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RIP Spooks

24 Oct

*Alert* No spoilers here!

I’ve just watched the last-ever episode of Spooks.  The irritating Hub worked out who the villain was, of course, but even he was surprised by the surprise right at the end.

I have watched every episode except one, and loved them all.  I knew it was something different from the very first series, when a major character died in a chip pan.

RIP Spooks; you’ll be badly missed.

For those of my readers who don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s okay: everybody knows that Spooks operate in secret.

Broken Promise

30 May
Books I've Read: Ender's Game

Image by Myles! via Flickr

Who is the character from a book that has made you feel so close to him/her that you simply can’t stop thinking what’s gonna happen next?

Gonna?  Really?  In what purports to be a serious question?

I’m annoyed: I had taken up Nancy’s challenge not to make fun of the WordPress prompter for a stretch but, really, ‘gonna’?  Now I have to start all over again.

Gonna have to cut&paste an old post for some of my answer because I’m too irritated to write anything new:

Desperate for something to write about, I turned to Plinky Prompts again. It asked me ‘What book would you read over and over again?’

I would have to say, Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. It started life as a short story that became a novel and then a series of books, the Ender Saga and the Bean Saga (Bean is a minor character in the first book). I prefer the Bean Saga because they are more like Ender’s Game; the Ender Saga is dreadful, apart from the first book.

Ender’s Game is the story of a child trained to save the world; but also the story of a child who has to survive the world. When my boys came up against bullies, I gave it to them to read. I must confess, however, that putting your enemy’s nose through his skull is not a path I hope they take: it is the philosophical angle I hope they will consider.

Above all, it is the story of negotiating childhood. In space.

Here’s a review from I know not who on Amazon:

Whenever I talk about this book, it’s hard not to make it sound like I am a science fiction junkie. I love and defend sci-fi, but I am not limited to the genre. Neither, I think, is this magnificent book. To label it simply a sci-fi classic would be like labeling “Moby Dick” a great book about boats. All great books, regardless of the genre, say something truly profound about the human condition.

Ender is a good child trying to do the right thing, but circumstances forced upon him make him a killer.  He is sweet and vulnerable and ruthless.  I love him. 

It’s such a shame that the rest of his story is dull dull dull.  He deserves better than OSC gave him.

There are constant rumours that there’s going to be a movie of Ender’s Game.  Now that technology has caught up with Card’s imagination, I’m hopeful that eventually the rumours will prove to be true.  This is probably the only instance, however, where I hope that if they do film it, the sequels don’t follow the book’s sequels. 

Ender deserves better.  Ho!

Okay, Time To Panic

21 Apr

Image by jlseagull via Flickr

Tory Boy phoned me.  Today is Judgement Day.  But don’t panic, it will probably change – it’s been Judgement Day four times before:

  • 4 August 1997
  • 25 July 2003
  • 25 July 2004
  • sometime in 2005
  • and today, 21 April 2011

You can check for yourself, here.

I hope you’ve made a will.  Not sure who you’ll leave it to, though, because anyone not wearing two million sunblock is gonna have a real bad day.

Have you got a hat?

Buy The Book (2)

12 Feb


The Houses on the Green is the story of a small community living in terraced property in the Ardwick area of Manchester, and is set in the late 1950s. 
Their homes lie on the edge of a clearance area and have been subject to a compulsory purchase order. The owner of the five properties, an ex-army officer, leads the fight to save them.  He is backed by the other residents: a young single mother, a Jewish couple who fled Austria just before Hitler entered Vienna, a hard-working secretary in the city centre and a slow-witted young man coping alone after the death of his parents.  Each of the characters bring their own strengths to the conflict. They take the fight to the Town Hall and encounter a planning officer with old scores to settle.  
Set at a time when massive slum clearances were taking place in most major cities, the story is a realistic representation of life in Britain in the Fifties.
Currently living on the edge of a reservoir in Stockport, Eileen has worked variously as a barmaid, interpreter, secretary to an MP and as a teacher. Eileen travels extensively, frequently alone, both in Europe and farther afield; Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, San Francisco and Cuba. She has had work published in Good Housekeeping, was winner of a local short story writing competition and has had a poem displayed in Stockport Art Gallery. 
Eileen is a friend of mine and kindly let me read the book before publication.  It’s a real page-turner!  The book’s strength lies in the well-drawn characters.  I found myself really caring about these people and their fight.  So much so, I demanded that Eileen write at least one sequel, and preferably more. 
If you have ever lived in or around Manchester you will enjoy the references to real places.
You can purchase a copy from Eileen’s website
Alternatively, she is launching the book at Stockport Art Gallery on Sunday, February 20th, from one o’clock to three.  Pat Fox-Leonard will read excerpts.  If you would like to own a signed copy of The Houses on the Green, or to hear a good book read well, please come along.
You can also read excerpts here.
Come on Manchester, let’s do everything we can to support a local author!

Buy The Book (1)

8 Feb

Exciting news!  I have two friends with books out.  I’ll tell you about one today and one tomorrow.

The first is Tom Fleck by Harry Nicholson:

Tom Fleck

‘Sharp as quivering hares are the Flecks. We’ve eyes and ears for things other folk miss.’

In the aftermath of Flodden, a young man finally understands his father’s words.


The year: 1513. The place: North-East England.

Tom Fleck, a downtrodden farm worker but gifted archer, yearns to escape his masters. He unearths two objects that could be keys to freedom: a torque of ancient gold and a Tudor seal ring. He cannot know how these finds will determine his future.

Rachel Coronel craves an end to her Jewish wanderings. When the torque comes to rest around the neck of this mysterious woman, an odyssey begins which draws Tom Fleck into borderlands of belief and race.

The seal ring propels Tom on a journey of self-knowledge that can only climax in another borderland – among the flowers and banners of Flodden Field.

Harry Nicholson now lives near Whitby in North Yorkshire. He grew up in Hartlepool from where his family have fished since the 16th C. He had a first career as a radio officer in the merchant navy. A second career followed in television studios.

Since retirement he has devoted himself to art (the cover is one of his paintings), poetry and the teaching of meditation. This is his first novel. 


I’ve read Tom Fleck; I loved it.  It has a sweet romance but the heart of the book is Tom’s journey: a road trip for the 16th Century.  What I loved most about it is Harry’s gift for interesting detail, the fascinating stuff that’s usually left out and shouldn’t be.

Buy it!  You’ll love it, I promise.


You can get it from Amazon and other online retailers, or from the author himself; go to his blog for a taster. 


Once A Pun A Time

16 Jan

Yesterday’s wonderful comments from Doraz (see Happy Birthday to My Baby (1) & (2) ) reminded me of a recent homework exercise for my writing class: we had to write a short story with a punning last line.  Here’s my attempt:

The toy shop was having a Sesame Street sale but, to drive up demand, they restricted the availability of popular characters. Sale day arrived and there were many children waiting outside the store.  Fearing a panic that might result in kids getting hurt, the owner insisted that the adults shop in silence.  I struggled through whispering crowds, trying to find her favourite Bert and Ernie for my toddler.  I found a discarded Ernie under a counter, but Bert was proving problematic.  Suddenly, I noticed a small boy with a Bert doll on the other side of the shop.  I forced my way through the crowds as quickly and quietly as I could until I was behind him.  He was gripping the toy tightly and didn’t look as if he was about to let go.  I acted decisively: kneeling down behind him, out of sight, I suddenly yelled in his ear, grabbed the doll as he dropped it, and dove for cover as everyone looked around for the source of the disturbance.  On my way home with my purchases, I reflected that, definitely, a Bert in the hand was worth ‘Boo!’ in the hush.

Die Before E

11 Dec

Last night’s creative writing class exercise was to write a short story without using the letter ‘e’.  I have to confess I cheated by using them in the title, but not in the tale.  Here’s my effort – be warned: an e-less world does not a good story make.

Die Before E

A man laughs at his girl, who is sitting in a bath of milk.

‘Why do you laugh?’ his girl frowns.

‘I think you might churn into a yoghurt with all of that wriggling and splashing around.’

‘I must lark about for, if I climb out without drizzling my skin in all of this milk, I will dry up.’

Unaccountably wound up, our protagonist abruptly has no thought for his lady.  Alas, I am afraid to admit that this appalling chap sat on his girl’s phizog to banish all air.  Worst of all, our awful man drank milk as a toast to his abysmal sin. 

I can affirm this account’s truth, for I am that atrocious man.

NB I can kill in good form, but writing about it all right is not in my particular skills list.


This was difficult.  It won’t study good, I’m afraid, but it was worth doing.  I had first-class fun trying.


Pig Sick – A Modern Fable

20 Nov

Councillors and fellow members of the Planning Permission Committee, herewith my report on the recent events occurring in Tamworth Lane: 

  There had been a complaint that three plots of land had been illegally occupied by itinerant swine, and unlawful habitations erected thereon.  I was instructed by this committee to inspect the properties. I attended there on the fifth of this month.  I discovered three small houses had indeed been built on three plots.

  I attempted to gain access to the residence at Number One, a house built entirely of straw.  It was obviously unfit for habitation, a cursory inspection proving that no attempt at securing the joists or to install load-bearing walls had been made; a strong wind was all that was needed to bring it down. 

  I knocked carefully, several times, and attempted to make myself known to the occupier, a Mr Little Pig, by calling out, ‘Little Pig, Little Pig, let me come in.’ I am afraid to say the occupant was incompliant and hurled abuse at me through the walls; at first I thought he was speaking Pig Latin, but then I made out his words: namely, ‘No!  Not by the hair on my freakin’ chin.’  ‘Excuse me!’ I replied; ‘I am just a wolf at the door.’  Rather annoyed, I huffed and puffed a bit and, letting out a long sigh, I was shocked but not surprised to see the straw house collapse in front of me. 

  I dialled 999 and then attempted to ascertain the extent of Mr Pig’s injuries.  He appeared dazed and was, I think, suffering from severe hay fever.  I helped him to a seat but, somewhat befuddled, he began to scream that he was bleeding glue.  Squealing like a stuck pig, he ran into the road just as the ambulance arrived, and was hit by it; you should have seen how that swine flew.  He was hospitalised and treated for his obvious mental illness and is now, happily, a cured ham.

  I proceeded to Two Tamworth Lane: a house made of sticks and occupied by a grocer, a Mr Lidl Pig.  Again, I knocked carefully, and attempted to make myself known to the tenant by calling out, ‘Lidl Pig, Lidl Pig, let me come in.’   Mr Pig was as rude as his neighbour, replying, ‘No!  Not by the hair on my freakin’ chin.’  I wondered if they were in some way related.

  Just then, a bee landed on my nose.  I am embarrassed to admit that I am afraid of bees and wasps, and I froze.  When the bee at last flew away, I realised I had been holding my breath the whole time and I expelled it in relief.  I was horrified as the habitation before me collapsed around Mr Pig.  I immediately called 999 and ascertained the extent of Mr Pig’s injuries.  He was covered in splinters but coherent, but there was a lot of pork scratching going on.  He swore at me and ran off.  I believe he has now joined a porcupine colony.

  Finally, I attended Number Three.  I asked the second ambulance to stand by, just in case.  I was rather apprehensive at this point, but decided to go the whole hog.  The illegal dwelling was built of brick, and well built at that.  As I walked around the premises I could hear a violin being played inside.  I tried the front door and called out, ‘Fiddle Pig, Fiddle Pig, let me come in.’ When the same reply came back: ‘No, not by the hair on my freakin’ chin,’ I began to suspect a conspiracy.   At this point, I admit, I was ready to turn tail and run; it was past my home time and I had a hot date lined up with a real babe.  However, I felt it would be unethical of me to put girls before swine, and I decided to finish the job.

  I am a nervous man, Councillors – some might say a sheep in wolf’s clothing – but I know my duty and I had a warrant to enter the premises.  During my initial survey, I had noticed a ladder leading up to a hole in the roof.  Eager to get inside to get this horrible day over, it did not occur to me until it was too late that it might be a trap.  I did not know that I was, in fact, climbing into a half-built chimney stack.  If I had thought about it at all, I would have assumed that pigs are averse to smokey bacon cribs.  

  Councillors, I shudder to relate the last part of my tale.  It was ghastly.  Halfway down the chimney, I began to sweat.  Unbeknownst to me, Mr Pig had set a pot of water to heat on the fire.  The sweat made me lose my grip and I slipped.  Fortunately for me, my trajectory was feet first: I kicked the pot out of the way and leapt over the fire.  If Mr Pig had not jumped out of the way, let’s just say it would have been boiled ham for dinner.  As it was, he fell into a large vat of cola unaccountably standing in his kitchen, and drowned.  A pig in a coke is not a pleasant sight.

   The subsequent Police investigation concluded that the illegal houses were built in an attempt to lure me to Tamworth Lane and murder me.  You may remember that last year I was going about my lawful business, carrying a large case full of blueprints, when I was set upon by Little Red Riding Hoodie and the Granny Gang.  They came screaming out of nearby woods, demanding of me, ‘Big bag, wolf!  Big bag, wolf!’  I refused to give up my case and I was able to see them off with the aid of an obliging woodcutter who happened to be walking home and heard my yelps for help.  He maimed several of them with his axe.  It appears Miss Hoodie wanted revenge against me.  She did some time in the pen and met the three pigs there; she employed them to assassinate me, paying each of them £1 and one shilling each.  They seem to have been willing guinea pigs.   

  This concludes my report, councillors, but I would like to close by tendering my resignation.  Working in health and safety has become too dangerous, and I have decided to pack it in.  I have therefore accepted a commission as an amphibious scout in the American Navy, and I am off to become a wolf in SEAL’s clothing.

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