My Amsterdam Trip, Part 1

A classic Amsterdam scene, taken just across from our hotel whilst enjoying a coffee at the cheap and musically eclectic Trinity bar and café. Note the weird slantiness of all the buildings.

I’m really sorry if my writing is poor today but I’ve just come back from Amsterdam where nine of us went for a stag/bachelor party.  Excluding a school trip to Italy this is my first time away from England and also my first time flying, which is apparently the safest mode of transport there is. That’s what the man next to me said when he started a conversation then rapidly put his headphones on after I talked at him incessantly through my own white knuckle fear. Which wasn’t helped by the pilot telling us what to do if he shouts ‘Brace Brace’ in a doomed voice.

My first thought on going up was, ‘this is just plane wrong, haha, but seriously it’s not natural to be that many thousands of feet up in the air whilst trapped in a plastic tube, that incidentally had duct tape plastered all over the one wing that I could see. Nervous was an understatement but I was okay when I got over the cloud cover and I had no depth perception. I’d like to apologise to all the people who overheard and got bored by my nervous and constant chatter. Continue reading “My Amsterdam Trip, Part 1”

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The Teacher Series – Jack Sheffield

  I like this series despite all the reasons it annoys me, it has the capacity to be a fantastic series but to my cynical mind has become just another money spinner, but I’m getting ahead of myself as per usual.

The first book sets us down in the exciting time that we all know as 1977 in Ragley-on-the-Forest, North Yorkshire. And each book chronicles a sebsequent school year in the life of Jack Sheffield combining fiction with humourous stories from his own teaching career.

Each chapter starts with a diary entry from the Ragley School Logbook and is a self contained story chronicling all the big events throughout the school and personal lives of the characters.

The stories are gentle and relaxed, and as you would expect run a whole range of emotions. The poignant, the heartwarming, mirthful and other such things that make people smile.

The characters all have their own idiosyncracies and amusing ways, there is Deke Ramsbottom, a cowboy obsessive, who has sons called Wayne, Clint and Shane, Ruby the 20 stone musical singing caretaker, a bunch of kids whose honesty and way of looking at things is always amusing and not forgetting the oblitigary local ‘baddie’ Stan Coe. There are many other characters inhabiting Ragley and its sorrounding area and many other lovely creations to get to know. Continue reading “The Teacher Series – Jack Sheffield”

Going Away (Then Coming Right Back)

I shall be computerless for a few days from tomorrow so I shall not be commenting on anyones blogs or replying to you wonderful people, however I shall do my best to catch up when I am back on the web and if all goes to plan I shall be scheduling a few posts to go out anyways. I shall tell you of all my adventures when I return, but until then take care people and have a Good One. Continue reading “Going Away (Then Coming Right Back)”

Jezebel – Irène Némirovsky

  I am a huge fan of Irène Némirovsky’s work. In fact I like to harp on about her books a lot, as she should get as much recognition as her fine novels deserve.

It was tough for me to pick which of the four Némirovsky books, that I have read to date, I should review first. After much deliberation (two minutes of staring at the books and a few sips of lemon and lime flavoured mineral water) I chose this one. Which is not to say that The Dogs and the Wolves, Fire in the Blood and All Our Worldly Goods are anything but first rate  in themselves, just that this one especially impressed me.

The story starts in a courtroom, in which the sensational case of Gladys Eysenach, who is accused of killing her young lover, is taking place. Without giving anything away the trial reaches a conclusion fairly early on and then we get to the bit of the book that makes it stand out from all her other works, for me.

We get a glimpse in Eysenach’s past, detailing her life from the age of 18 to present. As she is a rich heiress we are introduced to her hectic social life, her affairs and marriages etc.

What impresses about this, the larger section of the book, is the brutal and unflinching honesty about women and how they view their social rivals. For a chap such as myself who finds the opposite sex a confusing conundrum that can only be worked out by understanding a language not yet invented, it made a powerful impression on me and gave me a really insight into how the female mind works. Continue reading “Jezebel – Irène Némirovsky”

The Second World War – Antony Beevor

 

 

‘In several places they had hung out their washing on lines between trees as if it were normal to have a washing day in this desecrated no-man’s land’

 So why should you choose this WWII book over the many hundreds of other books devoted to the subject?

The short answer, is the exhaustive depth of scale that is covered here. As well as the European conflict which is understandably the main focus of British history books, this tome also devotes itself to the Far Eastern theatre of conflict and the lesser known stories of Greece, Holland, Norway etc.

In truth, I’ve battled through this book for almost three weeks before finishing it today, and even if you minus the hours that have gone on an unusually buoyant social life of late, it’s still taken a lot of time to get through (for me at least).

Anyone who has ever read an Antony Beevor book before will know the style of writing, relentless facts lightly sprinkled with anecdotes from survivors, eye witnesses, journalists,soldiers and other sources, all melded together in an easy to read narrative. However due to its nature and wide ranging scope, this doesn’t feel as fluid as his earlier works, most notably Stalingrad and Berlin.  there are plenty of maps though to help you follow the action and a list of abbreviations in the back, although there aren’t that many so it’s not too daunting.

This, though, is not a criticism. I shall be giving away a few other WWII books, as I believe this is the definitive book that I will be referring too from now on. The beauty of its structure is the overlapping chapters detailing campaigns, operations, etc,these don’t suffer from a staggered account but manage to flow without becoming a structural mess and a readers worst nightmare. Really it’s a book designed to be easy to reference as well as read straight through. Continue reading “The Second World War – Antony Beevor”

Scarecrow – Matthew Reilly

  ‘The trooper’s head exploded like a can of tomato soup’

I love a good action film, better yet if it is put in the medium of book.  The best way to describe Scarecrow therefore would be to imagine the action set pieces of the Lethal Weapon films, the explosions of a Die Hard film, the car chases of Jame Bond and the body count of Total Recall. Combine all those together and you get the idea about the relentless and raucous show in store.

The plot, if you hadn’t already suspected is ludicrous in the extreme and pretty hilarious as well. Shane Schofield AKA Scarecrow is one of the worlds 15 best warriors and they have been targeted by bounty hunters, with a price tag of $20 million dollars on each of their heads. So it’s upto Schofield and his team to first of all survive and then find out why they have been targeted and by whom.

Happily the plot doesn’t get in the way of the action, it largely takes place of one or two pages at a time as the characters fly to a whole plethora of  international locations that are just waiting to be shot and blown up. The whackiness of the plot fits right in with the over the top action, if you are looking for something with realistic aspects then you’ll be disappointed. Happily for the rest of we are in for a jaunt that makes The Expendables look pedestrian.

Segueing nicely into the world of cinema, If I reviewing a film for a cheap tabloid newspaper then I would use Continue reading “Scarecrow – Matthew Reilly”