Books and Gifts

Sixtyplusurfers Book Review

Colours of All the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith

Review By Jenny Itzcovitz

2018 is the 20th anniversary of the first publication of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

The Colours of All the Cattle, the 19th book in the international hit series, is a book full of the addictive charm, wit and intelligent sleuthing that are the hallmarks of Alexander McCall Smith’s writing. These books have now sold over 20 million copies in the English language alone and are translated into 46 languages around the globe.

In this new book, Mma Ramotswe’s friend is keen to persuade her to stand for election to the City Council. 

“We need women like her in politics,” says Mma Potokwani, “instead of having the same old men every time.”

To be elected, Mma Ramotswe must have a platform and some policies. She will have to canvas opinion. She will have to get Mma Makutsi’s views.

Her slogan is “I can’t promise anything – but I shall do my best.”

Her intention is to halt the construction of the Big Fun Hotel, a dubious, flashy business near a graveyard – an act that many consider to be disrespectful. Mma Ramotswe will take the campaign as far as she can, but lurking around the corner, as ever, is the inextinguishable, Violet Sephotho.

I always enjoy reading The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency novels, so I was delighted when the latest instalment landed on my doorstep. I’m not exaggerating, when I say there were ‘whoops of delight’. (My husband will vouch for this).

It didn’t take long to escape into the comforting and colourful lives of Mma Ramotswe and her loyal friends and work colleagues and watch her unravel a new case. An old family friend, Dr Marang has been injured in a hit and run car accident and his daughter, Constance is looking to find and punish the driver.

But this is not an easy case, especially when all they have to go on is a blue car.  So it’s lovely this time to see Mma Ramotswe seek help from Charlie, one of the young mechanics at Tlokweng Motors, who often helps out on a case, and watch him develop and mature as the book progresses.

And that’s not all, when Mma Ramotswe is strongly persuaded to stand for election to City Council, she is reluctant to step into the limelight. Will she withdraw, or help out her friends, who believe the other candidate, Violet Sephotho, will do irreparable damage?

I was thoroughly gripped, and enjoyed every word, in this charming new tale. Alexander’s view of the world is very astute, and there are many characters and emotions that ring true and tug at the heartstrings. Warm, witty, and like a big comforting hug, as you read it. This is the perfect book to beat the winter blues.

Author, Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world’s most dynamic, prolific and most popular authors. His career has been a varied one. For many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the United Kingdom and abroad.

Then, after the publication of The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, he devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his award winning books become bestsellers throughout the world. These include the Scotland Street novels, the Isabel Dalhousie novels, the Von Igelfeld series, and the Corduroy Mansions series, as well as his stand alone novels, children’s books and joyful non-fiction.

In addition he writes libretti, radio plays and has an interesting involvement in embroidery!

The Colours of All The Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith is published by Little Brown. Price is £18.99 for the hardback.

For more information about the book visit the website at

Sixtyplusurfers Book Review

A Yorkshire Vet Through the Seasons

Review By Simon Fine

Julian Norton is the familiar face from the Channel 5 television series A Yorkshire Vet. He is also a very entertaining author, as evident from his new book A Yorkshire Vet Through The Seasons, in which Julian recalls a collection of heart-warming stories and amusing anecdotes from his life as a vet based near Thirsk in North Yorkshire farming country.

Beginning in winter, when the rain lashes in from the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors, turning fields into quagmires and soaking through a vet’s waterproofs, the life of a vet is anything but glamorous with long hours, battling the elements to visit farms to tend their sheep and cattle.

Spring is the lambing season which brings frequent visits to help with difficult births. Summer is more the idyllic image of veterinary life, highlighted by the Great Yorkshire Show, while autumn brings the harvest which feeds the cattle. Each of the seasons brings unique challenges.

Julian recounts a great variety of stories featuring many types of creature from livestock to family pets. These include an injured swan which he returns, happily recovered, to its mate, racing greyhounds, a pointer that is hit by a car on the busy A1, cats with attitude and even the pet rabbit of his younger son Archie.

Treating sheep and cattle is a mainstay of his practice but increasingly he is called upon to care for goats, alpacas and donkeys, as the number of hobby farmers in North Yorkshire increases. As might be expected, it is not only the animals that are quirky, many of their owners are also amusing characters.

Whether he is tending to a domestic pet at his practice in Thirsk or called out to a difficult birth in a remote farm in the middle of a cold Yorkshire night, the animals always come first and Julian’s passion and commitment are always to the fore.

This book is full of delightful stories of animals and people and he conveys the highs and lows of his life of a vet. It is also an inspiration for anyone who loves animals as well as those who might aspire to becoming a vet.

Julian Norton qualified as a veterinary surgeon from Cambridge Veterinary School in 1996. He has spent most of his working life in his beloved North Yorkshire. In 2015, Skeldale Veterinary Centre became involved with filming the Channel 5 television series The Yorkshire Vet, in which Julian has the title role.

A Yorkshire Vet Through The Seasons by Julian Norton is published by Michael O’Mara Books. Price is £8.99 for the paperback.

For more information about the book visit

Sixtyplusurfers Book Review

I’m Champion,
Call Me Bob

Review by Simon Fine

Bob Champion was a remarkable jockey. His first win came at Larkhill point to point in 1964. He then joined Toby Balding’s stable as an amateur, turning professional in 1968. But his successful career was brought to a sudden and terrifying halt in 1979 when he was found to have testicular cancer.

Bob Champion’s autobiography is a remarkable story of how he survived cancer thanks to groundbreaking treatment, recovering to defy the odds by resuming his career and memorably teaming up with Aldaniti, a horse who had himself overcome serious injury, to win the 1981 Aintree Grand National.

Such was the public awareness of their story, a feature film, Champions, was released in 1984, with John Hurt playing the role of Champion. The public donations that followed the film led Bob to establish the Bob Champion Cancer Trust which has raised £15 million, funding research efforts that have significantly reduced testicular cancer deaths and furthered new research into prostate cancer.

Bob’s autobiography tells the story of his childhood, his life as a jockey, with the inevitable injuries and daily battle with the scales, the struggles of his cancer treatment, his inspiring recovery, overcoming numerous setbacks with the support of family, friends and the trainer Josh Gifford. Bob recalls the thrilling fence by fence account of that memorable victory with Aldaniti.

His account of that race captures the unique excitement of jumps racing. As a result of his Grand National success he was awarded an MBE in 1982. We also discover what happened after the hectic months of film premiers and media appearances.

His book recalls his retirement from the saddle and his subsequent career as a racehorse trainer and the tireless work of Bob and others to make such a success of the Bob Champion Cancer Trust. There is also the story of his family life and two divorces in acrimonious circumstances.

Bob is currently appearing in the BBC programme The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. His life story might not be exotic but it is quite remarkable and this book is a great read.

Racing legend Bob Champion was one of the top 10 professional jockeys in the UK. In 1979 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Following chemotherapy treatment, he won the nation’s hearts when, in 1981, he won the Grand National on Aldaniti.

The win, viewed by many as one of the greatest ever sporting triumphs, earned the pair the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Team Award. In 1983 he formed the Bob Champion Cancer Trust, which has raised almost £15m for cancer research and led, in 2011, to him being awarded the Helen Rollason award.

I’m Champion, Call Me Bob by Bob Champion MBE is published by FCM Publishing. Price is £19.99 for the hardback.

For more information about the book visit the website at

Best Buy for a Rainy Day

Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book

Get colouring and release your inner fashionista with The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book by Natasha Itzcovitz. Perfect for a rainy day or a break from the TV or your mobile phone, this stylish colouring book is ideal for all the family to enjoy, whatever your age!

This unique colouring book includes 100 beautifully drawn fashion illustrations to spark the imagination of everyone who enjoys fashion, history and style. You don’t need to be able to draw, the book is packed with stunning pictures for you to colour in!

Illustrations in the book include  historical characters, cute animals, fairytale princesses, pirates, people with interesting pastimes and professions, and fashionable street style characters.

A great gift for children and adult relaxation. Enjoy colouring on the train, while you wait for a meal in a restaurant, or sitting at an airport. It’s the perfect boredom buster. Order your copy now! Price is £8.99.

The Whimsical Fashion Colouring Book is published by Troubador.

Buy it now at Amazon


Sixtyplusurfers Book Review

Jamie Cooks Italy,
From the Heart of
the Italian Kitchen

Review By Jenny Itzcovitz

From his early days working with Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo to his famous stint at the River Café, Italian food has influenced Jamie from the very start of his career. It’s a country that’s always been close to his heart. 

Over the past two years Jamie has visited Italy whenever possible, travelling from the mountains in the north to the islands in the south, getting right to the heart of the food, people and places he loves so much.

During this journey, Jamie noticed that despite the world-famous Italian passion for food, there’s been a decline in how beloved family recipes are being passed from generation to generation. Busy lives and an increasing dependence on technology means it’s often easier to cut corners, and those all-important tips and decades of food knowledge are being lost. That’s where his latest book comes in.

Jamie Cooks Italy contains more than 140 new recipes that not only celebrate Jamie’s great love of Italian food, but also acknowledge the importance of what the Italian matriarchs of the kitchen – the nonnas and the mammas – can teach us. From Sicilian Artichokes to melt-in-the mouth beef Stracotto, Salina Chicken and Baked Risotto Pie to Stuffed Focaccia and Amalfi Lemon Tart, Jamie Cooks Italy enables readers to recreate the true tastes of Italy at home.

Jamie says, “Whether it’s recipe principles, flavour combinations, tips or techniques, I’ve gathered all this incredible insight in order to share with you the true heart and soul of Italian food, expressed through fresh, achievable recipes in an accessible modern way.

“From quick fixes and simple dishes with just a handful of ingredients to more indulgent cooking for weekends and special occasions, this book will deliver big on flavour and comfort, helping you to create food that will transport you straight to Italy and – ultimately – make you feel very happy. Viva Italia!”  

I love Italian food, my mother is a ‘nonna’ to my children and was brought up in Italy, so I was delighted to review Jamie Cooks Italy.

I was very impressed with this generous sized cookery book which is bursting with delicious recipes, hearty advice, and lots of fabulous colour photographs. There are so many recipes to choose from, whatever ingredients you prefer and lots of fabulous stories about the nonna’s in Italy who have helped create them.

I particularly like the Taralli – which are crispy, crunchy mini Italian bagels with fennel and salt. There’s also the yummy Limoncello Tiramisu, Sausage Linguini, Turbot Al Forno, Mozarella Bread … am I making your mouth water yet?

Treat yourself to this fabulous cookery book and invite your friends and family to enjoy the delicious results!

It would also make a very welcome Christmas gift, a present for a student, or someone moving into a new home.

Jamie Cooks Italy is published by Michael Joseph. Price is £26 for the hardback.

For more information about the book visit

Sixtyplusurfers Book Review

Crisis by Felix Francis

Review by Jenny Itzcovitz

Harrison Foster, a lawyer by training but working as a crisis manager for a London firm, is summoned to Newmarket after a fire in the stables slaughters six very valuable horses, including the favourite for the Derby. Quickly, Harry discovers there is far more to the ‘simple’ fire than meets the eye.

For a start, human remains are found among the equestrian ones – all the staff are accounted for, so who is the mystery victim?

Harrison knows very little about horses, indeed he positively dislikes them, but he is thrust unwillingly into the world of Thoroughbred racing where the standard of care of the equine stars is far higher than that of the humans who attend them.

Harrison represents the Middle Eastern owner of the Derby favourite and as he delves deeper into the unanswered questions surrounding the horses’ demise, he ignites a fuse that blows the investigation sky high – and puts him in grave jeopardy.

I’m always on the lookout for a detective book with a difference, so I was keen to read Crisis by Felix Francis.

I really enjoyed finding out more about the world of horse racing, and warmed to the character of Harrison Ford, who is asked to investigate a fire at Castleton House Stables, and a mystery body found at the burned out stables.

Harrison knows nothing about horses, but is enthusiastic and good at his job. I enjoyed watching him take the reigns and explore the mystery, despite the murderer’s clever attempts to cover their tracks, and put him in extreme danger.

Well researched, gripping and thoroughly entertaining, this is the perfect book for anyone who loves reading novels about horses, family drama, and fast paced action and adventure.

I look forward to reading more books by Felix Francis.

Author, Felix Francis

Felix Francis is a New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author of racing thrillers. He is the younger son of legendary thriller writer, Dick Francis, and since 2006, has taken over the writing of the ‘Dick Francis’ franchise.

Felix’s previous occupations include teaching Advanced Level physics as well as being deputy chairman of a worldwide expedition and leadership training company in London.

For a while in the 1990s he also ran  real estate business in Houston, Texas. He is now a full time writer, and he and his wife, Debbie, live in a four-hundred-year-old Manor House in rural England with their two Irish setters – who are really in charge. 

Crisis is published by Simon & Schuster. Price is £20 for the hardback.

For more information about the Felix Francis visit

For more information about the book visit  

Sixtyplusurfers Book Review

Rockstar Retirement Programme

Review By Simon Fine

Our world is changing at a faster rate than ever before. In the last decade, empowered by new technology, there have been wholesale changes in the way we live our lives, communicate, and collaborate.

Yet our approach to life-planning and our concept of retirement have failed to keep up. We are still following a retirement model from the age where many people took out a company pension in their early twenties, worked hard for forty years and retired frugally in their sixties. 

In this book, Dominic Watson takes us on a very different retirement journey, one that is fun and leads to a more rewarding destination. The title is deliberately misleading. This is not about a life of sex, drugs and rock & roll.

The book is designed to open everyone’s minds to the possibility of enjoying a fulfilling retirement on their own terms by taking control of their circumstances, planning for their future and making life-defining decisions. Using real life case studies this book offers insights on how to live the life you want.

The author challenges a number of popular myths. For example the wisdom of conventional financial planning, noting that financial advisors are the ones who can afford a life of luxury, while their clients take all the risks often for poor returns. He warns against your life being defined by your chosen career and recognises that many of us are worn down by our work, often because of bureaucracy which detracts from our primary objectives.

He offers many potential pathways to happy retirement, such as relocating abroad or to a cheaper part of the country, downsizing, flexible working, equity release and the vexed question of whether it is right to spend the kids’ inheritance.

I found this book extremely helpful and practical. I wish I had read it many years ago when I was beginning my career. It challenges the two “mainstream ways” most people adopt to their retirement, either behaving like an Ostrich or taking the Big Bang at 60 or 65.

Dominic recommends a far more proactive, flexible and imaginative approach which can work for almost anyone, as demonstrated by the many inspiring case studies.

For those wishing to explore this further, Dominic  Watson has his own website at which provides additional tools and resources.

Author, Dominic Watson

Dominic Watson has spent the majority of his working life as a specialist business broker and management consultant, helping owners of small to medium-sized businesses to sell their enterprises and to plan for retirement, or a change of lifestyle, focus or career.

He has had the unique insight of watching thousands of people plan and enter the retirement phase of their lives. He has helped many of these people to go on to live highly rewarding post working lives, or on alternative career paths.

Dominic is practising what he preaches and is well on track with his own Rock Star Retirement Programme, living life to the full on all levels.

Rockstar Retirement Programme: How To Retire Like A Rockstar by Dominic Watson is published by FCM Publishing. Price is £12.99 for the paperback.

For more information about the book visit the website at

Sixtyplusurfers Competition

Win a Christmas Hamper from
First 4 Hampers

Sixtyplusurfers has teamed up with First 4 Hampers to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a Christmas Wicker Hamper worth £49.99. 

Filled with everything for the perfect Christmas, First 4 Hampers’ Classic Christmas Hamper includes enough goodies for the whole family – if you want to share, of course. These traditional festive treats include mince pies, shortbread, marmalade and even delicious Christmas Pudding flavoured fudge – yum!

Filled to the brim with enough food and drink to last you through Christmas, a hamper is the perfect festive gift.  They’re ideal present for that person who has everything, or when shopping for a group of friends or family. 

Hampers also make light work of shopping, especially for anyone who struggles to get out onto the high street or simply would rather avoid the Christmas crowds. Simply order online and the hamper is all packaged up and ready to be delivered directly to the recipient’s door.

First 4 Hampers has a wide selection of hampers filled with delicious food, snacks, wine, beer or spirits. To help decide which hamper is perfect for you, we’ve created a handy list of top tips.

1. Who are you buying for?

It sounds obvious, but the recipient should always be the first thought when buying a hamper – everyone likes food and drink but not everyone will like the contents of every hamper.

The trick is to know what the recipient really likes and then find a hamper that matches these tastes. And, if buying for a group of recipients, such as a family, think about choosing a hamper that has something for everyone.

For that special someone who likes a spot of festive fizz, the Caraval with Prosecco Gift Box is ideal. It contains a bottle of delicious prosecco, mince pies, shortbread and more. 

For added luxury, perfect for two, try The Prosecco and Treats Gift Box containing a selection of treats for grownups only – or at least that’s what you can tell the grandkids!

2. Remember, hampers don’t have to be food and drink only

While food and drink hampers are the most popular, they’re not the only option. For anyone who’s potty about their pet, why not buy a present which can be enjoyed by both animal and human? 

The Best in Show Every Paw Dog Hamper is the perfect way to say ‘I love you’ to a favourite four-legged friend. This delightful gift set contains everything for a cosy night in, including Popcorn for Dogs and even Woof Dog Beer – although the dog’s beer is non-alcoholic and beef-flavoured, meaning no tiddly terriers.

The hamper also contains a selection of grain free dog treats and wheat free dog treats including baked dental oaties and Best in Show’s very own Peanut Butter & Jelly biscuit bites.

Or, if the hamper recipient is crazy about cats, Best in Show’s Cat Hampurrr is a purr-fect gift, packed to the brim with healthy and nutritious snacks and toys to keep your cat (and owner) entertained. The cat gift basket is full of natural, healthy and luxurious cat treats all delivered in an exclusive fish-shaped, handmade wicker basket. So, whether you’re looking for a cat gift for him, a cat gift for her or the perfect cat Christmas gift, we’ve got you covered.

3. Check the delivery dates

Don’t fall at the final hurdle! You’ve picked the perfect hamper and started your search early enough to ensure you find the perfect gift for Christmas, but will it get there on time?

It may sound obvious but failing to check delivery dates and times is a common error made by those ordering online.

Fortunately, First 4 Hampers offers free UK next day delivery on orders over £75. Phew!

As a special treat for Christmas we’re offering one lucky reader the chance to win a First4Hampers Christmas Hamper worth £49.99. .

For Your Chance to Win

Just tell us what shape
is the Best in Show
Cat Hampurrr?

        a) Ship-shaped
        b) Fish-shaped
        c) Clover-shaped
        d) Mouse-shaped

To Enter the Competition

Tell us what shape is the Best in Show Cat Hampurrr? Then send in your answer together with your name, address and telephone number by clicking on the Sixtyplusurfers link below:

* Please label your entry
First 4 Hampers

* This competition is open to
    our UK readers only

* Names and addresses of entrants
will not be shared with third parties
and will be deleted after the
prize draw has been made

Educational Family Games

Family Games from Orchard Toys

Brighten up a rainy day indoors with your grandchildren or family with a classic board game from Orchard Toys. Entertaining, educational and lots of fun, they’re the perfect alternative to watching television and playing computer games.

Shopping List

Race to fill your trolley with Orchard Toys’ bestselling, award-winning game Shopping List!

This shopping-themed lotto game, plus its two extras packs ‘Clothes’ and ‘Fruit and Veg’, will make the perfect present for any toddler…if you can find anyone who doesn’t already have them!

Suitable for ages 3-7, Shopping List is designed and made in Britain by Orchard Toys and makes an ideal gift for birthdays and Christmas.

Games Compendium

Orchard Toys’ Games Compendium features four fun games in one box! These include Old Macdonald Game, Monster Dominoes, Red Dog Colour Game and Jungle Snakes & Ladders, all based on classic Orchard Toys gameplay.

This compendium set offers variety, fun and great value for money…making it the perfect Christmas gift for ages 3-6.

Tried and Tested by Jenny Itzcovitz

I was looking for some simple and attractive games to play with my elderly parents who have dementia, and was delighted to try Shopping List and Games Compendium.

Shopping List was easy to play with attractive illustrations and had lots of bright pictures for word recognition and matching. We were able to discuss the pictures as we played and discuss our favourite foods and groceries. I was also able to encourage my mother to name the words in Italian, her second language. 

I was also really impressed with Games Compendium which came in a handy box with a carry handle. Our favourite was the traditional Snakes & Ladders which was beautifully illustrated with smiley snakes, bold ladders, and cute jungle animals such as a butterfly, parrot and cheeky monkey.

It was a great way to play an easy instantly recognisable game with no need to explain complicated rules, and encourage number, picture recognition and conversation.

The games are all perfect for young children, but I would also recommend these simple games for anyone with dementia who is looking for easy to play games which encourage number and word recognition, plenty of conversation and entertaining inclusive play.

Shopping List and Games Compendium are available to buy from all good toy shops and Orchard Toys.

For more information visit the website at

Gift Giving the Easy Way

Letterboxed Sized Gifts from PostBoxed

If you’re looking to send your gifts by post and want them to be easy to send and receive, then check out PostBoxed.

PostBoxed is an on-line gift shop and gift service selling high-quality, hand-wrapped small gifts that are all letterbox friendly. From organic baby bodysuits to handmade artisan leather wallets and fantastic Made in the UK jewellery, you will find a small present for any special occasion.

Markus Polleichtner and his partner Liza Mirelman founded the company after getting sick of travelling to their local delivery office to collect parcels.

If you want to give friends and family a gift, why should it come with the bother of either annoying a neighbour, standing in a queue or searching your garden for a missing parcel?

And while we think using drones or robots to deliver parcels is all well and good in the future, there is only one way of ensuring your gifts definitely make it to a recipient’s hallway – make sure it’s a postboxed gift.

For more information visit the website at

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