Review of The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife

My rating: 5 of 5 stars (more if they were available).
Genre: Non-Fiction – History – Animal Welfare – Military – Mythology

📖 Wow! What a book. I bought this as an impulse buy after watching the highly enjoyable “Inside the Tower of London” tv series on Channel 5. I had googled a few facts and stories from the show and up popped this book in amongst my search and I decided to give it a go, I am pleased to say I was not disappointed.

Cover – The Ravenmaster



✍️ Chris takes us through his life before the tower, at the tower and then of course the introduction to the ravens and their antics. The book is smart, funny and really insightful.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

According to Celtic legend, around here is also where the head of Bran the Blessed, the king of England in Welsh mythology, was buried. Bran means ‘raven’, and he’s supposed to have been buried not far from the ravens’ current enclosures, which seems appropriate.

👓 There are so many interesting tales in this book, but I particularly enjoyed all the myths and legends around both the tower and the ravens. I imagine Chris is a particularly interesting person to have a pint with, the stories he could rattle off!

👫 A lot of the stories are quite humorous where the clever ravens get up to some legendary Hijinx (occasionally at Chris’s expense). However, Chris also includes a chapter about the commemorative art installation for The First World War Centenary which saw the moat filled with thousands of poppies. I remember seeing this on the news at the time and it looked spectacular but reading Chris’s story regarding it choked up my throat and brought a tear to my eye! Bravo sir!

💭 Overall View: Hugely enjoyable book that would appeal to history readers, animal lovers, London tourists, military enthusiasts and so much more. Highly recommended.

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Special thanks to Joyce

I may have mentioned my family are going on holiday to London. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 We are visiting a lovely family member whom we haven’t seen since before the first lockdown.

🐕 This morning we packed our bags, took the dog to our friend’s house, then headed into town on the bus for some lunch as we “had plenty of time to spare”. Or so I thought…

📌 Whilst walking to the train station, realisation dawned on me. The train tickets were still proudly pegged to the notice board were I left them.

😥 We went to the ticket office, waited frantically in the queue only to be told “no tickets no travel”. I had the booking reference, the seat numbers even the credit card I paid on but the answer was still no.

😭 I was given the number for Northern Railway who I’d booked with, I called them and was passed from person to person, I was told I could rebook for the sum of £280 pp. I had originally paid less than £100 for all 3 tickets. We don’t have that kind of money. I looked at my little boys excited face and burst out crying. I’d ruined his holiday.

🧍‍♀️Just when all hope was lost, a lady from the ticket office came out. She told me if I could get the original tickets she would book us onto the next train.

🚕 I left my husband and son at the ticket office and hopped in the station taxis. I explained to the driver and amazingly he drove like a madman to my house (not something I’d normally encourage but on this occasion I was so grateful 🙏).

🎟 Returned triumphantly waving the tickets. Joyce the ticket officer true to her word put us on the next train. Although she’ll never see this, I can’t thank her enough for saving my little boys holiday. Your kindness has meant the world to us. ❤❤❤

We are on our way. ❤️

Review of BEDLAM: LONDON AND ITS MAD – 5 STARS

Bedlam: London and its Mad by Catharine Arnold

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Genre: NON-FICTION – HISTORY – MEDICAL – SCIENCE – MENTAL HEALTH – HORROR

This book is well worth 5 stars. Sometimes it can be quite dry reading and of course a lot of the extracts quoted in it are centuries old with a rather more difficult take on the English language but it really is worth persevering to get a real overview of the history and to get to the best parts (in my opinion) a real sense of the people involved.

Premise: This book captures everything from barbaric treatments, human zoos, manic doctors who were worse than the insane they treated (that is when they actually did the job of treating patients, not something they always did), beautiful buildings, advances through medical history, and even some fascinating insights into the first world war.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

As to those wild, wanton women drinkers, their tipple of choice, regarded as the source of all evil by many commentators, was tea. In his Observations on Maniacal Disorders (1792), William Pargeter condemned the frequent and immoderate use of tea.

I think this is possibly one of my favourite quotes for life now.

I found this book captivating and found myself regularly telling friends of its contents. I also stuck various post-it’s in it of interesting quotes (one of my favourites being about woman and tea as shown above) and of people or stories I want to follow-up and read more about.

Any Negatives: As mentioned earlier sometimes the historic language is difficult but I think once you settle into the book even that gets easier to read as you go along.

Excellently researched, a book that spans the years and gives so many different insights.

Overall View: So, a book that makes me want to read more books will always be worth 5 stars in my opinion. Great job by this author. I am intrigued to research their writing career and see if they have published any further works.

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Extract from BEDLAM: LONDON AND ITS MAD