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This is the flagship channel of the Sky Sports package and as such hosts Sky's biggest sporting events. In our house the buttons '4' '0' and '1' are virtually worn away on our Sky remote as it is probably the most watched channel after BBC 1, ITV and maybe Channel 4!
The main attraction is of course English Premiership football and their coverage of this is second to none. There is a Sunday game at 4pm and sometimes a Saturday and Sunday lunchtime game, although the latter two are sometimes on Setanta now. Sky Sports 1 showed every game involving a clash between the 'Big Four' last season and will do so again this year. My favourite part of their Premiership football coverage is Andy Gray, he is so enthusiastic and he is at his best on The Last Word with Richard Keys, where he analyses the game in detail with a host of gadgets - electronic touch screen and pens! My knowledge of the game isn't great but he puts it over in a very approachable way. Another highlight for us is Jeff Stelling on Gillette Soccer Saturday, he gets more and more excited as the final whistle approaches, and you've got other pundits shouting out scores from other matches. How he keeps the show together is beyond me! This is all of course because of the rule that no broadcaster can show live coverage of games that kick off at 3pm on Saturday, but it has developed somewhat of a cult following. When international friendlies are on England will take priority on SS1 with the other home nations on the other sports channels. This is understandable from Sky's point of view but in Scotland it causes much consternation, which is also understandable! England's World Cup qualifiers are now split between Setanta and ITV but Sky still hold the rights to Scotland's home qualifications (usually SS1) in addition to Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. From this season they no longer have the FA Cup but continue to show the Carling Cup and more importantly, games from the UEFA Champions League. They also sometimes show Football League and Spanish football, La Liga. Their coverage is modern, slick and professional and it makes BBC look very tired and dated by comparison.
Sky have shown the England cricket team's tours abroad more or less since they began broadcasting but two years ago they obtained the rights to live domestic test cricket. This is a shame in some respects because without terrestrial coverage the game tends to lose much of the nation's interest and I doubt very much whether I'd have got interested in the game if it had been on a specialist sports channel (a friend taught me the rules whilst watching it on Channel 4). But in other respects it's great because Sky's coverage is superior to that of Channel 4 and the BBC before it - no interruptions for racing or news and some of the best names of the English and international game commentating - Sir Ian Botham, David Gower, Michael Holding, Nasser Hussain. David Lloyd (known as Bumble) is the funniest commentator and is an absolute legend! In addition to the test matches they have all of England's ODIs, coverage of the World Cup, ICC Trophy, Pro40, Twenty20 Cup and usually two or three County Championship matches. Domestic internationals will usually be shown on SS1 but move to another Sky Sports channel nearer the end of the season, as football will then take priority.
Sky Sports 1 covers European Tour golf and two majors, the US Open and the USPGA as well as the jewel in their golfing crown, the Ryder Cup. I don't watch much of this but my dad tells me the commentators, Bruce Critchley and Ewen Murray are awful. Peter Alliss for him! The USPGA Tour is another casualty to Setanta.
They also cover rugby union Guinness Premiership and the Heineken Cup, as well as rugby league competitions the Super League and the Rugby League World Cup, but no-one in our house watches these. I prefer the rugby union World Cup and Six Nations, on ITV1 and BBC respectively.
One of my favourite parts of that lazy week between Christmas and New Year is settling down to watch the PDC World Darts Championship. This has the best darts players in the world including Phil 'The Power' Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld and is thus generally regarded as superior to the BDO Championship (the one on BBC). Sid Waddell is another commentator who really livens up his sport and some of his quotes have become legendary - "Jocky Wilson ... what an athlete.", "This lad has more checkouts than Tescos.", "There hasn't been this much excitement since the Romans fed the Christians to the Lions.", "The players are under so much duress, it's like duressic park out there!" They cover other darts competitions like the Premier League.
They have lost a lot of British boxing to Setanta but still retain some British boxers. Many of their flagship fights are on pay-per-view rather than the main channel. So if you want to watch Ricky Hatton lose, you'll have to pay extra for Sky Box Office ;)
They cover many extras in between and have lots of archive programming as well, but these are the cream of Sky Sports 1's sports coverage. This isn't even to mention many of their other great events like ATP Tour Tennis and the US Open, but they are usually on Sky Sports 3 or Xtra and I have tried to keep this a Sky Sports 1 review as far as possible. Their live sporting calendar is 52 weeks a year, and if you are a sports fan and can afford it, it really is a must!
The Nationwide is the largest building society in Britain and indeed the world. It is owned by its members in contrast to conventional banks which are plc's owned by shareholders. Many building societies demutualised and became plc's in the 80's, 90's and early 00's including Abbey National, Alliance & Leicester, Bradford & Bingley, the Halifax and Northern Rock but the Nationwide has stuck to its guns so far and remained a building society. Bearing in mind this not-so-sterling list of companies in these turbulent economic times, I can't see this changing any time soon!
So the Nationwide is seen as somewhat of a 'safe haven' at the moment but has this allowed them to get a bit complacent? I've noticed, looking at the money sections for the past few weeks, that their products rarely feature in the top 5 for competitve rates, whether that is credit cards, loans, mortgages, ISAs, savings and so on (though at the moment their flexible mortgage rate is best at 5.68%). I have my credit card with the Nationwide and it is a cash reward card with a reward rate of 0.5%. This has a higher interest rate than other cards but as I pay the balance off each month it is a win-win for me! I have an ISA with them but am considering transferring this to NatWest because the rate is much higher - best cash ISA at Nationwide is 6.15% compared with 6.5% at Natwest for the amount I'm wishing to invest. I also have an e-Bond which is paying a rate of 6.5%, well above Bank rate, but again this is a shade under the best rate which I believe is Bradford & Bingley at 6.7% (though again, this may not be entirely wise given the economic climate!) My current account is with them too but the less time your money is in this, the better!
One thing Nationwide really has going for it is the level of service and the friendliness of the staff. Queues are shorter and service is readily available at branches, phone and on their excellent online banking service. Staff are always very willing to help and have even cancelled interest and late charges when I have been late paying my card through no fault of my own, e.g. paying it way before the deadline but it not going through on time because of bank holidays, the slow system etc. This is very generous and I know not all banks would be so forgiving. I now pay online though to make absolutely sure and this goes through the next working day. If you pay through the branch it can take up to five working days to go through their 'system' so this is well worth doing. Their advisers at the branches are very knowledgeable and helpful, but then this isn't surprising as they're trying to get more of your money!
Nationwide don't punish you with worse rates for using a chequebook, which is good because I still like to keep a chequebook to pay membership fees and the like.
Some of Nationwide's rates are disappointing given their mutual status. Given they don't need to make a profit, they should be more competitive than the banks, more of the time. Their level of service, however, is second-to-none so I will be keeping much of my banking with them for some time to come.
It was with reluctance that I first joined that Mac 'club'. I had had experience with Macs about ten years ago at school - the old black and white monitors and more inferior features to the PC. I always regarded Apple users as having a rather geeky, fanboy image. Then of course there were the famous problems regarding the Mac's incompatibility with popular software. But things have moved on from there and the modern iMac has a lot going for it.
One of the principal attractions of getting a Mac was that they are less prone to virus, spyware etc. than Windows PCs. There are various theories about this, from Windows' massive market share in comparison with other operating systems making it a much more attractive target (why target a OS with less than 10 per cent market share?), security holes in the Windows software, to many hackers having a personal vendetta against Bill Gates and Microsoft and the tremendous power they hold over the computer software market. Whatever the reason, Macs do seem to be less vulnerable to security issues. This is borne out by my own experience. My Dell PC used to run like a snail and crashed regularly, and this may have been due to viruses or other malware. I did run anti-virus software but then you have the cost of the updates, and even the freeware could slow your system to a crawl. I had a bad experience where my PC had to be repaired due to malware or some other 'bug' and many programs just failed to work after it e.g. AutoUpdate and Google Earth. My Mac has only crashed a handful of times in a year by contrast and runs faster. With Macs you don't have this problem because there is generally no need for anti-virus, and although anti-virus software is available for the Mac, it is not widely used or seen as necessary. One analogy (possibly exaggerated!) for getting anti-virus software for a Mac is walking around town wearing a hard-helmet, just in case you are hit by a piece of space junk from the sky!
Even when programs do get infected on Macs, they aren't prone to spreading around other software on the computer, in contrast with the PC where a virus can destroy the whole system. The Mac operating system, Mac OS X, does come with its own firewall though and is less intrusive than my previous firewall for PC, McAfee.
Another appeal of the iMac was its design. It is a kind of desktop/laptop hybrid and suits my own needs very well, I have a bone condition where sometimes sitting at a desk for a long period of time can cause pain, and sometimes I can't do it at all. It is portable around the house - I am writing this relaxing in front of the TV just now instead of at my desk. This came without many of the disadvantages of a laptop - principally the higher cost for lower specifications. The monitor is excellent quality, very crisp with more vibrant colour than my old LCD monitor (not the one that ccame with the Dell PC).
Macs are now more compatible with software than before, although there are exceptions to this which I will note in a moment. Microsoft Office is available for the Mac and I haven't noticed any difference between that and the Windows version. This was a big selling point because Word, Excel et. al are ubiquitous and I use them at work, so I didn't really want to learn a new format, and taking work home could have been a nightmare! All major programs can usually be used on a Mac and popular file formats are supported - I transferred most of my old PC hard drive to the mac and picture, word processing, video, audio files have all been supported. The one notable exception to this is .exe files, I haven't managed to find an easy way to do this yet although a quick google shows it is possible. This hasn't been too much of a problem though as my .exe files were all small programs like downloaded games. Which brings me to another disadvantage - PC games usually aren't Mac-compatible. I only played a couple of games on my PC, preferring console gaming, but if you are a PC gamer then this would obviously be a major turn-off. There are ways around this - you can now run Windows on a Mac, for instance - but if you are a dedicated gamer, the PC is still very much king. There is also free software called Flip4Mac which converts Windows Media files (.wmv) to Quicktime format for the Mac. It doesn't play DRM-protected content though which can be annoying. There are free programs available to use MSN on the Mac.
I do like the desktop design on the Mac, but something like Windows taskbar would be useful, so that open programs are only a 'click' away. The quickest way to find open programs on Mac is to minimise them and click them on the dock, but this is still one click more than with Windows. Mac mice could also benefit from a two-button mouse, as the right mouse button is used a lot nowadays. You can emulate the right-mouse button by pressing Ctrl and clicking the mouse, but again this is double the work of Windows.
The slogan of Mac adverts used to be 'it just works' and in my experience that is very much true. My all-in-one printer and digital camera have worked without the original drivers, and the iPhoto software for photo-editing is excellent. It also automatically uploads the videos from my digital camera. You can edit those clips, or perhaps ones you've downloaded, into your own iMovie. This is the easiest program involving editing movie clips I've ever used, and I'm definitely no expert. Best of all, this is all free with Mac OS X! Other great extras include Dashboard, which can bring up local weather, stock markets and even flight information amongst much more, literally at the click of a mouse (just click the scroll button), Garageband, a free music-making software and a stylish-looking chess game and a built-in, high-res webcam. As with the monitor, the colour output of the webcam is very good. It also has AirPort Extreme wireless internet built-in, although you will of course need a wireless modem or router.
So overall I am very pleased with my decision to go for a Mac. It has been more reliable than the PC - much less seems to go wrong with it. Some programs not working can still be a nuisance, but this is getting better all the time and is more than made up for by the features available with the computer and its ease-of-use. The transition from PC to Mac is pretty seamless nowadays and I use both, Mac at home and PC at work. But now I would consider myself very much part of the Mac club!
Mac OS X v. 10.4.11
Processor 1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Memory 512 MB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
For this op I am going to use adapted extracts from my fictional 'mini-manifesto' against the planned Scottish smoking ban which I designed to annoy some anti-smoking friends. I hope it conveys my argument well :)
CROSS (Choice and Rights On Smoking Scotland)
What is CROSS?
CROSS is a new campaign group, which defends the right of the law-abiding smoker to light up in certain public areas. We are against any blanket ban by the Scottish Executive and will organise active protests against such legislation.
So you guys want smoking in every pub and restaurant across the country?
Absolutely not! We firmly believe that the decision on whether or not smoking is allowed lies in the hands of the owner of the establishment (pub, club, restaurant etc.) in question. We fully support the pubs and restaurants that have taken the decision to go fully non-smoking (e.g. Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Atmosphere Not Smoke in Glasgow) especially where there are many customers who are young children.
But doesn't passive smoking kill thousands of people a year?
We accept that there is a possibility of risk involved in passive smoking, but that it has been blown out of all proportion. Scientists tell us that 5,000 or so people die every year from passive smoking, but how many of these people were in their 80's or 90's, likely to die of natural causes anyway? How many lived in polluted cities, which is supposed to be the equivalent of smoking 20 a day? How many ate fried breakfasts every morning? Drank heavily? Behind every statistic is a human being with a unique lifestyle and it is unfair to box people into these categories on very sketchy evidence.
You preach civil rights of the smoker, what about the rights of the worker?
We agree that this is a tough one to call, but if you work in the hospitality industry is just one of the factors that must be considered when taking on the job. If you are allergic to nuts, you don't apply for a job in a nut-shelling factory, do you? If you can't stand children, you don't apply for teacher training. If you can't tolerate a smoky environment, then don't apply for a job in a smoky pub! Common sense over political correctness, please?
What if I want to go out for a drink, followed by a nice meal and be in a comfortable, smoke-free environment?
Then, as we said above, you should have a range of establishments to choose from where you can enjoy a non-smoking atmosphere. This choice should lie with individual proprietors and is not a decision to be made by an interfering nanny state!
Smoking bans have worked in other countries, why not here?
This very much depends on who you talk to. Of course the Irish health minister is going to say his ban has been a success, how many politicians do you know will admit they are wrong? A study by BBC Frontline Scotland has shown that compliance with the law has not been as high as the Irish government have boasted. On the other side of the coin, the filthy, smelly smokers (words of the anti-smoking brigade) are crammed out onto narrow pavements, not a pretty sight on the streets of New York or Dublin. This means that passing pedestrians, especially young children, will be exposed to more smoke than if the smokers were allowed to smoke in the private establishments. Add to this the increase in smoking in the home and you have a problem. Takings in the hospitality industry are down (especially in rural areas) as people flock to different states, or in Ireland's case, to Wales or Scotland for the day to enjoy a pint and a fag in a friendly, local pub. And if public smoking is so unpopular here, why are the smoky pubs full to the brim at weekends, whilst the non-smoking pubs are comparitively deserted?
Doesn't this cost the NHS billions?
Not as much as the billions poured into the Exchequer from tobacco sales!
Isn't heavy drinking more of a public nuisance anyway?
Totally agree. This government is exercising gross double standards by encouraging 24-hour binge-drinking on the one hand (along with its related problems of violence and crime) and on the other, vilifying law-abiding people who just want to have a quiet cigarette. Just ask any policeman, paramedic or nurse which is the bigger menace on a Saturday night.
This is all part of a wider culture of eroding personal responsibility in British life and increasing the role of interfering government. Choice for non-smokers and smokers, NOT a nanny state.
The Times has recently changed its format - it is now tabloid size, but still very much broadsheet in quality. It calls itself a compact to distinguish itself from other tabloid papers such as the Daily Mail, and there is a clear distinction. Stories are reported in an in-depth, non-sensationalist and balanced way and The Times does not try to disguise opinion as news. It is this quality of journalism which has earned The Times the reputation of being Britain's "paper of record".
Its rivals are the newly-compact Independent and the broadsheets Daily Telegraph and The Guardian. It is my paper of choice because of its compact size and balanced reporting, The Grauniad and Torygraph showing left/right wing bias respectively. It is 50p which is cheaper than the afformentioned papers.
In the paper I enjoy reading the main news and usually there will be a double-page spread on the big story of the day, with useful facts, figures and comment. There is a parliamentary sketch by Ann Treneman taking the rise out of our politicians and is usually a good laugh. The letters page is full of well-written letters by Ordinary Members of the Public, politicians from the main parties and other leading public figures, as well as the usual "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" letters from retired Colonels. The funny letters are usually in the bottom-right corner!
Their comment pages have the Leading Articles (or Leaders) giving the paper's official stance on major issues as well as articles from other journalists such as ITN's Nick Robinson. Overall, a Labour bias is clear - most of the comment articles about Iraq, for example, talk about democracy in the Middle-East rather than missing WMD or the 100,000 killed in Iraq. But I think that they generally get a good balance of opinion, for example on Friday they published an article by Michael Howard despite being a pro-Labour paper. You certainly do not get the reactionary "Brussels is destroying Britain/We're Being Overrun with Immigrants" mentality common to the Daily Mail (spit!) and the like. Like all papers there are cartoons which add a bit of humour, especially to the political stories.
There is a section devoted to world news, which is handy because I like to skim the world stories, preferring to read about the domestic agenda (with Mr Blair it seems like the other way round!). There is also the Business/Register/Sport section which was separate when the paper was a broadsheet but is now integrated with the rest of the paper. This is slightly annoying because it means I can't give the sports pages to my Dad while I read the paper and then swap over. Can't have it all, I suppose? The Register is full of various formal items such as obituaries (today on Lord Callaghan of Cardiff), legal notices and the official Royal Court Circular which details the engagements of the royal family which do not interest me much, but I highly recommend the Q&A column. This is where you can send in questions on almost any matter to be answered by readers. They also have a daily debate for readers to write in their opinions on an issue which is very interesting.
I couldn't review the paper without briefly mentioning the sport but the problem is I don't usually read the sports pages, preferring to watch sport than read about it. My dad does tell me that their sports reporting is poor in that they often don't print the results of football matches that kicked off at 7.45pm or later. They print all the usual racing form you would expect and give a lot of coverage to cricket, my favourite sport, so that goes in their favour.
The Times crossword is full of fiendish clues, very much for the intellectual brain. I cannot get to grips with it - can *you*? One thing the Daily Mail has going for it is that at least I can do the crossword!
Every day they have the T2 mini magazine with fashion and more celebrity news than the main paper, as well as in-depth articles on more social or human interest stories. On Saturday there are also 4 supplements (weekend Review, body&soul, money and travel) a media guide and magazine (Recipes by Gordon Ramsay, restaurant reviews by Giles Coren, fashion and much more) and for this reason it is 85p on Saturdays. These are full of good articles but unfortunately I just don't have time to read as many as I want! My favourite is Julie Burchill's article in Review - she is an outspoken feminist and her views, whilst often questionable, are great to read as they are so independent and away from "the norm".
I highly recommend The Times for deep coverage of *real* news, not celebrity rubbish, and intelligent, balanced comment with minimal bias. Now if only I could do that crossword....
Around two years ago when I started seeing the adverts for Sky + - an updated Sky Digital box that could pause and rewind live TV, record up to 20 hours of programmes onto hard drive at broadcast quality (no more videos) and record one Sky channel whilst watching another - I thought, ?this is for me?. Countless times there was conflict in the house when my father was watching a Premiership match or the end of a golf tournament on Sky Sports, whilst I wanted to watch classic comedy on UK Gold or my mother wanted to see a documentary about spiders, both her phobia and fascination. There were other times when I?d miss a crucial scene in EastEnders because I had to answer the phone (although I have since, thankfully, cured myself of the awful Eastenders-watching habit!), miss a news caption or miss the some of vast quantity of information thrown at me on-screen during a cricket match and wish I could have seen it again. Scrambling around trying to find a tape when a good programme is starting; having to watch poor quality VHS pictures; stacks and stacks of tapes building up beside the TV, behind the couch, unlabelled?. ?Sky +?, I thought, ?would solve these problems and possibly make the house more peaceful?. I gave my father all this information but although I was a peacemaker I was also a realist. My father would not be prepared to fork out £450 (I believe this was the price at the beginning?) plus the £10 a month Sky+ ?tax? on top of the Sky Sports World package, which already cost £35 a month; and - of course - the TV licence itself. I did not expect him to. However, last September, I spotted an advert about Sky + which would change the situation dramatically. The equipment and installation now cost £250, and the dreaded monthly ?tax?, which was the s
ticking point? was no longer*. My saviour ? thank you Rupert Murdoch! *As long as you receive at least two premium Sky channels (that?s movies and sport) as part of your Sky package there i s no extra monthly fee for Sky+. None! Zero, zilch! We already received Sky Sports 1, 2 and 3 so we were exempt from the £10 a month. HURRAH! Within a matter of days I had managed to twist Dad round my little finger ;-), genuinely assuring him that he would get as much use out of the new box as me and Mum. We booked the installation online (as it was a special £200 offer online, another bonus!) and it was due the following week. I awaited D-Day (D for digibox) with eager anticipation as though it were an early Christmas; and was not disappointed when the day arrived?. First, a few words about its appearance ? the new Sky+ remote and box were a sleek, metallic grey in colour. The digibox itself had cool green and red lights that indicated play, record etc and was just slightly larger than our old box. The hard drive and fan (look ma, it?s even got a fan!) emitted a quiet whirring sound. The new remote had six new buttons that were really easy to understand as they used the universal symbols for recording (red circle for record, square for stop etc.). Well, I understood ?em anyway! The instructions were in plain English. Not that I bothered to read them at first. I wanted to test drive my new machine.... Well, it did everything it said on the tin! The live pause and instant rewind worked even better than I had imagined, and it could be set to rewind up to 45 minutes back. I was soon recording programmes into the planner and watching them when I pleased. The planner is easy to work as it works on the same principle as regular Sky, using select, the
colour buttons which correspond to the functions shown at the bottom of the screen, and the arrows. The ?record one channel whilst watching another? feature was a treat when I recorded a classic Eastenders marathon (hey, at least it?s better than current Eastenders) whilst Dad watched Gillette Soccer Saturday. One particularly amazing aspect of the recording process is as follows: r>Say a programme starts at 10.00 and ends at 12.00. You set the whole programme to record (just use the Electronic Sky Guide, no need to enter times), as you will be out when it starts, but you arrive home at 11.00. You can actually watch that programme immediately, from the start, whilst the rest of it is recording, effectively watching the show on a 1-hour delay. In other words you do not have to wait until the programme ends before you start watching your recording of it. Amazing or what? The rewind feature is great for going back if you have missed what someone has said or to see a funny moment in a comedy show again (watching the same bit again and again on a video is one of my annoying habits, I?m afraid). I do not find I use the pause much as the rewind function effectively carries out the same task. Recording on Sky+ is great for going on holiday as you can record around 20 hours of programming, so you aren?t limited to a 4-hour tape; or 8-hours on grainy long-play. You can now even record 2 channels at the same time whilst watching one of them, or a recorded programme. It now also stores the last 45 mins of the channel you are watching so if you have seen or heard something you think is worth keeping, you just press the ?R? button and it actually records what has already passed. How cool is that? Upgrades are sent automatically to the Sky+ box with no charge, so you don?t have to lift a finger. A few more mi
nor features are: The ability to record specific times rather than specific programmes (this is necessary for radio programmes) To ?bookmark? points in a recording for quick and easy reference, or to enter a certain point in a recording by entering its time (in minutes) To mark programmes for keeps, i.e. to take priority when some programmes have to be deleted automatically for space on the disk To set time before and after a programme to record in case it is early or (mo re likely) late Series link option (e.g. record every episode of the Simpsons automatically) Choosing programmes to play one after the other to copy on to VCR, and Fast forwarding and rewinding recordings up to 30x normal speed (great for bypassing commercials) However, there are a few disadvantages, but not enough to detract from its 5 stars. When we went to New York for 4 days I had set 3 or 4 programmes to record but one of them failed. No explanation, the box just froze (as sometimes happens with Sky digiboxes, both Sky and Sky+) when I tried to playback the show and I had to delete it. It is the only time it has failed on me and it was not *that* important a programme but it could well have been, so there are issues with the reliability that need to be addressed; besides, I have read of people who have had far worse experiences with the reliability of Sky+. With the exception of BBC and Sky, TV companies are not very good at changing their electronic listings if programming changes due to sport or breaking news, so if you set a show to record and then the schedule changes there is no guarantee that Sky+ will accommodate this change. However, this is genuinely the fault of the broadcasters and not the equipment; and as I say, it doesn?t usually happen with BBC a
nd Sky?s own channels. It is sensible to set about 10 minutes ?padding? before and after the programme just in case, and once you have set this, it will always happen automatically. Crazy as it may sound, 20 hours capacity (40Gb hard drive) ain?t enough, especially when there are armchair sports fans in the house! The higher the picture quality, the more room a programme takes up, so on Sky?s sport or movie channels the figure may be closer to 15 hours. This is where tapes are still necessary - if your hard drive is full or if you want to keep a programme you must copy it onto a tape and then delete from the Sky+ Planner (just press the yellow button!) . It is possible to upgrade to 80 or 120 Gb but, personally, I?d rather use tapes. Since I got Sky+ I have only used tapes about 3 times so it wouldn?t be worth it. Strangely, rewind and pause do not apply to live radio, and you cannot record by programme. In other words, you must go through the rigmarole of setting the exact time of the programme rather than just pressing a button. Another disadvantage is the price if you don't receive premium channels. You will still have to pay the £120 a year subscription which is a big turn-off. A useful feature would be the ability to store a programme on a portable disk so that you could, for example, take it to a friend?s house to watch, rather than having to copy to video. The fact that if you want to archive programmes you still need to copy them to video shows that Sky+ does not entirely replace the humble VCR. We have been very lucky with our Sky+. On dooyoo and digitalspy I have read stories of crashing boxes and failed recordings. These have, touchwood, been very limited almost to the point of non-existence in our house. There is almost always a backlog of recorded programmes to watch (a savi
our from daytime TV schedules during the holidays) and all fantastic picture and sound quality. I find myself watching more interesting programmes, particularly documentaries because before I just wouldn?t have had the time, now I can watch them when *I* want, not when the TV channels decide. The ability to record and watch different Sky channels is a godsend during the long football season, I can tell you. My parents and I use instant rewind all the time to catch bits of programmes we?ve missed (but I do have to keep telling them how to use it). As the advert says, now I can fit TV around my life not fit my life around TV, and partly due to being physically disabled, I do watch rather a lot of TV! Sure it has its faults but, for me, the benefits outweigh the faults by about 99 to 1. So, thanks to Sky, for giving us such a great invention at a great price. And thanks to you for reading this long review ;) - I just felt that if I missed something out I wouldn't be doing it justice. Now... after all that, I think I'll relax and watch a bit of television :)
Spicy curries? A beer or two? Christmas dinner, with all the chocolates and nuts after? Late dinner? Pigging out on takeaways? For me, these indulgences usually lead to one thing - uncomfortable and often painful indigestion/heartburn. It can keep me awake at night and make me feel quite sick. Why does pleasure so often come with a price? Well, not any more! As long as there are Rennie Soft Chews in the cupboard, help is at hand. These green, chewy, spearmint-flavoured tablets have relieved my symptoms every time I have needed them. By chewing one (sometimes two, if I've had rich food or fizzy drink late in the evening) of them I can feel the fire in my belly cool down rapidly as the alkaline calcium carbonate (more commonly known as chalk!) counteracts the acid produced in my stomach as a result of rich food or alcohol. I have tried another indigestion remedy from Tesco and it is just as effective at relieving the symptoms of heartburn and indigestion. This is because the active ingredient is always the same chalky calcium carbonate. However, the Soft Chews are the tastiest indigestion tablet, in fact if I had been offered a blind tasting I would have thought they were soft mints! They do not crumble like other tablets, so you can chew them slowly, making the whole process more pleasant. Here is the boring technical information that Rennie show on their website (and the leaflet provided in the box) about Soft Chews: "1. NAME OF THE MEDICINAL PRODUCT Rennie Soft Chews 800mg Chewable Tablets 2. QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE COMPOSITION Calcium Carbonate 800.0 mg For excipients see section 6.1 3. PHARMACEUTICAL FORM Chewable Tablets. Square green soft chewable tablets 4. CLINICAL PARTICULARS 4.1 Therapeutic indications For the relief of indigesti
on, heartburn, nervous indigestion, hyperacidity, flatulence, upset stomach, dyspepsia, biliousness, overindulgence in food and drink, indigestion during pregnancy. 4.2 Posology and method of administration Tablets to be taken orally, sucked or chewed. Adults: One or two tablets to be sucked or chewed as required, to a maximum of ten tablets a day. Elderly: No special dosage regimen is required, but care should be taken to observe the contraindications and warnings. Children: Children over 12 years: As adults. Children under 12 years: Not recommended. 4.3 Contraindications Hypersensitivity to any of the ingredients. Hypercalcaemia 4.4 Special warnings and special precautions for use Use of calcium-containing antacids should be avoided in patients with moderate to severe renal failure. Diabetic patients should note that the product contains 1727 mg sucrose. It also contains glucose syrup which contains the equivalent of not more than 912 mg maltose per tablet and not more than 146 mg glucose per tablet. 4.5 Interactions with other medicaments and other forms of interactions Antacids may impair the absorption of other drugs, e.g. iron, tetracyclines, and vitamins, if taken concomitantly. 4.6 Pregnancy and lactation Well-conducted epidemiological studies indicate no adverse effects of calcium carbonate during pregnancy or on the health of the foetus / newborn child. Rennie Soft Chews can be used during pregnancy and lactation. 4.7 Effects on Ability to drive and use machines Not relevant. 4.8 Undesirable effects Ingestion of large quantities of calcium carbonate may cause alkalosis, hypercalcaemia, or milk alkali syndrome. These usually only occur following larger than rec
ommen ded dosages. 4.9 Overdose Prolonged use of high doses of calcium carbonate can result in hypercalcaemia, metabolic alkalosis and reversible renal failure. Symptoms include, nausea, vomiting and abnormal muscular weakness. In such cases, the product should be withdrawn and adequate isotonic fluid intake encouraged. In addition to symptomatic treatment haemodialysis and other therapeutic measures such as saline diuresis have also been used. Intravenous biphosphonates have employed very effectively in the management of hypercalcaemia, with resolution of the condition over several days. 5. PHARMACOLOGICAL PROPERTIES 5.1 Pharmacodynamic properties Calcium carbonate reacts with excess acid in the gastric medium to produce soluble calcium chloride. ATC Code. A02AC 5.2 Pharmacokinetic particulars A small amount of calcium may be absorbed, but in healthy subjects is usually rapidly excreted by the kidney. The soluble chloride produced by the reaction of calcium with gastric acid react, in turn, with intestinal, biliary and pancreatic secretions to form insoluble salts, which are eliminated with the faeces. 5.3 Preclinical safety data There are no pre-clinical data which are additional to those already stated in other sections of the SPC. 6. PHARMACEUTICAL PARTICULARS 6.1 List of excipients Glucose syrup. Sucrose Water Hydrogenated refined vegetable oil Glycerol Peppermint flavour Lecithin Quinoline yellow, E 104 Brilliant blue, E 133 Purified talc 6.2 Incompatibilities Not applicable. 6.3 Shelf life 18 months, unopened. 3 months opened. Once the outer packaging has been opened the contents should be used within 3 months. 6.4 Precauti
ons for st orage Do not store above 25 C. 6.5 Nature and contents of container Individual tablets are wrapped in a laminate consisting of aluminium foil 7µm (18.9gsm), and siliconised paper (45gsm). Eight individually wrapped tablets are placed in a heat sealable laminate comprising of aluminium foil 9µm, bleached kraft paper (49gsm) and heat-sealing wax. The sticks of 8 tablets are packed into a polypropylene flow wrap to contain either one or three sticks of 8 tablets. Pack sizes: 8, 24 tablets 6.6 Instructions for use/handling No special requirements Always read the label." A lot of information for a chewable indigestion tablet, methinks! So I would highly recommend these chewy tablets for anyone with the symptoms described above, they aren't as chalky as other indigestion remedies but more expensive than generic indigestion remedies (e.g. supermarket own brand tablets) that are just as effective. Rennie also sell tablets (which do the same job as Soft Chews but are more crumbly like chalk), Rap-Eze (fruit-flavoured tablets like Tums), Sugar-Free, and Rennie Deflatine which contain added ingredients for the relieve of trapped wind and embarrassing flatulence!
Chewin' the Fat has just started it's fourth series up in Scotland and it's first series in the rest of the country. I started watching it from series two and I would have to disagree wi' all the patter that it's going downhill. The programme stars three main actors: Ford Kiernan, Greg Hemphill and Karen Dunbar and a few others, sometimes from the actors' families. I'm sure you all know it's made up of different sketches, usually taking the pish out of Glasgow and Scottish culture. There used to be the Lighthouse Keepers. One would play tricks on the other prompting the dialogue "Gonnae no dae that" "How?" "Just gonnae no" It became a catchphrase in offices, schools, canteens etc. throughout Scotland and was really funny but I think they were dropped at round about the right time (ie this series); it being a one-joke sketch. UPDATE: One of them was killed off in the last show of the series, in a hilarious sketch where the victim of the pranks tried to get his own back, but his plan backfired. Damnit! There's Ronald Villiers fae the acting company Widdecome and Pump. He's an idiotic actor who.... can't, basically. You really have to see and hear this guy to find him funny. He's one of the two sketches in the programme that I think will never die out and deserve their own series. My favourites, the Dixons salesmen with cheesey expressions who take the piss out of all their customers, usually chasing them away. A typical dialogue: SALESMAN 1-"What's your name, mucker?" CUSTOMER-"Jonathan" SALESMAN 2-"You look like a whizz kid Johnny Boy, wi' that beard an' a'" SALESMAN 1-"Are you a hacker?" SALESMAN 2-"Whit kind ye after, John O' Groats?" SALESMAN 1-"Ye just buyin wan tae look up dirty pictures, Johnny Rotten?" SALESMAN 2-"Ye'll
need a wipe-clean screen, Johnny bag" CUSTOMER-"I'm actually in for a Hoover" SALESMAN 1-"A Hoover? Are you under the thumb, Johnny-Ball-and-Chain?" The dialogue just goes so fast it's so like Dixons salesmen harassing you. Then there's Jack and Victor, two old men getting to grips with a modern world, and desperately wanting their "Nat-King-Cole". Last night's episode they had portable heart monitors on their wrists and kept on reading out their heart rate. Then one burned his dinner and got really agitated until his heart was 162 b.p.m. His friend then started winding him up and down, and so went his heart rate. This is the other sketch that deserves its own series. The show takes the piss out of docusoap programmes, like the Scottish policeman swapping to New York for 3 weeks. The Scot and the American both go into a restaurnt and the American orders something like "One rye-bread sandwich, smoked salmon, creamed cheese, hold the mayo, and Black Java to go" The Scottish cop asks for "A cup of tea with milk and two sugars, a roll and square sauasage and a chocolate snowball" In other words, our food culture is pretty boring! The Glesga Neds: Gies a gobble ya dobber! Two typical young Glasweigan males calling everybody insulting names, wearing trackies, nicking stuff, getting pissed, smoking dope etc. There's also Rab McGlinchie interpreting for the neds on a news programme. The main newsreader says "The Scottish Health Board have expressed concern over the lack of fruit and vegetables in the Scottish diet" McGlinchie says: "So a' yi dae is order two pickled onion wi' every fish supper, simple" The uptight teacher is possibly the second or third best sketch. Basically, her pupils always ask her awkward questions like "What's a virgin?" "Do you think it's alright for 14 year-olds to kave s
ex?" to which she'll just try and wangle her way out by insulting an item of their clothing or telling them how rude they are, in typical teacher fashion The two posh Glasgow folk who just love to hear the banter, the husband who won't let his wife speak without a torrent of abuse, the Lonely Shopkeeper, the unlucky Taxi instructor whose boyfrineds always die in comical ways, the Highland sock puppets.... More great sketches, I could go on forever. The new ideas this series are amongst others a party bore who always wants attention; the mad car salesman who never quite gets what his colleagues are talking about; people who point to their breasts, gentials and arse in that order and chant "Milk, lemonade, chocolate" while doing so - I think you can use your imagination for that one, it has been chanted in primary school playgrounds since the 60's - A bit immature and not suited to the programmes target of adolecents and adults; Sewer-workers who play games with bits of shit, used johnnies and bog roll; and a PE teacher who always farts. So maybe the sketches aren't as original as they once were, and maybe some of the characters are past their sell-by date but hey, it still made me laugh ma arse aff! Is that not all that matters in a comedy? I can see this lasting a good few years yet, and all you Sassanachs, Welsh, and Ulsterfolk have no excuse now it's on throughout the UK. Watch it and have a great laugh!
Christmas advertising gets earlier and bigger every year. This year the media frenzy started early-October, and by November almost every ad on TV contained that 'c' word! And, it would seem, people are brainwashed by this. The sense that the more that is spent on Christmas the happier Christmas will be. Going shopping yesterday - Christmas was on everybody's lips. "Done all your Christmas shopping?" "What's Santa bringing you?" "It's such a panic at this time" 20 years ago the hype didn't start until about 12 days before Christmas. Was it still a happy time? Of course. Were we any worse off by not buying loads of expensive merchandise? I don't think so, correct me if I am wrong. One of the main aspects of Christmas is giving. So, of course, buying will increase and shops will have 'special deals', just like with every holiday nowadays. But the thing that annoys me is that this has to start in August. It sickens people of Xmas and by the time it gets to December folk just want the whole thing over. This is *not* the spirit of Christmas. And the whole atmosphere is so selfish (me being guilty, having often been 'persistent' about chrissie pressies.) Crowds in stores are another example of the selfishness of Christmas. Getting angry with everybody pushing and shoving through shops when we should all be loving and caring (peace and goodwill an' all that) Graham Norton's line in the Littlewoods advert 'let's do Christmas' isn't far off. Christmas is becoming something we increasingly 'do' rather than 'have' or 'enjoy'. An obligatory exercise. "Oh, she's got decorations outside her house, let's do the same" "They're getting they're son a PS2, we'll have to do the same or else we'll look like we don't take care about our kid." Last year I got strange looks at school around about
the 10th of December when I told people we didn't have any tinsel up yet or an advent calendar. Why? Because I wasn't *doing* what everyone else was? Advent calendars! Now there's a real swizz. Mars, Galaxy, Dairy Milk, Jelly Babies, Rangers Football Club, Celtic FC, Man U.... All of them just for kids to stuff their faces full of chocolate and none of them having anything to do with the religious side of Christmas, which I shall cover in a moment. I remember my first advent calendar. It had no chocolate but depicted the nativity scene. But I got *so* excited opening that to see a part of the picture every day. My second calendar was just a chocolate one. It wasn't really as exciting. I am not particularly religious. I don't go to church but I occasionally pray. I believe Christmas is for me. I believe it is for Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Buhddists.... whatever. It's about friends, family, giving, love and joy. Not to forget it all came about through the birth of Jesus and I do think about this on Xmas day. But religion aside, Xmas is only commercialised unless you make it so. We still hang up our tired old decorations. It still looks merry. Still give traditional presents, as well as the occasional commercial merchandise (eg socks, underwear, giant chocolate bars) We invite friends and family over, watch a bit of telly, make noises with party poppers or crackers, eat turkey and trifle and have fun. I don't believe this is a particularly commercialised Xmas. So let the media and business hype and commercialise Xmas all they want. Ignore them and have the Christmas you want. Don't "do" Christmas. Have a merry Christmas! :-)
GMTV is the breakfast television station broadcasting on Channel 3 from 6.00-9.25am. They won the breakfast contract in 1993 from TV-am, who started in 1983. GMTV follows the same idea as TV-am did, relaxed, lifestyle programming with a bit of news and current affairs mixed in. (Actually in the likes of the September 11th crisis, GMTV provides quite a good news service.) On weekdays there are three main programmes: The Newshour (6-7) GMTV Today (relaxed look at the days events, some health and safety campaigns, like This Morning except more serious and with regular newsbreaks) and from 8.30 until 9.25 there is LK Today or Entertainment Today. Gossipy/lifestyle/showbiz show presented by Lorraine Kelly. Good for a laugh. At weekends there is Diggit, made by Disney and much like an early morning CITV. Some good cartoons on it- I quite like it! The Sunday Programme I think is a kind of GMTV version of The Heaven and Earth Show i.e. religion and current affairs intermingled. I've never seen it but sounds like quite a good format. On weekday mornings I generally flick between BBC 1 Breakfast and GMTV. Since BBC Breakfast on 1 had its revamp last year both shows have been more similar, Breakfast is now a sofa and coffee table programme as well. BBC 1 still has better news and interviews but Fiona Phillips and Eammon Holmes are a good team and make me laugh. So GMTV Today is safe for now with its considerably more relaxed format but with BBC 'dumbing-down' increasingly, will GMTV need to think up a new format? Or by that time there may be a new breakfast contractor for Channel 3 anyway, going on a more newsy formula.
On just after the Ten o' Clock News, Newsnight- a programme that examines news and political stories in detail. Good for political buffs like moi, it has good interviews and reports. Very much like Channel 4 News except for two words that make Newsnight second to none.... Jeremy Paxman. Jeremy Vine and Kirsty Wark are good interviewers too (more on Vine a little later), but Jeremy just has that cheeky, pushy edge to him. Unlike other sycophantic interviewers, this guy will not rest until he gets an answer! Some of the most memorable quotes: "With the greatest of respect Prime Minister, you're wrong." "What's it like fighting this election when you know you're going to lose?" (to William Hague) "Did you threaten to overrule them?" (asked this question to a government minister 10 times) Another reason I like this programme is for its election coverage. While BBC, Sky and ITN news went on images and soundbites, this programme took a welcome look into some REAL politics, taking a van round the country asking the people that mattered: the voters. Asking politicians questions what mattered, while at the same time, with a certain tongue-in-cheek-ness, asking questions like the above to add a bit of humour. Real in-depth analysis, not just Andrew Marr (Labourite) talking about how bad the opinion polls were looking for the Tories. Now while Pax was doing the interviewing in the studios, Vine was the one going across the UK. I cannot imagine Paxman doing this, but Vine fitted the bill perfectly, once again mixing humour with politics. My conclusion: Paxman = interviewee, Vine = van man. Newsnight has little or no bias towards Labour either, probably since there is no Andrew Marr (give the guy a break?), and this programme, although made by the BBC, is independent from the corporate BBC News that is on BBC 1, 2 and BBC News 24. Different reports, jour
nalists etc. One major annoyance about Newsnight, though, is the Newsnight Scotland opt-out. There are some good interviews/discussions about culture in the second half of Newsnight, indeed there was one about nationhood recently, and at the end the presenter said "pity Scotland weren't here to see that." The reason for Newsnight Scotland was to please a minority (SNP-ite) who actually cared about Scotland getting its own Six o' Clock News. Something I wouldn't mind, but not if it means interrupting another programme. Admittedly, though, Newsnight Scotland can be quite a good programme, looking at UK/World news from a Scottish perspective (ie not just another Reporting Scotland) eg what does the General Election really mean to Scotland now we have Holyrood? Have it on before/after Newsnight itself and not in the middle and we'll have a near perfect news and current affairs programme
Every time I go past my local Greggs I get a rumbling in my stomach. The smells of the fresh bread, the cakes and the pies. It's just so tempting and I end up going in and stuffing my face! I have one main weakness at Greggs - the chicken pasties. These are perfect. The sauce is lovely, the pastry is really fresh and warm. Ohhhh.... (hungry yet?) My mum says their sausage rolls are the best as well. (And she's a perfectionist where food is concerned) They do many other pasties inc. Cheese & Onion and Cornish. Priced about 55p. Of course they do sandwiches (Yet to try) cakes, donuts etc. Their cakes are another weak point of mine, just buy loads and indulge at home! All baked fresh on site. And also different types of fresh baked bread. One thing Greggs do that I don't particularly like are the Scotch pies. The pastry is too floury (such a word?) and they haven't got the right meat/spice/onion combination that I'm very picky about (but then again I only know one baker that has) Conclusion: If you like pasties, pies, rolls, bread, cakes, donuts, sandwiches, buns.... you'll love Greggs! And it's all freshly made- a real bonus in today's packaged food culture.
The Slieve Donard hotel in Ulster lived up to all my expectations as far as quality was concerned. Rooms were kept spick and span, food was brilliant, staff were very friendly (it's Ireland after all!) There was good music in the bar at night, and even a concert by the lengendary Daniel O' Donnell. According to my dad, the golf course is great - one of the best in the world. They had excellent gym and spa facilities. Everything you would expect from a 4* hotel. Except for one thing. They couldn't get a bloody thing right! When we arrived at the hotel, they told us that to get to our room we would need to climb a couple of steps. Being in a wheelchair, a couple of steps might as well be a couple of thousand! So we had to wait for half an hour while our new room was prepared. In the room, there was no electricity. Well, there was. But they didn't tell us about sticking the card in the wall socket. We can't all be Einstein! After we discovered the wall socket and got a bit of light, we quickly found that there were no towels or soap in the bathroom. Pretty important for having a bath if you ask me. After the towels and soap were delivered to the wrong room, a few doors down, and we realised this error, my dad was able to have a bath and we could go down to dinner. I ordered off the kiddies' menu! 'Pasta spirals in Tomato Sauce and Honey Bear Ice Cream' I asked the waiter. 'Has the ice cream got honey or syrup on it?'. 'Yes, it has,' said the waiter. Okay - that was fine. What did I get? Mushroom ravioli (Changed to the correct order, with apologies) and plain vanilla ice cream with a tiny blackberry in the middle. We ate in the bar the next night! The rest of our stay was fine, and the mistakes gave us all a good laugh ('it could only happen in Ireland!') and some good memories. There IS a Fawlty Towers. Conclusion: We are more good natured than most abou
t these kinds of things, but if the hotel is run like this on a regular basis, they are risking their reputation. Good, friendly hotels with a few hiccups here and there are acceptable. But many people would get extremely annoyed at the above mistakes.
Growing up in the late 80's/early 90's you could not escape adverts for this board game. There was even a TV programme or competition based on the board game I believe. You always knew someone who had the game, but were too afraid to ask. I pleaded with my parents to get me the game, sure enough, that Xmas.... First thing was, there were a *lot* of pieces which were small and very easy to lose. I hated that in a game - I still do. The first thing I did was set up the course, I wasn't interested in the actual playing of the game. It was too complicated, so my dad helped. 5-10 minutes later, it was ready for action. The ball had to be nudged or lifted several times. At the end the soldier should dive into a tub which should make the cage fall. It didn't fall! So my hopes of the game working like it did on the telly were dashed. But it adds an element of humour to the game each time you have to nudge the ball or do something. Plus, playing it again naturally brings back the nostalgia etc. Great game if you lived in its era and don't mind it not working properly.
We have had BT 1571 on our line for a couple of weeks. To set it off, you must dial an 0800 number and press a couple of buttons on your phone. Simple, eh? Then you are told your service should be ready in "5 working days" 5 days to get a simple answering service set up? I thought "Okay, this must be a pretty slow service" It was set up in 3 days which gave me a good impression from the start. The first message was actually quite important, if it had just been 1471 we probably wouldn't have phoned the person back. We are probably one of the ten households in the world who still use a rotary dial phone. We still quite like it for the nostalgia, so were disappointed when we found you cannot use the service unless you have a touch tone phone. This is annoying because 1471 and ringback work perfectly well with pulse dialling phones. A few other annoying things we have found are that you often can't hang up on the service, you have to wait until the 'dead' tone sounds or the phone rings until you pick it up again; you cannot switch it off, so the service is heaven for prank callers; you can't choose how many rings it takes for the service to be activated - with an answering machine you can; and you can't record a personal greeting, although none of us would particularly want to anyway! One great thing about 1571, though, is unlike 1471 and answerphones, it works when the line is engaged as well. No more continually pressing 'Redial' or the costly 'Ringback'. This follows the along lines of voicemail on mobiles. Finally, the service costs 5p for people who ring it, even if they don't leave a message (so *that's* the catch, I hear you say) This is the minimum call charge and I wouldn't get too worked up about it because answerphones and voicemail do this anyway. If you don't have an answerphone, I strongly recommend 1571. Even if you do, I wou
ld consider this because it works when you are engaged, which was the real advantage for us, plus it doesn't take up space etc. It is the same as voicemail on mobiles, except for one crucial difference. It's free, free, FREE!