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Peter H (England)

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Memoirs (Vintage Classics)
Memoirs (Vintage Classics)
by Kingsley Amis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Short and entertaining essays rather than any form of complete life story, 3 Sept. 2014
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Kingsley Amis happened to be a great writer because - while well educated, witty and smart - he never forgot that the best novels put entertainment before message. Never picked up one of his books and not got through to the final page (a rare compliment from me) and in The Old Devils he produced a masterpiece of black humour - for those who can understand and appreciate these things.

(I think it is safe to say if you enjoyed that book you’ll like this as well. Indeed it compliments it and gives some clues to the various characters foibles.)

Here we are in the world of headline/title subject and - mostly - pot-shot, back-stab, character assassination and amateur psychiatrist. But in a fun way. The people he actually liked or admired are written about sparingly and this is the first of his problems. The second seems to be not liking - as much - people who didn’t share his out-to-lunch-and-one-more-for-the-road lifestyle. So Anthony Burgess was more of a loner than a party animal! Did that hurt his work or make him a bad person?

Yes he writes better with the poison pen than the standard one. Certainly he lead a life which had given him many moments of great discomfort - his placements in Nashville (USA) and his meetings with Enoch Powell/Tony Benn get both barrels of the shotgun. An equal opportunity sniper in every sense of the expression.

(Even - bizarrely - breaking down into crude four letter words, such is the writer’s anger!)

As is the cliché, Amis started (politically) on left and slowly drifted to the right. He generally keeps politics out of the pages (a clear decision openly stated in the main text), apart from a short chapter praising Thatcher. Praise being an understatement. Presumably because he no longer needed any money from the educational establishment which she was hack-sawing away at. To be fair he does recognise this.

At some point in his life his drinking got out of control and became more a necessity than a social pleasure. Before this book was finished no doubt. Maybe he took women for granted - as good looking (when young) “success stories” with stable incomes often do. As a two-time husband he was a total failure. But that is another book entirely.

The nearest thing to bravery or true introspection is the discussions he had with his many psychiatrists ( here called “shrinks”) and their general failure to cure him of his various fears and phobias. He didn’t dare use the London Underground (he simply gave up) and never flew or even drove a car. In America this must have been almost life-crippling and maybe the real reason why he never settled there? But why be so dismissive of the profession? They gave him a chance to air his fears and - maybe - confront them. Instead he ran away from them. His choice.

The best reason to read this book is the chapter on Philip Larkin. A long-time friend and the subject of long and detailed ping-pong letters. Almost a platonic love affair. It is often said they brought out the worst in each other (I guess being outrageous was a game to them) but there is always pleasure in seeing the English language so well used. Even though you don’t always agree with the tone of the text or the casual dated racism. It was the only marriage that lasted to the grave anyway...

Untold Stories
Untold Stories
by Alan Bennett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, but a better title would be: Old, New, Borrowed and Blue, 26 April 2014
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This review is from: Untold Stories (Paperback)
I make no apology in describing Alan Bennett as one of the top ten writers working today. Maybe even the best under a system which gives marks for range, scope and simple entertainment. Going from Oscar nominated scripts to throw-away journalism which says something important about the times we live in.

Those who have read and loved Writing Home (I book I rate as one of the best ever written) will have no difficulty picking this one. Indeed it is really more-of-the-same. More out-of-the-closet than this previous edition, but really nothing more than continuation and, at times, a revision.

The book starts with a rather depressing passage concerning his parents and relatives sad end. Although well written and moving, starting a book off on such a downer seems a risk. Despite his Winnie The Pooh front Bennett is a bit of a cold fish who can report on personal tragedy with a total detachment few can achieve.

(You ask questions to the page though. If he really did love his mother why did he park her so far from his home in her final nursing home days?)

Certainly he seems unconcerned with the reputations of others. Bald people seem to annoy him (he sports a full head of hair to this day) and results in several snide remarks. The problem with baldness (unless it is the subject itself) is that is rarely paired with anything good. Here he is snide about Alec Guinness's hairless head in a way which smacks of being personal.

The one thing which irritates (and sometimes cuts against his image) is his insistence on his own early intelligence. This is backed up by achievement (he went on to both Oxford and Cambridge!) but I prefer praise to be mouthed by others. A physically immature man/youth he could have (as an actor) played school yard parts until he was 20. The enclosed photographs show that he sprouted quite well and even became somewhat handsome in his shaggy kipper-tie prime.

What does the author do in his spare time? Visit churches and monuments it seems. Writes well about them, even though this isn't an interest of mine. His views on painting and art rarely go beyond like/dislike and given that he seems to have no specialist knowledge on the subject (and claims non) can't be critiqued. Unlike one-time partner Dudley Moore he doesn't have other strings to his bow.

(His views of his specialist subject - medieval history - are strangely muted. As if it was something of a random subject rather than any burning passion.)

The thing which is false is the sense that his diaries are really that: Diares. They are not. You don't write recollections of famous people in it. You write about what has happened. Certainly his wanderings (often unexplained in the "how come" sense) take in schools and even high security prisons. Places where they check someone isn't coming out pretending to be Alan Bennett!

In his opening pages AB writes that his family could never "quite be like other people" indeed he continues the condition. Still working and still being of interest long past retirement he remains a one-off and certainly not like everybody else.

The Last Picture Show [DVD] [2001]
The Last Picture Show [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ Timothy Bottoms
Price: £4.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and memorable classic of American cinema., 21 Feb. 2014
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I have been lucky in cinema having seen many classics from cold, without the benefit of previews or expectations: Psycho, King Kong and Rear Window are just three examples. Through this you get the full power of cinema and what influence it has over the virgin mind.

(The Internet generation will rarely get this stone-cold experience, apart from when playing around with the remote control of the TV, late at night).

The Last Picture Show is another of the above cannon. Apparently about nothing other than kids in a small dying Texas town (Anarene) circa 1951 it has a certain magic which is hard to fathom or pin-down.

To take on other reviewers, it is not really profound nor shocking. Nor is it in retreat from some of the stock devices of cinema (fights, sex, greed, envy, hidden agendas, dissatisfied and mismatched people), but it puts the multidimensional story together in such a stylish and unexpected way.

Somehow it is filmed with the same quiet despair which many of the characters live: Cold, bleak and un-glamourised. Clearly written by someone who and been there and seen it. Although I have no detailed knowledge of the book author's (Larry McMurtry) background. Here the paint is peeling and the town is dying. As Lou Reed once sang, the only use for a small town is as a place to get out of.

The casting is a dream. Sheppard really does look like the school hottie, Bridges really does look like the pick-up truck greaser hot-shot, Bottoms really does look like the affable small town bumpkin. I could go on. Leachman's performance as the frustrated sports-widow won her an Oscar although I don't understand her much. Not that I know much about mental breakdowns anyway. Apart from a passing psychiatrist who does?

My final thoughts are about small towns. How bad are they really? Very bad if you are ambitious, young and want to work in big business, but otherwise not really that terrible. Nobody starves, people talk to each other and the property prices are quite reasonable. They probably contain more soul than big places, if you look closer and can stand the slower pace of life.

For some reason Peter Bogdanovich returned to make a sequel in Texasville. It wasn't very good and to be frank I thought the whole purpose of the film was to let you write further chapters in your own head.

Women In Love [DVD] [1969]
Women In Love [DVD] [1969]
Dvd ~ Alan Bates
Offered by 101Trading
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First class acting improves upon an average novel, 20 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Women In Love [DVD] [1969] (DVD)
Those who write scripts based on "classic novels" often complain that huge amounts of the text/scenes has to be junked in order to make it fit within the standard two hour movie window. This, I suppose, is why a television series can often be more satisfactory. Think Brideshead Revisited. However with D.H. Lawrence there is so many idle, superfluous and repeating scenes that a major trim usually does his work a power of good. No more so than here, where a pretty draggy and average novel is turned into a really excellent film, mainly thanks to the quality of the acting.

The introduction gives way to the belief that this is will be a standard boy-meets-girl-behind-the-slag-heap soap opera, but we quickly enter the world of madness, ambiguity (sexual and otherwise) and passion. This is cinema aimed at adults and makes no compromises to popcorn fashion. Only Ursula Brangwen (Jennie Linden) seems truly satisfied by the conventional male-female relationship.

In most reviews this is the point where we talk about the naked wrestling scene and Glenda Jackson's Oscar. While both are noteworthy, Jackson (playing Ursula's sister Gudrun) seems simply a selfish thrill-seeker who many actresses could play. In many ways the late Oliver Reed (Gerald Critch) is more outstanding in appearing, in turns, both intimidating and tender. A far better actor than many give him credit for, this may be his best ever role.

The equally late Alan Bates (Rupert Birkin) has slightly the easier role. Someone with wants to explore the boundaries of love, probably beyond the pale of hetrosexuality. Quite how and why are not spelled out and the audience can read him in many ways. A bored thrill seeker or a pioneer to world without standard sexual and emotional boundaries? Whatever the case, clearly a man living before his natural time.

Director Ken Russell does very well here. While getting bit overheated at times, he keeps the show on the road and moving forwards towards its sad and unsatisfactory (for the characters) ending.

Owning Up: The Trilogy
Owning Up: The Trilogy
by George Melly
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - so sad it ended!, 15 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Owning Up: The Trilogy (Paperback)
The world of jazz is something of a mystery to me. Not only do I not like it, I positively hate it. Thankfully this book doesn't contain a note of jazz, although it has a lot of references to it and the jazz scene. Not a great start - you might think - but author himself is so honest, straight and unabashed that I was dragged in and returned often.

This book is good value in that it is - really - three books for the price of one. The first covers his childhood, the second his national service days and the third his role in the early British jazz scene.

Childhood is not a part of life I am interested in mostly and George's upper middle class upbringing seems unpromising. He even went to a low-rent public school, but the charm of the man brings you through. Nevertheless there is a little too much detail about furniture and buildings for my liking. Maybe if you are more familiar with Liverpool you can get more out of it. Humour is never far away, never more so than in episodes about the long closed Liverpool Zoo.

(Foreign readers might also be puzzled by the casual violence of the public school system. This - I can assure them - was very true.)

His (national service) navy days are really about mad/sad/bad people who he encounters and works with. At one stage considering joining up for real. Like a lot of this book it is really about people, because not a lot happens in the Hollywood sense of the word. Indeed a lot of his early navy days didn't even involve casting to sea!

And finally to the world of jazz. The same greasy spoon, cold railway station, theatrical digs, petty arguments, fights over money and good-gig-bad-gig rigmarole which remains unchanged to this day. Hardly a star he seems more interested in lifestyle (the pleasure of drinking while "others are working") than fame and fortune.

Generally George doesn't give himself a lot of credit. The joke is often on him and it is sexually frank without delving in to physical detail. His floating sexuality remains unexplained and unexplored. George is - in this regard - retrospective light. Things just happen, he seems to say.

I'd recommend this book to any liberal reader who wants to have a light-hearted and funny tour of times gone by. Kept me such good company that I might well read it again one day.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 18, 2014 4:36 PM GMT

7dayshop High Quality 220gsm Polar Fleece Snood, Neck Warmer, Scarf, Balaclava, Beanie Hat - Black
7dayshop High Quality 220gsm Polar Fleece Snood, Neck Warmer, Scarf, Balaclava, Beanie Hat - Black
Offered by 7dayshop Limited
Price: £2.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Versatile piece of material, 14 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Although nothing more than a piece of "thinsulate" material which a draw cord this is a very nice piece of kit. I use it mostly to wear under my cap/helmet and pull down over my ears when it is cold and windy. Works well this way. Could be used as a hat or scarf too. Wish I had bought two now!

MHP Computer Services 20 m CAT5e RJ45 Ethernet LAN Network Patch Lead Cable
MHP Computer Services 20 m CAT5e RJ45 Ethernet LAN Network Patch Lead Cable
Offered by Digital Drives
Price: £3.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Very handy Ethernet extension cable, 14 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Had a slightly longer version of these cables before and the clip (which holds the cable secure) broke. Bought this to replace it. Not sure if the clip is stronger, but looks more substantial. Works very well, servicing my Netcast TV and my black boxes which can be updated via the internet. Very reasonably priced too.

Hi Vis Viz Visibility Work Wear Safety Over Trousers Waterproof Pants
Hi Vis Viz Visibility Work Wear Safety Over Trousers Waterproof Pants
Offered by G5 Apparel
Price: £5.03

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong double stich waterproof trouser., 10 Nov. 2013
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As a cyclist and general outdoor person I have had many waterproof over trousers. The reason being that while some are light and easy to put on, it doesn't take much for them to tear. Mostly catching on the bike seat, although branches and door handles have claimed a few. I presume that taping the material (rather than stitching) is cheaper.

These are not only stitched, but double stitched. While I am not guaranteeing being untearable these are probably as tear-proof as you are going to get in the real world. The cut and fabric are also more substantial than average. Being more like work trousers than leisure ones. They are easy to put on with a bottom stud so they don't look like flares when worn.

As regards waterproofing they are fantastic. Being out in a thunderstorm and not a drop got through. The only thing I didn't like is that reflective flashing. Looks a bit naff when out walking. I would have - given a choice - have chosen a pair without them. Still very happy overall.

Bike Bicycle Velcro Leg Bind Belt Reflective Safety Trousers Pants Band Strap
Bike Bicycle Velcro Leg Bind Belt Reflective Safety Trousers Pants Band Strap

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple trouser tie - more secure than others., 16 Oct. 2013
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There is nothing much to say about this product other than it works well and seems more secure than clips or semi-rigid wraparounds. Both of which can spring off when wearing jeans. This is a far better product. Holding shape with velcro. Could also be used when walking in areas where biting midges can enter your trouser bottoms. Note: They are sold individually and not in pairs.

Mitre Pro Training Bib - Red/Black - Senior
Mitre Pro Training Bib - Red/Black - Senior
Price: £3.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Very nice bib., 31 July 2013
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First can I say this product is not quite as advertised. It is reversible. It can be yellow or red depending which side you put on. The logo is the same both ways. No mention of this on the product description. I am not unhappy with this, although it creates a kind of double layer which adds a bit of weight to the top. More than other bibs I have. If you can live with this it is otherwise fine.

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