Great novels I have read again

One Day by David Nicholls
It concerns two friends named Emma & Dexter who meet on the night of their graduation and before they go their separate ways, they agree to stay in touch with one another. They then meet once a year for the next twenty years to catch up with each others news and see how each others lives are turning out.

Alexander McCall Smith Novels I have read recently

The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Precious Remotswe is Botswana’s finest and only Female Detective, and runs The Number One Ladies Detective Agency. Her methods may not be conventional, but she’s got warmth, wit and canny intuition on her side, not to mention Mr JLB Metekoni, the charming owner of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors.

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
All is not well on Zebra Drive, Mma Remotswe has got plenty of work, ranging from thefts to Suspicious Deaths at the Mochudi Hospital, but Mma Makutsi’s forthcoming marriage threatens to destabilise their happy working relationship. Sensing this, her husband, JLB Metekoni decides to help out a bit and prove himself worthy. So he has a go at a little detective work himself, unfortunately though this doesn’t quite go according to plan

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
Mma Remotswe’s latest client is the big-shot owner of the Kalahari Swoopers, unfortunately she knows little about football. Matters are complicated when Violet Sephotho sets her sights on Mma Makutsi’s unsuspecting fiance, and it soon becomes clear that most men don’t recognise (or are too busy enjoying it) when a ruthless jezebel is bouncing up and down on the best bed in the Double Comfort Shop.

Martyr by Rory Clements

This is another gripping nevel which I have reread recently. It is Set in 1587 and starts off In a burnt-out house, where one of Queen Elizabeth’s aristocratic cousins is found murdered, her flesh marked with profane symbols. At the same time a plot is also discovered to assassinate England’s feared sea warrior Sir Francis Drake – a plot which, if successful, could leave the country open to Spanish invasion.
So a chap named John Shakespeare, the chief intelligencer in Sir Francis Walsingam’s spy network, is trusted with the task of protecting Sir Francis Drake from assassination.
Following a trail of illicit passions and family secrets, Shakespeare travels through a teeming underworld of enemy agents, sorcerers, whores and poets, among whom is his own younger brother, the struggling playmaker Will.
As he unravels a complex conspiracy of international intrigue, he finds himself shadowed at every turn by his deadly rival, the Queen’s brutal torturer Richard Topcliffe – John Shakespeare soon realises his own family and the beautiful woman he desires could also be in grave danger…

The Lovers by John Connelly

I’ve also recently reread his really exciting crime novel which features a character named Charlie Parker, who is haunted by the death of his father, an NYPD Cop who killed two teenagers before killing himself. Charlie is also haunted by the ghost of a murdered wife and child.
He then discovers that the spirits of two lovers have also returned and their desire for each other is as strong as their will to do evil, and what is worse they want to clobber Charlie. This leads him on a desperate search to seek out the truth behind his Father’s demise, which is unfortunately buried beneath years of secrecy and lies and Charlie tries to discover what really happened that night, but faces an uphill struggle to solve the mystery because there are those who would rather it remained a mystery…

Revelations by CJ Sansome
I really enjoyed reading this This exciting historical novel, so I just had to read it again.

It takes place during the Reign of King Henry VIII whilst he is wooing his sixth wife Catherine Parr, during the dissolution of the Monasteries, and features a Lawyer named Matthew Shardlake, who is working on the case of a teenage boy who has been placed in Bedlam Insane Asylum because of fears that his terrifying religious mania could lead him to being burned as a heretic.

Meanwhile an old friend of Shardlake’s is found dead, and he promises the widow that the killer will be brought to justice. So he, his colleague Jack Barak & a physician named Guy Malton team up to investigate and soon find a series of Horrific murders, all seemingly linked by the apocalyptic prophecies in the Book of Revelations, and learn that even Catherine Parr herself could be affected by the events….
Having enjoyed this book, there are also four more novels by C.J. Sansome, which I would also like to read. These are Dissolution, Dark Fire, Sovereign, Winter in Madrid.

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl

After having read and enjoyed World without End by Ken Follett, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks & Revelation by C.J. Sansome I have developed a real taste for gripping historical mystery & crime thrillers.

The novel takes place shortly after Charles Dickens death in 1870 and starts when his latest manuscript mysteriously vanishes, It is last seen addressed to his Publisher, whose very fortunes depend on it. So his publisher decides sets out to find out what happened to the manuscript and recover it.
However the only clue as to it’s whereabouts have been a series of brutal murders and the trail leads him from bustling West End Theatres, through grimy East End backstreets on to illicit opium dens, and he gradually finds himself becoming ensnared in the crime he is hoping to solve and soon finds not only his livelihood in danger, but his life may be too….

The Guernsey literary & Potato Pie Society

Here’s another book I read whilst in hospital It is Set in 1946, and takes the form of letters, mainly to and from the central character, Juliet Ashton, a successful writer who becomes involved with a group of people on Guernsey who lived through the wartime German Occupation.
From hearing their experiences Juliet learns about friendship, suffering, forgiveness, goodness, wickedness and the resilience of humanity in desperate circumstances.

White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

I have also recently re-read this this sharp witty Man Booker prize winning novel by Aravind Adiga, which takes the form of correspondence between the Chinese Premier Wen Jaiboa and a diminutive & overweight Indian Businessman named Balram Halwai A.K.A The White Tiger, who lives in India, and is desperate to escape the crushing poverty he lives in, by any means necessary, and make a success of his life,
This desire to escape & become a success causes him to make all sorts of really dodgy deals and do all sorts of unscrupulous criminal things. Until eventually he goes a bit too far and is forced to go on the run….
A Most Wanted Man  by John Le Carre
I just had to read this really exciting & tense novel  from one of the masters of Spy thrillers John Le Carre. It is basically about a chap named Tommy Bruce, who has inherited a doomed British Bank, who One day gets a call from a young female lawyer named Annabel Richter, whose client is a mysterious illegal immigrant who just happens to hold the keys to one of the moat exclusive vaults in the bank.

The trouble is that this chap is also wanted by three of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world, and Tommy soon finds himself drawn into a dangerous web of lies & intrigue

Novel turkey recipe I tried on Christmas

I recently tried this interesting Turkey recipe for Christmas Lunch as I thought it sounded really tasty! It includes the use of popcorn as a stuffing — imagine that. When I found this recipe, I thought it was perfect for people like me, who just are not sure how to tell when poultry is thoroughly cooked, but not dried out. Give this a try.

Here is the recipe

8 – 15 lb. turkey
1 cup melted butter
1 cup stuffing (Pepperidge Farm is Good.)
1 cup uncooked popcorn (ORVILLE REDENBACHER’S LOW FAT)
Salt/pepper to taste

First Preheat the  oven to 350 degrees, then Brush the turkey well with melted butter salt, and pepper. Then Fill the cavity with stuffing and popcorn. Place in baking pan with the neck end toward the back of the oven and listen for the popping sounds. When the turkey’s ass blows the oven door open and the bird flies across the room, it’s done.

Steaming Around Britain – Triple DVD Collection

I have also recently watched this enjoyable collection of DVD’s again, featuring archive footage from around Britain. There are more in the series & this has really whet my appetite for more, so I may get the rest, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far. DVD’s featured in this Boxed Set are:

The South West
This is a fascinating insight into the history of British steam in the South West of England. The DVD features the Axminster to Exeter route during the 1960’s. Weston-super-Mare to Fowey during the 1960’s, West Somerset Railway – which features the awesome SDJR 2-8-0 No 88. The Paignton & Dartmouth Railway – which feature many GWR 4-6-0 Manors, South Devon Railway, Bodmin & Wenford Railway, Steam in and around Dawlish & looks into the China Clay traffic which is an important industry down there.

The North West
This Fascinating DVD focuses on British Steam in the North West of England and features the West Coast Mainline during the  1960’s where many of the really big & most famous locomotives could be found, like the A4 Pacifics, BR Britannia’s and Coronation Scots. It also looks at the Settle and Carlisle railway during the 60’s which is still really popular today with steam enthusiasts aswell as the East Lancashire Railway, which is also still very popular.. The DVD also looks at The Lakeside & Haverthwaite, Ravenglass & Eskdale Railways. Isle of Man & Freight by rail.

The Final Years of BR Steam.
This is a poignant look at the end of British steam during the 1960’s. Featuring British Rail’s Steam operations during those last years, when some of these magnificent engines were starting to look a bit tired & neglected, which culminated in the Fifteen Guineas Special on 11th August 1968 , where magnificent engines  such as 70013 Oliver  Cromwell & Stanier Black Five no 45110 did a tour of Britain, pulling packed carriages round by steam for the last time, well actually Oliver Cromwell is still going strong & 45110 did sterling work on the Severn Valley Railway until last year when it’s boiler ticket ran out, it is now waiting to be overhauled.

Lost Lines & Last days

 Along Lost Lines by Paul Atterbury
I’m a big fan of Paul Atterbury’s book, and as someone who was born after steam was abolished I think it is fascinating to be able to read about how the heritage movement was started & what it was like back then. This book features some wonderful photographs, and is A Nostalgic and fascinating book which looks at the glorious heritage of lost railway lines in Britain. The book contains archive photos which illustrate the way things used to be aswell as accounts from those who worked on the railways and photos of how the area looks now.

The book is divided into these chapters Southern England, Wales, Central England, East Anglia, Northern England & Scotland. Each chapter looks at subjects

The books also looks at the reasons why the closures were made and what became of the various structures afterwards and is a fascinating and nostalgic look back at a certain period of time, which is brought vividly to life through the means of words & photographs.

Last Days of Steam on the LMS & BR by Roderick E Fowkes
Using an awesome collection of archive photographs which show how things really were & a treasure trove of memories from someone who was there and remembers it well, this is a nostalgic look at Britain’s Railways through the eyes of a chap whose boyhood dream it was to become an Engine Driver, but who was sadly denied due to medical reasons.
In the book he reminisces about his experiences of growing up with steam, getting his first job on the railway as a junior Porter and gradually working his way up until he becomes part of the senior management at the station nineteen years later, and goes right up to the point where steam is phased out in the 1960’s to make way for the then-government’s rather hastily thought out and executed plan of Modernisation & Dieselisation on Britain’s railways

Awesome Railway Publications

British Steam – Power & Glory by Keith Langston

This  fascinating book  celebrates the best of British Steam Locomotives and features over 170 excellent photographs, Including a focus on Mainline Steam workings during 2009, such as the wonderful Stanier Coronation Class 4-6-2 Pacifics Duchess of Sutherland & Duchess of Hamilton and BR Standard 4-6-2 71000 Duke of Gloucester,

It also looks at steam workings in Wales. featuring a fascinating article & fabulous photographs of 5972 Olton Hall (AKA Hogwarts Castle), Stanier Mogul 42968, Black 5 45407, 4-6-2 no 46233 Duchess of Sutherland, 4472 Flying Scotsman, Rebuilt West Country Pacific no 34027 Taw Valley, LMS Jubilee 4-6-0 5960 Leander and Jubilee 45596 Bahamas plus many others,
The book also looks at the oldest named train in the world “The Irish Mail” which was famously hauled by Royal Scot locomotives for 30 years, with such wonderful machines as BR Standard Class 70000 Britannia, Pacific 6201 Princess Elizabeth, Pacific 6203 Princess Margaret Rose and BR Standard 8p 71000 Duke of Gloucester all mentioned.

Awesome articulated Beyer Garratts are also featured in the book & the history and development of these amazing locomotives such as the factors that went into the design is also explained.
Steaming through Snowdonia looks at the route of the Narrow Gauge Festiniog & Welsh Highland Railway from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog through Snowdonia National Park, and looks at the motive power used such as Beyer Garratt & Fairlie Engines, including the wonderful double ended Fairlies that can often be seen working the route.

The book also looks at the wonderful work of Railway artist & Photographer Craig Tilley aswell as the delightful rural narrow-gauge Lynton & Barnstable line, which is also remembered, looking at the history, the route, the locomotives and what happened

British Steam – Memories in Colour by Keith Langston
This book  features a selection of wonderful images from a classic colour collection of Railway photographs. which celebrates the work of the Steam Locomotive within British Railways between 1948 and 1968 and uses exclusive images selected by the former proprietor of Colour Rail, Ron White, who has worked tirelessly for the past 30 years to bring together and preserve a photographic record of Britain’s Steam Railways as they were.
This volume contains colour images from all five regions of British Railways – Western Region, London Midland Region, Southern Region, North Eastern Region, and Scottish Region. and is a fascinating look at steam locomotives at work in all parts of the British Isles, with plenty of stunning photographs of many famous locomotives such as BR Standard 4-6-2 71000 Duke of Gloucester, glorious A4 Pacifics and many more besides.

The Inside Guide to the Steam Railways of Britain
From the publishers of Steam Railway Magazine, and in association with Allelys Heavy Haulage, comes this invaluable guide to all the Heritage Steam railways, both full size & Narrow Gauge currently operating in Great Britain.
All railways are listed alphabetically, & the address is given, with instructions & a detailed Ordnance Survey Maps showing you how to get there, by car, by rail & by bus. The Railway’s Websites are also listed, so you can have a look at the railway online before you go.
There is also a useful price guide to Train Fares, aswell as a guide to the facilities at each location and advice on the best photographic locations along each route. The Locomotive Stock at each Railway is also listed, as is advice on how to go about volunteering at a steam Heritage Railway and when each line is open.
There is also a picture of the last remaining Ivatt 4mt No 43106 (AKA The Flying Pig) Jon the front cover, which was taken during The 2009 Severn Valley Railway Autumn Steam Gala, Before the tender parted company with the rails at Hampton Loade

British Railways 3 DVD boxed set

This fascinating 3 DVD boxed set takes a look at Railways in Britain throughout the 20th Century. It comprises of the episodes Waterloo Sunset, Rails in the Isle of Wight and Vintage Southern.
Waterloo Sunset as the title suggests concentrates on the Southern Regions last Steam worked lines from Waterloo to Salisbury & Weymouth, and features footage of Nine Elms Shed, following the main-line down to Basingstoke. Heading West to Worthing Junction and going South through Eastleigh & Southampton. There are also scenes filmed in the New Forest, including Lymington, before going south to Bournemouth and featuring the famous Channel Islands Boat Train, before reaching the destination of Weymouth.
Volume Two, Rails of the Isle of Wight features vintage Steam Railway footage of the lines from Ventnor to Cowes, Brading to Bembridge and Sandown to Merstone & Newport. This is contrasted with the islands new Tube trains being tested in places such as Clapham Junction, and the story of the first generation tube trains in their all-blue livery is covered. The story is then brought up-to-date with scenes recording the Wonderful Atmosphere of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.
Volume three in this wonderful series is Vintage Southern, which as the title suggests features a lot of rare footage made on the railways in the South East of Britain starting at London Bridge, East Croydon and Folkestone, featuring both Mainline Expresses & Boat Trains. There is also coverage of the Golden Arrow & other Southern Pullman Services aswell as The Brighton Belle. The last part of the program looks at lines like The Bluebell Line from East Grinstead to Lewes, The preserved Kent & East Sussex, and the branch lines from Duntan Green to Westerham and Paddock Wood to Hawkhurst

Steam in the 21st Century

I’ve recently watched this really cool 3Disc DVD boxed-set again, which features The Battlefield Line, The West Somerset Railway and The Severn Valley Railway.

Disc One features The Battlefield Line during a Thomas the Tank Engine event. This line acquired it’s name when they relayed the track on part of the ground where The Battle of Bosworth Field was fought in 1485. Originally opened in 1873 the line was called The Ashby & Nuneaton Joint Railway and stayed in business until it was closed in 1970.  Now Thanks to the efforts of many dedicated Rail Enthusiasts the line has been gradually reopened from Shackerstone to Shenton, and now features a wide variety of Rolling Stock including The diesel “Griffon” aswell as a museum The Battlefield Line
Disc two of Steam in the 21st Century travels on the West Somerset Railway from Minehead, to Norton Fitzwarren, which is home to the awesome SDJR 88.

 The DVD features the 2005 Spring Steam Gala, during which 12 Great Western Locomotives were in steam 😀 These included GWR3440 City of Truro, GWR6024 King Edward I, GWR5051 Earl Bathurst, GWR4936 Kinlet Hall & GWR7822 Foxcote Manor aswell as many other Prairie & Saddle Tank Engines. The program also features a shunting demonstration, which was also taking place at Minehead around the same time.

Disc three of Steam in the 21st Century travels the sixteen miles on the picturesque Severn Valley Railway from Kidderminster via Bewdley, Arley, Highley, Hampton Loade and on to Bridgnorth

The episode tells the convoluted history of the SVR from it’s conception to it’s eventual opening in 1862 some 20 yeas later, up until it’s closure in 1963 as a result of Dr Beeching’s recommendations, and thanks to the efforts of a number of  dedicated rail enthusiasts, it’s eventual reopening again in 1970 as a Heritage Line.  The disc also charts the progress of the reopened Heritage line from small beginnings to the highly successful & popular tourist attraction it is today, Locomotives featured in the DVD include Black 5 45110, Stanier 8f 48773, Ivatt class 2 46443, Stanier Mogul 42968 and GWR7802 Bradley Manor among many others.
Although The Boiler tickets on both LMS 5mt 45110 and LMS 8f 48773 have both expired so they are out of traffic at the moment,   Ivatt Class 4 43106 AKA “The Flying Pig” is back in traffic and No 1501 and the awesome Taw Valley are both currently being sorted among many others, so that’s something to look forward to