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Charles "mrfreedom" (England)

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More Time for Politics: Diaries 2001-2007
More Time for Politics: Diaries 2001-2007
by Tony Benn
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally compulsive, 31 Oct. 2007
I found it difficult to stop reading this; many times I could have gone on and on if my train hadn't reached its destination or the bath water hadn't gone cold.
Benn is an interesting character and a rarity among politicians. He doesn't tow the party line, he doesn't necessarilly go along with conventional wisdoms - for that alone he should be commended. Coming from the right, I found this diary fascinating stuff. You'd struggle to buy another book that offered such a sustained, constructive, powerful attack on the policies of Tony Blair. How amusing that some of the most piercing criticism of the dreadful Blair has come from leftish sources, eg the Taking Liberties documentary or Greg Dyke's memoirs. And this is where this edition of the diaries triumphs, because, for so long, Benn has been wrong about so many things. Socialism for instance. Yet now -he's right! His criticisms of Blair are devastating, he's spot on time after time. On the subject of Europe, civil liberties and global warming (a particularly interesting passage) he's bang on too (even though he does at one point refer to Dublin as not being in the EU).
The writing style is curious: slightly arch, a little self-knowingly for public consumption, at times luvvie-like (lots of 'It was lovely!' exclamations), at times almost child-like. Benn may not have the intellect or dashing style of classic diarists like Kenneth Williams or Alan Clark, but he is never less than compelling.
It might be argued that these diaries are published too soon after they were written so cannot be edited with the knowledge we will have of these times in years to come. But they have an earthy pungency and also provide a particularly individual slant on contemporary events; it's fantastic that we can get inside the head of such a famous living political figure.
The diary also demonstrates Benn's phenomenal energy. Even at the age of 80 he's zipping round the country on an almost daily basis giving speeches and attending rallies. (I'd recommend this book for any pensioner who is feeling their life is over - Benn could give you heady inspiration.) This is a man who has suffered a great loss fairly recently and the incredible sadness of this, which pervades the book, does not stop him from pursuing his agenda.
A few final points: the index is not totally complete, eg Enoch Powell is mentioned four times in the book but only gets one reference in the back. Note how many times he quotes people as starting sentences with 'well'. And bear in mind that Benn can be arrogant and paint himself in the best possible light, being quite disengenous with his arguments. But then, he is a politician!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 3, 2008 10:07 AM BST

Taking Liberties [2007] [DVD]
Taking Liberties [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Morrissey
Offered by rwl-123
Price: £13.65

8 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Leaves nasty taste in mouth, 24 Oct. 2007
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Thoughtful and scary documentary detailing the frightening extent to which Britain's government has curtailed civil liberties and extended the police state. It shows the police as dumb puppets of the regime; you realise how something like Nazi Germany happened.
A word of warning to potential viewers, particularly those with children around: This is a 12 certificate film (it's not a 15 as Amazon has it - they're wrong, check the bbfc website) yet includes around TWENTY-FIVE uses of the strongest language, spread throughout the disc, including the extras. I found it incredible and disgusting that such language didn't warrant more than a 12. The feature itself contains two or three F words and around a dozen uses of the C word, all coming in a pitiful closing obscene song by a hasbeen singer. It's a childish yet offensive way for the film to close, and it soured the experience for me.
So, be warned: the bbfc has taken leave of its senses - maybe the examiners don't actually watch the films any more - and this 12 film contains masses of foul language.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 6, 2015 1:36 AM GMT

Cat O' Nine Tales
Cat O' Nine Tales
by Jeffrey Archer
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Terrific fun, 18 Oct. 2007
This review is from: Cat O' Nine Tales (Paperback)
Highly readable and enjoyable short stories from the venerable Lord's pen. If you enjoyed his previous short stories you'll like these too. Archer is a great storyteller in that you are COMPELLED to keep reading to see what happens. OK, when you get to the end you sometimes feel a mite let down (perhaps we've been spoiled by Roald Dahl's brilliant twist-in-the-tail stories) and the characters are often barely brought to life and come across as rather grey figures. But that is churlish - this is perfect holiday reading.
A couple more comments: the ending of It Can't Be October Already is perplexing - surely the Irishman was 'indoors' in November. And am I the only one who got a little confused during The Red King?

The Good Pub Guide 2008 2008
The Good Pub Guide 2008 2008
by Fiona Stapley
Edition: Paperback

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes British life just that little bit better, 18 Oct. 2007
The new edition has undergone a minor redesign, which is an improvement, but is nothing like as extensive as, say, the Good Food Guide's redesign. Maybe next year? It'd be a good idea.
I still reckon this is the best pub guide around. It is consistent, it doesn't recommend too frivolously, it sticks a lot to pubs it has featured before except if there's been a big drop in standards. One criticism could be that it doesn't encompass enough pubs, and consistently ignores certain establishments. In London for example, there are many pubs, particularly gastro ones, that get in all the other guides but not this one (eg The Cow). But it would be impossible to feature ALL good pubs in the UK; the Guide does a pretty good job of surveying what's out there.
I can say one thing: I have never strongly disliked a pub I have visited because of a recommendation. Virtually all have been great, and I've made many happy discoveries all over the country.

The Good Food Guide 2008
The Good Food Guide 2008
by Elizabeth Carter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As good as ever, possibly better, 19 Sept. 2007
Last year's guide saw an extensive redesign; this year sees another. The effect is to make it brighter and clearer than before, a world away from the guide up until 2006. There is now more colour, more mini chef interviews and impressive, detailed reproductions of city maps, particularly the London area, along with the normal larger maps at the back.
London restaurants still take up the chunk of the book, unfairly perhaps, but that is the nature of these things - most people who go to posh restaurants and write reviews of them live in the south east. What a dismal reflection on our 'second city', Birmingham, that it has just five restaurants worthy of mention! The London section is split into different areas - central, Victoria etc, which can be slightly confusing if you're not sure where you are. (I know this sounds silly, but for many visitors this is the case.)
Returning this year is the list of contributors (how could they think to leave them out last year?), notably thanked in 'this book could not exist' terms. Other interesting points: the Guide doesn't deem it worthy to even mention that Britain is now completely non-smoking, which I found surprising. 'Readers' choice' restaurants have been introduced, which on top of the 'Also Recommended' places seems excessive. (I hope this isn't the sign of more dumbing down to come!) Also dropped is the list of 'London restaurants by cuisine', a shame, as it was extremely helpful. Plus, personally speaking I'd like to see a list every year of eateries that have dropped out since the previous edition, and why (closure, drop in standards etc).
As usual, the rating for a main section restaurants starts at 1/10, and the guide again tries to stress that this is a considerable achievement. It's certainly true that many of those places can be darn expensive. No one gets 10/10 - Gordon Ramsay did a few years back - but a few get 9, including The Fat Duck. Just reading reviews of venues like this makes the mouth water. Those of us on lower budgets can but dream and remain content with ticking off the more moderately priced venues.
Lastly, the shape and cover of the Guide look good and underline its authority. It remains one of the most carefully researched, meticulously proofed guide books available.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 12, 2008 10:49 AM GMT

The Perennial Philosophy (Perennial Classics)
The Perennial Philosophy (Perennial Classics)
by Aldous Huxley
Edition: Paperback

14 of 51 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Archaic gobbledegook, 12 Sept. 2007
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I must disagree with previous reviewers: this book is not essential reading. The entire concept of it is now incredibly dated; that we should try and live our lives according to what men wrote long, long ago is absurd. Especially since these men professed to know the mind of God. Who can know the mind of God? There's one chap in particular, William Law, quoted extensively here, who reckons he does. So, Billy, how did you do your research back in the 17th and 18th century? Tap into the internet, travel the world? No, you sat on your stool and IMAGINED things, you GUESSED what you thought was right. You put your own interpretation on the Bible.
Aldous Huxley allows these sort of people the run of the book, and it's hard to believe that the man who wrote Brave New World can scribble such thick, indigestible material; it'd be easier to swallow a basketball. Here's a paragraph, picked out entirely at random: "Only the totally selfless are in a position to know experimentally that, in spite of everything, 'all will be well' and, in some way, already is well." Come again? That's one of the clearer passages.
By no means an insignificant book, but one which fails to offer insights into human nature because it relies on the words of discredited religious figureheads. A psychiatrist recommended this to me; I'm not sure I should go back and thank him.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 18, 2009 10:38 AM BST

Swallows And Amazons
Swallows And Amazons
by Arthur Ransome
Edition: Paperback

21 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Soothing adventure, hardly action-packed, 11 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Swallows And Amazons (Paperback)
Swallows and Amazons is an extremely mild children's adventure that makes pleasant reading for young and old (older readers may need to sail or know the Lake District to get the full benefit). The plot is barely evident. A group of children mess around on a lake for a few days, with just a couple of incidents occuring. The bigger of these incidents, a theft, takes up the last chunk of the book, but in keeping with the book's mildness (spoiler ahead), there is no scene in which the thieves are caught! It would have raised the book's temperature too much.
I would recommend this book for young, non-cyncial readers. I suspect that many children of a certain age would now not find as much in the book to interest them as children 50 years ago did. I can't stress how mild it is - many, many passages are taken up describing what the children eat, and the 'adventure' doesn't start properly for about 100 pages.
The best thing about Ransome's style is the way he plays it straight. He doesn't condescend, he doesn't mock, he climbs inside the children's fantasy world by using their lingo concerning pirates, hidden treasure and the like. This is what raises the book above the norm; this is why many think of it fondly.
In conclusion, I have to say that although I appreciated its qualities, I was slightly disappointed by the story (I'm 36, reading it for the first time) and it didn't quite hold my attention as much as I hoped it would. And that's with reading it while I was in the Lakes. Which is a lovely place; you must go.

Cider With Rosie (Vintage Classics)
Cider With Rosie (Vintage Classics)
by Laurie Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic book, 22 Aug. 2007
Highly enjoyable memoir told in exquisite language that perfectly evokes the place and time. The descriptions could be not be more delightful and the tales of folk from that period are extraordinary, sometimes funny, sometimes sad.
Definitely worth reading to see how only a very short time ago people lived very differently to us. Some of the living was better, some of it was worse. Teenagers reading it will be shocked by much of what it describes. In that sense, it is a book to expand the mind, and a valuable one.

The Go-Between (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Go-Between (Penguin Modern Classics)
by L. P. Hartley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable and intelligent, 14 Aug. 2007
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The Go Between is a fine novel that is beautifully written and carefully crafted. It can be read on several different levels, either as a coming of age drama and a lament for loss of innocence or a heavily symbolic book worthy of careful interpretation.
Also made into a slow but classy film, LP Hartley's story is sad, sweet and haunting. Recommended for those sick and tired of current fiction being full of sex, violence and bad language.

Londonistan: How Britain Is Creating a Terror State Within
Londonistan: How Britain Is Creating a Terror State Within
by Melanie Phillips
Edition: Paperback

41 of 60 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Important reading, 14 Aug. 2007
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Read this and weep. There are few books I have read lately that have made me feel as down as this one. Not the author's fault - the British political establishment's fault. If you can stomach gloom about the incredulous policies of the last 60 years and frets and worries about the future ahead, then read this. If you'd prefer to live in a happy bubble then don't. But reading the daily press won't give you a proper view of the multi cultural madness that has infected this country.
Phillips' writing style is persistent and rather one-tone. She never reaches rant pitch but she emits a low and constant grumble, telling terrible tales backed up with facts. Many chapters read like extended versions of the pieces she writes in the papers. A little more of a 'human' touch, perhaps with use of humour, might have helped.
I think it's interesting to read this book in tandem with one of the recent 'anti religion' books (eg by Hitchens or Dawkins), as it gives one a rounded view of why Britain has been slowly destroyed for the last 50 years and why there's not a lot of hope left. Post-war immigration has caused a mass of problems. Religion has always caused a mass of problems. Stick the two together and boy have you got BIG problems. What were our political establishment thinking when they allowed this to happen? Phillips has some of the answers. But I found her attribution of civilisation to Judo-Christian beliefs less convincing. True, belief in something helped people behave better, but there were other reasons why people wanted to develop. Now we know there is nothing like God in the shape previously believed, we must move on.
I liked this book, but Walden's Time To Emigrate is more fun and Ashley Mote's Overcrowded Britain is better written and encompasses more. Still, worth reading.

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