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DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England)
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The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search for Justice
The Lockerbie Bombing: The Search for Justice
by Kenny MacAskill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

4.0 out of 5 stars 'NON LIQUET' -- NOT PROVEN, 23 Mar. 2017
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It was in 1988 that Pan Am flight 103 was blown out of the sky over the town of Lockerbie in southern Scotland. The one man convicted of this atrocity, the Libyan Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, died in 2012 from prostate cancer at home with his family in Libya, having been given compassionate release from his prison in Scotland. The issue has never gone quiet, and in particular a group of relatives of the victims, headed by Dr Jim Swire, has never accepted the verdict against Megrahi. Give atrocities time to renew their lease, of course, and there have been others taking the limelight since 1988, so there has to be a reason for another book on Lockerbie, and indeed there is – the controversial decision to grant the compassionate release was the responsibility of just one man, Kenny MacAskill, and we have never been told this story before.

MacAskill was the Minster of Justice in the Scottish National Party government that took power in 2007. He was born as late as 1958, so he was a latecomer to Lockerbie matters. Megrahi’s trial and conviction concluded in 2001, and Kenny had no part in that either. What he is here to tell us is what went into the difficult and lonely decision that nobody could share with him, although there were many who would attack it. He takes us through his transition from practising lawyer to SNP politician, and this bit is frankly boring, and you will miss nothing if you skip it. The issues surrounding the grant of compassionate release, on the other hand, are anything but boring, and they are illuminating as well as compulsive reading. The other actors in this drama were Scottish parliamentarians, the British government in London, and the government of the USA, no less, plus non-political activists. The arguments are rather convoluted for a short review, but drastically reduced they boil down to the choice between compassionate release, prisoner exchange with Libya, or (of course) stay as you were. What was promised to whom by whom is a matter of who you want to believe, but at least MacAskill is patently truthful, even when he probably doesn’t understand the full ins and outs. American opinion wanted Megrahi to die in his Scottish prison and claimed a promise. The UK government was slippery, and I almost got the impression that the easiest party to deal with might have been Gaddafi. Nor was it a matter of firing office memos to one another – this was a top-publicity issue, the public had views on it, and various politicians, notably Labour ones, were trying to milk the matter to their own advantage and MacAskill’s discredit.

Before we get to that there are the earlier matters of the bombing itself and the extraordinary trial. Earlier material that I read voiced dissatisfaction with the evidence that convicted Megrahi and the conduct of the trial. I give MacAskill a good rating for clarity in his exposition of both, but remain slightly suspicious that he is oversimplifying. Private Eye was convinced that the guilt lay elsewhere, and they had support from the award-winning investigative journalist Paul Foot together with an independent UN assessor. The last major book I have read on the subject is John Ashton’s tome Megrahi You are the Jury. Again the author does not trust the trial, and, come to think of it, MacAskill is the first writer on the subject who does, at least in my experience. MacAskill’s neat headings support his conclusion, Ashton’s mass of detail does the opposite, and I still wonder if Kenny is too neat by half.

The trial was utterly extraordinary. It was held at an abandoned NATO base in the Netherlands, and instead of a jury the evidence was entrusted to three eminent Scottish judges, who also passed sentence. This was a piece of Scotland for the purposes of the trial, that being the only arrangement all would accept. Ashton, Private Eye and the rest of them attack the crucial evidence from a Maltese shopkeeper called Tony Gauci, that identified Megrahi as the purchaser of certain items traces of which were discovered in the fragments of the suitcase that had (indisputably) contained the Lockerbie bomb. That was what convicted him, I did not believe it then, and with all respect to Mr MacAskill I don’t believe it yet. What you will read is an admirable statement from the judges that there is a danger of constructing a coherent case if you leave out inconvenient parts of the evidence. Excellent. However it seems to me that that is precisely what they go on to do. Not just that – Kenny makes a cryptic statement about a certain kind of lawyers’ reasoning that seems to me, as a layman, perverse. At first I thought this was tongue-in-cheek, but no, Kenny trots along behind these grave Justices like a little dog on a lead.

Whole issues are barely mentioned. The breakin at Heathrow deserves more discussion, and even more so does the fact that an unaccompanied case was accepted for transportation at Luqa and Frankfurt airports. A couple of years ago I and numerous other passengers missed our intercontinental connections at Amsterdam because the 45-minute feeder at Manchester had a case not accounted for. Even MacAskill can’t really see how they got away with that, although he goes along with the verdict eventually.

Where does this leave us? MacAskill seems to believe Megrahi was guilty, but in fact he ties in just about the whole alternative cast that Private Eye used to argue for. Again his reasoning is neat, and he traces the story back to the downing of an Iranian airliner by the USS Vincennes, an outrage for which Mr Reagan refused to apologise.

It’s a good read, and I recommend it strongly. Kenny would not have got the prize for Written English in the Scottish school that I attended, but he is very readable. Above all, this is a story nobody else could have told.


Clinical Leadership in Nursing and Healthcare: Values into Action (Advanced Healthcare Practice)
Clinical Leadership in Nursing and Healthcare: Values into Action (Advanced Healthcare Practice)
by David Stanley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £31.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars TIMELY, 16 Mar. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The first and chief reason for commending this book is that it is being issued now. In Britain at least there is a crisis over the demands placed on the National Health Service and the funding available. When examined further, it has been demonstrated that the most serious of many serious contributory factors is the lack of adequate facilities for care in the community, mainly but by no means entirely for the elderly. Funding has clearly been inadequate, and the issue largely ignored, in some measure because community care was never integrated into the NHS during its foundation in 1948 but has been handed on to local governments as a statutory responsibility. The accepted doctrine now appears to be (rightly) that the two agencies should work in a more integrated manner.

Easier said than done, we might say, but still a problem to be classified as urgent and growing. No comprehensive solution is known to me nor, I greatly suspect, to anyone else. However it must be a good time to get out some authoritative books and articles on the theoretical background, and this particular book is welcome for addressing the issues relating to leadership. The list of contents (see the product page) is not startlingly new or innovative. It is a fairly standard list such as we might expect from management consultancies, but at least it seems to be addressing the right issues. Lack of suitable personnel at all levels is all too manifest, and it should go somewhere at least to clarifying the thought-processes of those who are, or expect to be, involved with the complicated and serious issues.

There is such a long way to go that a reviewer should not award the full five stars to such a book. To qualify for that ranking we need to see how the theories here work out in practice. However here is a real attempt to get out a standard background manual, and I hope it receives the respect that I think it clearly deserves.


Ellie's Magic Wellies
Ellie's Magic Wellies
by Amy Sparkes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars ENDEARING, 9 Mar. 2017
This review is from: Ellie's Magic Wellies (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a really sweet little storybook for young children. It is a harmless little fantasy, with no dark side, that I can well imagine some children (such as my own 5-year-old granddaughter) treasuring in the way they treasure favourite dolls and toys, or favourite cartoon characters. Indeed, recalling the popularity of Peppa Pig a year or two ago, I had to wonder whether the theme of splashing in puddles has some special attraction for that particular generation.

The production is very professional. Most of the 30 or so pages consist chiefly of the brilliant artwork of Nick East, with only a small amount of text. The text is in a good large printface, and some children could well be encouraged to read it for themselves, with or without a little grown-up assistance. In the event that the story is read to a child before bedtime, it makes a very convenient complete story that should leave the child satisfied without letting her, or him, get bored.

The other thing that I like from an educational viewpoint is that the story is told in rhyme. Enough care has been taken to achieve ‘natural’ rhymes, rhymes that have not had to be forced. Similar care has also been exercised over the scansion, and the nett result is or ought to be that the child can be learning what constitutes good versification without even realising, let alone knowing such a word.

Recommended with real enthusiasm. A bright age-3 could certainly take to this book, but its appeal should carry on for a year or two after that.


BIC Evolution Fluo Pencil (Pack of 12)
BIC Evolution Fluo Pencil (Pack of 12)
Price: £6.00

4.0 out of 5 stars FOR HB STYLISTS AND OTHERS, 7 Mar. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The difference between these pencils and the many other pencils that I own is that the ‘surround’ is not wood but a hard resin. The claim made is that this construction protects the pencils from either chewing or breakage, and as far chewing goes I can at least vouch for it that a fairly tentative bite at one of the pencils certainly suggested that I would have to bite a lot harder to have any prospect of inflicting bite-marks. As this was no part of my own intention, I feel that at least I have suitable pencils to share with a grandchild

So how hard is the hard resin? Not as hard as I had feared, actually. The test I applied, as you would expect, was the pencil-sharpener test. The pencils turn quite easily in a ‘closed’ pencil-sharpener, certainly far easier than hard wood turns. I tried sharpening another pencil with a penknife, and this was less successful. At first I found it surprisingly easy to break the lead, but as my technique improved I quickly produced an acceptable result, although I think it probably calls for a sharper blade than I have available.

Lastly, what are these pencils like to write with? They are 7and ½ inches (9cm) in length including the eraser tip, which is a very standard length. Do you like HB pencils? They don’t leave a specially black impression, so they call for greater firmness in use than softer leads do. This is turn makes for just a little more effort to erase the impression, but that can be done easily enough with a modicum of effort.

Perfectly acceptable so far as I can tell, particularly for users who prefer HB pencils.


Triplast 12 x 16-Inch Plastic Mailing Postal Bag - Grey (Pack of 500)
Triplast 12 x 16-Inch Plastic Mailing Postal Bag - Grey (Pack of 500)
Price: £24.99

4.0 out of 5 stars TOUGH AND VERSATILE, 27 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These tough waterproof mailing bags will suit business users most, but I have found them handy for private mailing of books to friends. As well as the strong water-resistant material, they have a peel'n'seal strip that is very adhesive indeed -- if you seal it before you intended I doubt you will be able to unseal it again. The material is fairly thin, but I think it would take an awful lot of pressure to tear it, more than would constitute a convenient-sized load.

The colour is not quite black, more a sort of dark olive green. I have not yet encountered anything that I could see through the material, but it may be advisable in many or most cases to attach a separate wrapping or padding to whatever you want to put into the bag. For ordinary 'domestic' mailing one slight inconvenience is that it is hard to find any kind of pen or crayon that will show up clearly against fabric of such a dark colour. The normal response to this is presumably to use adhesive labels, but once again I suggest be careful: many 'ordinary' labels don't stick very well to the material, and I was nervous enough about this to check with the Post Office that the stickers they use for stamps these days would stay in place until the package was delivered to its addressee. Apparently they will, and of course more tenacious address-labels are available.

Recommended even for 'private' use. These bags are secure, moisture-proof and all the things that most matter for the job they do.


Duracell Ultra Power Type AA Alkaline Batteries, pack of 12
Duracell Ultra Power Type AA Alkaline Batteries, pack of 12
Offered by Guilty Gadgets
Price: £6.97

5.0 out of 5 stars OLD FAITHFUL, 23 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This seems a slightly odd item to be found offered for review on the UK Vine. Duracell batteries are familiar to most of us, and although this new series is bound to incorporate technological advances, it seems from what I read in other reviews that the technical novelty is maybe not as great as we might infer from the publicity. No matter, so far as I am concerned. In a lifetime of using Duracell batteries I have found them ultra-dependable -- if I recall correctly the solitary problem I have had with a Duracell battery has been one small AAA leaking, many years ago. If the new series comes up to this standard of reliability that will easily satisfy me as a customer and user.

What I have at least done is check the power levels in all 12 of the batteries provided. The facility provided for doing this is illustrated on the rear of the package: you depress two small buttons as shown, hold them down for several seconds, and see how far the power-indicator moves. This indicator lights up four coloured panels of the familiar traffic-light kind, reading (R to L) red, yellow, green, green, and if it illuminates to the far end of the second green that means the battery is at 100% power, and all my 12 met this criterion.

As a bog-standard domestic user looking for something that will not let me down, this is as far as I think I can go in a review, since an exhaustive test is liable to last as long as I am likely to live these days. Duracell have established themselves as a market leader for decades now, theirs would be my first choice, from long experience, among standard batteries, and I am pleased to know that I am at least starting off with a firm foundation of fully powered-up batteries. Welcome back.


The Trains Now Departed: Sixteen Excursions into the Lost Delights of Britain's Railways
The Trains Now Departed: Sixteen Excursions into the Lost Delights of Britain's Railways
by Michael Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WRITTEN FROM THE HEART, 21 Feb. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book is obviously a labour of love. It is aimed at the flourishing railway-nostalgia market in Britain, where the many aficionados of railway relics should find it easy and agreeable reading, needing little labour on their part.

Michael Williams focuses on the kind of railway remains that possess magic for him, and that immediately rules out restored railways and preserved steam. Such restorations belong in a different narrative, being the preserve of tourists and hobbyists rather than recalling the sense of what was once a real and functioning iron road, now suffering the encroachment of oblivion. That leaves him plenty of scope. Most of his 16 chapters are devoted to ruins and relics, but he also revisits the Lost Olde Worldes of the cross-Channel Golden Arrow and Night Ferry services, and the prestige named expresses that have lost their vogue despite some half-hearted attempts to revive the idiom. He even ventures a chapter on dining cars – this possibly not the best, with a slightly stilted style lacking his usual fluency, perhaps affected by the crisp starched tablecloths that he keeps going on about.

Slightly off-topic, but very welcome so far as I am concerned, is the chapter on unique and even plain eccentric steam locomotives. Well known to enthusiasts are the ‘Mikado’ (2-8-2) class, a wheel arrangement oddly uncommon in Britain, but famous from portraits of Gresley’s Cock o’the North, as well as the Big Bertha banker that used to see passenger trains up the Lickey Incline near Birmingham. Less well known, I gather although it surprises me, is the extraordinary ‘Leader’, one of the many odd products of the fertile mind of O V S Bulleid. For some reason, I have managed to be familiar with this peculiar engine (from photographs of course) all my life, to the extent that I slightly envy any enthusiast getting his or her first sight of it.

There is an ‘excursion’ on seaside excursions as well. This topic probably belongs outwith the ‘core’ narrative, but the variety it provides is welcome. Like the cross-Channel sleepers and the named expresses, these bring back a vanished world, the victim presumably of car-ownership, but touching on Williams’s main theme in what it tells of the extraordinary fate of Blackpool Central station.

Michael Williams has chosen what I consider an excellent selection of lost lines, plus a good chapter on what were once major termini, such as Birmingham’s Snow Hill, Glasgow St Enoch and London’s Broad Street. As for the rest, he starts with the Somerset and Dorset, but concludes with none other than the Waverley Line which has of course now been partially reopened, and thankfully has escaped Michael Williams’s usual embargo on including such restorations. The Liverpool Overhead is here, thank goodness although it defies classification, and so is an example of what Williams calls a ‘zombie of the tracks’, which is to say a kind of train that hardly ever runs, carries virtually no passengers, but along a line that remains technically ‘open’ to avoid the overheads of a formal closure.

The Somerset & Dorset and the Waverley Line are of course famous, and so is the mighty Stainmore railway across the Pennines. I have seen the awesome sight of where the Belah viaduct once stood, built by Thomas Bouch, famous only for the collapse of his Tay Bridge these days, but deserving better for the excellent work he did on the Belah and Deepdale girder bridges. The former stood up to winds, they tell me, greater in their force than any that ever blew along the Tay, and succumbed only to the demolition gangs in 1962. As for the latter, I nearly became more closely acquainted with it than I had intended. I had taken my family on a short farmhouse holiday and did some running on the very easy track heading for Barnard Castle. I used to adopt a head-down-posture, sweat was dripping into my eyes, Deepdale was unfenced, but I stopped in time to admire its impressive location as well as Belah’s, and at even closer quarters.

Also celebrated in railway legend is the narrow-gauge Lynton and Barnstaple which lasted for only 37 years if I have counted correctly. In the same general area was the rest of what Southern Railway accountants at Waterloo called ‘the withered arm’, a set of lines connecting to the Atlantic coast of Cornwall. This is the place of Arthurian legend, and the romantic side of Michael Williams is aroused strongly as he follows the river Camel, presumably wondering where Camelot was.

All gone, but all celebrated in story and (for all I know) song. Not at all celebrated are the Stratford-upon-Avon & Midland Junction Railway, as well as the formerly Metropolitan Line (yes, really!) at Verney Junction, neither of which I had ever previously known anything about. Those are the sort of railway remains that I thrill to, and so is the extraordinary Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Light Railway. A more hopeless business proposition can never have escaped any feasibility study, but although I have some slight acquaintance with it I am glad that Williams has chosen it for inclusion rather than the equally hopeless but probably better documented Bishops Castle Railway not all that far away.

This is an absolutely excellent book of its type. Williams has chosen a theme and judged very well where and when to diverge off the main track without losing coherence. He is a journalist, and his style is generally attractive, if just a tad over-ripe at times. I will just take issue with him on a very minor matter, which may only be one of expression. Says he ‘the essential flavour of the railways of the past is often best divined standing on some overgrown embankment...’ That’s the bit I like best too, but when I look at Roman remains I am contemplating their antiquity for itself, not for some essential flavour of the past. Ditto with my old railways. I love them for being old.


Maximuscle Promax High Protein Bar, 60 g - Chocolate Orange, Pack of 12
Maximuscle Promax High Protein Bar, 60 g - Chocolate Orange, Pack of 12
Price: £15.00

4.0 out of 5 stars PLEASANT, BOUND TO BE BENEFICIAL TO SOME EXTENT, BUT IS IT UNIQUE?, 17 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This high-protein bar is very pleasant to my taste. The dark chocolate coating is not over-sweet, and the texture, which is chewy and does not resemble anything that I could describe as a crumble, is to my liking also. These are the 'externals', if you like. The actual muscle-building ingredients are listed, but I imagine that it would need special expertise or a systematic programme of consumption to identify the real effects of this particular bar with accuracy.

Is this bar really unique in any way? Few users if any seem to be making that claim for it. However even if it just does a 'regular' job of its kind, it is at least pleasant (to my own palate) and any decision to put it into systematic use is likely to be one based on price, or on flavour and texture, or on both considerations. I certainly like it, I am prepared to take its benefits to my fitness as a matter of faith, but I got it from the Vine. The real test of my faith in it will come when the pack of a dozen is finished and I have to decide whether to pay or not to pay. Meantime, I am off to the gym in an hour's time, reasonably sure that it is benefiting me to some extent.


King Flashypants and the Creature From Crong: Book 2
King Flashypants and the Creature From Crong: Book 2
by Andy Riley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.49

5.0 out of 5 stars NEEDS NO INTRODUCTION, 4 Feb. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Here is a children’s story that is amusing, engaging, clever and original. It deserves the applause it has been given by distinguished grown-up comic talents such as Sue Perkins, Miranda Hart and David Walliams. It is also the sequel to Andy Riley’s earlier book about King Edwin Flashypants, but I found it perfectly easy to read and enjoy without having to make myself familiar with the earlier story, and I am quite sure that my grandson, turning five years on St Valentine’s Day, will not be bothered by any such thought either. Anything he needs to become acquainted with -- mainly the names of the characters and the map of the various territories that they rule or visit, (these latter being provided with Tolkienesque illustrations at the start), is provided afresh at the start of this book, and the narrative will do the rest.

The narrative is absolutely brilliant, and it brought back to me the mental world of my own children and their friends when they were five years old. The story is exciting and full of adventures and incidents, but something that struck me forcibly was that this author has a nice mind. This thought was provoked in my own mind by the fates that befall the ‘baddy’ and the monster. The baddy gets his deserts all right, but they are not sadistic or vicious, although they certainly feature the less appealing aspects of the human or animal digestive and excretory process – something else that I remember capturing the interest of five-year-olds. The monster does not retain vegetables that get fed to him and has an exclusively raw meat diet, but he is not really aggressive either, and not liking vegetables is a characteristic that he shares with our hero and others of the hero’s age-bracket.

Andy Riley has provided his own illustrations, and that, together with the large and widely-spaced print, gives a helpful illusion of a long book. After all, there are 200 pages, and that is likely to be useful for convincing the young reader or listener that he has had his pre-bed money’s worth after, say, two chapters. The story-line might be a bit more of a problem in that respect, as it very original and takes unexpected turns, and the listener/reader may not want to leave some issues ‘dangling’. We are told that there is a third instalment on its way, and that is good news. Meantime, just to keep us occupied, there is a short cartoon concerning the Emperor Norbison’s two-headed rat and some cheese.


Busy B 2017-18 School Year Calendar
Busy B 2017-18 School Year Calendar
Price: £10.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars PLAN EFFICIENTLY OVER A SCHOOL YEAR, 31 Jan. 2017
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This school-year planner does as much as can reasonably be expected. It allows conveniently for 13 months, August 2017 to August 2018, and there are five columns for members of the family, plus a sixth for public holidays and other standard dates such as father’s day, these latter being pre-printed. The width is 9 and 1/2 inches, and each sheet is 10 inches in depth, each month occupying two sheets.

Helpful small stickers are also provided, probably not enough of them for an entire year, and I wonder whether spares can also be ordered. Some of the stickers carry short messages e.g. ‘term starts’, ‘school photos’ etc; others bear self-explanatory icons, such as a tooth or musical notes. One realistic touch that I liked was the provision of blank stickers to apply on top of mistakes. Space is obviously restricted where it comes to writing one’s own messages, so I suppose fine-pointed pens are advisable, as well as keeping handwritten material as concise as possible.

Also very handy, indeed necessary, are the month-at-a-time pockets to contain tickets, vouchers and similar, and altogether the need to use the available capacity efficiently, legibly and accessibly will likely lead many users to appoint a ‘monitor’ to take charge of maintenance of the calendar. One advantage of good old-fashioned paper for this purpose is obviously that it can be read at a glance without needing a power-supply, apps or switching between screens, and I can see that being so for quite a long time to come.

There’s not a lot more that could be asked of such a calendar, and its efficient use of space provides a lesson of its own over and above those that it is tracking. To award five stars would suggest to me that it had reached some threshold of perfection, however that might be defined. To be cautious, I’ll stick with four stars plus a warm and perfectly sincere recommendation.


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