A legend’s tale

macca book

signed macca book



Earlier this month I attended a fans evening at Fratton Park in honour of Portsmouth F.C and Irish football legend, Alan ‘Macca’ McLoughlin. The midfielder and current first team coach was hugely popular with supporters many of whom were packed in for an interesting Q+A and queued up to have the legend sign a copy of his book. It was nice to see him happy and relaxed and looking well after his recent terrifying battle with cancer.

However, just days later Macca was mysteriously sacked by Pompey. It came as a real shock to me, the fans and probably to himself and his family but as his book here goes to show, that’s all part and parcel of a turbulent, unpredictable life in football.

A Different Shade of Green is a rollercoaster tale of a proud sporting career. Brilliantly written by Bryce Evans this is no run of the mill account of wags, booze and trophies. Instead it is a look back with an intelligent eye over an eventful international career with Ireland, the good times and bad times with his predominant clubs – Swindon Town and Portsmouth F.C – and his obvious devotion to family life.

From the devastation of being let go by Manchester United as a teenager to meeting the Pope as part of the Italia ’90 Irish squad, Macca has experienced the many highs and lows of a footballing life and it’s a fascinating read.
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Great author, great director, great film, great read



 crossed keys book

Being a huge fan of film director Wes Anderson I could not wait to dig into this book which I’d heard was the inspiration for his great new movie The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Society of Crossed Keys contains Anderson’s selections from the writings of the great Austrian author Stefan Zweig.

The book is split into four parts, including a discussion about Zweig’s life and work, extracts from his memoir, a chapter from his only novel and one of his best loved stories in full.

 A Conversation with Wes Anderson

Here Anderson talks with Zweig’s biographer George Prochnik in a fascinating discussion where they introduce the author and examine the context in which his work was received at the time and survives today.wes anderson

Anderson describes how he hadn’t heard of Zweig until six or seven years ago when he bought a copy of Beware of Pity by chance. He then discovered the rest of the Austrian’s work and says here that The Grand Budapest Hotel contains elements “stolen” from several of his stories.

“M. Gustave, the main character who is played by Ralph Fiennes, is modelled significantly on Zweig.”

Prochnik could be describing Anderson’s own films, known for their luxurious colours and eccentric cast of characters, as well as Zweig’s writing when he says “even in the little sketches he gives, there’s something so visually charismatic in just the suggestion of what these places were. We somehow feel an aura of that luminous life…”

grandbudapest lift

The World of Yesterday – selections from the memoirs of Stefan Zweig

These extracts make up a sizeable chunk of this book and rightly so as they are delightful to read. I am certainly keen to discover his full memoir now as I found this glimpse to be as the back cover described “an unrivalled evocation of bygone Europe.” A Europe before the First World War that I feel we do not know today.

zweig world of yday

Zweig describes the sense of security integral to his country, and the belief in progress over any religious or political factor. How people became stronger, healthier and more attractive thanks to sporting activities.

“We lived well, we lived with light hearts and mind at ease in old Vienna…”

Zweig offers beautiful, insightful windows into the lives of Austrian-Jews, the liberal optimism of the times, changes in attitudes towards sexuality and his early days as a writer.

“I felt to some extent that this ‘security’ complex weighed me down, made me more likely to be fascinated by those who almost recklessly squandered their lives, their time, their money…and perhaps readers may notice this preference of mine for intense, intemperate characters in my novels and novellas.” Continue reading

“I don’t want to be that much in love ever again”



Until recently, what I knew of Elizabeth Taylor was that she had been married 8 times to 7 men and had been close to my childhood idol Michael Jackson. What I knew of Richard Burton was that he was Welsh, a great actor and a drunk. But my interest in this ultimate celebrity couple was only properly sparked earlier this year by articles I read in magazines and Sunday supplements and then from a film made for BBC4 starring Dominic West and Helena Bonham-Carter as Burton and Taylor.furious love

Furious Love is a great title for this book as that is exactly what their relationship was. The authors invite us to take up front row seats to the raging arguments between them and the gloriously lusty make-ups later. The now legendary movies, jewels, costumes, drink and far flung exotic locations make this an exciting, rich biography of the pair.

They had met in Rome in 1962 on the set of Cleopatra. Richard a great stage actor and notorious womaniser from Pontrhydyfen, Elizabeth a former child star and now leading lady. Both were already married but soon they fell into a wild affair with each other – this became known as Le Scandale and shook the entertainment world.

burton and taylor cleopatra

In this book, Kashner and Schoenberger drew on diaries, love letters, eye-witness accounts and recollections from their friends, colleagues and entourage. From these we see how together they made some of the best films of the 1960s and caused controversy and pandemonium amongst the paparazzi and their adoring fans wherever they went. Continue reading