Monday, May 31, 2010

EMI Classics is announcing the release of Howard Goodall’s original soundtrack to the upcoming four-part natural history series on ITV1 ‘The Seasons’ with Alan Titchmarsh (probably best known to American audiences from Ground Force). Goodall’s The Seasons was released on CD and digitally on May 17, 2010 to coincide with the ITV broadcasts. Last year, Goodall, an award-winning composer, acclaimed broadcaster and Classic FM radio Composer-in-Residence was named Classical BRIT Composer of the Year for his best-selling Eternal Light: A Requiem, released by EMI in 2008.

Describing the background to his new composition, Goodall says, “Several composers over the centuries have responded musically to the idea of the changing seasons, most notably Vivaldi. Haydn, Spohr, Verdi, Glazunov and Tchaikovsky, but I believe I am the first composer to create my Seasons suite over the period of a year in the respective seasons themselves. I would like to take credit for this approach, but in all honesty the season-by-season time scale was dictated by the filming schedule of the ITV series ‘The Seasons’ with Alan Titchmarsh, for which the suite provides a soundtrack.” In this brand new four part series for ITV1, everyone’s favourite gardener, Alan Titchmarsh goes back to his roots to find out how our changing seasons affect everything around us. The series reveals the profound and far-reaching impact that each season has on our wildlife and landscape, and how they shape the way we all live.

You can pre-order The Seasons now at Amazon and watch a clip about the album here!

Thanks to Natalie at HeadStreamPR I have 2 copies of this great new CD to give away! To enter, please leave a comment letting me know what your favorite season is. The competition is open to entrants in the US and Canada. The contest will end on Wednesday, June 8 after which I will choose the two winners at The winners will have 48 hours to respond to my email, or else I will have to choose new winners. Please make sure your email address is in your comment or on your profile. Good luck to all!

Disclaimer: I received 2 copies of the CD to give away, but I received no compensation for holding this giveaway

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I know he's incredibly busy with the 5 or so series that he's created, so I'm always thrilled when a new Alexander McCall Smith book arrives, featuring our old friends Precious Ramotswe, Grace Maktusi and Mr. JLB Matekoni. It was with surprise and delight that I saw the book The Double Comfort Safari Club was out. Fans of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series will not be disappointed.

In this novel, there are plenty of professional and personal problems to deal with. Mma Makutsi is still engaged to Phuti Radiphuti, but, as usual, her life can never go smoothly. Early in the novel, she is alarmed to hear that Phuti has suffered an accident at his furniture store and has been hospitalized. This alone would be enough to cope with, but there is the added difficulty of Phuti's "No. 1 Auntie," a jealous, hateful woman who refuses to accept Grace as Phuti's fiancée, and therefore, refuses to allow her access to her injured beloved. Mma Ramotswe attempts to intervene, but even she is no match for the aunt.

Professionally, there are also plenty of new cases for the female detective staff (Mma Ramotswe and her "Assistant Detective" Mma Makutsi) to work on. In this novel we have the usual suspected cheating spouse cases, and that shameless hussy Violet Sephotho makes another appearance. The main case, however, involves the ladies traveling to a safari camp in an attempt to identify a guide who has been left a sum of money by an American lady in her will. Her memory of the guide was warm and grateful, but little details such as the exact name and location of the camp where he worked were a little vague.

This novel is filled with all the warmth, humor and amusing turn of phrase that makes this series so special. I'm only sad that there haven't been more shows made for the HBO series. I'd love to see the same actors do more stories from the books, so I hope it will happen in the future!

Final Verdict for The Double Comfort Safari Club: Four Gherkins, for being a welcome visit with old friends (now if only things could go smoothly for Mma Makutsi for a while . . .)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Blighty Channel is pleased to announce the TV debut of ‘Morris: A life with bells on’ at 8pm on Saturday, 29th May. Set to be a bank holiday treat the light-hearted comedy “captures the heart of England” and will charm even the most cynical of viewers.

Sunny L.A is the ultimate destination for anything film, and the land of the beautiful boasts super rich and glamorous residents alike. With the Hollywood hills as a backdrop and a whole host of talented extra’s on hand, it’s not surprising that Brit film makers Twist Films couldn’t wait to get on set to finish the La la Land storyline to their new film Morris: A Life with Bells on.

But, there was just one problem…. Twist Films had no budget to fly the entire cast and crew out to California. But, with the L.A scene being such a core part of the storyline they would have to somehow make it happen. And so the genius idea was born to turn a beach on Dorset’s South Coast into Venice Beach ‘totally awesome’!

The biggest challenge to the filming was of course the weather! The consistent rain threw out the scheduled timetable and only allowed a very small window for filming to take place. The allocated 2 days of filming the beach scene had to be squeezed into a few hours! However, the actors were unperturbed and embraced the chilling sea air (in their beachwear!) to take advantage of any sunshine there was.

The stunning location of Sandbanks is a worthy challenger to the likes of L.A. Golden beaches, space for watersports, gourmet beachside restaurants or just simply soaking up the lavish lifestyle that is on offer. If it’s luxury accommodation you are after then Sandbanks has got that covered too. Being one of the most expensive places to live in the whole world there is an abundance of multi-million pound properties and luxury hotels. Fancy a bit of celeb spotting? No problem! You could easily come across the Redknapps taking a stroll down the beach or Vernon Kaye and Tess Daly soaking up the sunshine on a well deserved break.

So if you can handle a bit of unpredictable English weather, then Sandbanks is a great alternative for those on a budget!

Here's a video clip of how they made the chilly beach in Dorset appear to be in sunny California:

Windows Media Player:

Quicktime Player:

More information about the Blighty channel can be found at

Thursday, May 13, 2010

With all the interest lately in witches, wizards and spells, it only stands to reason that America's best-known witches would get a new treatment. Although the majority of the events in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane take place in modern times, there are "interludes" spaced throughout the book that relate events that took place during the Salem witch trials of 1692.

Connie Goodwin is a doctoral student at Harvard in the present-day story, studying early American folklore. Her flaky new age mother, who lives in New Mexico, contacts Connie and asks her to clear out her grandmother's old house, so that it can be sold. Connie has never visited the house, and is alarmed to discover it is nearly hidden by the neglected garden, and, even better, has no electricity. Still, she moves in over the summer while she mulls over what subject she will choose to research for her dissertation.

In clearing out the house, she discovers an old key, with a slip of paper hidden inside it. On the paper is written "Deliverance Dane." This sends Connie on a quest to find out just who or what Deliverance Dane could be. She soon begins to suspect that Deliverance Dane was a person, and one who was apparently hanged as a witch in the 17th century.

Her research brings her into contact with a young man, Sam (the love interest), who restores old church steeples. As Connie goes on the hunt for Deliverance's "physick book" (spell recipes), Sam falls desperately ill. She becomes convinced that she can heal him if only she can find the book and discover the correct spell.

At the same time, her academic advisor, Manning Chilton, puts pressure on Connie to find the book. First, he tells her that she needs to uncover new source material for her dissertation, and then begins to hint that her academic career might be at risk if she doesn't produce the book.

Woven throughout the modern story is the story of Deliverance Dane, known during her lifetime as a "cunning woman." She was familiar with herbs and medicines, and was one of the people relied upon when sickness struck. On the downside, when her medicines proved ineffective, she was suspected of hastening the patient into the afterlife. Her daughter, Mercy, became a midwife and kept a diary, which gave Connie most of the clues about the existence of the physick book.

I was really most interested in the historical facts of the story. The love story between Connie and Sam was a bit dull, and the evil advisor became just a little too omnipotent toward the end of the story. But the story of Deliverance's arrest, trial and punishment were riveting. The author, Katherine Howe, really manages to bring the terror and mass hysteria of the time to life.

Final verdict for The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane: Three Gherkins, for having a great deal of fascinating detail about the Salem witch trials

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway for the original and new versions of the series Survivors. The winners were:

Original series:



New series:



The winners have been contacted and the prizes sent. Thanks to Bridget at Warner Bros. Advanced Digital Services for providing the prizes!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Annie Tempest is one of the most beloved cartoonists in the U.K. Among her earlier comic strips were "Westenders" and "The Yuppies." For the past 17 years, she's been chronicling the lives of the Tottering family in "Tottering-by-Gently," which runs in the magazine Country Life.

The strips from Country Life have been gathered and are being released in book form. The most recent one is called Out & About with the Totterings. The strips in this book ran between January 2004 and December 2005.

We meet the main characters, Dicky and Daffy Tottering, who live in their gently crumbling manor house Tottering Hall in the county of North Pimmshire. They are joined in their activities by daughter Serena, grandchildren Daisy and Freddy and dogs Slobber and Scribble. Also making a frequent appearance is the cleaning lady Mrs. Shagpile (who gives Daffy a run for her money in the smoking competition).

The book itself is wonderful -- very sturdy and beautifully constructed. The pages are glossy and colorful, with one strip per page. At the bottom of each page we also have a miniature of Dicky on a scooter or Daffy jogging (which is rather amusing, as Daffy seems to enjoy spending an awful lot of time on the sofa drinking wine rather than exercising!).

The strips are full of gentle humor and nice touches. The Totterings are teased by their children about their advanced age and old fashioned ideas. Daffy is continually exasperated by Dicky's expressions of affection toward Slobber. The family goes about life on their country estate engaged in the pursuits of shooting, gardening, country walking and dining out. You can feel the gentle affection among the characters.

This was my first introduction to the Totterings, but I'm definitely going to be seeking out more of their adventures in the future!

I received a review copy of Out & About with the Totterings from Jennifer at 45th Parallel Communications.

Final Verdict for Out & About with the Totterings: Four Gherkins, for being a humorous look at English country village life

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Are Americans ever happy when they pack up and move to Britain? If so, someone please direct me to their memoirs. I've found one lovely account (see below), but otherwise, most of the stories I've read don't turn out so well. I was once again seduced by a pretty cover and the promise of reading about the adventures of a newcomer to British shores in the book Sixpence House by Paul Collins. In this book, the author and his family move to the book capital of Europe, Hay-on-Wye. I love to read about Britain, and I love books, so this sounded as if it would be a perfectly charming memoir. Sadly, this book quickly turned into an indictment of all that's wrong with Britain and how much better everything in the U.S. is (as seems to be the case with books like this).

Paul Collins had just finished work on his first book when he and his wife decide to move to the UK with their infant son. As inhabitants of San Francisco, they are eager to give their son a more quiet upbringing in a rural setting. The family moves to the town of Hay, and the author is immediately offered a job setting up an "American section" in one of the town's many bookstores.

The author's parents were British immigrants to the U.S., so he has dual citizenship. This allows him to move overseas, but he never tires of pointing out "I'm an American," or "As an American," or "To an American" followed by complaints of how inferior and/or backward basically everything in Britain is to its American counterpart. My, how much better stocked the American supermarkets are. How much simpler the real estate market. And don't even mention the plumbing situation . . .

Since the author's parents were British, he supposedly visited British relatives from time to time as a youngster. Why on earth he wanted to drag his young family to such a underdeveloped and clearly second-rate country is beyond me. You will not be surprised, then, when at the end of the book, he decides he can't stand it a minute longer and bolts back to the U.S. After a slight kerfuffle at immigration, where he tries to enter the U.S. on his British passport, the immigration agent tells him, "Don't ever try to be British again." If only someone had told him this before he foolishly attempted it.

Clearly, there are some books where the differences between the two countries can be pointed out in a humorous and good-hearted way, as in the wonderful Postcards From Across the Pond by Mike Harling. Sixpence House, on the other hand, is just an extended complaint about living outside the US.

Final verdict for Sixpence House: 0 Gherkins, for being an extended whine on how much better everything is in the US by someone who should never have left

About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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My LibraryThing Library

The Gherkin Scale

5gherkinsb Brilliant!

4gherkinsb Good, innit?

3gherkinsb Fair to middlin'

2gherkinsb Has some good points

1gherkin Oi! Wot you playin' at?

0gherkins3Don't be givin' me evils!

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