Thursday, 22 January 2015


One Summer – America 1927 by Bill Bryson.

I’ve read several Bryson books and mostly enjoyed them.  This was the latest to land in my lap and was a little different to the normal ‘quirky travel book’.  It charts the summer of 1927 which shaped the future of the USA and indeed the world for a long time to come.  I know little of American history but have no doubt that Bryson has done his research correctly and there is no doubt that 1927 was a hell of a year.  From May to September of that year a whole load of stuff happened that’s for sure.  It began with a notorious murder trial in New York while large parts of the country were underwater from a huge flood of the Mississippi.  Charles Lindberg became the first man to fly across the Atlantic whilst other tried and failed, some dying in the attempt.  Top bankers from USA, Britain & Germany held a meeting and made decisions that led to the stock market crash.  44 people were killed when a nutter blew up a school.  Prohibition was in full swing (we all know what a good idea that turned out to be) but the tide was turning and someone (can’t remember her name but it wasn’t Elliot Ness) worked out a way to bust Al Capone (& others) through tax evasion.  Two immigrant terrorists were executed, Jack Dempsey fighting Carpentier was the first sports event to be broadcast live on radio and this was followed later in the year by the Dempsey vs Tunney rematch.  Also television was invented, the silent film era ended.  Closer to the American heart Babe Ruth had a golden baseball season.  

Hang on a minute…  Dodgy bankers creating a depression, mass murder at a school, immigrants plotting terrorism, the death penalty still doesn't deter murder, gangsters growing rich from prohibition,; Hey don’t worry we have sport!  1927 or right now?  Things have changed but things have stayed the same.  Have we learnt anything from history?

This book was a good read because I learnt a hell of a lot about the good old USA.  I find British history fascinating and America’s short history intriguing.  I knew a little about Charles Lindberg but absolutely nothing about the massive flood that smashed through the states.  I thought dodgy court verdicts, political corruption and fuck witted presidents were a modern phenomenon but it seems they are as old as the constitution.  I was aware that racism was rife in these times (through the beautiful & brilliant Maya Angelou autobiographies) but didn’t know that there were movements towards Nazi style racial purification going on.  I knew about Henry Ford, production lines and the model T but I didn’t realise what a moron the man actually was.

In general nonfiction rarely holds my attention in the same way as a good novel and ‘One Summer’ was no exception.  It’s a good book that I’m glad to have read but with such a broad subject there will always be sections I find fascinating and others I can’t be bothered with.

The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak was as good as any book I read last year so I don’t know how I forgot to mention it the other day.  It’s set in Germany during the Second World War and describes the lives of the ordinary German people through the war years.  We forget these people suffered just as our own grandparents did.  If the author is to be believed many ordinary Germans were offended by the Third Reich too.  The story is told by Death as he charts the life of a young girl Leisel, who sees tragedy, friendship, love, bravery and more tragedy.  She thieves a few books along the way too.  That makes it sound gloomy which it isn’t, there is humour throughout and it’s an uplifting experience.  I loved it.

England are currently playing a three way ODI series in Australia who predictably beat us in the first match.  Next up England managed to batter India and its particularly nice to see Finn getting a load of wickets.  In a few hours we play our third game of the series against the Aussies again, we must be due a win against them?

Saturday, 17 January 2015


I’m confused. 
If capitalism is so great why does most of the “free world” owe money to China?  Also why are there so many people living in poverty in the USA?  And why are they allowed guns?

The European Union confuses me too.  I suppose that on balance it’s good that most countries in Europe are united under one banner.  It must be better than the several centuries we spent at war with each other.  But how else does European union benefit me and my family?  I can’t see how membership of the EU can benefit the UK as well as benefitting a poorer country like Romania for example.  Someone could baffle me with figures and explain the EU is good for business and therefore good for everyone but in a capitalist society the privileged few feel the benefits far more than we, the people do.

Some things don’t confuse me.  I understand that democracy is a worthy ideal but it doesn’t actually work very well, in any situation, ever.  I know that all politicians are liars who are not worthy of my vote.  I know that my vote will change close to fuck all because politicians don’t run the world, big business (i.e. a few rich men) runs the world.  They find new ways to rip us off and we just lap it up. 
I may have a grim view of modern life but I remain happy because with the exception of these occasional rants, I ignore it all.  I just don’t care about politics and all that bollocks and I rarely watch the news.  I do what I must to get by with a smile on my face and make the most of my free time but doing the things I love with the people I love.  My closest friends have very similar views on life as I do, we all opt out.

I talk about books a lot on this page so I’ll end with one now; George Orwell’s “1984”.  Many people refer to this book every day without even realising it because things like “Room 101” and “Big Brother” are familiar in our world.  Just about everything predicted in this book has come to pass, you don’t have to use much imagination to draw parallels from what Orwell describes to what is happening in the world around us.  1984 is a terrifying book.  I dare you to read it.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Books and Stuff

Ladies on social media, pouting at the camera does not make you look sexy.  It makes you look like you've got a gob full of cake.

Ignoring Christmas works!  But the few days I spent with my loved ones was great and I got a load more new books to read too.  I got two books written by Elly Griffiths featuring “Ruth Galloway” and a cast of familiar characters solving mysteries and murders.  In the past I’ve read and enjoyed “The Crossing Places and also “The Outcast Dead” which didn’t quite work for me.  (I may have mentioned them on here but can’t remember).  Recently I really enjoyed the “Janus Stone” which is set in Norfolk as usual and features some of the waterways I like to fish.  Ruth’s skills as an archaeologist are needed to examine a child’s bones and the mystery starts.  The other book was “Dying Fall” in which the cast contrive to relocate to Lancashire for a short while, long enough for another enjoyable murder mystery to unfurl.  I like these books and will look out for Elly Griffiths and Ruth Galloway again.

During the break I discovered a wonderful local beer.  The picture tells you everything you need to know about it and if you enjoy a real pint, give it a go.  As the new year is upon us and I haven’t written much on here for ages here are a few of the books I enjoyed this year;
Best Classic was “Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy” by John Le Carre.  I read a few “Smiley” books last year and enjoyed them all.
Funniest was probably Jonas Johannson’s latest “The girl who saved the King of Sweden” if anything even more of a laugh than the “One hundred year old man…”
I can’t remember being disappointed by any novels in 2014 and it’s not fair to criticise Khaled Housini’s “And the mountains Echoed” because nothing he writes will be as good as the Kite Runner. A few biographies were a bit underwhelming, Ian Botham’s “don’t tell Kath” in particular.
I don’t think I re-read anything last year but I did spend a lot of time on familiar turf with familiar characters; Ian Rankin’s ‘John Rebus’ and Michael Connelly’s “Harry Bosch”.  I feel like I’m getting to know Edinburgh and Los Angeles and I love these two characters and their stories.
Surprising - I don’t know why I find a Stephen King book surprising because I’ve read and enjoyed loads of them.  King gained his reputation by shocking and scaring people but my favourites are the ones that move me.  “Lissey’s Story” had the supernatural element, was totally believable and definitely moved me.
The most Life affirming could also have been the funniest.  I loved the “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simison because it was moving, funny and heart-warming.  I also have a personal attachment to the subject which really made it resonate.

Since I last wrote on here England have shoved Alaistair Cook aside as the ODI captain and appointed Eoin Morgan.  As much as I like Cook this has to be the right decision for his test career and England’s world cup chances.  I’m not convinced that Morgan is the right man to take over but we wish him well.  In the coming weeks England have a series against Australia and India which will be a huge test and a good gauge of our chances in the world cup.