Category Archives: Reviews

Rev-ved up on BBC2

Aahhh – the beautiful Tom Hollander.

Last night, the much anticipated second series of ‘Rev’ was shown on BBC2.  Hollander plays a young vicar, Adam Smallbone, who has relocated from a rural parish to Hackney in the East End of London.  Rev. Smallbone is an ordinary person, an ordinary man.  Not a comedy vicar like Dawn French, Ardal O’Hanlon or Derek Nimmo, but a kind and humorous man who is riddled with self doubt, who makes mistakes, and who truly cares about his parishioners and believes he can make a difference, however ill-judged some of his endeavours turn out to be.

I won’t tell you the plot of the first episode because I really, really want you to watch it on iPlayer/Catch Up etc and then continue to watch the rest of the series avidly. I will tell you though, that there is a striking cameo by Ralph Fiennes as the Bishop of London, and Hugh Bonneville appears as a white suited, ambitious and worldy colleague.

His wife Alex (Olivia Colman) has her own career as a solicitor and she really struggles with the 24-hour nature of his vocation.  She loves him so much but desperately wants to spend time with him alone and is keen to start a family but, as she points out to him, ”You don’t shag me enough.”

Some of Smallbone’s finest moments are when he is sitting on the bench outside the church, fag in hand, discussing his problems with the local drunk, who frequently offers a weird kind of sanity.  He is out of his depth, burdened with a shrinking congregation, a crumbling building and a dysfunctional but devoted support team.  And yet, as in all his roles, there is a beauty and stillness to the character which takes your breath away.

I have never seen Hollander in a duff role.  Everything he does has depth and conviction whether he’s George V in ‘The Lost Prince’, the cold and calculating Beckett in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ or the flamboyant Darren in ‘Bedrooms and Hallways’.

And he’s really, really gorgeous. Which is nice.


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews, The Gallery

The Two Minute Review – 14: Tin Tin

Film:                Tin Tin : The Secret of the Unicorn

Starring:         Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis,
Daniel Craig, Nick Frost,
Simon Pegg

Director:          Steven Spielberg

This film had me totally hooked before the end of the title sequence, which is one of the best I’ve seen in years.  The motion capture technology leaves you gasping, the music is so good you’ll want it on DVD and my sister and I sat there oo-ing and aah-ing all the way through.  This is a tale of high adventure; a worrying accurate portrayal of a drunken sea  captain, the charmingly inept Thompson Twins and some fabulous little plot ‘extras’ which serve only to delight.  The story is full of thrills and twists and yet remains as light as a feather and you will come out feeling thoroughly entertained.  The opening scenes show Tin Tin at a street market with Snowy, and the lusciousness of the detail and a lovely moment with a street artist are so satisfying you could cry.  I wanted to go straight back in to see it again.


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews, Slider

The Two Minute Review – 13: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Actually, this took three minutes - what a betrayal.

When I saw the trailer for this in the cinema, I got very excited.  It looked full of thrills, star-studded cast, spies, 60s Britain – can’t go wrong with this.  However, I spent most of the film staring, bewildered, at the screen, trying to work out what the bloody hell was going on.  The time frame skipped backwards and forwards like Red Riding Hood on acid, there was a significant party, someone got shot, John Hurt sellotaped photographs to chess pieces.  At one point Smiley inexplicably went to the optician  and apparently this was a critical pointer to where we were in time – one pair of glasses = this time, another indistinguishably similar pair  indicated another time.  I was half expecting a montage of Smiley’s personal care regime – Smiley goes to the chiropodist, Smiley goes to the barber.  My friend, Mrs Cecil, told me that it was a story about personal love and betrayal.  Oh.

The cars were good.


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews

The Two Minute Review – 12: Johnny English Reborn

Film:            Johnny English Reborn

Starring:     Rowan Atkinson, Dominic West,
Rosamund Pike, Gillian Anderson,
Tim McInnery, Daniel Kaluuya

Director:     Oliver Parker

I was prepared for this to be a poor copy of the first, but actually I’m not sure that it wasn’t even funnier.  English has been out of commission (leading a spiritual life in Tibet) for five years following a massive cock-up in Mozambique but he gets called in to investigate a plot to kill the Chinese Premier. He has a new sidekick, Agent Tucker, who is very young and slightly in awe of him, but nonetheless has his eye on the ball and there are some great jokes about his youth.  The stunts are terrific and Boy the Younger and I both laughed our heads off all the way through.  English may be an idiot in many ways but he is possessed of the qualities which we most admire;  loyalty, patriotism, determination and kindness.  We loved it.


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews

The Big Bang Theory

L-R: Sheldon, Howard, Rajesh and Leonard

For ages I got really annoyed because in the vast wilderness of the TV schedules I kept thinking there was an interesting science programme on, only to find that it was some American comedy. Oh how I wished I’d taken the time to watch it.

The Big Bang Theory is now on every evening, two back-to-back episodes at 6pm on E4, and it doesn’t matter what mood I’m, it has me laughing out loud.

The basic premise is that there are two hyper-intelligent physicists, Leonard and Sheldon who share a flat in Pasadena.  They have two friends, Howard and Rajesh who are also brilliant physicists and they all work at the California Institute of Technology.  There is also a lovely, kooky girl called Penny who lives across the hallway and works in a Cheesecake cafe but who aspires to be an actress.

Sheldon is a theoretical physicist who gained his PhD at 16 and who is clearly somewhere quite high up on the Asperger’s spectrum;  he is obsessed with routine, finds interpersonal relationships bewildering, cannot distinguish irony or subtle humour and is generally at sea in any social situation.  Yet his jaw-dropping dialogue is so precise and camp and his unbearably accurate way of talking is so funny it’s painful and one is constantly left gasping at the things he comes out with.

The other three characters are all equally geeky and socially inept but all have their part to play and all are utterly likeable.  Leonard tries so hard to establish relationships, often briefly successfully – at least he has sex from time to time or ‘coitus’ as they all insist on calling it –  and he and Penny treat Sheldon like an indulged child.  He is a relentlessly kind person who struggles to do normal things, whilst his head is full of mind-boggling calculations and mathematical formulae.

Howard is an aerospace engineer and he is the only one of the four of them who actually makes physical stuff.  He is a Jewish boy who lives with his raucous, vulgar mother and there is always an underlying mystery about what happened to his father.  He fancies himself as a bit of a ladies’ man and his attempts to pull and the appalling chat-up lines which he rolls out are, surprisingly, sometimes successful.

Rajesh, a particle astrophysicist, comes from a wealthy New Delhi family.  He freezes in the presence of women and his social anxiety is only suppressed by alcohol or when he thinks he has had alcohol.  His comic timing is impeccable.

These four male characters are everything you would expect from the unnaturally brilliant: geeky, sci-fi and comic book obsessed, socially ill at ease, generally useless with women, whilst Penny provides an anchor point of normality onto which many of the stories are hitched.  But somehow the writers have created characters that you genuinely like and root for.  It ought to be awful but it just isn’t, there’s something about the ‘spirit’ of the thing that has you on the edge of your seat, wondering what on earth they’re going to do next.

I can feel a DVD boxed set coming on.  I have even hovered my mouse over a Bazinga! t-shirt on the Big Bang Theory website.  For my son, of course, hem hem.


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews

The Two Minute Review – 11: Jane Eyre

Cinema Film:   Jane Eyre

Starring:           Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender,
Jamie Bell, Judi Dench

Director:          Cary Fukanaga

The casting of this film is perfect – at last a Jane who is genuinely plain.  Fassbender as Rochester is so brooding and sexy it makes you weep and it was lovely to see Jamie Bell giving an earnest and convincing performance as StJohn Rivers.  The music was perfectly balanced and the landscape and settings were characterized as strongly as the humans. The cinematography was mind-blowing.

As a lifelong fan of ‘Jane Eyre’ there were scenes that I felt should have been left in and some of the peripheral characters beefed up a bit to give Jane another dimension.  However, this is churlish of me given this astonishing and powerfully restrained performance.  I may go again on Saturday.


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews

Shire Book of the Month – British Pigs by Val Porter

A clearly smiling Large White

What is it about pigs that singles them out from other farm animals?  Chickens make good noises and lay eggs, sheep are stupid but feel nice, cows are a graphic designer’s wet dream and give us milk and pursuant dairy products, but pigs are different.  Pigs smile at you, they wriggle when you scratch them and, particularly the smaller ones with long noses, are hairy, intelligent looking and you get the feeling that they truly belong in the English landscape.

The Shire Book of British Pigs by Val Porter is a glorious celebration of this animal’s transition from wild boar to domesticated pig. It starts by explaining the basics of pig keeping and the history of farming and gives detailed information about the various breeds and how they come to look as they do.  Most British breeds have, at some point, been cross-bred with Chinese stock which has resulted in the squashed snouts.

Old English pig from 1842

The pictures in this book are so glorious they’ll make you weep; whether they are photographs of existing pigs or paintings and etchings of animals commissioned by proud owners and stockmen from the past.

Like many domestic farm animals, the drive for intensive, high speed farming homogenised pig breeds and had them shut away from public view. In the decades after the war animals were raised in large-scale, purpose built buildings where the only interest was how much bacon, pork and sausages could be made as quickly as possible.

Thanks to the renewed interest in rare breeds, slow food and local farming, there has been a concomitant awareness of animal welfare and pigs are appearing in our fields once again.  The rare breed is making a comeback and it is quite usual to see Tamworths, Gloucester Old Spots, British Saddlebacks and Oxford Sandy and Blacks rootling around happily in the fresh air.

This book also covers the New Pigs on the block.  Pig breeds continue to evolve and the farmers are interested in make the breeds hardier again so that they can manage an outdoor life.  A pig with a fleecy coat is a sight to behold and I wonder how many people were aware of the, now extinct, Lincolnshire Curly Coat?

Pennywell Mini pig - so gorgeous you could just eat them ... except not these because they're pets, tiny enough to fit in Paris Hilton's handbag.

Porter’s clear and appealing writing style draws you in to the life of these delightful animals.  She has written more than forty books about livestock, farming and self-sufficiency and her enthusiasm shines through. If you like pigs, read this book.  If you like eating pigs this book can only enhance your gastronomic experience.


Filed under Animals, Livestock, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews, Shire Books

Arbitrary shoe sizes and the long awaited ‘Somme Stations’

Yesterday, we went shopping to mop up the last few things which Boy the Elder needs to start his new school in a couple of weeks.

Now explain this.  Two weeks ago, I bought him new trainers in UK size 9.  Yesterday, I bought a pair of black lace-up school shoes in size 10 and rugby boots in a monstrous size 12.  All three items of footwear fit perfectly and the trainers and school shoes came from the same shop.

Unfortunately I am unable to write any more (I am actually writing this at 01.30 on Tuesday morning) as on Monday  morning a book that I have been wanting to read for months flopped onto my doorstep and I have to read a bit before I go to bed.

The book is  called ‘The Somme Stations’ by Andrew Martin, which is the latest in his Jim Stringer railway detective series, which is set in the First World War.  It came out in hardback early this year and I was waiting for the paperback to come out, but the hardback has now dropped to the price of a paperback so I fell on it with relish and simply can’t wait another moment to read it.

I’ve read all the Jim Stringer novels and they are so brilliant in their characterisations, thrilling plots and attention to detail that I dread the day when he stops writing them.  Apparently, this last one took longer to come out because of the extensive research Martin had to do, both for the railway detail but also to get the accuracy for WW1.  Look out for a review when I’ve read it.


Filed under Children, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews

The Girl who Misjudged a Book: Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy

As with many books in the past, I avoided ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ because of the extraordinary amount of hype surrounding it.  How could it possibly be any good if it needed that much publicity?

It was my sisters who persuaded me to pull myself together and read them.  They both went to see the Swedish films, having loved the books and, I surmised that if Sister the Second was prepared to sit through a film with subtitles, there had to be something there worth looking in to.

It took me a while to get into the first one, mainly, I think, because of all the unfamiliar words, names and geography, but once I did, I was absolutely hooked.  Lisbeth Salander is one of the most extraordinary heroines ever written.  She is bad tempered, hostile, uncommunicative, brilliantly clever, hard as nails, aggressive, introverted, socially ill at ease – need I go on?

And yet you are on her side from the moment you’re reeled into the plot.  You get the sneaking suspicion that all is not as it seems and you give her the benefit of the doubt without a second thought.  One becomes like a doting parent who can forgive their child anything ‘ well if she DID murder someone, then I’m sure she had a jolly good reason for doing it’ you convince yourself.

The other characters are just as strong, whether you find yourself liking them or not.  Blomkvist the journalist is clearly a ‘good guy’ and brilliant at what he does, not to mention his unwavering support of Salander, but I found that I couldn’t engage with him to any depth; if he’d been a real person, he would probably have been a pleasant acquaintance but you wouldn’t know any more about him after ten years then you did when you first met.

The plot is astonishing in its complexity and I continually found myself marvelling at the brain that had thought it all up and then managed to knit a story that is as intricate as the pattern for a Fairisle jumper. Then, just as you think you’re about to cast off, there’s a further twist that makes you shout ‘NO!!’ to an empty room as your heart beats slightly faster and you forget to breathe.

I finished the ‘The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest’ on Sunday night and found that I couldn’t bring myself to start a new book as the characters and plot were still swirling round in my head.  I didn’t want to let go of Lisbeth, I wanted to stick with her and see what she did next.  I wanted to see her character develop and blossom and to know that she was alright and that her life wouldn’t be too hard.

The last time I felt like that about a character was reading ‘A Suitable Boy’ by Vikram Seth.  It took me ages to read the book because I didn’t want to miss a single word, and as I drew near the end, I was torn between wanting to finish the story but not wanting to lose the closeness I felt to the main characters – I was among friends.

If a friend is defined by someone you care about, then Stieg Larsson’s characters are friends because you can’t help but be engaged by their every action, however, marginal they seem.

I heard it rumoured that, had Larsson lived, he was planning more books in the series.  Tragedy on all fronts.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl who Played with Fire
The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest

A Suitable Boy


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews

All Hail 10cc – we are not worthy!

Last Sunday I went with Sister the Second to see 10cc.  We were both big fans in the 1970s but then they kind of went out of mind.  You may remember that I watched a super programme about singer/songwriters featuring Graham Gouldman from 10cc and, presumably because they are on tour, there were also several radio interviews AND I bought a ‘Best of’ CD so I was up to my neck in 10cc.  I was therefore mildly hysterical when STS suggested we go to see them.

The thousand seater venue was packed and there was an interesting age range from teenagers to the elderly, although predominantly people in their early 50s.  The atmosphere was terrific.  The lights went up and Graham Gouldman started the concert on his own playing acoustic guitar.  He began to tell the story of how the band came to be and for the third song, he brought in another band member with his guitar, and this continued until four of them were on stage, playing and singing.

The balance of their voices and guitars was perfect and the sound, right the way through the concert was exactly right – loud enough to give the right atmosphere but sufficiently subtle that nobody’s ears began to bleed.  Gouldman was the only original member, but the other four musicians had all had a long association with 10cc and definitely had the same musicianship and versatility that was so much a part of their success.

There is something incredibly intimate about listening to people that good playing acoustically together.  It feels as though you’re being let into a secret in a way that is different from an electrified set.  And there is something about blokes and guitars.  Mmm. They played acoustically for 25 minutes then, after an interval, they came back for the full on 10cc experience.

Graham Gouldman & Paul Burgess

I have never been to a concert where the live music was as close to the recorded versions as this.  Now don’t think that this means it was clinical in any way – it was just … perfect.  Every note.  Every harmony.  Perfect.  They were so tight and so in sync with one another that it took my breath away.  It must have been quite a challenge for the new musicians to get that good at someone else’s songs without it become a pastiche, but succeed they did and they managed to put their own stamp on the songs without spoiling them for an audience who still knew every word and every key change.

There was a nice moment when the ‘ring-ring’ of Donna waiting by the telephone, was replaced by the irritating ‘diddle dee dee’ of the Nokia ring tone.

Mick Wilson

They were awesome musicians.  Mick Wilson sang most of the lead vocals demonstrating an incredible vocal range but also played guitar, keyboards and percussion, sometimes at the same time.  Mike Stevens played guitar, bass, keyboards and saxophone.  Rick Fenn played virtuoso guitar and Paul Burgess, the drummer, held it all together with the discretion of the truly talented, as well as a short stint on the keyboards.  Mr Gouldman contented himself with playing and singing a range of songs that would have most musicians selling their souls to have written.

Rick Fenn & Gouldman

There was very little chat. Gouldman introduced some of the songs and explained their pedigree; there were a few jokes, a few cheerful jibes at former 10cc members, but mostly they just got on and played.  The last song was a tribute to John Lennon (“without The Beatles there would have been no 10cc”) and they did a beautiful version of ‘Nothing’s going to change my world’.

But there was one song missing.  They sauntered off, we yelled and stamped and cried for more, and unsurprisingly they came back and sang….. ‘Rubber Bullets’.  It brought the house down, with everyone on their feet dancing and singing.

Apparently, they have been packing out every venue on their tour and I’m not surprised.  There are four dates left for 7th-10th April and if I could have got to Northampton on 7th, I would have gone again.  Not bad for a band who had their first No. 1 in 1972.   If ever there was a band who were seriously under-rated, it was 10cc.  They were and are magnificent.  I bought badges – I may buy a T-shirt.


Acoustic Set – songs written for other people

Pamela, Pamela – Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders
Bus Stop – The Hollies
No Milk Today – Herman’s Hermits
Look Through any Window – The Hollies
For Your Love – The Yardbirds

Electric Set – songs written by 10cc for themselves

Wall Street Shuffle
The Things we do for Love
Good Morning Judge
Life is a Minestrone
Art for Art’s Sake
Silly Love
Feel the Benefit
Old Wild Men
The Dean & I
From Rochdale to Ocho Rios
I’m not in love
Dreadlock Holiday
Nothing’s going to change my world
Rubber Bullets (encore)

Now listen to this.  Probably one of the best songs ever written.


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews, Slider

Shire Book of the Month: Ice Cream by Ivan Day

I chose ‘Ice Cream’ this month because, on this balmy Spring day, the images in it made me long for summer and sandals and eating ice cream outside and the remembered sorrow of dropping a Mivvi on the dusty ground.

There is something rather wonderful about ice cream.  Even though you can buy it anywhere and there are hundreds of different brands, styles and flavours available, the jingling tune of an ice cream van is a sound filled with excitement and expectation.  Even if you disapprove of eating in the street, eating a 99 dripping with syrup as you walk along on a hot day is still, somehow, a proper treat.

The Shire book of Ice Cream is a proper treat in itself.  The Introduction entices you, like a Penny Lick, into the history and manufacturing process of ice cream.  The facing photograph of a moulded ice cream swan surrounded by fruit is extraordinary, particularly when you realise that confections such as these were first seen at the end of the 17th century.  And this is where the story really begins.

Chilled sweatmeats, made by mixing snow or ice with fruit juice or dairy products, were being eaten as far back as the Romans, Persians and ancient Chinese.  The first Slush Puppies if you will.  True ices however, didn’t come about until an artificial method of freezing was discovered using chemical salts with crushed ice.  This process was first described in 1530.

Ice cream was, for a long time, only for the rich as only they had the facilities and the skilled cooks to prepare them.   It was a difficult process and very labour intensive and Ivan Day takes us through the development of the early ice cream equipment and the paraphernalia which went with it.

Ice Cream Maker 1768

As technology progressed, the book describes how manufacturing changed to bring ice cream to the masses and how ordinary people initially responded to it.  Food is so often an indicator of the prosperity and class structure of a country and something as simple as an ice cream pudding can illustrate in an instantly understandable way how society shifts and settles and how simple pleasures become available to all.

Ice Cream Maker 1930

But to understand how nothing actually changes, who do you think created  Parmesan ice cream or made ice cream to look like a cooked ham?  Did I hear you mutter ‘Heston Blumenthal’?  Wrong.  How did the invention of the wafer stop people enjoying saliva and slime with their ice cream?  Who wouldn’t want a bit of Hokey-Pokey?

Well I’m not telling you.  You’ll have to read the book.


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews, Shire Books

The Return of Midsomer Murders

Wednesday night at 8pm on ITV1 sees the return of Midsomer Murders.  Tom Barnaby has retired and his cousin, John, (who we met in a previous series) has kindly come up from Brighton to take over as Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby in the interests of continuity.

Now this is quite a turn up for die-hard Midsomer fans.  The main character has left, but we are thankfully rescued by someone from the same genetic pool.  Not like poor old Taggart.  The eponymous Taggart dies and, 300 years later, we still have a programme called Taggart but with no Taggart.

That would not do for Midsomer Maniacs.  No no.  We are gently lulled back to a happy state by another Barnaby and he seems to be a decent chap with a glint in his eye and I’m sure I will like him.  Phew everything’s back to normal.

Except it isn’t.  It’s not enough that there are more murders per square mile than South Central, that anyone in a floral frock will almost certainly cut your throat, or that an innocent reading circle is more than likely a murderous gang of octogenarian hedge fund managers.

It’s far worse than that.  There are No Brown Faces in Midsomer.

Now.  I live in a small, middle class, rural village, in the East Midlands, twelve miles out of Leicester.  Leicester, along with Peterborough, now has more than 50% ‘of the population who are not White British, that is Asian, Afro Caribbean etc.  Being an escaped Londoner, I enjoy going into Leicester and seeing a broader ethnic mix and I relish the cultural diversity that comes with it.

But in my village, the one next to it, the two next to that and the several beyond that, I can count on one hand the amount of brown people who live there.  Boy the Younger’s school, which is in one of these villages, has a few brown families, not that anyone even thinks about it, and Boy the Elder’s school which is about 5 miles out of Leicester hardly has any – in fact I’m not sure I’ve seen a single one.

I make no judgement about this.  I will not attempt to suggest reasons why there are few brown faces, or hint at any socio-economic undertones governing the demographics, it is simply a fact that in rural villages one is less likely to see the cultural diversity that exists in large towns and cities.  My Asian friends live in villages nearer to Leicester because they are professionals and their jobs are in the towns or cities.

Brian True May, the producer and co-creator,  phrased himself badly when he suggested that the presence of ethnic minorities would make the show less English, or that he was appealing to a certain audience and wouldn’t want to change it.   I asked two of my brown friends if they had an opinion on it and their view was pretty much that they’d never noticed.  But now they’re hopping mad about it – actually I made that last bit up, they couldn’t give a toss.

Criticising Midsomer Murders for lack of racial diversity is missing the point.  It’s far more important to encourage the television companies to commission a broad range of good drama that reflects both historical and contemporary society.  There’s a lot of crap on our screens that neither informs nor properly entertains.  How about paring that down and spending the money on quality programmes and encourage some of the brilliant upcoming writers and producers to make something that will make us catch our breath?

Midsomer Murders is a jolly good detective drama, set in a fictional county with a preposterous and jaw-dropping amount of intrigues, deaths, maniacs, deviants and mutilations.  Despite that, there are no depictions of graphic violence, there is no swearing and there are no sex scenes.  On the whole, I’d say that the ethnic representation is the most realistic thing in it.


Filed under Crime, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews

Shire Books and The Joy of Lavatories (as well as many other subjects of note)

We are blessed in Market Harborough, as we have a Waterstones, an independent bookshop – Quinns, and a couple of excellent second-hand bookshops.  As you go through the door of Quinns, there is a rack of Shire Books which will have any right-minded person drooling and cooing at the boggling array of deliciously English subject matter.

Shire Books was set up in 1962, producing low-priced, factual paperbacks on the most astonishing range of subjects which catered for the enthusiasms and niche interests of ordinary people all over the country.

The only problem was, that despite the indisputably interesting content, they began to look really dull and old-fashioned in their layout and with black and white photography and illustrations.

But then in 2007, the owner retired and sold the company to Osprey Publishing.  In 2008 a major revamp of its list of titles as well as an overhaul of content and cover designs, was undertaken, resulting in the gorgeous and irresistible collection of books on sale today. Even the paper they’re printed on feels lovely. And they’re still cheap.

I have taken the reckless step of obtaining the current Shire Catalogue and, because I am a dangerous obsessive, I have typed up the list (leaving the catalogue untouched for posterity) so that a) I can remember what I’ve got and b) I can mark the books with which to treat myself each month.

The First Six

My latest purchase is entitled ‘Privies and Water Closets’ (making this a Bog Blog?) and the front cover features a delightful illustration c.1814 by Martinet of Paris, of a large gentleman with a rather strained expression, sitting on a commode.  The book contains a beautifully written, lavishly illustrated history and technology of the lavatory, beginning with an interesting explanation of where we get our words for ‘toilet’ from.

I am allowing myself two Shire Books per month and I now have four weeks to agonise about which two to buy next.  Shall it be:-

British Family Cars of the 1950s and 60s?
British Pigs?
The Victorian Workhouse?
Old Medical and Dental Instruments?
Fields, Hedges and Ditches?
Women of the First World War? or
Nailmaking?   Who wouldn’t want to own a book about nailmaking?

Then again, it’s still February, and March is only a matter of days away…


Filed under Collecting, Leisure, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews

The Two Minute Review – 9: South Riding

TV Mini Series:   South Riding
                                  based on the novel by Winifred Holtby

Time:                      BBC1 – 9pm

Starring:               Anna Maxwell Martin, David Morrissey,
                                 Penelope Wilton, John Henshaw,
                                 Douglas Henshall

I remember this series from the 1970s and I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks.  It didn’t disappoint.  It’s 1934 and a young, glamorous and progressive teacher, played by Anna Maxwell Martin,  arrives in the South Riding of Yorkshire after years of teaching in London, applying for the post of Head Mistress at the local girls’ school.  She is given the post but she’s a controversial choice.  One of the Governors in particular, the endlessly charismatic David Morrissey, is particularly unhappy, but he has problems of his own…

Stellar cast, engaging characters, breathtaking photography, some lovely train shots at the beginning – I can’t wait for the next episode. 
Catch the first instalment on iPlayer if you missed it.


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews


Yee Ha!  Have a look at this!

And this…

You should visit these sites anyway.  And regularly. 
OSM B53s ‘Interventions’ are inspired, as are Frank Key’s literary flights of fancy.

Also, I felt I had to slip something in between today’s sausages and the upcoming post tomorrow. 
You’ll see why…


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews