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L. Camidge "Linda Camidge" (Penzance UK)
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Peaky Blinders - Series 1 [DVD]
Peaky Blinders - Series 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Cillian Murphy
Price: £9.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Homage is due to the actors, scriptwriter and director, 17 Sep 2014
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What do I love most about Peaky Blinders? Is it the vaguely steam-punk set-dressing? The timeless music? the clever effects of lighting and colour, so that some scenes look like tinted photographs? Or is it the characterisation and acting? All of that, but most of all I think it's the total immersion in the historical period, achieved without any hint of "as you know, Captain" exposition. The WWI background is there, as if taken for granted, an all-our-yesterdays backdrop that needs no earnest slabs of dialogue. And so is Ireland, and the political excitement. The script affords us insight; gives us that time just out of living memory - when everything might be possible, and the world was to be made new - and then the music and the subtle artificiality of the sets provides that oh-so-effective touch of ironic distance. Downton Abbey it isn't. Marvellous stuff.


KMS California Moist Repair Shampoo 750 ml
KMS California Moist Repair Shampoo 750 ml
Price: £17.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff that will last you for ages, 24 July 2014
I have very little interest in cosmetics or styling of any kind, but occasionally take my long grey hair along to the hairdresser's for a tidy-up. A few years ago, they used this and I was amazed the difference it made compared to shop-bought product. I have used nothing else since. KMS smells nice, and offers body and shine. The press-down dispenser is robust and easy to use. It seems expensive, but you actually don't need to use much - this size provides over 100 washes, so that's less than 25p a go - and just think how many times you won't need to go into Superdrug over the next year or two!


A Girl Among the Anarchists
A Girl Among the Anarchists
by Isabel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.25

3.0 out of 5 stars A curiousity for most; a must for some, 7 Feb 2014
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I will be honest - I was looking for a sweet little early-20th-century edition of this title on Abe books or, preferably, in the nice second-hand bookshop down the road. But several years went by, and it became apparent that such would not be available at any price. And so - although I prefer to hold to the principle that Life is Long - when I decided I really, really wanted to read it, now, I had recourse to print-on-demand. Ah, those print-on-demand editions. Too big. Too floppy. the cover? Well, just look. But presumably the original had a vanishing-point print-run. And was promptly thrown away by most of its buyers.

Well, you can't blame them. "Isabel Meredith" was the daughter of William Michael, my favourite Rossetti, the one who worked at the tax office all his life and kept the whole show on the road while his siblings entered nunneries, had crises and dissolved themselves in substance abuse. As readers of A S Byatt's "The Children's Book" may know, the younger generation of Rossettis were involved in the nascent anarchist and socialist movement on a more or less serious basis. It's hard to quarrel with such idealism, and W M Rossetti was fine writer and critic, but the writing genes don't seem to have been passed on.

And so this book is pretty much a curiosity. It needs contextualisation - footnotes, an introduction. you don't get any of that with print-on-demand. I wanted to know whether any of these vividly-outlined characters had real-life counterparts. I suspect they must have done. Was that George Bernard Shaw I was glimpsing? Or a young D H Lawrence? That assassination attempt in Spain - did it really happen? And if so, when? Or am I confusing it with another alleged anarchist attack in, say,.... Portugal?

But what makes the book worth reading, if you've enjoyed "The Slow-burning Fuse" or any similar analysis of socialism and anarchism before the Great War, is the immediacy of it. The author is quite shockingly critical of her characters: they smell, don't wash, don't work. They offend her puritanical upper-middle class instincts. They accept her money (obviously a grievance). I tried to convince myself that, rather than writing from the heart, "Isabel Meredith" had created a rather disagreeable persona. I fear that this is not the case, but despite herself, "Meredith" presents characters that live despite her disapproval. The risk-taking sense of nothing-to-lose; the sense of community and purpose; the exciting lives in exciting times. Above all, the innocence. Inn the end, we dismiss Meredith. we go and live with the anarchists.

The book is structured to trundle on inevitably to crushing disappointment and the loss of innocence. No spoiler here - the state has not withered away and Ramsay McDonald did not bring us a socialist paradise. "Meredith" sells us her disillusionment as an inevitable feature of growing up - of becoming 20th-century people. Many of us will have been there. "I want to be anarchy/ I want to destroy passers-by"? What had gone so terribly wrong? What had happened to love, peace, fellowship and the big idea? I read recently that a speaker, faced with some questioner wanting to know about an anarchist paradise in Africa, defined anarchy as hiding in a cave, hoping only that the person who'd just stolen all your cattle wouldn't come back and kill you, just for fun. "Meredith" didn't live to experience any of this, but she's reaching the same conclusion.

So, a bit of empathy there in the mix. A bit of schadenfreude for that Edwardian world, where the people came and went, and played with ideologies, all-unknowing. This book stayed with me. It reminded me that liberal Edwardians weren't kindred spirits, not at all. That they fell innocently fell into a world of desperate men, where life was uncertain and survival held cheap. We're not as far from the siege of Sidney Street as we might like to think: we may comfort ourselves that these desperadoes who were welcomed into Britain and then shot unarmed police after a bungled robbery were Not True Anarchists. but how many degrees of separation were there? Read "A Girl Among the Anarchists". It may well leave you sadder, but wiser.


William and Lucy: The Other Rossettis
William and Lucy: The Other Rossettis
by Angela Thirlwell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £29.72

5.0 out of 5 stars Not such a fool for a brother, 20 Jan 2013
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William Michael Rossetti was famously described as a fool by William Morris, in what must have been a rare moment of annoyance (probably not with WM, but with DG, an unpleasant individual who bullied Morris in various ingeniouis ways throughout his life). In fact, as this wonderfully absorbing book shows, the two men had much in common. Both inhabited the intellectual world that was inventing English socialism, both were broad-minded and well-travelled Europeans, both were healthy and vigorous men whose wives were troubled by variant forms of invalidity, both worked hard all their lives and generously directed the proceeds to the good of others, with no thought of a return.

WM Rossetti is a lesser-known figure, who on first acquaintace with the pre-Raphaelite movement can appear dull beside his more flamboyant siblings. But there are many ways of being creative, and many ways of furthering the cause of art. WM worked as a civil servant for 50 years, relegating his own intellectual and creative life to out-of-office hours so that DG, in particular, could indulge himself on the proceeds. Any reader unsure about this book because they consider one of its subjects uninteresting, and have perhaps never heard of the other, is recommended to borrow it from a library first. That is what I did, and within a year decided that yes, I really did need to have my own copy. And the book has set me off down other paths - exploring works by their even less well-known daughter, Helen. You see, you just never know where these things will lead.

The research behind the book is meticulous and wide-ranging, and it is beautifully written, with a well-judged level and quality of detail. It is startling to read of Victorians frankly enjoying and celebrating their sexuality in their letters, perhaps because there are few Victorian letters which no panicking relatives have visited with their censorious scissors. Because of the extensive use of primary sources, and the detail and photographs enabling us to visualise the people and places, the couple become unusually immediate in both the temporal and the psychological sense. There is nothing sepia-toned about this book, or its prose, or indeed its subjects and their writing. If you have an idea in your head that the modern world starts with Lytton Stracey and Bloomsbury, think again.

The book is beautifully produced, with a matt sheen to the pages and a stout cover. It has a good heft to it; demands that you treat it with the respect it, and its subjects, deserve. For while you read the book, you will live alongside them, compelled to track Lucy's terrible decline and reminding yourself how very lucky we are to live in the here and now, with the sceptre of consumption no longer waiting on the sidelines of every family's life. And then at the end there is a redemption, because WM Rossetti survives as the last pre-Raphaelite, living a productive life through and just beyond the First World War. It's a life well-lived, and we close the book happy that he hung on to witness the coming of peace. We close the book, enriched by our journey, understanding much more about the origins of twentieth-century English intellectual life.


The Fair to Middling (Puffin Books PS175)
The Fair to Middling (Puffin Books PS175)
by Arthur Calder Marshall
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every bit as good, 50 years on, 20 Jan 2013
I remember loving this book as a child - perhaps the first book I ever loved, as opposed to merely enjoyed. A child no more, I've obviously been talking about it for a long time and this Christmas my lovely daughter, who also loves books and therefore understands, found me a copy: and not just the 1973 edition, with its garish cartoon cover whereon a fox with a hat on blows a trumpet, but the earlier edition I owned 50 years ago. On this cover, its keynote watchfulness and separation, Emma turns her back on the fair - flat and unreal in the distance - and gazes into the pond to see her auburn hair for the first time.

Another reviewer has summarised the plot and placed the book within a genre and a literary context, so I won't do that. I'll just tell you that "The Fair to Middling" has not lost its appeal, and so must surely qualify as a neglected classic. Indeed, an adult perspective gives details that passed me by as a child: the gentle allusion to the benefactor who was uhhappy at an all-boys school because he liked the company of girls, and who never married; the evil tempter who mentions a "terrible fall" from which he has never recovered. The children still live on the page, a rare quality which for me even C S Lewis hasn't managed, and the author loves - and lives in - every one of his flawed creations. And I can see why I loved them too, and one of several reasons why the book entered my heart was that I was a fat and ugly child, probably lonely, and beginning the longing quest for transformation that has been my inner life ever since.

At its heart the book seems to be about acceptance, and puts forth a very English stoicism alongside the very English wit and the gentle, we might even say anti-capitalist, liberalism. It is these qualities that seem to be lost to us, alongside the sixpences, barley-water and occasional "gor blimey guv" dialogue. This is where the sharp nostalgic pleasure of the book comes in: here and in the richness of the language (did I really read this, on my own, at the age of eight?)

Raymond Briggs was a name that meant nothing to me 50 years ago, and probably didn't mean a lot to many other people either: he was still in his twenties, and some of his figures are slightly awkward in their poses. But his illustrations are part of the joy: not confining himself to key points in the action, he uses graphics to make real the archaisms that help to render the book timeless, the Edwardian styling of pill-box labels and advertising posters. And did he love the book too? Did he remember its solitary, yearning characters when he created "The Snowman"? And was it those naive and trusting children, grown older, who became Jim and Hilda in "Where the Wind Blows"? I'd like to think so.

I've used words like "love" and "heart" quite a bit in this review. I don't generally do that.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 23, 2014 1:56 AM BST


Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas
Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas
by Matthew Hollis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A book of extraordinary worth, 19 Feb 2012
Forty years ago, we laughed uproariously at comedy sketches depicting crusty old buffers commenting on the ill-discipline of modern youth: "you don't catch young people today fighting in France". How dared we to mock them, as we pranced and flounced through the mid 20th century with barely a shred of dignity, mistaking sensation for wisdom?

I know better now. And this book gave weight to respect delayed until long overdue. It's compelling; beautifully-crafted in every regard. By opening with the book's - and Thomas's - own ending, Hollis positions us all alike as readers, whether or not we know that Thomas' journey will end before the war does. And so it sloughs off suspense and leaves in its place the inevitable working out of fate, if you like, or of simple misfortune. Melancholy and solitude are the keynotes, and the participants - as they step forward, one by one - curiously modern and forward-looking.

There is a moving restraint here; the microscope focussed on the life of the mind, and a firm and assured examination on the writer's craft. And as an unlooked for delight in a poet's biography, what could be more pleasing than inspired revelations on the sound and cadence of poetry? Only a poet-biographer could have vouchsafed us these.

So thank you, Matthew Hollis, for a book of extraordinary worth.


New York Delhi Americanos Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans 900 g
New York Delhi Americanos Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans 900 g
Offered by coffeebuyer
Price: £28.08

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars delhi belly?, 16 Nov 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am rather partial to chocolate coffee beans, which I sit and alternate with alcohol throughout my evenings like some old roue expertly balancing his uppers and downers. The local retailer has had trouble replacing the jar that I have - single-handedly - eaten. So, dear reader, I turned to the Internet.

The product arrived promptly, in a nicely solid and appealing jar, leaving aside the bizarre spelling of "deli" as "delhi" on the label. Sadly, that was the highlight of the experience. There is nothing actually wrong with the comestible However, the beans lack that essential, piquant bite-back and the chocolate has a rather greasy texture and again lacks flavour.

I'll eat what I've bought, but I'm already anticipating going back to the shop some time soon (I have a quarter-pound a week habit: medics, tell me, how bad exactly is that?), and rattling their cage some more in a frenzy of caffeine-deprivation.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 22, 2013 2:13 PM BST


One of the Damned: The Life and Times of Robert Tressell
One of the Damned: The Life and Times of Robert Tressell
by F. C. Ball
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, moving and humbling, 24 Aug 2011
Reading this book together with the on-line version of Tressell's book, which enables you to view each page in his original handwritten manuscript, quickened into life for me a work I'd previously dismissed as a once-in-a-lifetime read, worthy but dull. Although parts of Ball's book seem overlong and unclear - notably, the accounts of his searches and negotiations for records and manuscripts - his devotion to his subject absorbed me in Tressell's noble and moving human story.


Desperate Romantics [DVD]
Desperate Romantics [DVD]
Dvd ~ Samuel Barnett
Price: £6.20

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here in your living room, right here, right now, 23 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Desperate Romantics [DVD] (DVD)
Like thousands of other people with an unhealthy pre-Raphaelite biography habit (okay, obsession), I could supply a long and tedious list of the "errors" in this series. But factual accuracy (as Dickens knew) can only take us so far. It is made pretty clear that Desperate Romantics isn't in that game; isn't even trying. We are supplied with a clear weekly disclaimer, a witty title that refers to another work of TV fiction, and anyone following up their viewing with even the most cursory research will discover soon enough that one of the main characters is a complete invention.

The past has gone and we can never really know - viscerally - what it was like. And there is a risk that, the more we read, the more our knowledge of other days and other lives is freighted with knowledge at the expense of engagement. But by some alchemy, imaginative TV and film can wreak a marvellous feat of resurrection. When the modern imagination takes up the past - rifling the texts, rampaging in the (usually metaphorical, but in this instance literal) graveyards and taking all manner of liberties - the result is often compelling.Costume drama of the conventional kind just doesn't do it, at least not for me. No, it's that wrenching round of the past to align with the present; the striking and deliberate archaism dropped into otherwise contemporary phrasing; flamboyant 21st century sexuality played out against nineteenth century lighting, set-dressing and costume. Your favourite bit of cultural history is here in your living room - and this time you can see and hear it live. Whether you're ready or not, whether it's realistic or not, it's come through into your 21st century head.

And so this wonderful, post-modern world we live in brings the dead alive, although probably not as they would have wished. We'll never know about that, although one assumes that if any of the real-life protagonists had retained enough of an individual identity in the great beyond to know or care what modern TV has made of them, Broadcasting House would have been in receipt of a few disabling thunderbolts by now. The most deserved of these would have come from William Morris, the only character who strikes a false note in that the portrayal seems neither sympathetic nor prompted by what we know of his life and thought. Random injustice to the greatest thinker and human being, if not the most creative individual, amongst the lot of them - and he didn't really have to be in this series at all, did he? So the representation was gratuitous as well, and perhaps politically motivated.

Okay - so, like all the best pleasures, my enjoyment of Desperate Romantics has been attended with some unease. As the Victorians probably knew all too well, rightness - in the sense of rectitude rather than fitness for purpose - and propriety are tricky matters to address when they compromise our joys. As we are not Victorians, these issues are unlikely to exercise a TV company in comparison with ratings, word-of-mouth buzz, or saleability on DVD. And isn't it a nice little irony that the Pre-Raphaelites themselves did the mediaeval world much as their own has now been done by, and that the same parallel could be drawn between Rossetti's treatment of Dante's story and the BBC's treatment of his own.


Losing Nelson
Losing Nelson
by Barry Unsworth
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When historians go too far, 23 April 2011
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This review is from: Losing Nelson (Paperback)
Oh, how easy it is to flirt around the edges of obsession. Charles Cleasby, who's in it up to his neck in Unsworth's wonderful novel, is at one end of the spectrum, admittedly; but it's a spectrum. We're all on it somewhere. The Nelson part of the story I found fascinating, but I don't think "Losing Nelson" is about Losing Nelson. I think it could be about Losing Anyone. Perhaps not even a famous person. Perhaps not even a long-dead person we've never actually met. The book's about where we find meaning, and how far we go - how we rise to the challenge when our faith is tested.

Charles Cleasby, the Nelson obsessive, is presented with humour and sympathy. He's the only realised character in the interior world of the book, which is otherwise peopled by voices, and eyes, from other days. The book is Cleasby's book, and the plot is made by him... and by other forces left deliciously ambiguous. The "real" people Cleasby meets I find more unsatisfactory and two-dimensional with each successive reading: I am no longer engaged in the slightest by Miss Lily, or Hugo, or little Bobby, although I understand why, for technical reasons, they are required.

What brings me back to the book every time is the latent power never quite realised - except perhaps in the final pages. I want those terrible eyes, that unexpected voice. I've read the book three times now, and parts of it still leave me shaken, even scared. Though of exactly what, I'm never exactly sure.


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