The Last Days of Thunder Child

The Last Days of Thunder Child
War of the Worlds - spin off adaptation novel.

Monday, 16 July 2018

England in the Summer Along the Bird Hides of the Fenland.

It was a very hot day indeed today. We decided to go to the bird hides of Manea, just passed the rickety old cottage between the rivers Delph and Bedford. These rivers are separated by a bridle path and a huge dyke that runs between both rivers.

In previous blogs, I have shown pictures of the flooded fen when the Delph burst her banks in the autumn. Today, and as expected, the lake effect upon the fields was gone. The river Delph was in clear view as was the lush green pastures stretching towards Ely. It was 31c but the heat was helped by a cooling breeze along the bridal path.

We were concerned about the heat for our little dog Darcy. However, this was unfounded. She seemed to love the freedom of running along the bridal path. In some ways it was sad. This time last year, our late dog Dotty would have been charging along the hides. Sadly, she passed away in November after a short illness. Cancer that claimed her very suddenly.

Darcy enjoyed herself.

Darcy is the new little companion. We lasted two days without Dotty. She left a void in the house. Darcy, in many ways, is just like Dotty.

We stopped at several bird hides and looked out towards the old cathedral in the distance. The spires looking distant and grey in the shimmering haze - far away on the other side of the fens. The sky was full of Terns. Seagull type birds twisting and turning in the clear blue. The sky was theirs on this occasion. Back at the bridge by the rickety old cottage was the bridge where an abundance of swifts was seen darting here, there and everywhere by the reeds and lilies as they swooped and chased each other. Also the dragonflies and butterflies by the reeds.

At one moment we heard a commotion. The sound of 'Kleep, kleep - Kleep kleep.' coming from over the dyke. The sound went on and on and got closer. I readied my camera as three birds flew over. They were Oystercatchers. They made for a wonderful sight.
The Oystercatchers made a complete racket in the clear blue sky.

All in all, it was a kind excursion that passed the late morning into the early afternoon. I took my camera and clicked away at various things.

Victorian Battleship HMS Devastation - The Pattern for the British Empire's Future Battleships.

HMS Devastation.

The Pattern for Future Battleships.

HMS Devastation.

The Dawn of Battleships Without Sails.

Ships made of iron came about during the mid-nineteenth century. There were many prototypes in various countries. France built some wonderful ironclad ships and Great Britain got into an arms race with them. It was a natural competitive way of the age. France and Britain had been natural enemies, but they had been fighting side by side as allies during the Crimean War.
The American Civil War saw some very innovative designs too. People were inventing all sorts of ways to destroy other ships. Anything that might give them an advantage in marine warfare. The Confederate forces even managed to build a submarine. They mounted the first ever successful submarine attack upon a battleship. The cost was high because the submarine was sunk too.
Great Britain wanted to build a ship made of iron and without sails. They hoped for a steam driven ship. Engines fuelled by coal which in turn, rotated a prop shaft attached to a propeller at the stern of the ship and below the water. This gave them propulsion without the aid of sails. On the 12th of July 1871 at Portsmouth, the Royal Navy launched HMS Thunder Child. This battleship was state of the art during this time. There were no sails rigging and the ship’s guns were inside revolving turrets encased in iron walls. The whole ship was constructed entirely of iron. It was the first of two Devastation class battleships. The other would be named, HMS Thunderer.

Plans for HMS Devastation.

A New Innovation.

The ship sat very low in the water. The stern and the bow were a mere eight foot above the sea line. The central freeboard area of the vessel was raised higher. To move from the stern or bow to the freeboard, a crew member would have to walk up port or starboard stairs. The fore and aft of the upper freeboard area contained the revolving turret guns. Between was the small superstructure. There was an internal ladder leading up to the open superstructure deck. Also at the back of the revolving turret guns’ metal wall was an attached ladder. A crewman could get on top of the turret, where a stair gantry leads down from the fore and aft of the superstructure. It was raised above the actual turret – the last step suspended in mid-air. This allowed the turret gun to rotate and the stair gantry ending a step above could not interfere with the rotation of the turret. All delightful little innovations of the time.
The ironclad ship must have appeared very odd to the Victorian public of Britain. Especially the fact that the entire ship was made of steel. They would have been awe-struck that such a vessel could float. The complete lack of sails and rigging would seem extremely unusual. There was also a pointed ram at the bow. This sat below the water as the ship ploughed through the sea. Even in a moderate swell, the sea would have cascaded over the bow and capstan area of the deck.
The first guns to be placed inside the turrets were muzzleloaders. This means the shell and charge were rammed into the gun via the front of the barrel. Similar to the old ways of cannon loading. The charge first and then a shell. All rammed down before ignition. The breech-loading guns with shell canisters would not be adopted for a number of years by the Royal Navy. This seemed a little lacking for the time. Even though it was 1871. Each turret contained two guns. They were on wheels and there was a type of small rail that the wheels sat upon. As the two mounted guns were wheeled back inside the enclosure of the turret, they could be tipped forward so the front open barrel pointed down to the floor. There was a hole in the deck leading to a lower storey. At this lower level was a gutter like ramming system. Here loaders, below deck, could put a charge and push it up the grooves and into the dipped barrel through the ceiling. Then the shell was added to sit upon the charge. When this operation was completed, the guns were pulled back upright in the turret above. When the guns were level placed, they were rolled forward upon the rails. The front barrels barely protruded from the gun ports as one can observe in early photos.

Bird's Eye View of Devastation's Superstructure and Revolving Turrets.

Costly Design Flaws.

Of course, this only lasted for a short time because breech loaders were brought in by the Royal Navy to replace the old muzzle-loading guns. This change came about because of an accident during a gunnery exercise on board Devastation’s sister ship, HMS Thunderer. This occurred in January 1879. As the guns on the forward turret were fired, the gun crew held their hands over their ears. According to accident reports after the event, only one gun had fired. The gun crew pulled the muzzleloaders back upon the rail and tipped them forward for a second reloading. The gun that never went off was reloaded with another charge and another shell. Therefore, one of the guns had a charge and shell, plus another charge and shell all sitting in the same barrel. When the guns were rolled forward for another firing, the results were horrendous. The gunnery crew never stood a chance in the confines of the revolving turret. The catastrophic mistake caused the deaths of 11 crew members. A further 35 were injured as the explosion ripped through and out of the forward turret.
When the accident investigation was concluded this reason was given for the calamity. However, there were some investigators that believed there were faults with the hydraulic power-ramming system. There persists another theory that a part of the hydraulics broke off and blocked the barrels during the loading process. Whatever the actual reason was, the Royal Navy decided to invest in Breech loaders. This meant all gun loading could be done inside the turrets.

The Fore Turret and Superstructure of HMS Devastation.

Never a Shot in Anger.

HMS Devastation would never fire her guns in anger. Despite being in service for 32 years. She saw duty in the Mediterranean for much of her naval use and in home waters too. She was taken out of her role in 1905 and sold for scrap in 1908. During her time, she underwent various modernizations. Some of these improvements were for her boilers and guns. Her various crew was believed to have been fond of the ship, but the design did have critics too.
The press seemed to loathe the Devastation class ships. They wrote criticising reports of both vessels. These articles led to the Naval Constructor, Sir Edward Reed losing his maritime position. They ship’s had come into being under a cloak of controversy when they were launched. I think the ships were not the problem, but Sir Edward Reed was. He had been accused of taking ideas, about the revolving turret, from another designer. He had been accused of decrying the former designer before adopting the late man’s gun turrets for Devastation. This had caused some controversy with the late designer’s widow. I think this made Reed unpopular in parts of the Admiralty and this was filtered through to the British press.
Many new ships evolved from this Devastation design. It was a prelude to the Dreadnoughts. The original Devastation class ships were medium size battleships that could attack and destroy an opponent with speed. They were heavily armed and manoeuvrable. How formidable they may have been can only be speculated about. The Royal Navy was extremely intimidating in this day and age. There was not a force to be reckoned with it. After the Napoleonic wars ending in 1815, the last threatening confrontation would not come until 1914. This is a period of almost 100 years.
I can’t help wondering about HMS Devastation. I like the look of the ship because she has that primitive aspect of a metal battleship. Yet parts of the design are stuck in the old galleon times. Especially with the little stumpy muzzleloading guns scarcely protruding through the gun ports of innovative revolving turrets. I suspect she may have had a lot of vulnerabilities in battle. Yet I’m thinking of her up against a dreadnought. A further adaptation.
What would she have been like against a sailing galleon battleship like HMS Warrior? I’ve been aboard the Warrior. She is now an exhibition ship. Part of the Naval Museum at Portsmouth. I think the old HMS Victory of Nelson’s day would be outmanoeuvred and easily destroyed by Devastation. But I suspect the Warrior may have been able to put up a good account because she is also an ironclad. She has a line of port and starboard guns. Her armament is bigger. Yet she has sail and rigging. Perhaps these parts of the old ship would be susceptible to Devastation. Then I think of the number of guns Warrior has. Surely some of these would find the mark? Even on a fast moving vessel like Devastation. If there are any ship enthusiasts, please comment on how you think such a duel would make out. I would be interested to know.

Short Clip About HMS Thunderer of the Devastation Class.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Is This Brexit Deal Too Good to be True?

As a Brexit voter, I find this a good deal. However, it seems too good to be true. We have got everything we wanted. If the EU had granted the UK rights over free movement before the referendum, they (EU) would not have had to put in the Common Fisheries and Agricultural policies and the 80% of our extra EU trade. ECJ within the UK is gone. It is just the EU trade where we stay linked. OK, what is wrong with that? Is it me? We seem to have got a better deal than expected. The EU is also not going to get the financial contributions anymore either. This seems too good to be true. I like what I am hearing, but it seems we have been able to cherry pick and cherry pick some more. Despite all the banter about this from the EU beforehand, we seem to have what we want. What am I not picking up on? I'm always suspicious.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Beautiful Red Kite is Chased Off by Crows.

Late in the afternoon, I was chatting with Carole on the garden decking. We were interrupted by a commotion. The overexcited sound of crows. Almost in panic. 

In the distance and coming towards us was a cluster of the carrion above a Red Kite that seemed to lazily twist and turn from the harassing carrion. Almost as though the raptor could not be bothered.

As it passed above the garden, I was able to grab the camera and take some multiple shots. As usual, after about twenty-five photo shots, I selected the ones I thought best. It was rather high and I used the computer to magnify.

It was taken on my Nikon D3100 at 300mm. I'm still toying with the notion of buying the Nikon P900. It has a range of 10,000mm. I can't help wondering how such a camera would have captured this fine bird in flight.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The Mauritius Command by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads Review)

The Mauritius Command (Aubrey/Maturin Series, Book 4) (Aubrey & Maturin series)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another fine Aubrey/Maturin story. Every bit as good as the others. This time Aubrey is a temporary Commodore and in charge of a small squadron of ships. He must confront a skilled French enemy operating out of Mauritius. The enemy is attacking and capturing British ships upon cargo routes from India to Britain. The islands of Mauritius are strategically placed to capture a wealth of British plunder. Bonaparte's Navy is making good use of the advantage. The Royal Navy is intent on eliminating this French ability. What follows is some strategic confrontations. Battles, where advantages are won, lost and then won again in an ever continuing cat and mouse adventure game upon the high seas. Splendid action scenes throughout and wonderfully atmospheric.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

My Mad Garden Patch is Full of Colour.

It is grand to sit on the decking with a cold beer and chat with my wife as the summer days linger. The decking overlooks this wonderful mad display of flowers. It will be like this until September. Various flowers will bloom and die as the cycle goes on. 

With a few days off, I'm going to the market at Ely. Perhaps I will take a fancy to a new shrub on the garden stalls.

Monday, 4 June 2018

The Thief Taker by C.S. Quinn (My Goodreads Review)

The Thief Taker (The Thief Taker #1)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book way more than I was expecting too. I'm always lured by historical thrillers. Especially if it is set in Britain's past. This story was most unusual. It is about a Thief-Taker who must take on a task way out of his normal perimeters of work. He must investigate a serial murderer stalking plague-ridden London of 1665 during the Restoration era of King Charles II.

The story is unashamedly farfetched, but that is what makes it. There are all sorts of boundaries that the writer presents. Like checkpoints in various districts of London. Outside of London, in the countryside, there are groups of vigilante patrols hell-bent on killing refugees fleeing the plague. This is to contain it.

The author makes a wonderful and diabolical way of showing the dying plague-ridden victims. They are contained in districts. They look like something from the walking dead. Like zombies, except in need of help and desperate to beseech anyone for spiritual or any other type of charity. Obviously, uninfected Londoners are desperate to be out of their way. It gets rather claustrophobic at times as one pictures these wretched and diseased people crawling and staggering towards you. This is a crime/historical/horror story. In parts, it is rather gory. We have a serial killer dressed as a plague doctor. A Thief Taker who is well out of his league trying to hunt the killer. He is also well out of his league with the gorgeous well to do lady who has hired him.

I can't help thinking this would make a grand modern Hammer House Horror production as a movie. I suppose it is classified as a historical crime story. However, I would class it as Horror too.

My only nitpick is one. The beginning was great. The first third of the story was engrossing. The middle third of the story petered down a bit. I thought it was going to lose its way. But then in the final third the whole tale bounced back with a second wind. A very good read and a rather unusual and compelling story.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel (My Goodreads Review)

A Place of Greater Safety

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was engrossed from the start. I had some idea of the way the events went from history, but this was up close and personal. Camille Desmoulins, Georges-Jaques Danton and Maximilien Robespierre, are three main historical figures from the French Revolution. This story gives a reader the view of their households and friends over the years before and after the cataclysmic event that sent shock waves throughout Europe. The uprising left a profound change in the Western world. From the storming of the Bastille to the Reign of Terror.

The Republic will be born but maintaining the new French Republic is an endeavour that demands strict and diabolical things to be done. The guillotine begins to work overtime at an absurd rate as The Reign of Terror begins. The champions of maintaining the new and hard-won democracy will become consumed by the dreadful events. Despite good intentions to deliver the will of the downtrodden people of France.

I really enjoyed this book. It took a little while to get used to the style of presentation as we flit from various scenes concerning the main three characters. I quickly got used to this. There is a whole host of other historical figures too. It is hard to say more without accidentally putting spoilers in. So I must leave it there. Suffice to say, well worth five stars - splendid reading.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Back to the Garden After Rain and Sun.

Each a day there are new colours. It is a pleasure getting up of a morning and looking at that little patch by the garden pond and the little greenhouse The Lupins are up and now the Foxgloves are growing too. There are Cosmos and Cornflower. The Snow on the Moutain white is growing around the fish pond and waterfall. Wild Red Poppies and the Orange California Poppies too. Soon I hope to see a big Sunflower starting to grow. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The Fat England Man in His Garden.

He seeks them here,
He seeks them there,
Mad growing plants everywhere.
A little rain,
A little sun,
Food for plants and all is done.
The verges around,
The wildflowers abound,
Dig a few up and plant elsewhere.
Elsewhere in my garden,
So to the farmers beg my pardon,
Cascading and portraying our summer sun evening.
Even in summer, 
Our weather goes duller, 
But tomorrows will come.
Second to none, 
The next day has begun,
More flowers more colours,
Yet to come.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Crime on the Fens by Joy Ellis (My Goodreads Review)

Crime on the Fens (DI Nikki Galena, #1)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like a good crime story. Especially if it is UK based or historical. I live in the Fenland and this title caught my attention. It is the first of the DI Nikki Galena stories set in the Fenland Constabulary. This was a gripping tale with strong characters and a plot that held the reader's attention. The dialogue was good too. I obviously, don't want to leave any spoilers. But I'll definitely read more of the DI Nikki Galena stories. This was a very good paced thriller. I would recommend it to people who enjoyed stories like Happy Valley or Prime Suspect.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

The Fenland Garden Colours are Getting Ready to go Wonderfully Mad.

The Fenland garden colours are getting ready to go wonderfully mad. Every morning I go out and see the Lupins are blooming to life. There are all sorts of colours coming about. It is very exciting. The cornflowers too. The Snow on the Mountain white around the pond and at the front of the house. It all makes for a glorious show. 

The German Submarine Known as U-534

In May 1945, Germany was all but defeated. The caretaker head of state was Admiral Dönitz who presided over the last few days of National Socialist Germany's existence. On the 5th of May, Admiral Karl Dönitz ordered a partial surrender to his forces that still remained in Denmark.
The U-boat crew of a German submarine (U-534) was at sea. Presumably, they had got these orders via their enigma communication. They surfaced and joined with two other U-boats. Together the submarines were forming a convoy. One assumes to return to base. They were in the Kattegat sea - a narrow strip of water between Denmark and Sweden. It was the 5th of May 1945. Two days before the war would officially end on the 7th of May. The subs were about 14 miles Northwards of a small Danish island called Anholt.
The RAF was flying over the sea with impunity by this time of the war. The German Luftwaffe was none existent. Two RAF Liberator aircraft were patrolling the area. They spotted the convoy of submarines. By this time of the war, the allied air forces were attacking anything in enemy territory. Even horse and carts were being strafed. Three German submarines on the surface were plum targets and the RAF Liberators went into the attack with depth charge bombs dropping. The submarines tried to return fire and a fierce naval to air battle ensued.
The crew of U-534 fired upon the attacking British aircraft that were coming at them with machine gun fire and bombs. The u-boat firepower was successful in shooting down one of the RAF Liberators. However, many depth charges were dropped and the surviving Liberator managed to get a direct hit. The explosion caused fatal damage to the U-534 and the craft began to take on water at an alarming rate. The 52 crew had to abandon the sinking vessel. Five of the submarine crew were trapped in the torpedo room as the vessel sank. They escaped through the torpedo tubes. One of the young submariners - Josef Neudorfer held his breath all the way up to the surface and damaged his lungs. He needed to exhale breath before surfacing. The lung damage was fatal and the seventeen-year-old youngster died. Two more of the five men perished from exposure. Therefore forty-nine crew members survived.
Many years later, in 1993, the U-534 was brought to the surface and towed to Birkenhead in Liverpool. Much of the U-boat was repaired and displayed as a museum piece.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The Inner Core EU Have Become Like the Old Untouchables in the Palace of Versailles.

The EU could have been a good idea, but with no electoral control over the inner core, we – the people can’t punish such un-elected rulers via the ballot box. This has resulted in a hijacking of a glorious project. Ruined by liberal socialists who spout their cheaply acquired nobility. Unaccountable people who impose (what they decide) is good for us. No arguments, no discussion. If you do get a vote and reject anything. You are blackmailed and forced to vote again.

The majority of UK people voted to leave the EU and an even bigger majority of the nation accept the result. Business must fund itself or perish. Some of our smaller industries can't get up to run because of the EU red tape that binds them. There are consequences of staying in and there are challenges of coming out. We have heard all of this before we voted. Many decided that staying in the EU, and having no electoral control over a second and higher tier of unelected rulers, far more troublesome than being independent. Independent and with electoral control seems safer despite the efforts of economic fear mongering. We do not want to be ruled by business people and economists. We’ve had too much of that and they have not always been right.

The people must have a choice, not a boardroom committee. They become disengaged with us (the people) and impose what they decide it right. We can see the problems of this governing apparatus much more nowadays. It will have to change and adapt or things will get worse for Europe because of the EU.

For decades now, mass migration on a level of gross irresponsibility has been easily splattered as racism. It has been tossed aside as something dirty and not worthy of attention. It has been conveniently dismissed for years with a batch of unsavoury labels to hang on anyone who dares to mention the subject. These Liberal elitists think they should have a free pass on immigration. They no longer think rank and file workers, who must make up a huge majority of the European population, should have any say concerning the mass movement of people.

The un-elected inner governing core of the EU have become like the untouchables in Palace of Versailles. How long before more nations rebel? How long before some brave soul within the EU acknowledges that a union must belong to the people and the EU is subservient to an electorate? How long before inner core EU politicians engage with an electorate whose concerns and fears must be acted upon in order to be elected to a high level of responsibility?

Sunday, 20 May 2018

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (My Goodreads)

A Tale of Two Cities

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had heard the words for the beginning of this book. ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’ etc. I had also heard the famous last words too. ‘It is a far better thing I do now…” etc. I did not know anything else about the story except it was written by Charles Dickens and the two cities were London and Paris. Also that it was against the backdrop of the French Revolution.

I downloaded this on Kindle because it was a freebie and I had often wondered about the story. I accept without question that Charles Dickens is the master of characterisation. The books of his that I have read have always been stories of wonderful and colourful characters. This story was no exception. It was dynamic and gripping. I knew the character that would say the famous last lines straight away. As soon as the person began to paint his profile for the reader I knew. Everything about this story was wonderful. People of all social persuasions come together. The rogues were splendid too. One could understand their dissatisfaction and how their ways had been tempered.

Everything built to a dynamic climax as the Reign of Terror is engulfing France. The guillotine is working overtime as the French Revolution is enforcing the genocide of the entire nation’s aristocracy. I can’t recommend the book highly enough. I have not read something that gave me an adrenalin rush like this for a long time. Brilliant!

Friday, 18 May 2018

The Chronicles of Aveline: Awakening by Ken Fry (My Goodreads Review)

The Chronicles of Aveline: Awakening

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set against the backdrop of England's last days of King Henry II and the start of King Richard I (Lionheart). Aveline is a young lady of noble birth and an aptitude for weaponry. Especially the Bow. There are a collection of consequences. She falls in love and everything seems to be going very well. But then there is the underlay of scheming priests. Aveline must undergo some unwanted endurance tests. These are enforced by the self-righteous and powerful religious orders of the day. Aveline must come through her ordeal before she can go on a quest. A quest for love that will take her to the holy land. Here it is the time of Saladin the Great. Jerusalem has just fallen.

I am assuming this is the first story. As we go through all of these ordeals with our heroine. There is a very gripping battle scene too.

The story ends on a fresh hold. We are left standing in the doorway for a further quest. In other words, there has to be another story. I, for one, look forward to the next part. A splendid tale and would recommend to anyone who enjoys Medieval/Crusade stories.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads Review)

H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey/Maturin #3)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a gripping yarn. We are taken on a journey to the Indian Ocean with confrontations on land and sea. I am truly a fan of these Aubrey/Maturin naval stories. This one is no exception. The battle scenes at sea are presented to a degree where I thought I was there. The small points are taken into consideration by the Captain as the galleons square up to each other. Trying to get abeam of the ship as it leans over from the wind. This prevents it using its bottom line of guns. Thus a smaller ship fights a bigger vessel using the elements to advantage etc. There are so many things like this during the story. Splendid stuff all the way. The characters and the dialogue are marvellous as usual. I can't recommend these naval stories high enough. Well worth reading.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens (My Goodreads)

The Old Curiosity Shop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story started off in the first person singular. Master Humphery tells the story. Then after a few chapters, it becomes a third person singular story. I think it was originally published in episodes via a magazine. The story follows Nell Trent who lives with her Grandfather. It is a very moving story and also rather sad. As with all Charles Dickens stories. The characters and the dialogue are wonderful. It was these gorgeous things that compelled me. It is always the same with Charles Dickens. Well worth reading.

Carson of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs (My Goodreads Review)

Carson of Venus (Venus, #3)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this many decades ago. I think I was lured by the front page picture, which is not the one on the cover for this review. I remember there were Amazon women and submissive wimpy men in one part. I thought it might be along the line of Conan the Barbarian in space or something like that. It was ok, but it was not a story that gripped me. Obviously, pulp sci-fi/fantasy which is fine if you like this sort of thing. There are many people that like such escapism but it was not for me and I never followed the series after reading this.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

A Close Run Thing by Allan Mallinson (My Goodreads Review)

A Close Run Thing (Matthew Hervey, #1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would have liked to give this 3 and a half, but there is no allowance for that. I would not go to four for one reason. The first chapter.

This was a very enjoyable story set between 1814 to 1815. The reader sees a backdrop of historical development where Napoleon is banished to Elba and then his return for the 100 Days War. In between, our British cavalryman takes two months leave and then is stationed in Ireland, before returning to mainland Europe to fight the Battle of Waterloo.

My only gripe with the story is the first chapter. It was full of narration and was intense in historical detail concerning cavalry etc. It read like a textbook and what little dialogue there was, seemed short. This made the characters look a little wooden. By the time I finished the first chapter, I was pondering on whether or not to abandon the novel. I stuck with it and I am most pleased I did. For it seemed as though the author wanted to get some of these explanations out of the way. The story started to roll and the dialogue got much better. The character of Matthew Hervey bloomed. I found him easy to identify with as his adventure began.

As the novel progressed and new things had to be explained, it was often done without the long narration and sometimes the characters told the reader through dialogue. This worked much better. I don't understand why the author, who obviously knows his stuff, could not have shown the reader the cavalry things of the first chapter via dialogue with the nun/nurse at the nunnery where the first chapter was set. As I say, this was a smashing story apart from the laborious first chapter. I will read the second book in the series The Nizam's Daughters as I did enjoy the period settings and have warmed to Matthew Hervey.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Post Captain by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads Review)

Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin, #2)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second Aubrey/Maturin story. They are set during the Napoleonic wars at sea. In this story, we see our heroes up against it with debt collectors threatening. Jack Aubrey needs a ship because while at sea, he can keep the creditors away. The dialogue is splendid and some of the narration has that old fashion feel too. It all makes for a great atmospheric feel. The battles at sea are particularly gripping. Even if, like me, you know nothing about sailing at sea; you'll get sucked up into these dazzling adventures. I'll definitely go for the third story after being thrilled by the first two adventures. I can't express how good the dialogue is. I know I've mentioned it before, but this is what makes the story so fine. The speech is how one might well imagine how people of such times would talk. I felt as though I was there. Walking about the old port towns and visiting well to do people. Some of these parts of the story had an almost Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austin feel about it. Then there are the descriptions of men at sea and the workings of such magnificent vessels.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Fire Power by Chris Dempster (Goodreads Review)

Fire Power

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this back in the early 1980s. It was lent to me by my Brother-in-law. It concerns the British mercenaries out in Angola during the conflict of 1974. A former Portuguese colony is becoming independent and the various factions are fighting one another. The Communists have Cuban and Soviet advisers etc. Another group has predominately British mercenaries. They are led by a man of Greek Cypriot origin. An ex-British Army man who is given the alias of Callen. In a short time, Callen becomes notorious for attacking the Communist coveys and even executing his own men. Then there is the public televised trial. The author, Chris Dempster is also present at this time and he has his own story to tell. As a young kid, I can remember watching the court case on the news and the stories in the newspapers of Callen. The whole thing is well written by someone who was there, but I can't help feeling there is a little bit of the macho bravado aspect to this. A lot of ordinary people on all sides of the conflict died brutal deaths.

Fall Out: A Year of Political Mayhem by Tim Shipman (My Goodreads Review)

Fall Out: A Year of Political Mayhem

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

God Lord! Who would the hell want Theresa May's job after reading this entertaining and very gripping account? If she is weak? No blooming wonder! The pro-Brexiteers are waiting in dark alcoves with knives drawn and ready to pounce at the slightest sign of wavering. The other dark places are inhabited by the sour EU-remain brigade who are also ready to try and character assassinate her at any moment. Then there is the fickle electorate - the nation's voters who she mistook to have won trust from. With ill-deserved confidence, she calls for another election for an EU mandate. Many of the Brexiteers are old Labour voters etc. They were not going to allow a hated Conservative a mandate to impose dementia tax etc. Many think she is trying to impose wicked penalties for defying the government. The plebiscite rebellion still distrusts all political parties. The whole thing seems farcical. The left-wing Labour party offered free everything and still could not win. The British Prime Minister is caught between a rock and a hard place concerning the EU. She knows that the British electorate expects her to deliver on the Brexit referendum. That one principal is all she can do. But either way; she is going to make enemies. No good calling her weak. The Prime Minister is having everything thrown at her from every side. I would highly recommend this follow up to Tim Shipman's All Out War. Splendid stuff!

Friday, 4 May 2018

Do You Enjoy Boxing?

Sugar Ray Leonard v Dave Boy Green

Male Dominated Sport.

There are many sports that fascinate me. I’m glued like a rabbit in the headlights. I'm mesmerised by the bravery of such men. And I am talking only of men. A world of men. Perhaps the politically correct might say, male-dominated and intentionally chauvinistic. Perhaps this is true. This is not out of disrespect for ladies. It is because the sports I refer to are completely for the world of men.
The main one is boxing. I know ladies do box in certain categories, but it is of no interest to me. I know they play football. I like to see the ladies football sometimes but there is still not that zeal or buzz to grip me. I think formula one motor racing has the gritty edge of a dangerous sport. Still, not too many ladies grace this high level. Even though, I believe some woman might be able to compete alongside men in the motor racing sport.

For me, the ultimate admiration is reserved for boxers. When two men go out into that arena, it is something truly brave. Perhaps, a little crazy too. I could never do such a thing. Yet I’m compelled by the people who do. Good boxing never fails to fascinate me. I could pick out hundreds of names from the history of boxing. Many of us would know of them. Boxers that seemed invincible, are suddenly defeated in a blinding crescendo of punches and rounds of gruelling punishment.
The solitary bravery of these lone warriors never fails to amaze me. Even when some poor boxer is getting battered about the ring. When somehow the brave and outmatched adversary is still hanging in and taking the punishment. The big mouth pre-fight slanging match before the press and then the fighter enters the ring and is taken out with an embarrassing knockout in the first round. There are all types of defeats. And most boxers, no matter how good, will end their careers in defeat.
It is strange to say that I can never get things right with up and coming boxers. I see impressive men who have all the attributes. They dispatch a collection of adversaries with impressive fights. They seem unstoppable. Then they step up a notch against someone who looks less able than some of the boxer’s previous competitors. Surprise! The unimpressive looking challenger takes out the magnificent boxer I have been following for some time.


Prince Naseem Hamed vs Marco Antonio Barrera

Variable Expectations on Certain Boxers.
This happened with Ricky Hatton. I thought he was so impressive. He won a string of victories in two weight categories. The man was dynamite in my opinion. Then he suffered a spectacular defeat against Floyd Mayweather Jr. It seemed to take a lot out Ricky Hatton and I don’t think he was the same after this.
There is also a flip side to that coin. Every time Joe Calzaghe got into the ring, I thought his luck was going to run out. It never did. He even ended his career undefeated because he had to retire due to his hands becoming brittle and broken. Some of the opponents that stepped into the ring with Joe Calzaghe were most impressive. He first shocked me when he beat the formidable champion, Chris Eubank. I thought Chris Eubank was good and he was not defeated easily by Joe Calzaghe. Yet the Welshman seemed to have this impressive speed dogging and quick sequences of punches. He was amazing. I thought it was a one-off. It was not. An intimidating assortment of fighters would come and be dispatched by Calzaghe. Every time he stepped into the ring I thought, “This is it! This time Joe is going to lose. One such opponent was Bryon Mitchell, an American who seemed to have the credentials. He was certainly bristling with confidence and could talk the talk. Well most of them can talk the talk. In the first round, Mitchell put Joe Calzaghe on his backside. The first time the Welshman had been put down in a big fight. He was up quickly and before the first round ended, Mitchell was put down too. I went from shock to awe as in the second round Calzaghe dispatched Mitchell with a technical knockout. The American seemed to have no answer to the barrage of blows that were hitting him.
I often remember Calzaghe’s opponents holding the gloves to their faces as the quick punches kept coming. No matter how formidable the opponents appeared, once they started protecting their faces, there were no punches back. If one did get slung, Calzaghe often was able to dodge the swing or ride the blow. He would always return a fast succession of blows. The boxer was amazing.

Joe Calzaghe was Undefeated.
Muhammad Ali in White Shorts.

Defeated Opponents that Keep Coming Back.

Of course one could add other great boxers. Everyone on the planet will know of Muhammad Ali. The man always told us he was ‘The Greatest’ and I for one, would not argue. His career did eventually end in defeat. However, he did come back from defeats to reclaim his title on several occasions. The boxer was a phenomenon in the world of heavyweights. He was put on his backside a few times, but when he got back up, he was usually revitalised. I remember a fight with Chuck Wepner in 1975. It seemed like a mismatch. Perhaps it was. Wepner was a boxer that appeared to take a lot of punishment yet kept coming back for more. Ali was toying with the brave opponent who would not go down or give up. Despite the arduous punishment he was taking, Wepner was tough. He had a face that looked like it had been put through a meat grinder and had come out the other side battered and hacked, yet still, it was there. He got to round 9 when he went out to face Ali again.
It is important to say, that Ali was so good that even if someone scored a punch against the man, it was something to gas about. It would be so for Wepner. A grand moment was all that most of Ali’s opponents could hope for. But such moments against ‘The Greatest’ could earn you a place in the history books and the hall of fame. One’s small moment of glory. A moment that echoes in eternity. Especially if captured on TV.
Wepner’s grand moment came and it made the fight a little bit special. He caught Ali with a body blow and floored heavyweight champion. It caused an uproar. For a moment the unknown Wepner was higher than the stars. Just for a fleeting moment! A moment for Wepner who would be able to live off of the fame for the rest of his life. To put ‘The Greatest’ on the canvas was a feat. The Great Ali then got up. Revitalised from the shock and a look that suggested he was put out by Wepner’s audacious affront.
The brave Chuck Wepner had to pay a further price for his hard-earned aurora of nobility. But he must still know to this day, it was worth it. For a few moments, he was up there in the clouds and so was the excited audience. He wanted to dance in the bubble of adulation. For a while, he tried. The great Ali went on to win the fight convincingly though Wepner was only put down in the 15th round with 19 seconds to go.
The body blow that floored Ali, earned Wepner a wonderful celebrity. One little move, standing the punishment and going the distance was what he managed against Muhammad Ali. The Rocky movies were said to have come about from Chuck Wepner’s boxing match with ‘The Greatest.’ Perhaps they did. Wepner lost a fight but gained a page in boxing legend. You can become famous for losing in the ring. Fame is a double-edged sword. To be fair, Ali never really looked like losing the fight. But perhaps he realised Wepner may have been able to gain another opportunistic punch. He appeared to respect Wepner a little more and began to work on the man. The brutish Wepner went through that meat grinder again and came out the other side with honour intact and a little halo of endeavour. Ali was still ‘The Greatest.’ He always will be.

Muhammad Ali v Chuck Wepner

The Accidental Fame of Some Boxers.

There are hundreds of moments that delight me about boxing. One splendid celebrity of the ring was a little-known lightweight called Usman Ahmed. This young man gained popularity for a dynamic loss in the ring. He had a splendid entrance whereby he did all these wonderful dancing moves towards the ring. The crowd cheering and the rap music playing. His entourage of trainers and promoters behind him. The wild crowd was lapping it all up. He went into the ring and fought well. He lost on points but put up a good show. This was a Commonwealth title fight.
Then sometime later, Usman Ahmed got into the ring with another opponent called Ashley Sexton. Uzzy Ahmed was knocked out cold in the first round. What followed was a YouTube video that went viral. It showed Uzzy’s grand dance moves from his Commonwealth title fight. This was the fight where he went the distance and lost on points. Then as he steps into the ring, the video edit is linked to the fight where he confronts Ashley Sexton. Therefore, we see a cocky young man doing all the moves and then – POW! Round one knockout. And I do mean a knockout!
Everyone wanted to see the cocky boxer get his just dues because he was being so arrogant. That is the trouble with an audience. We all like to see the banter, but we are all fickle. If you win, all well and good. If you lose, there is no mercy. You are thrown to the wolves. This is why I admire the guts of any man who steps into that ring. Uzzy had the guts to do it. He lost! He was humiliated further by a doctored video to heap further indignation upon his loss and wounded pride. But then something happened. When Uzzy went out and about in his local area, everyone knew him. His fame was established and his acceptance of such celebrity turned from ridicule to respect. He got lots of TV interviews and was able to tell his story and he did so with a great attitude. The young man instantly became a hit among his listeners and became famous for the laughable yet unfair video clip of his demise against Ashley Sexton. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to Ashley, but Uzzy is more famous because of his glass jaw knockout. However, I’m sure Andy Sexton can live with his great boxing victory. I’m speaking from the entertainment point of view and the boxer who dares to step into the ring deserves respect. No matter how he approaches the contest.

Usman Ahmed - The Grand Entrance.