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Joe Mcnally (Scotland)
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We Were Soldiers Once...And Young: The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam
We Were Soldiers Once...And Young: The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam
by Joseph L. Galloway
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

5.0 out of 5 stars We were lucky once and young, 9 Aug. 2016
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In November 1965 I was twelve-years-old and had recently absconded from a training college for Catholic priests. I was always outdoors and was probably wandering around in the early Scottish winter happily unaware that 6,000 miles south east of me Lt.Col. Hal Moore and his soldiers were jumping from helicopters in a clearing in the Ia Drang valley, Vietnam. A number of his men would have been just seven years older than I was.

Hal Moore knew that the Landing Zone X-Ray where the helicopters put him and his men down was just east of the Chu Pong hills; the troops could see that long massif clearly from their camp. What they couldn't see was the massive presence in those hills of North Vietnamese troops, who initially outnumbered them 10-1. Moore's men were given no time to settle and over the next forty-eight hours Hell bubbled up and broke through the earth's core at LZ X-Ray.

What followed - in the battle and in the years and decades after it - is logged and listed in this book; sometimes in such detail that I found myself shifting my limbs to remind myself what it feels like to still have all of them attached. And the lists . . .Joe Galloway, who was there, the journalist who put this book together along with Hal Moore, has gone to great pains to mention by name, by town, by state, every soldier who features in this story. Some might complain that this hampers the narrative drive of the book, but come the end, I would not have had it any other way. The story is of people more than it is about war. It is about courage and fear and love and discovery of what can be inside a person that nobody, not even that person, would have discovered but for their time in the torment of Ia Drang valley.

At 63 now, I often reflect on how lucky my generation has been; no wars that drew us in: relative prosperity: the witnessing of major historical moments, fabulous sporting achievements, wonderful music...how lucky I have been, and many of my contemporaries. How fortunate I was back then to be the age I was and a UK citizen with no need to fear the draft. But I missed something too. We all did who had no need to fight to keep our friends alive. We were lucky once and young. They were soldiers once and young. Salute them all, the living and the dead.


My Silver Lining
My Silver Lining
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars good to hear something that reminded me so much of ..., 16 Jun. 2016
This review is from: My Silver Lining (MP3 Download)
Very similar to Summer Wine, a track by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood from long, long ago. Arrangement reminds me of it too. No criticism of MSL; good to hear something that reminded me so much of an under-rated duo


Not Enough Time
Not Enough Time
Price: £5.03

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars more the longest love letter you will ever read, 13 Dec. 2015
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This review is from: Not Enough Time (Kindle Edition)
Not so much a book, more the longest love letter you will ever read. When Henrietta was a young woman, she'd have had a million rivals had she chosen to pursue Terry Biddlecombe. At five-eleven, Terry was unusually tall for jockey. He was blond and handsome. He courted danger more often than he courted women (and that is saying something), and he treated injuries with contempt - no man flu for Terry. In fact, if there is an opposite to hypochondriacs, National Hunt jockeys are it, and Terry was among the boldest. He had 47 fractures, which bedevilled him as he got old, and which Hen perpetually tried to ease with love, lotion, and cortisol.

I followed Terry in his riding days, and was a big fan, as were all supporters of NH racing. I remember an article the TImes ran in its Sunday supplement (probably in the early 1970s). It featured a full-length picture of Terry captioned with all the bones he had broken and the injuries he'd suffered. He was a big star back then. But, when he stopped riding, much of the glitter was drowned in alcohol and he became a sad and sorry case. Then, he met Hen. Her life, and his, from that moment, is what blossoms in this book.

Terry does not 'scan well' on paper. He comes across as foul-mouthed and selfish, and you wonder how Hen could have been so deeply in love with him. But gradually, through her eyes, things become clear. And what you see is not so much a man reborn, but a woman in the first full flush of love, at a relatively late stage in her life, when she must have thought all chance had faded. Not that she had ever gone seeking a man. She was happy, well balanced, and committed to the life she had built. That building had foundations of privilege; she'd never deny that, but she comes across as a gentle, caring woman for whom class distinction would never arise. You can see why she so admired Terry for the way he treated all men alike.

It's a joy to experience through her writing a love unexpected; and that's where the true beauty and pathos lies. It was not a love hard fought for or long-sought. It was a blessed surprise, a revelation, coming to a life that had been lived in a steady, pleasant breeze. From that, it blasted immediately into a twenty-year hurricane that consumed them both. How lucky those rare couples are who find such emptiness in being parted, even for a day. But there's a price on such luck, and it is levied by the grim reaper, leaving the bereft only the memories and the longing that is so profoundly present in every page of this book. But for all her pain at the loss of her husband, you never doubt that Hen would not have surrendered a minute of those twenty years for a week free of grieving.

It is not an exciting book. It is not a tale for racing diehards. It is, above all, a eulogy to a lost love...a long and exquisitely tender goodbye.


Adventures in Human Being (Wellcome)
Adventures in Human Being (Wellcome)
Price: £6.64

76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Good Doctor, 18 May 2015
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Medicine men...I never quite know what to make of those I meet. Last year, in the early hours of an April morning, I sat alone against the rear wall and watched a young doctor sympathetically settle my wife into a bed in the intensive care unit. The ward was quiet. Away to my left was a small peacock of a man in glittering waistcoat that looked cut from a priest's vestments. I thought he was wearing spats, but as he approached, head up, better to see down his nose, I saw they were two tone, like golf shoes.

The young doctor was telling the nurse what medication my wife needed when the peacock, still ten strides away, called out 'No!' And he took over, without even acknowledging his young colleague. I later discovered that this peacock of a surgeon had told my sister to 'get yourself home and empty your bowels', when she presented with severe abdominal pain. Three days later he was cutting cancer from her bowel.

Then, as my wife's condition deteriorated, I was introduced to another surgeon, a man of humility and humanity, a man who did not patronise as he answered me straight:

'What's the prognosis for my wife, please?'
'The next 24 hours will be crucial'
''Worst case scenario?'
'We have had informal discussions of putting your wife on a ventilator.'
'What happens then?'
'...it is very difficult to come back from'

Since then, I've taken a much greater interest in the way the body works and the way the minds of those who choose medicine as a profession work. Gavin Francis's book not only taught me about the body, but it gave me back some sanity and balance in the judgement of others. The drama of saving lives, of making decisions, of being 'somebody', attracts the peacocks, but what a salve it is to find that it has an irresistible pull too for people like Gavin Francis. You will be in turns transfixed and enchanted by Dr Francis's gradual uncloaking of the human body, not least by his skill in portraying without 'big words'.

You'll learn not only about the bone and blood and meat of which we're made, but of how others, long dead, saw it - the Greeks, the Romans, the philosophers, and the great writers. And all of it as seamless as the body itself. You are not jerked from place to place, but led smoothly along with the expertise of a born writer as well as a great doctor. You will watch with enchanted horror the rapid deterioration of a dark-haired young woman whose brush with a rose thorn brought her long lost mother to her intensive care bedside. And while the mother waits with her taped-eyed, tubed and wired unconscious child, Gavin Francis links her story beautifully with that of Snow White and the beliefs of older days.

John McEnroe's wife, the rock star, Patti Smith, finally discouraged him from trying to be a top guitarist by asking him, 'What are the chances of god giving you the talent to be the greatest tennis player in the world, and then adding some more to make you the greatest rock guitarist?'

Nobody could ask such a question of Dr Francis, a man blessed with the ability to be the finest of medicine men, alongside a sublime gift as a writer and a toucher of the human heart, in a manner way beyond the physical. I suspect the main wish of anyone finishing this book will be that Dr Francis would add them to his list patients.

I am off now to buy the other books of Gavin Francis. Happily, my wife will be able to read them too. After three weeks of lying with nine tubes sewn into her neck feeding her all the nutrients her body needed, her pancreas survived (well, all but the tail). That tail died. I suspect this tale, so wonderfully told by Gavin Francis, will outlive many of us.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2016 5:12 PM BST


If Horses Could Talk
If Horses Could Talk
Price: £6.47

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The curse of asterisks, 2 Jan. 2015
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It's probably a three-and-a-half star book, but the scales deserve tipping up rather than down. The Kindle edition will catch you out, as the story ends at the 65% mark. The remaining 35% consists of a glossary of terms, which is not to say those aren't' useful - many will find them very helpful, but one of the downsides of Kindle reading is that you tend to, in horsey parlance, time yourself for the run to the finish, only to find they've moved it a few furlongs closer.

Anyway. the book itself is likable and well put together. Mr Scott is a very nice man and his kindness is illustrated by some of the euphemistic ways he finds of covering Mr Witheford's less admirable traits.

Gary's life has certainly been interesting, and I suspect much more of it was omitted from this book than included. I found myself swinging between sympathy for Gary, frustration with him, sympathy for those around him, admiration for his tenacity and belief in himself, annoyance at him using his talents to 'climb the ladder' and dump those who no longer fitted with his plans, then admiration once more for him in allowing these details to be included.

The horse-whispering bandwagon will always roll along, and Gary's methods seem an enlightening addition to it. His most potent advocates will be the top trainers who've employed him; these guys are very tough pros who do not waste time with amateurs.

There are so many asterisks used to protect us from 'bad' words, I found it annoying, and unhelpful to the flow. I think a decision should have been taken to simply eliminate those 'bad' words completely. There's no point in arguing for a warts and all portrayal then covering it in asterisks. One or the other would have been better.

Storywise, I imagine most people will enjoy the book. I was left with the impression that Gary will go to his grave still searching for that something that will finally bring him peace. As with every man, he deserves that. I hope he finds it.

Happy new year
Joe


Canon PowerShot SX700 HS Compact Zoom - Black (16.1MP, 30x Optical Zoom)
Canon PowerShot SX700 HS Compact Zoom - Black (16.1MP, 30x Optical Zoom)

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine camera, and there's nothing I can add to ..., 8 Aug. 2014
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A fine camera, and there's nothing I can add to the lengthy reviews by others more competent than I regarding its technical merits. But some might find useful the information that initial registration on Canon's website does not qualify you for the cashback offer.

When I bought the camera, the 'claim cashback' link went only to the main Canon site. The correct link for the cashback claim is now posted on Amazon's page - the link is this [...]. Claims must be submitted by Sept 13 2014.


Kidde 0122UK Combination Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Kidde 0122UK Combination Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Offered by Plumbing Supermarket
Price: £21.58

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars From beyond the grave, 5 Aug. 2014
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"I hate it" Well, that's Amazon's literal interpretation of a one-start review. I don't hate it. I just never got to test it...now, be prepared for the first ever Amazon review written from beyond the grave...

I don't know how good this smoke alarm is because I died while opening the packaging. After a wrestling match involving heavyweight scissors, a multi-tool, and two broken fingernails, the hard, hermetically sealed plastic packaging dealt me a fatal thrust, slicing my ulnar artery. I bled out on the kitchen floor in a cloud of irony induced by thoughts that a unit built to save my life had actually taken it.

Anyway, if they had smoke alarms down here where I've ended up, they'd make an awful racket. I wouldn't want to be the apprentice Devil appointed to battery-changing duties. Even if I'd reached Heaven instead, the only smoke I'd see would be holy.

Good luck.


ASUS Google Nexus 7 7 inch Tablet (2 GB RAM, 16 GB eMMC)
ASUS Google Nexus 7 7 inch Tablet (2 GB RAM, 16 GB eMMC)
Offered by TUFFskinz
Price: £111.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Good but has problems with speakers, 1 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Amazon's review system is excellent. Its major failing is that it does not allow for reviews of the service or what is perhaps an issue that has not affected everybody, but one people should be made aware of. Many give 1 star to express dissatisfaction with the aspect that troubles them, but I want to be fair to the tablet, which is very very good. However, I'd been using it less than an hour when the speakers developed a hiss/crackle, no matter the music source. Checking online, I found that the problem is not uncommon.

I've chosen to take a refund and wait for this new tablet to bed in and have its obvious issues fixed (I have a 2012 Nexus which has been problem free). Perhaps Google (I love then, in general) should take note that their culture of open-minded creativity "Let's try this, if it doesn't work out, we'll move on to something else." That's all very well in Labs projects, but they're in the retail world of hardware now with tablets. They need to get it right before releasing. This new Nexus brought a storm of bad reviews in the USA for GPS problems. Google, you can't use your customers as beta testers.


Sunlight on My Shadow: A Girl Who Went Away: Secret Pregnancy in the Sixties
Sunlight on My Shadow: A Girl Who Went Away: Secret Pregnancy in the Sixties
Price: £7.78

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something blessed this way comes, 16 Aug. 2013
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This book will be widely read in the coming years. Judy's book is a rare combination; fine writing, a heart-wrenching story, and a salve for the soul of the sensitive. Everyone takes different things from life...a book read, a movie watched, a news article, a chance meeting, a dream. We act and interpret according to our characters and experiences. Sixty years ago (as I write this), my mother was moving into the last 48 hours of her pregnancy with the first of her eleven sons, me. She bore 4 daughters too, and she lies buried within shouting distance of where I sit. She was 47 when she died; killed, I thought for many years, by her Catholic faith, and its fierce hunger for more Catholics. We, her children were left with our own demons.

What I took from Judy's book was this: in matters of the heart, of guilt and of shame, of crushing regret, seek not forgiveness from others, turn first to yourself. It is not so much the story of an unwed mother, a teenage pregnancy, a culture of banishing the black sheep lest the neighbours talk (God help us all...how many tears have been shed for the sake of 'what people might think'?); it is a lesson in how to value yourself, how to heal yourself.

Judy's long-seeping wound was inflicted by society. To the millions of other Judys of both genders who will read this book, your wounds will not necessarily be from lost children, but, with luck, Judy's simple solution will help you find peace. Her story takes a long time to tell...she will take you to her childhood bedroom, her school, the Rocky Mountains, Big Sur, her subtly skilful writing carrying you through the years right alongside her. The story is long, but the message is short...forgive yourself.

Thank you, Judy. And good luck. We have never met. But we have.


Relax Melodies Premium: A White Noise Ambience For Sleep, Meditation & Yoga
Relax Melodies Premium: A White Noise Ambience For Sleep, Meditation & Yoga
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars works well, 12 July 2013
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It does what it says on the tin; sleep features work particularly well, for me, at least. If you were devilish, you could create pandemonium running all the sounds at once


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