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Andrew D. Lewis (London, UK)
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The Places In Between
The Places In Between
by Rory Stewart
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Brings back memories of my trip there in the 1970's, 4 April 2016
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This review is from: The Places In Between (Paperback)
I'd been meaning to read this book for a while and it didn't disappoint. A brave and epic journey by Stewart, told fairly simply, and all the more impactful for that, plus the insightful analysis and historical detail I'd expect from this learned and intelligent author. My own interest comes from having crossed Afghanistan many years before - in 1977 - when this benighted and fascinating country was enjoying a rare period of 'peace'. My travelling companion and I had planned to travel very much Stewart's route, except by horse. We callow 21 year olds knew nothing about horses (or much else for that matter). The Herat police put a stop to that crazy idea and we travelled north via Mazar-e-Sharif by local 'buses' instead. That was some adventure as it was though nothing compared to Stewart's. How the authorities allowed him to do it astonishes me. This book for me captures the country well and brings back memories - not all all of them good - of the harshness of the landscape and of the Afghanis' lives, the smells, the heat and the cold, the religiosity, the lowly place of women, how prey one is to illness, and the innate hospitality and kindness of people there.


ION Audio Slides Forever - Digtal image conversion scanner for negatives and slides
ION Audio Slides Forever - Digtal image conversion scanner for negatives and slides
Price: £39.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great value easy-to-use little slide scanner, 18 Jan. 2016
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Fully agree with the other positive reviews. Quick to get up and running and surprised at how fast I can scan my slides - first 400 done in two afternoons (with brightness and RGB adjustment on some) and looking forward to doing the remaining 7-800. I thought it would be a real chore but I'm actually enjoying it. Image quality maybe a little below the mark for the real pros but I'm perfectly satisfied and I'd imagine most would be also. Now tracking down the email addresses of the 40 years worth of old friends I'm rediscovering as I scan so I can remind them of their younger selves! Best value £39.99 I've spent in a while. Example scanned pics attached.
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MyLite 9 LED Touch Light, 3 Pack, White
MyLite 9 LED Touch Light, 3 Pack, White
Price: £17.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Great - does the job perfectly, 11 Jan. 2014
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I bought 3 to light my shed. First impressions excellent. Bright - though quite a pleasant light, not harsh - and very easy to install. Not had them long enough yet to find out how long the batteries last. Just ordered 6 more.


On The Black Hill (Vintage Classics)
On The Black Hill (Vintage Classics)
by Bruce Chatwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Hardy on an off day meets the Archers, 23 Aug. 2012
Sorry, can't hide my disappointment on this one. Liked a lot the Chatwin travel books I've read so was surprised to find, especially given the accolades for it, that On the Black Hill just didn't do it for me. Unconvincing stock rural characters, clichéd dialogue, and only marginally interesting storyline. To be fair, I gave up a quarter of the way through so maybe the rest of the novel really picked up, but on the strength of what I've read so far, I doubt I'll be giving it another go.


The Roads to Sata: A 2000-mile Walk Through Japan (Origami Classroom)
The Roads to Sata: A 2000-mile Walk Through Japan (Origami Classroom)
by Alan Booth
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A hike through Japan, refreshingly judgement free, 9 Aug. 2012
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I read `The Roads to Sata' shortly after reading Will Ferguson's `Hokkaido Highway Blues'. The comparisons are obvious - Ferguson hitching south-north and Booth walking north-south - giving their insightful and humorous commentary along the way. Booth's physical achievement was clearly the greater. As for literary achievement, I enjoyed them both in their own ways.

In contrast to Ferguson's more up-front opinionated style and laugh-out-loud humour, Booth's style is more subtle, the insights more nuanced, the humour drier (some might say slyer). You'll find no sweeping generalisations in Booth's account, little overt criticism or praise of Japan, and little analysis or moralising. Rather, he prefers to let the narrative do the talking - the sights and sounds, the small daily incidents, the people he meets along the way. A good example is the perceived xenophobia of Japanese society. Booth's epic walk is peppered with incidents which show that Japan can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience for a foreigner (e.g. the name calling by kids in the street, the ryokans which become mysteriously `full' when he tries to get a room), yet it also has many examples where the locals showed him great kindness and concern for his well-being (e.g. lifts offered, which he had to decline) Is Japan xenophobic then? Well, yes and no. You decide. Like any other national stereotype, it's not black-and-white. (I suspect though that if he had made the same journey today, 30 years on, his references to the despoilation of the landscape would have been far more critical.)

Booth ends his walk little clearer on what he really thinks of Japan and the Japanese than when he set out. After three visits there, I'm in a similar position, though I can't wait for my fourth.


The Way of the World
The Way of the World
by Nicolas Bouvier
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two young men off to see the world, 7 May 2012
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This review is from: The Way of the World (Paperback)
Having travelled a similar route to Bouvier 20 years after him and just a couple of years younger (though by local buses) `The Way of the World' had a lot of resonance for me. I thought I knew all the best accounts of travels in these regions but only became aware of this book recently while reading Bouvier's excellent `Japanese Chronicles'. Both books are beautifully written (or more correctly, beautifully translated, though I'm sure the original French is at least as beautifully written) and full of wonderful insight, historical context and imagery. Bouvier was clearly an intelligent and learned man but wears his intelligence and learning lightly with his seeming modesty and quirky humour. What strikes one initially as a little curious in TWotW is the missing detail - Why did Bouvier and his friend Thierry set off on this journey? What preparations did they make? Where did they buy fuel along the way? What lives did they lead before the journey? However, ultimately I think it made for a better read this way - less of the distracting mundane detail, more of the `feel' of the whole experience. I particularly liked the descriptions of the many colourful characters they met along the way, for example, Terence at the Saki Bar in Quetta. The characters I met on my trip provided some of my most enduring memories. Implausible as many of them seem on the written page, I can tell you I met Terences all the way from Athens to Kathmandu.
....oh and did I mention the quality of the writing? Just dug out my diary from my own trip and compared my accounts of some of the places visited (e.g. Tabriz, Kabul) with Bouvier's. A different league. If you think you've already read the best in travel writing then read `The Way of the World'. Wonderful stuff.


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