Category Archives: books

Management books and Winston Churchill

After much thought, and sitting up until after midnight, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t concentrate on writing an interesting post. I have therefore settled on throwing a few things together and trusting that it will be OK.

Come to think of it, I may write a business management book based on that premise. Somewhere in the house I have management books based on  Henry V, Attila the Hun and Jean-Luc Picard, so why shouldn’t Just Chuck it Together, It’ll be OK be a success?

I may market it as a breath of fresh air in a world that seems to increasingly demand perfection, effort and planning.

How about Leadership Secrets of Winston Churchill – a quick study of how the man voted the Greatest Briton of all time actually ran things. It strikes me that when he wasn’t being random he was often drunk, but he still managed to win a couple of World Wars and a Nobel Prize. Makes you think, doesn’t it.

In a modern context, by the time we’d planned, done the Prince 2 stuff and explored the Health And Safety implications we’d have had jackboots marching up the Mall and King Edward VIII re-installed in Buckingham Palace. Or, I think, Edward III for those of you in Scotland.

Anyway, I’d better get to bed as I don’t want to be late for hospital.

In the meantime I will try to think of something entertaining to write for Friday.

🙂

 

 

Book Review: Free Country

Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain

by George Mahood

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (18 Dec. 2014)

Paperback 352pp    Paperback £8.99     Kindle £1.99

ISBN-13: 978-1490356662

I’ve read a few books of his sort (which I think of as novelty travel, or even annoying novelty travel) and have mixed feelings about the genre.  Is it really necessary to do more than travel and write entertainingly? Do you need to take a fridge with you, or in this case, do you need to start off in your pants and beg your way the length of the country? Not that it really matters, because charity shops are full of these books and they rarely cost more than £1.50. At that price I can adapt to most things.

Part of the problem is that everything seems to fall into place so easily, finding footwear before doing any serious damage to their feet for instance, and the other is that a lot of the stuff they are given is the result of theft. They may be amazed at the generosity of staff in large chains, but actually, that’s theft. Same goes for the employees of smaller establishments who give them free drink or food while the boss is away – theft.

George Mahood thinks the penniless journey is a demonstration of the basic decency of human beings who are selflessly prepared to help two idiots on their way from Land’s End to John O’ Groats.

I think it’s about finding a gimmick to base a book on.

It’s beginning to sound like I don’t like the book, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a good book, with well-observed characters, warmth, moments of peril, light and shade and humour. I did follow them with bated breath, I did worry about them, and I was rooting for them, despite my moral misgivings.

It was a birthday present from Number One son and arrived in the post whilst I was in the grip of several different infections (the advancing years are not being kind), so I left it for a week before picking it up.

Once I started it I finished it in two sessions and was really sorry to reach the end.

Judged from a moral standpoint – theft, begging, fecklessness and having defective brakes – it’s hard to give it more than three stars, but from a reading point of view it’s a massive five.

Mad as a Hatter

Sorry, this should have been part of yesterday’s post.

I’ve always known that “mad as a hatter” was something to do with hatters, madness and chemicals but I wasn’t quite clear on the details. I’m currently reading The Elements of Murder (slowly, I admit, but it isn’t light reading) and the book has some interesting details.

I was going to stick a paragraph in about it, as it seemed appropriate and I had a suitably mad photograph. However, having the information and the need to write a post I thought I’d better find more information to fill it out.

This proved to be a mistake. “Mad as a Hatter”, according to some sources, has little to do with madness, and nothing at all to do with hatters.

This is a nuisance, to say the least. According to Wikipedia there are several possible sources for the expression, including the Anglo-Saxons who used the expression to mean venomous as a viper. There are other explanations too. I’m not happy with any of them, nor am I impressed by the references to early usage, without exact dates. However, this is a blog, I’m citing Wikipedia and I’m never going to be mistaken for an academic.  Can we just say “other explanations are available”, and I’ll talk about the one I want?

The Mad Hatter is supposed to be based on Theophilus Carter, an eccentric Oxford furniture dealer and reputed builder of an alarm clock bed exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851. When it was time to get up a clockwork motor engaged and tipped the sleeper into a tank of water. This seems a bit brutal even for stern Victorian early risers.

Unfortunately, though there were two alarm clock beds exhibited in 1851, neither of them was attributed to Carter in the catalogue. Nor, despite Carroll’s extensive diaries, is there any real evidence  that the Mad Hatter is based on Carter. It’s a shame, because it’s a good story.

There is, however, plenty of evidence for hatters exhibiting signs of madness.

The main material used in making hats was felt, which was made from the hair of rabbits and beavers, mixed with mercuric nitrate and repeatedly shaped, boiled and washed until it formed smooth cones of felt. This process released mercury vapour which, went inhaled, caused symptoms such as delirium, hallucinations, irritability, excitability, tremors and depression.

In many countries, including the UK, measures were taken to protect workers from exposure and by the end of the 20th century hatters were no longer suffering the effects of mercury poisoning. In the USA it persisted until 1941, being known as the “Danbury Shakes”, after the hat-making centre in Connecticut. Eventually the need for mercury in the war effort meant the use of alternative chemicals and the end of the Danbury Shakes.

Be that as it may, in the 1860s, when Carroll wrote about the Mad Hatter, mercury poisoning, was a major factor in the behaviour of hatters.

The Ultimate Irony

Got up.

Changed bags.

Finished Richard Mabey book. Yes, 3.5 stars seems about right.

Had high fibre breakfast with fruit.

Watched the Peregrines on Notts TV. Can’t find a good link to post. You aren’t missing much.

Opened parcel. It’s a new book. Could be hard work.

Explained to Julia why I needed a new book.

Picked up prescriptions.

Photographed flowers.

Asked surgery receptionist very nicely if she could get details of one of my two hospital appointments next week. I lost the letter. Yes, two next week. With luck like that I should buy a lottery ticket.

Set off for Peterborough.

Stopped for Burger King lunch. Yes, it was bad planning.

Visited Father and Sister.

Sister told me she now has three books on decluttering. Yes, three. Hence the title of the post.

Had tea. It was veggie burgers. Menu planning has slipped a little in recent days.

Went home the country way.

Saw two Kites.

Watched TV.

Blogged.

It has not been my most interesting day.

Resting, Reading and Recuperating

One of the horrors of old age that I have observed is that at a certain stage people stop reading. My father, despite everything, is still hanging in there. He’s never been a massive reader but he’s always done crosswords and puzzles and, although they may be getting simpler, he’s still doing them. This, I feel, is a good thing.

Ever since I had tonsillitis. in around 1964, and my mother suggested reading as a hobby, I have been a lost cause. She bought me a copy of Biggles of The Special Air Police and the rest is history.

I still have the book – it’s within feet of me as we speak. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if she’d bought Jane Eyre, as she later did. Would I have grown into a sophisticated professor of English Literature? Or would I have given up reading? I suspect the latter. Having been persuaded to read several classics in my early reading career I then gave them up until recently when I thought I should give them another try.

It didn’t really work out well. You may have seen my comments on this previously – that Don Quixote would be much better if it was half as long and had a murder on the first page, preferably Don Quixote himself. My feeling on a number of other classics is similar.

The nearest I’ve been to a classic in the last twelve months is  John Buchan. I’ve managed The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, Mr Standfast and The Three Hostages but I’m having a rest for now. There comes a time when casual racism wears a bit thin, even if it is authentic contemporary racism.

I moved on to Dr Thorndyke but after four of them I started searching around for some variety. Having read a book on Q Ships I’m now on Nature Cure by Richard Mabey.  Clare Pooley recommended it to me when I came out of hospital. I broke one of my normal rules and paid £4.99 for a Kindle edition, but it’s been worthwhile.

Clearly the man is marching to a different drummer, even when he isn’t suffering from depression, but it’s a relaxing and informative read. I looked forward to his account of male urology, as this is one of the points where our lives converge. He likens it to a mythical linking of his internal water with the water of the Fens. That’s why he’s known as an elegant and spiritual writer.

I have never thought of it as mystical in any of my three stays in Male Urology, I just use it as a source of broad humour. My internal water is linked to the water in my kettle.

That’s why I’m not known as an elegant and spiritual writer.

Finally,  moving back to the point. It’s surprising how much energy it takes to read and concentrate. I struggled in the days after leaving hospital, and I’m still not fully back in the swing of things. With the sort of time I’ve had on my hands recently I should have seen Nature Cure off in short order, probably in a day. It’s only 240 pages in the paper edition, which is not a long book.

I didn’t have the energy to start it for a couple of days and I’ve been doing a section each day. I still have a bit left, though to be honest I’m now able to read faster and I’m just trying to prolong the pleasure of reading.  I’m doing puzzles now and looking at the web, though still not up to full speed.

Has anybody else noticed that reading can be such an effort? Or am I just getting old?

 

 

Books, Books, Books…

I’m in the middle of sorting my books out. They aren’t necessarily the biggest problem in my life, but they are one that I can do something about. I don’t feel too bad about getting rid of books because they can go to friends, neighbours and charity shops.

Clothes can go to charity shops too, as can various other things, but I feel guilty about merely throwing things away. After years of keeping things “because they may come in useful”, I have a lot of useless junk, but keep hold of it because…well, you can guess.

Some of it is actually second and third hand, having been passed on to me by my father and grandfather. If you ever need a tester for thermionic valves or a magnifier for a 1950s TV screen I have one. (My grandfather was part of group that built their own TV sets in 1953 in time for the Coronation, in case you were wondering.) On the other hand, if you want stationery in pre-decimal sizes, my father has provided me with a large selection.

However, back to books.Do you know how many words there are to describe conditions related to books?

Try these.

Bibliophilia – love of books

Bibliomania – accumulating books, including multiple copies, books of no collectable or financial value and numbers of books far beyond the collector’s capacity to read them.

Bibliophagy – book eating

Bibliokleptomania – compulsive book theft

Bibliotaphy – book burying

My favourite is a word my sister recently emailed me, with the words “I think this applies to us.”

Tsundoku, a Japanese word meaning the state of buying books and storing them without reading them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So many books, so little time

I hold my hands up to bibliophilia, bibliomania and tsundoku.

I’m even considering Bibliophagy, on the grounds that books are high in fibre and low on digestible calories.

If you put them through the shredder a book has to be at lest as tasty as the spiralised butternut squash “noodles” we had last week.

 

Saturday, books and snow

Saturday stretched ahead, with nothing to do and nobody to do it with (Julia was at work as usual). It was a lovely day, not at all suitable for staying in doing housework, and so I decided that a visit to a bookshop sounded good.

When does a visit to a bookshop ever not sound good?

There’s an element of irony in driving  40 miles to look at books on nature and sustainability, but I can live with that. I can live with most things that allow me to visit a bookshop. Anyway, I’m giving up meat two days a week, grow my own veg and make compost so I’ll allow myself a little backsliding.

It was a patchy journey, mixing sunshine with overcast skies. It improved steadily until I reached Cromford and turned off on the A5012. It’s a minor road, as you can guess from the number. It also runs through a narrow wooded valley, which makes it picturesque in summer (possibly even “bosky”). In winter, it has a tendency to shelter snow and ice in the shadows.

It is known locally as the Via Gellia as it was built in the 18th century by the Gell famiy. They are said to have built it around 1790 to connect their lead mines to the new smelter at Cromford, though it may have been built to serve their quarries as early as 1720. It still has quarries along its length, and large lorries can be a bit of a hazard at times.

Part way up there’s a lay-by with several dozen bird feeders. Someone has obviously made a lot of effort to make and maintain the feeding station. The light was going by the time I stopped, so I couldn’t get any decent photographs of anything that moved, but I did see a variety of birds – Chaffinches, Great tits, Blue Tits, a Coal Tit and a Goldcrest. Somebody is doing good work here.

The bookshop, for once, let me down. Stock has been moved and the nature section seems smaller. I don’t like it when things change. Doesn’t make it a bad bookshop, just one with a cafe, a smaller nature section and a sense of panic when I can’t find things where I normally find them. It will be better next time.

If it isn’t better next time I will have to develop an interest in military history or art, or even the birds of countries I will never visit. There are many ways of working round a situation.

The photographs were taken using my old camera, please ignore the black splodge in the top right corner. As you can see, as I progressed in the journey (and gained height) it became more wintry.