out and a conventional tank installed - which we were going to do in a couple of years time anyway when we had the money.

I am totally fed up with the whole thing. I don't cope well with this sort of stress anyway. Give me a room full of angry people to talk to on a subject they don't want to hear about and I'm absolutely fine but something like this and I am stressed. Still we're all different.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Totally fed up

We are currently having our central heating boiler replaced and it's a nightmare from start to finish - except that it isn't finished yet. It was supposed to have been done last November but the weather intervened. It was supposed to start on Monday 24 January and be finished by Thursday. We have our new oil tank -with oil from the old one in it - but no connection to the new boiler which is partly installed.

Unfortunately - I am using very temperate language here - draining the system and refilling has affected our backup electric heating system which now doesn't work. We had expected to be able to use it over the weekend as the new boiler will not be commissioned until Monday when the electrician turns up to do the wiring.

This is not our usual man doing the work for longwinded reasons which I won't bore you with except to say it's being done under a government energy saving scheme and we're not paying for it. That's an advantage but it reduces our level of influence on the work . So we have a fan heater and the offer of loans of other fan heaters to keep us warm and no hot water except a kettle. I am not a happy bunny and I wish we'd never decided to go ahead with it. Sometimes free is not the best option.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

My madeleine moment . . .

I bought a Marks & Spencer's coffee Swiss roll the other day and I decided a few minutes ago to have a piece of it - together with a cup of coffee. When I took the first bite I was immediately transported to evenings in the early 1970s. Once again I was sitting talking to my fellow blogger - Norn - and drinking coffee and eating coffee Swiss roll. I was also reminded of watching the BBC's adaptation of Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels with Susan Hampshire as Glencora Palliser and Philip Latham as Plantagenet Palliser. Of such moments are memories made.


Several Patricia Wentworth crime novels - The Watersplash, Grey Mask, Vanishing Point all featuring the inimitable Miss Maud Silver.

Gone Away by Hazel Holt - the first of her Mrs Malory crime series

A Paramedic's Diary by Stuart Grey - his experiences on the streets of London among the drunks the drug addicts, the genuinely ill and the time wasters. Fascinating reading if you like that sort of thing.

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande - how he helped to introduce checklists to the medical world and how they are used in other professions. A fascinating look at how simple things can simplify the most complex processes and help prevent mistakes happening.

Cruise Ship SOS by Ben Macfarlane - about his experiences as a doctor on a cruise ship. The book should come with a health - or wealth - warning - as I now quite fancy going on a cruise - something I've never really considered before.

Currently reading

Patricia Wentworth - Lonesome Road - I've only just started this so can't really say much about it yet.

M C Beaton - Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death - the first in the Agatha Raisin series. I've read it before but enjoy re-reading these stories.

John Galsworthy - I'm still reading The Forsyte Saga - nearly at the end of the third volume - To Let - with everyone trying to keep the details of the Irene/Soames scandal from the ears of his daughter, Fleur.

I'm also dipping into Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Would you employ this person?

Advertisement seen on hospital noticeboard:

Sectarial Services Offered

The advertisement went on to make clear it was telephone answering and typing which were being offered.

Good start to the New Year - I don't think!

My other half - MJR - has been in hospital for the last four days though he is home now thanks to a break down in communication between the hospital, the consultant and our health insurance company. He would have been out today or tomorrow anyway. He is on Warfarin and his INR - the clotting factor in his blood - went way too high because he's been on too high a dose for too long.

Fortunately the antidote - Vitamin K - works almost straightaway but has to be administered in hospital in case the INR goes too far the other way. He has to go to our GP today to have his INR tested and it depends on the results (obtained instantly like blood glucose machines) of that as to what dosage he's on. Clearly for someone who has had two previous pulmonary embolisms it is essential that his blood does not clot too easily. But on the other hand you don't want to imitate someone with haemophilia.

So - not a good start to the New Year. He has a consultant's appointment on Monday which may lead to another operation so it looks as though this year is going to feature hospitals prominently.

The good thing about the last few days is that it has shown me I'm getting more things done than I thought I did because trying to fit everything in that I normally do has proved impossible.

I have never seen our local hospital as busy as it has been the last few days with everyone rushing around all the time and ambulances queuing to unload patients four or five deep at times. Clearly winter is taking its toll on people round here.


I took my Kindle with me when I went visiting and when MJR fell asleep one day I decided to buy a book - just for the hell of it! That's the first time I've used it outside the house and it worked! Funny how little things amuse me. I downloaded a book called The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande - which is about making sure the right things are done at the right time in hospital - which I thought quite appropriate.

I am still reading John Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga - on the third book at the moment - To Let. I'm also still reading my way through Patricia Wentworth's crime novels.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to everyone who reads Jillysheep regularly and of course to those who just happen to stumble upon it.

Read recently:

Patricia Wentworth - The Key - murder of a scientist in World War II in a small English village church. Suicide or murder? Miss Silver needs to find out. The war time background in interesting - especially telephones which are connected to party lines. Does anyone under 50 remember these? I wonder how younger readers think of them?

Patricia Wentworth - The Clock Strikes Twelve - did he fall or was he pushed? James Paradine is found dead on New Year's Day after a somewhat fraught family party. Can Miss Silver work out who did it?

Currently reading:

John Galsworthy - The Forsyte Saga - I'm on volume two - In Chancery. Soames after twelve years of separation from Irene has decided he wants a divorce.

Christina Hopkinson - The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs - the heroine is fed up of doing everything around the house and starts to keep a list of all the ways her husband annoys her - the reverse of the star chart she keeps for her small sons.