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Rob Blackmore (Staffordshire, UK)

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Somewhere In Time
Somewhere In Time
Price: £8.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Iron Age Classic, 3 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Somewhere In Time (Audio CD)
As a spotty teenager, this was one of the first hard rock albums I listened to and I was hooked - this was pure escapist heavy metal.
Never mind stuffy geography homework, these stomping tracks could take you from sun scorched battlefields to a bleak and blistering cross country race (with a splash of science fiction for good measure).

Having later listened to Maiden's earlier albums (including the splendid Powerslave), this was a change of direction for them, and the use of synthesisers, along with Adrian Smith's guitar work, gives the tracks a more polished feel, which they're none the worse for.

My favourite tracks are 'Wasted Years' and 'Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner'. Some listeners may find 'Alexander the Great' a bit rambling, but it wouldn't be Maiden without a 'mini epic' and the instrumentals are pure craftsmanship.

So, twenty six (wasted?) years on, the teenager is now middle aged (minus spots and hair) but the album still rocks. Thank you lads.


Kentish Lad, A
Kentish Lad, A
by Frank Muir
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Merry Mr Muir, 25 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Kentish Lad, A (Paperback)
Many people probably remember him as the bow tied buffer on 'Call my Bluff', or from 'My Word' on the radio, but there's more to Muir than these shows. Frank, (together with Denis Nordern), was a talented scripwriter and producer of pioneering comedy shows in the post war years.

In this very funny and readable autobiography, Frank writes about his seaside childhood in Ramsgate, 'you swam in and swallowed petrol flavoured sea water' and later Leyton, 'I was educated in E10 - not Eaton', before moving on to his war service as a photographer in the RAF. It's hard to imagine the dapper Muir in a bomber, strapped on a plank over the bomb bay as it slowly opens... 'I might well have screamed'.

Frank had a sunny (and sometimes surreal) outlook on life, and there's plenty of comic anecdotes, to illustrate his post war life, as he started his writing career with the BBC, while becoming a family man and celebrity. The book concludes with a touching postscipt from his son Jamie.

Very good indeed. If you're feeling fed-up then Frank's comic tales will surely put a smile on your face.


Said And Done
Said And Done
by Roger McGough
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.25

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank u very much - Mr McGough, 2 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Said And Done (Paperback)
The autobiography of the popular liverpudlian poet and performer, Roger McGough - told in his own inimitable style.

It's a cliche when people 'wish the book wouldn't end', but this was certainly the case with 'Said and Done'.

Roger writes about his wartime Liverpool childhood, and his student and teaching days, before he found fame as a third of comedy vocal group 'The Scaffold', with Mike McCartney and Tiswas stalwart, John Gorman.

Throughout the book we meet some of the famous 20th century artists such as Larkin: 'he was scary' and Lennon: 'the chilli to Paul's jam', which featured in Roger's life, along with fellow 'Mersey Beat' poets Brian Patten and Adrian Henri.

You will certainly feel a range of emotions reading this book.

There's plenty of humour, particularly in the chapter where Roger recalls his hapless summer student jobs: 'Next thing squashed loaves began to issue forth from the top of the machine...'

Much reflection, such as where he shares his thoughts and fears of becoming an older parent, illustrated with the touching poem 'Cinders', to his daughter, Isabel.

And some sadness, as he talks fondly about his old mate and fellow writer, Pete McCarthy, who died early from cancer in 2004: 'I am weary of writing eulogies, and this is one I'd though I'd never have to write.'

This is very much a self depreciating work, Roger delights in putting a pin in himself, whenever his ego is in danger of becoming overinflated: 'My brain certainly wasn't the the finely tuned instrument that I like to pretend it is.'

An honest and enjoyable book, let's hope Roger McGough is far from said and done.


The Grim Smile of the Five Towns
The Grim Smile of the Five Towns
by Arnold Bennett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.77

4.0 out of 5 stars Tales from the Potteries, 5 Aug 2012
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Warwickshire may have Shakespeare and Eliot, but in Staffordshire we have Arnold Bennett, the midlands lad whose stories brought to life the people and towns of the Potteries.

I have been meaning to read some of Bennett's work, and rather than dive into one of his novels (Clayhanger etc), I thought I'd try some of his short stories; and this book is a collection of tales from 'The Five Towns' that formed the setting for much of his writing.

Although written over a century ago, Bennett's style is very readable. Some readers may find his use of North Staffordshire dialect jars a little (Yes, thou dost lad!), but I think it adds a touch of colour to his characters.

There are thirteen stories in all, and they include a novella 'The Death of Simon Fuge' and four linked tales about the misadventures of Vera, the spoilt but likeable young wife of a rich pottery magnate. As the title suggests, black humour flows throughout many of the stories, and this is best illustrated with 'In a new Bottle' featuring the undertaker, Mr Till.

Bennett's crafted prose recreates the Edwardian Potteries, so step back in time, to the smoke and grime, and meet the folk of the Five Towns.


The Tiswas Album
The Tiswas Album
Offered by MasterDVD
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is Saturday - Listen & Smile!, 11 July 2012
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This review is from: The Tiswas Album (Audio CD)
For many 40 somethings like me, Tiswas was a foam filled, Saturday morning TV feast, where presenters Sally James (swoon) and Chris Tarrant, hosted an anarchic mix of cartoons, custard and music.

Music was a popular focus of Tiswas, with Sally James's 'Almost Legendary' pop interviews, and this three CD set, includes a selection of tunes by bands and artists featured in its eight year run from 1974 to 1982.

There's certainly plenty of variety here, including heavy metal and ska through to punk and synth pop.

It's amazing how many top artists, such as Adam Ant and Sheena Easton were sport enough to come on the show and get covered in all manner of muck!

As an earlier reviewer mentioned, the third CD is the weaker of the set, featuring more 'novelty' records such as 'The Wurzels' and 'Hot Gossip' (not together unfortunately!); although of course, it wouldn't be a Tiswas album without 'The Bucket of Water of Song'.

There's a bonus booklet featuring photos and memories from Sally James and Bob Carolgees, although surprisingly there's no contributions from Chris Tarrant.

For fifty tracks, it's good value and just the thing if you want to wallow in a little nostalgia.

This is what they want!


The Countryman's Bedside Book
The Countryman's Bedside Book
by Bb
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Look while life lasts..., 10 Jun 2012
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This is a collection of country writing from the pen of author and artist, Denys Watkins-Pitchford, best known as BB.

BB grew up in the Northamptonshire countryside, but his writing is inspired from across the British Isles and even parts
of northern Europe.

The book contains a variety of rural themes, including nature essays and memories of country life and characters;
beautifully written, and exquisitely illustrated with his black and white 'scraperboard' pictures.

BB began writing the book in the 1930s, and it was published in 1941 during wartime; there is a hint of melancholy, as he describes
a way of life fast disappearing underneath modern 'progress'.

He was an avid field sportsman (shooting and angling), and this is a theme for much of his writing. Indeed, there seems to be a
conflict of interest between his love of wildlife and his love of the shotgun. If you're not a shooting fan (and I'm not) you may
wish to skim over these sections. Having said that, his account of a goose hunt on a bleak January night makes you almost feel the frost
in your bones.

This is very much a 'book of the time', best illustrated by BB's tale about raiding rooks' nests for eggs as a boy. He then muses afterwards
why boys don't seem to collect birds' eggs nowadays. As of 2012, this 'hobby' has been illegal for nearly sixty years.

Aside from this, the book is a fascinating read, and a glimpse back to a simpler (albeit harder) life now sadly gone.


A World Elsewhere: An Autobiography
A World Elsewhere: An Autobiography
by Michael Hordern
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Paddington, Pinter and Old King Lear, 10 May 2012
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Sir Michael Hordern, had a distinguished film and stage career. A versatile performer, whether playing bumbling butlers or steadfast admirals, his resonant tones and world weary face, always added something special to a production. Of course, for kids of my generation, Hordern was familiar as the voice of Paddington Bear.

`A World Elsewhere' is his autobiography. He writes candidly about childhood, his early days on the stage, and war service in the Royal Navy. After the war he resumed an acting career, which was to last almost fifty years, and in the book he describes the highs and lows of a working actor.

The book is written in a clear, readable style, avoiding overblown prose, common in many actors' autobiographies. Hordern's humour shines throughout, with many wry observations. He describes a U Boat attack during the war as `the real thing, no film stars in a tank of water at Pinewood studios - terrifying!'

One thing evident is a surprising number of tensions. Hordern had a strained relationship with his father; and a precarious (but lasting) marriage. This is also apparent in his acting, where he had a stormy relationship with Sir Rex Harrison.

Many people reading the book will have an interest in the stage, and Hordern talks about his work with writers such as Harold Pinter and actors including Richard Burton.

Hordern was passionate about fishing, and while his angling tales are interesting, they tend to feature too prominently. This is a short book (212 pages) and I feel that I am reading `snapshots' of his life. This brevity is not helped with a thirty page extract of a `production diary' by actress Gwen Cherell, which seems unnecessary.

A well written book from a talented actor. However, Hordern keeps some distance and much is excluded. Fortunately, he has the last word, and happily describes being `brought down to earth' by a small boy asking him `Excuse me, aren't you Paddington?'


Aylmer Vance: Ghost-Seer (Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural)
Aylmer Vance: Ghost-Seer (Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural)
by Claude Askew
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.23

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just the night for ghost stories..., 16 Feb 2012
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A collection of tales by Claude and Alice Askew featuring Edwardian ghost hunter Aylmer Vance.

I enjoyed this book, gaslight and ghouls are always a good match, and the stories are very readable. Vance is an amiable (if a touch Holmesian) character, more charming than Hope Hodgeson's 'Carnacki' but lacking the mystery of Blackwood's 'Dr John Silence'.

Unlike gothic writers such as Lovecraft or Blackwood, these are more 'traditional' ghost stories (with the odd vampire thrown in). The tales vary from grim tragedy, 'The Invader' to blatant romance, 'Lady Greensleeves'.

This is a slim volume (127 pages), and it seems to finish before the characters of Vance and his friend Dexter get the chance to develop. In addition, it would have been useful to have had an introduction, to give some background about the authors.

However, you can't pick about the price, and Vance is a worthy addition for any fans of gothic fiction.


Victoria Wood - As Seen on TV [DVD]
Victoria Wood - As Seen on TV [DVD]
Dvd ~ Victoria Wood
Price: £10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Comic gems from off the trolley, 3 Feb 2012
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Good comedy is timeless,and no more so than this classic from Victoria Wood and friends.

Vic is a versatile writer/performer and this series showcases her talents to the full.

Ably assisted by Julie Walters, Celia Imrie et al, Vic presents a feast of songs, sketches & stand up.

Favourites of mine include Julie as a deranged shoe shop assistant (we think we've got hens in the skirting board!), musical number 'The Chippy' and of course wobbly soap 'Acorn Antiques'.

Regular features are Susie Blake as a caustic continuity announcer, and the spoof documentary - which often combined humour with pathos, like Vic's tragicomic schoolgirl attempting to swim the Channel.

So sit back with a sponge finger, and treat yourself to some comic nostalgia courtesy of a talented lady.


Not Exactly Ghosts/Fires Burn Blue (Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural): AND Fires Burn Blue (Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural)
Not Exactly Ghosts/Fires Burn Blue (Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural): AND Fires Burn Blue (Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural)
by Sir Andrew Caldecott
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No ghosts - but pretty strange, 11 Jan 2012
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As the title states, these are not ghost stories in the `classic' sense but a collection of weird tales, inspired by M R James and written by Sir Andrew Caldecott.

As a civil servant Caldecott spent a lot of his working life in the far-east, and this forms the setting for several of his tales in the fictional country of Kongea.

They certainly are an eclectic collection - ranging from the macabre `The Pump in Thorpe's Spinney' to the downright bizarre `Grey Brothers'.

Throughout his stories Caldecott makes much use of `tongue in cheek' verse together with an element of black humour. This approach is best illustrated in `Autoepitaphy' and `Fits of the Blues'.

There's a couple of `clunkers' but also one or two genuine gems (`Whiffs of the Sea' is my favourite). Not on a par with supernatural writers such as James or Blackwood, but definitely worth a look - and published by Wordsworth Editions at a very reasonable price.


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