Penguin are re-printing a series of Maigret stories, but I’ve seen very few of them in the bookshops or the local library.   Actually, I had more-or-less given up on the library, as (in the fiction area) it seems that the policy is to buy multiple copies of  authors it presumably considers to be “popular”, instead of maintaining a collection across a broader range.  Perhaps, given limited shelf space, that’s OK;  anyway I’ve just accepted it and haven’t sought be involved.

Because I like Maigret, I was  pleasantly surprised when browsing the shelves at the library to see four of the Simenon reprints on the shelf!  I immediately borrowed two of them, and  I finished the first (Maigret’s Revolver) within 24 hours!   Simenon’s style shines through:   lots of detail about everyday life including the weather and pausing for a drink, Maigret’s discomfort at being out-of-his-zone in English speaking London and more.  Of course, being set in the 1930s, phone calls are made through an operator, but somehow, there are always back-up police available waiting to drop everything and follow any instructions that they might be given.



Windows 10 Creators (sic) update

My computer had been prompting me to start the “update” process, but although it kept promising to do the update when I logged off, it seems that not much happened until I actually clicked the “Update Now” button.   Then computer then mumbled away to itself for well over an hour, but eventually informed me that “Windows 10 Creators Update” had been installed.  I suppose the flip side of this is that Windows didn’t take it on itself automatically to install the update at a time that it arbitrarily selected (I recall this having happened in the past), so I can’t complain about that.

Apparently this update has a number  of supposedly interesting features, but these seem largely gimmicks to me.  I can safely say, that there seems little in it that is likely to be of interest to me.  Perhaps I’ll look at the privacy settings, but apart from that,  all I want is for my computer to continue to operate with as few hassles as possible (and I accept that updates are necessary in this regard).   Annoyingly, the update appears to have interfered with some of my “default” settings (mainly in relation to programs by which particular files are opened) and also some of the Outlook settings, but hopefully I’ll be able to sort through these.

And – ought there not be an apostrophe in “Creators” ?   I would have thought that it should be Creators’…..?    The issue was mentioned in this article, but clearly Microsoft regards itself as being above the niceties of English grammar!


I was in an aisle at the library that I don’t usually venture down…..and came across The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Anatomy.  Well, something different, I thought, and since I had recently read an article  about the operation of the gut which in a strange way had been interesting, I thought I’d delve a little deeper into the subject!

I know that anatomy is second nature to health professionals – for good reason –  but I certainly can’t say that I absorbed even a fraction of the information.   Just as well I never enrolled in a course that involved studying anatomy.   Soooo many names to learn!  I wouldn’t have stood a chance.     What amazingly complex things our bodies are!   I learned that the skin is 16% of the body’s weight, and that the lymph system is actually part of the circulatory system (and the immune system) in that it returns excess issue fluid to the veins, via  the lymph nodes which filter out and destroy bacteria and other harmful nasties.

Looking at the chapter about the arms. I paused to wonder if the scapula (shoulder blade) is actually attached to the rest of the skeleton.   No, it’s not, it isn’t connected by way of a joint to the spine, only by numerous muscles and ligaments to the ribs.   There is a “fake joint” called the scapulothoracic joint, where the scapula moves against the rib cage, but isn’t connected by any bony connection.  The only bony link between the shoulder arm bones and the spine is by way of the collar bone (clavicle), which actually serves as a strut to keep the shoulder away from the body.

And of course there’s a great deal more!

Maigret sets a trap

I really like Georges Simenon’s writing.  Now Channel 2 have started a series of Maigret detective shows.

“Mr Bean” (Rowan Atkinson) plays Maigret!    Somehow, I would never have connected Mr Bean with Maigret, so this aspect felt a little odd, but I got used to it.   Nor would I have picked the location where the program was made as being Budapest (and Szentendrea, just out of Budapest), but it did seem to achieve the desired effect of giving the feel of Paris in the early 1950s.  I also had misgivings about the up-market English accents, but someone told me that, in French, the Parisian accent is rather “proper”, so in a way the use of an equivalent English accent wasn’t out of place.

As said above, I really like Simenon’s writing, especially the “mental” aspects of his stories, and although TV adaptions often don’t reflect the essence of the written works, I felt that this wasn’t an issue here and in fact this show captured Simenon’s writing very well.   The fact that the show lasted 90 minutes allowed adequate time for this to occur.

Unfortunately, from what I can see in the Wikipedia entry, there are only four episodes in the series.  I’ll be looking out for the remaining episodes.


The Carter of La Providence

Penguin are re-translating and re-publishing Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret series, but  the only one of the new series I’ve yet seen is The Carter of La Providence (perhaps I haven’t been looking hard enough?).   This indeed is a fascinating book.  It revolves around life on the French canals in the late 1920s, often in bleak conditions, complete with horse drawn barges, the “carters” (horse handlers), the locks and lock-keepers, the congestion, the cafes that served the people working on the barges and lots more.   Apparently Simenon spent six months in 1928 navigating the rivers and canals of France, on board his own boat, and his experiences clearly shine through in this book.

img_0070aHere, who “dunnit” is no surprise, because the title of the book says it all.    Like many of Simenon’s Maigret books, the plot is rather far-fetched, but the writing is great and Maigret’s methods and persistence make for interesting reading!

Patrick Leigh Fermor

Having read  A Time of Gifts and The Broken Road, I sought out Artemis Cooper’s biography of Patrick (“Paddy”) Leigh Fermor, Patrick Leigh Fermor – an Adventure.   I haven’t yet located a copy of Between the Woods and the Water, but will keep an eye out for this.

img_9538aCooper writes in a fairly matter-of-fact style, so the biography is interesting in that it fills in some of the details that in Fermor’s own books sometimes appear a little elusive or, perhaps more accurately, get a little lost or out of logical order in the mass of impressions that he records.

While the biography seems to cover covers most aspects of Fermor’s life, I would have like a little more detail on the years spent pre-war with Balasha.  Perhaps, however, the sources for these years aren’t there?    On the other hand, the time in Crete during World War 2 is covered in great detail.

I found the table  included in an appendix listing the places mentioned in each of the accounts of the walks very interesting, as also the mention in the acknowledgements that the author is John Julian Norwich‘s daughter.

As is my habit with biographies, I “dipped into” the parts that interested me, rather than read it from cover to cover.    As this was a library book, and I was to be away for a few days, I returned it before reading it completely, so I certainly intend to return to it.


A Time of Gifts

A Time of Gifts is the first in the series of three works describing Patrick Leigh Fermor’s walk from Hook of Holland to “Constantinople” (the name still apparently used by some English-speakers until well into the 20th century).   This work deals with the section of the walk up to his crossing into Hungary.   Like others, I found the book absorbing (as was also The Broken Road).

Fermor had had an “interesting” upbringing, being described in one of his school reports as “.. a dangerous mixture of sophistication and recklessness”. After studying for entrance to the Army and then trying his hand at writing, he set off at age 18 on his walk.

It’s interesting that, in 1934 the traditional custom of hospitality to pilgrims and travelling students survived;  for example, in many parts of Germany, he received at the inn supper and mug of beer, a bed for the night and bread and a bowl of coffee in the morning – all on the parish.   No slur was attached, the welcome was always friendly, all based on ancient charity extended to wandering students and pilgrims..   But although Fermor also slept on occasions in barns, he had some good connections!  Letters of introduction to well-connected families led to generous hospitality from them, and further introductions to more friends.     And when Fermor had his passport and belongings stolen in Munich, an interview the next morning with the British consul resulted in a passport being reissued on the spot, together with an advance of £5.    Obviously there were fewer travellers in those days, at least to places “off the beaten track”.

He comments on the characteristics of the people, such as “the civilized Rhinelanders [and] the diligent and homey Swabians”, compared with with the perhaps rougher Bavarians.   Hitler had come to over 10 months earlier and in Germany the early signs of the regime were beginning to be seen.    He describes the ebbs and tides of historical conquests and the regional and sub-regional characteristics of the people,  the connection between some of the places he visits and art and far, far more.

img_8963Whatever the defects in his education, he was clearly well-schooled in many respects, although some of the detail may have been filled in by him between the time between the walk and publication of the book some decades later.