Tag: Biography/Memoir

A Bit Of A Stretch by Chris Atkins

4 and half 1


Chris Atkins was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. He’s not the stereotypical prisoner we’re used to hearing about – he doesn’t do drugs, in fact he doesn’t even smoke, he’s middle class and got a degree at Oxford – and as a way of coping with prison life he writes down a little about each day.

A Bit Of A StretchHis diary of life inside Wandsworth is both fascinating and horrifying and makes for compelling reading. There are ways of climbing the hierarchy system and being an educated man, Chris is able to get close to the top. This enables him to avoid twenty-three hour ‘bang up’ like most of the other prisoners and have a few comforts like a duvet, his own clothes, a kettle and use of the library.

Chris has written an honest account of his time in Wandsworth, sometimes negative about the system, often positive about his outlook. He doesn’t make excuses for his wrong-doing and we see the raw emotion of losing his family, especially his young son. It’s well executed, a real eye-opener, and I found it very difficult to put down.


Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools by Victoria Twead

4 and half 1

I absolutely loved this book. It’s packed with humour and ‘feel good’ factor, and if you have ever undertaken moving house to a foreign country this will ring true on so many levels.

Chickens, Mules & Fools

Vicky decided that she and her husband, Joe, would move house and live in Spain because she was fed up of the grey days and rain of England. After a little persuasion, Joe agreed to a five year plan of living in Spain with a clause to return to England if they didn’t settle for any reason at the end of the agreed term. This book is the first of a series of six (so far) and covers the move from their Sussex home to a tiny village of just five permanent residents in the mountains behind Almeria, to five years later when they have to decide whether to return to the grey skies of England or stay in the home they’ve made and with the chickens they love.

We meet their lovely neighbours and makers of home made wine, Carmen and Paco, who through a language misunderstanding called Carmen ‘Bethina’ for several months.  We live through the Fiestas, the dancing, the heaviest snowfall since records began, fallen trees across the one treacherous mountain road into the village, and the antics of the ‘Gin Twins’. And the chickens – oh, such fun these caused as well as income from their dozens of eggs each week.

Between each chapter is a recipe for typical tasty Spanish tapas, salad, stew etc., complete with instructions of how to make the recipes. This really is an amazing little book and if you go to their website at victoriatwead.com there is a free section with photographs to compliment this book.

Victoria Twead

Victoria Twead’s website

Victoria Twead’s Amazon author profile

Victoria Twead on Facebook



A Very English Scandal by John Preston

4 and half 1

This is quite a fascinating and almost unbelievable story of Jeremy Thorpe’s rise to leader of the Liberal Party. It is told over a few years at the height of Thorpe’s parliamentary career, through to his self inflicted, reckless demise.

Told in the main from the perspective of Peter Bessell, this is an absolutely riveting story of the dangers of homosexuality by a member of Parliament at a time that it was illegal. Being illegal, any whisper of homosexual behaviour was open to blackmail and, in this case, led to attempted murder.

A Very English Scandal

Jeremy Thorpe obviously had a charm and charisma among his Party members and constituents which back in the 1960s and early 1970s would not be easily visible to viewers on television news programmes or radio reports.  The book starts roughly at the time that Thorpe met his nemesis, Norman Scott (or Joliffe as he was in the beginning.) Norman Scott seemed to be under Thorpe’s spell, yet at the same time he appeared to be a sponger, always going back to the moneyed man when he was broke with the same excuse of the missing National Insurance card – why didn’t he speak with the relevant employment office of the time and request a new card for himself? Once the ‘get rid/murder’ words had been spoken, there was an unease that they were truly meant – they were, but because this was so unbelievable from an MP I wasn’t sure that the intent was the actual killing of someone.

The highlight of the book is Part 4, set later in 1979, in which the court case takes place. We are introduced to George Carman QC representing Thorpe, and Judge Peter Taylor. The summing up is so biased that it is embarrassing, giving further validation of the accusation of an establishment cover up.

I thought it was alarming the ease of which money intended for the Liberal Party disappeared to Thorpe’s private funds, and that corruption was probably rife in those days. It is also disturbing that there were known cover ups which have since come to light from that time of Jeremy Thorpe, Jimmy Saville and Cyril Smith who seemed to have been well acquainted, were reported and covered up.

The book is well written in a sensible chronological, almost diary form in parts, which makes for easy flowing reading. If this were fiction, readers would say it was too far fetched to be believed. A really good memoir of politicians without the politics.


My Fight For My Family (The Mega Pig File) by David Jordan


This is a fact based novella partly set out in diary form, partly a memoir.  I’m finding it incredibly difficult to give a star rating because it’s not like the usual fiction stories I read and it’s not written as a memoir or biography either.

My Fight For My Family

David Jordan has given a written statement of what happened to his family when he tried to get improved housing conditions for his partner and their baby daughter. This one action triggered a nightmare of fighting to keep their first daughter, then subsequent son and daughter, for the next eleven and a half years.

Jordan gives a run down of all the happenings – letters, phone calls, visits, meetings and Court Orders – and to be perfectly honest, I read with shocked amazement the contradictory remarks, lack of help or respect, incompetence and ineptitude of social services towards this family. Far from being a body of professional people working to help families stay together and be safe, they seemed to go out of their way to obstruct these parents being with their children and gave little or no reason of what they were doing wrong, why they were ‘bad parents’.  I am quite aware that I have only read one side of the story and that it’s not possible for me to get confirmation of the validity of this story.  Notwithstanding that, if only half of this is true, it makes for a very concerning read.  Not only has a great injustice been done to this family, possibly with long lasting mental effects, but an astronomical amount of public money has been wasted on what seems nothing more than a witch-hunt.

I was curious about the end of the title of the book – The Mega Pig File.  This relates to the name given to Mr Jordan’s file at the social services offices. I couldn’t believe a public office would dare to do that!

The actual writing could do with some editing with regard to the structure of the book, but for a lay-man to put his family’s experience down on paper, David Jordan has done incredibly well with this book.  It is very easy to read, compelling in places, and flows reasonably well, if a little stilted at times and awkward in asking and answering his own questions.  Well worth a read, if only to assure yourself not to start off any unnecessary contact with family and social services – it could back-fire badly.