Category Archives: Just saying

The Cormoran Strike Novels by Robert Galbraith

I’m not usually into crime fiction but I thought I’d give these a try as I’m a big fan of J.K. Rowling (who isn’t?). In case you didn’t know, after the release of the first Cormoron Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, Galbraith’s real identity of J.K. Rowling was leaked.

J.K. Rowling was awarded substantial damages for the breach from the solicitors that revealed her true identity. Rowling donated the damages, along with the royalties from The Cuckoo’s Calling to The Soldiers’ Charity, a cause that would be close to the main character, Cormoran Strike’s heart.

The Cormoran Strike novels are made up of three crime fiction stories following a private detective and his assistant Robin Ellacott.

The Main Characters

Cormoran Strike

Strike is a private detective and a war veteran. He was an SIB investigator but was discharged after he lost the bottom half of a leg in an explosion in Afghanistan. His mother, who died of a heroin overdose, was a ‘super groupie’ of Jonny Rokeby, Strike’s father. Strike has little to do with his dad though.  As a former boxer in the army, he has a large physical presence and what is described as ‘pube like’ hair. He likes his tea the colour of creosote and is partial to a pint of Doom Bar.

Robin Ellacott

Robin is originally from Yorkshire but now lives in London with her accountant Fiancé, Matthew Cunliffe. Robin dropped out of university, for reasons that become clear in the third book, and at the start of the series is working for a temp agency. She was delighted to be placed at Strike’s private detective office and proved herself to be clever, resourceful and pleasant to be around. She is attractive with strawberry blond hair. Her Yorkshire accent becomes more pronounced in times of tension.

Book #1 – The Cuckoo’s Calling

Strike is living in his office after breaking up with his attractive fiancé. He owes money and doesn’t have enough clients to pay the bills or find somewhere to live.

Robin is euphoric after accepting Matthew’s proposal to get married and even more so when the temp agency send her to work at a detective agency, something she’s always longed to do.

The adopted brother of renowned model Luna Landry hires Strike to investigate her supposed suicide. Strike is reluctant to take it on and is sceptical about the brother’s claims but he needs the money—to pay the agency for Robin’s time if nothing else.

Robin proves herself to be invaluable around the office and Strike continues her employment after the week is up, paying her what he can afford. Her fiancé Matthew wants her to stop working for Strike and get a better paid job.

The more Strike looks into Lula Landry’s death the more suspicious the circumstances seem. With Robin’s help he gets his life back into some order while tracking down the killer.

Book #2 – The Silkworm

After solving the Landry case, business has picked up and Strike is hired to find a missing writer Owen Quine. The manuscript Quine was apparently most recently working on ends with him being killed in the same gruesome way in which the writer is eventually found to have been murdered. The novel also attacks Quine’s editor, agent, wife and many others giving us lots of people with motives to kill.

Strike and his assistant Robin’s relationship becomes strained as she feels undervalued in her role. Robin’s fiancé Matthew dislikes Strike (a feeling that is mutual) and this doesn’t help. Strike wants to give Robin more responsibility but is concerned that Matthew won’t like it and he doesn’t want to ruin her relationship.

Together they identify the killer and Strike enrols Robin on an investigative training course as a gift.

Book #3 – Career of Evil

Robin is now working with Strike as an investigator. As Strike had foreseen, this puts strain on her relationship with Matthew, who she is due to marry soon.

Robin receives a woman’s severed leg through the post. The clues lead Strike to believe it was from someone holding a grudge against him.

As Strike and Robin investigate the four main suspects, we find out more about both of their pasts. Robin also finds out Matthew cheated on her whilst at university.

While the pair are tracking down the suspects, the killer strikes twice more and has his eyes on Robin.

The police warn the private investigators to keep away from the suspects and out of the case but Robin takes matters into her own hands to expose a child molester. Strike has no option but to fire Robin. He knows who the killer is now but has to prove it alone.

My verdict

These books are hard to put down with gripping plots and characters you just want to find out more about. Five stars from me.

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Four ways indoor snow zones could prepare you better for the slopes

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1. Have a sheer drop at the side of the slope. Get the turn wrong in the snow centre and you bash into a wall. Forget to turn and you hurtle into the wall at the bottom. Get it wrong on the slopes and you could disappear off the side of a mountain and be eaten by wolves.
2. Have a wind and fog machine to suddenly reduce visability to zero and blow you whichever way it chooses. Where is that drop again?
3. Have people zoom past at a hundred miles an hour missing you by centimetres as you stand rooted to the spot wondering how you are ever going to get down alive.
4. Have a bar at the top of the slope. Drunk people hurtling past is even more realistic. And a bit of dutch courage could be just what you need!

10 Ways to Spend your Extra Leap Year Day

2016 is a leap year and we all get an extra day. It falls on a Monday this time which is a bit unfortunate for us worker bees. However, an extra day is an extra day and you can always put aside a different day to make the most of.  Here are ten ways you could spend it:

  1. Volunteer for a day: Evidence from Harvard and other institutes suggests that volunteering is good for the mind and body. Volunteer for a cause you care about and it could benefit you both. Check out do-it.org to find an opportunity.
  2. Treat yourself: Buy those shoes you’ve been eyeing up for months, book on a pamper day or spoil yourself with some sweet treats. Go on you deserve it.
  3. Get creative: Creative activities can reduce stress and increase positive emotions. Get the paints out, start writing that book, revamp some furniture or grab yourself an adult colouring book and some crayons and get shading.
  4. Go on an adventure: Visit a place you’ve never been to before, hike in the great outdoors or hire a boat and cruise down the river. You don’t even have to go too far. Your own town may have an interesting tour or guided walk. I can recommend the St Neots Ghost Walk for local people.
  5. Have a movie marathon: Grab the duvet, surround yourself with supplies of popcorn, switch your phone to silent and settle down to watch your favourite films. Whether that’s Disney, Star Wars, musicals or Harry Potter is up to you.
  6. Do something that scares you: Stepping out of your comfort zone can open your eyes to new experiences and help prepare you for unexpected changes. You could try unusual foods, strike up a conversation with a neighbour or have a go at a new sport. Huntingdon Town Ladies Football Club are looking for new players.
  7. Catch up: Invite over that friend or family member you’ve been meaning to get in touch with.Put the kettle on, get out the special biscuits, and catch up over a cuppa.
  8. Learn a new skill: Upskill yourself and master something new. You could take a first aid course, learn to play a musical instrument, improve your culinary skills or even grasp a new language.
  9. Read a book:What greater way to relax than reading a good book? Pick up that novel you’ve been meaning to read and lose yourself in it from cover to cover. If you just have a couple of hours, you could read my young adult novella The Charm.
  10. Clear out:Take those clothes and shoes you haven’t worn for years down to the charity shop. And now there is space in your wardrobe you have a great excuse to fill it again!

Have a good day!

Fozzy’s First Swimming Lesson

Fozzy took to the pool like a duck to water in her first hydrotherapy session today.

She was referred by the vet for hydrotherapy to help build up her muscles, particularly in her back legs.

Fozzy didn’t have a great start to life. When we got her aged six months she was a bag of bones at just 5.5kg and hadn’t had the chance to build up her muscles.

She’s almost at the right weight now and we were taking her for plenty of walks to build up her muscles. She loves a good off lead run but we noticed she was very stiff afterwards and occasionally whimpered.

The vet explained that her muscles were under-developed and she was probably sore after long walks, much the same as any person would be if they exercise to their limits. Hence the referral for hydrotherapy.

The idea is that swimming will exercise the muscles without the impact of walking or running. The pool is warm to encourage blood flow and apparently a six minute swim is equivalent, exercise wise, to a five km walk.

Her first session was really to get her used to the water. She had paddled and splashed about before but never actually swam.

Dr Andy was ready in his wet suit when we arrived at the Spring Meadows Canine Hydrotherapy Centre in Buckden. He put Fozzy into a bouyancy aid and we took her through to the pool area. She needed some coaxing up the ramp to the the pool but Andy lifted her in and onto the safety platform where she could stand up.

Andy was in the circular pool with her and led her round the edge with me walking with her outside to encourage her along. When she got back to the safety platform we gave her loads of fuss. After a few goes, and when the tennis ball went in the pool, her tail came out from between her legs and she seemed to be enjoying it.

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Although she was able to swim by herself, she was mainly using her front legs and kept her back legs tucked up to her body. This was probably because she doesn’t have much strength in them. This caused her to be off balanced but Andy was confident she’ll soon start using them to keep herself upright.

She’s booked in for session two next week and we’ll hopefully get her using her back legs. Right now she’s drying off and enjoying a well deserved sleep.

My First PechaKucha

Back in 2015 I was asked over Twitter if I’d be interested in presenting at a local PechaKucha evening in January. I’d never even heard of PechaKucha but took a look at the website and thought, why not give it a go!

For those that don’t know, PechaKucha (Japanese for chit chat) is a form of presenting using 20 images. Each image moves on automatically after 20 seconds. This encourages the presenter to be concise. PechaKucha nights originated from Tokyo as a way for people to meet, network and display their work.

PechaKucha nights are now held all over the world, including, as I found out, in my home town of St Neots, Cambridgeshire. The St Neots events are run by Neotists a group of local creative professionals.

When I agreed to present at the next event, January 2016 seemed like a long way away and I thought had plenty of time to prepare, after all 20 slides of 20 seconds only totals 6 minutes and 40 seconds. How hard could it be?

Being indecisive, I took forever to decide on my topic. I eventually decided to base my presentation on a blog I had written  many years ago about the strange things people say in football. The piece takes you through a children’s mini-soccer match where the adults are using football clichés throughout and shows how confusing it could be for the young players.

I planned what I wanted to say and separated it out into twenty sections. Then I decided what pictures would best illustrate each section and set out with my camera phone to capture the images. Where I couldn’t take a photo I used royalty free stock images.

I practiced my presentation several times before the event and tweaked it to try and get the timing right. I’m not a confident public speaker so the last thing I wanted was to be standing in front of an audience with huge pauses as I waited for the image to move on.

At the event, in the town’s rowing club bar, I was greeted by the guys from Neotists who reassured me that the audience was nice and friendly and not to worry. I was pleased to hear them actively encouraging people to spend plenty on drinks over the bar to thank the club for the use of the room.

The first three speakers were great, with really interesting presentations. I was a little concerned I would disappoint the audience with mine.

Luckily for me though I was up after the break so a few more drinks were consumed and when I stepped up to the front I was pleased to see friendly faces looking back at me. I was nervous and there were a few awkward pauses but I think I pulled it off okay in the end. I was relieved when it finished and the audience applauded. I sat down, relaxed  and enjoyed the final presentation.

Overall it was a great night. I’m proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone. Public speaking is one of those things for me that I have to make myself do in order to get better.

I’ll definitely attend another PechaKucha event as it was great to hear and see what other local people are involved in. You never know, I might even speak again at one too.

You can see my presentation on football clichés here:

http://www.pechakucha.org/cities/st-neots/presentations/football-cliches-can-be-nuts

 

My Ten Favourite Harry Potter Jokes

Harry Potter jokes are plentiful but these had me laughing the Shrieking Shack down. Okay so some are pretty riddikulus but life’s too short to be Sirius! And if you don’t get them then I suggest you read/watch more Harry Potter.

  1. Why did Professor Snape stand in the middle of the road? So you’ll never know which side he’s on 1
  2. Why did Crabbe and Goyle cross the road? They were following Draco 2
  3. What kind of cereal do they serve at Hogwarts? Hufflepuffs 2
  4. How do Death Eaters freshen their breath? With Dementos 1
  5. Why does Voldemort only use Twitter and not Facebook? Because he only has followers, not friends 1
  6. Why did Barty Crouch Jr. quit drinking? Because it was making him Moody 2
  7. Did you hear about the witch who won the lottery? She went completely Knuts! 2
  8. How do you know if someone’s a pureblood? Don’t worry they’ll let you know 1
  9. I named my lizard “Harry” just so I can say “You’re a lizard Harry!” 1
  10. One a scale of one to ten, how obsessed with Harry Potter are you? About nine and three quarters 1

Sources:
1 http://www.jokes4us.com/celebrityjokes/harrypotterjokes.html

2 http://www.quickfunnyjokes.com/harrypotter.html

What are your favourite Harry Potter jokes?

How it Feels to Complete the Spartan Trifecta

It’s done! The Spartan Trifecta is complete! So how does it feel?

My trifecta consisted of a 3ish mile Spartan Sprint near Peterborough, a 10ish mile Spartan Super near Edinburgh and a 13ish mile Spartan Beast near Hastings.

I ran a half marathon back in March and swore I’d never to it again so why I signed up to the Beast (a half marathon with obstacles) I’ll never know. I think it was a mix of alcohol and bravado!

Although I am still hobbling and bruised from the Beast I think that, despite its slightly shorter distance, the Super in Scotland was actually much tougher. I’m from Cambridgeshire, where you can see for miles across the flat fens, and ramps up to shops put strain on the calf muscles. I wasn’t at all prepared for the horrendously long and steep hills of Scotland!

That said, the Super in Scotland was a beautiful course. In fact all three events were in lovely rural settings. The natural obstacles are probably my favourites: wading through streams, winding through trees, scrambling up muddy banks and swimming across rivers. The downside is that it takes longer to clock up the miles… plodding through knee high mud takes a long time to get not very far.

Then there are the obstacles, rope climbs, monkey bars and cargo nets to name just a few. Reaching an obstacle feels like a relief from the running, until you realise that if you fail you will have to do 30 burpees!

Teamwork is encouraged though and if it wasn’t for the help of my friends and the strong shoulders of some fellow obstacle course runners then I would never have got over the eight foot walls. Most people are pretty courteous and help each other out, although I was kicked in the face by Wonder Woman in her effort to overtake me at the top of an A frame!

How do I feel now it’s done? Like a Spartan? No, I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus …and then kicked in the shins by each of the passengers for making them late. I do feel a sense of achievement though and when my bruises have gone down and my friends sign up for next year, I’ll probably have forgotten the pain and soon be shouting the Spartan call of aroo aroo aroo again.

Fancy taking part? Check out Spartan Race UK here: http://spartanraceuk.uk/

Eleven Things I Learned at Glastonbury 2015

They say you learn something new every day. Here are some things I learned at Glastonbury 2015:

  1. Baby wipes are your friend but they don’t taste very nice.
  2. Weather apps lie.
  3. Lionel Ritchie is, a) popular, and b) American.
  4. The stinky unwashed feeling eases after a few days.
  5. A pint of Brothers cider is cheaper than potato wedges.
  6. A bit of mud never harmed anyone.
  7. If a sign says don’t enter, do enter. Especially if a mud caked Irish man guards the entrance while hurling abuse in a friendly manner.
  8. Cardboard shewees are not to be trusted.
  9. Backwards is forwards, up is down, and fun is to be found in the rabbit hole.
  10. Holding an inflatable sperm high in the air while navigating the crowds is an effective way of keeping a group together.
  11. Glastonbury rocks!

 

Ten Bizarre Dumbledore Quotes

We all know Dumbledore was an intellectual and powerful wizard. He became known to us for being Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry during Harry Potter’s education and had an Order of Merlin (first class) and the title of Grand Sorcerer.

Dumbledore also served as Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. However, he was also mad as a balloon!

Even the pompous prefect Percy Weasley admits it: “He’s a genius! Best wizard in the world! But he is a bit mad, yes.”

Here are ten of my favourite slightly bizarre Dumbledore quotes which of course were all penned by the brilliant J.K. Rowling:

“Scars can come in handy. I have one myself above my left knee that is a perfect map of the London Underground.” (Philosopher’s Stone)

“Welcome to a new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!” (Philosopher’s Stone)

“The truth is a beautiful and terrible thing and should therefore be treated with great caution.” (Philosopher’s Stone)

“My brain surprises even me sometimes.” (Philosopher’s Stone)

“Alas! Earwax!” (Philosopher’s Stone)

“Hopefully your heads are all a little fuller than they were; you have a whole summer ahead to get them nice and empty before next years starts.” (Philosopher’s Stone)

“I do love knitting patterns”.  (Half Blood Prince)

“Don’t count your owls before they are delivered.” (Half Blood Prince)

“I may be as woefully wrong as Humphrey Belcher, who believed the time was right for a cheese cauldron.” (Half Blood Prince)

“It is a long time since my last visit. I must say, your agapanthus are flourishing.” (Half Blood Prince)