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Roger Risborough (Richmond)

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French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France
French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France
Price: 4.31

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tour de Force, 24 July 2014
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I've just finished this whilst on holiday in France and watching The Tour de France on TV, and Tim Moore's book was the perfect accompaniment to all that. I much preferred French Revolutions to his later Spanish Steps - things happen faster on a bike than alongside a donkey, and the history of the Tour was (to me) much more interesting than the history of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, although the annual Gallic bike ride seems to engender just as much (if not more) reverential hysteria. The usual Moore preoccupations all line up with him at the start of his one-man circuit of France (self-deprecation, being generally out of his depth, unfriendly interchanges with the natives, problems with language, equipment, accommodation and family) but what sustains him most as he covers over 3,000 km (genuinely impressive) is his trade-mark wry bemusement and deep respect for the real riders who have gone before.


Last Days of the Bus Club
Last Days of the Bus Club
Price: 2.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Squeezing The Last Pips From The Lemons, 14 July 2014
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I hesitate to give this book its lowest star rating so far, if only to avoid the good kicking that normally leads to in "unhelpful" votes from friends, family (I'm sure that won't be the case here), and die-hard fans who hand-out 5 star reviews unquestioningly . . .
Leaving Amazon politics to one side, I was seduced into reading this after hearing the author on the radio, and had always meant to read one of his books. Maybe it was unfair to start with the fourth (and last?) part of the trilogy (author's joke), because this book refers back constantly to the earlier books, and Chris Stewart's story is no longer that of the outsider struggling with an unfamiliar culture, landscape and property, he is now the recognised local celebrity bogged-down by signing books, opening the local fiesta and judging tuna competitions. So there's a general absence of jeopardy, save for some torrential rain, a few lost sheep and impenetrable Spanish bureaucracy. Most disconcerting for the new reader though, is the way each chapter just sort of fizzles out rather than arriving at the expected punchline that defines this genre of book. Once you have come to terms with this though, you can relax into the amiable descriptions of landscape, family and friends - the people, in fact, who are probably right now reaching for the "unhelpful" button.


The Deaths
The Deaths
Price: 3.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Build My Gallows High, 22 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Deaths (Kindle Edition)
The "Deaths" of the title are revealed in the second chapter of this novel - but what is not apparent until late-on, is who has actually died. The murderer, though, is obvious from page one - It's Mark Lawson himself, who unflinchingly stabs-in-the-back the conspicuously-consumerist home-counties middle-classes as they struggle to come to terms with the recent recession. Our main protagonists, "The Eight" (as they self-refer) are four couples living in near-identical grand houses in a fictional village somewhere between Milton Keynes and the M40. Membership of "The Eight" dictates their social lives (endless dinner parties with the same guest list), their households (matching numbers/ages of children, nannies, pets and cars), their family ties (serial cross-god-parenting), the husbands' journeys to work (sharing a "four" in 1st class), business overlaps (a non-execship here, a scratched-back there), school choices (expensive) and their vices (pride, greed, avarice, adultery, in fact all of them). So they are all inextricably tied together in a claustrophobic noose of competition (all four families could easily have been called "The Jones'"), self-importance, entitlement and dismissal of the outside world. In short they need each other to bench-mark themselves, but the noose starts to tighten as the fall-out from the recession starts to bite - and fault-lines (previously glossed-over with alcohol, credit and excess spending) crack wide open as health. wealth and happiness all come under threat. Critics will dismiss the main characters as caricatures - they are, but they are wonderfully realistic caricatures, and first class carriages and private school parents' evenings are stuffed full of people like "The Eight". Mark Lawson must have ransacked his own social life for many of the all-too-accurate traits and trends, and it's ironic that the impending doom he builds up for "The Eight" is not dissimilar to what he has himself experienced at The BBC recently. This is clearly a salutary tale - not just of the Recession, but a reminder that while we all convince ourselves that we're busy building "Happy Families", we may just be building a giant gallows that it is impossible to come down from in one piece.


Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life
Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life
Price: 2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dear Nina . . ., 11 Jun 2014
This is fresh and fun, and very much in the rhythm of "Dear Lupin", with the whole book comprising one half of a postal correspondence from years ago. In Dear Lupin, that correspondence was between errant son and forgiving father - here it's sister-in-the-sticks and sister-in the-bright-lights-of-literati-London. Our writer and heroine, Nina ("Stibbe") escapes small-town Lincolnshire to be billeted as a nanny in Gloucester Terrace in the eighties. Her employer is the editor of the London Review of Books, and immediate neighbours include Alan Bennett, Claire Tomalin and Michael Frayn. So there's name dropping on every page, along with cultural reminders from down the years (remember when people didn't know whether to keep balsamic vinegar in the bathroom or the kitchen?). There's a small repertory cast of characters that pop-up in Nina's daily life and hence are mentioned/critiqued in her letters to her sister. Everyone will have their own favourites - mine was fellow student Stella, she of the failed hair-dye and the postman-boyfriend who seemed to have stopped delivering. This is the tale of the nanny and childhood that none of us ever had (apart from the two quick-witted Frears boys) - and after reading this, it feels like we've all missed out.


Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase
Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase
Price: 4.99

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Empty Case, 5 Jun 2014
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This is night-school writing, not literature. Devoid of depth, but packed with cliches (love and loss in war-time; love and loss in peace-time; working in secondhand bookshops, blah, blah), this suitcase is destined for the left luggage locker.


The People's Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records
The People's Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records
Price: 3.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The People's Choice, 3 Jun 2014
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Yet again, Stuart Maconie makes great writing look deceptively simple. It does exactly what it says on the tin (cover).


Who I Am
Who I Am
by Pete Townshend
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 13.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT JUST FOR MY GENERATION, 3 Jun 2014
This review is from: Who I Am (Audio CD)
This is a big long listen, about a big long life in music, and in short, it's brilliant.
Pete Townshend reads his own life story across 70 years and 15 CDs, and frequently amuses himself with his past indiscretions, errors of judgement and false-steps. He also manages to pronounce his first wife's name (Karen) differently every time he reads it, which seems to tie-in with the old maxim that if you can remember the 60s you weren't there. That human touch to the narration is one of the many charms of this audio-book, along with the sheer fascination of listening to the unfolding career one of BritRock's true champions, from 60s Mod pioneer to hard rocker, to co-conceiver of concept rock, and finally as stadium hell-raiser. There must be something for every music fan somewhere in that range of musical generations. As you would expect from someone who initially made his name smashing guitars on stage long before it was fashionable, Townshend pulls no punches in telling his life story - sexual inhibitions, sexual indiscretions, sexual accusations are all worked-through carefully and thoughtfully with the benefit of hindsight, and by the end, who he is has been answered in full. A star. After 10 of the discs I had to consciously slow down my rate of listening as the end was approaching just too quickly.


Ska'd for Life: A Personal Journey with The Specials: A Personal Journey with the "Specials"
Ska'd for Life: A Personal Journey with The Specials: A Personal Journey with the "Specials"
Price: 3.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Much Of A Gentleman?, 22 April 2014
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This is a breathless, sweat-drenched gallop through The Specials' success story and the birth of 2 Tone, seen through the eyes of Stephen Panter, AKA Sir Horace Gentleman, AKA The Special AKA's bassist. Thirty five years on, it's amazing how quickly Jerry Dammers and the rest of the "Fun-Boy-Seven" (or was it nine?) shot to fame and then self-destructed. By the time of their first hit and debut appearance on Top Of The Pops, they were already in the middle of the tour that burnt them out before they had started, almost, and Sir Horace comes across as the man-in-the-middle caught between increasing band rivalries and cliques. So this is fascinating for anyone who remembers those times or who loves 2 Tone. All the essential music industry strands are here, from idealistic starting points, to interacting with fans and the media, rubbish transport, fallings-out with management, hotel escapades, bitching about rival bands, squabbles over royalties, jostling for song-writing credits, etc etc. Our author comes across as a genuine nice guy, providing the driving rhythm that is the heart-beat for a ska band, and a fan's eye view of life on- and back-stage generally. Perhaps, though, in the end, he is just a bit TOO nice and dances over the exact details of why Terry really fell out with Jerry and all the other dirt - the gritty truth that, say, Morrissey, goes out his way to focus on in his autobiography, which is what would have made this an even more compelling read.


Down To The Sea In Ships: Of Ageless Oceans and Modern Men
Down To The Sea In Ships: Of Ageless Oceans and Modern Men
Price: 8.03

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lost At Sea, 12 April 2014
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I've read and really enjoyed Horatio Clare's "dry land" works, but this time I'm afraid I was rather lost at sea. Like an oil-tanker that can't stop or change direction very quickly, I suspect that shortly after the author had embarked on his container-ship mission, he realised that the realities of life on board were going to severely limit the interest quotient for the book. The trouble is that modern-day ocean-crossing just isn't as hair-raising as it used to be. If sea-faring jeopardy used to come via war, weather and sea-worthiness, then peace-time sailing in massive boats built to withstand hurricanes makes for a less heart-stopping ride - and read. Instead, the author muses on woeful wages and patchy internet connections as today's main high-seas perils, and surrounded by vast horizons of empty space, he is forced to shine his writer's search-light onto his crew mates and random bits of passing maritime history (when the internet allows, you suspect) for intrigue and incident. So this is no Palinesque travelogue with an ever-changing cast of countries, characters and conveyances - instead it is two incident-free journeys, one east via the Med and Suez Canal to the Orient, and one west via The Atlantic to North America. Just as things might liven up when entering pirate waters off East Africa, Clare is forced to abandon ship by the risk-averse boat owners, and he flies on to pick up the journey again in calmer waters, and that rather sums up the book - not so much Yo-Ho-Ho-And-A-Bottle-Of-Rum-etc, more like just Ho-Hum, I'm afraid.


Sad Men
Sad Men
Price: 6.02

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Sad, Not Mad, Not Bad . . ., 5 April 2014
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This review is from: Sad Men (Kindle Edition)
This is the third of Dave Roberts' autobiographical works that I've read following on from e-luv and 32 Programmes. Each one takes a particular strand of his life story (in this case his career in advertising, as opposed to football or dating) and he leads us along it in a light, self-deprecating style. As in the other books, his copy-writing skills make it hard to finish one chapter without wanting to rush straight into the next one, so this is another compelling tale. Inevitably though, there are quite big overlaps with the author's other works, with his 1990s illness again stopping things dead just when you think they're building to a climax. Prior to the illness, aside from a few errors of judgement, his advertising career wasn't that "sad" at all, really - he was as good as lots of other people in the industry at re-cycling each others' ideas, and now that he's an author he's getting good at re-cycling his own ideas for our enjoyment.


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