Death in the Clouds - Book Review

I am reading through the novels of Agatha Christie in the order in which they were written and writing a review on each one.

Death in the Clouds



A woman is killed by a poisoned dart in the enclosed confines of a commercial passenger plane…
From seat No.9, Hercule Poirot was ideally placed to observe his fellow air passengers. Over to his right sat a pretty young woman, clearly infatuated with the man opposite; ahead, in seat No.13, sat a Countess with a poorly-concealed cocaine habit; across the gangway in seat No.8, a detective writer was being troubled by an aggressive wasp.
What Poirot did not yet realise was that behind him, in seat No.2, sat the slumped, lifeless body of a woman.

My Thoughts

This is the 24th book by Agatha Christie and the 11th Poirot Mystery

I love this one.

I know I have said that of others and it is true but then I do love so many of her books.

This one was written so carefully and well that the second time I read it I still got the murderer wrong.  I thought that I had remembered it so well that I remembered the correct murderer, but I was wrong.  I was actually still being mislead by the clues the same way as I had been the first time I read it so that to me makes a really good book.

Because this takes place on an aeroplane we have that added intrigue of the contained space like the locked room in so many stories.  Then because it takes place many years ago we have the added intrigue of the confined space full of people as the plane is small.

This one as many of her other novels have different nationalities involved so does this lead to misunderstandings because of different languages and cultures?

Also a young woman is there to help Poirot as in some of the other books based around him but does she help or hinder?

Now for the big question some of you may be asking because you know I love to have Hastings in the Poirot mysteries.
Is Hastings in this one?
Well you will have to read it to find out for yourself because this time I'm not giving you any clue on that important fact.

If you would like to know more about this book then click on the title or picture above.

 Here is a link to a list of her novels on Amazon
Books by Agatha Christie

If thinking of reading this book in the future why not pin this pic to go back to later.


10 Gift Ideas for a Guitar Fanatic - Need Help?

Well ok my husband is not a guitar fanatic!

But my husband does love to play the guitar and to go to music shops to look at guitars and try out new ones.

Years ago he would be tempted by many a nice-sounding guitar and for a while we had several (and I really do mean several) guitars in our house.  Well you always need a 12 string as well as a 6 string acoustic and of course you need an electric and you can't forget about a bass as well.  Then even when you have a really good guitar that you love, you also need to have another semi-acoustic to always be sitting near at hand to pick up and play or teach someone else the basics on.

As it is coming up to his next birthday Fred chose to get another guitar

Now I know there are many people who often find it hard to buy gifts for people especially guys.
So if the person you are thinking of is a guitar lover then hang on in here and see a few ideas for gifts  for them and if not a guitar lover then you might find some helpful ideas for some "hard to buy for males" over at 10 Gift Ideas for Brothers etc.

If you want some more info on any of these ideas just click on the titles of the item or on the pictures.

#1   Guitar Racks

To help store his guitars I suggested to Fred many years ago that he get a guitar rack which he eventually did but even then there were others sitting around in different rooms because he had so many.  Now he has sold some & given some away so most can go on the rack.

This is also a gift that everyone else in the house can appreciate because it helps to keep the home tidy.

I think this is the one he got

Kuyal Guitar Stand,Multi-Guitar Display Rack

#2   Guitar Stands

Playing the guitar is actually a nice hobby to have and I like to hear Fred sit and play and enjoy seeing him play & lead worship in church which he has done for most of the time I have known him (and that's a very long time).

For anyone playing outside the home then they need to have a good stand to rest the guitar on in between sets (oh listen to me with my music language!!) and Fred has a few of these folding A Frame stands for use in church and elsewhere  -  notice the folding bit of the description because they are then so easy to transport.

He likes the ones that will suit all types of guitars like this one below.

NEUMA Guitar Stand Folding Universal A frame Stand for All Guitars

#3   Guitar Picks  &  Strings

He started learning to play the guitar when he was 14 and even though I had started to learn when I was also 14 years old from the time I met him I knew I could never play as well as he could; possibly because I can not play by ear and also because my fingers are short but those were really only two excuses because although I liked the guitar I didn't love it as he did.

So you can imagine that Fred has used many, many guitar picks over all the years he has been playing.  Having just got this new guitar he started to think of what he might need to go along with it and he even thought of picks - his choice is shown here below.

Dunlop 44P.73 Nylon Standard

Yes he does have picks in cases of guitars and sitting around near his guitars and in his pockets but he will always say you can never have too many of them.   If the guitarist has a sense of humour maybe some fun picks would be nice like these

Any serious guitar player will know the importance of changing the strings on the guitar regularly (depending on how much you play it of course) so that you always get the best sound.

However over time each guitar lover will settle on the type of strings he really likes for each type of guitar so it might be best to make sure you know the type they normally get or ask them what they would like before you buy.

Or have a look inside the guitar case because many of them keep a packet there.

Need Help? 10 Gift Ideas for the Guitar Fanatic.

#4   Capos

When I saw him looking around for a new capo to have for this new guitar I was tempted to say "another one?"  but then I realised that he probably likes to keep a capo on the end of each guitar or like the picks, near each guitar (and yes I have even known him to have one in his pocket).

He saw this one and thought the colour would tone in with the new guitar but it is available in more than one colour.

Premium Deluxe Guitar Capo for Acoustic and Electric Guitars 

#5   Strap Locks

The new guitar arrived this afternoon.

Out it came straight away - I admired the nice case it came with and then admired the guitar as well - but there was something missing which I assumed was on all guitars until Fred explained that I was wrong.

Apparently the metal thing to which the guitar strap attaches (a strap lock) sometimes has to be bought separately so that was another thing he was looking for today not sure what his choice for the new guitar is going to be but he does have one like this on another guitar.

MusicNomad Acousti-Lok Strap Lock 

#6   Straps 

Of course a new guitar merits a new strap too.

I tend to favour a patterned strap especially in blue because that's my favourite colour

 but Fred has always liked a reasonably dark plain leather straps so that was another thing to start looking for and of course he has one all picked out now.

#7   Guitar Leads

One thing I know for certain we are not short of in this house is a lead for anything (the boxes of them are the proof of this) but although Fred does not need one for his new guitar he did suggest that other people would and so he recommended one with "a silent plug" for those times when our favourite guitarist is on stage and doesn't want to make a horrible noise when they detach their guitar lead.

#8   Guitar Tuners

Some guys are really good at tuning their guitars because they have such a good ear but even those guys will probably want a tuner to get the job done quicker.

As well as buying tuners to keep in their guitar case nowadays they can buy apps for their phones that will act as tuners.

As far as I can see from Fred, Korg is a pretty good make to go with.

Korg TM60BK Tuner Metronome

#9   Wall Hooks

When our second son was a teenager he was very keen on the guitar and wanted to keep one in his bedroom to play there.  His bedroom was the smallest room in the house so we came up with the idea of hanging the guitar from the wall and that was a great success and he thought it rather "cool" at the time.

So for anyone short of space to store guitars why not get them a wall hook - if it's what the retailers use then why not us.

This would be my choice - I like the idea of the wood.

Plus who couldn't resist the idea of the way they have incorporated the guitar shape into it.

Guitar Wall Mount Hanger Auto Lock

#10   Kids Guitars

One of the nicest things someone can do for others is to pass on their knowledge and expertise and love for a musical instrument.

If a guitarist has a son or daughter they should be encouraged to instil a love for the guitar in them as well so some ideas for helping the kids become guitar fanatics are my last suggestion.

Many years ago we bought a 1/2 or 3/4 sized guitar so that Fred could teach our 3 kids to play and now even though they are all in their 30's they each enjoy music of all types and play the guitar.

This would be one example here which actually has the guitar and practically everything else you would need.

Classical Guitar Acoustic Guitar 3/4 Junior Size 36 inch Kids Guitar for Beginners 6 Nylon Strings Guitar Starter Kits with Waterproof Bag Guitar Clip Tuner Strap Capo Picks Wipe

Above are examples of some of these items that can be bought on Amazon but there are also many music websites to order from or shops to buy from.

In fact part of the gift could actually be taking some time to go with your guy to some music shops for him to choose his gift (and have a wee play at some guitars while he's there).

Just one word of advice

Take a book or Ipad or something to do with you 
because I remember the times I would go to music shops with Fred 
and I was glad I had taken my book to read!!!

I am not an Amazon affiliate and do not get any compensation for my suggestions here.


I am not Dropping the EASTER! - Coffee & Conversation

Yes it's an Easter Egg - I am not dropping the EASTER!

What is a chocolate egg without Easter?

We would not have had chocolate eggs if it had not been for Easter.

Now the chocolate companies want to drop the Easter in Easter Egg and just have an egg, will it sell more because it will be seen to be more PC?

But it will not be an Easter Egg to many people.

A few years ago I was introduced to "The Real Easter Egg" which is produced 
by Meaningful Chocolate.

I was attracted to the eggs because of the fact that they are fairtrade and because they don't just provide a chocolate treat for children (and the rest of us) but they have a booklet (new one each year) for the children as well which teaches them about The True Meaning of Easter in an interesting way.

We have bought them for the kids at our church and we have enjoyed them at home.

But the main thing about these eggs is the fact that along with the chocolate egg 
is the Real Meaning of Easter.

When many other Eggs are going to be sitting in our shops this year without the word Easter on them, this is an egg that still proclaims the real meaning of Easter which is the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus who is the only Saviour of the world and the only one by which we have a way to God.

You can read my review of The Real Easter Egg Here.

Then why not check out the website here for more info and details of  the other eggs they offer and the shops that stock them but because Easter is early this year orders online need to be in through the site before 6th March to have them delivered on time.

As I said at the start of this post
 "I am not dropping the EASTER" 
and this applies to Easter as well as to eggs.  
Our special times of the year all seem to changing to "seasons" or  "holidays" now but I'm still a Christmas and Easter supporter and I will not be dropping either.

Yes it's an EASTER Egg! - I am not dropping the EASTER!


Acts Chapter 26 - Paul Comes Before the King

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What would you say if you were to speak to a king?   

In Chapter 25 - The Big Appeal  we were brought to the point where Paul would be allowed to appeal to Caesar and then King Agrippa comes into the story and we were left wondering how this might affect Festus and his decision.

verses 1 - 3     A greeting to King Agrippa.

So the king wants to hear from Paul and Paul doesn't just blurt out "I've been accused ...." and how wrong it is.
Instead Paul greets and recognises the King as an authority in Jewish customs and asks him to listen patiently.

Yes we all (according to scripture) have the right to be heard when we are accused of something but that does not mean we get abusive about it or forget to be respectful to others.

verses 4 - 11     Short Personal story of early life.

Paul explains how he was a devout Jew and that he was well-known among all Jews.

Now the Jews should be well acquainted with the promises of God as they are always exhorted to memorise the scriptures but they do have disagreements among themselves about the resurrection.  Paul believes in the resurrection because of having been a Pharisee  as opposed to the Sadducees who do not.

We found that several times the resurrection is mentioned and disagreements happen as is Chapter 17 - Knowing God

Here he talks about the hope of the Promise that God gave originally to Abraham and all Jews should be in agreement about that.

He then goes on to the part of his life when he persecuted those who followed Jesus because he saw them as going against what Jews believed and even blaspheming.

verses 12 - 18       Conversion Experience.

Yet again Paul has the opportunity to relay the story of his conversion.

In other times when he had an audience of Jews he had bad reactions such as in Chapter 13 - A Specific Job for the Kingdom  but with the difference that there he was invited by the Jewish Leaders to speak and now they don't want him to speak at all.

Another time he had the opportunity to speak to the Jews of Jesus in Chapter 18 - Reactions of People  he found that the Jews were so angry against him that they blasphemed.

What will be the reaction of this King?

verses 19 - 23             New life and Attitude.

Paul tells the King of his new life and what that entailed.

It meant a change in his behaviour from hounding the Christians to

  • obedience to Jesus from the meeting on the Damascus Road  verse 19
  • speaking of repentence first to the Jews and then also to the gentiles  verse 20

It also meant a change in his physical and practical lifestyle

  • arrests and threats of death from his own people  verse 21
  • help and miracles from God  verse 22

It also meant a strong and unwavering stance for God

  • speaking the same as the prophets had about how Jesus would come and die and rise again  verse 22-23

verses 24 - 33            Reaction to Paul.

First Festus is upset and turns on Paul.

Then Paul turns it directly to the King because he knows the King has heard a lot about him already.
He asks Agrippa a very important question in verse 27

King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? 
I know that you do believe.

Paul did what many times we fail to do.

Paul after testifying about Jesus then asked a direct question which demands thoughtful consideration and a response.

Salvation is a personal thing not just something we hear about but something we need to make a decision about and respond to either accepting or rejecting there is no other option.

So what was King Agrippa's response in verse 28?

It was about the saddest one we will ever hear.

Then Agrippa said to Paul, 
“You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

Almost is not enough, in fact almost is as far away as an outright rejection.

When faced with the Gospel it is a matter of acceptance or rejection, there just is no in-between. 

Paul stood before his earthly king but but some day we will all stand before our heavenly King Jesus and we need to have made our decision now, not waiting until then when it will be too late.

It is acceptance or rejection NOW there just is no in between.

Interested to know more about the Book of Acts?
Then Try these commentaries

Or this Bible Study

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Acts Chapter 25 - The Big Appeal

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Change of governer but Paul is still in the same position or will that change in this new chapter?

verses 1 -  8

Now these Jews never gave up in their vendetta against Paul even though he had been held in Caesarea for two years they were still anxious to kill him so another plot is being laid at the start of this chapter.

The new governer Festus went to Jerusalem 3 days after he arrived in the province and the High Priest and other Jews can't wait to state their accusations against Paul again and ask for him to be brought to Jerusalem.
Because they have the same plan as before; ambush and kill him on the journey.

Festus refuses but offers for them to come to Caesarea and put their case to him there which happens some days later.

They lay many charges against Paul but cannot prove any of them.

When this happened Paul was still gracious and did not retaliate but simply stated in verse 8

 “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all.”

Why had all of this not been dismissed earlier when they had never been able to bring any proof?
Why do things have to linger on and on and keep Paul under such a situation when his accusers can not prove anything?
Why does it have to seem like he is assumed to be guilty just because they have a grievance against him and then still appears to be punished even when nothing is proved?

Where is the "innocent until proven guilty"?

There seems to have been this state of limbo for Paul for these years where he is neither innocent nor guilty and it confines him to a certain location and limited to what he can do.

verses 9 - 27

Even though they had no proof of wrongdoing against Paul instead of Festus properly acknowledging this he asks if Paul will go to Jerusalem with him to be tried there.

So now in verses 10 - 11 Paul has the opportunity to ask to go before Caesar instead which is his right as a Roman citizen.

 “I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you very well know. 11 For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

I was very struck by the way Paul said no-one could deliver him to the Jews if there was nothing in their claims and he knew Festus was well aware that they had no proof.
There is just plain statement of fact and no argument here.

Result is that Festus agrees to let him stand before Caesar.

Then we have another person brought into the picture as King Agrippa and his wife come to visit Festus.

Whether in general conversation or in a way of seeing another person's perspective of the situation, Festus brings the facts of the case before the king who is then interested enough to hear from Paul himself and this is arranged for the following day.
I do feel that from the way Festus speaks the next day that he had wanted this event to take place and that it could help him in how he could present this appeal before Caesar noting how he finishes his speech to the King and other people gathered together especially when we see how the chapter ends in verse 27

27 For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him.”

He was quite right as he was obligated to present a case against Paul to Caesar but obviously felt he should do the best job he could and not be biased.  Only something that could be verified should be brought as truth in a charge as there are always two sides to be heard and considered and proof to be needed before someone can be condemned.

Also Paul was entitled to know exactly what was said to Caesar (or anyone else about him) as it was his life and reputation that were in the balance here, not that of the accusers.

Why are people often swayed by groups of others and forget about looking for the truth.

I think there are two questions here.

  • Why are people often swayed by groups of others?
  • Will this change the agreement by Festus for the appeal before Caesar?

Interested to know more about the Book of Acts?
Then Try these commentaries

Or this Bible Study

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Christmas Letter from the Blacks 2017

Another Year over and this one was full of special Dates.

Fred & I were sick over Christmas and the New Year so a lot of January was taken up recovering from that long drawn out flu.

We did manage to enjoy babysitting Matthew each week too.

At the start of the month I had another appointment at the Fracture Clinic (first one had been last October) where they said the bone in my foot was healed but I could expect to have pain for up to a year after the break.

Fred & I decided a holiday in warm weather would be good for us after that rotten flu so off we went to Gran Canaria for 9 days.

Jonathan spent 2 weeks in New Zealand with his best friend from Primary School who is a doctor there.
This was the big month for Fred as he had his 60th birthday and was so glad he had already retired early.  We sort of counted our holiday in February as his birthday present.

Also this month saw our first wedding this year - a friend from church.

With Matthew well on his feet and loving to play hide and seek and run around everywhere we thought we would have a little Easter Egg Hunt with him when he would be at our house.  Unfortunately it rained but I just hid all the eggs in different rooms and he looked so happy each time he found one.

Missed it

But then he got it

Fred had wanted to go to a Church Conference in the US at the end of the month and asked me if I wanted to go too.  I didn't want to go to the Conference but was happy to go along for the holiday and sit by the pool in Orlando, Florida.

While we knew we would be in America it seemed sensible to go for 2 weeks instead of just one and take time to go to Kentucky & Ohio (2 states I had never visited before) to see the "Ark Encounter" and the "Creation Museum" and also the city of Cincinnati which has at least 5 bridges linking the 2 states.

At the Full-size Replica of Noah's Ark

I started off the month at the Fracture Clinic again and this time they agreed with me that the pain was not coming from the break at all because of the position of it and they decided I would have to have an MRI Scan done.  (Still waiting to even receive an appointment date for that!)

Then there was a bit of a reunion of Fred's side of the family as we went to our niece's wedding in St. Johnson and Ballymena.

This was the month our church alterations were completed and that had meant some very busy months for Fred previously.

Later in the month I had a reunion of some of us girls!!! who had studied at Queens together - we are now managing to make this twice a year due to early retirements.

We had a weekend in Londonderry to go celebrate my sister's 70th birthday and make her laugh during a family photo shoot her kids had arranged for her.

Another birthday this month, this time the big one for me.  Jonathan came over from Leeds so along with Daniel & Suzie and Matthew we all had a nice time together.  I'm sort of counting the trip to Kentucky as my present.

Of course this was a very special month for us all because our granddaughter Ruby Ellen Joy was born on 4th July - she was late in coming but managed to make it here on Fred's mother's birthday and then it was nice that she had my mother's name as her second name.  Daniel and Suzie were so delighted with a quick birth and Matthew was so excited to have a baby sister.

Ruby just a few hours old with a very happy big brother

We went to Evensong at St. Anne's Cathedral a couple of days later to meet up with a Canadian who had worked with Fred a few years ago.  He and his wife were over on a choir trip around the UK singing in several cathedrals.

We love taking Matthew out to parks and lakes and other events like a Teddy Bear's Picnic in the Open Ark Farm which was one of the places we went to this month.

Then Linda arrived from South Korea.
She would be here for a whole month!!

So that meant this month involved a lot of shopping with Linda because it is not so easy for her to get clothes in South Korea  -  they just don't make them for European figures.
Also a lot of eating and chatting and planning - those who know Linda will definitely understand that.

At the end of the month we had a family holiday - all 9 of us.
We went to Cornwall to a large house for a week and Stephen flew over from South Korea to make the family complete.  

A Selfie at Lands End

At the Minack Theatre

I have to admit the real stars of the show were not the couple who were there to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary but the two children who everybody wanted to play with and cuddle.

A Beautiful Day at St. Michael's Mount

Daniel and Suzie moved house from East Belfast to Carnmoney and needed some help, any excuse to just hang around with Ruby and Matthew is ok with us.

Then Daniel's birthday and Jonathan's birthday which meant Jonathan came over to visit again.

Another Wedding, this time my nephew with Daniel as best man - I think he did a good job of getting back at Glen for the best man speech he made at Daniel's wedding.

Then a lot of shopping for Videoing Equipment because .......

....... we now had a month centred a lot around producing videos of Jonathan for You Tube.  
Fred has enjoyed working out what was needed and where and how to set up cameras, backgrounds and lights, followed by the editing.  

Christmas and winter jumpers featured in one of these shoots so that's a hint that something will be coming this Christmas but the first Series of 5 Jonathan did is already on You Tube and his blog.

Linda and Stephen are coming to NI for Christmas so we will all be together (the 9 of us) on Christmas Day for the first time ever and it is unusual for this to be managed with part of your family so far away in South Korea.

Another first is that we are all going to go to the Belfast Blacks that day too - I am so looking forward to that.

During the time in Cornwall we had a family photo shoot which was really needed as the family has grown quickly in the last few years.  

It was a gift from the kids for our wedding Anniversary and this is 
my favourite picture of the lot.

The two Proud Grandparents