HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Archive for December, 2009

Website Update: Hever Castle Pictures, 20th December 2009

Posted by HelenEdith on December 26, 2009

Hever Castle at Christmas

I’ve uploaded some more images taken at Hever Castle, and they can now be viewed on my website by visiting Helen Stephenson’s Hever Castle Pictures, 20th December 2009.

My website was hacked a while ago 😳 and was showing up on the search engines as an attack site, but I think I’ve sorted it all out now. Do drop me a comment if things are still showing up with warnings – I wouldn’t want you to click on anything dangerous! However, what I have just uploaded should be perfectly safe, as should my Chatham Dockyard Pictures – September 10th, 2006 – which were uploaded after the problem occurred, albeit before I found and got rid of all the nasties from existing pages.

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BBC: New Routemaster maker announced

Posted by HelenEdith on December 26, 2009

The design from Aston Martin-Foster

A number of new Routemaster designs have been put forward

A company has been chosen to build the new Routemaster bus for London.

Northern Ireland-based vehicle-making company Wrightbus is Transport for London’s (TfL) preferred manufacturer

TfL said the first of the “greener” and more accessible, hop-on hop-off, double-deckers could be in service by 2011.

Read the rest of the original BBC article here.

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Beckenham Concert Band at Hever Castle

Posted by HelenEdith on December 20, 2009

Hever Castle at Christmas

Today the Beckenham Concert Band performed at Hever Castle as part of their “Magic of Christmas” festivities. We had a marquee to play in, and it contained a heater and some lighting, but it was still pretty cold. I was rather glad that I wore two pairs of trousers. 🙂

The music requested by Hever Castle was Christmas music, but we also slipped in some numbers from “Oliver” in addition to the various Christmas carols and other assorted Christmas pieces like Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”.

We expected our audience to be transitory as people visited the various attractions around the Castle, but there was one group of dedicated blanket-clad ladies who stayed for the whole performance! They jumped up and down whenever we played anything lively, which is probably all that kept them from being frozen to the spot, as there was real snow on the ground with the temperature to match. 😀

When we finished playing, there was still a little bit of light left and I put my camera up on my tripod for a few shots. I’ve included a picture of Hever Castle with a Christmas tree in front of it, but I got several other very pretty pictures and might even feel motivated to put them up on my website when I get a spare hour or two.

Posted in Beckenham Concert Band | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »

Book Review: Ben Bova – The Aftermath

Posted by HelenEdith on December 9, 2009

(Sequel to the Asteroid Wars Series)

Ben Bova is the author of many realistic science fiction novels set within the Solar System. He devoted several volumes to The Asteroid Belt and the war which broke out between companies wanting to gain control of the resources out there. The action in this book takes place after the wars are over, and follows up on the destruction of the habitat Chrysalis, in orbit around Ceres.

A spaceship, the ore carrier Syracuse is coming in to dock when Chrysalis is attacked. Piloted by Victor Zacharias; and with his wife Pauline and two children Angie and Theo aboard, Syracuse comes under attack. Victor dumps his load to put his attacker off, but realises that a slow ore carrier cannot outrun the attacking ship, so he separates the command pod of Syracuse from the rest of the ship to draw the attacker off.

Pauline and her teenage children feel abandoned, but set to work bringing the backup command pod online. Unfortunately, the attack has left them low on fuel and with no working communications, so they drift through space until their trajectory brings them back towards civilisation, a journey which takes several years.

Meanwhile, Victor has managed to send out a distress call which is picked up on Earth by someone monitoring for intelligent life beyond the Solar System. It is a disappointment to them when they realise the pulse they are receiving comes from much nearer to home, but is a great relief to Victor, who is rescued before he starves or his air runs out.

The story follows both Victor’s travels as he seeks his wife and children; and life aboard Syracuse as Zach desperately studies and tries to shorten the time until Syracuse will return to the Asteroid Belt.

We also revisit the Alien artefact which made an appearance in the final volume of the Asteroid Wars Series. It has a bearing upon the story, as it can change the course of some peoples’ lives, and has in fact turned the attacker of Chrysalis into the priest Dorn who is scouring the solar system for drifting bodies and giving them funeral rites.

Dorn, the priest with the past, is woven into this tale with Ben Bova’s usual skill, and once again he’s come up with a satisfying and believable read.

Posted in Book Review, Science Fiction and Fantasy | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Monty playing with his ‘ballie’

Posted by HelenEdith on December 8, 2009

Monty carrying his 'ballie'

Why is it that we descend into baby-talk with our cats…? I’m as guilty as the next person, as “ball” has descended into “ballie” when talking to Monty.

Monty just loves his “ballie”, and as you can see, he trots around carrying it in his mouth. He has various “ballies” to play with, including a bouncy multi-coloured one, a spangly one, and a whole set of yellow ones. He loves those yellow ones, but seems to have lost them all for them moment. My bet is that they will turn up under various articles of furniture. Maybe Monty even knows where some of them are!

The yellow balls which are such a hit are the ammunition from a child’s game that Stephen brought home from the charity shop. The launcher was broken, so they couldn’t sell the toy, and we have found a very good use for the balls. 🙂 In fact, those balls are so popular that it would almost be worth buying a working version of the toy just to obtain more of them.

Now there’s an interesting thought: if we had a working version of the toy, we could launch the balls; and Monty and his brother Rolo could chase after them!

Posted in Monty, Our Cats, Rolo | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Book Review: Michael Jecks – Dispensation of Death

Posted by HelenEdith on December 8, 2009

(A Knights Templar Mystery)

I was introduced to Michael Jecks when I read “Sword of Shame” by The Medieval Murderers, of whom Michael Jecks is one. When I found one of his individual titles on a bargain book table at Polhill, I had enjoyed his part of “Sword of Shame” sufficiently to pick this book up.

The Knights Templar Mysteries are a long-standing series and this is nowhere near the first book in the series, but I found that it was possible to read it as a stand-alone title. It did take me a while to get through the book, and I did read some other books at the same time, but that had at least as much to do with not wanting to mark the dust jacket by cramming a beautiful hardcover edition in my backpack as the content of the book.

This book sees Sir Baldwin de Furnshill and Simon Puttock investigating a murder which takes place in the court of Edward II in 1325. Compared with modern Police stories, the action in this book proceeds at a much more leisurely pace.

Michael Jecks has written a well-researched historical mystery where the politics of the time forms at least as much of the story as the investigation of the murder does.

I will probably look out for some more books from this series.

Posted in Book Review, Crime Fiction | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rolo snuggled up with Stephen’s pajamas

Posted by HelenEdith on December 7, 2009

Rolo burrowed into Stephen's pajamas

This has to be one of the nicest pictures I’ve taken of Rolo. He was on our bed lying on top of the pajamas that Stephen had cast off earlier. Rolo doesn’t keep still for long, so I just kept pushing the shutter button, and ended up with Rolo curled up, Rolo looking alert, Rolo licking himself, and Rolo with his nose hidden behind pajama fabric. I think he looks just lovely – but then I am biassed! 🙂

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Book Review: Charlotte Hubbard – Angel’s Embrace

Posted by HelenEdith on December 7, 2009

This book came out of the Romance section of the library, and the back cover indicated that Billy Bristol was going to Emma Clark, but that the prospect was not filling him with joy. Then Eve Massena showed up at the wedding and delivered her baby in the church, halting the wedding before Billy and Emma had exchanged their vows.

It became apparent that Billy felt responsible for Eve, whose child was fathered by Billy’s outlaw brother.

Billy returned to the home of his birth to confront his brother, but that’s about as far through the book as I got. When I discovered that it was the sort of book where “The Lord will protect you from the bullets” I decided that it wasn’t for me.

I know some people who would probably love the story and find it inspiring, but I was expecting to read a romance, not a story about faith in adversity; and it just didn’t hold my interest.

Did not finish.

Posted in Book Review, Romantic Fiction | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Monty in profile

Posted by HelenEdith on December 6, 2009

Monty watching alertly through mere slits in his eyes

Monty watching alertly through mere slits in his eyes

Monty is not the easiest cat to photograph. According to standard photography advice, the camera’s light meter should “think” he’s grey and over-expose him, but it doesn’t do that. I regularly get under-exposed pictures of Monty. I think he’s so shiny that the light meter isn’t seeing “black” at all but is just seeing a light reflection.

Anyway, I captured this picture of Monty looking up at something – probably a cobweb, knowing him – and the state of our house! 😀 As usual, it needed a little work in PhotoShop to ensure that Monty wasn’t just a black blob. That didn’t work all that well, so I just cropped this profile portrait out of the much larger original picture.

I did like seeing Monty with his eyes contracted down to mere slits: because he lives indoors, his eyes are often big and black. That’s a typical Monty look, but it’s nice to see this look at well.

Posted in Monty, Our Cats | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Rolo is such a pretty cat

Posted by HelenEdith on December 6, 2009

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Rolo sitting on Stephen's pajamas

Rolo is a very pretty ginger cat. In this picture, you can see that he has spots rather than stripes on his flanks. A bit of Bengal in his chequered ancestry, maybe?

When he sits up on the kitchen windowsill, he is starting to look very handsome indeed; and he’s probably now a miniature version of how he’s going to look when he reaches his full adult size.

I do hope his voice breaks before then, as his current pitiful little mew would not only sound wrong on a big handsome ginger cat: it would probably drive me nuts every time he begged for food – which is likely to be often, as Rolo is the talkative one!

Posted in Our Cats, Rolo | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »