The Vagabond Clown by Edward Marston – book review

I picked this up in a discount book shop on a three book deal.

Its book 13 in the Nicholas Bracewell/Elizabethan Mysteries. When a murder and a riot occurs during a performance by Lord Westfields Men, Nicholas Bracewell suspects someone has a grudge against the theatre company. Evicted from their permanent residence in London the troupe tour the countryside of Kent but disaster and death follows them.

This was very easy read. The historical setting was depicted faithfully without being preachy. There was enough action to keep me interested if I didn’t want to puzzle out the mystery and there were enough clues and red herrings if I wanted to put my brain in gear and start thinking. The dialogue was entertaining and the characters interesting.

I believe this isn’t the best in the series but it hasn’t put me off reading the others. Overall, a good entertaining book.


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What does it mean to be a Gypsy?

I’ve been hanging around alot of cultural forums recently and one question that keeps cropping up is how do we identify ourselves? As Gypsy, Romani or Traveller? This has led to other questions. Is there a difference? And how does a person identify as a Gypsy, Romani or Traveller?

I’ve never questioned my racial identity or felt the need to prove it. I am an English ‘Romani’ (old language) / ‘Traveller’ (modern language) / ‘Gypsy’ (outsiders language). Sorry for the excess punctuation.

For many of my community it is an irrelevant question. We are what we are. But there is a growing movement amongst the community to challenge outsiders perceived opinions about what a Romani, Gypsy or Traveller is, and this has led us to question how we define our cultural and racial identity.

Ask anyone who has little or no knowledge of RGT communities outside of the media or fiction and they will almost always define the following:

Romani – a nomadic wanderer living a romanticized life in a horse drawn wagon.

Gypsy – a dirty thief, vagabond, criminal with no regard for other people.

Traveller – an uneducated layabout tax dodger who buys expensive designer stuff and who lives on illegal encampments

I am none of the above.

Current UK goverment legislation defines Gypsies, Romani and Travellers as ‘Persons who wander or travel for the purpose of making or seeking their livelihood’

I am also none of the above.

So if I am a typical Romani and I am none of the above, how do the 300,000 other Romani in the UK identify themselves? I say 300,000 but the figure is likely to be more as many Romani will not admit their racial ethnicity on censuses and forms through fear of racism and predjudice.

Recently London Gypsies and Travellers (a UK charity) have started a campaign #weareallsomanythings. Its aim, to show the wide variety of people contained in our equally varied community and to show that we have the same values and goals as everyone else.

So how would I define the rich and varied cultures and communities of Romani, Gypsies and Travellers? There is no denying we are a community set apart from other communities but there is no one tradition, religion, or origin which defines us as a culture.

A value of family life, traditional or otherwise, a respect for older members of our community, and a strict code of cleanliness are not unusual in any culture, particularly one with nomadic origins. We have no common religion or country origin which binds us together. Yet a Romani from the England might speak with a Romani from Spain and recognise each other as from the same race of people.

Perhaps the thing which defines our race is the centuries of segregation and persecution we have suffered. It has created an inherent mistrust of any outsiders, a mistrust which has fostered further predjudism. If the continued segregation and predjudice had lessened it may be that Romani would have been absorbed by their adopted country and our culture and language disappear completely.

Romani across the globe are organising themselves. We are challenging predjudice and everyday I see small successes. So perhaps we should be asking ourselves what it means to be Romani or Gypsy or Traveller, define our culture by our own standards and be proud of it. If we don’t we may lose the very thing we are fighting for, our racial identity.

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Springs Alarm

I wrote this a while back and its one of my few pieces of writing I’m still happy with

Springs Alarm

Soft light caresses my eyelids
I stir, a deep sigh
Warmth kisses my cheek
I stretch, open my eyes
Music lifts my soul
Singing, a robin, a sparrow?
I rise, pull back the curtain
Sunlight floods the room

Misty dew caresses the green
Life stirs, deep under the earth
Warmth kisses the trees
Bark stretches, buds open
Bird music, blossom singing
Sap is rising, winters curtain is lifted
Life floods the garden

The alarm, mechanical tinkling
No need, I’m awake

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Disney World Florida

Best two weeks ever!!

So the best points. Oh my god! Well just about everything Disney! If I had to list them I would be here forever. So I shall list the bad points and the personal peeves I have with a two week trip to Orlando Florida. 

1. Everything is so expensive. I shall have to sell the family silver, take out a bank loan, and eat beans on toast for a year! But its worth every penny. To be fair, half the problem is the exchange rate. You are not getting a lot for GBP sterling at the moment. We stayed at a Disney resort so we were a bit more limited on places to eat as we had no car. We did taxi to a local mall but prices for shopping and eating out were not much different.

2. Everything is so big. Alot of people plan to do one amusement park in one day. It can be done if you are physically fit and don’t have children, elderly or less abled persons. The downside to doing this is you miss the magic and enjoyment of spending time with your family and friends as you are rushing to the next ride and by the end of the day you are so stressed you never want to come back, ever. We took three days to do each park but some you only need two days to do it leisurely.  

3. Food portions. This isn’t a bad point with Orlando as more of a peeve at people who told me the food portions are massive. Either they are lying, or they are starving, or my family are all animals because we didnt think the food portions were massive. Don’t get me wrong they are not small but we thought they were average.

3. Quarters, dimes and the other one. What is wrong with tge American treasury! The quarter I can understand, its the biggest coin and its worth 25c, but the dime and the nickel make no sense at all! A dime is worth 10c but its the smallest coin, about the size of a 5p. The nickel is worth 5c but the coin is bigger the dime, about the size of a 10p! It makes no sense! Theres also a 1c which is copper. I am not the only British person who thinks this. 

4. Paper cups and plates. Everything is takeaway. Unless you pay a small fortune for table service. I like to go for a coffee and cake of an afternoon, I like a nice cup and saucer, a little table with a pleasent view, a fork to eat my cream cake. They do sell twinnings tea but it all comes in paper takeaway cups, cakes in a bag, and you sit on a wall. I feel like I’ve been constantly eating on the go since I arrived.

My next post will be a review of Disney Magic Kingdom

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British superheroes vs American superheroes (fictional)

Who doesn’t love a superhero story! The super big action, the super big adventure, the super mega big explosions. Ever notice how superhero stories almost always happen in America, and most superheroes are American. Maybe because America is a super big. I must admit I’ve never noticed, I’m too busy enjoying the super big explosions. My friend Richard pointed out the lack of British superheroes and British settings so with that in mind I’ve put together a selection of British vs American super skilled and super powered characters.

Alien hero – 
The Doctor vs Thor

These two spacemen have adopted Earth as their second home and spend most of their time defending us Earthlings from Alien invasions.

Practically immortal the Doctor has rejuvenated 11 times and is a seriously complex character. Armed with a sonic screwdriver and several lifetimes of experience he’s a handy guy to have around in a crisis.  Just don’t expect to live through it. He’s great at saving humanity but has a bit of trouble when it comes to individuals.

Thor is the Asgardian god of thunder and possesses the enchanted hammer Mjolnir. He can save everyone but will destroy most of New York in the process. Possibly immortal he not only battles aliens but gods, demons and ancient mythical creatures.

Favourite – Personally I prefer the Doctor, I may not survive but at least he will let me get in on the action.

In a fight – These two would battle each other till the end of eternity, occasionally joining forces to stop a super alien villian.

Superspy -James Bond vs Jason Bourne

Super suave and super skilled, these two bad boys are dangerous to be around, especially if you are female!

James Bond, licence to kill, everything he does is for Queen and Country. He has an arsenal of super spy gadgets to save the Commonwealth, and occasionally America. Favourite weapon – Walther PPK, favourite car- Aston Martin, favourite drink – Martini shaken not stirred. This super suave spy lacks one thing, a conscious.

Jason Bourne doesn’t have a super spy car, a super spy weapon, a super spy job or even his memory! He does have a serious set of super skills. He doesn’t need a gun or even a knife, he can kill you with a tea towel. He has got a few psychological issues like a super severe conscious, not an ideal trait for a professional super assassin spy.

Favourite -This is a tough one. How can a girl choose? Either way I will probably end up dead!

In a fight – Jason would beat James after a long hard fight, but he would feel really bad about it afterwards.

Feral hero -Tarzan vs Wolverine

Wild, ferocious, barely civilised, these two untameable fighters are a force to be reckoned with.

Tarzan was created by an American writer, he was born and raised in Africa, and French is the first language he learned to speak, but he is an English Lord so I’ve put him on team Britain. His keen senses and formidable physique have been perfectly adapted to life in a hostile African jungle. He can snap the neck of a bull ape as easily as a twig. Add his ability to talk to animals and a black cruel humour, the local natives fear him believing he is a jungle demon or god. No human could survive alone in the darkest depths of Africa.

James Logan aka Wolverine is a mutant with the ability to regenerate giving him extended longevity. Armed with super human senses, super agility, and a super grumpy personality his retractable claws and entire skeleton was plated with adamantium by a secret goverment agency turning him into Weapon X. He’s the best there is at what he does, but what he does best isn’t very nice.

Favourite – Another tough one. I love them both.

In a fight – Wolverine would win, but only because of his regenerative powers.

Armoured hero – Lancelot vs Iron Man

The old school and the next generation knight in shining armour. These two have more in common then you’d think.

Tony Stark is Iron Man. Take away the suit and what is he. Genius, playboy, billionaire, philanthropist. 

Sir Lancelot, knight of camelot, heir to the fairy kingdom ruled by the Lady of the Lake, champion of the sword and lance, lover of Queen Guinevere (among others). Take away the armour and what is he? Genius, playboy, billionaire, philanthropist. 

Favourite – Personally I’ve never liked Lancelot and I’m not to keen on Iron Man either. 

In a fight – No contest, Iron Man will turn Lancelot into a tin of soup. 

Vigilante hero – Robin Hood vs Batman

When the system fails, when injustice rules supreme, a hero will step forward and take matters into his own hands, righting wrongs and fighting for the good of the people.

Bruce Wayne aka Batman, traumatized by the death of his parents he fights the crime lords ruling Gotham City. Aided by his trusted butler Alfred and an inexhaustible amount of money to build a batcave and lots of high tech equipment, he strikes fears into ordinary criminals. (Cue cool super villians). But no matter how many criminals he defeats he still finds no peace.

Robin Hood, expert bowman, master of disguise, rebel, and thief. He battled the most despicable organisation of all time, the Tax Man. Robbing from the rich and giving to the poor with his merry band of men, life in Sherwood Forest is one long party. Enter the dastardly villainous Sheriff of Nottingham.

Favourite – Robin Hood. I love archery, I love forests, I hate paying tax. I would love to be one of his merry men.

 In a fight – I don’t think these two would ever find a reason to fight each other. 

Super Intellect Hero – Sherlock Holmes vs Professer X

With brains the size of a small planet no one can match these super masterminds.

Professor Charles Xavier, the worlds most powerful psychic mutant. He can read your deepest thoughts, manipulate your memories and control your mind. But he only uses his powers for good and to promote peace.

Sherlock Holmes, super slueth and the worlds greatest consulting detective. His powers of deduction are superior in everyway. He doesn’t need psychic powers to manipulate your brain, he uses psychology and your own weaknesses against you.

 Favourite – Sherlock Holmes. According to his philosophy anyone can learn how to harness and use their powers of deductive reasoning.

In a fight – This will be a battle of the mind. A game of chess ending in stalemate. 

Super female hero – Lara Croft vs Wonder Woman.

Every now and then someone realises the lack of leading female characters and creates a super woman. Sometimes they don’t get it quite right. 

Wonder Woman, the Amazonian princess who leaves Paradise Island to save humanity from themselves. Armed with a variety of mystical weapons like the Lasso of Truth, Indestructible Bracelets and a telepathic Tiara she kicks butt and looks great doing it. Super athletic, super strong, and super smart Wonder Woman was the first comic book female superhero. My only problem is her costume, its strapless. That bodice would have to be strapped around her so tight to stay up she wouldn’t be able to breathe let alone fight!

 (I was struggling to find a British counterpart, thanks to my nephew for suggesting Lara.)

Lara Croft has been reinvented a few times during her comparatively short existence. Created for a video game she is a beautiful, intelligent, and athletic archaeologist adventurer. Her backstory has changed a few times but she is generally held to be a member of the British aristocracy. In the first game version her boobs were impossibly big but she was wearing appropriate clothes for digging around in dusty old tombs and fighting whatever supernatural disaster she unleashed. The latest edition of the Tomb Raider games see Lara Croft with more realistic dimensions. Her favourite choice of weapon is two pistols. She did pinch Thors hammer once too.

Favourite – I’ve never played any Tomb Raider games or seen the films. I watched a 1980s Wonder Woman film and wasn’t impressed. After reading up some more about the creative process behind these two super women I have altered my opinion slightly but I still don’t know either well enough to choose a favourite. 

In a fight – This would be one hell of a cat fight. Lara would start it, Wonder Woman would finish it, and an uneasy truce would follow.

Which are your favourites and who do you think would win head to head.

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More Tea Vicar?

I’ve noticed a disturbing fact about the complimentary tea making facilities in hotels in Britain. The cheaper the room the more tea bags they give you. 

When I say cheap I don’t mean the grotty sort with peeling paper, creaking beds and suspicious hotel clerks ( not that I’ve stayed in the sort so I’m not sure what the tea making facilities are like). I mean budget hotels like Premier inn as opposed to higher end like the Marriott. I am currently sipping Earl Grey tea while in bed staying at the Hyatt London. I’m drinking Earl Grey because there is no Breakfast tea left and no milk.

Personally I expect to find in my complimentary drink facilities as standard a cup for every person staying in the room, two English breakfast teabags per person, two coffee sachets per person, a small selection of herbal/other teas/decaf, sufficent milk. On occasions my expections have been surpassed and there has been double this amount plus biccies. I usually find this happens in individually run establishments. My room at the Hyatt has been booked for three people, there are only two cups, three breakfast tea, one Earl grey, two coffee sachets, 4 milk. I went to the desk and they happily gave me more but you would think tea was on rations as I only recieved an extra two English Breakfast and two Earl Grey. I stayed at a Premier inn recently and when I ask for more tea and milk the receptionist gave me a bag full.

So what conclusions can I draw from this. Do the well off drink less tea and more alcohol perhaps? Is it the type of staff they employ, although I’ve never noticed a difference, they are all friendly and professional. Maybe the higher end hotels have blown all their budgets on fancy toiletries and artful decor. Maybe they can’t afford to buy tea, poor souls. 

Either way I must satisfy myself with Earl Grey as I can’t be bothered to slink down to the desk in my pjs and ask for more and I haven’t the patience to wait for housekeeping to fetch me some.

P.S. The most unusual complimentary beverage I have ever found in a hotel was a decanter of fine cream sherry in a independent hotel in Eire. 

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Goodbye 2016

Its been a strange year with lots of highs and lows both globally and on a personal level. It certainly hasn’t gone to plan! 

I’m not going to berate myself for my failures or congratulate myself on my successes, what’s past is past. Instead I will reflect on what 2016 has taught me and the lessons I will take with me into 2017.

1. My parents are the most important people in the world to me. The rest of my family come a close second.

2. I’m  proud of my roots and my heritage.

3. Take chances when I want to not when other people tell me to. Ultimately it’s my life not theirs.

4. I can’t do everything so I should stop trying.

5. Sleep is important. So are coffee breaks

6. Just because someone else isn’t doing the job as quickly or as perfectly as I can doesn’t give me the right to take over!

7. Keep in touch with friends.

8. Always send out Christmas cards, even if it’s just to let people know you’re still alive.

9. Memories are more important then money. 

10. I live beyond my means and I cannot live within them so I should stop worrying about it.

11. A dining table is the most civilised item a person can own.

12. Alcohol is my enemy, green tea is my friend. (Beginnings of rheumatoid arthritis)

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Review of Tarzan of the Apes and The return of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Many people are more familiar with Disneys animated version of Tarzan, and the original tv series staring Johnny Weissmuller with his iconic jungle call. If they read the book they would be in for a surprise. 

The two books follow the life of John Clayton, named Tarzan by the apes who adopt him as a baby, through his childhood in the jungle and his journey to becoming a ‘civilised’ man. Burroughs does a credible job in the first book ‘Tarzan of the Apes’ making a hostile jungle existence believable and explaining some of the nagging questions that have dogged me about Tarzan. The main one being why he has no beard. I enjoyed the descriptions of the African jungle, the beauty and the danger. It truly is a savage garden. Tarzans jungle existence is brutal and while Burroughs writing isn’t as graphic as some of todays authors, he portrays the darker sides of humanity effectively. Cannibalism, torture, murder, betrayal, and greed are ever present in both books but Burroughs balances out these vices with plenty of virtues, honour, self sacrifice, friendship and love which makes the whole a pleasent read and not depressing.

The second book ‘The Return of Tarzan’ is more like a series of short stories. If you read it like a periodical once a month then it’s probably very exciting.  Read all at once and it gets repetative. 

Lets remember these books are pulp fiction from the 1910s. Lock your political correctness in a cupboard, put your brain in neutral, and enjoy an adventure from a bygone era where men were either heroes or cowards and women spent their time fainting or falling into danger!

Burroughs novels are full of evocative descriptions of the African continent, fast paced action and adventure, and provide a fascinating insight into social attitudes during the beginning of the 20th century.

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Shakespeare Lives

Its 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the worlds greatest bard. Does he need an introduction? No. Too celebrate his literary legacy I have picked some of my favourite Shakespeare moments.

1967 film Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.


It was the first screen adaptation of Shakespeare I watched other then those inflicted on me at school. My English teacher taught me to understand Shakespeare but Elizabeth and Richard let me appreciate his genius.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

My first introduction to Shakespeare. It was long, it was tedious and I couldn’t understand a word. Morning break couldn’t come soon enough. I’m listening to an audio version of Macbeth again for the first time and I realise it wasn’t the plays fault. It was my tedious English teacher and her long explanations.

Theatrical dress worn by Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth

I love this dress and hopefully will see it one day. It was designed by Alice Comyns-Carr and made in crochet by Ada Nettleship using a soft green wool and blue tinsel yarn from Bohemia to create an effect similar to chain mail. It was embroidered with gold and decorated with 1,000 iridescent wings from the green jewel beetle, Sternocera aequisignata. The dress was restored in a two-year project that began in 2009 when £50,000 had been raised to pay for the work. In 2011, after 1,300 hours of conservation work and a cost of £110,000, it was placed on display in Ellen Terry’s home, Smallhythe Place, near Tenterden in Kent.

Ten Things I Hate about You 1999 film

Modern adaptation of Taming of the Shrew with Heath Ledger and Julia Styles. Favourite part; when Heath Ledger sings ‘you’re just too good to be true’, Daryl Mitchell quoting/rapping a Shakespeare sonnet.

Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet 1996 film

Brilliant modern version brings Shakespeare up to date. Guns replace swords, the violence surrounding the doomed lovers is ever present and it has an epic music score. Favourite song is ‘I’m kissing you’ by Des’ree.

Shakespeare’s Animated Tales

These short animations are definitely not Disney. Beautiful compiled, artfully created, these bite size chunks of Shakespeare’s best plays use cel animation, paint on glass and stop motion puppet animation. Sometimes funny, sometimes brutal, sometimes gory, but always Shakespeare. 

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The Martian by Andy Weir- book review


I enjoyed this book. It was an easy book to read. I don’t read sci-fi, they can get a bit too ‘technicy’ and I get lost among the photons and thermal anodes instead of getting lost in the story. With this book I was on Mars.

The Martian is not just a sci-fi novel, its also an adventure. Mark Watney, a NASA astronaut, is presumed dead by his crew mates and abandoned on Mars. With limited food, water, and life support systems he has to survive until the next Mars mission which is 3 years away. It sounds implausible. NASA doesn’t declare a astronaut dead without good cause only to for him to be resurrected, even I know that, but the author creates a plausible explanation and keeps the science simple. How accurate it was I don’t know, I’m a writer not a scientist.

The whole story is told through log entry’s, interviews, snippets of conversations and messages. I like this style of writing. Some people don’t. There’s not much room for lengthy descriptions or in depth character back stories but I still like it. I can read it in short bursts without losing my place or having to read to the end of a chapter. Great if you have a busy week and only 10 minutes to spare.

The author keeps the pace up throughout the novel as one problem after another crops up for our hero Mark Watney. I didn’t know if he was going to survive. I really wanted him to live, he’s a funny guy. His humour and optimism in the face of dire situations made him likable and brought him to life. I wish I could say the same for the other characters in the book, I think the author divested everything he had into his main character. The characters at mission control all sounded the same and were interchangeable. Without name tags I had no idea who was who. Mark Watneys crew mates were marginally better but I couldn’t connect to them, maybe because they didn’t get much ‘page time’ till the end.

I did enjoy this book but I don’t think it would be one I would read again and again. Some books have hidden depths which emerge with each reading, I don’t think this is one of them. But that doesn’t stop it from being a good read. I’d give it 3.5 out of 5.

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