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Simon Welch (Chiang Mai, Thailand)
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SanDisk Sansa Clip+ 4 GB MP3 Player - Black (SDMX18-004G-E46K)
SanDisk Sansa Clip+ 4 GB MP3 Player - Black (SDMX18-004G-E46K)
Price: £32.90

2.0 out of 5 stars A potentially great player - if you're lucky, 10 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've had two of these, the first unfortunately going into the washing machine just days after it was purchased, thus I bought a second.

It appears from reviews here and elsewhere that buying this you take pot luck. It may be fantastic and work well for years...... or you may be like me, and have nothing but trouble. First the good though:

The screen is clear and navigation is pretty easy. Files can be uploaded via Windows Explorer and the MP3 player sorts them without further intervention. Volume is okay, though if you are getting a bit long in the tooth, it could be louder when cutting the grass say. I used it principally for podcasts and audio books, for which it was well suited and automatically bookmarked your progress, which surprisingly few players do.

Now the bad. From the outset, the player would switch itself off at random, or simply freeze up. There is no re-set button, thus it is necessary to hold down the power button, sometimes for minutes at a time, until it clears itself. Attempts to upgrade the firmware failed - it appears the Sansa Firmware update is either corrupt or does not work with Win 7.

Sandisk customer services could give lessons to British Gas in obstruction and Amazon washed their hands of the issue when I tried to return it in the first few weeks. Sandisk will only respond to a warranty claim if the serial number can be quoted. Given that this is printed on top of the clip in characters less than 2mm tall, this would be a tall order for anybody with 20/20 vision; a photo of the numbers (illegible I fear) produced a response that - you've guessed it - the serial number is required.

I have spent 18 frustrating months with this thing and it has now failed completely.

It is worth noting the literally hundreds of these for sale on eBay as "manufacturer refurbished". Now call me a baboon and paint my bottom orange if I'm wrong, but I suspect that these are all returns from dissatisfied customers - presumably with better eyesight than mine - who have returned the player to Sandisk. This does suggest to me that when buying this, one is taking a gamble whether it will be a good 'un or a dodgy one. Personally, if I want to gamble, I'll go to William Hill.

I'll not be buying a third one.


Blood On Satan's Claw - Digitally Remastered Widescreen Edition [DVD] [1970]
Blood On Satan's Claw - Digitally Remastered Widescreen Edition [DVD] [1970]
Dvd ~ Patrick Wymark
Price: £14.99

5 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Presumably the author understood it?, 25 Aug 2011
I am doubtless going to offend by stating that I thought this "cult classic" a load of rubbish.

The film appears to have no storyline - it is interesting to note from another reviewer this was developed from 3 different plots, a fact which shows in the so called plot - storylines starting and then going nowhere, others starting midway without explanation. By way of example, the "claws" of the title appear early in the piece, but then disappear from the storyline, never to re-appear. A girl is driven mad - by what we do not know, but one must suspect it was reading the script - and taken to the asylum, but is not referred to thereafter, even by her (not very) distraught fiancee. The same fiancee is attached by a "phantom hand" a little later, but again, nobody thinks it worth mentioning again. As for the full frontal nudity from the unknown "star" of the film, this felt gratuitous in the extreme.

To me, this is a muddled hotch-potch of half thought out ideas. At the end of it, both my wife & I felt we had wasted an hour and a half of our lives on complete twaddle.

Doubtless die-hard fans will take umbrage and bad-mouth this review - I will await the pins into the wax effigy - but we are all entitled to have a contrary view to other reviewers, if expressed genuinely; it is a shame that another one star review was met with such hostility. How others can begin to compare this rubbish to "The Wicker Man" simply defies belief.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 3, 2013 9:51 PM GMT


A Flock of Ships
A Flock of Ships
by Brian Callison
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read, 21 Aug 2011
This review is from: A Flock of Ships (Paperback)
I first came across this book almost 30 years ago, and was gripped from the first page. I have read it many times - my original copy has had to be replaced it was so well read - and know the story well, but still return to it regularly. For me, it remains an absolute page turner, and a book I could easily read in a single sitting.

The story opens with the location of a WW2 merchant ship, the MV Cyclops, by a Royal Navy survey vessel in the natural harbour of a remote island in the south Atlantic. Records show that the ship had been reported as sunk in WW2, several hundred miles from where it rides at anchor. Furthermore, it is accompanied by a WW2 U-boat and the remains of a second WW2 merchant ship, the MV Athenian. How this came to pass, and the events of the Cyclops' last voyage are set out in the first person in the journal of John Kent, the Chief Officer of the Cyclops.

The pace is unrelenting, but not forced. The central characters are very real; they are not in control of the events that are happening to them, and the chief protagonist admits freely to being scared, for he is not the square jawed hero that so many authors of adventure fiction believe much populate the pages of their works. The reader feels for the characters and is concerned for their fate - I never find the ending an easy read, and must admit that on occasions I have felt a pricking at the corner of the eyes, such is the level of engagement one has with the characters.

As others reviewers have stated, this is a tremendous read and I cannot recommend it too highly. For me, by far the best of Brian Callison's works, and definitely one to take with me to my desert island.


GCHQ
GCHQ
by Richard Aldrich
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Fascinating, 10 Aug 2011
This review is from: GCHQ (Hardcover)
Like most people, I suspect, I was aware of GCHQ but before reading this absorbing account, had little idea of its remit.

The book was a complete revelation to me - not least the size of our electronic eavesdropping on friends and potential enemies alike - as well as the amount of work it carries out in the post Cold War environment. Although a heavy tome, the author has exhaustively researched his subject, using publicly available records and the result is a compelling read. Absolutely recommended to anybody with an interest in 20th century history or the way in which governments work.


Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story That Changed the Course of World War II
Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story That Changed the Course of World War II
by Ben Macintyre
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and very readable, 10 Aug 2011
I am familiar with the story of "The Man Who Never Was" from watching the film on wet Sunday afternoons as a child, compulsory viewing in a household in which WW2 was still alive, twenty years after it had ended. This book however reveals that there was far more to the story than I had previously imagined, and reads more like a work of fiction.

The central characters are surprisingly unattractive and the cast of supporting "actors" truly bizarre; the cross dressing deception chief comes particularly to mind. Many interesting facts and anecdotes arise, both before and after the body was set off the coast of Spain, and the story at times descends almost to farce, such as the local British Consul having to refuse to take control of the body on the day it was found, the increasingly desperate attempts of the British, mirrored by the local Nazis, to force the Spanish navy - which prided itself on not being in the pay of the Germans - to allow the Abwehr access to the papers and so forth.

The author admits that Operation Mincemeat was only one part of a much wider deception operation to distract German eyes from the invasion of Sicily, but nonetheless, the story is fascinating and brilliantly told by the author. Recommended.


The Best Short Stories (Wordsworth Classics)
The Best Short Stories (Wordsworth Classics)
by Rudyard Kipling
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.99

2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Kipling's Strong Point, 10 Aug 2011
I must take a contrary review to the other reviewers and express my disappointment in this volume.

I am not a Kipling fan - I do not feel he was a great author - and purchased this volume principally having much enjoyed the film adaptation of "The Man Who Would Be King". The original, I find, was a disappointing tale, full of strange Masonic symbolism, and not the exciting tale a viewer of the film version - which follows the plot closely - would expect.

It is evident that these stories were written during Kipling's early years as a hack writer in India, churning out short stories for magazines. The stories frankly do not stand up in the modern era - some, I just found unreadable, and others impossibly antiquated. Unless you are a student of the Raj and are familiar with the Anglo-Indian language and culture of the time, this should be regarded as a curiosity only, albeit instructive that - if Kipling is to be believed and there is no reason that he should not - casual infidelity is not new and was practised widely in the Raj.

My copy will shortly be available at my local charity shop.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 9, 2012 4:18 AM GMT


The Korean War (Pan Military Classics)
The Korean War (Pan Military Classics)
by Max Hastings
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of this forgotten war, 2 July 2011
My knowledge of the Korean War has always been very limited, and like many people, mine has been slanted by the 1970s TV series MASH.

In this book, Hastings gives us a detailed yet very readable account of the origins of the war, it early prosecution and the need for the US to gain support from others to give itself the fig leaf of pretence that this was a UN operation and not the first instance of the Cold War being fought by the super powers' proxies. Considerable use is made of first hand accounts as well as archive material. It must, given the fact that it was written in 1985, be slanted towards the western experience of the war, and doubtless if written now would have the benefit of some restricted access to the Chinese record, though even now one must suspect that a truly impartial account must be difficult to produce.

A criticism has been made that the British contribution plays too large a part of the narrative. Given that the author is British, this is what the buyer should anticipate. The fact that Hastings is not afraid to criticise American prosecution of the war, together with accounts of American blunders will no doubt upset American readers, who may prefer a more partisan account. A sub text that questions why the Americans chose to support the distasteful regime in the South of a country with no strategic interest, other than in pursuit of the Truman doctrine, may also be distasteful to some, but is worthy of discussion.

A well written and clear account, typical of Hastings' output. Thoroughly recommended to the general reader.


More What If?: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been
More What If?: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been
by Robert Cowley
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Bag, 2 July 2011
Alternative or Counter-factual history is, as one of the contributors to this novel recognises, a strange beast. It is all too easy to extend the impacts of the chosen historical event far beyond reasonable bounds, as we see with the piece on Anthony & Cleopatra winning the Battle of Actium in BC 31 leading, in the writer's mind, to the Roman Empire extending into the modern day, apparently as some sort of European Federation. The problems which beset the Empire from late in the 2nd Century onwards are disregarded and the attacks on the Roman heartland early in the fifth century brushed aside in less than a sentence.

Of the essays, I thought the best that on the impacts of not dropping the atomic bombs on Japan at the end of WW2 - mass starvation of the Japanese, death of all civilian internees and POWs in Japanese hands - the most thoughtful and well argued, not asking the counter-factual crystal ball to reach too far into the future. The piece on the Louisiana Purchase is also well considered. The standard of some others however was much poorer, and in on the case of the Franco-Prussian War bizarre, the author having us believe that the US, a very minor power at that time, brow-beating Britain & France into joining an early version of NATO, against a Russian threat! Other pieces such as a theological consideration of Christ not being crucified and Martin Luther being burned as a heretic had no place, in my view, in a historical book.

The authors of these pieces - all but two of them American - are themselves chosen on an unknown basis, some being academics or professional historians, but at least two being authors of historical and other fiction and one a film producer, whose only historical background being that his father was one of those in the iconic photo of US troops on Iwo Jima. This in itself portrays another weakness, the heavy emphasis on "how would this have affected the USA" causing the writers to focus too much on historical events far in the "future". Some of the essays are themselves only of interest on the impact the events would have had on the US domestically.

This is always a difficult subject and for me, these essays generally are poorly executed and aimed too much at a US audience.


Trail of Blood (Panther Books)
Trail of Blood (Panther Books)
by Jeremy Potter
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars When an historian writes fiction........, 15 Jun 2011
I first came across this work over 20 years ago when the BBC adapted this into a fast paced and exciting 90 minute play. I thus looked forward to reading the source material. Sadly, this proved once again the BBC's skill at turning turgid prose into a piece of theatre.

The premise of the novel is that Edward V and his brother Richard - the "princes in the Tower" - were not murdered by Richard III, but escaped, and Henry VIII wishes to find if they or their descendants are still alive. So far, so good. The novel opens however with almost 80 pages of semi academic discussion of the history of the previous 50 years, the whole wrapped up as a discussion between 3 or 4 of the central characters. When the narrative finally gets going, facts leading to the identity of the remaining prince are given away and the "denouement" comes as little surprise. To make it worse, having achieved satisfactory closure for the remaining prince - in a leper colony - the author then takes the character out of the living death of a leper and into a further 50 pages based upon the Pilgrimage of Grace. The author has no idea of structuring a novel.

The author is an academic who is well known to believe that Richard III was innocent of the sins history has accused him of - doubtless Jeremy Potter would have us believe Richard looked after stray kittens and helped old ladies across the road. This may or may not be true, but a novel is not the vehicle.

Having read this, it is now on its way into the bin.


AUSTERITY BRITAIN 1945 - 51
AUSTERITY BRITAIN 1945 - 51
by David Kynaston
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Compelling, 15 Jun 2011
Others have expressed their views already, but I would simply add that this is an utterly compelling and magasterial work. Having been born after the period in question, I can only say "I had no idea". The Britain he paints is a tired, worn country, still to come to terms with its place in a post war world.

One of the strengths of the book is his use of source material from ordinary people, rather than relying upon the views and writings of the great & good. From the opening page, e are treated to insights we could never have known - the grumbling about VE Day and the lack of interest many indeed appeared to take in the whole affair.

It is true that the book is stuffed full of facts and at times is in danger of slipping into the academic, but this is a tremendous resource for the interested (I will not say "intelligent") general reader and is a book that bears reading again, such is its breadth and depth.

On the basis of this book, I hugely look forward to reading "Family Britain", the next in the series.


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