Dangerous Dogs?

Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 prohibits four types of dog: the Pit Bull Terrier, the Japanese tosa, the Dogo Argentino, the Fila Brasileiro

A Dog attacking a family child, or a stranger, is a story all too common on the news. The pattern always seems to be the same:  a family pet, which just happened to be a pit bull, for example, never injured anyone in its life, and had never been ill-treated, out of the blue attacked a child, another dog, or its owner.

Understandably perhaps, most people feel if a dog attacks someone it should immediately be put down. Since there are simple ways to reduce the risk of a horrific accident, all dog owners should be confident of being the one in charge at all times. My purpose in writing this is simply to make this point. I am not personally anti-dog, we have a Jack Russell (type) ourselves, known to friends and family by the macho name ‘Horlicks’, and I am very aware of how beneficial it can be for a family to own a dog. As a society, we owe a debt to dogs, for assisting the blind, the Police, rescuing people, landmine clearance, and a thousand tasks we never give a thought to. The annual awards ( http://www.pdsa.org.uk/animal bravery awards) given to outstanding dogs that saved peoples lives are very moving..

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Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Angela’s Ashes A Memoir of a Childhood

Rating: ★★★★☆

To take up a Pulitzer prize-winning book that has consistently sold in the millions, and appear to take it apart, may seem like an act of  iconoclasm. I shall therefore begin by saying that it is one very enjoyable read. Neither did the film version ( Angela’s Ashes [DVD] [2000]) disappoint me, at least, it is one of those rarest of experiences when you sit and watch an adaptation of a book and are forced by the end to acknowledge the makers did a better job than you might have done, despite “two and a half hours of rain”..

The book quote on the back neatly summarises the contents: “When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood”.. You can see why this quote was chosen over any other to sell the book, it combines the comfortable certainty of  a publisher with another abused child story on the desk, with the skeptical but  human reaction, ‘I bet it wasn’t really as bad as all that.. was it?’

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Forde Abbey


In the peaceful solitude of its secluded position it is possible to imagine just how Forde Abbey, near Chard, along the Somerset/Dorset border, looked to many of its previous owners, from its mediaeval beginnings to the present day: monks going about their daily round of work and prayer, prosperous parliamentary gentlemen discussing the cavalier threat, gifted philosophers debating the imponderable, elegant Victorian ladies fanning themselves by the fireside and country gentlemen going about their work on the estate.


In 1136 Richard de Brioniis founded a Cistercian monastery at Brightley in Devon. However, the land was too barren for an agricultural community, forcing the monks to return to Surrey in 1141. On their journey, they met their former patron’s sister and heir, Adelicia de Brioniis. Determined to honour the wish of her dead brother, she offered them the use of the Manor of Thorncombe and a site on the River Axe. They accepted and within seven years the monastery of Forde Abbey was built.

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Wildlife of Scotland

Rating: ★★★★★

Wildlife of Scotland (1979) Fred Holliday (ed)

In this 1979 198 page book, commissioned by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, eleven writers have presented a comprehensive, yet personal survey of the wildlife inhabiting Scotland’s rich and varied landscape. Man’s influence upon the land and the animals, past and present, has been given special attention, and inevitably sounds a warning for the future.

People are not now so directly dependent upon the land, communications are vastly improved, wildlife is increasingly accepted as a source of pleasure and deserving of protection, and hence there is reason for optimism. However, it is certainly reasonable in return to collectively and individually conserve the habitats of native wildlife, to minimise or eliminate the loss of plant and animal species regardless of how aesthetically pleasing or useful on a practical level..

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The Obedience of a Christian Man (1528) by William Tyndale

This is a Guest blog by Mr Roy Elliot. My thanks to him for permission to reproduce it here.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Obedience of a Christian Man (Penguin Classics)

Influential remarkable book written almost 500 years ago

This remarkable book needs to be set in context. It was written almost 500 years ago, during the brutal persecution of those who believed the simple Gospel and in the absolute authority of “Scripture alone”.

William Tyndale, a gifted scholar educated at Oxford and ordained a priest, saw at first hand the widespread corruption within the Roman Catholic Church.

Rome believed that it could not err and it held ultimate power even over the king and government. A core belief was, and still is, that “Church Tradition” holds equal, or even more authority than the Bible. The Church went to extreme lengths to prevent the ordinary folk from having any independent understanding of the Bible, particularly in what it said regarding  purgatory, confessing sins to a priest, the selling of indulgences, praying to Mary, praying to Saints, salvation by works and money payments, etc…

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Almost all of us have experienced some form of depression, perhaps one in four or five at any one time.  For the ones that haven’t (or haven’t yet), it can be near impossible to adequately understand what the partner or friend is going through, and by the nature of the beast, near impossible for them to tell you.

There is a huge amount of material in print and online about depression, and it is my view that much is good, but much is not so good. My reasons for adding the following comments are as follows.

  • Let’s not be dogmatic. We do owe a lot to all the professional doctors, researchers, and modern medication; however, they would not be telling the truth if they claimed to have the perfect answer. For all our similarities, we are not robots, we are all unique.
  • Although I fully accept the need for up to date advice, depression is almost as old as mankind, and the thoughts we do have in writing, from the Bible, the Koran, Confucius, and others, as well as modern first person accounts, can be helpful, even illuminating.

Timothy Bright (1586) wrote: ‘How diversely the word melancholy (depression) is taken’. He categorised depression as that type which ‘is not moved by any adversity present or imminent’ in which ‘the melancholy.. abuseth the mind’. He was describing a depressive disorder, almost certainly bipolar depression. He also described a second type of melancholy where ‘the peril is not of body’ but ‘proceedeth from the mind’s apprehension’ requiring ‘cure of the minde’, or as we would say, psychotherapy..

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Cast Away- 2001 DVD

Rating: ★★★★★

Cast Away (2 Disc Set) [DVD] [2001],

One might describe the character of Chuck Noland, played convincingly by Tom Hanks, as the latest reincarnation of Robinson Crusoe.

FedEx employee Chuck Noland ( C No-land?), an inveterate trouble-shooter, workaholic and clock watcher, finds himself alone on the shores of a tropical island following a horrific plane crash.

The plane crash sequence for me at least, appeared so terrifying I imagine the in-flight movie market for this film was severely affected. Reminds me of watching ‘Titanic’ on a cross-channel ferry once..

He is the sole survivor. First, frustration at the predicament gets to him and then, as hopes of rescue fade, it dawns on him that his chances of getting back home are slim.. Four years go by; and Chuck has learned how to survive on his own, with only the natural resources of the island and several Fed-Ex package contents that he uses. He vows to himself to deliver one someday, and leaves it unopened..

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Loneliness and the appeal of Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe is the tale of a lonely human being who manages to survive shipwreck and confinement on a deserted island for years without human companionship. It was written by Daniel Defoe and was published to enormous acclaim in 1719.  It is a story about the different ways that men cope with reality when hardship comes, but it is also the tale of a man creating his own reality, rescuing another man (Friday), and fashioning his own world out of the untamed wilderness of a desert island.
In writing Robinson Crusoe, Defoe created a character who appeals to us on a deep level. The search for Defoe’s model or models continues, with Alexander Selkirk being the favourite. Tim Severin (Seeking Robinson Crusoe , 2002) has recently explored the intriguing possibilities, and visited likely island locations for the story, such as Juan Fernández, Chile, and Salt Tortuga, Venezuela.

Loneliness is not the same as being alone. Many people have times when they are alone through circumstances or choice. Being alone can be experienced as positive, pleasurable, and emotionally refreshing if it is under the individual’s control. Solitude is the state of being alone and secluded from other people, and often implies having made a conscious choice to be alone. Loneliness is unwanted solitude. Loneliness does not require being alone and is experienced even in crowded places. It can be described as the absence of identification, understanding or compassion. Loneliness can be described as a feeling of isolation from other individuals, regardless of whether one is physically isolated from others or not.

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Wild Wales (1862) by George Borrow

Rating: ★★★★★

Wild Wales (1862) by George Borrow, The people, language and scenery, Chapter XCIX (99)

It has been said you will likely learn more about George Borrow than about Wales when reading this book. It is well worth reading, but the sub-title is very misleading! Borrow was a Norfolk man, with a passion for all things Welsh, and proud of the knowledge of Welsh he acquired from books. One of his many eccentricities was a habit of correcting the Welsh of his tolerant listeners! I hope by quoting the following encounter at an inn at ‘Gutter Vawr’ (Goitre Fawr), a sense of his enthusiastic style and attitude may be discerned. This was after all, the era of Stanley and Livingstone ( “Dr Livingstone, I presume?“), and before the English went forth empire building, they practiced nearer home. Borrow was never slow to air an opinion, or hide a well-honed prejudice, such that it is worth remembering that those readers familiar with his writings, discern a generosity of spirit at variance with a casual encounter. We should of course not forget the attitude of his contemporaries, when most men of his standing would consider it beneath their dignity to even acknowledge the presence of the people Borrow happily converses with. What a contrast to today’s hectic pace, was Borrows’ casual scheme to leisurely walk the length of Wales!

THE old woman who confronted me in the passage of the inn turned out to be the landlady. On learning that I intended to pass the night at her house, she conducted me into a small room on the right-hand side of the passage, which proved to be the parlour. It was cold and comfortless, for there was no fire in the grate. She told me, however, that one should be lighted, and going out, presently returned with a couple of buxom wenches, who I soon found were her daughters. The good lady had little or no English; the girls, however, had plenty, and of a good kind too. They soon lighted a fire, and then the mother inquired if I wished for any supper.

“Certainly,” said I, “for I have not eaten anything since I left Llandovery. What can I have?”

“We have veal and bacon,” said she.

“That will do,” said I; “fry me some veal and bacon, and I shan’t complain. But pray tell what prodigious noise is that which I hear on the other side of the passage?”

“It is only the miners and the carters in the kitchen making merry,” said one of the girls.

“Is there a good fire there?” said I.

“Oh yes,” said the girl, “we have always a good fire in the kitchen….”

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And They Blessed Rebecca, by Pat Molloy

Rating: ★★★★★

And They Blessed Rebecca: An Account of the Welsh Toll Gate Riots, 1839-1844 (1983) by Pat Molloy

Sometimes with popular heroes, historical or recent, the Robin Hoods or the Che’ Guevaras, hard facts can detract from the legend. An in-depth look at the popular uprisings in Wales a century and a half ago, known as the Rebecca Riots, does not detract from the excitement and genuine feelings of a people who took hope from expressing their disgust at extortion and injustice.
The Rebecca Riots have become a powerful and emotive part of Welsh folklore, conveying through the years the spirit of a long and continuing resistance to English domination and exploitation, for attacks on the toll gates in the dead of night, by men with blackened faces, and disguised as women, were only part of the story. Discontentment in rural Wales ran far deeper than mere annoyance with having to pay the excessive and arbitrary road tolls at legal, and worse, illegally erected gates, and that discontent took many forms.

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