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Chucking It All - How Downshifting to a Windswept Scottish Island Did Absolutely Nothing to Improve My Quality of Life
Chucking It All - How Downshifting to a Windswept Scottish Island Did Absolutely Nothing to Improve My Quality of Life
Price: 1.79

2.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag, 3 Feb 2014
I'm English and have lived on Orkney with my (Dutch) wife for 12 years now, including Sanday (2002-3), South Ronaldsay (2003-7) and Dounby (2007-). I found this somewhat repetitive and depressing book funny in places, but disappointing on a number of levels. I borrowed it from a friend and would not have bought it.

Firstly, the way Max treats various people who helped and in many cases befriended or even loved him is simply deplorable. Treachery is never an attractive trait.

The author doesn't seem to realise that he actually had a pretty good time economically - good jobs seem to have fortuitously appeared whenever he needed them and his own business flourished. He chose to live in an isolated cottage - albeit one a short walk from a decent sized village with an hourly bus service into both towns.

There are numerous factual inaccuracies in the book. He describes Orkney farmland as "arable" (it's mostly pasture and almost all the crops here are grown for animal feed and bedding), talks about "corn" (only barley is grown here) and explains that the blockships were sunk to protect the Churchill barriers from being torpedoed (they were put in place to stop U-boats prior to the barriers, their permanent replacements, being built. The idea that a German torpedo could significantly damage one of the barriers is laughable).

More worrying are some of his descriptions of infrastructure on the islands which could potentially put people off visiting or moving here. We're told that the Kirkwall to Stromness route is served by a rickety old bus driven by the one full-time bus driver on the islands - there are many very modern buses and he certainly was not the only full-time bus driver by 2003. Were Mr. Scratchmann still living here he would find he could have the West Mainland "Octobus" pick him up from his front door. When it comes to transport difficulties, he describes the terror of crossing the barriers - his car being hit by wave thrown seaweed as it crossed. I had to commute across those barriers twice a day for three years and my car was hit by seaweed precisely once in all that time. I was prevented from getting in to work on time about once or twice a year. One of his first trips out in the post van was blocked by a 10 ft snowdrift which a JCB miraculously managed to clear in a couple of bucketloads (that must have been quite a digger!). In Eight years of commuting from the Hope and Dounby I was never stopped from getting in to work by snow and I have never seen a drift deeper than about three feet deep anywhere in Orkney.

Then we come to the paucity of fresh or interesting food in Orkney and the horror of Cummings and Spence closing down. He may have been unaware that William Shearer soon took up the slack and offers an amazing array of specialist foods in their wonderful emporium. We also have a huge, very well-stocked Tesco store that's open until midnight - unfortunately it doesn't fit Mr. Scratchmann's sole criterion for civilisation - being able to shop for CDs and at 3 am (something he could easily have done on amazon.co.uk). It is implied that weather also cuts us off from fresh food for protracted periods - this simply doesn't happen. In any case, Tesco chartered a Norwegian Lockheed C-130 Hercules to fly supplies into Shetland on a rare occasion that they were cut off.

The book might have been funnier if it wasn't for the all-pervading smugness of the "university educated" Mr. Scratchmann. The numerous artistic and literary references included in his (sometimes witty) observations are doubtless intended for his fellow cognoscenti and, I suspect, give away the intended audience of this book.

That said, Mr. Scratchmann does give a bit of a flavour of island life that rings true and that alone makes me feel it deserves two stars - it's just a shame he had to stitch up so many former friends in doing so.


British Heavy Cruisers 1939-45 (New Vanguard)
British Heavy Cruisers 1939-45 (New Vanguard)
by Angus Konstam
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Covers a lot of ground very well!, 10 Jan 2013
I'm a big fan of the Osprey New Vanguard books. Although some of them cover subjects sufficiently small or little known to be truly in-depth this particular volume addresses a subject which is large enough to warrant much larger and more expensive volumes and that should inform our expecations. Aside from a few issues with editing that dog the series this book certainly does its subject justice and there is nothing else available in this price band that is remotely as comprehensive. Konstam's writing style is also eminently accessible by the layman (i.e. yours truly). I greatly enjoyed this volume and look forward to the author addressing further naval subjects.


Strongholds of the Picts: The Fortifications of Dark Age Scotland (Fortress)
Strongholds of the Picts: The Fortifications of Dark Age Scotland (Fortress)
by Angus Konstam
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.59

5.0 out of 5 stars As good as it gets, 10 Jan 2013
As one of the amazon.com reviewers pointed out, this book does an excellent job within its remit - discussing the fortifications of Dark Age Scotland. It does so based on the available evidence of which the author had seen everything in print at the time of publication. None of the assertions made go beyond what is currently known about the fortifications and their context. If you are after a social history of the Picts you are better off going elsewhere but, regardless of price, this volume represents an excellent treatise on the Pictish defences of Scotland.


British Light Cruisers 1939-45 (New Vanguard)
British Light Cruisers 1939-45 (New Vanguard)
by Angus Konstam
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A concise and informative work on the RN's light cruisers, 10 Jan 2013
This volume provides a concise, yet surprisingly in-depth look at the light cruisers commissioned by the RN from the 1930s to 1945. Some of the reviews have been critical, but I really do think these volumes are excellent value for money and this is one of the best. A few errors in the picture captions and the lack of inclusion of Commonwealth vessels (surely deserving a title of their own!) hardly detracts from what the author has accomplished here. I look forward to further installments in this series.


Pavia, 1525: Charles V Crushes the French (Osprey Military Campaign)
Pavia, 1525: Charles V Crushes the French (Osprey Military Campaign)
by Angus Konstam
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Great value for money and an excellent resource!, 10 Jan 2013
This book really does the authors credit putting the battle into a social and political context and explaining the strategies, tactics and technologies used. No other volume crams as much into this format and this publication must rank as one of the jewels in the crown of the series. Konstam has walked the battlefield and his knowledge of this subject is second to none. As an aside, if you look up the battle on wikipedia you will see that Padua 1525 features heavily in its bibliography.


The Ice Cage - A Scandinavian Crime Thriller set in the Nordic Winter (The Baltic Trilogy Book 1)
The Ice Cage - A Scandinavian Crime Thriller set in the Nordic Winter (The Baltic Trilogy Book 1)
Price: 2.00

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping!, 23 Oct 2012
Really entertaining read that had me gripped from beginning to end! Looking forward to the next installment in this series :-)


Buffalo Ministation 500GB USB 2.0 Portable Hard Disk Drive
Buffalo Ministation 500GB USB 2.0 Portable Hard Disk Drive

5.0 out of 5 stars Best external hard drive I've had!, 18 Jun 2011
Small, stylish, plug and play... very impressed with this product and would recommend to anyone looking for extra storage! Great price too, so don't hesitate, get this today to back up your files.


Fly London Women's Blum Bootie
Fly London Women's Blum Bootie

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely!, 12 April 2010
Just received my Blum booties in dark brown leather, they look fabulous! Very good fit, makes feet look tiny and heel gives a bit of height without being uncomfortable. Would recommend, looks great with jeans!


Home Guard Manual 1941
Home Guard Manual 1941
by Campbell McCutcheon
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a New Zealand HG manual, 26 Mar 2010
This review is from: Home Guard Manual 1941 (Paperback)
Whilst this is an excellent read, potential purchasers (including myself) should have been warned that this is actually a New Zealand and not a UK Home Guard manual. This only becomes apparent some way into the text.


OF THE MOMENT
OF THE MOMENT
Price: 13.36

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!!!, 22 July 2009
This review is from: OF THE MOMENT (Audio CD)
I have been a big fan for a very long time, this is Sam's best album since 43 minutes, absolutely wonderful!!! So much emotion... and then there's the voice, incomparable! Buy this album NOW, you will listen to it over and over again.


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