I am up in Quorn at the moment staying with my sister and generally chilling. Have spent the last two days mastering killer Soduko which, oddly enough, I am finding very calming and relaxing. Will be back at the weekend.
Painting Naked by Maggie Dana is the US edition of Beachcombing which I reviewed here a year or so ago. It has a brand new cover as well which I like very much, the last one had the usual headless woman on it so beloved of publishing houses. This new cover reflects the sharp, witty novel much better in my opinion. I am delighted to re-read and re-review this book and it was just as delightful as I remember.
What I liked about this book is that it is not about some glam supermodel or impossibly long limbed high flier with
a penchant for Prada and Manolo Blahnik, but a middle aged woman who
has longings and fears just like us all.
Finding a book about such a heroine is
hard so when they turn up, they should not be missed.
Jilllian Hunter lives in an old tumbledown beach house in Connecticut. She is divorced from Richard "He complained I was cold. Frigid. He's right. I was, but only with him" .
She has raised two sons by herself, restored the house and has started a
small business all on her own so by any lights she has been a success.
But, Jill has fond memories of Colin, ("does that lock of hair still flop cross his forehead? Do his cheeks still dimple when he smiles?")
a boy she fell in love with in her teens, and has yearned after ever
since and so when she falls into his arms on a visit to an old friend in
London (literally, she trips down a flight of stairs), she is ready to
embark on a passionate affair with him.
Jill throws caution to the winds and,
while it is clear to the reader that perhaps Colin is not the god she
thinks he is, she abandons all inhibitions along with her commonsense
and hurtles headlong into a relationship with this long lost love of her
youth. We can see the inevitable crash and heartbreak
coming a mile
off, but as I am sure most of us know, love is blind and being older
and, in theory, wiser makes no difference at all to heartbreak. By the
time Colin dumps her, she has managed to lose old friends, has risked
her livelihood and is staggering on the brink of disaster, both personal
and professional and she has to Get a Grip and start all over again.
Some very familiar
bells with me during this read and I found myself totally in sympathy
with Jill. She is funny, not always wise, but is loyal and lovable with
a self deprecating attitude to her own faililngs. The writing is
witty and sharp and funny and the narrative is paced beautifully, not
too frenetic but zapping along nicely and keeping the reader's attention
at all times. You really like the characters, not only Jill but her
friend and neighbour Lizzie who though she "has no idea what it's
like to run your own business...works in a community college where
students turn up on an annual basis, paychecks are deposited directly
into her bank account ...computers are fixed, the water cooler is filled
and her printer is never ruined by stray cat hairs" is supportive
and loving. Apart from friends and family, she also has a cat named
Zachary who disappears when Colin is around and comes back when he has
gone (cats always know best). It turns out that he has adopted a second
home in the next house along the beach where a rather interesting
man called Tom happens to live. Such perspicacity....
Ok, well you don't need a degree in
rocket science to see what is going to happen and that after all the
heartbreak and angst, Jill is going to find happiness and fulfillment.
It's a given. If I say that this book is very Katie Ffordish I do hope
Maggie takes this as a compliment as I love her books and the slightly
scatty heroines who manage to come through against the odds. It is a
good feeling to know that books are being written by authors who know
that being over 50 does not mean that your heart doesn't stop beating
when you are with somebody you love, that you can dither what you are
going to wear on a date (big knickers or little knickers), does my bum
look big in this, oh dear look at the saggy tummy, and that falling for
someone is not the prerogative of the young and beautiful. I found
this book heartwarming, amusing and delightful and loved every page.
"I came so close to losing all
this..........my best memories lie within the fabric of these
walls.....climbing the stairs I run my hands along the banister, down
the spindles, feeling drips of paint I neglected to sand off.....in the
distance, waves roar and rumble up the beach.
Last night I was lucky enough to attend the Prom with the wonderful John Wilson orchestra and soloists presenting the Sound of Broadway. I went with Annabel Gaskell who has an excellent blog, Gaskella, and her father, Ray. This is another example of meeting up with a good friend who I have got to know through blogging and Facebook and when we met at South Kensington Tube and nipped off to Carluccio's we felt as if we had known each other for ages. Which I suppose, we have...
Fantastic seats in the stalls and oh my goodness what a glorious evening. Simply sensational playing from the orchestra - imagine the London Symphony Orchestra married with a swing band and you might get an idea. Song after song after song Only Make Believe, Old Man River from Showboat; Tonight from West Side Story, Younger than Springtime from South Pacific and then there were several others not so well known, and some I did not know at all - Little Tin Box from a musical called Fiorello being one such, but which brought the house down.
These John Wilson concerts seem to be rapidly becoming an institution and long may they be so. Albert Hall heaving with everyone having a glorious time and not a seat to be had. Standing ovation at the end and we even had tap dancers too!! I ask you, tap dancers at the Albert Hall .....
Drove home afterwards with the windows open and singing Mame at the top of my voice.
I seem to be motoring through crim/fic at the moment with quite a few dropping through my letter box and all those publishers who have twigged I love this genre and keep me supplied - my thanks, as ever.
First up this week is Rock Creek Park by Simon Conway. Set in Washington DC, we have a black detective, ex-Afghanistan hero who now works in Homicide. 'It is a dark and stormy night' (sorry couldn't resist) when he receives a call that a body has been found in Rockcreek Park. The victim is a young woman whose face has been battered in so that she is unrecognisable. DC Michael Freeman, the detective in question, is handed the poisoned chalice of solving this one - and the reason for it being a
really sensitive case is because the body has been discovered just yards from the home of Senator John Cannon, one of the most powerful and wealthy men in America.
Soon we have more victims all of whom were connected with the Senator and the dead girl and the pressure is on for Michael to clear this up as quickly as possible and avoid a political scandal. Of course, that is impossible to do, of course nasty things are going to happen to Michael, and as the book progresses and we find that human genetics and manipulation are involved, we know it is going to get increasingly complicated. And so it does. In fact by the time I reached the denoument in the snows of Russia with a task force bombing a secret hide out, fighting between local tribesman, the CIA, the FBI and heaven knows who else, I was getting serioulsy bogged down. There are double and triple twists and, I have to admit, a totally over the top plot which I found difficult to take seriously.
One good thing I thought when I started reading this was Ooh great, he is happily married. By the end of the book he is not. Plus ca change....
Then the latest Lee Childs - A Wanted Man dropped through my door and I spent most of Saturday afternoon curled up on the sofa reading it. I have read all of the Jack Reacher books now and have enjoyed them all but am beginning to feel that the author might want to try a new hero, or change the storyline a bit as it is all getting a bit samey. Reacher comes into a town somewhere off the beaten track, rights wrongs, fights corruption, kills dozens of baddies, beds a beautiful woman and then walks
off into the night, alone, as ever.
In this one Jack is hitchhiking and is picked up by a car containing two men and a woman seemingly on their way back from a conference or meeting. They start hitting road blocks and it is clear that the police are looking for a car with one or two people and Jack and his companions are waived through. So Jack reckons he is being used as a cover and wonders what has happened.
Well there has been a murder and the CIA and the FBI are involved but as is usual, nobody is telling each other the truth, there is a lot of infighting, Jack saves the day and when the solution was explained in the final chapter I still did not understand what was going on. Only difference with this latest Childs is that Jack does not get to bed a beautiful woman, probably because she ends up getting her head blown off.
As you may know, the first Jack Reacher film is on release. Should be interesting "Reacher was huge...he was one of the largest men she had ever seen. He was extremely tall and extremely broad and long armed and long legged. The chair was regular size but it looked tiny under him. It was bent and crushed out of shape..."
Looking forward to seeing Tom Cruise in this role.....
If you are totally uniniterested in cricket look away now and go and play Bejewelled or Hearts or something because this post will be meaningless to you. Which is understandable.
Random readers will know that there have been times when Kevin Pietersen had driven me mad. He either scores a century or gets out for a duck (Botham was the same) but when on form is incredibly exciting. Gather he can be a bit tricky and upset people and it seems he has now done it big time. While I agree he has behaved like a bit of an idiot the collective glee and spiteful press briefings about him from some of his colleagues and team mates is a bit cowardly and sticks in the craw somewhat. KP has been castigated for text messages, tweets and sounding off but when the English, and I emphasise English members of the current cricket team, do the same they are allowed to get away with it. Debate has been raging on the forums and comment columns on various newspapers and this summing up on one yesterday is so spot on I have to post it. Not my words though I agree with it all and have let the author know that I have nicked it!
I just love the ECB (English Cricket Board) approach.
ECB: "You can't pick and choose what forms of the game you play in. I
know Strauss only plays test cricket now, and plenty of others play
only one or two forms, but you have to commit to all three." KP: "OK, I commit to all three forms of the game." ECB:
"Too late, and we don't think you mean it. We're not picking you for
the T20 World Cup - you know, the one where you were voted player of the
tournament last time. We don't care that you have more experience
playing T20 in Indian conditions because of
that-tournament-we-don't-like-to-talk-about. We want to make a point." KP: "Fine. Can I play for Surrey?" ECB: "No. Oh and someone at the Daily Mail says you said something nasty in private about the skipper. You need to apologise." KP: "You don't know what I said, you're going on a rumour that a journalist heard." ECB: "Doesn't matter, apologise publicly. We don't care what for." KP: "I apologise." ECB: "Well we're not accepting your apology." KP: "Why not? You asked me to apologise and I did." ECB: "You're South African and we don't like you." KP: "So is half the team! So is the gaffer!" ECB:
"They're different. They haven't done anything vulgar like have the
three lions tattooed on their arm. And they went to public school." KP: "Well how can I sort this out?" ECB: "You need to speak to Strauss and Flower." KP: "When can I see them?" ECB: "You can't. Strauss has gone on holiday. He said you called him a dumb c*nt." KP: "He is a dumb c*nt - did you see that leave in the second innings?" ECB: "The less said about that the better." KP: "Well what about the gaffer? You said I had to speak to him." ECB: "He's not around either." KP: "He is. I saw him on TV at Lords earlier, going on about how we need to talk and sort this all out like adults." ECB: "Exactly. Behind closed doors though. No PR stuff." KP:
"What about the walls and roof? You bastards said my contract
discussions were behind closed doors, but you seemed to leave all the
windows open because half Fleet Street knew about negotiations before I
did." ECB: "We don't know what you're talking about. We absolutely do not regularly dine with Daily Mail reporters at Claridges." KP: "Whatever. I want to speak to Mr Flower and sort this out. Why won't he speak to me?" ECB:
"Well he doesn't like you anymore, despite you being our leading run
scorer and stuff. He heard you might have said something about him
although the Saffers say he wasn't mentioned in those texts. The
possibility that you might have said something hurtful has hurt his
feelings." KP: "You're all a bunch of doos."
I gather 'doos' is an Afrikaan word which is not very nice. Various translations have been given. The press have really gone to town on Pietersen and the journalists are having a field day sticking the knife in, assisted by the wonderful trio of Anderson, Swann and Broad all of whom are getting away with murder. But they are nice English boys so that's ok. The other South African player in the team, Jonathan Trott, is keeping very quiet about it all.
I feel so strongly about this appalling witch hunt that I am thinking of forming the Kevin Pietersen Appreciation Society. He has behaved like an idiot, is self obsessed and insecure and can appear, and probably is, arrogant but enough is enough. I think the British sense of fair play is beginning to kick in now. At least I hope so.
Have managed to get through quite a few books in the last ten days and get them up on Random but I do feel I am fighting to keep up most of the time and have to choose what I read and prioritise. Sometimes when it all gets too much I just think Oh let it hang and I pick up any old book, one I may have read before, and just chill out. Trouble is I have a conscience about reviewing books I have requested and feel guilty when I don't get round to them as soon as I should. Still, don't think I am doing too badly at the moment and before I get stuck into the next onslaught thought I would flag up some recent arrivals and goodies that I have in store.
Catherine the Great by Robert Massie. Many moons ago I read this author's wonderful book Nicholas and Alexandra which started off my fascination with Russian history and the fate of the Romanov family in particular. This biography by the same author should be interesting as I have not read a biography of Catherine since the 1960s when Joan Haslip wrote a biography which I remember devouring and loving. I still have this copy on my shelves so looking forward to reading this one. Think it will be a one chapter a day book as it is pretty hefty.
Eliza's Kitchen by Marc Fitten. Seems to be the story of Eliza who has her own little restaurant in the Hungarian city of Delibab. She is in love with her sous-chef but getting nowhere with him and is also a bit bored with the same customers. She decides to woo The Critic one of the most powerful cooking columnists in Europe. I read Valeria's Last Stand by this author a couple of years ago, an amusing and well written book which I remember thinking tailed off alarmingly at the end, but still loved it enough to look forward to tackling this one. Will let you know how I get on.
The Venetian Contract - Marina Fiorato. Historical novel set in Venice, obviously - title is a bit of a giveway so not sure why I am telling you this 'sigh'. A young and beautiful stowaway steals into Venice. Her name is Feyra and she has brought a vital message for the Doge. I have read two others by this author and thoroughly enjoyed them so looking forward to this one.
Shadow of Night - Deborah Harkness. Keep looking at this one and working up to taking it off the shelf and diving into it but have ambivalent feelings about it as this is the follow up to A Discovery of Witches and I had very mixed thoughts on this title which I reviewed here. A great bunch of comments underneath that post as well. However, it intrigues me enough to know that I will read this - just not sure when........
Rock Creek Park by Simon Conway. A thriller set in Washington DC. I know absolutely nothing about this author and nothing about this book, but as you all know I loved a good 'teccy so will report back later.
Another Time Another Life - Leif Persson. Yes folks another Scandinavian writer. I gather the author is the 'Grand Master of Scandinavian crime fiction' and also Sweden's leading pyschologicval profiler. Oo-er missus is all I can say to that and yes, you have guessed it, will report back later.
And finally, a lovely new edition of The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald published by Alma Classics. My very old copy of this novel had a picture on the front of Mia Farrow and Robert Redford who starred in the film so that shows how old it is. We have a new film coming out soon which promises to be interesting as it is directed by Baz Luhrman and feel it is time for a re-read. Will be interesting to see how I feel about it now after such a long time.
Loads more on my shelves but must not waste time writing about them, better start reading them.
I have had a fairly quiet week this week, no exertion and resting back which is now, fingers crossed, almost back to normal. I seem to have motored through five books in the last five days, one of which was a huge sprawling 500+ page historical saga, and the others are all of the crime/thriller genre.
Couple of these titles are all debut thrillers and have enjoyed every single one of them with a few minor reservations. First up is Tooth for a Tooth by T F Muir and is set in St Andrews, Scotland. A woman's skeleton is discovered in a shallow grave and is unearthed when the plot is dug over for a funeral. DCI Andy Gilchrist is the hero of our story and, naturally, is divorced and has a fractured relationship with his children. This is a given nowadays or so it seems to me anyway. He starts to investigate and to his horror realises that his brother Jack who was killed in a hit and run accident some 30+ years ago, and is the same age as the skeleton, might be involved. A colleague with whom he also has a fractured relationship picks up on this and the fact that Gilchrist might be concealing evidence and is determined to get him kicked off the case and, possibly, out of the force.
A good plot, if a trifle confusing at times as Gilchrist delves into the past relationships of the murder victim when they were young and at University, most of them with something to hide. A promising debut novel but I do have a reservation or two. An unlikely character who appears early on in the narrative is no real addition to the mystery and not quite sure while he/she is there. Ending a bit over the top but great fun. My other reservation is the use of what I have dubbed ''Grisham speak". In his novels cars never accelerate away from the kerb, they are always 'gunned'; a phone is never dialled or numbers pressed, they are always 'stabbed' and if you wish to take a right turn it is always 'hanging a right'. Now in American thrillers you can get away with it because it fits a genre, a style but put them in a BritTec and they do stick out. I have yet to meet a barman who 'gunned a smile' but we have it here. And one of the characters who lights up at the drop of a hat always draws hungrily or fiercely and even snarls on one or two occasions. BUT, nit picking aside an interesting book and I have a feeling this could be the start of a promising series.
The Wrong Man by Jason Dean. Former Marine James Bishop has been imprisoned on a charge of murder. He used to be the leader of an elite close protection team hired to guard a millionaire and his daughter who had been receiving death threats. After being attacked while on duty he regains consciousness to find not only his charges dead, but the rest of his team and all evidence points to him. While in prison Bishop plots to escape and track down who has set him up and it is clear that it must be one of his old team and that he has been betrayed by a friend. But who? An intricately plotted escape (very filmic I kept thinking of Russell Crowe in a film the Next three Days which covers a similar situation) and then a chase to track down the killer before he is caught and sent back to prison.
This is a very exciting and page turning thriller with an excellent plot with loads of twists and turns and subtleties. I could not put it down and stayed in bed late one morning until I had finished it. There is a second due in 2013 and I am already looking forward to getting my hands on a copy.
Eye Contact by Fergus McNeill. Another debut novel and another goodie. Robert Naysmith is a successful businessman, handsome and charming but he has a dark side and for years has been playing a deadly game. He is a murderer and he chooses his victims at random. He does not need a reason for his selection, he allows fate to decide. When the need to kill comes upon him he decides to kill the first person to make eye contact with him after he has decided to begin the 'game'. Once they do, their fate is sealed.
This plotline is intriguing because there is no connection, no reason for the murders and, therefore, almost no chance of tracking down the culprit. Enter stage right our hero - Detective Inspector Harland, not divorced or an alcoholic this time, but a widower grieving for the death of his wife a year earlier and just about coping. (Oh for a happy detective!)
The murderer is arrogant - he takes an item from each victim and leaves it on the body of the next as if taunting and defying the police. These actions trigger off a link in Harland's mind and tracking backwards he finds a trail of victims, but though he knows they are linked, they must be, he does not know the how or the why. This is another cracking story, set in and around the Winchester/Salisbury area and has a a cliff hanger ending which will, I hope, lead onto the next from this author. Great stuff.
And, finally - Deity by Steven Dunne. This is the third novel by this author but the first one I have read and this really kept me going all one day. Setting this time is Derbyshire, and a body is dragged out of the River Derwent, presumed drowned until the autopsy reveals he has no lungs. Another corpse turns up later and, once again, internal organs have been removed with the exception of the heart. Both the victims are homeless derelicts taken from the streets and it soon becomes clear that they have been snatched so that the murderer can practice his embalming and mummifying skills on their bodies. Clear also that there will be other deaths when his skill has been honed and it is down to DI Damen Brook of Derby CID to track him down before he selects his final victims. And then four college students are reported missing and a film is released on the internet which sugests they have ritually killed themselves. But have they and are the two cases linked?
Another nail biter - sorry to keep using that expression, but it really was - and finished it about half an hour ago. (Currently watching another scene of carnage as I am following the Test Match with England needing over 340 runs to win. At the moment they are 9 for 2 so looking rather unlikely...)
Sorry, back to Steven Dunne. I gather that he has written two other previous titles and with a back story given for DI Brook am assuming they feature him as well. I think I will seek these out now and give them a whirl. Oh and before I forget, DI Brook is divorced, has had a breakdown and has a fractured relationship with his daughter, in case you were wondering......
So four very very good books and they kept me happy while my back rested and healed. My thanks to all those lovely publishers who sent them to me.
The last few weeks have flown by in a whirl of activity, if I wasn't driving to Heathrow or London or varying points of Suffolk, I have been glued to the TV and watching the Olympics and leaping up and down and shrieking with excitement. All over now, Games finished, daughter back to Australia and then back spasm, excruciating pain and flat on my back for three days. In between all this I have managed to get through several books, though four of them have been since Sunday when my back went and was forced to lie still and do nothing.
So doing a round up else I am going to get miles behind.
The Folly of French Kissing by Carla McKay. Light hearted chick litty book, easy read and most enjoyable. Story line of ex-pats being resented at their take over of a small French village and an anti-British campaign by the locals. Read this and thought that this was familiar and that I had read a story about this some years ago in the Daily Mail and as the book wore on became even more certain of this. Checked and found that the author was a former fiction editor of said paper so obviously this story stayed in her mind. All is not idyllic in the Languedoc and the cast of characters have their reasons for being there, each individual story revealed. Teacher and poet Judith Hay fleeing a scandal in the school where she used to teach, a sacked journalist on the look out for a good story, a lecherous author with a taste for young girls and a downtrodden wife. Immensely readable and kept me interested and engaged all the way through. Felt it galloped a bit towards the conclusion with everything wrapped up a bit quickly, but then a punch in the stomach on the last page. Pacy narrative and interesting characters and look forward to more by this author.
Habits of the House - Fay Weldon. Have tried various works by this author but have not been able to get on with her very well. Not sure why. This is apparently the first book in the Love and Inheritance Trilogy and takes us inside the lives of an aristocratic housesehold in the last three months of the nineteenth century. Earl of Dilberne has lost most of his money in a risky investment in a South African goldmine and the family are close to ruin so they decide to do what all good aristocratic families do when faced with penury - they hunt out an heiress. In this case Minnie O'Brien from Chicago, a daughter of a stock yard baron and with a vulgar mother and dubious past. But needs must...
Of course the story of an American heiress marrying into the British aristocracy is not new but always fun and I love stories set in this time. However, I found after a very short while that my attention wandered and I started skipping pages at a time as, quite frankly, found the story very boring indeed. Don't ask me why - I could not tell you and am aware that Fay Weldon is a widely read and respected author but I feel I may have to give up on her as I have tried, really I have but cannot get on with her at all. Also, I rather dislike a book with a sticker on the front cover telling me 'If you liked Downton Abbey you will like this'. Well I did and I don't.
Then to finish this round up a simply lovely little book, Caroline by Cornelius Medvei. Very early in my blogging days I reviewed a book by this author called Mr Thundermug, link here, a quirky rather odd and sad little book. I knew nothing about the author other than he studied modern languages at Oxford and lives in London. Here is a second by Medvei, some years after his first. Mr Shaw meets Caroline on his summer holiday and she turns his life upside down. They met and looked at each other across a sagging farm gate: "I suppose this was the moment when the whole strange affair began; the moment so well documented in classical poetry and TV soaps.....when two strangers come face to face; the heart thumps, an overpowering force shakes them...." It is the meeting of two minds. Only problem is Caroline is a donkey.
To the bemusement of his wife and son (the story is told from his son's viewpoint) when the family returns to the city Caroline comes with them. She plays chess, she goes to work at Mr Shaw's office and charms his colleagues. Caroline also re-awakens in Mr Shaw an appetite for life he thought he had lost. But the idyll cannot last and after months of close companionship and happiness it ends in tears. One morning Mr Shaw comes to say good morning to Caroline and finds she has opened her stable door and gone. Where did she go? My feeling is that bringing happiness to Mr Shaw and his family, she is now off to work her magic elsewhere. A bit like Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee - once they are not needed they have to leave.
Loved this little book and read it straight through. This is the second novel, or rather novella, that this author has written with an animal as the main character and the affect they have on the humans around them. Sheer delight from start to finish, amusing, sad and wonderfully written, with great economy of style. I do hope that Mr Medvei does not leave it another six years before he delights us again.
Could not resist the title of this post and ever since How to Bake by Paul Hollywood dropped through my letter box I have been singing this song.
I, along with thousands of other women, fell in love with Paul Hollywood when the BBC decided to screen a quirky little series which they thought would creep under the radar and they popped it onto BBC2. I am, of course, referring to the Great British Bake Off. Alongside the lovely Mary Berry, whose cookery books have been on my shelves for years, we had a new face (I gather he has been on TV before but nobody seemed to notice), one silvery haired, foxy guy called Paul Hollywood. Not skinny or bad tempered or sweaty like other celebrity cooks/chefs, he was quiet, to the point and utterly utterly gorgeous. I fell in love on the spot and came over all thing when he looked at a contestant in the eye and said 'Good bake'. Collective swoon all round.
Lovely lovely Bloomsbury send me lots of gorgeous books and so I begged for a copy of How to Bake and they duly obliged. Reading the intro it seems that he has been passionate about baking since he was eight years old. His father was a baker and so Paul spent a lot of time in his shop helping with jobs such as jamming the doughnuts (Oh how I would love to do that) and filling scones with cream and watching the professionals at work. Proof once again that what you observe and soak up as a child stays with you for ever. My mum was a great baker and she used to turn out Victoria Sponges, fairy cakes, scones, rock cakes, biscuits and whopping great fruit cakes. Every Christmas she made her own mincemeat, it was my job to turn the handle of the old fashioned mincer which was clamped onto the kitchen table, Christmas cake and puddings and I grew up with that lovely baking smell which permeated the whole house. Many years later when my girls were tiny one of my friends dropped by with her children and told me they loved to visit Elaine's house 'because it always smelled so nice of cakes and warm'. I took this as a compliment of the highest order. I have written about my cooking in an earlier post so if you are interested the link is here.
Anyway, back to Paul and this book which I have been reading in between shrieking at Usain Bolt and yelling for Andy Murray and generally being obsessed with the Games, and there are page after page of recipes I now wish to try. I have made bread and back in the seventies was very much into whole food and wholemeal everything and turned out loaves that could be used as doorstoppers, but have left all that behind me thank goodness. Now I just like to turn out a good plain loaf and thoroughly enjoy all the kneading and mixing that goes with it - no way would I want a breadmaker. Paul gives recipes for all the basic breads, but then goes onto a malted loaf, spelt bread, soda bread, milk loaf, ciabatta, focaccia and Fougasse which seems to be the French version of the latter. Just reading these recipes makes me drool.
But it is not all breads - he shows us how to make a basic croissant dough and then churn out pain au chocolat, then Danish pastry dough and pain aux raisins and Almond pastries (these are high on my list to do) and so it goes on. Turn over each page and drool. I did.
And then cakes -aaah the cakes. Triple Layer Chocolate Cake with walnuts; Caribbean Cake, raspberry and passion fruit muffins. Then there are the tarts and the pies and the..........
This is a gorgeous book, the recipes beautifully illustrated and step by step instructions given, particularly the pastry and the bread section. Paul signs off 'I still love the feeling I get from manipulating good raw ingredients into something fantastic. I hope I can pass that on to you and help you to create a little bit of magic in your own kitchen'.
OK what are you waiting for? Off you go but don't forget to watch the first in the new series of The Great British Bake Off on TV tonight at 8pm. I will be there, watching and drooling and it won't be the cakes causing this reaction....
Writing this at the end of the closing ceremony of the games. I am very happy to say once again that I was totally wrong about our capabilities here in London and say that they were stunningly successful and I totally fell in love with them.
We ended up with 65 medals but more than that the display of sportsmanship, grace under pressure, happiness and joy that this Olympiad has engendered is, in my opinion, even more important. For two weeks we have shown the best side of London to the world and has filled me with pride and joy in my country. For once it is no longer unfashionable to say We are Proud to be British.
The Games have coincided with my darling Kathryn visiting and have closed as she has departed and is now back in Sydney. I was fairly tearful all evening because of this and especially when the flame was dimmed and died, when I blubbed like a baby. Missing my wonderful daughter and now the Games are also gone and the joyous two weeks are over.