Monday, 30 November 2015

Eats | The Yorkshire Meatball Co. York

The other week I grabbed a dining companion and went to check out the Yorkshire Meatball Co, which has opened up near me in York, at the Hotel Indigo. I was keen to try it as the menu looked pretty intriguing - meatballs every way you can imagine.

The decor was a bit hotel like (probably because it was a hotel which also did breakfasts for guests) but they had tried to spice it up with a few fireplaces and lots and lots of beer bottles. We were a little confused by the table mats (it turned out you had to turn them over to look at the menu, which was not remotely clear). Service from the one lad in there was also a little haphazard and confused, but he was on his own.

We tried out a couple of starters, honey glazed crispy pork crackling and cheesy semolina balls with salsa. Both of these were quite nice, although the crackling was a bit hit and miss (although we could not fault them for the portion sizes).

For main course my companion had a traditional meatballs in onion gravy with mashed potato and a yorkshire pudding. She reported to me that the meatballs were fairly tasteless, the pudding was nothing to be excited about and the mashed potato was unappetising, with a slight skin as if it had been sat around for a while. The food was hot and she ate it, but it was nothing to get excited about.

I had gone a little untraditional and opted for spicy meatballs in a sub with spicy salsa, mozzarella, mustard mayo and pickles, with fries. Somehow, although the sub contained all these elements, it was not very exciting to eat. The fries came with sweet chilli sauce and sour cream and they were honestly the highlight of the meal. The meatballs I had were spicy, but not very tasty.

In short, whilst I am glad we went and tried this place out, unless we both picked the wrong thing entirely on the menu it all seemed a little flat. We won't be going back to try anymore.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

October Reads | My Adventures with Your Money by T D Thornton

My Adventures with Your Money: George Graham Rice and the Golden Age of the Con Artist by T D Thornton

When we consider the Wall Street Crash of 1929, we know that behind it was wild speculation on the stock market by a large number of American citizens, who made and lost a fortune. How many of others were there, however, who thought they were trading stocks and were actually being conned by dodgy brokers? Thornton's book focusses on the history of George Graham Rice, who was vilified as the Jackal of Wall Street and became one of the most hated men in 1920s America as a result of his succession of convincing stock market cons.

Thornton's book begins at the very start of Rice's career (before he adopted the pseudonym of George Graham Rice and briefly went by his birth name of Jacob Simon Herzig) and we follow as he begins with early cons, has a couple of stints in prison before emerging - after a successful period as a crooked racing tout - as a unprincipled promoter for mining stocks.

There are some excellent stories in here about the gold rush and mining boom towns. One example is Goldfield, Nevada, where Rice organised a prize fight between 2 boxing champions as a promotional tool for the town - the resulting fight, Gans vs Nelson, holds the record as the longest fight in history at a total of 42 rounds. The narrative is evocative and a great insight into the power of promotion, illusion and creative journalism (which Rice used in abundance).

The story then moves on to the period of Rice's life when he was a more active name as a broker on the New York stock exchange curb. Whilst this section of the book is full of interesting tidbits - particularly Rice's cunning evasion of justice for significant periods, his colourful and complicated personal life and his flagrant manner of disrupting his own fraud trial - the discussion of the actual stock market manipulation sometimes becomes repetitive. This is not Thornton's fault, but occasionally made it difficult to follow and a little dull.

My Adventures with Your Money comes to a close at the time of the Wall Street Crash, and rightly so; this is not only the end of Rice's story but the end of this period of financial optimism in America. The America which lived through the period when men like Rice could make money out of paper stocks for imaginary Death Valley mining towns, came to an end as abruptly as Rice's own career. Certainly, with the hindsight we have, one can see the inevitable coming and Thornton manages to use this to advantage, bringing the book to its expected climax, rounding off both the personal story of the Rice - and of the great age of the Con Man - to a satisfying close.

An understanding of the stock market aside, this reader found My Adventures with Your Money to be a very unusual and intriguing book, focussing on the Roaring Twenties from a fascinating new angle.

This review was originally guest posted on History ASM. Check it out here.

Monday, 16 November 2015

What I've Been Reading | October 2015

Terribly belated coverage of my October reading, for which I ardently apologise - it was my birthday in late October, then I was busy at work, then I was on holiday for a week. Still, it seems that October was a pretty interesting reading month for me.

Poirot's Early Cases by Agatha Christie

I was lured into this Audible purchase because it is narrated in part by the Poirot and Hastings from UK television adaptations - Hugh Fraser and David Suchet. In my mind David Suchet simply IS Poirot, and therefore an audiobook which had him voicing the Belgian detective was a winner.

This book featured a number of short stories about Poirot and some interesting, and some not so interesting, mysteries. I love Poirot adaptations but I confess - rather blasphemously, I think - that I am simply not sold on Christie as a writer. Still, I enjoyed listening to this, for its narration as much as for it's content.

Buffalo Bill: Scout, Showman, Visionary by Steve Friesen

My Dad went on a trip to Denver, Colorado last year and brought me back a couple of books about people who are considered as sons and daughters of the city, as t'wer. One of them was this lovely book about Buffalo Bill, written by the curator of the Buffalo Bill museum. The book is a narrative of Bill's life, but also features lots of authentic photographs and pictures of artefacts from the museum, which made this a very engaging read. I know more about Buffalo Bill now than I ever expected to, and would recommend this to people interested in that period of history. 

The Figure in the Carpet by Henry James

This was a little literary mystery classic which I enjoyed a lot. It centres around the writings of a famous author, admired by the narrator, who confesses to the narrator one night that there is a secret to his writings, something to decipher. Our narrator is desperate to discover the answer and what follows is an engaging narrative which shows James' ability to keep you in suspense. Recommended.

The Old Nurse's Story by Elizabeth Gaskell

The Old Nurse's Story is a little gothic ghost story by Gaskell, featuring a nursemaid and her charge being sent to a draughty old house in the countryside, where the young girl is plagued by ghosts of the previous inhabitants. Also featuring the short story, Curious, If True, which is a strange little ditty about a man named Richard Whittington stumbling across a Chateau in the French countryside and finding himself at some sort of gathering of Fairy Tale characters - a good story but perhaps some of my knowledge of Fairy Tales meant I missed some of the nods in this narrative. An intriguing read.

I Hate and I Love by Catullus

Not much to say about this one, except for it's a collection of Roman love poetry, a lot of it stream of consciousness and a lot of it surprisingly modern. I am planning on reading more if I can.

Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas

The third book in the Throne of Glass series and the story is becoming more complicated and intriguing now, with the introduction of a few more different characters. I won't say too much as I don't want to spoil it for anyone else reading the series, but this is a good novel for character development and also for increased exploration of the world Maas has created.

My Adventures with Your Money by T D Thornton

I was lucky enough to be asked to read and review this ARC for the history blog, History ASM. My review can be found here. I enjoyed this one much more than I expected, given that it is about con artists in early 20th century America, but I would definitely recommend.

Mrs Guinness: The Rise and Fall of Diana Mitford, The Thirties Socialite by Lyndsy Spence

This is another book I was asked to review for History ASM, and so that review will be up with them shortly. In the meantime, I can say this was a interesting book, but I was unsure of the writing style and my dislike of the subject herself may have swayed me a little. I won't be reading about Diana in particularly again, I think.