Archive for March, 2014


March 26, 2014 2 comments

A quote this morning from David Moyes: ‘You don’t just suddenly change things around.’

Oh yes you do, David. In your case you took a  side that won the Premier League last season by nine points, and you turned it into a mid-table outfit. How? By tactical ineptitude, and by excising the pace and width from the team. Another quote, from the usually reticent Paul Scholes: ‘United are nothing without pace, and there’s no pace there.’


Categories: Sport

A hint of Bob

March 24, 2014 2 comments

Coming soon: in the wake of Dangerous Pursuits, the free re-working of the first Oz Blackstone novel that’s riding high in the Amazon chart, look out for a new Bob Skinner short story in e-book form. It’s called A Hint of Death, a precursor to the forthcoming Hour of Darkness’; it’s due for release on April 10, and for a limited period, it’s also free.

Categories: General

No justice

I read today that Stuart Broad, the England cricket T20 captain has been fined for criticising the umpires’ decision to continue his side’s match against New Zealand, despite the fact that there was a lightning storm overhead.

The match referee, imposing the fine said, “Such public criticism is not good for the spirit of the game. Mutual respect between players, match officials and administrators is paramount to the game of cricket.” My question: how are you going to maintain that respect by denying freedom of speech?

Categories: Sport

Top of the Bill

March 21, 2014 1 comment

This isn’t a review either. It’s praise, for the wonderful Bill Nighy, who lit up the BBC2 TV movie Turks and Caicos.

Categories: General

Dereliction of Duty

March 21, 2014 3 comments

With several million others I followed BBC2’s Line of Duty, from beginning to end, tied in by what I saw from episodes one to five as a brilliant, evolving plot. Too bad about episode six. Today, in common with many (most?) of them I find myself scratching my head at the conclusion, trying to join all the dots, and frustrated by an unsatisfactory ending. Too much of the motivation for the murder conspiracy was hinted at rather than spelled out. The people who were presumed to have commissioned the hit were never identified, but left nameless and faceless. The flash-back towards the end, in which much of it was almost explained, was a crude device, as if someone had wound back and then hit the fast forward button. There was a plot line that linked back to the first Line of Duty series, but was never explained in this one, making it meaningless to those who had either missed it or forgotten it. Who was ‘The Caddy’? If you didn’t know from the beginning, you were never told. If I did those things in a book, none of them would ever get past my editor. Clearly there was no such person involved in the making of this series.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I don’t do reviews. This isn’t one of those; it’s a complaint, that the BBC Drama department should have spent millions on a project that kept viewers hooked right to the end and then self-destructed by  failing to answer all the questions that had been raised.

Categories: General

Tough enough?

A few months ago, the Crown Office signalled its intention to get tough on housebreakers in Scotland, by prosecuting them on indictment, rather than in summary proceedings. The effect of this will be to increase the potential maximum sentence from one year in prison to five.

All well and good, but that is only a statement of intent, and it leaves sentencing at the discretion of the judge. Furthermore, is it adequate? Our homes may not all be castles, but they are part of us, and they should be inviolable.

Our Justice Secretary seems to favour the populist approach. I would suggest to him that if he wants to win public support instead of the suspicion with which his actions are usually  greeted, he should propose legislation that recognises housebreaking as an act of violence against the person, with a minimum tariff of five years, ie no parole, and double for repeat offences.

Categories: General, Politics

Torn apart

Masterclass at Old Trafford by Old Giggs. I’m left wondering whether Moyes picked the team alone and unaided. After the match he admitted to having left his best player out of the side simply because he’s forty. That’s not just stupid; it might even be illegal.

Another piece of bizarreness was his remark that he wants to find ‘the next Ryan Giggs’. Most likely, that person doesn’t exist; take his longevity, add it to his ability, and the contribution he’s made to the club’s success over twenty-three years, and the original has to be seen as the greatest player ever to wear the Man U shirt.

Categories: Sport

Be aware

March 17, 2014 1 comment

I had a phone call this morning from a Welsh-sounding man called Ross, a complete stranger. He wanted me to take all my investments and give them to his organisation, because, he said, he could give me guaranteed earnings of eight per cent.

I should be laughing, but I’m not, because mine was only a single name on a long list, and there will be one or two  who will be tempted by his line of bull-shit. On the face of it, eight per cent growth is eye-watering  in the current financial climate, but in the immortal words of the well-known financial adviser, Joni Mitchell, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

I should have noted the name of Ross’s organisation, but I didn’t. However his phone number was traceable through 1471; I’ve passed it on to The Financial Conduct Authority. If what he’s doing isn’t against regulations, it bloody well should be.

Categories: General

Larger than life

March 17, 2014 1 comment

I’ve just been advised of the sad and untimely death of Clarissa Dickson-Wright. Some years ago, I  had the privilege of sharing a platform with her in the Brunton Hall, Musselburgh. She was a  warm, funny lady, with a wide experience of life, and she did not shy away from discussing any of it. At that time, she was at the height of her fame as one of television’s Two Fat Ladies, and selling hardback cookery books by the hundred thousand. In an age when cooking shows on telly are ten a penny, that one still stands out; more than that, its legacy continues. Without the precedent of Clarissa and her pal Jennifer, would we ever have seen The Hairy Bikers?

Our acquaintance was brief, but I’ll remember her for ever . . . not least because she was the only person I’ve ever known to have chosen Skinner’s Ordeal as in-flight entertainment, and kept on reading.

Categories: General

What’s a bargain?

March 15, 2014 1 comment

Amazon have just given me a ‘promotional credit’. It gives me the right to buy one of a series of nominated e-books for £1.19. The problem is I wouldn’t dream of buying any of them at any price, so how is that a reward?

Not nearly as substantial as the QJ Oz Blackstone ebook, Dangerous Pursuits, currently available on Amazon, iBooks etc, FREE.

Categories: General


A reading recommendation: Hugh MacDonald’s ‘Final Say‘ column on page 20 of today’s on-line Herald Sport. Half an hour later, I’m still laughing. My wife, who hails from Tyneside, is not.

Categories: Sport

Oz is back!

Publication day for Dangerous Pursuits, a project I completed some time ago. It’s a reworked, amplified version of Blackstone’s Pursuits and a good way to meet Oz Blackstone, or even to catch up with him. It’s available only as an e-book  through various on-line retailers . . . and it’s free!

Categories: General

New guy

March 10, 2014 2 comments

For quite a few years now, there have been two mystery authors whose work I buy as soon as it’s listed. I’m not going to tell you who they are, for they don’t need plugged by me.

However I am going to tell you that there is a new member of my ‘must have’ list. I’ve just had the privilege of reading an advance copy of Jason Webster’s fourth Max Camara novel, ‘Blood Med’, and I could not put it down. If you haven’t met Max yet, I urge you to do so. If you have, look out for number 4, which will be published on June 5, a  month after Skinner 24, ‘Hour of Darkness’.


Categories: General

Mince, Vince

March 6, 2014 1 comment

According to the wizened seer that is Vince Cable, the problem with teachers is that ‘they know absolutely nothing about the world of work.’ I have always suspected that for all his PhD in economic integration and industrialisation, Dr Cable is actually a very skilfully disguised idiot, and I am grateful to him for proving it.

As a man who finally became an MP at the fifth attempt, aged fifty-three, he should know that if there is a profession worthy of such criticism above all others, that is politics. From the Prime Minister upwards, the Front Benches on both sides of the House are populated by people who moved seamlessly from long-term education into Party back offices and through them into safe Westminster seats, with not the faintest idea of what is happening outside their cosy little world. Second in the insularity stakes is journalism, with public relations coming third. I say all of this with authority, having worked in two of those sectors, and observed the third closely over many years.

The truth is Vince, that teachers make an invaluable contribution to our ever-evolving society, which politicians are most famous for besmirching.

Categories: General, Politics

Don’t be fooled, again

March 6, 2014 1 comment

Anyone who was naive enough to believe that the Scottish Independence debate would be a matter for Scots alone, must be staring gloomily into his porridge this morning. With all the subtlety of a Putin on nose candy, Westminster has marshalled its allies into a campaign of misinformation, browbeating and outright bullying. We have had scare upon scare, threat upon threat, lie upon lie, even though we are still six months before Referendum Day.

Today, the programme has rolled out the Dutch head of Shell Oil to say that it would be better for his company if Scotland remained part of the UK, because it values continuity and stability. As the Scottish Government has been very quick to point out, that is hardly guaranteed within the context of a continuing United Kingdom, where we are promised an in-out referendum on EU membership.

The fact is, all this is a sham. Shell will continue to do business in an independent Scotland. So will Lloyds, Barclays (even though its profile north of the border is barely discernible with fewer than a dozen branches), RBS and even Standard Life, which actually diluted its Scottishness when it demutualised. So don’t believe any of their hints, their threats and their innuendos. On the day that Scotland assumes total control of its own affairs, every one of these companies will be knocking on the door of the cabinet room wanting to be our new best friend.

Yes for Scotland.


Categories: General, Politics

If you like . . .

For those who aren’t aware, and do  the thing, I have an author page on Facebook:

‘Likes’ welcomed.


Categories: General

Below Standard

Categories: General, Politics

And while you’re at it . . .

Categories: General

Bargain of this century, and the last

For a while, I’ve been talking about ‘Dangerous Pursuits‘, the director’s cut of the first Oz Blackstone novel. Today’s big news . . . it’s here. Today’s even bigger news . . . it’s FREE!

Categories: General

Right said Fred

March 1, 2014 1 comment

This comment on the previous post, by Fred from sunny Sydney, is so on the mark that I feel it deserves to be a post in its own right.

Agree Quintin.

I have been following this from afar, having departed Scotland 40 years ago.

It appears EVERY article The Scotsman runs, makes mention of a possible negative financial impact, should there be a yes vote, and emphasises supposed dire ‘told you so ‘problems should Scotland cut itself free of England.

Well, I’m resident in Australia now, and THEY cut themselves free of England many years ago (apart from the queen, and some of us are working on that) and have prospered while England has deteriorated.

You may not have the weather or minerals we have, but I think you have all the personal capabilities that they have here, so there is absolutely no reason why Scotland shouldn’t prosper on its own.

However, I am now beginning to wonder whether due to the negative nellies peddling their doom and gloom stories, whether Scotland actually has the COURAGE to vote yes.

Scotland The Brave?

I guess we’ll see in September.


Categories: General, Politics