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Andrew Norris (West Midlands, UK)

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Beads and Beadwork of East and South Africa (Shire ethnography)
Beads and Beadwork of East and South Africa (Shire ethnography)
by Margret Carey
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read, 12 Sept. 2013
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The Shire Ethnography series was a brave attempt by Shire Books to provide a third-arm alongside their successful Archaeology and Egyptology series, but struggled to find an audience as the topics chosen were little-studied in Britain at the time of publication.

"Beads and Beadwork of East and South Africa" was one of the first titles in the Shire Ethnography series, and though it has never been reprinted since the Shire Ethnography line was deleted, it provides a remarkable insight into African jewellery, with discussions about jewellery designs, the materials used to make jewellery beads, and the significance of beads and beadwork in society, all accompanied by photographs of the different examples of beadwork discussed throughout. Through this insightful study, the book provides appeal not just for the ethnographers it is marketed to, but also to artists, to archaeologists, and to those who search for inspiration for their own bead jewellery.

This is a book which, though forgotten, provides fascinating insight into a topic that is often overlooked, and one that deserves much more recognition than it currently receives.


Painted Boats [DVD]
Painted Boats [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jenny Laird
Price: £9.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning documentary, 31 May 2013
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This review is from: Painted Boats [DVD] (DVD)
"Painted Boats" is a short docudrama created by Ealing Studios in the last days of the Second World War. The film follows a loose narrative fitted around a history of the British canal network and its importance to British industry in the 20th century.

The film tells the tale of two families working on the Grand Union Canal - the Smiths, who operate a horse-drawn canal boat, and the Stoners, who operate a motor-powered boat and its unpowered "butty boat". Mary Smith hopes to marry Ted Stoner and operate a boat with him on the canal, but is unsure whether this will come true, as Ted hopes to get off the canals and join the army rather than stick to the canal traditions that Mary adores. Interwoven with this are short narratives about the origin of the canal network, the construction of canal tunnels and the difficulty of using them prior to the invention of the motor engine, and how the canals suffered with the onset of the railways.

Filmed at a time when the canals were still playing an important role in British transport, "Painted Boats" paints a beautiful portrait of a way of life that has now disappeared. It also displays the changing face of the canal network, when the last of the horse-drawn boats were being phased out in favour of motor-powered boats. Though the running time seems short by today's standards, "Painted Boats" still remains a wonderful film which serves as a beautifully-made tribute to the canal workers of Great Britain.


Compleat Angler With Geoffrey Palmer And Rae Borras [DVD]
Compleat Angler With Geoffrey Palmer And Rae Borras [DVD]
Offered by Not2day Media
Price: £9.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A nice, gentle series, 31 May 2013
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"The Compleat Angler", as the title implies, is a miniseries inspired by the work by Izaak Walton. In this series, veteran actor Geoffrey Palmer teams up with angler Ray Borras to fish in areas that Walton would have fished in, trying out baits and fishing methods as recommended by Walton in his book.

The series stands out from other fishing shows not just because of the Izaak Walton connection but because of its celebration of the British countryside. There are numerous scenes that focus on the development of angling as a sport, the lives of various fishing personalities contemporary and near-contemporary with Walton, and the changing face of the local ecology. In doing all of this, "The Compleat Angler" makes no attempt to talk down to the viewer, and manages to both educate and entertain very well.

Though I do not watch many fishing shows, "The Compleat Angler" is one I very happily recommend to all.


Westworld [DVD] [1973]
Westworld [DVD] [1973]
Dvd ~ Richard Benjamin
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping film, 19 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: Westworld [DVD] [1973] (DVD)
Long before the "Terminator" films had even been thought of, MGM, with "Jurassic Park" creator Michael Crichton, devised "Westworld", a film so sophisticated and complex that it continues to intrigue viewers 40 years on.

Set at an unspecified point in the future, Westworld is one-third of an amusement park where visitors can role-play in a reconstruction of the Wild West, complete with androids with whom they can interact. However, something has gone wrong at the park, and the robots begin to defy their programming. Yul Brynner, playing one such android in Westworld, serves as the primary antagonist, tracking down the heroes for one final showdown.

The film covers a lot of ground in its relatively-short running time - 1 hour, 25 minutes - and so it is important to pay attention to all that goes on. The story it tells is one that has been thought out and rewritten until it is perfect, and it shows. Yul Brynner steals the show as the Gunslinger, and the well-chosen cast who share the screen with him include James Brolin ("The Car", "The Amityville Horror"), Richard Benjamin ("Catch-22") and Dick Van Patten ("Spaceballs", "Robin Hood: Men in Tights"). The film's success is apparent in the fact that it merited a sequel - "Futureworld" - and a short-lived TV series, "Beyond Westworld".

"Westworld" is a gripping film full of action, adventure, and suspense, and one I recommend to all film aficionados.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 25, 2014 4:18 PM BST


A Thousand Miles Up the Nile (Classic Reprint)
A Thousand Miles Up the Nile (Classic Reprint)
by Amelia B. Edwards
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.90

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent reprint, 11 Mar. 2013
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"A Thousand Miles Up the Nile" is a book which is still compulsory reading for Egyptologists, but because the book is so hard to find, any reprint is valuable.

This edition by Classic Reprints has scanned the pages from the original second-edition from the 1880's (which was a revised and updated version of the original 1870's work). Whilst the print does appear faded, the wording is thankfully still eligible, and it is clear that the original work this was copied from had been kept in good condition.

Edward's work provides a picture of pre-industrial Egypt, narrating her travels around Egypt in the early 1870's, when tourists were still a rare sight in the country and much of the ancient monuments had still retained their natural beauty. Edwards looks at Egypt as a whole rather than any single part of it, and her observations range from the Pyramids to the lifestyle of the Egyptians to the flora and fauna of the country. Her picture is of a little-known, faraway land whose ancient history still retains a romantic element despite being overlooked in favour of Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece.

I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to read more deeply into Egyptology, for few other books can compare to it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 18, 2014 5:12 AM BST


The Spartans (Channel 4) [DVD]
The Spartans (Channel 4) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bettany Hughes
Offered by thelastresortofmusic
Price: £19.75

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, if little known, documentary, 22 Feb. 2013
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"The Spartans", a three-part documentary series originally aired on Channel 4, is a programme I remember most fondly, as the first episode and half of the second episode were used as teaching aids in my A-Level Ancient History class. I was keen to watch the whole series, to find out more about the Spartans than we had learned in lesson, and six years after completing my A-Levels and moving onto university, I found this series once again.

The documentary focusses on the years 480 BC to 371 BC - from the Battle of Thermopylae down to the Battle of Leuctri. Episode One provides a quick overview of Sparta at the time of the Mycenean period and her role in the Trojan War, before moving on to the development of the strict Spartan society that has intrigued and enthralled many over time. The remaining two episodes show how Spartan society clashed with the other Greek states during this period and how Sparta eventually fell to the Thebans at the Battle of Leuctri.

Though not a long documentary, "The Spartans" is an insightful show about one of the most unusual cities in Ancient Greece.


Camberwick Green Annual 1976
Camberwick Green Annual 1976
by Gordon Murray
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful gem, 5 Feb. 2013
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I am a big fan of the Trumptonshire trilogy, and have been ever since my parents introduced it to me back in the 1990's, and when I found that several annuals had also been created to accompany the series, I set out to see if the annuals matched the series for their ability to engage and entrance.

I am happy to say that this is indeed the case.

The 1976 Camberwick Green Annual has several different stories all set in and around the village the UK has come to know and love, each one as gentle and as innocent as the series that inspired them. The artwork varies throughout - in some cases, the characters are almost human, in others, they are just like the puppets they are based on - which, I think, only adds to the charm of the book. There are also crosswords and other puzzles to do, and at the very end of the book are two simple recipes - one for chocolate corn-flake cakes, the other for peppermint creams - to try out.

This is a book for anyone who enjoys the Trumptonshire series, and one I gladly recommend to one and all.


The Shoe People [DVD] [1987]
The Shoe People [DVD] [1987]

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 5 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: The Shoe People [DVD] [1987] (DVD)
"The Shoe People" is a rare example of a British animated series not created by either Cosgrove Hall (the studio behind "Dangermouse" and "Count Duckula") or Aardman (who gave us "Wallace and Gromit", "Shaun the Sheep" and "Rex the Runt"). Created in the late 1980's, this series, which is half-fantasy, half-comedy, is one that has been overlooked in recent years, but for those lucky enough to get a DVD, it still has the power to charm and endear.

The shoe people of the title are old shoes either too old to be repaired or have never been collected from the shoe shop where they have been left. The kindly old shoemaker has left them in the back of his shop, rather than throw them away, and every night, the shoes come alive, and make their way to Shoe Town, a magical town where the shoe people live in their own houses and perform their own jobs that reflect their shoe-type - Margo the ballerina slipper is a ballerina, Charlie, a clown's shoe, is a circus clown, PC Boot, a policeman's boot, is a policeman, and so on.

I happily recommend this series to one and all, for few series today can equal its upbeat nature.


Tales of Aesop dvd, told by Tom Baker
Tales of Aesop dvd, told by Tom Baker
Dvd ~ Tom Baker

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A quaint, if forgotten, series, 5 Feb. 2013
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"The Tales of Aesop" is an enjoyble series from the late 1980's / early 1990's featuring Tom Baker ("Doctor Who", "Blackadder II", "The Magic Roundabout" etc.). I missed the series on TV, and had it not been for two episodes being featured on an anthology VHS of 1990's TV, I would've missed it altogether.

The series is an adaptation of some of Aesop's fables, but this time using a cast of characters (all played by Baker) who live in a small town on the edge of a forest. Whilst the series may seem low-budget by today's standards, it is more than compensated by its ability to bring Aesop's fables to a new generation, and to teach people the lessons such fables taught in a new visual media.


Turnpike Roads (Shire Library)
Turnpike Roads (Shire Library)
by Geoffrey N. Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 1 Jan. 2013
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In the history of British transport, the Turnpike roads have been largely overlooked in favour of the canals and the railways, and have only been referenced as a mere footnote. This is a gross misrepresentation, for the Turnpikes were the motorways of their day, and were influential in shaping the British landscape throughout the 18th century. Along with the canals, they opened up communications between towns, and improved the haphazard conditions of the roads of the time.

Thanks to author Geoffrey N. Wright, this book sets out to explain all of this, along with other aspects of the Turnpike roads and the trusts that ran them that have been almost forgotten in recent times. Using both written material and archaeology (in the form of surviving toll-houses and marker-posts), Wright presents a detailed and concise history of the Turnpike roads, making it ideal reading for anyone interested in British transport history, and one that I recommend wholeheartedly to anyone who expresses such an interest.


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