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Angelica Garden (Hampshire)

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Life, the Universe & Gardening
Life, the Universe & Gardening
Price: £6.72

5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational look at gardens, 4 Aug 2013
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Most garden books tell you how to dig, which varieties of bean or rose you should be growing, and show glossy pix of impossibly perfect gardens. Here, you're just told to enjoy what's there, to look, hear, feel and taste in the garden, to appreciate the creatures you share it with, from the worms to the wasps. Sarah Coles explores the history of gardens in the lightest way, and the spirits in them. She looks at European gardens and the gardens of the east. Her photos are hazy, her writing is beautiful. When you finish reading this, you'll find you want to go out into a garden, any garden, even a garden you imagine you know backwards, and discover things anew.


The Woman Who Knew What She Wanted
The Woman Who Knew What She Wanted
by William Coles
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What attracts men, what attracts women?, 14 Jun 2013
At last! Another love story from William Coles! This one is based on Coles' own experience at a Dorset hotel many decades ago, and here his hero Kim's great love is Cally, over twenty years his senior. Coles is expert at exploring what each sex finds attractive in the other, and it's not necessarily what you'd expect. For women, forget dieting, primping and the beauty parlour, and just remember this: what matters in any woman is generosity and the confidence to greet life with open arms. Cally is a free spirit. For men, Cally tells Kim that women like men to be reliable but not predictable (not that same gift over and over again), and so on. Read it and you'll see what I mean.

Cally is an artist, an expert horsewoman, a strong swimmer, and brilliant artist. She owns a house at Studland near the Knoll House Hotel (it's still there and, he says, as good as ever) where Kim is a waiter for the season. Aged 21, Kim's returned to the hotel of his childhood while wondering what to do with life, and he gets to know this beautiful woman who occasionally dines there. My head was quite befuddled by all the drinking at the Bankes Arms nearby where the hotel staff repair after hours. That's still there too.

Kim's affair with Cally proceeds at a gentle pace. She teaches him about the world and women. She teaches him how to ride, how to overcome his fear of heights, and much more. They consummate their love in a beach hut that ends all beach huts while outside the sea rages.

It all ends tragically, of course. Ultimately, the age difference cannot be bridged. Kim is young and callow, and jealous. I was weeping at the end.


Four Emperors and an Architect: How Robert Adam Rediscovered the Tetrarchy
Four Emperors and an Architect: How Robert Adam Rediscovered the Tetrarchy
by Alicia Salter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.06

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book for your Croatian cruise, 25 May 2013
Four Emperors and an Architect. How Robert Adam Rediscovered The Tetrarchy.

I thought the word tetrarchy must be about the number three, but now I know better. It comes from the Greek and means four. The tetrarchs are the four emperors who ruled after Diocletian split the late Roman empire in the 4th century AD, for ease of control. When Alicia Salter, an architectural historian, visited Split in Croatia she was overwhelmed by the splendour that still remains of Diocletian's palace on the waterfront, and thereupon she spent years researching and writing this book.

So, we visit what remains of the palace as well as other palaces, triumphal arches and temples, travelling from Bulgaria to Egypt to Germany to Britain, and get to know the emperors, their relationships and how they ruled. By then trade and riches came from the east, new cities were rising, and Rome had dwindled. Finally, along comes Constantine the Great, and Christianity triumphs.

We also meet Robert Adam the 18th century architect, who was hugely influenced by the palace at Split. Alicia Salter makes a complex subject very readable, and the text is accompanied by excellent illustrations. I always knew exactly what she was talking about. I would give this review five stars instead of four, except for the fact that I found constantly jumping to and from Diocletian to Adam very jerky. If they had met, I don't think the Roman soldier emperor and Scottish architect would have that much in common! It would have been better if the whole book had proceeded chronologically.

An invaluable book for anyone going to Split, by air or cruise liner.


What Is God? Rolling Back the Veil
What Is God? Rolling Back the Veil
Price: £5.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate and complex, 15 Mar 2013
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This is a profound, complex and wonderful book - and having finished it, I started at the beginning again. Possibilities are infinite, love is total.

We may have advanced technologically as a species, says Christine Horner, but very little has been resolved in regard to our existential dilemmas - people still ask what is the meaning of life, why are we here, does life have a purpose, how should we live? They ask, if there's God why has he created so much pain, suffering and evil in the world? To solve these aged old questions, volumes have been written by psychiatrists, scientists, philosophers, historians, theologians, politicians, and gurus. God has been shaped by societies to suit their cultural conditions, to help allay their fears and boost their control over their subjects.

Christine Horner takes us into the world of modern science and physics, into realms of consciousness, into the unity of opposites (for what is the meaning of one without the other? Male without female?) until we rise through different fractal planes into a universe which absorbs us and is us, and we realise with our awareness and consciousness we ourselves are multifaceted mirrors of God. Only thought make us imagine we are apart from other life - in fact we are the oneness we seek. The only thing to fear is fear itself.

Christine writes passionately. Hers is not an easy feel-good self-help primer. There's nothing bland in this complex study, but at the end you will feel your heart expand with understanding.


Nothing To Be Frightened Of
Nothing To Be Frightened Of
Price: £5.49

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Locked in his Head, 27 Feb 2013
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Julian Barnes thinks of death every day, and it horrifies him to think that, as for every one of us, one day sooner or later will be his last. He looks at the views of various writers on death, particularly the French writer Jules Renard, and considers the worms crawling in and out of the putrifying body. He does not believe in God, but wishes he did, and God is very much a character in this book as Barnes argues with him, contradicts him, points out various unwise and unfair parts of his creation; Barnes' God is a stern, tough, grumpy old man. Well, Barnes writes well and often amusingly, but he has no concept of what God might be, no concept of the spiritual, no confidence in anything other than the standard materialist scientific view of life today. He has no emotional understanding of his characters (this coldness being the chief fault of his novels) or appreciation of anything other than logic and reason. He found his mother a talkative pain in the neck, and this may be one reason why he is locked in his narrow, urban (nature? Forget it) ultra cerebral male world.


The Stranger in the Mirror: A Memoir of Middle Age
The Stranger in the Mirror: A Memoir of Middle Age
Price: £4.68

3.0 out of 5 stars Self absorbed, but utterly readable, 9 Feb 2013
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Jane Shilling is a journalist, single with a school age son Alexander, and approaches middle age with trepidation - she looks in the mirror and sees she is no longer young. Where for this next stage of life are her role models? How should she dress? Advice in papers and magazines is restrictive and dull. The heroines of fiction to a woman are young. She looks at Germaine Greer, Simone de Beauvoir and others, and what they say is grim. After fifty a woman becomes invisible, and if she's been admired for her beauty this leads to an astonishing sense of loss of identity.

I was uneasy with the first half of the book when she looks at these writers, single and mostly childless, regretting their youth strewn with lovers, because she takes her and their experience to be general. Nothing about the curse of menstruation and the relief and freedom when it's over. But in the second half when she moves into her own story, which she's only touched on before, i found her very moving. Through her writing - and she is a brilliant writer - she keeps affloat her little house with son and cats in Greenwich, and goes to ride her horse Molly. Then, she is summoned to the paper where she has been writing a column for 12 years, and as the sub-editor says how much she admires her writing she slowly realises she is being sacked - she is brutally dismissed with a gentle hug and kiss. (I remember when she left the Times, I imagined she'd been poached by another paper!). Worried at all times, she is now in total panic. No money, estranged from her family, her house falling apart, the boiler expires at Christmas, it is freezing, Alexander is doing poorly at school, the mortgage unpaid - destitution! And will she ever find love? A former lover appears on the door step.

In fact, she eventually gets good work, Alexander passes his exams and gets into an excellent university. She tries living as a couple, but the lover leaves. He likes the idea of her more than the reality.

The writing is witty, elegant, concise and original, and memorable. She visits an aunt in a dreary hospital 'where a little black television chittered irritably to itself likke a sick monkey.' It is permeated by a deep sense of melancholy - love, she thinks, is as much about the ability to be loved as it is about loving. All absorption, 'however rapturous, in landscape, music, art of poetry is doomed to a reductive solipsism ... a grandiose reflection of the inside of one's own mind.' So sad, i think, and untrue, and then I wonder, is this melancholy intrinsic to her as a writer?


The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry
The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry
by Rachel Joyce
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The nature of a Pilgrimage, 7 Nov 2012
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Harold Fry, retired, doing nothing much, lives with his wife Maureen at Kingsbridge in the west country. They never speak, they sleep in different rooms, and communication is zero. Then out of the blue comes a letter from Queenie, a former colleague. who is terminally ill in a hospice at Berwick-on-Tweed. Harold replies and as he goes to post his letter, realises how inadequate his reply is. He passes the post box, and then goes on walking - he is going to walk to Queenie, and 'save her'. The book is the story of this walk, the encounters he makes, his thoughts, his reflections on his estranged son, and wife, and Queenie, and the things he regrets, and the way he learns to look at the countryside and the flowers. He's alternately happy and depressed, and he cries quite a bit. Eventually, he gets to Berwick, and Queenie.

At first I took this story in a literal fashion. Why did he walk on the roads, with traffic rushing past, instead of getting a map and going on cross country footpaths? Starting off at dawn, why on earth miss breakfast at the b & bs? His shoes are thin and useless and painful, why not get a pair of walking boots? Queenie is dying, so why not get to her by train or car before it's too late? But then I realised this book is not supposed to be realistic, it's a parable, like Pilgrim's Progress, and each encounter with a stranger brings an fresh insight into his condition, and makes him realise we all have pain to bear. He's not 'saving Queenie', he's sorting out his life. Meanwhile Maureen is on a similar journey at their home in Kingsbridge.

It is often beautifully written, but I must confess i did find it twee, just a bit too saccharine, with Harold's trite generalisations about the meaning of life. The story moves slowly, and sometimes I did get bored. Get on with it man, I wanted to shout at Harold!


Tarot Plain and Simple
Tarot Plain and Simple
by Anthony Louis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.55

15 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Who's kidding who?, 29 Mar 2012
This review is from: Tarot Plain and Simple (Paperback)
OK, I haven't read this book, but wanting a book on Tarot I scrolled through the list available on Amazon. And up came this book with amazingly good reviews, lots of them. I was about to order the book, then I realised the reviews were all rather similar in words and style, and nearly all by A Customer - surely, if not the author, a very good pal of his. So, I didn't believe them, and shall be buying another book on Tarot.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 18, 2013 2:51 PM GMT


People Who Eat Darkness: Love, Grief and a Journey into Japan's Shadows
People Who Eat Darkness: Love, Grief and a Journey into Japan's Shadows
by Richard Parry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Low life in Tokyo, 24 Mar 2012
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Murder whodunnits are not my usual reading, but I got this after being told it was a brilliant insight into Japanese culture. I couldn't put it down. Although it's a whodunnit where you start by knowing whodunnit, it is fascinating to follow the story of lovely Lucie Blackman off to Tokyo to clear her debts as a hostess, flattering and chatting to businessmen who are relaxing after work, in the seedy Casablanca bar. She goes to a lunch date, excited by the promise of a mobile phone, and disappears.

Lloyd Parry follows the false clues, her family's grief, the discovery of other hostesses raped, one killed, and the trial and eventual conviction of her killer, Obara, a process which takes the bungling police and courts a mind boggling decade.

He interviews the family who, already fractured, are further damaged by the case. What is really good is Lloyd Parry's lack of moral high ground, his understanding of the father, the mother, sister and brother, and their various actions, and the vicious attitude of the press when the father Tim Blackman did not behave as it thought a grieving father should. The mysterious Obara is like a black hole, unnknowable, sucking in and destroying his victims.

Poor gullible greedy Lucie! The police who are hopelessly slow, pedantic and lacking awareness! I felt I was there.


The Power Of Modern Spirituality: How to Live a Life of Compassion and Personal Fulfilment
The Power Of Modern Spirituality: How to Live a Life of Compassion and Personal Fulfilment
by Dr. William Bloom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars spirituality for everyone, 9 Nov 2011
I found The Power of Modern Spirituality empowering, because it gave me confidence in my own insights into truth, God, whatever. Priests etc may be useful as guides and gurus, but are no longer essential go-betweens. I was brought up in a conventional C of E family, with church every Sunday, and spiritually my religion never touched me, it was merely what one did - prayers were always boring supplication or boring grovel (We are not worthy, we are not worthy), though sometimes sermons were mentally stimulating. However, I always loved the silence and beauty of being alone in old churches. The wordy and traditional type of prayer I was taught is so utterly different from the type of meditation demonstrated in this book, and the way it silently touches the wonder of the universe. So, thank you, William, for bringing what was considered whacky and new agey into a wider mainstream, in such a practical manner too.


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