Archive for April, 2022

Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves a review.

Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves

This was my first read of a novel featuring Vera; Ann Cleeves’ DCI Vera Stanhope, as seen on TV, as it says on the cover of this edition of the book. Vera is presented to us, warts and all. Brenda Blethyn is a supremely confident actress to be able to portray this woman so accurately.

The plot is dense, convoluted and engaging, drawing me in from the first moment. After her morning swim, Vera finds the body of a young woman in her local health club’s steam room.

The characters are well-drawn, the descriptions of places and people believable. However, what I found was most interesting, that despite being presented on television with a very believable version of Vera, I found a different Vera in the book. A woman who entered my imagination on her own terms. This for me was extraordinary, although the television Vera is good, I preferred the Vera of my imagination.

It was for me a quick read I wanted to know how the story ended and who the murderer was, I hadn’t worked it out.

A thoroughly good read. I am becoming a fan of Ann Cleeves.

The new bike basket.

The new basket but old bike

I have an ancient Pashley Delibike, similar to the one Granville used in the Open All Hours, television comedy programme; someone once asked me what was I doing with Granville’s bike?

The bike is used primarily for my Sunday Paper rounds but also for litter picking excursions with Whittlesey Sreet Pride and occasional shopping trips.

The large wicker basket used for carrying my papers and other goods finally succumbed to the ravages of time and the base parted company with the sides. I managed a temporary repair by cutting a piece of plywood and fixing it to the frame below the basket’s base while I searched for a replacement.

It had seen better days

I tried local cycle shops, without success, Huntingdon’s Blind Shop used to sell baskets when I was a lad but they no longer do. Finally, I tried the internet. Initial searches found basket makers well out of my area and although the price for the basket was reasonable, when carriage costs were added, things started to mount up.

Eventually, I found a fairly local basket maker, Sue Kirk, based in Kings Cliffe, near to both Oundle and Stamford.

A really great improvement

After an exchange of emails with photographs and dimensions, we agreed on a price and time scale.

Kings Cliffe is a picturesque village of stone houses and in places narrow streets.

The Old Brewery Studios is on Wood Street and itself is an old stone building

of character.

I dropped the bike off in my van and left it to Sue to sort out. Two weeks later I was able to collect my bike with its new basket.

The quality is excellent and the price was very reasonable. However, the new basket puts the rest of the bike to shame, I will have to set to and bring the bike up to the same standard as the basket.

It is great to see traditional crafts still being carried on and to find such outstanding craftspeople, if you are in the market for a willow basket of any kind Sue’s studio is well worth a visit.

Sue Kirk – Willow Baskets (

I wrote an earlier post about delivering papers and my bike.

A flight of time.

Northern Soul plaque on a door

I watched two thought-provoking programmes one recent Friday evening. The first Keep on Burning, a documentary about Northern Soul reminded me of my own teenage years. My teenage years preceded the Northern Soul era and its music, to a large extent the soundtrack of those later years.

In my own case, the music I enjoyed was predominately Soul and Motown, although the Rolling Stones did get some of my attention. These special years are fleeting. I am sure for a great many of us; as the music changed, as it always does, the magic of those years is quickly lost. There has been good music since, as there was good music before but none that I felt I had the same ownership of, it could never evoke the same memories or hold the same wonder.

Keep on Burning told the story of Northern Soul, from its roots as an underground movement, (much in the way many music genres are born), to its rise and fall in popularity. I had heard of Northern Soul but knew little about it, many of the bands and singers who had performed live at The Twisted Wheel Manchester, the Golden Torch (Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent) and Wigan Casino live were the soul bands that I knew from my teenage years. Martha and the Vandellas, Edwin Starr, Junior Walker and the All-Stars, among them.

Other artists were unknown to me; I had heard some of their names but didn’t know their music.

There are those who resolutely cling to that Northern Soul era, as there are those in every generation; holding on to a time and music that is special for them, their own soundtrack. A hardcore of fans of every music genre clings onto memories, freshened by gigs where for a few fleeting hours they can relive their own time of magic. In that respect, the Northern Soul diehards are little different to those who attend Rock and Roll weekends or live only for times they can watch favourite Trad Jazz bands.

Chic photo from

Nile Rodgers.

I mentioned good music since; I was not a watcher of top of the pops after the sixties and listened rarely to pop music radio stations. It wasn’t until groups like Chic, Rose Royce, Sister Sledge and in a different genre, Dire Straits had been and often gone that I became aware of them. Fortunately, as they say, their music lives after them, as it has for Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and so many others.

Nile Rodgers photo Wikipedia

Chic became a particular favourite, I would search out their videos on YouTube and bought CDs. The band’s co-founder and principal songwriter was Nile Rodgers, the BBC 4 programme about him is the first part of a series. I am interested in creative people, things that inspire them and fuel their creativity.

The disco sound and scene formed the special years of another cohort of teenagers, ten maybe fifteen years younger than me although Nile Rodgers is only younger than me by a year. He would have listened to the same music as I had but went on to create music of his own.

 One of his quotes, in particular, struck me, “Find your own style, do not merely imitate someone else.”

As a writer I think I have found my own voice,  there are writers who I admire and who have influenced me but I think my style is my own, my way of seeing the world.

Nile gave an interesting insight into songwriting; with his collaborator Bernard Stevens, who was Chic’s bass player. They started their songs with a hook singing the chorus first, leaving the listener in no doubt what the song is called. The first lines of a story work in the same way to hook the reader, to capture their imagination and attention.

The reference: Drip the sugar in a bit at a time building up for when the chocolate cake comes, is much the same as: “Keep it moving action, action, feed the descriptions in bit by bit with the action.”

For me, this is how a good story should work.

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