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I’ve been doing some catch up reading with Bill Bryson’s works. I do admire his writing style and content. And I found out an interesting answer to a question that has bugged me for years. I wouldn’t call it the most profound question of all time but when you’re in the supermarket and looking at that huge shelving system full of a range of exotic condiments, have you never wondered just what exactly is the difference between a herb and a spice? I imagined it was that herbs were grown locally (hence herbaceous borders?) and spices came from distant places like the East Indies and the Caribbean islands.  But Bill explained that it isn’t necessarily geographical (although I suspect that in 90% of cases it is). The answer is far more locally-based; herbs exclusively come from the leaves of plants whilst spices are taken from the woodier parts or the seeds or fruits. So there you go. Did you know that? Continue reading


Good and sad news

Thursday was an interesting day. I had my 3 month review with my lovely oncologist following the end of my chemotherapy treatment. Apart from the drugs causing me to lose sensitivity in my fingers and toes (which causes them to feel cold all the time), I’ve been feeling great for a while now but I still went to the consultation feeling slightly apprehensive of course. Anyway the outcome of all the recent tests I’ve undertaken is that there’s no significant sign of the cancer having returned. Woo hoo. So I’ve been given a 3 month pass before I start the round of tests and consultation again. My wife C and I were very happy to tell our daughters the news this time as you can imagine.

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the jaguar’s heart

A couple of year’s ago over in Italy we met up with a great American couple, James and Mary Lou, who were staying with our neighbour Pauline. Sometimes I find Americans to be pretty hard work – all that openness and incesssant chat can grate a bit. But these guys were effortlessly laid back and engaging and they got the Italian thing too. We all hit it off straight away and have been friends ever since. I heard from James the other day (they’re back in LA at the moment) to tell me that he’d written a novel and had had it published as an e-book on Amazon and Smashwords. Entitled ‘The Jaguars’ Heart’ the synopsis is bloody breathless:

“The Jaguar’s Heart opens explosively during the assassination of a U.S. presidential candidate and takes the reader on a high speed ride into the world of Sangre de Dios, a shadowy drug soaked cult steeped in Aztec and Mayan mythology and sorcery. The cult’s demonic leader promises immortality for the chosen few and slavery for the rest of mankind when the end of an age, 2012, arrives.

 Jesse J. Rideout, former covert operator now a fugitive and artifact smuggler, must undergo a mind-bending transformation to learn if the cult leader has real occult power or if his followers are deluded by exotic hallucinogens, and then destroy an ancient horror to avert a war between the United States and Mexico.

 Katarina Castillo, daughter of the aristocracy, is Jesse’s partner in their desperate attempt to stop the cult, which has subverted the highest levels of U.S. government. Their only ally is the secretive Society of the White Rose, sworn enemy of Sangre de Dios.

 This riveting page turner examines the conflict between individual morality and patriotism in the conscience of a hyper-perceptive young covert agent recently recruited from a special operations military unit. The Jaguar’s Heart is also the story of a young woman facing unimaginable horror and discovering new depths of courage.”

Now if that doesn’t make you want to have a read nothing will. If you fancy a killer thriller check it out at:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001TK411Y  or at


It’s around $5 which is only like 3s 6d as the Dollar’s sicker than the Euro at the moment. My mate James Morgan Ayres the author. Whodathunkit. Enjoy!


a pile of dog lit

One of the things I most miss in Italy is being able to browse around a book store. It’s just no joy when you can’t read lingua italia. So when we’re back here I’m forever killing the odd hour down at Waterstones or some local book shop. It’s sad I know but I could have worse (and probably more interesting) vices.

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I’m a self-confessed book nut; I’m not really a novels man (though do enjoy a good read on holiday) but I love reference books. Art, design, architecture and photography books are my favourites but I also have a thing for listings guides. I’ve got them on films, music, album covers, jazz musicians, logos and letter-heads, football, artworks, classic cars (in which i feature!), skyscrapers, bridges, film scripts and so on. You name it I can study these for hours just assimilating fairly irrevelant data and images. Just for the hell of it. But one book is constantly open and I’ll dip into it most days – the Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy, written by Mark Lewisohn. It’s a few years old now but it’s just chocker with stuff that I find fascinating.

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