Monday, January 17, 2011

Book 3 of the 50 Book Challenge

Rommel by Charles Douglas-Home, 138 pages

Started January 12th, finished January 16th.

This book is quite an old one.  I think it was written in the 1970's.  Maybe opinion on Rommel has changed since then.  It's a nice short book looking at his military career.  I didn't want anything too in depth.  Just something to give me the overall idea.  There were no fascinating insights into Rommel's character.  the only thing I didn't already know was how he could be a little reckless from time to time.  The book gives the usual story of him being a 'soldier's soldier'.  Not over praising him but a seemingly fair account.  It wasn't a rip-roaring read but a book I'm glad to have read.  It had been on my 'to read' pile for a very long time.

The strange part was reading about a man who was sending his troops to fight against my Grandad's formation.

Total so far, Books - 3, Pages - 751

Next - How to Drink by Victoria Moore

Friday, January 14, 2011

The King's Speech

I'd been itching to see this film for a while. The cast was impressive and it was a subject and era I wanted to know more about.

Within the first scene I was torn up for the Duke of York.  Firth had dragged me in immediately.  Between him and the direction I felt so much for the poor man.  It was painful to watch.  The setting of the scenes was very well done.  Maybe as it's not that far in the past that's easier to do.  After the Downton Abbey/Upstairs Downstairs hype recently we're in not unfamiliar surroundings.

This has a fantastic cast.  I'd heard all the award buzz about Firth's performance and wanted to see if it was worthy.  Well I was totally convinced a few scenes in that all the buzz was worth it.  That isn't to say that Bonham-Carter and Rush don't deserve much credit too.  They were both wonderful but didn't have half as much to do, especially physically, as Firth.  Special mention has to go to Derek Jacobi, he may not be on screen an awful lot but he's brilliant. Without ever overplaying the role. The only casting choice I was unsure about was Spall as Churchill. The fact that Churchill was necessary to play the part of others is also dubious but I can understand why he was inserted.  There's a short article here on the accuracy of the film.

I loved seeing a younger Queen Mother on screen.  I'm no royalist but I did admire her sense of duty after undertaking the  unwanted role of Queen Consort.  Especially so during WWII.  The story of Edward and Mrs Simpson is seen as a great love story.  I think not.  To me the great love story was that of Elizabeth and Bertie.

Guy Pearce is excellently pathetic as the Prince of Wales and the short reigning Monarch with no sense of the  duty his great privilege required.  I think it's pretty obvious what I think of the man.  However much I think I would have disliked Wallis Simpson, the woman did our country a huge favour.

The film really pulls on the emotions.  Something I'm against when it's done badly.  However I loved this film.  I thought it was wonderful.  I'm glad it pulled at my heartstrings.

To see an old London landmark in the opening scene brought a warm glow.  Maybe the first time I've been glad of CGI.

4.5 Pawprints.  I can;t give a film that tampers with historical fact 5.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book 2 of the 50 Book Challenge

The Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez-Reverte, 465 pages

Started January 4th, finished January 12th.

I was looking forward to this books as the author is one of my favourites.  I wasn't disappointed.

This is a treasure hunting tale.  With all the mystery, intrigue and dangers you'd expect from such a story.

The thing that struck me most about this book is the pacing.  It's very slow, compared to similar stories.  This is never a problem though.  You feel your way through the story as the main character, Coy does.  You discover things when he does and figure things out as he does.  He is the reader's companion.  The pacing makes you feel as if you're living the tale alongside Coy.

The beauty of this book is the description it gives throughout of the sea and life at sea.  You feel the passion Coy has for her and even a seasoned landlubber like myself feels like they're understanding it by the end of the book.  The amount of research the author must have done must be massive and the book is all the better for it.

It is interesting to get a view of English seafarers past and present from the Spanish side.  Needless to say, it is quite different from the one I'm used too!

I don't want to say anything more about the book as it needs to be discovered for one's self.  I do heartily recommend it.  As do I some of his other titles - The Fencing Master, The Flanders Panel and especially The Dumas Club.  The man is a wonderful storyteller.  The good news is I have plenty more of his still to read :-)

Total so far  Books - 2,  Pages - 613

Next - Rommel by Charles Douglas-Home

Friday, January 7, 2011

50 Book Challenge 2011 - Book 1

I have for the past few years been letting my reading slip.  Which I became disappointed about as it was my favourite pastime.  The modern world has too many distractions for me.  I've been watching far too much TV.  Many films, which I don't regret.  Worst of all was browsing online.  I wasted far too much time doing nothing on various sites.  I'd start off with a legitimate search/email check and still be there hours later, with nothing to show for it.

The spur for me to read more came  in September last year when I came across the ReadMore app for my phone.  It claimed to aid motivation to read.  I have to admit I was dubious.  But at £1.19 it was a small price to pay with a chance of taking me back to reading as many books as I feel I should be.  Well it worked a treat.  You input the title, author and number of pages and it adds the book to your 'stack'.  Once you start reading you can time your sessions (something I don't always do).  After a session you enter the current page.  It tells you how many pages you've read recently and when you can expect to finish the book reading 'so many' pages per day.  I found I constantly wanted to improve my amount read.  It's ensured I have read many times more books in the past four months than I did in the year previously.  The app has rekindled my urge to read.  For which I am most grateful.

At the beginning of January I was once again inspired.  This time by my friend Mindy, via a post on her blog.

The challenge is to read 50 books during 2011.  Just to ensure you're not picking short ones it's also a joint target of 15,000 pages.  I think I can achieve this at my current rate.  So I'm in.  If you wish to see how I'm going I will be posting the books as I read them throughout the year.  Wish me luck!

Book 1 - Inner Skiing by Gallwey/Kriegel, 148 pages

Started January1st, finished January 4th.

As I'm off skiing soon this was a practical choice.  Not my favourite type of book.  I prefer to lose myself within the pages than take mental notes.

However it does seem that it will be very useful.  It is about the psychology of skiing and how to improve on the slopes by controlling that rather than the physical aspect.  As my biggest problem skiing is a lack of confidence I'm hoping reading this will help me.  It goes into a lot of detail about 'Self 1' and 'Self 2' which worried me at first.  As I read deeper though it, on the whole, made a lot of sense.  So much so that I downloaded the Kindle edition to my phone so I can dip into it whilst I'm away.

If you're a skiier I would definitely recommend this book.  The snowboarding element is a little sparse though.  This is a book about skiing with a chapter on trying out snowboarding after skiing.

If you're interested in blogs where people discuss what they've read I'd recommend Mindy's blog, link above.  Also

Total so far  Books - 1,  Pages - 148

Next - The Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez Reverte

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Henry came to us from the Cat's Protection League.  The lady we dealt with from them was very fond of him.  She said she was glad to have found him a home but would miss him.

They didn't know much of his backstory.  He had arrived at the local Cat's Protection League shelter under his own steam.  He tried to make his way into the house of the couple that ran the shelter.  Unfortunately one of the resident cats wasn't having this.  There were a couple of scuffles and he gave up his attempts to get in.  He was found outside under a bush a while later and taken in as a rescue cat.

He was definitely a cat with a character all of his own.  It took him quite a few weeks to settle down with us.  A lot of which he spent under our bed.  After he started to feel more relaxed he came to trust us more.  Which gave us a wonderful feeling.  'We must be treating him right.'

Henry came to us with what we termed 'his fang'.  One of his lower teeth often protruded from his mouth and stuck up against his upper lip.  The Vet said it wasn't strictly necessary to remove the tooth but nor would it do any harm.  We decided to remove it as it was obviously rubbing against his top lip.  He was always left with a tiny mark where 'the fang' had once been but he looked much better.

His other scar was a little V nicked into the top of one ear.  I'm guessing a battle scar.  It gave him a little toughness to his face.  'I may be good looking but I have a tough core.'  You could see this little V when at exactly the right angle you'd catch the silhouette of his ears.  One of my favourite silhouettes is that of two little pointy ears.

Before we'd even had Henry with us for a year he became ill.  His back legs just seemed to lose all strength overnight and his tail was so limp it just dragged behind him. The vet suspected trauma, maybe he'd trapped his tail badly.  With no improvement with treatment and no visible causes on X-Ray he was referred to a referral centre near Chester.  Here he was given numerous tests including an MRI.  The bad news was he had a tumour on his spine.  There was a good possibility that an operation and chemotherapy could give back a full lease of life.  We decided to go ahead.  Henry was operated on and most of the tumour removed.  Not all could be taken as it would endanger his spine.  The rest was to be treated with chemotherapy tablets, given by our local vet.  He had to remain at the referral centre for a few days.  Visiting a cat in hospital was bizarre and traumatic.  When he was released home he had to be kept in an empty room where he couldn't jump on anything.  Any jarring could damage his spine.  He also had a myriad of tablets to be given many times a day. This was an awful time.  Without the real hope of a full recovery we couldn't have done it.  He did make a full recovery and miraculously seemed not to hold a grudge.

Over the next few years we really began to see his personality come through.  His tendency to bite virtually disappeared.  Although he never took to being picked up or cuddled he would spend hours sat on the sofa with us.  He loved company but on his own terms.  Terms we were more than happy to abide by.  He liked nothing more than to settle in the crook of my husband's arm.  My arm was a poor second!  To see him lay there, purring after everything he'd been through made me so happy.

When we were out he would spend most of the day on our bed.  An area he seemed to see as his own.  To move him from it didn't endear you to him in any way.  

He didn't drink from a bowl.  He much preferred what became termed 'his Batman cup'.  A pint glass with Batman on.  He seemed to prefer that drinking angle.  Maybe he had a comic interest we knew nothing about.

He got into a few scrapes in the alley.  There were occasions of meowling and 'loo brush' tail.  I was worried that he was being bullied by other cats.  We kept as close an eye on him as we could without without cramping his style.  With my husband assuring me Henry could look after himself out there.  From worry to embarrassment as it was discovered that maybe Henry wasn't being bullied after all.  On  more than one occasion he took the bullying to other cats.

One of my favourite memories is of seeing Henry sat on the back wall, surveying 'his' alley with the wind blowing through his fur.  He always looked so happy there.

Unfortunately late last year Henry's cancer came back in a few places.  We took the trip to Chester again and he was once again given all the tests.  Chemotherapy was suggested.  Unfortunately this time intravenously.  He hated the treatment so we decided it was unfair.  Henry didn't have the fight left in him to beat this.  With no guarantees of recovery and definite misery in the treatment we had to let him go.  It's the hardest decision we've ever had to make.  The vet agreed that it was the right thing for us to do.  She came to our house, sedated Henry and then put him to sleep.  He left this world in our arms with the least amount of fuss possible.  

We miss him terribly.  The house feels so empty.  I'm just glad we gave him everything we could.  He was a wonderful cat with great character, the likes of which I doubt I'll see again.  He was one in a million.  I even miss his stealing of my pillow midway through the night, on most nights.

One thing that Henry received throughout his life was fantastic, caring treatment from the staff at our vet's and the staff at the referral centre.  All of which we will forever be most grateful for.  This was also made possible by the insurance policy we had.  In awful times they never once quibbled anything or made life more difficult in any way.  Although Henry's treatment was extremely expensive, well over £10,000 over the years.

I thoroughly recommend all pet owners to take out pet insurance.  My experience with Henry has taught me that you really do have no idea of what is around the corner.

My vet, which I can't recommend highly enough can be found here   All the staff are wonderful people who really care about their patients.

The referral centre was ChesterGates Referral Hospital, CH1

Our insurance cover was provided by Marks and Spencer The best dealing I have ever had with an insurance company by far.  I can't recommend them enough.