Monday, January 26, 2009

I have been told that people born in the Year of the Ox are: responsible, dependable, honest, caring, honourable, intelligent, artistic, industrious and practical.
However, they are also: petty, inflexible, possessive, dogmatic, gullible, stubborn, critical, intolerant and materialistic.

If you were born between February and the following January in the years 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973,1985 or 1997 you're an Ox.


Last week I picked up a copy of A Poisoned Mind by Natasha Cooper from the new books shelf in Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution library. Even though I have a huge pile of books waiting to be read, something about this one made me get stuck in straight away, and I was immediately hooked.

On the cover there is a comment from a renowned crime writer describing the book as one of the best legal thrillers she’d ever read, and I would agree.

The story opens on a failing Northumberland farm, where a company called Clean World Waste Management have leased some land as a site for two chemical waste disposal tanks. The tanks blow up causing a conflagration in which the farmer is killed and the surrounding farmland is polluted.

Angie, the farmer’s widow, aided by members of an environmental pressure group, is taking the corporate giant to court in an attempt to get proper compensation.

Trish Maguire QC, whose sympathies lie with the widow, finds herself having to set aside personal feelings as she has to represent Clean World Waste Management. As the trial proceeds she begins to wonder what exactly has been going on, the eco-hippies who are supporting Angie may have a hidden agenda – not all do-gooders are truthful it would seem.

At the same time, Trish is coping with a troubling friendship between her teenage brother David (for whom she and her husband are responsible), and Jay, a schoolmate he keeps bringing home, who comes from a dysfunctional and abusive family.

Which situation is more poisonous, the chemical waste explosion, or the alcohol and drug fuelled lives of Jay’s family?

I had never come across Natasha Cooper’s books featuring Trish Maguire before, but joy of joys there are another eight for me to read – A Poisoned Mind is the latest – so I intend to read them in order so that I can follow Trish’s progression up the legal career ladder. She is a heroine I took to immediately, intelligent, feisty, professional and very real.

What a treat I have in store.

Rated: 4.5


If a colleague, friend, relative or loved one died in police custody, whilst serving in the armed forces, or when accidentally hit by an emergency vehicle you would probably want to attend the inquest to find out how and why they died, and who was responsible.

Citizens would be deprived of this right if this government has its way.

Last year the clause in the Counter-terrorism Act which would have allowed some inquests to be held in private was dropped, following fierce opposition from all sides. However the proposals have been included in the legislation covering Coroners Courts which has just been introduced to Parliament.

The plan is to have juries, families, and the press excluded from some inquests which would be held in secret with hand-picked coroners, on the grounds of – you guessed it – ‘national security’. I’ll bet that they will use it whenever some death might be going to be an embarrassment, or an inquest might point a finger at the failings of government departments

The whole idea of secrecy in trials or inquests makes my blood run cold – it smacks of Stalinist Russia, and of the old apartheid regime in South Africa.

Why is this Labour government so hell bent on getting this clause on to the statute books?

Yet again they are chopping away at hard won liberties which once kept this country a beacon of freedom and democracy. We must not let these rights be whittled away one by one.


This dish is a hybrid, not quite a fritatta, not quite a Spanish omlette, a bit like a quiche without a pastry crust. It takes hardly any time to make and is a great meal served with a salad, stretching two salmon fillets to feed four people.


Serves 4

8 large eggs

2 fillets salmon (300-400g)

Juice of half a lemon

8 spring onions

2 tablespoons chopped coriander

Salt & pepper

1 tablespoon (approx) butter

2 tablespoons corn oil

Pre-heat the grill.

Cut the salmon fillets into smallish dice.

Finely slice the spring onions.

Beat the eggs until slightly frothy, season sparingly with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter and oil in a medium sized frying pan, and when hot add the salmon pieces and drizzle the lemon juice over them. Stir over a gentle heat until the salmon has changed colour and is nearly cooked through, then tip in the eggs, the chopped coriander and the spring onions. Using a wooden spatula, gently mix everything together. Then let it cook for about a minute. Lift the edges gently with the spatula to let any runny egg seep downwards before placing the frying pan under the pre-heated grill for a couple of minutes to allow the eggs to firm up and brown very slightly on top.

Cut into four wedges and serve garnished with coriander leaves. A side salad of tomato, cucumber and lettuce with a tangy dressing is perfect with this dish.


Mother of the bride said...

I'm with you about coroners' courts - yet another example of the way this government is chipping away at our rights and our legal system.

Anonymous said...

I'm writing this in Beijing where I'm currently enjoying the sixth successive night of fireworks and firecrackers being let off in the road outside our apartment, and all over this city and in every other place in China, s far as I know.
I asked a Chinese friend if tonight was the final night of celebration and fireworks and she said "Yes, but there's another final night on the fifteenth day of the new year - the Festival of Lanterns". Unfortunately, I'll be back in Blighty so will miss that.
On New Year's Day, we read, over 2200 tonnes of firework debris were removed from the streets of Beijing.


Jeanne said...

The book sounds intriguing - I will look out for this and the other 8 at the Barbican library. And I am so tired of having our civil liberties chipped slowly away. One of the worst aspects of the 9/11 fallout has been that it has given goverments a club with which to drive home all manner of legislation that robs law-abiding citizens of our liberties under the guise of protecting them. Don't get me started!!

nick said...

I suspect you're absolutely right about the inquests - the canard of national security will be used to keep everyone out and avoid some government embarrassment. What I always ask is, why won't the government just admit its mistakes and apologise? We'd all respect them more if they did.

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