Book Review: The Outsider by Stephen King

It’s been a while since I’ve read anything by Stephen King. Up to about ten years ago I used to read everything that he published, but I think I lost interest with the last couple of books in the Gunslinger series and stopped reading his stuff entirely. Apropos of nothing, I actually really enjoyed the film of The Gunslinger, even with one of the major characters completely missing. I could write so much about Stephen King film adaptations, the good, the bad and the downright terrible. Some other time perhaps.


I was given a couple of books tokens for my 50th birthday last month, and this was one of the books that I bought. The plot outline is quite simple, a well known and liked teacher from a small town is arrested for the hideous murder of a child. All of the evidence points to his guilt, eye witness accounts, DNA, etc. However, and here is the twist, he was also seen by numerous people in another town miles away from the murder. He couldn’t possibly be in two places at once, so what is going on.

Obviously this being Stephen King the supernatural is involved, but I won’t give anymore away. The beginning of the book is gripping, hooking me in so much that I couldn’t wait to pick it up again. It did lose pace a bit in the second half, but the final few chapters are a thrill. There was one character who joined the cast in the latter stages, and I got the feeling that she was a returning character from another book, maybe Mr Mercedes, which is another one of Mr King’s books that I haven’t read.

The Outsider is definitely one of his better books. Reading it made me realise what a good author Stephen King is, and even when not at his best, he is still pretty damn good. I will be picking up a few more of his books that I’ve missed, starting soon with Dr Sleep, as my beautiful wife wants to see the film, so I will have to have read the book by then.

Tawd Valley Parkrun

Continuing our trip around the north west, picking off parkruns wherever we go, we headed to the relatively new Tawd Valley parkrun.

The first thing you will probably ask, as almost everyone has, is – Where’s Tawd Valley?


Tawd Valley is in Skelmersdale, the Milton Keynes of the north, the land of roundabouts. I’ve cycled, and got lost, a couple of times around Skelm, and I will be honest it’s not one of those places that I would have expected to return to. I’m glad that I did return, as Tawd Valley parkrun was one of the best parkruns that we’ve ever done.

The weather was proper grim when we set off down the M6 from Lancaster, which didn’t ease off as we rolled into a very quiet carpark near to the start. I had a quick look to make sure that we were in the right place before returning to the warmth of the car. A few minutes to nine and we were standing with a handful of others, huddling beneath the library doors, as the Run Director gave us a briefing. There was a small detour due to flooding, but as it was our first time it wasn’t something for us to worry about.

Helen, my beautiful wife, opted to run with Nelly, our silly Pointer, while I decided to try to be a little speedy. When you look at the route it looks like it crosses a few roads, but it’s all under or over passes. Also, it was only the second time that we’d done a one lapper parkrun, the only other one was Bushy Parkrun back in April (read about it here). As expected, the quicker runners were soon out of sight, but I gradually reeled in a few others, and managed to finish in a very credible 5th place, although I was second in my age group.

Helen managed even better than me, first in her age group and 19th overall. Amazingly well done considering running with Nelly isn’t the easiest. Last weeks race must have been good practice (read about it here). There were plenty of marshalls out on the course, cheering everyone on and warning about slippery grass sections, as well as directional arrows. With only one lap the route is fairly dependent on marshalls, so I hope that it has a good group to keep the run going.

Don’t be put off by the thought of visiting Skelmersdale, Tawd Valley is easily one of the best parkruns, a true hidden gem.

Langdale Octoberfest

Yesterday, the three of us spent a great day at Sticklebarn, Langdale in the Lake District. There was a whole weekend’s entertainment, with music, food, trail runs, a fell race and most importantly a couple of races with dogs. To add to the chaos, at the same time there was the Langdale marathon and half marathon. To say that the area was busy was a bit of an understatement.

We arrived nice and early, grabbed a coffee and waited for the start of the 10km trail race, which I was doing. The start was delayed by ten minutes to ensure that all of the marathon and half marathon runners would have made it over Stickle Bridge before we all crossed over it in the other direction.


The trail race started off with a fairly tricky section with a tough little climb, before settling into a rough and rocky route. I’m gradually improving with my off-road running, although you can easily spot those that run over this kind of terrain all the time as they literally ‘dance’ over the rocks. I managed to make up a few places on the flatter sections, but I was fairly tired by the end. I finished with a time of 54 minutes, only 8 minutes behind the winner, which shows how tough the route was. I also managed to pick up a prize of a very nice bottle of beer for being first Vet 50. However, I was over a minute behind the first Vet 60, and only 17 seconds in front of the first Vet 60 Female. Good little race though.

The main event, for me, Helen and Nelly, was the 10km tail trail race a bit later in the day. The organisers had decided not to take any more entries during the week before, as there was so much going on. Despite that, there were probably 20 runners with their dogs on the start line. The route was less technical than the trail race, but still had a good hill towards the middle. The race was relaxed with the emphasis on fun. Helen and Nelly set off in the middle of the pack with plenty of barking from other dogs. The start and finish of the route was out and back, so there wasn’t really opportunity for me to cheer them on during the race, so I joined the very long queue for a coffee.

I’d only just finished my coffee when runners and dogs started to appear, with Helen and Nelly smiling their way to the finish line.


Helen was very pleased with her time of just over an hour, as running with Nelly isn’t the easiest job in the world. She gets distracted a lot.

If we’d had a campervan we would have stayed the night and enjoyed the music festival, which is what lots of others were doing, as over half of the carpark was campervans. It’s made us more determined than ever to get one.

As an aside, whenever we take Nelly somewhere we often get asked what breed she is, but up in the Langdale Valley, everyone seemed to know that she is an English Pointer. Definitely the best looking dog there. Overall it was a fantastic day and I fully expect us to be back next year.

Book Review: Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Earlier this year I raved about The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell (read the review here). When my aged mother came to stay for a few days in the summer, she was browsing our bookshelves to find something to read. I recommended the Salt Path by Raynor Winn (read the review here) and I also mentioned how much I had enjoyed the Diary of a Bookseller. My mother obviously remembered that I had mentioned it as she sent me a copy for my birthday. I took it to the Free Little Library on the next street and was pleased to see that it had gone by the following morning.

Shaun has now written and published a sequel and I’m pleased to say that it is as good as the first one.


Once again it covers the trials and tribulations of running a small business, which is never easy, even more so in these times of austerity. He doesn’t shy away from some of the difficulties in his life at the time, although you know that the way he talks about his staff is very tongue-in-cheek. He still isn’t a fan of Amazon, which isn’t too surprising. In the last couple of years I have tried to use Amazon less and less, and have definitely become a regular in our local bookshop.

After reading his two books I feel like I know him and his staff (Nicky, Flo and Granny), along with his spoilt cat. On our recent cycling trip around Northern Ireland we looked at stopping off in Wigtown on our way home, but it was a Sunday and justifiably he would be closed.

I bought this book in hardback on Friday afternoon and finished it Sunday morning, and I felt slightly sad when I came to the end. Not because the end of the book is sad, but because the book was finished. Indeed, the epilogue is optimistic for the future, which is good to hear. I still can’t join the random book club though.

Ireland Cycling Adventure – Day 7

All good things must come to an end, and so after a hearty breakfast we hopped on our trusty steeds one last time for the short ride to the ferry terminal. It had rained heavily during the night so the roads were wet, but almost all of our route (5 miles) was on traffic free cycle paths. The only non cycle path section was the last mile into the terminal. Once again there were no clear signs for cyclists, or where we should go. However, once we reached the foot-passenger area we were told where to leave our bikes until someone would escort us onto the ferry. Being a Sunday the ferry was far busier, so the plan that we might nab a cheap cabin went out of the window as they were all taken. It wasn’t too bad as we had reserved comfy chairs once again.


Once we landed in Scotland we were allowed off the boat first, which was nice. Also, as we hadn’t gone through the terminal building we hadn’t managed to pay for our parking before we loaded up the car. I pressed the ‘help’ button at the gate and it was opened without us paying a penny. All that was left was the three and a half our drive home. Our full route can be seen below.


It was an amazing week with almost 250 miles of cycling, as well as seeing the Giant’s Causeway and spending a night in the Republic of Ireland. It would also appear from the news this week that Brexit will make a complete mess of everything across the whole border. When taking goods across the border, you need to ensure the trade route for your goods allows for your consignment to be checked at a border inspection post (BIP) at the first EU country you enter for export. There are two BIPs in Ireland, one in Dublin and the other at Shannon Airport. If you wanted to transport goods from Strabane on the Northern Irish side to Lifford in Southern Ireland, less than 2 miles apart, you would have to drive to Belfast, take a ferry to Scotland, drive to Holyhead, another ferry to Dublin, get checked at the BIP and then drive to Lifford, without entering Northern Ireland. Completely bonkers and unworkable. People will just cross the border, which the EU will not allow, resulting in a hard border. I predict that with a hard border, Ireland will be re-unified within five years, and Scotland will also leave the UK and re-join the EU.

Despite that, we are both looking forward to visiting both Northern and Southern Ireland in the future.

If you missed any of the other blogs for this cycling adventure, links can be found below.

Day 1 here

Day 2 here

Day 3 here

Day 4 here

Day 5 here

Day 6 here