Addicted to Dimes: Confessions of a Liar and a Cheat – Catherine Townsend-Lyon

61Wah0x6duLHow does a good girl go bad? Based on a true story, told in the author’s own words, without polish or prose, this haunting tale of addiction, family secrets, abuse, sexual misconduct, destruction, crime and…. recovery! One day at a time, one page at a time. Learn of this remarkable and brave story.

It’s to easy these days to dismiss an addict without any real thought as to the contributing factors and the struggles they face each day, when coping in a world that actively encourages habit-forming pursuits.

Catherine Townsend-Lyon is a recovering gambling addict who guides us through her journey, reliving the most heartbreaking of times upto today, where the lessons hard learned are put forward in their stark honesty.

As you would expect from somebody who has felt the pull of addiction, this retrospective holds nothing back.  It’s brutally honest, makes no excuses but does explore the complex history of the author’s case.

It’s challenging to read but that is how it should be, an uncompromising, self-aware examination of a life that has turned out in an unexpected way.  If you are looking for a writer who leans towards the more literary style of writing, you won’t get it here but hiding behind fancy words is sometimes detrimental to the message.   Here the gritty and down to earth writing bring forthright range of observations to a dysfunctional past.

As well as looking at just one specific life, there is also an insight into the flaws of a system that on one hand allows the encouragement of gambling (responsibly of course!) and enjoys the taxes off of said companies,  yet doesn’t have the ability to support the people who fall prey to the industries ills.  It’s a blatant conflict of interests, the swirling lights and noises drawing people in to a world fundamentally obsessed and geared to money and glamour that cannot be sustained for any length of time despite what the adverts would have us believe. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 16/09/2014 in Autobiography, Blogging


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The Last Night of the Proms

Neatly bookending the hottest bit of the year, we have the camp Eurovision Song Contest (written about elsewhere on this blog) in May closing it we had yesterday’s finale to the Proms season.  Which was once again a rousing and magnificent triumph, as it is every year.  I love the celebration of culture and history that is always in evidence and I also love watching the orchestra play, a mighty machine working in perfect harmony to bring about stirring music that captures the imagination world-wide.

The BBC gets a lot of stick from the public and press and rightly so in some areas, the top-heavy approach to management, instead of using that money for programming which is evidenced by some of its pretty substandard output, not to mention the lack of live sport.  However, The coverage of the Proms is one of the corporations victories.

The vast Royal Albert Hall always looks beautiful on such a night, with its flag waving and panoramic camera angles showing off the enthusiasm of the public for such public artistic events.  Founded by Sir Henry Woods back in 1895, who wanted to bring classical music to everybody and his noble intentions are now a staple of our summertime. One thing we can do well on this Sceptred Isle is tradition, which is why our trains are still rubbish, we always expect rain and we are so out of our depth when not queueing. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 14/09/2014 in TV


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The Art of Looking Sideways – Alan Fletcher

AoLSThe Art of Looking Sideways is a primer in visual intelligence, an exploration of the workings of the eye, the hand, the brain and the imagination. It is an inexhaustible mine of anecdotes, quotations, images, curious facts and useless information, oddities, serious science, jokes and memories, all concerned with the interplay between the verbal and the visual, and the limitless resources of the human mind. Loosely arranged in 72 chapters, all this material is presented in a wonderfully inventive series of pages that are themselves masterly demonstrations of the expressive use of type, space, colour and imagery.

This book does not set out to teach lessons, but it is full of wisdom and insight collected from all over the world. Describing himself as a visual jackdaw, master designer Alan Fletcher has distilled a lifetime of experience and reflection into a brilliantly witty and inimitable exploration of such subjects as perception, colour, pattern, proportion, paradox, illusion, language, alphabets, words, letters, ideas, creativity, culture, style, aesthetics and value.

Back in my younger, reckless days I came across this book whilst in the pub, Louise the barmaid and all round good egg was reading it in between serving pints, which is precisely when I started reading it.  As with many art books it comes at a hefty price but looked really good, especially after a couple of pints.

The price is somewhat justified for the 1068 pages admittedly and the author is a name of some repute in the art world, the problem with any art though is how you think of it.  If I like this book then I could be accused of pretentious but to not like it would see me accused of ‘not getting it’, such is the world of art, so it is lucky that I am squarely unconvinced that it is either too overblown or impenetrable to anyone other than an art student.

As far as coffee table books go, this is a great one to have, as long as your table can cope with something weighty that is…there is a wealth of varied styles, techniques and facts contained therein to keep anybody amused for a while, as well as an explosive riot of colour and technique to catch the eye.  It’s easy to see why people would become enamoured with the book.

I don’t think however, that it is as clever at it likes to think it is, or people like to claim, looking sideways equates to imagination, using your brain, taking an interest in everything and living life.  It’s no great revelation and there isn’t much that this book will teach the reader who already does this.

Overall, there is enough in the book to amuse the reader for a brief while yet some of it comes across as quite clichéd, which I would expect from the art world, perhaps this book is one for somebody who takes more of an interest in art than the casual peruser. It’s worth a flip through for the nice visuals if you come across it in a bookstore or library though.

On a personal level, advertising and marketing, two strong themes in the book, are wasted on me as I’m not particularly materialistic and am mostly cynical about that sort of thing.  This book is one that will probably split opinion and I changed my mind at various times but overall there isn’t enough substance or surprise to justify its purchase, just think of all the pints I could have had instead.


Posted by on 09/09/2014 in Art


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Bargain Books

Photo0077When you buy a  book, do you ever have to force a straight face when you go to pay for it because you can’t believe how cheaply it’s selling?  I do this with every purchase, no matter the price.  For the purposes of this musing let us take a fiction book – a good one, mind – for our example.

As a voracious reader, I spend a lot of my time in the world of other people’s imaginings, exploring creations of fertile minds and discovering the stories of unusual characters.  The philosophies of eras and worlds, the inversions of physical laws, the deviousness of a certain antagonist, the philosophical musings of another mind are all exquisite.  That’s even before you factor in that sentence you have to reread dozens of times simply for the majesty of its construction.

I weigh all of that up (and whatever else comes to mind) against the price I am paying for the physical representation of happiness and I find that I have a bargain every time.  Now because I like the drama, it then becomes a game in my head, does the bookseller know what he/she is giving away for such a cheap price?  Will it be read in my eyes that I have a bargain and suddenly the price will shoot up?  I then spend a couple of minutes in a secluded part of the shop gurning away, trying to find a suitable poker face, which is quite difficult to achieve without the use of a mirror.

Once the transaction is complete and I have left the shop, my mask crumples into something akin to smugness and I can gaze disconcertingly through the window at the cashier knowing I have won the day and that when I open this book I’ll become some sort of deity.  It’s not just me who is omnipotent, we all are and I can tell why as well. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 06/09/2014 in Life, My Writings


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The Fall – Albert Camus

FallyJean-Baptiste Clamence is a soul in turmoil. Over several drunken nights in an Amsterdam bar, he regales a chance acquaintance with his story. From this successful former lawyer and seemingly model citizen a compelling, self-loathing catalogue of guilt, hypocrisy and alienation pours forth. The Fall (1956) is a brilliant portrayal of a man who has glimpsed the hollowness of his existence. But beyond depicting one man’s disillusionment, Camus’s novel exposes the universal human condition and its absurdities – for our innocence that, once lost, can never be recaptured.

I’ve always been a little underwhelmed with Camus’ fiction but doggedly I have struggled on to find that defining book which would further interest me in his brand of Existentialism.

In a pub in Amsterdam we find Jean-Baptiste Clamence, who proceeds to give a monologue over  several nights about his life and his beliefs to a chance acquaintance he meets in a bar.

The 96 page length of the book means the story is tight but still allows for the wayward nature of J-B to hold forth on his often confused and contradictory views.  The first half of the book introduces us to a man who lived a ‘good’ life, it details his thoughts and beliefs and contains a fair bit of wit as well.

The latter half is the real nitty-gritty of the book though, as it charts J-B’s life crisis, how he has adapted his life to his new-found beliefs and the real reason that he has taken the route he has.  There is a lot to contemplate here and the conclusions that are put forward are intriguing if decidedly bleak. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 02/09/2014 in Modern Classics, Philosophy


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The Complete Maus – Art Spiegelman

MauzCombined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale and Maus II – the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler’s Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival – and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.

it’s easy to get lost in the horrifying statistics of the Holocaust but this personal account makes for a powerful and poignant view on one of histories most tragic events. Hindsight of the inevitable makes this book doubly sad, reading of those incomprehensible actions of past that can only be relived with a sense of helplessness and inevitability.

Presented in black and white, the art fits in with the footage and photos from that time, an almost unreal, colourless world which makes it easier to digest than most literature concerning the Holocaust. Characters are represented as animals and the inevitable questions are raised over what exactly these animals say about each race, naturally simplistic generalisations are easy to fall into but there is surprising depth to be pondered upon.

Spiegelman opts to introduce us to the events through the tried and tested story within a story approach, which works well up to a point, its strength lies in allowing the reader to form an understanding of how events in World war II have affected and irrevocably changed Vladek Speigelman.  Viewing his idiosyncracies with this hindsight makes for more depth of character which is a welcome aside from the obvious barbarism.

The family dynamic is fascinating, with hardship running through the past and guilt issues in the present, it is understandable how the family is like they are.  I didn’t expect to find them irritating but the foibles are repetitive and not in the least endearing, there is even a mention of racism which is interesting after the experiences of war.  Perhaps the author being of a younger generation struggles to understand the atrocities and concepts in the US now at (relative) peace. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 29/08/2014 in Graphic Novels


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Linguistic Lovin’

After yesterday’s fiddling with the computer, it turns out that it was in fact, my own fault for the disappearing like button and nothing to do with WP.   As far as silver linings go though, my technological ineptness was a good thing, as it meant I found myself mooching all over the internet in an effort to better myself and add interesting things to my CV.  By that process, I came across the language site Duolingo.

duolingoOf course the word free was the big seller and taking a minute to sign up, I found a community of people that encourage learning whilst helping each other to understand those (at first) incomprehensible rules of new languages.   There are a number of courses from the obvious staples of Spanish, German etc, to others which will provide a new and interesting challenge such including Swedish, Hungarian and Danish.

Being a realist, I don’t expect to learn a language solely with this site, it gives out the basics to intermediate level which according to the Common European framework of Reference and Language means that I will eventually:

…understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 27/08/2014 in Languages


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