Archive for travel

DOWN UNDER By Bill Bryson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I bought this book just before going to Australia myself and never got round to reading it. I have to say that although it’s an interesting account of Bryson’s travels around Oz, and his amusing anecdotes offer a little insight into the country, I didn’t really miss much.

It’s an interesting book rather than fascinating. Amusing rather than funny.

The problem is exactly what drives people to read Bryson’s books, their very ordinariness. His adventures (using the term loosely) around Australia were almost as exciting as mine. The places he visited similarly to mine, although I didn’t get to the outback or Perth, I definitely saw more of Melbourne than he did, and my brief trip to Sydney seemed to encompass more than his.

The insights aren’t anything special either. You only have to talk to a couple of Australian and visit their cities to see the issues they have with the Aborigines.

Australia is an interesting and very new and empty country, and you get that idea from Bryson’s book. His travels around the country offer an insight if you haven’t ever been, but it’s much more fun to explore yourself. You’ll likely come to similar conclusions.

Where Bryson’s book does excel is his research. There are some fascinating histories in here amidst the middle-of-the-road traveller’s adventures. He seems to spend every evening in a bar having a beer, a traditional Aussie past-time perhaps, but hardly exciting for the reader.

Down Under isn’t a massive success, nor is it a massive failure. It’s difficult to get excited about the book either way. I neither feel compelled to read another of his book, nor bothered to remember not to.

Unlike a guidebook you don’t feel the sense of exciting of discovery, and Bryson’s mild excitement isn’t really enough to make you want to discover more.

May be this is one of his off books, and may be they’re all like this. I just can’t be bothered to find out.

Credit Crunch: A Survivor’s Guide – Bills

Posted in Life..., Personal Finance, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2010 by stanleyriiks

The easiest way to save money is to look at your regular outgoings (bills) and see if any of these can be made smaller.

Rent is a difficult one unless you’re willing to move, but downsizing or moving further out-of-town can help. Remember to check to see if commuting costs will increase and whether the cost of moving and the hassle is really worth it. I wouldn’t want saving some rent money to be my prime motivation for moving. Although my sister moved back in with our parents when she was younger for a couple of years to sort out her finance and get herself into a position to buy a house.

Electricity and gas can be easily compared on websites like and You may also be able to save money on your insurance, whether it be home insurance, contents insurance, car insurance, travel insurance, you get the idea… Basically with any kind of insurance you have the potential to save money just by shopping around.

Look at packages of insurance, home and contents together, or annual travel insurance instead of individual holiday insurance if you go away more than once. Never buy the travel-agents insurance as it will probably be the most expensive.

I saved nearly 50% on my annual worldwide travel insurance.

Look at your transport situation. If you travel on public transport, look at travel-cards, Oyster cards, or if you’re lucky enough you might be able to walk to work. I gave up my motorbike and a ten-minute journey to and from work, and instead walk for half an hour there and back. It not only saves me money but it keeps me fit! That’s what I tell myself as I trudge home on a Friday in the pouring rain in the dark on a winter’s evening!

Credit Crunch: A Survivor’s Guide – Budgeting

Posted in Life..., Personal Finance, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2009 by stanleyriiks

Budgeting is not scary, it’s not difficulty and it doesn’t take a genius to do it. You don’t need a degree in finance, or 25 year experience as an economist, nor to you need a financial advisor or book-keeper do it for you.

Budgeting is about knowing what your incomings are (wages normally), and your outgoings (mortgage/rent, utilities, telephone, cable, shopping, credit cards, etc).

Start out by printing off your monthly bank statement. If you haven’t got internet banking then sign-up now. The easiest way to have control of your money is to know how much you have and how much is coming out. This is budgeting.

Make a list of your income:

To make it simple and give you an example we’ll say you receive £1000 wages a month and you have no other income.

Now make a list of your direct debits, standing-orders, and any other monthly payments that you can’t get out of, this should not include any spending on shopping or food:

Rent:               £300.00

Electricity:             £100.00

Gas:                £100.00

Water:                         £20.00

Taxes:             £50.00

Insurance:             £10.00

Travel:             £20.00

So you start with £1000

When you’ve paid all of the above you’re left with: £400.00

This is your working budget. Spend more than this and you’re going into debt. Debt is the enemy! You should always try to spend within your budget. Food, clothes, going out, holidays, petrol, everything that is not a regular bill will come out of your working budget.

Check your bank regularly, internet banking and telephone banking are very helpful in making sure you are aware of your spending.

Budgeting is the opposite of dieting, but both work in the same (although opposite) way: there are only two ways to improve your situation, get more money in or spend less money. (Dieting is use more calories up or take less in).

Being aware of your financial situation, however bad it may be, is always helpful. Remember that knowledge is power.

Next time: Bills

THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON By Stephen King – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2009 by stanleyriiks


King seems to write two different types of books, one is the great sprawling stories, normally set in a small town with a small group of characters and the horrors that are unleashed upon them: The Stand, Needful Things, IT, and the other type of story is a much more personal adventure into the darkness, a personal journey through the horrors: The Body, Rita Hayworth and the The Shawshank Redemption, Misery and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

Trisha Macfarlane is out on a trip with her mother and brother in the forest, and they’re going for a hike to get away from things. But when Trisha heads off into the woods for a pee she gets lost. And then she gets more lost.

This short book is the story of Trisha’s journey through the forest, the suffering, the hardship, the fear…

This is the kind of book that only King can write. He doesn’t just produce amazingly realistic characters that everyone can identify with, he doesn’t just imbue the very page with personality, what he does is capture a person, a real life, living, breathing person, and he translates them into words. What he does is magic.

This simple tale is easily up there with some of King’s best stories, the best of which for me will forever be The Body. Even the film version Stand By Me, is one of my favourite films, forever capturing that age when you’re no longer a boy but not yet a man. Well, he’s repeating a similar feat here. The book is an exercise is characterisation, sure it’s a simple story, but King keeps you reading, keeps you on the edge of your seat as you discover more and more about Trish and her family, as you travel and struggle with her.

For a writer who wants to create great characters this is a book to savour and study, it’s a lesson in how to develop a character, an intelligent, in-depth and deeply entertaining lesson.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is simple but outstanding, a book that draws you further and further in. King manages to capture your heart as you travel through the woods with Trisha and suffer alongside her.