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Decided to re read the Young Bond Series since NZ is in lockdown for the next four weeks minimum. I've read all of Higson's, but only the first book written by Steve Cole (Shoot to Kill). I'm over halfway through Silverfin and I'm excited, forgot how well written the book is, and very accessible not merely for younger readers. Higson knows his Fleming!

“The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. "
-Casino Royale, Ian Fleming

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Young Bond volume 1: Silverfin
Charlie Higson

I have all five of these books, and may finally read them over the next couple days.
Does anybody know if the short story "A Hard Man to Kill" is online anywhere?


first thought: this is more to do with Harry Potter than James Bond. (in 2005 Rowling had just released the 2nd last book, and the fourth film came out that year). Especially the first section which is set in Eton, all the usual Tom Browns Schooldays nonsense I can never relate to. House rivalries, school bullies, big sporting events, and long train ride home.
And though there are several specific paraphrases of Fleming, the sentences are much closer to Rowling.

Fortunately Bond goes to northern Scotland on Easter break after a few chapters, and the real story begins. He goes to visit Aunt Charmian and a new character Uncle Max.
Charmian is depicted as an experienced world traveller herself, an anthropologist and Katherine Hepburn type. She wears trousers and drives the original Bentley.
Max is dying of lung cancer (so first mention of smoking in this series for children is cautionary), and reveals to his young impressionable nephew that he was a spy during the Great War.

Max's homevillage of Keithly is apparently fictitious, but the detailed directions tell us it is off the main road somewhere in between Kinlocheil and Glenfinnan, 45km northwest of Glencoe.
As well as meeting Charmian, we are introduced to May the housekeeper, and learn how Bond gets his scar.

Spoilerhe is whipped in the face by a villain, and later on his first girlfriend Wilder Lawless kisses it better

And he inherits a car, but its an early model Aston not the Bentley.
In Casino Royale he tells Vesper he bought his Bentley in 1933, so this inheriting a car business may be an attempt to make that troublesome sentence fit the chronology.

Bond's age is not explicitly stated, but its >=1933, as Hitler is the new Chancellor. Bond is starting his second semester at Eton, after having missed the first, so how old would that make him? if he's 13, that fits the 1920 birthdate given by Pearson, otherwise Pearson's Bond biography is disregarded.


The real plot involves a a scary castle up in the hills overlooking the village, where unspeakable scientific experiments are going on. Very Universal Horror (which was at its peak in 1933), but also very Island of Dr Moreau whats going on there.
In fact, some of the deaths and other atrocities to the human body are way more graphic and disgusting than anything Fleming ever described. I guess Higson thinks young boys like blood and gore? Well I sure did at that age, so its all good.

Also similar to Harry Potter is all the emphasis on death, the death of Bonds parents, and the deaths he witnesses over the adventure. The first section at Eton is in fact a long build up to the revelation what happened to Bond's parents.

According to Pearson's Fleming biography, when Fleming was a teenager, one of his first writing attempts was a Gothic melodrama about the lord of a spooky castle with lots of torture. So Fleming might well have approved!

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Okay, so checking into my last post, I'm surprised to find that I last posted in 2018.  Or maybe it's not so surprising.  My run through the original Ian Flemming novels has still progressed, and much in the manner I intended.  Once I got into a regular routine after LaLD, I was able to read through to FRWL in reasonably short order.  My first main goal post was to finish the first five novels, which I informally regarded as the exclusively literary incarnation of James Bond, with different imagery.  The literary Bond's weapon is the Beretta, which he uses for a full run of five novels.  He drives a Bentley, which is so far from the look I imagine for a James Bond car.  The novels are almost hard-boiled crime novels, just with an international flair.  Bond's adventures are called "cases" rather than "missions".

In order to immerse myself in the series, I figured that I would leave a larger gap between FRWL and Doctor No, to honor Ian Flemming's original intention to kill off his character permanently.

I couldn't really approach FRWL spoiler free, because I'd already seen the movie a couple times.  And I was already familiar with Ian Flemming's intention for the ending.  So I mainly took advantage of being able to enjoy the foreshadowing gauge the overall effect of the book.  Plus I was looking forward to the book, to help me "get" the movie FWRL, of which there are aspects I could never quite understand.  And the book worked great for that.  I understood the undercurrents of the surface level events depicted in the movie better.  More importantly, after I finished reading the book, I cued up the movie and it was a completely brand new experience.  I enjoyed the movie adaptation of FRWL on a whole new level, and truly felt I understood why it is better than I ever thought it was in the past.

I let a year pass, and pretended in the reality of the novel's ending.  James Bond died for real, just as Flemming originally intended.

I thought, as I finally picked up Doctor No, that I would watch for if the James Bond who returns is the same character, or if he came back as a different character in some subtle way.  Some of the familiar trappings would emerging, such as Bond being given a Walther PPK as a replacement firearm to his familiar Beretta.

It turns out, I felt that the transition from the ending of FRWL to Doctor No was extensive enough to feel like James Bond really returned properly.  The retirement of one gun for another felt like an earned, relevant thing with the weight of continuity/history.  Some continuity details from LaLD also help reinforce that this is the same James Bond, and his past is connecting to his post-death present.

There is a sense with Doctor No that the series is really escalating to a bombastic level.  Doctor No and his lair felt like the emergence of what I think of as a modern idea of a Bond villain and a modern Bond villain base.  I think I've been skeptical about how Doctor No gets rated so highly by some readers, but now I get it.  This one shot right up to near the top, I couldn't believe how enjoyable a read it was.  It really took hold with the centipede creeping all over him when he wakes up while trying to sleep, there was something about that scene that just grabbed me with how much the book fits the description of a thriller.  I was thrilled by the suspense of it, and so much that followed continued to wow and thrill me.  It was overwhelming sometimes.  I was mentally exhausted by the end.  There were so many things that seem completely crazy (Honeyrider's backstory, Doctor No's backstory, giant squid) but they somehow worked okay anyway.  Great read.  I'll have to see if it will change how I experience the movie adaptation.

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these Young Bond books were quick reads, so I just kept going and made notes afterwards:

_________________________
Young Bond volume 2: Blood Fever

The scale of this one is huge, moreso than most of the films. After some brief scenes at Eton, introducing Bond's new club the Danger Society, the scene changes to Sardinia, where Young Bond accompanies a school trip studying archaeology. There he crosses paths with a villain with ties to Mussolini, who models himself on the Caesars and has built a palazzo high in the mountains complete with working aqueduct. There are also art thieves who have kidnapped a schoolgirl (Amy Goodenough), travels with backwoods bandits, and a visit to a surrealist's artist studio.

This volume continues the graphic blood and gore of the previous volume, with a villain walking round with a gangrenous knife wound til the very last pages.

There is also a secondary Young Bondgirl in this volume, literally named Vendetta, one of the bandits who is basically a savage. Both Bondgirls are very capable though, as primary Bondgirl Amy Goodenough is herself responsible for the villain's festering knife wound in the very first chapter.
(Amy is fought over by two competing villains, who each propose to sell her in the white slave trade then decide to keep her for themselves, yet it is never stated precisely what these villains intend to do with their teenage prize. This is left to our sordid adult imaginations, but rather creepy for a childrens book.)

A lot of the imagery is more Tintin than Harry Potter (which in my opinion is a better source of inspiration), including the art thieves, the archaeology, and especially that scene in the surrealist's studio.


_________________________________________________

Young Bond volume 3: Double or Die

This time we tour Eton, Cambridge, and all across London, especially the poverty stricken East End. The reality of the Great Depression is important here, as is the lure of Communism.
Towards the end, there is revealed to be a forgotten network of tunnels that crisscrosses london, foreshadowing SkyFall.
Red Kelly reappears, along with the whole Kelly clan, including little sister Kelly Kelly, who is the Bondgirl of the adventure. Bond and Kelly Kelly even sleep together, although it's not what you think.


There are cameos by real life historic figures Alan Turing and Dutch Schultz. The attempts at early computing are central to the plot (there is a good explanation of Babbage's Difference Engine), and computing's actual origins are correctly shown to be direct function of spywork.

Also Bond learns to gamble, and visits his first casino. And gets drunk for the first time, which, as with smoking in the first book, is represented as highly dangerous, not glamourous at all.

And there's a lot more graphic gore and grotesqueries. A particular highlight is the visit to the museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, where Bond studies a room full of freak specimens preserved in jars, while his pal Perry sits through an educational lecture on plastic surgery restoration of war injuries.


Also: Bond does indeed purchase a Bentley nearly new in 1933 (actually it's a wreck), making that sentence in Casino Royale correct after all.
(EDIT: I just realised the discovery of a wrecked racing car, and the decision to purchase and restore it, is near identical to the opening of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!)


This book again has the problem of scale that undermines Fleming's books. The extended finale at the London Docks is actually closer to the Spy Who Loved Me (film) than anything Fleming wrote.

_________________________________________________

Young Bond volume 4: Hurricane Gold

Thankfully no Eton content in this volume, except for a set of letters between chapters that Young Bond never gets the chance to read.
Bond accompanies Aunt Charmian on a trip to Palenque but gets seperated in  hurricane, and spends the rest of the book travelling in circles round Mexico with Precious Stone, a spoiled little rich girl who has lost everything. The two of them must escape the criminals who robbed her father's house, then instead decide to track those same criminals down to recover a set of stolen military plans.

The description of the hurricane and the flooded village are excellent. The scenes in Palenque come and go too fast, but that's OK because there's another villain who captures them in the end with his own set of Mayan ruins, and these are explored.
And again theres the gag of a vilain who is hideously injured early on, and just keeps walking round dropping body parts for a couple hundred more pages. Variations of this recur in Volumes 2, 3, and 4.

Much of the appeal of this volume is the story of Precious Stone, who undergoes a sort of reverse Pygmalion process, gradually evolving from pampered brat into a rough and tumble survivor, the kind of female character that Fleming celebrated. Young Bond ends up liking her very much, but he has remade her in his own image.

one thing about the ending...

Spoiler...Bond has agreed to keep secret the existence of a criminals retirement colony in exchange for his freedom. It seems non-credible he keep this secret into his maturity, especially once he is employed by MI6. Hurrikan, the villain who runs this colony, is hardly the kind of charming rogue Fleming's Bond would occassionally team up with.

_________________________________________________

"A Hard Man to Kill" - short story
I haven't read this one. It is included in a supplemental volume entitled Danger Society. There is a very brief excerpt in Volume 5, continuing the story from the previous volume as Bond and Aunt Charmian return home on an ocean liner. I gather from comments online that Wilder Lawless, from Volume 1, reappears.

Last edited by caractacus potts (5th May 2020 23:47)

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Young Bond volume 5: By Royal Command

The fifth and final volume features the return of several characters from the first three books, and reprises and resolves themes that had been previously introduced. It also tells us two stories that Fleming had alluded to: how Bond met Oberhauser (there is no fosterbrother, thank dog), and most important: how Bond got expelled from Eton over an incident with one of the boy's maids. This turns out to be some incident, and not only concludes the Eton chapter of his life, but introduces him directly to the world of the British Secret Service (and hence his life's work) for the very first time.

(In Pearson's Bond biography he simply said there was no such incident, that Bond had been expelled for missing curfew while meeting a girl for a date.
In Licence Expired: the Unauthorised James Bond, the short story One is Sorrow by Jaqueline Baker tells a much simpler version of the alleged incident, in which the maid is a local girl named Charlotte Bawn, but here too the incident is something a little more dangerous than what Fleming would have us imagining).

Roan Power is an eighteen year old Irish girl who claims to be a witch and indeed casts a spell over every boy she meets, Bond included. But she turns out to be not who Bond wants her to be, and leads him into some very nasty trouble, and thus to a major turning point in his life (note that this takes place only a decade after the Irish revolution).

Along the way Bond meets the Prince of Wales and Wallace Simpson, as well as two little girls named Elizabeth and Margaret.
There is a lot about class in this one, and I realise there'd been a lot about class in the previous books as well. Bond goes to Eton but does not fit in. Young Bond is welcomed into the homes of the very rich and feels out of place, but repeatedly earns the respect of the working class at home and peasant folk while abroad.

SpoilerWe also learn that the British Secret Service have had their eye on Young Bond all along. His recruiter knew Uncle Max, from the first book, and they always figured the nephew had potential. Strings were pulled to get Young Bond into Eton specifically so that he could be closely observed by Secret Service recruiters there.
This is a major change to Fleming, I think, where Bond alone made his choices in life, and is returning us to Harry Potter territory where Harry had been watched by the Hogwarts gang from the day he was born.

Other online commentary points out parallels between the five Young bond adventures and the first five Flemings. But there's more than that, for example the end of volume four strongly resembles the end of Dr No.
The final act of this book takes place in the Alps, and all that that implies. The boy's maid teaches our young hero a bitter lesson one should never have to learn.

Which leads to the same problem I have with Forever and a Day and Madame Sixtine, is this not all undermining the conclusion of Casino Royale?
Why would 35 year old Bond ever fall so hard for the insipid Vesper Lynn when he has known such women before? These teenage Bond girls we have met over the last five books are all self-reliant survivors more of the Honey Rider type, so why would Fleming's Bond act like he's never even met a woman before?
I can only conclude that's Fleming's fault, blasphemous as it may sound. Bond is old enough in Casino Royale, he should be a lot more worldly and jaded than how Fleming wrote him.

(Pearson must have noticed this problem too, because he has his Bond assertively denying he felt any of these emotions for Vesper)

_________________________________________________

In general, I must say Higson has a wild imagination, these five books are all full of vivid fantastic imagery. And he is a good storyteller, keeping the story moving forwards at a relentless pace, with lots of twists and turns, and giving us some heavy themes to think about. Most of the books have two or more sets of competing villains, giving the plots more complexity and moral ambiguity.

I conclude he's a much better Bond writer than any of the continuation authors from Gardner onward, Horowitz included. He seems much more committed to telling a good story rather than simply cashing a paycheck for a licenced property.

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Do you therefore think Higson would have been a good choice to write a "normal" Bond book, ie an adult Bond adventure?

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I do!
...if he can remember he's writing about James Bond and not Harry Potter with a gun.
There was a lot of passages where Young Bond's interior thoughts and motivations were not Bondlike at all, in particular he's too sympathetic to a lot of the bad guys he meets. But maybe this was before he had all the negative experiences that made the character we know so cynical?
That seems to be the point of the story of Roan Power, he lost some major innocence in choosing to trust her.

What I mean with the later continuation authors, is a lot of their stories seem cobbled together from some rather dull ideas, and do not flow. I suspect that they are saving their good ideas for something they will own all rights to, and just cranking out this licensed product for a quick paycheck and some publicity. Higson seems more committed to telling a good story.

Barbel did you read these books? what did you think?

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Yes, I read them (I have one autographed by Higson) and enjoyed them though am not in a hurry to re-read them. I very much agree with your apt phrase "Harry Potter with a gun" especially in the early books and think Higson should be allowed a stab at an adult Bond book.

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Barbel wrote:

Do you therefore think Higson would have been a good choice to write a "normal" Bond book, ie an adult Bond adventure?

I asked him about this, if he’d like to write one...or if he’d been asked...he said he would love to but that his schedule was booked up for quite a few years. This was just before the novel The Fear and the subsequent novels in that story arc.

YNWA 96

The Unbearables

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Thanks, Sir Miles!

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Gonna start working my way through.  Makes a change to have paper and leather in my hands in relaxing surroundings rather than a kindle travelling at 180mph .


https://i.postimg.cc/NLG7qtsT/D3-A24691-7975-41-CD-9070-6-B949-EE89-E0-C.jpg

..................http://i9.photobucket.com/albums/a77/darkcrown_1969/Asp9mmSIG-1-2.jpg...............

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I just finished all the Harry Potter books and now continuing the Bond novels. I've only read them 'till DAF in Dutch, so I can't wait to go on in English with the Folio Society versions. The first five chapters are really nice and I love Grant's backstory. Can't wait to read more.

MI6Community: DoubleOGeauss
YouTube: DutchJamesBondFan

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Just started Ian Fleming the Notes by John Pearson, a compilation of the notes written by Pearson when researching for his biography of Ian Fleming.  So far it’s an interesting read, but I’ve just gotten started.  We will see if it can hold my interest for 365 pages.

"A blunt instrument wielded by a Government department.  Hard, ruthless, sardonic, fatalistic.  He likes gambling, golf, fast motor cars.  All his movements are relaxed and economical". Ian Fleming

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00-Agent wrote:

Just started Ian Fleming the Notes by John Pearson, a compilation of the notes written by Pearson when researching for his biography of Ian Fleming.  So far it’s an interesting read, but I’ve just gotten started.  We will see if it can hold my interest for 365 pages.

The book looks interesting. Maybe I will get to read it if they ever publish an affordable version.

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My copy is enroute and I am very much looking forward to reading it.

In the meantime, I am reading the biography of WW2 super spy Richard Sorge.

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I have purchased Colonel Sun from Audible, and will start listening to it this week.

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Bond related reading:

Gardner's For Special Services (1982). While I thought this was a decent effort, it has serious problems. Most notably, the brainwashing ice cream plot is risible and reminded me of the 1989 Batman film. The chapter where the villains decide to test the substance on Bond makes little sense- why use Bond rather than one of SPECTRE's own agents? I do like the setting of the swamp headquarters, though, as well as the motor racing duel with the Saab and the fun of Gardner correctly predicting Reagan's 'Star Wars' programme.

Speaking of whom...


Non-Bond reading:


The Age of Reagan 1964-80 by Steven F Hayward. A sweeping deconstruction of the merits of the four US Presidencies that preceded Reagan (Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter.) While there are some interesting arguments advanced here, such as comparing the different approaches of Nixon and Reagan to dealing with Republican ideology, the book is a little too positive towards Reagan's pre-White House career, and feels rather sprawling in its sixteen-year scope. Overall though an intriguing look at a turbulent time in US history.


I have another seven Gardners on the shelf to get through next. I'm told Never Say Flowers is a unique experience...

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I just finished FOREVER AND DAY and it has to be one of the weakest of all the Bond novels. Which is saying something. And I was a pretty big fan of Horowitz's TRIGGER MORTIS so I was surprised.

SPOILERS BELOW

That 10 page chunk of text wherein 16 tells her entire life story, beginning to end, was some of the most hackish writing I've ever read. No one talks like that, ever. No one presents their life in these perfectly tidy little packages of character background (you could just see Horowitz's biography notes). A wholly unconvincing (and stupid) villain with a wholly ludicrous plan (even by Bond standards) considering his goal.

Additionally, I don't know how much heroin it takes to become an addict but the failure to address that question really had me wondering why Bond wasn't fighting some preoccupation for another hit. Shouldn't he at least, you know, make a mental note of wanting another dose? It was a non-issue after the scene was over. Man, this book didn't work for me at all.

And yeah, we all saw Titanic too, Horowitz. Thanks for the recap.

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I hated it. Which surprised me as I'm usually a positive Bond fan, and I liked Trigger Mortis and the rest of Horowitz's stuff such as Foyle's War and the Alex Rider series. Yet this not only ripped off the far superior Live and Let Die film, with the exactly same villain's plot but seeked to undo Fleming's well crafted Character arc for Bond in Casino Royale (That is, Bond underestimates woman, which leaves him unsuspecting of Vesper). But that is completely undone by this 21st century kick ass feminist who, not only makes Bond fall in love with her, but teaches him how to do shaken not stirred! ajb007/crap

“The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. "
-Casino Royale, Ian Fleming

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It’s probably 30 years since I’ve read a Fleming Bond and I’m reading Casino Royale, sat in my rocking chair on the balcony with a Long Island Iced Tea  ajb007/biggrin

I’ve forgotten most of this novel but what I can never understand is the popularity of the card game baccarat. It’s a game of complete chance, like blackjack is, just a chance of a gut feeling on whether to draw a card when you have a 5, all the other options are automatic.

I like the writing style and the descriptions of all that exotic food and champagne must have been mouth-wateringly out of reach of most of Britain’s after the war.

Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.

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Just completed the Blofeld Trilogy  TB, OHMSS and YOLT ,  Great fun  ajb007/martini
Mainly on audio, walking the dog etc.  Like CoolHandBond I too can't
understand the fascination with  baccarat, compared to Bridge or Poker.
The Bridge game in Moonraker, is one of my Favourite pieces of Fleming's
descriptive writing.

“I remember the last thing my Nan said to me before she died.
‘What are you doing here with that hammer?’”..... Lee Mack.

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I’m currently reading Making Movie Magic by FX master, John Richardson, who worked on Moore, Dalton and Brosnan Bonds as well as iconic movies from the 70s onward such as Superman, Flash Gordon, Aliens and the Harry Potter movies. It’s actually a pretty light read, making me wish he had gone into more detail with the effects. But as it’s the nature of such memoirs, the accounts are more often anecdotal.

I’m also about to begin on Volume 2 of James Bond: Origin, which compiles the series of Bond comics of that title.

Both these books are digital, with free access courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library. I read these on my laptop and smart phone, sometimes as I watch TV with the fam!

"...the purposeful slant of his striding figure looked dangerous, as if he was making quickly for something bad that was happening further down the street." -SMERSH on 007 dossier photo, Ch. 6 FRWL.....

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Well, I’ve finished CR and I am really impressed with it once again after so many years since my last reading of it. The torture scene is terrifying. Plaudits to the Craig CR version which managed to incorporate virtually everything from the novel into the movie. Also it was a brilliant idea to swap the baccarat game to Texas Hold’em poker.

I can imagine this novel really shook up the spy fiction world of the 50’s and I look forward to now reading LALD.

Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.

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I first read CR about 3 years ago. My husband likes Bond but is not into reading that much so would ask me about what was happening and I'd fill him in, including the torture scene. Fast forward a few months and we were staying with my son who was house sitting for friends. In the bedroom where my husband and I were sleeping, on the wall above the bed as part of the decor, there were three cane carpet beaters! I immediately thought of CR and had great fun all weekend threatening my husband that if he wasn't really nice to me, I just might use them.  ajb007/lol

I couldn't help wondering what if Bond had stayed at a house or hotel where it had carpet beaters as decor and how he would he have reacted.

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Just started " High Time to Kill "  To see if my opinion of it may have changed, as I think
it's a terrible Book, although so far it's better than I remember it , so you never know  ajb007/wink

“I remember the last thing my Nan said to me before she died.
‘What are you doing here with that hammer?’”..... Lee Mack.