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The First Four Georges
The First Four Georges
by John Harold Plumb
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars An old fashioned overview, 16 April 2015
This review is from: The First Four Georges (Hardcover)
This is a relatively short, readable and authoritative account of the first four King Georges. The author, J. H. Plumb, was a renowned Cambridge historian. First published in 1956, this is a type of book that it is difficult to find today. It is an overview and readers may find some topics mentioned but not explained. To some extent this is inevitable. The book can be used as a jumping-off point for more detailed study elsewhere.

These Georges span a hundred years of British history, a time when the country moved into the modern world. George I was the German one; George I's son George II was the less-well known one; George II's grandson George III was the mad one (or the tyrannical one if you are American); George III's son George IV was the fat one. The period covers Jacobite rebellions, war and peace, the development of trade and industry, the gain of Quebec and the loss of the American colonies, Walpole, Fox and Pitt. It stops just before the start of Parliamentary reform.

THE STYLE: The writing style is generally one of short, clear sentences. For example, discussing George I on page 41: "George had a healthy animal appetite for women. He preferred them fat and complacent. As he was a man of habit he grew attached to one or two of them, and amongst these Ehrengard Melusina von Schulenburg, afterwards Duchess of Kendal, came to be regarded as maîtresse en titre."

THE BOOK has 177 pages of text plus 12 black and white plates, mostly reproductions of paintings of the Georges or their wives, busts of them and their images on coins. The chapters are simply named: The Georgian Wold; George I; George II; George III and George IV. There is also a short bibliography and Index.

If this book was published today it would be twice the size but not with twice the detail and its chapters would follow the episodes of the television series it was written to accompany. If this is better, worse or just a different approach is for the reader to decide.


RAVEL LADIES EASY READ WHITE WATCH WITH WHITE STRAP AND CROME CASE R0105.09.2
RAVEL LADIES EASY READ WHITE WATCH WITH WHITE STRAP AND CROME CASE R0105.09.2
Offered by QBD Watches
Price: £5.05

5.0 out of 5 stars Well received, 13 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This was intended as a cheap and cheerful temporary replacement until the recipient could decide on a permanent new wrist watch. On arrival the watch was working and it was set to the correct time. I thought that it might be regarded as too functional and "unladylike", but apparently not. The strap, which I thought might be too large, fitted the recipient's wrist. The big hands and numbers are easy to see, which was appreciated. This watch was not cheap-looking but it was cheerful. Apart from special occasions, it may become the permanent wrist watch rather than the temporary replacement.


The Meaning of it All
The Meaning of it All
by Richard P Feynman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

3.0 out of 5 stars OK, but not great, 9 April 2015
This review is from: The Meaning of it All (Paperback)
Most readers will be attracted to this small book by the name of Richard Feynman. They will be disappointed. This book was not published until 10 years after Richard Feynman's death. They waited because Richard Feynman himself did not want this book published. Richard Feynman gave a series of three lectures* in 1963. The lectures are transcribed from an audio recording and do not seem to have much editing. Thus they read strangely in places.

The lectures are reproduced in this book as: "The Uncertainty of Science" about the scientific method, "The Uncertainty of Values" about science and religion and "This Unscientific Age" containing miscellaneous observations. Richard Feynman was a Nobel laureate in Physics with a reputation as a great scientist, great communicator and a nice guy. These lecturers were aimed at a general public with little or no science background. They also show their age, being given in America in the middle of the Cold War. Although they were given in early 1963, the swinging sixties had not yet started and the feeling of the 1950s had not fully been left behind.

* These were the John Danz lectures given at the University of Washington, Seattle, in April 1963. The lecture series was originally called "A Scientist Looks at Society", which is a better title than that used for this book. Looking at the University of Washington Press website (see Comment), many of the John Danz lectures are listed as formerly or currently in print. This does not include these lectures by Richard Feynman.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 9, 2015 1:31 PM BST


Ireland and the English Crisis
Ireland and the English Crisis
by Tom Paulin
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Grub Street and the Academy, 1 April 2015
This is a collection of articles, mostly book reviews, by the Northern Ireland poet and academic Tom Paulin. They were first published in Encounter, London Review of Books, New Statesman, Poetry Review, Sunday Times, Times Literary Supplement and in other places. One was a talk given on BBC Radio 3. I found the title "Ireland & the English Crisis" misleading and there is no sub-title to clarify it. The articles are literary reviews about identity, mostly Irish identity but also of the English and others. Thus, for Ireland there are articles on: Conor Cruise O'Brien, Tom Moore, Louis MacNeice, Joyce, Yates, Carson and Paisley; for England there are articles on: Kingsley Amis, Auden, D.H. Lawrence; for the others there are articles on Henry James and Solzhenitsyn and a few pages on T.S. Elliot in the Introduction. All the articles are readable and some are very short. A few are notable: a polemic against Conor Cruise O'Brien; an account of the writings of Ian Paisley; an analysis of the destructive impact of modern critical fashions in the teaching of English. I personally liked the two articles on Joyce: "The British Presence in Ulysses" and "James Joyce: A Centenary Celebration". I also liked "The Writer Underground" which starts: "Journalists sometimes present Solzhenitsyn as a combination of Tolstoy and Sir Keith Joseph".

The 14 page Introduction does not mention any of the following 29 articles but provides the author's mind-set. It starts by giving the author's dislike of many modern literary theories. This complements his article "English Now" that is included in the book. The contemporary creative reader is a ". . . freewheeling nihilist with a taste for sociology and anthropology . . . ". This is not a compliment. He is suspicious of naïve deconstructuralism but sees merit in the deconstruction of "English literature" into components such as English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, American and Commonwealth. Thus the term English imposes a British identity on writers such as Joyce and Yates who were deeply hostile to such an identity. This discussion moves into a broader discussion of Northern Ireland, Ireland, England and Britain, of politics, identity, culture and literature.


A Journey around My Room (Alma Classics)
A Journey around My Room (Alma Classics)
by Xavier De Maistre
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Late 18th century diversions, 9 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This short book contains two pieces of writing by Xavier de Maistre, both based on the same premise - a journey around a room. In fact, this premise is an excuse for a semi-serious, semi-comic series of flights of fancy. The author was a late 18th century French aristocrat with a romantic attitude and I was concerned that I might find these writings dated and inconsequential, which to some extent they are, but I enjoyed reading them. I was aware that these writings were relatively short so there was always an end in sight. However, when the ends came I was a little disappointed that there was not more to read.

There is one journey, "A Journey around My Room", and one expedition, "A Nocturnal Expedition around My Room". Both rooms are in Turin, where de Maistre was serving in the army, but the rooms are in different buildings, at different times. The first building was destroyed when the Fench revolutionary war reached Turin. The Journey lasted 42 days, when de Maistre was confined to his apartment after fighting a duel, so it is really a prison diary. The Expedition lasts for only 4 hours, from 8pm to midnight, and consists mainly of the author sitting astride his window in the top floor, looking out at the sky, the roof, his neighbours and the city and describing his thoughts.

Towards the end of the book he describes his method: "There was an old woman, a relative of mine, very witty - her conversation was always very interesting. But her memory, both inconstant and fertile, often led her to leap from one episode to the next, and from one digression to another, to such an extent that she was obliged to ask her listeners for their help: "So what was it I was telling you about?" she would ask, and often her listeners too had forgotten, which plunged the whole assembly into indescribable perplexity. Now, it may have been noticed that the same thing often happens to me in my narrations, and I have to admit that, yes, the plan and order of my journey mimic exactly the plan and order of my aunt's conversations"

"A Journey around My Room" is 69 pages and "A Nocturnal Expedition around My Room" 62 pages. There is a 4 page Foreword by Alain de Botton and a 7 page Introduction by the translator, Andrew Brown. Alain de Botton concentrates on the journey aspect, noting that in familiar places "We have become habituated and therefore blind". Andrew Brown emphasises the literary comparisons. He mentions Beckett, Bunyan, Proust, Spoerri and Perec. Asterisks(*) in the text indicate a reference in the 7 page Notes at the end of the book. I found these very useful.


The Strangest Man: The hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius
The Strangest Man: The hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius
by Graham Farmelo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An accomplished biography, 27 Feb. 2015
This is a comprehensive and readable biography of one of the earliest theorists of quantum mechanics. It is a substantial book of over 400 pages and the author, Graham Farmelo, has obviously spent much time and effort over it. This ought to be a difficult and boring book, but it isn't. The author manages to take the life of an impenetrable character who spent most of his life thinking about an impenetrable subject and make it interesting.

Paul Dirac does not have the name recognition with the general public that several of the other pioneers of quantum mechanics do. This is a pity. It is partly due to his extreme introversion, which was possibly autism, and his desire for a very private life. This is also probably the reason for this book's main title "The Strangest Man". I prefer this book's subtitle "The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius". Dirac was Bristol-born, but spent most of his life at Cambridge University. He contributed greatly to the new science and his story should be better known.

There are no scary mathematical equations in this book to put off the general reader. There are many references to scientific theories and mathematical techniques, but these are merely names. For the more technically-minded this book provides a history of the development of the new science as it moved from quantum mechanics to quantum field theory to quantum electrodynamics. Through Dirac's story pass the famous early players of the new theories: Bohr, Born, Einstein, Ehrenfest, Heisenberg, Kapitza, Oppenheimer, Pauli, Rutherford, Schrödinger and Tamm. This is the world of the "Shock of the new" in physics in the 1930s.


A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Alma Classics)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Alma Classics)
by Joyce James
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of the Artist as a Young Modernist, 16 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is an enjoyable introduction to the writings of James Joyce. It gives a selective history of Joyce's early life from his childhood up to the end of his university days via the device of his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus. It starts straightforwardly but as Stephen Dedalus gets older the writing becomes more complex. There is an increase in the use of his internal monologues and it develops into a young man's artistic manifesto.

THE STYLE: James Joyce was not fond of the over-use commas, which he keeps to a minimum. He uses double quotes only for quotations. Direct speech is indicated by a dash on a new line in a style used in several European countries. The text is divided into five parts and each part is sub-divided into untitled sections (see Comments). The writing style changes as Stephen Dedalus grows up. In keeping with his Jesuit education Stephen is strongly influenced by Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle and references to them occur in the later parts of the book. Stephen has many internal monologues; these are always at the rational level. The more irrational stream-of-consciousness that occurs in Ulysses is not found here. The book ends abruptly. There is no conclusion. However, Stephen Dedalus will appear again in Ulysses. Asterisks* in the text indicate an entry in the Notes section.

THE BOOK: Buying out-of-copyright classics is a gamble. The cheap ones can be closely printed in dark type on cheap paper. Fortunately this does not apply to this book, which is well printed in a readable font and well bound. The text is 146 pages. This is preceded by a 5 page Introduction and 4 pages of reproductions of black and white photos of Joyce, his parents and Dublin at the time of the book, the start of the 20th century. At the end of the book are: Notes 96 pages; Bibliography 7 pages; James Joyce's Life 4 pages and James Joyce's Works 9 pages. At first I thought there were too many notes but I grew to appreciate them and read the book with two bookmarks, one for the text and one for the Notes, so that I could flip between the two. The text is from the Egoist Press, second edition, 1918.

THE STORY
Part I: The first two pages are of Stephen Dedalus as a very young child. It continues with his experiences as a boarder at his primary school, Clongowes. There are impressions of the school routine and its control by the Jesuit teaching staff. There are the older boys, the sports, the refectory meals. For a time he is sick and in the infirmary. Another time he is wrongly punished when his glasses are broken in an accident. One teacher thinks he has done it deliberately to avoid school work, but he finds the courage to complain of the miscarriage of justice to the headmaster.

Page 1 - as a child: "Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a little boy named baby tuckoo . . ."

Part II: Stephen Dedalus is at home for the school holidays on the outskirts of Dublin, but his father has hit hard financial times and cannot afford the school fees at Clongowes. After an extended period Stephen is sent to another Jesuit school, Belvedere College, in Dublin. Later Stephen accompanies his father to Co9rk where his property is to be sold at auction to clear his debts. After the sale Stephen is with his father in a bar where his father is drinking with the friends of his youth. Stephen feels that he has not had a youth like his father's. Stephen wins an academic prize but squanders the money. Youthful lust takes over and he visits the red light district of Dublin.

Page 50 - extended school holiday: "He became the ally of a boy named Aubrey Mills* and founded with him a gang of adventurers in the avenue. Aubrey carried a whistle dangling from his buttonhole and a bicycle lamp attached to his belt while the others had short sticks thrust daggerwise through theirs. Stephen, who had read of Napoleon's plain style of dress,* chose to remain unadorned and thereby heightened for himself the pleasure of taking counsel with his lieutenant before giving orders."

Page 78 - in Cork with his father: "Stephen watched the three glasses being raised from the counter as his father and his two cronies drank to the memory of their past. An abyss of fortune or of temperament sundered him from them. His mind seemed older than theirs: it shone coldly on their strifes and happiness and regrets like a moon upon a younger earth. No life or youth stirred in him as it had stirred in them."

Part III: Stephen reflects on his frequent visits to the brothels and how these mortal sins will lead to his eternal damnation. He attends his school's annual religious retreat and undergoes the hell-fire sermons. Afterwards, distraught, he goes to confession, confesses everything and receives absolution.

Page 84 - the brothels: "It would be a gloomy secret night. After early nightfall the yellow lamps would light up, here and there, the squalid quarter of the brothels.* He would follow a devious course up and down the streets, circling always nearer and nearer in a tremor of fear and joy, until his feet led him suddenly round a dark corner."

Page 99 - the retreat and the hellfire sermons: The religious retreat covers two days and the hellfire sermons are quoted at length, covering 20 pages. This is excessive, presumably to emphasise just how long and terrorising these sermons were. The Notes say they are based on Pinamonti's 'Hell opened to Christians'.
"- The horror of this straight and dark prison is increased by its awful stench. All the filth of the world, all the offal and scum of the world, we are told, shall run there as to a vast reeking sewer when the terrible conflagration of the last days has purged the world. The brimstone, too, which burns there in such prodigious quantity fills all hell with its intolerable stench; and the bodies of the damned themselves exhale such a pestilential odour that as saint Bonaventure* says, one of them alone would suffice to infect the whole world."

Part IV: After his confession Stephen drops his old ways and becomes excessively devout. He is so devout that the Jesuit director of his school asks him if he thinks that he has a religious vocation. Stephen ponders this and conjures up the image of a Reverend Stephen Dedalus S.J., but in the end he knows that he could not live a priest's life.

Page 124 - Stephen gets religion: "The rosaries too, which he said constantly - for he carried his beads loose in his trousers' pockets that he might tell them as he walked the streets - transformed themselves into coronals of flowers of such vague unearthly texture that they seemed to him as hueless and odourless as they were nameless."

Page 142 - Dedalus will become Deadalus: "His soul had arisen from the grave of boyhood, spurning her graveclothes. Yes! Yes! Yes! He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable."

Part V: Stephen is now at University and there is a lot of student banter but Stephen also has a more serious conversation with some of the students and with himself, where he sets out his ideas on art and beauty, aesthetics and religion. He resists associating himself with the zeitgeist, avoiding both Irish nationalism and Irish Catholicism. Stephen can see that eventually he should leave Ireland for the wider world.

Page 174 - Stephen explains his art: "- But we are just now in a mental world, Stephen continued. The desire and loathing excited by improper esthetic means are really not esthetic emotions not only because they are kinetic in character but also because they are not more than physical. Our flesh shrinks from what it dreads and responds to the stimulus of what it desires by a purely reflex action of the nervous system."

Page 207 - Stephen has lost his religion:
"- Then, said Cranley, you do not intend to become a protestant?
- I said that I had lost the faith, Stephen answered, but not that I has lost selfrespect. What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?"
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 16, 2015 8:59 AM GMT


Digital Calendar Clock i8.1
Digital Calendar Clock i8.1
Offered by DayClox Ltd
Price: £99.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To display the day as text - very good, but cost more than I at first wanted to pay, 9 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My requirement was to find a clock that clearly and easily displayed the current day of the week as text. All the solutions seemed to be quite expensive, so I at first tried a cheaper solution with the TRIXES LCD clock calendar. This was adequate but not good enough, so I bought this. It cost more than I wanted to pay but it does the job well and I am very happy with it. However, my satisfaction with this clock is overshadowed by its eventual recipient, who could not praise it highly enough.

This clock is supplied with a mains connector. The mains lead goes into the hole at the bottom left-hand-side (when looking at the back). This is not mentioned in the User Instructions leaflet supplied (see Comments). What is also not explained in the User Instructions is that at the back there is a hinged metal rod covered in a plastic moulding flush with the surface. Below it is a small recessed area. Put your finger into the recessed area and lift the moulding upwards for about a centimetre. Don't force it - it should rise naturally. Then twist it anti-clockwise and upwards. This is the stand to keep the clock upright. It seems flimsy, but the device itself is not heavy and I had no problems standing the clock up. When I powered on for the first time I was surprised that the date and time were correct and did not need adjustment. If you do need to make an adjustment, for example to change from the 24 hr clock to the 12 hr clock, note that the process is started by pressing the Menu button at the back. Then follow the instructions in the User Instructions leaflet.

This clock does not have an alarm setting (a question asked on Amazon Answers).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 9, 2015 8:25 AM GMT


Magna Carta (Penguin Classics)
Magna Carta (Penguin Classics)
by Prof David Carpenter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1215 and all that, 19 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This thick paperback offers a comprehensive discussion of Magna Carta. The author is an authority on the subject and he provides a readable account.

The book contains the full text of Magna Carta in its Latin original and in English translation. The clauses of the charter are called chapters and these are referenced throughout the book. If you were a knight or a baron this charter was of great importance. For King John this charter was something he was forced to agree to by the barons. It mattered to the peasants who were free. For the unfree peasants who were tied to the land and at the mercy of their lord, this charter was of little interest.

Although King John was later to reject this charter, a revised edition was issued by his son Henry III, later confirmed by his son Edward I. The principles in the charter were gradually extended to everyone in the kingdom and Magna Carta became a founding document of the English-speaking peoples. Of the 63 chapters, the most significant are 39 and 40: "39. No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor will we go against him, nor will we send against him, save by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land. 40. To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay, right or justice."

The author begins by paying homage to the previous standard work, Magna Carta by J.C. Holt. He then discusses how charters were used in the period and gives an overview of the concerns of Magna Carta, namely the protection of personal wealth from arbitrary confiscation, arbitrary physical treatment of the individual, the organisation of local government and the redress of past grievances, before presenting the full text of the charter. The rest of the book discusses contemporary accounts of King John's character, the initial failure of the charter and the social and political environment. This book can be used in two ways, either as a history of the Magna Carta or as a reference that can be dipped in and out of as required.

THE BOOK has 460 pages of text. The Glossary, Appendices, Bibliography, Notes and Index give another 140 pages. There is a single illustration, which is a map of the English counties. The counties, then and now, were the chief local government division of the kingdom.


TRIXES LCD Digital Alarm clock calendar Thermometer LED Backlight
TRIXES LCD Digital Alarm clock calendar Thermometer LED Backlight
Offered by Digiflex
Price: £8.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Good value for the price, 9 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Considering the price, I am happy with this device.

My requirement was to find a clock or other device that displayed the current day of the week as text. All the solutions seemed to be quite expensive, except for this one. However, it has several disadvantages. The LCD display needs to be looked at from a short distance and directly, not from the side. You will not see the display across a room. However, even if you are considering one of the more expensive clocks that display the day as text, for example the Digital Calendar Clock by Dayclox, then this device is cheap enough to be tried out first as an alternative.

It is surprisingly light and suffers from having too many functions. Presumably it is designed around a single microprocessor chip and the manufacturer has implemented all the available functions. Thus on the display you get: the time in hours and minutes; the date as a set of numbers for day, month and year; the day of the week as MON, TUE, WED, THU, FRI, SAT or SUN; the current temperature. There is also a button to provide a backlight to the display. This is for use at night, for example on a bedside table, and not to enhance the LCD display. Other functions are: 24 hour or 12 hour time display; the choice of 7 different "songs" for alarms; a birthday reminder function; a timer mode; an ability to change the temperature display between Centigrade and Fahrenheit. The device is set up by using the buttons at the bottom front.

I found these extra functions just complicated the process of setting up the current date and time. Read the accompanying leaflet carefully before you attempt a setup, otherwise you will end up setting an alarm to play a song on your birthday rather than setting the current date and time. Unfortunately, I initially did not take my own advice and dived in to set the date and time without looking closely at the instructions. I then spent some time lost in the set-ups, trying to un-set the alarm and getting stuck inside the timer function, where the device acts like a stop-watch. Somehow I managed to where I started. I then carefully read the instruction leaflet (see Comment), followed the instructions carefully and had no problem with the set-ups.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 12, 2015 8:33 AM GMT


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