Friday, December 30, 2011

Dead Money by Ray Banks

Even if Mr. Banks decided to write a book about the joys of studying carpet fibres, I would relish it now. Why do I say that? Well, I must be honest. I really struggled with Dead Money to start with and was very slow reading the first 20%. As someone who rarely even bothers to buy a lottery ticket and who has a father who used to have a terrible one-armed bandit addiction, the subject was not appealing to me and the title said it all. How glad I am I persevered!
Alan Slater and his sort of friend and colleague Les Beale are window salesmen with a penchant for gambling. To be fair to Alan, he initially acts more as a bodyguard/minder to Beale, although Alan constantly gambles with both his marriage and his soul. When Beale gets involved in a fixed game that goes horribly wrong and loses everything, he turns to the only person he feels can help get him out of a dire situation.  Alan reluctantly goes to his aid with disastrous results.
It’s the sort of tale where you cringe, clutch your head and wail ‘Oh no!’ as things seem to go from bad to worse. The author keeps you glued right to the end with skilful portrayal of the events which overtake Alan and Les. Gamblers need luck more than skill. Who was the most successful gambler? Who was lucky? I’m not telling you! I daren’t say another thing.
The grisly humour did it for me and the author’s wonderful descriptions which had me feeling chilled to the bone as if I was out in the pouring rain, watching. A cracking read.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers

Here are just a few pictures from Saturday 10th of December at Ayr Citadel. It was a cracking night. I really enjoyed it and so did my parents. There were 12 band members! These pictures barely convey the wonderful atmosphere but here we are.... The support act was Jill Jackson, a fine blues/folk/rock singer songwriter. A great start to a terrific evening.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Choke On Your Lies - Anthony Neil Smith

I really enjoyed this book! It's unusual in that there is nothing endearing about any of the characters initially. I had the urge to slap poor Mick Thooft, as he appeared downtrodden and manipulated by everyone he came into contact with. That expression "Grow a pair!" so often used these days seemed perfect for him.

Mick turns to Octavia, the power crazy, omnipotent and physically enormous lawyer for help to save his house from the claws of his treacherous wife, Frances who has decided their relationship is over.
Octavia is fearsome! She uses her power, wealth and intelligence to outwit her adversaries and manipulate her employees and anyone close to her. This includes Mick who is perhaps her one real friend; it's a friendship that has survived the years even though he sometimes fears Octavia too. Does she have a softer side to her complex personality?

You need to read this fantastic book where the characters are as cleverly constructed as the storyline which takes you through filth and sleaze all brilliantly described with the most wonderful humour. There are parts which are downright hilarious! Also there is an amazingly touching speech from Jennings (Octavia's right hand man and another of her captives) which nearly had me in tears. This book takes the reader through so many emotions - frustration, annoyance, sadness and happiness. It's so well done.

Read it. It was a real surprise and a pleasure to read. Loved it!!!

Friday, October 07, 2011

A Mayonnaise Jar and Two Beers - A Lesson for Life

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the two beers.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They again agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous '"Yes".

The professor then produced two beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things, your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favourite passions. If everything else was lost, and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else, the small stuff.
"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend timewith your children, spend time with your parents, visit with grandparents. Take the time to get medical checkups, take your spouse out to dinner or play another 18 holes.

There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter.
Set your priorities ..... the rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled and said, "I'm glad you asked. The beer just shows you that, no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers with a friend."

Friday, September 30, 2011


I finished Allan Guthrie's Slammer last night.

I'm glad I finished it in the evening rather than saving it for the start of my Friday off. To end one day in a contemplative mood feeling sombre is better than to begin the next feeling sombre before even getting out of bed. I think so anyway.

That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy reading Slammer. Far from it. In the usual books I read, a crime is committed at the start and is solved at the end by a crumpled hero and that's it; the world is put to rights again and we can all rest easy. I am almost complacent as I switch off the light, the next book already lined up, the one just read not dwelling long enough in the mind to cause a problem.

Mr. Guthrie doesn't do flowery stories about crime, featuring characters with straightforward lives touched by misfortune. There are no 'goodies' or 'baddies'. Slammer is the third of his books I have read. With this, like the others, I felt uncomfortable when I finished reading, once again shown the frailties of human nature. Nick Glass is introduced to us as a nervous, young man with a family to provide for - something he did not choose but made the best of - which is why he became a prison warden. Like many of us, he turns up at work each day and goes through the motions until it's time to return home, only to repeat the same routine again the next day.

I don't think I liked poor Nick much even before his troubles began. He doesn't get any more appealing as the book goes on but I was dragged along through the shadows, until it was too late; there was no escape. I watched with dismay wondering how things could get so out of control. Nick was conquered by his demons and so was I, the reader, in a way. It was with grisly fascination that I followed Nick along his path to self destruction.

It's a very sad, disturbing book. It demonstrates how easy it is to be led astray. It makes you wonder if we really aren't all creatures of circumstance. Life isn't meant to be predetermined. We have choice, don't we?

Read this book, as unsettling as it is, it's a great read. Don't expect a happy ending though.