Landing on the moon

What are they going to find up there that they can’t get down here?

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Book Review: Lee Child ~ Bad Luck and Trouble (2007) (Reacher 11)

The problem for ‘book-a-year’ authors is keeping characters simultaneously the same and different. If the trick isn’t pulled off characters become stale and repetitive. Reacher is a very strong character and Lee Child can’t deviate from his Maverick strongman. A man who breaks the law with impunity, including murder and theft, whilst being a ‘Good Guy’. If an author can do this time after time, they’ve got a gold mine. Child does this effortlessly with book 11 in a seemingly endless series.1,2

Lee Child makes Reacher an idiot savant in this book. That is, he instantly and effortlessly, converts every incident – there are many – into opportunities for mathematical analysis. This is a tremendous risk as it jars with the normal narrative arc. It’s so unlikely it shouldn’t work. But it does.

This sets the scene of the newly invented Reacher

His arithmetic awareness and his inherent cynicism about financial institutions always compelled him to check his balance every time he withdrew cash. He always remembered to deduct the ATM fees and every quarter he remembered to add in the bank’s paltry interest payment. p5

During a gun fight Reacher thinks this

But a leg wound from a high-velocity jacketed .45 was not a pretty thing. It was like taking a high-torque power drill and fitting it with a foot-long half-inch masonry bit and drilling right through a limb. All in a lot less than a thousandth of a second. p200

Lee Child is a multi-millionaire author because he understands his readers. A rich mixture of high adventure, murder, carnage, heroic rescues, and appreciation of family life. And an idiot savant. What’s not to like?


1 100 million copies all told Lee Child: The man who’s sold 100 million books |

2 In Britain there was a TV series Taggart where the lead actor inconveniently died. The series continued as ‘Taggart’ but without the principal character as he was dead. Now that is creative use of a character as a brand.

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Beware of chess playing boyfriends

“To Marcel Duchamp, chess was a higher vocation than art: on his honeymoon he paid more attention to the game than to his bride. In revenge she glued his pieces to the board; divorce ensued.”

New Statesman 7th October 2022 p49

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Let’s move on and not dwell on the past

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A Dean Martin* quip

“You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.”

* Dean Martin was part of the infamous Rat Pack, which included Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Frank Sinatra.

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Boris Johnson’s Masterclass in Political Instability: 2019-22

Boris Johnson is now officially a ‘has-been’. His rejection by Conservatives MPs confirmed this in the October 2022 leadership ‘contest’. A legacy of bad government lives on. Johnson preferred incompetent people who didn’t threaten him. Only five cabinet members lasted three years in the same post. Cabinets were churned. Churning prevented overly strong, competent, ministers who knew what they were doing providing an alternative agenda. Only Priti Patel, Home Secretary, completed three years in a senior cabinet post. The Chancellorship changed hands three times and there were two Foreign Secretaries. This isn’t trivial. Policy was out-sourced to civil servants. David Frost is the worst example of this. He *negotiated* the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is a constitutional disaster.

Domestic politics under Johnson was incoherent and international politics was reduced to a mixture of tourism and photo-opportunities. This was especially true of Johnson’s repeated *visits* to Ukraine in 2022 as he was fighting for his political life. Johnson has delusions of being a latter-day Churchill.

Churchill’s wartime cabinet was, “A total of sixteen ministers [who] held war cabinet membership at various times in Churchill’s ministry. There were five at the outset of whom two, Churchill and Attlee, served throughout the ministry’s entire term.”1 Sixteen cabinet members in five war years.

Addendum (1): Ministerial changes during Johnson’s premiership

Prime Minister: Boris Johnson
Chancellor: (1) Sajid Javid2; (2) Rishi Sunak2; (3) Nadhim Zahawi3
Home Secretary: Priti Patel2;
Foreign Secretary: (1) Dominic Raab2; (2) Liz Truss3
Brexit Secretary: Stephen Barclay3 (This cabinet post was deleted after he left)
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: (1) Michael Gove2; (2) Greg Clark2
Defence Secretary: Ben Wallace
International Trade Secretary: (1) Liz Truss3; (2) Anne-Marie Trevelyan3
Health & Social Care Secretary: (1) Matt Hancock2; (2) Sajid Javid2; (3) Steve Barclay3
Environment Secretary: (1) Theresa Villiers2; (2) George Eustice2
Education Secretary: (1) Gavin Williamson2; (2) Nadhim Zahawi3
Culture Secretary: (1) Nicky Morgan2; (2) Oliver Dowden2; (3) Nadine Dorries2
Business Secretary: (1) Andrea Leadsom2; (2) Alok Sharma3; (3) Kwasi Kwarteng3
Housing and Communities Secretary: (1) Robert Jenrick2; (2) Michael Gove2; (3) Simon Clark2
Work & Pensions, Women & Equalities: (1) Amber Rudd2; (2) Theresa Coffey3
Justice Secretary: (1) Robert Buckland2; (2) Dominic Raab3
International Development Secretary: (1) Alok Sharma3; (2) Anne-Marie Trevelyan3
Transport Secretary: Grant Shapps3
Welsh Secretary: (1) Alun Cairns2; (2) Simon Hart2; (3) Robert Buckland3
Scottish Secretary: Alister Jack
Northern Ireland Secretary: (1) Julian Smith2; (2) Brandon Lewis3; (3) Shailesh Vara2
Leader of the Lords: Baroness Evans

There were 44 cabinet ministers in Johnson’s three years as PM, nine of whom shuffled between jobs. Michael Gove and Sajid Javid received payments for loss of office twice.


1 Churchill war ministry – Wikipedia

2 loss of office payment possible i.e Sajid Javid2

3 no loss of office payment possible i.e Nadhim Zahawi3

Addendum (2): These ministers received pay-offs x £18,860 = £433,7801

Robert Buckland

Alun Cairns

Greg Clark

Simon Clark

Nadine Dorries

George Eustice

Michael Gove (twice)

Matt Hancock

Simon Hart

Sajid Javid (twice)

Robert Jenrick

Andrea Leadsom

Nicky Morgan

Dominic Raab

Amber Rudd

Julian Smith

Rishi Sunak

Anne-Marie Trevelyan

Shailesh Vara

Theresa Villiers

Gavin Williamson


1 It was ridiculously hard to uncover the figures for junior ministers and their pay-offs. However, taking a heroic guess, the figure is about £1.2 million for that churn. Conservative MPs who didn’t become at least a junior minister, in the Johnson era, are a rarity.

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‘One foot in the grave’*

Margaret Meldrew:
Have you had a good day while I was out?

Victor Meldrew:
I think it’s safe to say I’ve had a very good day, all told. In the morning, I turned some water into wine, and then I healed a few lepers, and after lunch, I popped over and parted the waters of the Red Sea.

Margaret Meldrew:
Did the man come about the roof?

Victor Meldrew:
No, but you can’t expect miracles.


* A quote from One foot in the Grave a wildly successful sitcom 1990-2000

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21st Century quasi-slave labour in Asia

While poor urban children are still treated as slaves or indentured labor, some of their fathers remain little more than draught animals. The rickshaw has always been a notorious emblem of the degradation of labor in Asia. Invented in Japan in the 1860s, it allowed “human animals” to replace mule carts and horse-drawn carriages as the chief means of transportation in the great cities of East and South Asia. Except in Japan, rickshaws survived even the competition of streetcars after the First World War because of their convenience, low cost, and role as status “passports” of the petty bourgeoisie. (“People tended to think,” wrote the 1920s Beijing novelist Xi Ying, “‘if you don’t even have a private rickshaw, what on earth are you?’”) Pulling a rickshaw was reckoned the harshest form of urban labour, and, in Shanghai at least, most pullers (lucky to earn the equivalent of ten cents a day) perished of heart attacks or tuberculosis within a few years.

 Davis, Mike. Planet of Slums (pp. 188-189). Verso. Kindle Edition.

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Book Review: Christopher Brookmyre ~ All fun and games until someone loses an eye (2005)

Around about 8 pm on a Saturday night I was bored and irritable so I bought this on Amazon.1 Why this one? Well it had a quirky title and I like quirky books. I didn’t feel I was making a *commitment* to it. If it didn’t amuse me I’d dump it and mindlessly TV surf. Choices, Choices. Expectations were tiny. But I was rewarded.

The story begins with a Prologue as a taster.2 The actual story begins with a Scottish gran-ma hoovering her hallway. The pace accelerates when it turns out her scientist son invents a secret *weapon*. Her grand-daughter becomes a target for kidnapping so pressure can be brought on him to reveal all. Super-gran thwarts the dastardly deed in classic James Bond style. Flair and panache.

Without worrying about the preposterous detail Super-gran joins a team of international criminals. Delving deep into her inner-soul she becomes fearless, decisive and a femme fatale.

It’s enormous fun, cleverly crafted, plotted and well-written.


1 This is what elderly people do when they’re waiting for cocoa and bedtime.

2 This is scene setting the *story* begins with Jane, Super-gran, unleashing her inner James Bond.

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The Suffragettes knew how to protest

They make Extinction Rebellion look reasonable
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