Friday, November 30, 2012

While I've been to England many times, my trips have generally centered around the London area. I'm hoping to one day have the time and resources to explore the rest of the country.  In the meantime, I'm always thrilled to be able to learn more about England.  The new DVD Cornwall with Caroline Quentin will certainly give you travel fever to explore that beautiful and unique part of the country.

Cornwall is located in the extreme south-west corner of the country. Here is a visual representation, courtesy of Wikipedia, that shows what part of the island we're talking about:

In this series, the talented actress Caroline Quentin visits Cornwall and takes in its breathtaking beauty as she gets to know some of the locals.  The program consists of 8 episodes on 2 discs, as well as a small companion booklet Viewer's Guide.

Because Cornwall is mostly surrounded by the sea, many of the people who are featured work or are in some way connected to the ocean.  We get to go along on a fishing boat, visit a restaurant and beach-side food stand which specialize in seafood, see rowing competitions and experience Pirate Day celebrations.

In each activity, the lovely scenery is always a beautiful backdrop to the story.  The dramatic coastal landscapes and gorgeous blue water help to show what a magnificent part of the country this is.

Some of the people Caroline meets include a family who are, against all expectations, running the successful Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall; a fisher-woman who also runs a teashop; and a man who gets to dress up in pirate gear to participate in the annual Pirate Day on  the island of St. Michael's Mount.  There is a joyful spirit and happy enthusiasm that shines through from the people of Cornwall.  Of course, having a camera turned on you would probably make most people perk up, but you get the feeling that the people who live in this part of the world are genuinely content with their lives.

There are also plenty of humorous moments, such as the regatta run by oddly costumed characters in questionable boats who "haven't a hope" of winning.  Everyone seems to be having a great time with the thrill of the race.

We also get a bit of history thrown in, such as the fact that over half of the world's tin used to be mined in Cornwall.  Along the coast, engine houses sprout up and give testament to the former industry that employed so many people in this area.

The mines also gave rise to that great Cornish delicacy, the pasty, which was an efficient way for miners to eat their dinner without having to take too much time over cleaning up (the crimped pastry around the edge could be held by grubby fingers and tossed away after the filling had been consumed).  Also saved on the washing up!

The series was made even more delightful by the cheerful enthusiasm of the presenter, Caroline Quentin.  She is full of excitement and wonder as she greets each new person and experience.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that she bought one of the Unique Homes featured in this series!

All in all, this was a wonderful introduction to Cornwall and its people.  I am now itching to put Cornwall on the itinerary for my next trip to the UK!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Cornwall with Caroline Quentin from Acorn Media in exchange for this review.

Final Verdict for Cornwall with Caroline Quentin Four Gherkins, for being a delightful visit to a charming part of the world

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

As we get older, we all begin to take stock of our lives and try to figure out where we've been and where we're going.  Many people, taking inspiration from the film of the same name, assemble their own personal "bucket lists" of things they want to do before it's too late.  In the book More Than a Bucket List, author Toni Birdsong gives advice on how to assemble your own list, and ties many of her suggestions to Biblical passages.  Conveniently, the back of the book contains blank pages for the reader to work on his or her own list.

While many of the ideas listed sound fun or inspirational ("Pay the tab of the person behind you," "Visit Ground Zero," etc.), others are just plain strange.  For instance, there's the suggestion that you should "Live long enough for Willard Scott to show your face on a jelly jar."  I had no idea that living to be 100 was something we all could do if we just put our minds to it.  Other suggestions sound downright illegal, such as "Walk through Disneyland after hours."  Of course, there are no directions included as to how to accomplish that, so whether you should hide somewhere until after closing, or just break in is not stated -- I guess it's your Bucket List, so do whatever suits you!

There are also an awful lot of  suggestions that begin "take the day off," "skip work," "leave work early" and so on.  This coupled with extravagantly expensive travel-related suggestions ("Visit the 1200 islands of Maldives," "Summit Everest," "Raft the Zambezi," etc.) makes you wonder how anyone can follow many of the ideas and remain employed for long.

The sections sprinkled throughout the book labeled "Real-Life Challenges" are more practical and involve suggestions such as volunteering at a homeless shelter and asking advice from people you admire.  While I realize that the book is a sort of wish list, I would have enjoyed it a bit more if it had leaned more toward the practical, or achievable for the average person.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Oh happy day!  A new novel featuring Mma Ramotswe, Mr. JLB Matekoni and Mma Makutsi (Dip. Sec. 97%) is always a cause for celebration.  The latest exploits of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency are chronicled in The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection.  Once again we are drawn back to the dusty streets of Gabarone and find out what our beloved friends have been up to since we last met.

Strangely for such calm people living in such a beautiful place, there are many conflicts in this book.  While a number of conflicts in the previous books have dealt with our two female detectives trying to get to the bottom of various cases, in this book the problems are all personal.

First of all, Mma Potokwane, the head of the Orphan Farm, is being relieved of her duties.  Mma Ramotswe is totally dismayed by this information, not only because she doesn't want her friend to lose her job, but also because she knows how hard Mma Potokwane works on behalf of the orphans.  Who else will bribe tradesmen with fruit cake to get goods and services for free?  And why would the board of the orphan farm want to replace such a dedicated leader as Mma Potokwane? 

Next, Fanwell, the somewhat reserved apprentice of Mr. JLB Matekoni, is arrested and charged with dealing in stolen cars.  Everyone, including the occasionally prickly Mma Makutsi, is sure of his innocence, but how to prove it?  Especially when no one is able to afford a good attorney to represent him in court and the one he can afford is not exactly on top of things.

Finally, Mma Makutsi and her new husband Phuti Radiphuti are in the process of  building their new house.   They excitedly discuss where and how they want it built and furnished, but the builder is not only disrespectful to Mma Makutsi, he's also shifty and overbearing.  It's enough to cause poor Phuti to start stuttering again.

Fortunately, into all this chaos wanders a real celebrity -- at least within the halls of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.  The exalted personage does seem to be somewhat lacking in expertise (in his own estimation), but this does not dim the adoration of the two lady detectives who are awed by his presence.  His advice does eventually help them to resolve their problems.

As always, the people are kind, their interactions humorous and the results are satisfying.  I did feel that in this book everything was tied up a bit too quickly and tidily.  Perhaps only one or two crises per book with more complex solutions would be in order next time.  But the overall effect was a pleasant time spent with old friends, and we can all use more of that!

Final Verdict for The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection Four Gherkins, for being another lovely visit to our hardworking tea-drinking friends in Botswana

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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