Monthly Archives: September 2012

A to Z: authors for I

I have just finished Gleen Greenwald’s With Justice and Liberty for Some and am now trying to select an author with a surname which begins with I.

Some of the contenders

Iding, Laura – Iding is a former nurse who writes medical thrillers for Mills & Boon and has so far completed 23. I have “Marrying the Playboy Doctor” (Oct 2009) but no idea how I acquired it.

Some words from Blogger reviewers:

Everything I’ve read this year says “So, yes: thumbs up to A Knight for Nurse Hart by Harlequin Medical Romance, which SAVED ME (Ah! SO close to being a pun, but am too lazy to attempt to perfect it) from the horrors I’d just had to experience” and I was unable to find a second one so here is a guest post from Iding herself.

Iggulden, Conn – Since publication of ‘The Gates of Rome’, Conn has written a further thirteen books including ‘The Dangerous Book for Boys’.

“Once again, Conn Iggulden has kept me up late, distracted at work, and spouting Roman marching commands in my sleep” says Dab of Darkness, and Lenny Says wrote

“While this book in the Conqueror series is as bloody and unrelenting in pace as the others that preceded it, I enjoyed it more than the last two for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Iggulden does not take as much liberty historically with the narrative as he did with the other books. For another, I discovered some facts of European history of which I was quite unaware.”

Ignatius, David – is a journalist at the Washington Post and a novelist. He has had eight novels published including the Increment Wikipedia.

Here is what some bloggers had to say about the Increment:

“By the end of the first page I was convinced I was reading a 5 star book” but “well, the book degenerated to a 3 star piece of pulp fiction. Nothing special. It’s a good airplane ride read” from DWR, and In/Over My Head writes: “Ignatius writes tight, well crafted novels with international settings and intrigue.”

Indridason, Arnaldur – an Icelandic writer whose works feature the gloomy Detective Erlendur and when the latter is away they feature his sidekick.

“As ever, Indriðason is not afraid to depict the grotty underbelly of Icelandic life in an unsentimental, almost cold and detached, way. Yet he writes with such skill and diplomacy that it’s hard not to come away from his work feeling more empathetic and more compassionate towards one’s fellow human beings. Despite being books about death, there’s something truly life-affirming about Indriðason’s work.” Reading Matters

Book Him Danno says “I love this author and wish I could read Icelandic so I could read them before they are translated. ”

Irving, John – one of my favourite writers and the author of one of best novel in the world “A prayer for Owen Meany”

I would have read Last Night in Twisted River and here’s what blogger Living by Ear has to say:

Twisted River meanders for a while before the reader figures out that the story will focus primarily on the life of a writer; in this case, Danny Baciagalupo. But Irving can get away with that. He’s a master of complex family sagas that would read like soap operas in the hands of anyone else.”

Irving, Washington – (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) – wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. Short stories by a classic writer. I’ve read some of his work in an American Literature class.

Ishiguro, Kazuo – fellow University of Kent alumni is the author I chose for the “I” challenge in the end. A review of his novel Never Let Me Go will be posted soon. He also wrote Remains of the Day which was turned into a film starring Anthony Hopkins.  He has been nominated for four Man Booker prizes and won in 1989.

Herbert’s Bakery, Montpelier

I heard about Herbert’s bakery when a four-day pop up restaurant took over at the site of the Runcible Spoon and I tried their egg and bacon sandwich. The bread was the overnight white bloomer from Herbert’s and I was determined to find it and bring some home.

From the city centre it doesn’t take too long to head over to Stokes Croft and then turn up Picton Street (where a friend said it was located), past an Italian deli with Lavazza coffee cheaper than at the local Tesco supermarket and aisles brimming with imported tasty goods.

As I arrived at Bell’s Diner and the Thali cafe I had to ask for directions because the place where Google maps suggested was quite blatantly bakery-free. I found it just past the Thali and around the corner. I also found brownies, lemon poppy seed muffins, almond croissants, sandwiches, organic white bread flour, Eccles cakes and a sultana scone.


Herberts Bakeries Ltd, 12 York Road, Montpelier, Bristol, BS6 5QE,

I then looked up all the locations where Herberts Bakeries deliver bread and discovered that one of them is about 500 metres down my road.

Bee Healthy – Stoke Lane, Westbury on Trym

Boca Cina – Wells Road, Totterdown

Pacto Supermarket – Wells Road, Totterdown

Monika’s – Cotham Road South, Cotham

Mother Nature – High Street, Portishead

The Bread Shop – Mina Road, St Werburghs

Southville Deli – North Street, Southville

Monty’s Menu – 359 Gloucester Road, Horfield

Clifton Health Foods – 67 Queens Road, Clifton

Earthbound – Abbotswood Road, Cotham

The Mall Deli – 12/14 The Mall, Clifton

Harvest – Gloucester Road, Bishopston

The Real Olive Co – St Nicholas Market, Clifton Down Shopping Centre

Licata – Picton Street and Gloucester Road

A & M Stores – Ashley Hill, Ashley Down

The Spar Store – Hotwells Road

First lines: The Expat by Chris Pavone

A secret pleasure of mine is to browse books by reading the first lines – I hate reading blurbs, I don’t want to know what the book is about after it has been written. I like to know what the author wanted when they first started right on page one. Admittedly some authors may go back and change the start but who knows, some may not.

Another secret pleasure is to imagine that I have thousands of manuscripts from which to choose what next to publish and it all depends on this first line. There are very few first lines I end up remembering after I have read the book but that is beside the point.

So in deciding whether to spend the princely sum of 0.20£ on The Expats by Chris Pavone, I downloaded the sample so I could use my trick:


Kate is staring through a plate-glass window filled with pillows and tablecloths and curtains, all in taupes and chocolates and moss greens, a palette that replaced the pastels of last week. The season changed, just like that.

Where to begin with this line. I had to look up plate glass since it is a word I am familiar with but have never known what it meant. It is a very confusing sentence although it should be simple, for example, what is filled? is it the plate-glass window? I assume she means the shop display is filled – confusion means minus one point. By the time we finish the sentence, I have forgotten that someone has called her name. And it is “which replaced the pastels” not “that replaced”.

Based on the first line alone I would ditch this book.

However I am feeling generous so I will search for some reviews – bloggers most likely rather than journalists – and see what they have to say. I am not convinced that my 20p would be spent wisely.

Crimepieces – Not too believable

Men reading books – reasonably good first effort

Lindy reads and reviews – Highly recommended.

Update: I read a little further than the first line and it was dreadful. I actually skipped a few paragraphs just to find out what the second sentence, or by then maybe it was the third, of dialogue would be. Eugh. The sample has been deleted from my Kindle app. Thank goodness I did not buy it as you cannot remove bought books.

When did spread-eagled naked women become a selling point for a cafe?

A newly open cafe on Clare Street and Corn Street, right in the centre of beautiful Bristol, is happily advertising itself as a place where they have copies of Playboy for the customers.

Here is the tweet which promotes this “entertainment for men”

Here is a link to the playmate of the month, Anna Clark, whose charming delights Martin Booth from Bristol Culture was happy to enjoy. Not only him but Fork magazine seemed to love them as well.


If you click on the link you will see that the images are not just hazy, fuzzy nods towards a respectful appreciation of the female human form. They are graphic images of a woman’s body in provocative poses.

I am honestly bewildered by how trivial this seems to many people. In the week that Lucy Ann-Holmes has been leading a campaign to stop the Sun from publishing topless women on its page 3 and Deborah Orr wrote and called it misogyny, no one seems very fussed that the Birdcage in Bristol thought it would go one step further and show women with all their clothes removed, let alone just their tops.

Orr writes “So often the publication of breasts as popular entertainment is there to say: “Look! She’s only a woman. That’s all.” This is true even when the woman in question is enthusiastically compliant.” – That does not ring true for me. Men, and some women, are essentially just looking at breasts. Just looking at physical parts that are sexually attractive and that sell. They are not looking at the woman behind the breasts.

In a newsagent you do not get a chance to look at the breasts and the rest until you purchase that type of magazine off the top shelf. This made me wonder if it was illegal to have this material in full view and with ready access to little children such as my 19-month-old daughter. However, the reason newsagents place magazines away from normal access is out of a voluntary sign-up to a code developed by the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN),(see Bailey Review pdf) so there is nothing illegal in it.

They do suggest something that the Managing Director of Birdcage may want to keep in mind – “Making your customers aware that you adopt a ‘family-friendly’ policy on display, you may find that parents with children are much happier to shop in your store.” (National Federation of Retail Newsagents, 2011)

So it is not illegal but you would not be able to show the images in those magazines on television. You could not post them on advertising billboards and you would not be able to post them on Facebook without them being deemed offensive.

I asked Bristol City Council whether such a display was illegal and they failed to reply. I won’t address the moral and cultural implications of pornography but it is on my mind as I read about the Istanbul convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and read Lauren Wolfe’s interview in New Europe. There is further research about the effect of pornography on children but maybe this isn’t of interest to the Birdcage either.

So tell me, Giorgina Haslam, how do you justify using women’s naked bodies, positioned for the sexual pleasure of men, to advertise your cafe? What does this say about your cafe? You obviously don’t want people like me visiting.

I would rather visit somewhere where people looking at me want to know about me and not about what pleasure my physical form could give them. Especially when most of the time my breasts are exposed in order to feed my child.

The trauma of Pingu

Mersina and I were watching Pingu yesterday, ostensibly together. In actual fact I was writing about the Bristol Pound so when she rushed over to me terrified I was a bit shocked.

I looked up at the television and there in a scene better left to the nightmares of older kids was a steamroller driven by a penguin headed straight towards another penguin trapped against a rock.

M and I watched in horror as the steamroller showed no signs of slowing down even as the trapped penguin’s nose began to be crushed.

This took place in seconds, in case you were wondering why I did not stop this extreme toddler-animation. I didn’t get a chance to do anything other than cuddle my little girl and tell her it would be alright.

Pingu makers, what were you thinking?

M woke up in terror a few minutes after falling asleep last night and could barely be consoled. I wonder if she was dreaming about steamrollers.


The Bristol pound is here

With a fair amount of fanfare, many stalls, some pole dancing and musical acts in the Glass Arcade at St Nicholas Market, the Bristol pound officially launched on Wednesday, 19 September.


The complementary currency is a not-for-profit partnership between Bristol Pound Community Interest Company (CIC) and Bristol Credit Union. The money is guaranteed by the credit union and backed by the city council and traders.

Director Ciaran Mundy is one member of a team which has voluntarily come together to bring this project into existence in order to keep money local and support independent trade.

There is paper money which can be purchased at exchange points for a £1 to £B1 rate. the designs are local too, and were chosen after a competition which saw the winners include a Banksy inspiration of a mouse spray-painting a wall. Electronic money transfers are available with customers able to pay by text message instantly.


To make the scheme even more attractive to companies, the Bristol City Council accepts business rates and tax in £B. The big reason for its promotion by the City Council is the idea of the money staying in the city. “Eighty percent of the money leaves the area if it is spent with a multinational – but 80% stays if it is spent at a local trader” said Munday to the AFP.

Bristol joins other cities Totnes, Lewes, Stroud and Brixton with its new closed circuit currency. It comes in denominations of £B1, £B5, £B10 and £B20 but there are no coins as yet. The notes have an expiry date on them of September 2015 but let’s wait and see. They do not replace pounds sterling but maybe they have come to stay.


Independents and the other bits of Bristol and ethical fashion

I didn’t know that eco fashion existed. I knew that alternatives to multi-nationals existed. There are plenty of second-hand clothes shops on Stokes Croft, Cheltenham Road and Gloucester Road. Past all the independent traders and restaurants and pop up – and not so pop-up – bakeries, and detours by Montpelier.

There are the unpleasant non-independents such as the supermarkets Tesco and Sainsburys and the Costas which appear to be everywhere from the front of the BRI (why, for goodness sake?) and in the supermarkets with their automated machines.

That is all a bit of an aside as I was browsing other websites talking about second-hand clothes and vintage.. And ethical fashion which is probably really good working conditions for silk worms, I guess.


Ecover Zero trial

I was offered a trial of the new Ecover brand and have been testing their washing liquid and fabric conditioner for clothes, and their washing liquid for dishes;

Here comes the spiel :

Ecover have a new fragrance-free range of products which are branded Zero and are made especially for people with sensitivities. Apparently the only things you can smell are the surfactants that work to get your clothes clean.

The review:

The smell, just as Ecover claim, disappears in the wash so everything really is odour-free.

I have used the products on a range of delicate, and not-so-much, clothing and items for the past three weeks. I cleaned my 18-month-old daughter’s baby blanket with the washing liquid and the fabric conditioner and used it on my backpack to get out some spilled coffee and biscuit crumbs (and about a year’s worth of travelling-dirt).

The Zero range worked brilliantly on clothing. It also worked wonderfully well on the dishes.

I don’t think I was affected by the fact that I was asked to trial the products, they genuinely were better than our usual washing powder which is a store’s own brand (but not a cheap-cheap one) which we’ve used for years.

The amount of product you use is small and it even fits better in the cupboard.

You can find out more about products on and more about Ecover at You can buy the products online for now from

I would buy it and not only because Ecover products are better for the world than other petrochemically based ones but also because it worked well.

Ecover products

With Liberty and Justice for some, Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald is a hard-hitting, lawyer turned blogger who has recently signed up with the Guardian after leaving his writing platform of Salon. He has been described as excellent by the liberal-media critics Medialens and regarded with much defensiveness by already established journalists.

In With Liberty and Justice For Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful, Greenwald takes on the effectively two-tiered US legal system which leads to elites facing no repercussions to the most extreme of law breaking while those of society who are the poorest and most powerless are ever increasingly and more harshly subject to incarceration and the full brunt of the law.

He begins by contemplating the type of society the founding fathers of the United States wanted, by tracing the principles of the constitution – equality before the law for all citizens and especially in order to subject those in power – and then contrasts this with the practises of the US governments in recent years.

The wire tapping practices which while blatantly illegal saw no one convicted and even had legislation passed to retroactively protect the perpetrators.

There is the Iran contra scandal and the conviction against the United States for arming Nicaraguan guerillas which was simply ignored.

There was the illegal war in Iraq; the torture which was widely admitted but which saw no one in a position of power convicted; and the use of arbitrary and secret extra-judicial killings by Obama: the infamous kill list. (see this brilliant Gawker video where a journalist asks Democratic delegates whether they would trust Romney with the kill list).

There is also an examination of the prison industry and Obama’s failure to prosecute Bush’s crimes.

“To date, Obama has succeeded in blocking and suppressing virtually every investigation into Bush crimes, whether by congressional committees, courts, international tribunals, or even internal executive branch inquiries.”

This is a thorough and motivating read as Greenwald’s anger gives it a vibrant tone. I had to put it down* a few times when the examples were so repugnant that it was hard to comprehend the type of society the United States have become. Some of the more heartbreaking points were statistics about people being jailed for life for small crimes. One person’s life destroyed, just like that, by an unfair system.

You can find Glenn Greenwald on Twitter


*figuratively speaking as I was reading an ebook on my Kindle app on my phone

The Vassall Centre

The Vassal Centre in Fishponds is a hub for people with disabilities so its possible closure is alarming writes Sarah Feeley in the Bristol Post.

The centre has been designed with accessibility in mind. “All switches are at a height helpful to people in wheelchairs, who also benefit from smooth floor surfaces. Its garden is planted with fragrant plants and flowers so visually-impaired people can enjoy them too, and is kept free from hanging branches which could hurt them.”

Closing the centre would be a real shame and a loss to people who, in this time of austerity and cuts, have little option about where to spend their time. I hope the trustees reconsider.