Monday 2 November 2020

Lockdown 2: Eat Less For More

I love cooking. First I'm going to sing the praises of London's 'Sam's Restaurant' purely because they made a highlight of something that I love. Steak and kidney on toast - toast and dripping that is. Anyone who can promote toast and dripping can do no wrong. Back in time, the early 1950's, when rationing was on the idea of steak and kidney - well it would have been scarce. A cube of steak and a kidney halved on toast and dripping went down well. The most essential ingredient of dripping is the jelly for that is the goodness. Today I still make pork, chicken or turkey dripping. I find most TV cooks make a meal and then taste it with a comment of self satisfaction. Though some make me laugh as they admit that they did not know that a kipper was a herring or that making your own apple or mint sauce is cheaper than shop bought. Bring back the days of Philip Harbon and Fanny Craddock who taught us how to cook. And our grandparents who taught us the rest.

Monday 26 October 2020

LOCKDOWN: 1. Good Times and Bad Ones

March 2020 should have been good times. A time for the family to get together and enjoy the good times. My wife and I were going to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary but the lockdown put that out of the question. Had we listened to all the 'woe is...' attitude back in 1970 we wouldn't have lasted 50 days, weeks or months let alone years. The thing was that we were chalk and cheese therefore we knew what we were doing. If you know each other then you know about how strenghts and weakness work together. Lockdown was something that neither of us expected to last - still we topped up the food cupboard and fridge freezer to prepare for a seige. Time to catch up with reading and binge on boxsets but after a while it becomes a drag. I think that I got rid of six carrier bags full of books and dvds plus 2 containing CDs. . The kitchen has become my domain. The wife is in isolation so all the household chores fall to me. Seemed like a good time to clear out the stuff that was crammed into cupboards that were surplus to requirements. However with the passage of time comes the dark clouds for all there is are four walls that close in. Depression with anxiety creep up until I found myself in an armchair enveloped by lethargic sleep. No space for exercise that doing a trip to the loo is a slow walk to nowhere new. The thought of going to the shops are daunting for me and magical for the young. Depression is hell - until....I looked in the mirror and saw the length of my hair and the shaggy beard that hid most of my face. What, I wondered had happened to me? The kichen sink was piled with plates and cups for it had been easier to use clean rather than wash up. October 2020 - we are still in lockdown but I am writing this. The beard is trimmed, the kitchen sink is empty and the surfaces have been cleared of clutter. My mind is aware of the lethargy lurking in the background but I have to wake up each day with a determination to become positive again. Oh, yes and the consoles are dusted off - better to escape than dwell within the enclosed four walls.

Friday 12 July 2019


Having grown up during the 1960s this book had a certain appeal - after all it came with it's own soundtrack. And a subject that I could relate to but not in the way that you might think.

In 1961 I was 16 years of age when something reared it's head - something that you would think that, in this day and age, was new. Well, there's nothing new under the sun. Back then a newspaper 'outed' the model and actress April Ashley as transgender. She had been born a man who had served in the Merchant Navy but had undergone traumatic sex reassignment surgery. Despite this the law stated that she was still a man.

Transgender facts were hard to come by in those days yet the fact that a man (or a woman for that matter) could feel that they were born in the wrong body was not that hard to figure out.

This book was mentioned in the Felixstowe Scribblers' newsletter. Though it wasn't my usual type of reading I was soon out of my comfort zone.

Colette centres around a 19 year old boat builder called Colin who is offered a 'dream' job on Guernsey and soon becomes involved with Leanne (one of the owners) who draws out the real person that he is - Colette. Emotions run deep as there is conflict with others as well as within herself - acceptance comes from within not just the reactions of others.

The book is well written and flows easily carrying the reader through Colette's eventual emergence and belief in herself.

However, it is carries the label of an 'emotional transgender' story which it is but (my opinion) is a touch off putting. Reality is boy meets girl, girl meets boy and another boy, etc etc. In other words a romantic novel with underlying tones.

What's not to like?

Thanks to my youth I discovered that this book read like a good old fashioned novel. And roll on the sequel which is due about Christmastime

Sunday 20 January 2019


The Grum Reapur is about saving lives.

These sculptures come from the imagination of anti- suicide artist Brad Humble himself a suicide survivor and mental health activist.

After years of being considered a 'freak' he was diagnosed with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). The long journey of self-discovery unleashed the inner artist within and the Grum Reapur was born.

This talented artist has a gallery of his paintings on show; he is,also, a writer and poet. Currently, he is working on a Grum Reapur comic.

I am flattered that he asked me advice about writing but after reading some of his work I do believe that he has taught me a thing or two.

Brad Humble has a website that contains a blog and a gallery of his art and a shop for his pieces. There is a Facebook page 'Grum Reapur Club' that is also a support group.

I leave you with these words from Brad Humble: ' I don't have definitive answers and I may get it wrong from time to time, but I will always trying my hardest to help individuals and the collectives,
that is why I donate a percentage of my annual income from the Grum Reapur to mental health charities and organisations throughout the U.K.

Friday 14 December 2018


How Might The Government Be Described As ‘Oppressive’ In the Hunger Games.

In this piece of writing, I will be comparing the governments in reality and In the Hunger Games to answer the question: How might the government in the Hunger Games be described as ‘oppressive’ in the hunger games?
To begin with pointing out the obvious, the government of The Hunger Games make teenagers from each district fight one another to the death. The reason that the Hunger Games are held every year is so the districts know that the Capitol is "the one". The reason there are Hunger Games is because the districts did not like the way the Capitol was running things, so they started a rebellion. They caused a lot of trouble, but eventually the Capitol took over again. To prevent another rebellion, they have the Hunger Games. It is to show the people how strong the Capitol is and that they actually can kill everyone if they want to-since they are letting kids from 12-18 die. They just want the people to understand that they are still in charge and make them pay for what they did. To make the idea seem more ‘fun’, this became a reality TV show, so everyone could watch the children murder each other shamelessly for their own entertainment.
Whereas in reality, all of this is illegal and some sort of ‘show’ that related to this in any way would be banned and the directors are likely to be arrested. Any rebels in reality are likely to be arrested, and being imprisoned means they will not make the same mistake – or at least not until they are released. If so, the rebels will probably be arrested again.
Another oppressive measure of the Hunger Games government is keeping food supplies scarce, so citizens are always hungry and scared. This is probably another punishment against the rebellions. Again, in reality, this would be an unlikely idea. However, our government does raise the prices of food and other supplies, meaning money and food might be scarce for those short of money, creating a similarity between the two governments.  
The Capitol has ‘Peacekeepers’ to enforce the law – not police. These Peacekeepers are dressed in white armor, most likely dressed appropriately for another rebellion. In the book ‘The Hunger Games’, Katniss Everdeen (the main character) says,
“Most Peacekeepers turn a blind eye to the few of us who hunt because they’re as hungry for fresh meat as anybody is”.
This shows how Peacekeepers don’t seem as harsh as our police today, and they will let the little things be committed because they understand how the few who hunt feel, and probably get some of the meat that is hunted down.
Another detail about the Peacekeepers is very important: In the Hunger Games – Catching Fire, they brutally attack Cinna and drag him away before Katniss’s very eyes. This is something one of our police will not perform unless the criminal uses a weapon against them, or if they fight back. Which is something I doubt Cinna would do.
Contrary to this, our police men and women are very strict with law, and will not let these little things slip because they are not as deprived as the people who live in Panem. They have a big salary, and basically work with the government to control the law and keep things in order. Any crime committed will result in an arrest until the prisoners release date. Police today are much better than peacekeepers, who, again, will not brutally attack any criminals unless it is severely needed.

To conclude, with all the evidence gathered, I think that the government in The Hunger Games might be described as ‘oppressive’ because of one rebellion that they want to prevent from happening again by making innocent children brutally murder each other, by keeping food supplies scarce, so that citizens are always hungry and scared; and having ‘Peacekeepers’ enforce the law. All of which can come across as oppressive acts.

*                 *                 *                    *                    *                   *                  *                    *

I did not write this - it is the work of another of my granddaughters. Megan Withers is the author here and the piece was written about two years ago when she was about 15 years old.  

Tuesday 31 July 2018


Chapter 24
Ray Foster

     Major Steve Sullivan leaned back in his chair his eyes drifting from the scruffy individual sitting on the edge of his desk to the crestfallen face of the young man seated on a camp stool to the front of them.
     “Well, Tim, what an unexpected pleasure,” the unkempt man said, lowering himself from his perch.
     “Mister Devlin,” Tim Schendel acknowledged without raising his head.
     “You two know each other?” Sullivan asked.
     Devlin nodded: “You could say that. Young Tim there has been in and out of trouble that he’s bloody lucky not to see the inside of a prison.”
     Kyle Devlin had been an English policeman who had served, on loan from the London force, with the New York Metropolitan Police. Now he had been seconded to the Union Army tasked with upholding the law and dealing with deserters in garrison towns.
     “Well, Tim, this time you are in serious trouble,” Devlin pointed out. “You’re listed as a deserter and, by rights, you should be stood in front of a firing squad. However, you just done something that, to my knowledge, no other deserter has – you bloody well surrendered. Why?”
      Ever since he had seen the burnt out house Tim had feared the worst. He had chosen not to ride in closer as he did not want to see Sam’s charred corpse amongst the ruins. It was as though his life had ended and guilt flooded through him. The least he could do was to clear her name.
     Having rehearsed what he would say in his mind the last person he thought he would be confessing to was Kyle Devlin.
     Taking a deep breath he recounted everything that had occurred from the discovery of the broken down wagon to the point where he had encouraged Sam to desert with him. Every so often both Kyle and Sullivan would probe for a little more detail until they had a full picture.
     “Right – you’re telling us that Graydon knew that Corporal Darnell was, in fact, a girl?” Kyle pressed, thoughtfully. “Despite that you claim that he was going to declare her as a deserter. For what reason, do you suppose? There are no women serving in this army.”
      Tim shook his head: “He asked me if I knew and I said that I didn’t. He just grinned and said that when we caught her we could have some fun with her first. I couldn’t let him do that – so I got Sam out of there.”
      After almost an hour of intense interrogation Tim was thoroughly drained. Nervously, he glanced up as Devlin strode by him and summoned the guard detail. First, he ordered the Corporal in charge to take Tim to the infirmary for the old wound to be checked. Then to the Quartermaster to have Trooper Schendel re-equipped.
      Only when everyone had gone did Sullivan pour himself a glass of bourbon and light up a cigar. He focused on a streamer of smoke floating ghostlike across the room before expressing his feelings.
      “I don’t know what you’re thinking,” Sullivan stated. “But Canada is out. We have no jurisdiction.”
     “Well, I can’t let those Darnell boys get away,” Devlin shrugged. “They killed that Government agent and claimed that he was a deserter. It could have been a case of mistaken identity except there’s a matter of a missing money belt and five thousand dollars. Nor is that the only robbery linked to the Darnells.”
     “If the girl’s alive,” Sullivan, emphasizing each word with a stab of the cigar, was quick to point out. “She’ll side with her brothers.”
     Devlin was well aware that was a possibility just as the skeptic in him felt that the burning of the Maybelle house was just a ruse to throw pursuers off the scent.
     “That’s where young Tim comes in,” Devlin explained. “Hopefully, giving Sam the news that she is in the clear the whole family will come back. Even so, Tim will still be a deserter because he did the right thing the wrong way.”
      It took a while for all the factors to sink in before Sullivan burst out laughing.
      “You’re one devious bastard, Kyle Devlin,” he nodded. “Schendel is bait – except you are about to recruit him and give him legitimism. He’s going to love you when he discovers that he’s a policeman.” Before adding on a serious note. “There’s still the question of Graydon. Have you thought about what could happen if he and Schendel run into each other?”
       “Graydon isn’t going after a deserter,” Devlin was quick to point out. “He’s chasing down a woman – ergo he has deserted his post and that makes him fair game.”

    Living on the rough streets of New York had taught Tim many things – the most important was knowing who your friends were. Sure Officer Kyle Devlin was his nemesis but the policeman had always been fair. With this in mind he had known that there would come a day when Devlin would not be able to help him so Tim had escaped from New York’s stranglehold. He had to smile at his current predicament and who was there? Devlin. And now they were heading to Canada together.
    “You know we’re being watched,” Tim mentioned while fixing his saddle.
    Devlin nodded for he had been conscious of the lurker half-hidden in the shadows.
    “Doesn’t leave you does it,” Devlin grinned as he mounted up. “The stuff that keeps you alive on the streets just doesn’t go – life depends on those instincts. You either become a criminal or -.”
    “I got the message,” Tim shook his head in amusement. “You were going to say policeman.”
     Devlin just nodded.
     “Just so that you know,” Devlin advised throwing Tim a meaningful look. “You’re off the deserter’s list – for now. But you are under my command and I have to be alive for that to be permanent. In the meantime we’ll need to watch our backs because I’m a bit suspicious about that Sergeant’s interest in us.”

Saturday 24 March 2018


James Gunn is sitting outside a Cumberland pub admiring the local scenery of the English countryside when his conversation with his friend is interrupted.  An angry young farmer bears down on the protagonist with a promise to stick him with a pitchfork unless Gunn marries his pregnant sister. In the fight that follows the young farmer falls awkwardly, breaks his neck and dies.

In no time at all Gunn heads for Liverpool and arrives in Boston. Here Gunn discovers that he is well out of his depth - a stranger in a strange land. Pick pockets, thieves and con-men wait for unexpecting victims and it is not long before Gunn loses everything. Outnumbered in a bar room brawl he wakes up aboard a wagon driven by Art Thackeray. Paid to dump Gunn in the middle of nowhere Thackery proves to be Gunn's saviour.

Taught how to use a gun and bullwhip things look good for the pair to go into business together but fate intervenes and Gunn finds himself adrift in the Army town of Fort Wayne. It doesn't take long for him to fall foul of the local bully and he is on the run again.

Fortunately, there is a job up for grabs - guiding a wagon train to California. This takes up the second half of the book and is fraught with it's own dangers with Pawnees on the rampage and a crooked cabal who do not intend the train to arrive at the final destination.

There is something about Gunn's character that shows that he is on a learning curve - his naivety of the west shows through but he learns from his mistakes.

The James Gunn series last for 6 books. The first appeared in 1976 by MEWS a New English Library imprint though the final two (neither of which are numbered) were published by NEL. This was in the middle of The Piccadilly Cowboys era but author John Delaney does not appear to be one of them.  In fact there does not seem to be any info on this author.