This is the third book in the Richard Hannay series, I had read the other two before I started to record them here. It continues the story of his exploits as a British secret agent during the final years of World War 1
John Buchan's plots seem to enjoy a sense of travel and this book is no exception. Our hero finds himself travelling, firstly to Glasgow, and then on north up to the Isle of Skye, and then back to London being pursued by the police. His trip evolves a wide variety of transport, including hitching a ride on a plane.
The plot then moves to France, Italy and Switzerland and he helps save the British forces from defeat during this time in the war, by stopping the arch enemy spy, and exposing the underground railway.
The story also has love and sadness. Richard finds his true love, but his great friend is killed in an aircraft battle. An enjoyable book and I now want to read the next part of the saga – The Three Hostages.
This was book 27 week 18 fiction 26 (8 on audio) non fiction 1
Claire paints a picture of Britain, specifically the Somerset levels in 1946, that is so far from life today that it could be in another country. The book is all about the tensions between the Polish soldiers from the second Polish Corps who are refusing to go back to Poland as it is now occupied, and the returning British soldiers.
Add in shortages, lack of housing, lack of work, difficulties in language, romance, and one of the coldest winters on record and it all makes an explosive mix.
The main characters are Wladyslaw Malinowski who is taken on by Billy Greer to help with the Withy harvest on his uncles farm in the heart of the Somerset levels. Then there is Lyndon Hanley the so called hero of the Burma Campaign, though his current behaviour is far from heroic. Finally there is Stella a local school teacher who has to choose between Lyndon and Wladyslaw..
The book has humour, and sadness and the death of one of the key characters triggers a series of events that bring the story to a tragic ending.
It is a very atmospheric, dramatic story and certainly an eye opener if life was really like that in 1946.
A book that can be well recommended as book 26 week 18 fiction 25 (8 on audio) non fiction 1 (falling slightly behind my target of just under two a week)
Each year swallows from around the area join up before making their journey south as their annual migration. We have a series of power and phone lines that seem to offer a good resting place, before setting off.
Swallows waiting to migrate
This year was no exception even though the weather was terrible. I have often wondered how they manage to identify our specific post and power lines from all the others around but they evidently do.
The other morning we woke up to several hundred birds sitting on the lines waiting for the off. They were shivering in the pouring rain but they still allowed me around an hour to get the camera out and try and take some snaps.
Swallow in the rain
As you can see by the rain drops captured in the images the rain was quite heavy. As such it was so dark that only the odd shot was any good due to the low light levels.
Swallows waiting in the rain
Sadly the images of the departure were too out of focus, but it was very impressive. The whole group just setting off. There did not seem to be any distinctive leader, but their must have been as the flight was so coordinated. There was a couple of false starts – maybe waiting for stragglers. Then they were off for another year. Probably thinking good riddance of all this cold and wet, off to the nice warm sun.
We look forward to seeing you next year..
Cute Baby Lamb
It is said that there is one thing we cannot really influence or control and that is our birth. (Though I am sure there are some Paediatricians out there who will say that the baby does control the birth telling the mother when it is time) but generally it is thought that the baby does not have control on how it is born. The mother or other external influences do this, (drugs inducing the birth for instance or even a caesarian)
Roughly 2000 years ago one of the rulers of the Jews called Nicodemus had to ponder the question about birth. Nicodemus was talking to Jesus one evening about things, especially the miracles that Jesus had been performing, and suggested that Jesus was a great man from God. Jesus answered Nicodemus
Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.” (The Message John 3 v3)
Nicodemus's reply was to ask how can one be born again when they are fully grown, It would not be possible to re-enter your mothers womb and be born again.
Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit. (The Message John 3 v5-6)
“So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.” (The Message John 3 v 7-8)
The question logically comes, "Why does a person need to be born again (born from above)?"
The simple answer is that we have all done wrong and so can't have a relationship with a perfect God. There is a gulf between us that needs to be spanned to allow the relationship to occur.
Paul in Ephesians 2 says It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah (The Message Ephesians 2 v 1-6)
Paul also goes on to say in Corinthians -
Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way any more. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. (The Message 2 Corinthians 5 16-20)
Now I know Nicodemus did not have Paul’s writings to help him understand but he did have the chance to actually question Jesus in person, and we hope that he must have realised that being born again (or from above) is not a human activity but a miracle inspired by God
You can read more about this amazing chapter of John's Gospel – chapter 3 in our home group notes on the chapter here.
Just remember Pauls invitation to become a friend with God still stands today
This is the second novel recounting the residents of 44 Scotland Street, and was a delight to read. The hotchpotch of life portrayed here bring back memories of a time that seems ages ago now. Though the characters are quite unique in their personality they all fit together so well.
For me the two main stars of the book were Bertie and the nudist picnic in Moray Place. Firstly the idea of a nudist picnic in cold Edinburgh itself just brings a smile to the face. It would have to be a very sheltered sunny garden just to even get me to take off my jumper, let alone anything else.. I won't spoil the event if you have not read the book, but Domenica does attend the picnic..
Then we come to Bertie, he is just the star of the whole book, with lots of lovely story lines. His trip to Glasgow with his Dad to collect their car was one of the best. As a six year old boy he ends up playing cards with a notorious Glaswegian gangster Lard O'Connor and much to everyone’s amazement wins.
Having collected their car from Glasgow on the way home, it comes to light that the car now has one too few gears, and where the gear has vanished brings a smile back on to my face just recollecting it.
Then there is of course the whole story line of Bruce wanting to set himself up as a wine merchant, and his various exploits at trying to get a partner for the business and buy stock, without be had.
All in all a very enjoyable book as book 25 week 17 fiction 24 (8 on audio) non fiction 1
The Millennium Stone at Greenhaugh
When I go wandering round a place with my camera, people often come out of their houses to see what I am taking pictures of. They normally look at me for a bit and then go back inside. Sometimes they come and talk to me gently asking what I am doing and sometimes they tell me a story about what I am looking at.
A couple of months ago I was in going through Greenhaugh in Northumberland National Park and at the end of the village towards the school noticed an upright stone and some old farm equipment by the side of the road. As it wasn't actually raining I thought it might make a good picture so stopped the car and started to take a picture.
Someone came out of one of the houses and asked what I was doing, so I told them and they said did I know the story of the stone. I said no. This is what they told me – I don't know how true this is but it makes a good story. So I will recount it here.
Old farm machinery
They alleged that some time before the millennium one evening in the pub it was decided that something should done to celebrate the occasion for the village. Someone came up with the idea of putting up a standing stone. A grant was applied for, which was approved and it was all go.
They then alleged that there had been much discussion in the pub as to where to get the stone and someone suggested that it could come from the local river bed. Bets were made as to the outcome of this – if it would be successful or not. It was then said that rope chains, buoyancy bags and a tractor had been used to get the stone up out of the river bed to the village. It was then put into position using a few bags of cement. It was then alleged that this had been very profitable, as the cost of the stone had been only a few tens of pounds and time taken.
As I said at the start I don't know if this is true or not but it does make quite an interesting photo, with the old farm machinery next to it.
The Coffin Dancer continues the storyline of the brilliant quadriplegic criminalist Lincon Rhyme and his assistant Amelia Sachs. (When I was choosing which book to read next as I have a small pile waiting to be read, I choose this book thinking it might be an apt one whilst the paralympics were on) The sub text of the book is all about how a quadriplegic can get around and do a difficult and demanding job. One touching part of the story was when Lincon could not get his speech recognition software to respond to what he was saying due to the emotion in his voice. Anyone who has tried to use this sort of software will relate to this. It just does not work if one speaks in anything other than the flat dull normal tones, and it certainly does not cope with any forms off stress in the voice.
Anyway that is going off point a little, the story is all about a hitman, with the nickname of the coffin dancer, who is killing off protected witnesses before a court case. The book zips along at a good pace, it even has a countdown of hours at the start of each chapter so you know where it is going. That being said having thought that it is all wrapped up, there comes a couple of unexpected twists at the end of the story, one a bit more plausible than the other.
To say much more would spoil the plot line and that would be a shame, as if you like reading this sort of book then it is a good read. Not too much focus on the process of killing and enough on plot and characters to make it believable.
So this was book 24 week 16 – fiction 23 (8 on audio) non fiction 1
Everyone likes a party, especially a party at a wedding. The bride looks beautiful, the groom handsome, the music is playing, there is dancing, the refreshments are fantastic, the food and wine keeps flowing and everyone is having a good time.
So imagine the scene when suddenly the waiter comes along to top up his jug and there is no more wine. He mentions this to his companion and they look in all the wine storage jars. They are all empty. They have been too generous and the wine has now run out.
Mary happens to be near by and notices that something is wrong. She asks what it is . Calamity what can they do? She says I will ask Jesus and he will know what to do. Come follow me she tells the servants and do whatever Jesus tells you to do.
Mary, with several servants in tow, finds Jesus and tells Him, that the wine has run out. Everyone stops and looks at Jesus – what will he do? Does he have enough money on him to go and buy some more wine from the market.
No, he tells the servants to fill up some storage jars with water This is lots and lots of water somewhere between 120 to 180 gallons of water. Then he tells a curious servant to take some of the water from the jar off to the master of ceremonies to see what he thinks about it.
The servants look from one to another. He's lost his marbles, they will be laughed at by everyone. You do not serve water at a wedding banquet. But Mary has said do what he said, and they had already gone to all the effort of filling the jars with water so may as well do this.
The servant takes the water to the master of ceremonies and gives it to him to taste. He draws it to his lips smelling the lovely rich aroma of a fantastic wine, and sips it. A smile appears on his face. He calls over to the bridegroom – “Most people”, he says “serve the best wine first at a weeding and then the not so good when everyone is starting to get drunk, so they don't notice the poorer quality, but you have done it the other way round. This is the best wine I have tasted for a very long time.”
The servants looked to one another in amazement knowing full well where the wine had come from. It was all the more amazing that there was not just a little of this fine wine but well over 2500 glasses full of the stuff. This party was going to be one that they remember for a long time.
This is a paraphrase of the start of the Gospel of John chapter 2 recording Jesus's life on earth around 2000 years ago. Jesus changes the agenda around. More can be read on this chapter in our studies here
This is the second book I have read by Jo Nesbo and was just as enjoyable as the first. As one of the quotes says on the back of the book “A superb novel. Intricate, true gripping” . I can't agree more.
The story starts with a man robbing a bank and shooting dead a cashier, and it is all visible on CCTV. Then it gradually unfolds with twists at every juncture, till the detective Harry Hole has become the suspect, and he has to solve the mystery to free his name.
Going along with this there are more bank robberies – are these copycat ones or the same person. All one great big mystery. It was really hard to put down as at nearly the end of each chapter a new twist in the tale was revealed. A thoroughly gripping book and fantastically translated by Don Bartlett. Besides the names it would be hard to tell that it had not been written in English as the first language. I can't wait to read the next book, but that will probably be a Christmas present.
So this was book 23 week 15 – fiction 22 (8 on audio) non fiction 1
White Cliffs of Dover
A few weeks ago we were fortunate enough to be walking along the top of the White Cliffs of Dover in the sunshine
Speed Boat going by
The air was clear and bright and we were able to watch the boats going by as can be seen here.
We were walking from Dover along the National Trust path to the South Foreland Light House Having enjoyed looking round there we walked back on a slightly different route.
The wheat was a fantastic golden colour having ripened in the sun. It waved in the wind. We thought it would make a good September wallpaper reminding us of what we have been missing with all the recent rain.
September Wallpaper with Calendar
We are offering two versions of this - one with a months calendar on it and one without, in varying different sizes. More details can be found on the fullersfolio freebie page and we hope you like them.
Dyslexic doodles on photography, food (growing, cooking & of course eating), faith and other fascinating things. This is a personal blog expressing my views.