Help! Murderers and Flawed Detectives Needed.

A small part of the collection.

I may have mentioned that I’m a woman of a certain age – and you know what that means don’t you – it means I’m addicted to detective fiction. Not for me the bedroom romps of chick-lit, or bodice ripping historic romances, no, what I most like to tuck myself into bed with at night (apart from the husband of course), is a good old-fashioned detective story.

Over the years, I’ve lumbered through the streets of Edinburgh with John Rebus, accompanied Inspector Morse to umpteen Oxford murder sites, marvelled at the murder rate in sleepy Chiltern villages with Tom Barnaby and practically morphed into Miss Marple. I love a good murder mystery and I love a good old cranky detective to solve it.

One of my hobbies is finding detective stories at charity shops. This is really quite easy with the more prolific authors, fortunately many of their readers seem happy to pass on their used paperbacks, often quite soon after they’ve been published. I managed to find the complete collection of Ian Rankin’s books over the period of a couple of years, just shopping in our local charity shops, but it was harder to find Caroline Graham’s books. I was beginning to worry that I’d have to pay full price, when as luck would have it, our local British Heart Foundation shop suddenly took possession of two titles in one week (I suspect a fellow enthusiast had kindly donated their collection).

But after years doing this, I find myself lacking inspiration. Who should I read next? I don’t like a lot of blood and gore, I’ve tried a few Ruth Rendells and CP Snows, but I’m not that big a fan, I love Phil Rickman’s books, but I’ve read them all, so what I need now is inspiration. Who should I try next?

Are there any modern-day Dorothy L Sayers out there? That’s the sort of thing I’d like. If you’ve any recommendations, do let me know.

Are cardigans an endangered species?

My feet hurt, my back aches and my head is throbbing. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’ve spent the morning trailing around Milton Keynes, looking for that most elusive of garments – the humble cardigan.

Now if you’re aged under 40, I don’t suppose you even know what a cardigan is, well at least judging by the complete dearth of them on the shelves in practically every fashion outlet in the town. But for me, they’re a pretty useful item of clothing – put them on when it’s chilly, take them off if you get a bit hot. I’m not talking about the strange cape-like, floor length things without buttons ( how are you supposed to wear those?) or those  itsy-bitsy little tops that leave your midriff exposed (surely the whole point is to keep you warm?) no, what I want is a simple full sleeve, button down the centre knitted cardy, like the ones I had way back when…

But oh deary me, clearly I am well off piste as far as the fashionistas are concerned, because finding a simple traditional, shall we even say a conservative cardigan is like finding a gold ticket to a chocolate factory.

I started the day at our nearest TK Maxx (I love those stores and normally do really well there), but not only did they not have any cardigans, they didn’t have any knitwear rail at all! Since when has the cardigan been a seasonal line? Surely in this climate, no sensible woman would be without a cardy on a cool summer evening…

Well, having failed at TK Maxx, I headed off to M&S. Here I thought I would have no problem, after all they supply a ‘classic’ range, aimed I suppose at the over 60’s – just right for me then. But alas no. A few items of knitwear masquerading as cardies, but as most of them had been constructed using a nasty nylon thread that practically gave off static shocks as you walked past and with holes big enough to be suitable for fishing endangered fish species – you know the ones that let the small fish pass through them – not at all the simple black and navy blue, round neck or v-neck, button up, long sleeve cardigan that I had in mind.

Having then failed at Next too (although to be fair to them, I hadn’t really expected to get one there), I was faced with the daunting task of driving up to the town centre itself. At least I consoled myself with the thought that John Lewis would certainly have a nice classic cardy for me. OK, I might have to pay through the nose, but I’d already begun to lose the will to carry on, and even if it was cashmere, I might not have refused to buy.

But it was all academic, for the hallowed halls of John Lewis also failed to supply any nice normal knitwear. In desperation, I trawled the whole shopping centre – if you know the place, you will now be experiencing sympathetic foot aches – two and a half hours after my little expedition started, I finally found what I was looking for – guess where.

And the prize for number one cardigan retailer of the day goes to, wait for it, drum roll…H&M. God bless them. It took a few minutes to find them, nestling in amongst the rather pretty but very flighty looking blouses and other tiny confections, but there they were, just waiting for me. Navy blue and black (also quite a lot of other colours), and would you believe it, only £9.99 each.

Here is a retailer who know their customers are going to need a layer to keep them warm, even when the sun does sometimes shine. What a splendid lot. But above all to be commended for their conservation work, for without them, who knows how long it would be before we became a nation bereft of the humble, but terribly useful cardigan.

Now my advice is that you stop whatever you are doing at this moment and go out to H&M and buy a cardigan. This will send them a message that they are doing the right thing. Then when you get back, write to your MP and demand that the dramatic decline in cardigan stocks in the UK be addressed as a matter of urgency. Do it now, because before you know it, it will be winter again and by then it might just be too late.

Thank you Felix Dennis

If I ever go on Mastermind (unlikely I know, but bear with me), my specialist subject my well be ‘the drivel written in self-help books’. Like so many women of may age, oh and a few million other men and women of all ages come to think of it, I’ve paid good money to read utter rubbish. My husband tuts whenever he sees a new title appear at the side of the bed. But what started as a cry for help, has by now developed into a major critical study and just occasionally into an excellent good laugh.

As you may well know, my biggest grudge is with the so-called ‘life-coaches’ who try to tell you how you can have it all. I once did some thorough searching into one author’s background and discovered that they were actually selling an online course at a not inconsiderable price, which included details of how to exploit people’s most desperate needs.

Now I have long understood that many of these authors are in fact living their own dreams of celebrity and riches because of their ability to tap into the fears and needs of we poor unfulfilled souls, self-help book sales are astronomic, and of course there’s always the additional workshops and private counselling to ‘add value’, but to see the core principle flaunted in black and white was quite something even to an old cynic like me.

From time to time I find a book that does help me in some form or another. It isn’t always in ways that perhaps the author would have imagined, but nevertheless I wouldn’t actually want to tar them all with the same brush. Now just yesterday, having quite a lot of credits available on my Audible account, and not having anything much better to do, I ended up browsing their self-help section. I spotted Felix Dennis’s How to Get Rich and it sent all my finely tuned alarm bells clanging.

So imagine my surprise when I read the reviews (on Amazon – that’s the sort of preparation I like to do) and discovered that it was well received – OK, I thought, I see the issue here, all these reviews are clearly written by sad men. No woman would give it the time of day, after all it’s not a title that’s going to slide seductively into the usually repressed English woman’s Mulberry is it?

But yesterday I was in a bit of a mood. Not exactly what you could call a “Help me I want to get rich” kind of mood, more a ‘Good Lord, what can all the fuss be about, and what sort of tripe is this joker selling’ kind of mood. So, cutting to the chase, I downloaded the audiobook.

Well, I’m still listening to it (I’m a slow listener), and I just wanted to say, ‘Thank you Felix, I haven’t enjoyed anything so much for ages” No, don’t worry, I’m not suddenly going off to make mega millions, because as Felix so wittily explains, there’s danger in confusing desire for compulsion, and anyway, for quite a lot of the time I feel as if I have pretty much all I want already. No, the truth is, this is a fabulous, entertaining, witty, clever and engaging listen. It probably reads well too, but as I mentioned, I’m just listening to it.

I will certainly suggest that one or two other people I know read it too, and I love being able to read some of my own prejudices being expounded by someone who’s actually made it big. I’d quite like to have some of his quotes made into badges or T-shirts.

So well done Felix (not that you need me to say that I’m sure), you don’t go on my list of people destined for the new ring of purgatory which I have reserved for the usual purveyors of self-help tripe, no indeed, you go into the much more illustrious, and far more comfortable realm of the ‘actually pretty entertaining and even quite helpful’authors. Praise indeed.

Kicking Ass Feels Good


One of the messages that I’m trying to make my inner critic hear, is that ‘I AM AN ARTIST’. Now, if that doesn’t resonate with you, then you’re probably not one of us frustrated people, who once knew they were at the very least ‘artistic’ and even harboured vague ideas that we may in fact be artists, but somewhere along the journey, we were persuaded, either by our own inner voice, or by the very real voices of others, that in fact art was not something right for us.

Well for some time now, I’ve realised that I am in fact an artist. I’m probably a pretty rubbish one, but at my core, I simply know that I am here to create art in some form or other. The trouble is that I’ve spent very many more years listening to the voices that told me art was only for the über talented, or those who had no need or desire to make a living form art.

So I’m now on a quest to get my artist out. And let me tell you, that takes courage. Not being endowed with a massive range of supportive people to help me on this particular quest, I have discovered that there are some fabulous voices out there in print, telling me all the things I need to hear. So Amazon are doing well from my developing sense of the artist within, but I don’t begrudge them a penny, because at last I feel as if I am being admitted into a club that I should always have been a member of.

One of the many books that I’ve read recently, which I put firmly in my ‘supporters’ category is ‘Kick-Ass Creativity’ by Mary Beth Maziarz.

This book is like a whirlwind of enthusiasm and encouragement. Reading it always manages to lift my energy levels to a higher place. Much of the message isn’t new to me, but the way in which it is written, gives me the impetus I need to carry on, and to make lasting change. Now I’m not sure that everyone who reads it would put aside their scepticism and believe the core truths that Mary talks about, but my view is that we find these books at the right time for us. For me, it is the right time.

If you are a frustrated artist, either with a capital ‘A’ or without, and if you could do with an injection of red-hot energy into your work, or even to get you going in the morning, then take a look at Kick-Ass Creativity – maybe it’s right for you too.

Take a peek at her website here.

Books & Music Intentions

Ok, I admit it, I’m a bookaholic. I read because I am. You get the picture. We’re the house that has to hire an extra lorry to carry the books if we move house. We don’t have a library – good grief, nothing so organised – instead books are liberally strewn around the house on a motley lot of book shelves, beside beds, on the top of the toilets etc, etc.

So it would just be churlish of me to blog and not have a little section for the reading matter, because, well let’s face it, I  spend a lot of time doing it.

I very rarely review books on Amazon (not unheard of, but definitely not an everyday occurrence). The thing is, I like to let a book ‘sink in’ before I decide if I’d recommend it to anybody else or not. And I’m often conscious that although I might not like something, another person might like it very much – who am I to say. So here, I’m going to simply say what I think as I think it – good or bad, happy or sad.

As for music – well I’ve realised that at different times in my life, music has been especially important. I’ve come across CDs that have immediately transported me back to the time or place when I played it first. It’s like the soundtrack to my life and an expression of my emotions.

So entirely for my benefit (but hopefully for your entertainment), I’m going to keep a note here of what I’m listening to, and what I’m feeling about it.


Mostly Motley hits the ground limping…

Hello. Welcome to Mostly Motley, the home to various fragments of trivia from a woman who at forty-something is still wondering what I’ll be when I grow up. But never mind that, all the good text books on blogging (are there really any good ones?), say you should specialise – don’t go too far off your subject, stay with a theme … well stuff that. My brain doesn’t do single-minded. So instead, I’ll bore the pants off you with whatever manages to fire me up long enough to stop whatever else I was up to, and sit down at the Mac instead – should give plenty of room for manoeuvre.

I’m off now to play with the settings here and there – don’t stick around, go and do something more interesting and come back later – who knows, I might have something to say by then.