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Quiverbow (Kent, England)
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On the Marshes: A Journey into England's Waterlands
On the Marshes: A Journey into England's Waterlands
by Carol Donaldson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Out of town, 21 May 2017
Carol Donaldson used to live in a caravan on a RSPB site. Then she was evicted. She didn’t want to live with her boyfriend near to where he worked in Essex (he trained as a teacher) with a mortgage and all those other things. She preferred the outdoor life, so she decided to wander the marshes of the north Kent estuary and write a book about her travels. Being familiar with many of the 26 places she visits, and having walked the dog around some of them, I thought it worth investigating.

Whilst I wouldn’t know a lapwing from a redshank or be able to identify a baby-pink dog rose, I do know the crumbling ruins of Cockham Wood Fort, Cooling Castle and Harty Church (probably the most isolated church in the county). It’s the association I can make with the points visited that make this much more than just someone’s wanderings through waterlands and their meeting with the dwellers of such places, with some eccentric individuals amongst them. I’ve even frozen myself on the nudist beach at Shellness, and a more inhospitable place for such a beach would be hard to find. Also, her brief description of some of the inhabitants of Chatham is spot on. Believe me Carol, it’s not just you who thinks the place needs something done to it, though in all the years I lived in Rainham and the many times I go there (my dad still lives in the town), I’ve never seen the 6ft 2 transvestite. I’ll be looking out for him now.

However, as much as I can associate with the area, I did find out things of which I was completely unaware. Unaware that Sir Francis Drake began his seafaring career by living on a boat on the River Medway, or Lower Higham once had an abbey. Also completely unaware that there are the wreckages of German U-Boats still to be seen. You find out interesting things in the most unusual places. But this isn’t a book solely about her walkabout; Donaldson (who sometimes makes me think of her as a female Jack Hargreaves, what with her use of dock leaves to combat attacks from stinging nettles - and how many youngsters today would know how to do that?) also reminisces about the gradual disintegration of her long term relationship with Connor and the reasons why. And in some ways that is as engrossing as her descriptions of where she walks, what she sees and whom she meets. A woman who isn’t sure sure what she wants, but knows what she doesn’t want until one fateful Christmas Eve when it finally smacks her in the face.

My only complaint, albeit a minor one, is the dearth of photos. Admittedly there are 17 (18 if you include the delightful one of the author herself) but they are small and monochrome and should have been annotated. They aren’t of the best quality but that could be down to her not being a photographer. There should have been at least some of the caravan she was so distraught at leaving and selling.

This isn’t a book to sell in lorry loads; it’s more of a local book for local people on the accelerating distortions in relations between the city and the countryside. Superb!

Blood Sisters: The next addictive thriller from the bestselling author of My Husband's Wife
Blood Sisters: The next addictive thriller from the bestselling author of My Husband's Wife
by Jane Corry
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sibling rivalry, 18 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A trio of women. Thirty-something, Alison is an artist and works in a male open prison teaching art to a variety of villains, nasty pieces of work and the downright dangerous. Her 26 year old half sister Kitty is in a care home, confined to a wheelchair with no ability to speak, though she can hear and understand everything said. But she can’t remember how or why she ended up there. We don’t know either. The other one in the triumvirate, Kitty’s friend Vanessa, doesn’t do anything……....she’s dead.

I realise books in the crime/mystery/thriller genre can’t jump straight in but having to wait until a third of the story has passed before you discover anything that stirs your curiosity enough to keep reading makes it heavy going. Alison lives in London, Elephant & Castle actually, somewhere my nan used to live, the fictional prison is in an unidentified part of the Home Counties miles from the nearest station or bus stop. Her mother lives in the west country (and Kitty’s care home also seems to be in the same area). Oh, and Kitty doesn't like Alison.

Whilst the characters are believable at times, I wasn’t taken in by the scenarios. The premise itself was decent enough; I just thought the whole thing was poorly executed. Despite having a few bits that I wanted to discover more about, they were few and far between. For the most part there were no no ‘word pictures’ to entice me in. (I did have to suspend disbelief when Alison finds a parking space near Waterloo Station on Christmas Eve, a Saturday.)

Not very addictive. Not very thrilling. Not very good at all.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 23, 2017 5:19 PM BST

Aurora World 15655 8-Inch "Bowie Unicorno" Plush Toy
Aurora World 15655 8-Inch "Bowie Unicorno" Plush Toy
Price: £11.02

3.0 out of 5 stars On the conveyor belt tonight..., 15 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Spookily, I was scrolling through radio stations and I heard ‘Catblack (The Wizard’s Hat)’ when I saw this. So what, you might ask. Well, nothing really, except that song is from Tyrannosaurus Rex’s ‘Unicorn’ LP. I thought the newest addition to the family might like it.

Not that the recipient of this will know about the reference, I suppose it’s called ‘Bowie’ on account of its orange hair and star patterned eyes, but that’s just my guess. Right or wrong, this is a decent soft toy for the youngest age group. Colourful, very well stitched and just about the right size. The only issue I have is with the price; it does seem a bit excessive for what it is but that’s just my own opinion. Bear in mind that it’s handwash only, and you know you’ll need to wash it fairly soon after getting it.

As for that newest addition to the family? She likes this.

Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff
Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff
by Michael Nesmith
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Wichita Train Whistle Writes, 9 May 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Well this a bit weird. Not the contents of the book itself but it looks like it has been printed to order. The pages aren’t cut squarely and it seems and they seem to have been stitched in individually. The paper quality also feels strange. It obviously isn’t; it just appears that way. Anyway, Davy produced his autobiography in 1987 (since updated) followed by Micky in 1993, who also revised his a decade later. Nearly 25 years later, and with Peter so far remaining silent, Mike obviously decided the time was right to tell his own story.

Usually, you would expect an autobiography to be a chronological tome but Nesmith doesn’t follow that well worn path. There’s no “I was born in...when I was 15 ...” type narrative and it’s not until page 47 that he tells you when he entered the world, but you do learn a bit about him before that. People never think of their past in a linear format; we flit between time frames, which is what he does here. It’s as if he wrote it down as he thought of it – one memory can intertwine with another years apart - and that’s the order in which it was printed. Surprisingly it works. You also get to understand why he uses words you might only ever see in a dictionary, which also accounts for some of his strange song titles.

What you don’t get is a history of the Monkees. Though alluded to, there are no tracts of text dedicated to his time in the group, which is actually a relief in some ways. Devoted fans will have read all the books and have a knowledge of such things anyway but there are some nuggets here to satiate you, some of which are amusing. I liked his tale of discussing Fats Domino’s rendition of ‘Aint That A Shame’ with a girl only to discover she was enthusing about Pat Boone’s powder puff version instead. What I am disappointed in is the photos. Or lack of them. Along with a cartoon that at least goes some way in explaining the title of this book, there are a mere 13, all in black and white and none are the best of quality.

What he hasn’t done is fallen into the old trick of listing his record releases and recording history at the back of the book. That information is available elsewhere and I always thought it was a way to use up the page count. Something else he hasn’t done is mention his mother as ‘mother’ or ‘mum’ too many times. He mostly refers to her by her name, Bette.

It's not really a book for Monkees fans, as that part of his career is only touched upon, but many will still buy this and it's an interesting read for anyone else. Whilst some of it might be speed read by non fans, it does give a deep insight into how he came to the decisions he made throughout his career and his influences. You'll also wonder what might have happened with the group had Mike not turned down his CO's offer of a secretive task during his brief time in the Air Force instead of opting for a discharge.

Bosch PSB 1800 LI-2 + PDR 18 LI Cordless Combi/Impact Drill Twin Pack with Two 18 V Lithium-Ion Battery
Bosch PSB 1800 LI-2 + PDR 18 LI Cordless Combi/Impact Drill Twin Pack with Two 18 V Lithium-Ion Battery
Price: £152.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Drillbit tailored, 8 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have a problem with this double pack. The drill and screwdriver themselves are perfect. Both are light and easy to use and, as you would expect, get the job done. In fact I like the screwdriver one more. I always wondered what recessed shape was for at the end of a bit, now I know. Apparently, it’s called a ‘ball catch’ and the good thing about this impact driver is there’s no chuck or twisting involved; just pull the locking sleeve and then let it go. It’s not a system I’ve come across before and it makes life much easier.

The drill is also light and, like the driver, has a good grip. The twin batteries came with a small charge but it won’t take long to see a continuous charging light. The beauty of this double pack is that I can drill whilst she drives in the screws but as convenient as that is, the problem I have (and it seems others also have) is that this just comes in a box. For the price of this twin set, it should have been accompanied by a carry case. Who wants to keep their drill in the box or just lying around on a shelf. It needs a case with room for accessories. The drill and driver both come with a single, reversible screwdriver bit, which seems rather mean. Something I'm perturbed about is that the battery is difficult to push in and remove. It needs a heavy hand and I did worry something would break.

It looks like you can buy both these items at a lower price if bought separately with enough change for a carry case. There might even be a double case available. As useful as these are, on that score, as someone else has attested, whether this is value for money is debatable.

In Camera: Perfect Pictures Straight Out of the Camera
In Camera: Perfect Pictures Straight Out of the Camera
by Gordon Laing
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flash bang wallop what a picture, what a photograph., 1 May 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I take a lot of photos. Sometimes I just point and shoot, other times I set things up correctly. One thing I don’t do is use Photoshop or any other manipulation software. It’s just my opinion but I consider it akin to ‘cheating’. It also contributes to a lazy way of taking photographs by thinking you can change it all on a computer later. Gordon Laing is my kind of photographer; one who doesn’t use post processing as an excuse not to get it right first time.

He shows us 93 photos from a wide variety of places and explains how he managed to get the shot and what his camera settings were, each accompanied by a brief story. Okay, the chances of you being in those same places is remote but the ideas won’t be and there’s a lot here that we can replicate. The thing is, Laing isn’t beholden to either a single manufacturer or camera; he has used 15 different cameras, though admittedly that includes the four variants of Olympus’ OMD series. What is nice to see is that there isn’t a Canon or Nikon in sight; they’re all CSCs.

Some of pages consist of colourful doors or a fire station or beach huts, whilst others are a bit more involved but each one is a simple project. Whatever the subject, composing a picture in Live View is a great help. I’ve often taken a photo, decided it wasn’t what I wanted and merely altered my position or changed a preset. That’s the beauty of not manipulating your photographs; it encourages you to try new techniques and to experiment. You don’t need to weigh yourself down with equipment either; composition is everything, especially when you don’t have to modify anything afterwards.

You'll have to remember the author's advice, as you won't be carrying this around with you when out on a shoot. It’s a lovely looking ‘coffee table’ type book but I could have done without the photos of sandwiches and cups of coffee.

Sony HT-MT500 Compact Soundbar with Interior Matching Design, High-Resolution Audio and Music Streaming Services - Black
Sony HT-MT500 Compact Soundbar with Interior Matching Design, High-Resolution Audio and Music Streaming Services - Black
Offered by Atlantic Electrics Ltd sold as an Agent of Euronics Ltd
Price: £522.10

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 11? This goes a lot higher than that, 26 April 2017
I had a cheap and rather hefty Konig soundbar for my Samsung television and whilst it wasn’t the best in the world, anything was better than the sound direct from the TV. The problem I had was that the soundbar covered the bottom part of the screen and hence the sensor. Okay, it didn’t hide the picture itself, but it meant holding your arm up to use the TV remote. I knew I had to find a replacement. A soundbase was out, as that would mean the telly would be too high and the rest were too big. (Samsung doesn't cater for customers like me.) I could have bought a smaller, cheap, basic soundbar but that seemed a false economy, then I noticed Sony had two new models out. The MT500 and the cheaper MT300. Having trialled it in a couple of shops, I plumped for the 500 version.

Important to a lot of people, this looks the part. It’s available in just black, and that seems to be the preferred option for most, but this has a nice faux leathery type surface and not the gloss sort that attracts fingerprints. It sits pleasantly in the middle of my television and the sub isn’t at all obtrusive down the side of the cabinet. The removable front grille sets it off nicely (it’s magnetic). The dot matrix display is bright enough to be readable but dark enough not to intrude, but the brighness can be altered to suit. The unit is 50(w)x11(d)x6(h) and the sub 9(w)x38(d)x38(h).

To the telly, it’s by either a supplied optical cable or HDMI (ARC). One difficulty you might find is that the mains lead for the sub is ridiculously short but I swapped them over. Depending on your room layout and socket placement, you might need an extension lead. Connection to the sub is no more than two button presses away (on the unit itself and on the setup screen). There’s also a LAN socket and an analogue in.

Easy-peasy. Whatever your brand of telly, a menu appears on screen for you to play about with. Setting up Bluetooth, Spotify or Chromecast looks equally as easy but as I have no interest in those options at present, I haven’t bothered with them. By the way, I had to update the software before I could use it and you might too. I thought I might need to turn on the unit after my TV, but when I turned that on, the 500 came to life too with the settings remembered from the last time you used it. No need to mess about with more buttons.

This is what we came for. It’s nothing short of fabulous. Whilst there are subtle differences between the six sound settings, it’s for you to play about with until you get one you like. The voice option really does make dialogue clearer. Not only can you adjust the volume for the main unit, there’s a volume control for the sub woofer too (maximum 12) and again, that’s down to personal preference but bear in mind this baby can get loud. I have mine set to ‘20’ but through fear of neighbours in the next street complaining, I don’t want to see how high it can go. You can use the top soft touch buttons to change things, which can be disabled to stop any young, curious hands from wandering. To return to the front grille, if you remove that, there’s a ‘Hi-Res Audio’ sticker underneath, which informs you that the way to listen to anything Hi-Res is without the grille in place. And yes, it does work.

If you’re in the market for a sound bar, this is certainly one to add to your list of ‘possibles’. It shows that you don’t need something the width of your television to pump out decent sound. The remote is a bit ‘plasticky’ but they all seem to be nowadays.
Comment Comment | Permalink

Bristan GLE395 W 9.5 kW Glee 3 Electric Shower  - White
Bristan GLE395 W 9.5 kW Glee 3 Electric Shower - White
Price: £119.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Mind that loofah!, 24 April 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A few weeks ago, a man from Southern Water came round to inform us that we were going to have water meters and can he check our flow. He gave us a couple of bag things to place in the toilet cistern so it didn’t fill up as much and also an egg timer for use when anyone has a shower (as if people stand under there longer than necessary). He also measured the shower unit and told us that it wasn’t running efficiently and to investigate getting a new one. Spookily, this was made available the very next day.

Not being an electrician or plumber (I have trouble downloading phone apps), I got my competent cousin round, who knows about these things, to install this. It didn’t take him long. To make it easier, depending on where your pipe is, there are six inlet options available and seven electrical connections entry points, so everyone should be able to have this fitted. What we didn’t bother with was the riser rail, as the one in situ is adequate. Because of this, we miss out on the retaining hole for the hose in the soap dish but I think we can manage without that. Turn it on for 20 seconds to flush out any possible debris in the pipes and off you go.

The thing with this, and something I think is pretty pointless, is that it has a temperature readout (in Centigrade only). It’s just as easy to hold your hand under the spray to test it as it is to read it. In fact, the former is always a better bet anyway. The head has three settings, spray, jet spray, and a combination and that’s about it. It’s a shower. It’s nothing fancy. To be honest, unless it goes wrong, once it’s fitted and you stand under it scrubbing clean a voluptuous body (hers) or puny body (his), it’s not something you think about or admire (the shower I mean; I’m always thinking about her body).

In the market for a replacement electric shower? This is one to consider.

Infinite Tuesday: Autobiographical Riffs
Infinite Tuesday: Autobiographical Riffs
Price: £11.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Save the Texas Prairie Chicken, 15 April 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
One of the most underrated artists in the last half century is Mike Nesmith. Author of some great songs who some claim to be the instigator of both country rock and MTV, those new to his work will find a peculiar trait with his songs; many don’t mention the title anywhere in the lyrics. Be that as it may, Nesmith has decided the time is right to tell everyone his story. To accompany his forthcoming autobiography is a 14 track CD. It’s not a ‘Greatest Hits’, as, save for a couple of minor chart singles in the USA and one here, he didn’t actually have any, but it is a collection of his more popular tunes and it’s something that bookends his career nicely.

As an overview of what he’s recorded, everyone has their own idea of what should be included but as it’s not our decision, we go with what he chose. Beginning with an anti war song from September 1965 that many may not be familiar with and credited to his pseudonym of Michael Blessing, ‘The New Recruit’ is sung with a Texan ‘drawl’ where the soldier finds out his enemy looks the same as ‘you and me’. He couldn’t miss out any Monkees tracks and ‘Papa Gene’s Blues’ is the first of three, followed by the song that gave them a measure of artistic control; the harpsicord dominated ‘The Girl I Knew Somewhere’. From April 1969, the anthemic ‘Listen To The Band’ could be seen as the group’s last hurrah but the faux applause at the end somewhat spoils it for me. ‘Joanne’ is his best performing single in the USA and is a virtual re-write of an earlier Monkees tune, and achieved far greater success than any of his singles for the group.

Attempted during his Monkees years, this recording of ‘Some Of Shelly’s Blues’ dates back to 1973. Arguably his most famous song, ‘Different Drum’ was surprisingly never seriously recorded until 1972, even though it had been written seven years previously and a brief parody aired in a Monkees TV episode. Maybe his solo work never found the appreciation and plaudits it deserved simply because of his past. Even though Lennon and Harrison were fans of the group, critics could only deride them as an affront to ‘real music’, a label that some still insist on using to this day. That Nesmith took the then fledgling country rock path was another nail hammered into his credibility coffin. ‘Silver Moon’ deserved a wider audience but sparse radio play didn’t help. However, he was rewarded when the samba style of ‘Rio' became his only UK chart entry, reaching #28 in 1977. The related video clip eventually spawned MTV.

‘Opening Theme’ nicely sums up the LP it comes from, ‘The Prison’, whilst ‘Cruisin’ did receive decent AOR airplay at the time but died a death in the shops. A tale of Lucy, Ramona and Sunset Sam, it must be one of the first songs to question whether someone is gay whilst ‘looking for a plan’. The saxophone on ‘Light’ is a bit jarring on first hearing but it actually compliments the vocal, though the ending is sudden. You can imagine Roy, Dave, Pico Bill and Charlie Russell all gliding round the floor in ‘Laugh Kills Lonesome’, another samba tune that would be given the thumbs-up if only people bothered to listen. The final track ‘Rays’, from 2005, is also becoming.

Possibly bar the first song, if you’re a committed fan, you’ll have all of these tracks on various CDs but this isn’t just aimed at Nesmith buffs, so for anyone else, it’s a good introduction. You might know a few Monkees songs but he was much more than that. (And you must be interested, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.) Mind you, the cover is a bit of a monstrosity and the inlay is disappointing; it’s nothing more than a list of the titles, the LP it’s from (or otherwise) and the copyright owner. Minus a star for that. We deserve better.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 8, 2017 6:21 AM BST

Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 2017
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 2017
by Lawrence Booth
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £40.00

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wisden of cricket, 6 April 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Here’s a nice coincidence; the opening fixtures of the County Championship starts the day after the new Wisden hits the shelves (or your doormat). Yes some friendlies have been played, and Kent got off to a flying start by beating Leeds/Bradford University, but a win is a win as they say, and Wisden will give you something to peruse during the lunch break, or much longer if it’s raining, and will certainly help me alleviate the forthcoming doom and gloom I’ll no doubt suffer over the next six months. To business.

It’s best if you skip past pages 323 to 378, as that concentrates on England’s capitulation/disgrace/surrender/shame in India and Bangladesh. Fortunately, what you can get your teeth into is the usual high quality writing and editorial comments. As a traditionalist, I liked the article on the return of the cable-knit sweater for this season and the feature on the kiss of death for some IPL players (those traded for big money but never heard of again). Unfortunately, cricket, like most other sports, has become too money orientated, witness the ridiculous sponsoring of IPL maximums - “That six was brought to you by...” Yes cricket needs cash but it also needs television viewers, which isn’t happening. With Sky’s mind-boggling spending on football, it makes you wonder how long it can continue to invest in cricket (the company called one correspondent back from the West Indies to make him redundant). Terrestrial TV has to be involved but will the ECB, that only seem to see pound signs, listen? There are also fine pieces on two anniversaries; Test Match Special’s 60th and 25 years of Durham being a first-class county, a celebration somewhat diminished by their forced demotion.

It’s good to see the women’s cricket section expanded from 21 pages last year to 38. From a purely personal point of view, I’d like to see this part further enlarged. But something would have to be removed to accommodate this. Though the number of entrants was down, the winner of the annual writing competition focused on Lancashire’s Gillette Cup semi final win in 1971; actually it focused on ‘that’ over. And that is the beauty of Wisden; it covers all aspects of the game and doesn’t fixate on one particular area.

One of my favourite features are the ‘sound bite’ records within match reports. They tend to carry shoulder shrugging information such as Derbyshire’s conceding of a double hundred in three successive Championship matches being only the fourth instance, but they’re fun all the same. Distressingly, when you look at attendances it makes you wonder how some counties survive. Derbyshire averaged 330 spectators per day’s play in the County Championship whilst Middlesex boasted 2,394, though much of that can be attributed to the final game of the season when more than 21,000 attended over four days.

Sixteen pages of colour photos including an action shot of pin-up Ellyse Perry and a rather scary one of ten boys playing on a rooftop in Mumbai as traffic below hurtles by. For the first time since its inception in 2003, Wisden’s Book of the Year, ‘Following On’, is written by a woman; take a bow Emma John. Of course the saddest section in Wisden is the obituaries and last year was no different. Jack Bannister, Donald Carr, Tony Cozier, Martin Crowe, Hanif Mohammad, Rachael Heyhoe-Flint and Ken Higgs are just some that have left the crease for the final time and now fill their space in the pantheon. It’s a sobering thought that time is catching up with all of us who remember cricket on a black and white television. What some who don’t usually read Wisden realise is that it isn’t just cricketers whose deaths are acknowledged; MP Jo Cox, Brian Rix, Terry Wogan and Muhammad Ali also get a mention for various reasons.

Despite the 2017 issue having 16 fewer pages than it’s predecessor, you all know what to expect. Buy it; it’ll make a sleep inducing passage of play more bearable.

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