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I apologise in advance if this opinion seems a bit miserable, but I have got rid of all my moans at once, and I feel much better now they’re all off my chest. Giant Pepper Mills ****************** "Would you like some freshly ground black pepper, Madam?" says the waiter. "Yes, please" say I. Off he goes, over to the other side of the restaurant to bring back the only pepper mill in the place. It’s two foot tall, and is brought over with great ceremony. "Tell me when, Madam" he says and starts grinding. As usual the grinder is well worn and out comes a scattering of black dust. After two minutes, I still don’t have much pepper and the waiter has to rest his arm. "That’s fine, thank you," I say (even though I would have liked more). And off he goes, bearing the precious cargo as if it were gold dust. Why do restaurants insist on this silly ritual? Wouldn’t it be better for each table to have their own normal-size pepper mill? We could all then help ourselves from an effective grinder that worked. Off to Room 101 with any pepper mills over nine inches. TV Thrillers that Start before the Beginning (and Finish Before the End) ********************************************* "It’s just starting" my husband calls out. "OK, I’ll be there" I say. I’m just letting the dog out / letting her in again / turning the computer off / drying my hair / making a cuppa, or whatever, in the interval before a television programme comes on. Honestly, I’m no more than two minutes, and go downstairs only to find that the programme has kicked off with a dramatic opening scene, a murder or some such, which I have completely missed, and that the opening credits are now being screened! It is so irritating. Very often the programmes that start off like that, being in a great hurry to start the story, are also the on
es that don’t finish off the story properly. You know what I mean - the murderer is discovered, and suddenly that’s the end of the story. The heroic police officer is never congratulated. Those poor souls who have been mistakenly suspected are just forgotten. We never see the nasty secondary characters get their come-uppance, or the reactions of the neighbours when they are told the identity of the murderer. We are just left to draw our own conclusions. Pathetic! Rodents’ tails **************** I know in theory rats make lovely pets, and that mice are sweet creatures, but I’m sorry, I don’t think I will ever find them appealing. To me, the most repellant bits are their tails, all bald and pink and twitchy and unnaturally long. If just their tails could be put into Room 101, then all we would have left would be dear little whiskery hamster-like furry animals. Ticking *********** I’m just drifting off to sleep when suddenly I stiffen and lie very, very still. "What’s that?" I think to myself. "I’m sure I checked this room." We are visitors in a friend’s house. The bedroom had seemed to be clear, but no, I could definitely hear a ticking. Once noticed, the ticking seemed to get louder and louder. Aaah, there it was - a clock, high up on a shelf at the far side of the room. There was nothing for it but to put the light on, get up and put the clock on the windowsill outside. Otherwise I would not be able to sleep a wink. I can’t bear watches that tick either. Every night, my poor husband has to put his watch inside his bedside drawer because I can hear it from six feet away. I don’t know how he manages actually to wear it on his wrist all day long. It would drive me bonkers after half an hour! Early Buses *********** I spend a fair bit of my time waiting for buses. Round our way, there can be heavy t
raffic, especially during the rush hour. So I do appreciate that bus drivers cannot always help being late. What really does annoy me is when buses run early. That really is unforgivable. There is no excuse. All the driver has to do is pull in and wait until the bus is back on schedule. Otherwise it means the timetables are meaningless. Yes, put all the early buses into Room 101, because they’re no good to me. Shoes on Seats ************* Oh, and on the subject of buses, I would like the shoes of everybody who happily rests their feet on the seat opposite, regardless of mud, rain and dirt, to suddenly disappear into Room 101. And their socks too, while we’re about it. And I hope they have to walk miles home on bare feet. I am so fed up with having to avoid sitting on facing seats because of the dirt I’m likely to find there. I went through a phase of confronting lounging passengers with a sheet of newspaper. "Lift up, I’ve got some newspaper for your shoes. You’ll get dirt on the seat." Usually, they hurriedly took their feet off altogether, somewhat embarrassed. Occasionally, a cheeky lad might say "Oh, thanks" and lift up their feet ready for me to put the paper under! Anyway, I eventually stopped doing it because (1) there are just too many for me to make a difference and (2) someone might have got annoyed and followed me off the bus. Exuberant Weather Forecasters ****************************** It takes me quite a while to wake up fully in the mornings. It’s probably about an hour, after a leisurely bath and breakfast, before I’m wholly together. Gentle snippets of breakfast television, a bit of news, a few mildly amusing items, and a weather forecast for the day are what I can handle. What I cannot cope with are exuberant weather forecasters with oodles of personality which they’re desperate to demonstrate. They bounce up and down,
grinning widely from ear to ear, seemingly delighted to be broadcasting live from some drizzly river bank, swapping silly personal wisecracks with the studio presenters. And when did you last hear one of them apologise for getting the weather wrong? Never. Off to Room 101 with every last one of them. Unripe Avocados ****************** Yes, I know they’ll ripen up if you keep them for a few days. But why is it so difficult for Asdas (and Tescos) to sell avocados that are ready for eating? Why can’t they, on about Wednesday, think ahead and arrange for some to come out of cold storage, to be ready for eating over the weekend? Just a little niggle, this one, but annoying just the same. Strangers who Say Silly Things *************************** "Cheer up, it might never happen", says the bus driver. I can’t help having the sort of face that looks a bit miserable in repose. I’m usually perfectly happy thinking my own thoughts when somebody says that. And anyway, how does he know something hasn’t happened? I could be undergoing some dreadful personal trauma for all he knows. What a silly thing to say. "Hello Elli, how are you today?" somebody says on the phone. And, automatically, I reply "Fine, thank you" before I realise he’s just a salesman going by a script, and I don’t know him from Adam. What a cheek! I understand the sales ploy - get on first name terms straightaway with the prospective customer and they will find it difficult to reject you. Well, I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work with me. I have just realised that my Room 101 would actually be a brilliant chilling out room. All the horrid ticking clocks could be tucked inside the spare shoes out of the way. The salesmen, bus drivers and weather forecasters could sit on the buses looking at television thrillers, whilst eating unripe avocad
os seasoned with black pepper, with the dear little tailless rodents sitting at their feet. Very relaxing! Elli x
“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal - that is your success. All nature is your congratulations.” ~~ Henry David Thoreau or, in other words, “A lovely whiff of something delightful will give you a boost, and adds to the pleasure of life.” ~~ Elli For me, the sense of smell has always been important. My absolute favourite smell has got to be the smell of a baby’s head. I also love to sniff inside a glossy magazine (the expensive, heavy kind) before it’s been read. Most would agree that the pleasures of eating and drinking are enhanced by the aromas of preparation and cooking. Most people like to smell flowers, but will probably have strong likes and dislikes. My husband, for instance, cannot stand the smell of hyacinths, and my mother-in-law dislikes the smell of roses. I love to start the day with a spray of perfume. It completes the ritual of getting ready in the morning. I probably have a dozen or more fragrances on the go at any one time, and I never tire of sampling the testers in my local department store. In the course of recent testing, I came across a range of five fragrances, called Aqua Allegoria by Guerlain, and found them so fascinating I decided to tell you about them. Aqua Allegoria is available in Eau de Toilette strength only (plus shower gel), 75 ml and 125 size. The packaging is white with gold detail and a picture of the main ingredient. The bottle is a squat solid shape with pretty gold filigree around the top. Imagine holding in your hand a large, ripe, scented, juicy grapefruit. Now dig your thumb in, as if you are about to peel it. Oops, it spurts out a great spray of zest! Now, that’s the smell of the Pamplelune Aqua Allegoria. It’s light, ephemeral (being an eau de toilette, the s
cent will be gone in an hour or two), and ever so slightly lemony and floral. But mainly, it’s grapefruit. I love it. The other varieties are just as interesting. I yearn for Herba Fresca, which is basically mint with herby overtones. No pretence at all to being floral, and so unusual. The two floral ones, both single note fragrances, are Lilia Bella, a wonderful in-your-face lily smell, and Gentiana, which I find fairly uninviting. And to the last one. I could never imagine putting Ylang & Vanille anywhere near me. I think it’s a disgusting smell. I’m not keen on the smell of vanilla anyway, and this is unbelievably vanilla-ery. I think out of these five fragrances you are bound to find one that you love, because they are all so different and unusual. It makes a pleasant change to the many bland and boring perfumes that are so heavily promoted. Next time you are passing a perfume counter, do try one of them, just for fun. I’d love to hear if anyone actually likes the Ylang & Vanille! "Jill Murphy asked me to write about one of my favourite things to help her celebrate her fourth anniversary of cancer-free living and to remind ourselves of all the nice things in the world. It takes more muscles to make a frown than a smile you know. If you'd like to join in, whether you've only just joined dooyoo, or you've been here ages, you're more than welcome. Just write about one of YOUR favourite things, make your title "A Favourite Thing: [your choice]" and include this paragraph at the foot of your opinion. And post before Friday, 9th August."
Isn’t it wonderful when you thoroughly enjoy a book by an author new to you, and then realise they’ve written lots of others? Anita Shreve lives and works in New England, as a teacher of creative writing, so hopefully there will be many more to come. I read this book on holiday, and was totally engrossed. It is a well-written story which describes the coming together of the two main characters, Linda Fallon and Thomas Janes, at various times and places. The reader is first introduced to them at a writers’ festival in Toronto, twenty six years after they first met. Another meeting takes place in Kenya in the 1970s, and eventually we learn how they first got together in Massachusetts in the 1960s. It is basically a love story, but there is plenty of interest and action apart from the interaction of the hero and heroine. We are taken back through time, more or less consecutively. There are flashbacks here and there to show us important events in the lives of Thomas and Linda. This device is essential to unfolding the tale, and is beautifully handled. I never once felt left behind as the plot moved to another time and place. Thomas and Linda are writers, and we benefit from their imaginations as they react to situations as they are, and could be. The tragic events in the plot are handled sensitively, and with feeling. The secondary characters are well-rounded and utterly believable. There are numerous sub-plots which are skilfully threaded into the main story and add a richness to the book. I particularly enjoyed the characterisations of Linda’s family during her early years, and Thomas’s colleagues in Kenya. This is quite an easy book to read. There are no long flowing sentences on which you have to concentrate before getting the gist. The style is somewhat modern, with some short sentences that strictly aren’t sentences at all. But I like the way Anita Shreve allows the r
eader to use imagination to complete their mind picture. It’s as though she has carefully gone through the script, cutting out any unnecessary words. The following excerpt is an example of her style: ********* She switched off the bathroom light and stood provocatively in the doorway, her breasts white globes in the moonlight. He had only seconds, if that, before she would see his hesitation and cover herself. And then the rest of the night would be tears and apologies, words that both of them would regret. In the distance, as he sometimes did during the night, he heard the sound of drums, of people singing. Kikuyu Catholics, he knew, returning from a midnight service. An awakened ibis cawed in the night, and a donkey, disturbed, made its raw and awful cry. Thomas walked toward his wife and prepared to tell her she was beautiful. ********* Just over a hundred words describe two complex sets of feelings, decisions, a relationship, and an African scene. This is wonderful writing. If you do decide to buy and read this book, it will be worthwhile. I guarantee that if you read it, you’ll certainly want to read it again immediately, if only to discover the bits that you will certainly have missed the first time!
Her face stared at me. A vibrant, glowing face, it was full of presence and character. I drew closer. Ah, so this was the famous portrait by Gainsborough. “The Duchess of Devonshire”, a radiant picture of an eighteenth century lady, was displayed in one of the Chatsworth House rooms, and attracted every passer-by. Later on in the gift shop, I spotted the same picture on the front of a paperback, and discovered that this book had won a Whitbread Biography of the Year Award in 1998. I decided to buy it and find out more about Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. The author, Amanda Foreman, was born in London in 1968. At twenty five, she was supposed to researching for her doctorate, but during the course of her research became sidetracked by Georgiana. Her original doctorate abandoned, the next four years were spent researching and writing the book, travelling all over the country to find original sources. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, was a famous person in her own time, being not only the wife of a Duke, but an important influence on political thinking. She was a supporter of the Whig party, as well as being a celebrated leader of fashion. Several biographies had been written about her, but Amanda Foreman felt none of them did her justice. There was no difficulty in finding material. In fact there was masses of it, all over the country. There were, for instance, over 1000 letters in Chatsworth House alone! One major problem was that Georgiana’s friends and descendants were heavy handed in censoring letters. Whole sections had been inked out, and many letters were completely destroyed. The extensive research which produced this book certainly shows. There are thirty pages of footnotes, and a comprehensive index, and the narrative is not light reading. But it is beautifully written, and pulls you into the story of Georgiana with ease. There are enough colour plates and illustrations to back up
the text and to bring the characters to life. How can Georgiana’s life be described? Well, it was very exciting. At a very young age she married a duke, but the marriage was loveless, the duke preferring her best friend. An inveterate gambler and a leading member of the “ton” (fashionable society in the eighteenth century), Georgiana was lampooned in all the papers of the time. Do you remember those eighteenth century cartoons of ladies with powdered hair teased into fantastic three foot high creations, complete with birds’ nests, feathers and a mouse or two? Well, they were making fun of Georgiana and her friends. Life became much more serious, and tragic, later on. She was a contemporary of many important social, royal and political figures. I don’t want to spoil the book for you by giving too many details, but I can promise you that Georgiana’s life had all the elements of the most exciting soap story! I was intrigued when reading the introduction, because Amanda Foreman describes so convincingly the difficulties a biographer faces in coming to a balanced view point about her subject. It is apparently easy to become overly sympathetic when dipping into letters and diaries because (obviously) they are written in the first person and therefore quite naturally contain an element of self-deception. She describes it as the literary equivalent of the “Stockholm Syndrome”, where hostages begin to feel sympathetic towards their captors. It is dangerous because it leads to being tempted to ignore unwelcome evidence. The Syndrome struck Amanda Foreman early on in her research and she found herself becoming furious on Georgiana’s behalf when reading a nasty letter from one of her rivals. Luckily as the research progressed, Amanda Foreman was able to become much more objective. I loved reading about how the idea for the book was born. The chapters in the book are entitled: Debutante; Politic
s; Exile; and Georgiana Redux; and cover the main periods in Georgiana’s life. Did I enjoy the book? Oh yes. It is beautifully written, in a flowing style, and a lovely meaty true story. I appreciated the illustrations and colour plates, though, just so that I could bring the characters to life in my mind. It is not a book to doze over last thing at night. On several occasions, I went up to bed for a good long read, only for my husband to find me twenty minutes later fast asleep clutching my Georgiana book, with the light still on! It actually took me several weeks to read it, in between bouts of various lightweight fiction, none of which were so satisfying. The book does not include much of what I would call domestic history, such as descriptions of meals, clothes, or what life was like for other members of the Devonshire household. It would have been six inches thick if it had. But for those of you who like medical dramas, there are one or two “Ugh, how could they?” moments. It is an enjoyable in depth study of the life of Georgiana, and has made me determined to discover more about the world of the eighteenth century. I’m now just wondering how I can stop the current vivid dreams I am having, with me as the bewigged and powdered heroine fighting off Whig gentlemen wearing extremely tight breeches! Price: £8.99 ISBN: 0-00-655016-9 Publisher: Flamingo
Palm trees, a white sandy beach and turquoise sea - oh, it was glorious! A sunny climate and sub tropical vegetation completed the picture. Where was I? Why, the UK of course! We have just spent a short break in Tresco, one of the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles west of Land's End. We had a brilliant time, and I'm going to tell you all about it. Travelling to Tresco from the mainland involves going over on a boat, flying in a plane or by helicopter from Penzance (which is what we did). The helicopters are 30-seaters, with luggage limited to 15kgs, and the flight is a very exciting 20 minutes, at around 500 feet. Flying in low to land, we had an amazing bird's eye view of the whole of the island, all one mile by two miles of it, with turquoise sea, through which the sea bed showed clearly. I learned later that the landing area doubles up as the island's cricket pitch! We waited at Immigration Control (a wooden hut which clearly doubled up as the fire station as there were rows of uniforms and helmets hanging up on hooks) for our luggage, and then set off on our transit bus to the hotel. The transit bus was actually a tractor with a trailer containing wooden benches. There are no cars on Tresco, just tractors, bikes and a few golf buggies. We stayed at the Island Hotel, a 48 room hotel, which is one of the three finalists in the Large Hotel category of the "England for Excellence 2002" awards (28/4/02 update - it won!). We have stayed in many hotels, many of which had beautiful surroundings, and some of which were luxuriously appointed, but I don't think we have ever stayed in any that combined the two so well. Our room overlooked palm fringed garden lawns down to a sandy beach, only a couple of hundred yards away. Our five course dinners were sumptuous, and the service was friendly and professional. Bathed in the Gulf Stream, the Scilly Isles have the sunniest, warmest climate of
anywhere in the UK, with largely frost-free winters. The Isles comprise a group of fifty-five islands, only five of which are inhabited. In 1834 the Duchy of Cornwall granted a lease for the Isles of Scilly to Augustus Smith, and his descendant, Robert Dorrien Smith, is still the lessee for Tresco today, the lease for the rest of the islands having been given back to the Duchy in 1920. Tresco is the middle one of the inhabited islands, and thus is relatively sheltered. The winters are mild and frost-free, and although there is normally a wind blowing from somewhere, it is easy to find a warm spot on a leeward shore. The scenery is amazing, with seven miles of coastline, unspoilt beaches and vistas wherever you look. It is a very peaceful place. Originally, there would have been few, if any, trees on Tresco, but when Augustus Smith decided to settle on the island he built a garden around the site of an old abbey, planting trees as a windbreak. This produced a microclimate such that he was able to plant exotic and sub-tropical plants from all over the world, many of which cannot be grown anywhere else in the UK. His descendants have expanded on the gardens so that now the Abbey Gardens of Tresco are internationally famous. They are certainly worth visiting, especially if, like me, you prefer a "controlled chaos" jungly type of garden. You won't find many plant labels here, but they have dedicated helpful staff, and the guided tours are fascinating. They set the world record in 1978 for the world's fastest growing flowering plant, which grew twelve feet in fourteen days! Every year they hold a New Year's Day Flower Count. This year 238 different species were in flower. Because the winters are so mild, the Abbey Gardens are never really dormant, and there is always something interesting to see. The Valhalla Figurehead Museum, near the grounds of the Abbey Gardens, contains figureheads and other relics from t
he 800 or so shipwrecks around the Scillies. The waters around the Scillies are among the most dangerous in the world. Boat trips to the other islands are plentiful, well-organised and reasonably priced. We took a seal and bird watching boat trip, with a stop at one of the other islands, St Agnes, for £10.50 each. The trip lasted around four hours. You can hire bikes, or just use shank's pony. The island is so small you can walk round it in half a day. But you will find that time just floats away. I had bought a bag of books, but managed only two pages during my stay! Every time I settled down to read, I found myself gazing over the landscape in a daydream. If you are planning a trip, I have a few tips for things to pack. A waterproof anorak is essential. If you have waterproof trousers bring those as well. Although the weather is mild, it can get very windy and showery. Boat trips can entail an occasional drenching by sea spray. Bring a bottle of high factor sun protection. The atmosphere is clear and pollution-free, and the Isles have a record for a high number of hours of sunshine. You can burn easily without noticing, especially if there's a breeze. Natural history books of birds, shells, and flowers will add to your enjoyment. Binoculars will enable you to delight in the wide variety of birds, both sea birds and the garden birds that seem to be so scarce now on the mainland. Garden birds are particularly tame and will hop right onto your table in the hope of a crumb or two. There is so little artificial light at night, and the sky is so clear, that the stars are amazing. I really wished I had a map of the stars to be able to look them all up. The island pub, the New Inn, serves an excellent pint (there are several ales locally brewed on the Scillies), but you will need a torch to walk home, as there is no street lighting. Somebody in the pub has a sense of humour, I think. There is a notice in t
he loos "Don't Drink and Drive". Well, not only are you unable to drive on account of there being no cars, but there isn't even a police officer to catch you! Apparently there is no crime on Tresco. There are two police officers nearby on St Mary's, but I was told the police station is only open one hour a week! For the residents, life on the island is very different to that on the mainland. Because there are so few of them, most residents have several jobs. An air traffic controller is very likely also to be a fire officer, as well as perhaps being part of a lifeboat crew, and a qualified first aider. The mild climate enables flowers to be grown throughout the winter, with the first blooms being picked in October, and gives work to the islanders when tourist numbers are low. Life for children in Tresco sounds idyllic with there being virtually no crime, a healthy lifestyle, a close community, and small numbers in the classrooms. But there are disadvantages. To continue their education beyond GCSE, the children have to go to the mainland as boarders. Whilst walking round the island, you will come across a couple of ruined monuments, King Charles' Castle, the scene of the last battle of the English Civil War, and Cromwell's Castle, in which we were amused to see graffiti dating from the 1700s. If you stay for any length of time on the Scillies, you will come across the most popular sport there, that of gig racing. A gig is a six-oared racing boat, originally used to carry Scillonian pilots to approaching ships. Some of them are over one hundred years old. There are men's and women's teams, and races take place every week, with many cheering onlookers. A holiday in Tresco is never going to be cheap. There are only about 160 permanent residents, and there has been careful planning to ensure that they are not swamped by visitors. Accommodation on the island is limited, with room for aro
und 400 visitors only, although there are many more day trippers in the summer season. Dinner, bed and breakfast for one night at the Island Hotel starts at just under £100 per person. The rates are slightly cheaper at the pub, the New Inn. Holiday cottages are available for rental through the Tresco Estate, but get booked up quickly, and again are pricey. Details are available through the Tresco website, www.tresco.co.uk. A cheaper option might be to consider staying on St Mary's, the largest island of the Scillies, and taking a day trip over to Tresco on the boat. Packaged short breaks are available, and you seem to get more for your money. We booked our holiday through Brightwater Holidays, and would certainly consider using them again, www.brightwaterholidays.com. Our short break cost £595 each, with all transport from London included, three nights dinner, bed and breakfast in a superior (luxurious actually!) room at the Island Hotel, one night dinner, bed and breakfast in a Newquay hotel, and three garden tours (Tresco, Heligan and Eden) thrown in. Another operator I have discovered is Langdale Holidays, www.langdaleholidays.co.uk. They seem to concentrate on walking holidays. Another possibility to consider is using the new Ryanair route from Stansted to Newquay. The Scilly Islands' own Skybus route flies to St Mary's (the largest island on the Scillies) from Exeter, Plymouth, and Newquay (connecting up with the Ryanair flights). There are are regular boat connections between Penzance and St Mary's. These take 2 to 3 hours. It is then a short further boat trip to Tresco. There are contact numbers on the www.tresco.co.uk website. Don't forget to take out full travel insurance. Flights can be delayed, or even cancelled, especially during the colder months. Finally, let me tell you story I heard from one of the residents. He had taken his family to London for a holiday. His young daughter was
thrilled to be on a red London bus. "It's the first time I've been on a bus" she said excitedly to the lady sitting next to her. "Really, dear, isn't that nice?" responded the lady kindly. "Yes," said the little girl, "We usually use helicopters or boats."
I’ve been using this hairdryer for a few months now, and I like it, but in order to write a fully rounded Dooyoo opinion, I felt I needed to do a further in-depth analysis, an independent Which-type test. The logical thing to do was to enlist the help of another family member. There are two members of our family who use a hair dryer, both female. My hair is thick, fairish-grey and about eight inches long. Deefa’s is mostly an inch and a half long, with long tufty bits around her neck. It is black and white in colour. I would describe the texture as dense rather than thick and it completely covers her body. “We’re just going upstairs to test the hairdryer” I announced on Saturday. “You’re never going to take Deefa with you!” said husband. “Yes.” I said “She’s going to help with the independent test. We’re both going to answer the list of questions I’ve got. You’re always saying she’s an amazing dog with a wide vocabulary. She’ll understand.” Husband raised his eyebrows, shook his head and went back to his paper. I washed my hair and wrapped it in a towel. I ran the bath, called out “Bathtime, Deefa!”, whereupon Deefa promptly ran downstairs to hide. I dragged her out from under the dining room table, carried her upstairs and put her in the bath and washed her. (Next I changed my clothes, having become rather damp.) I took one bath towel and towel dried my hair by rubbing it on the towel using my hands. I spread six doggy towels out on the carpet and Deefa towel dried her hair/fur (she just rolls over and over on the towels). I got the hair dryer out. Deefa looked up at me eagerly. She loves having her fur dried. Now to start on my independent testing ... 1 Does the hairdryer look and feel good? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This is a large, but not heavy, hair dryer,
and I find it comfortable to hold. It’s made of black plastic with a kind of metallic sheen. I don’t like the look of it actually, but thought I would ask the opinion of my co-tester. “What do you think of this horrid beetle wing effect, Deefa? Does it work for you?” Deefa disappeared, came back two minutes later, dropped her collar in my lap, and looked up at me with her head on one side. Oh dear, she must have misheard -perhaps she thought I said ‘walk for you’? I explained to her very carefully that she was helping to test the hair dryer, and she sat back to wait. 2 Does the hair dryer perform well? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I dried my hair, timing the process carefully. It took 15 minutes, compared to nearly half an hour with my ancient Moulinex 1000 watt hair dryer. The power of the dryer is amazing and I couldn’t be better pleased with it. The wattage is 1800, but you can take it up to 2000 watts by using a little booster button. I don’t usually bother with the booster, as you have to hold your finger on the button to keep it on, and it’s fierce enough for me without it. There is also a setting which reduces the power, for a gentle output, but I never use it. Someone with very fine hair might find it useful, though. Right, now to confer with my co-tester. “Deefa, your turn now.” I laid another doggy towel on the bed, and Deefa assumed the correct position, on her back with her paws in the air. I turned the hair dryer on, and Deefa enjoyed the full 1800 watt blast of warm air, rolling over and over so that I could get to all the damp bits. This time, it took a full 25 minutes, and her armpits (pawpits?) were not quite dry, but I decided to leave it at that as she appeared perfectly happy, and besides, my arms were aching. “Deefa, is that a good hairdryer, do you think? “ I asked her. “I know you’d like me to blow dry you f
or a bit longer, but my arms feel a little weak.” Deefa ran downstairs, came back up with her lead, and tastefully arranged it over my feet. “Erggh, Deefa, I said ‘little weak’ not ‘little walk’!” I was rather cross with her for not properly fulfilling the co-tester role. She was definitely neglecting her duties. A passing son kindly demonstrated the problem by saying “Deefa, shall we whack some whelks in a wok?” Deefa jumped up and down like a miniature pogo stick, and then dashed around, fetching an assortment of outdoor shoes, hats, doggy treats and poo bags. At that point I gave up the idea of involving Deefa, and just carried on by myself. 3 Other good points? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The hair dryer comes with a detachable concentrator nozzle for spot styling. Another feature which I find very useful is the long, three metre flex. It means I can get right up close to my mirror without having to use an extension lead. It also has a three year guarantee. Another advertised feature is a hang-up loop, although I can’t imagine anyone finding this useful. (Does anyone ever hang up their hair dryer?) 4 Other Bad Points? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There’s no cool air setting. This doesn’t worry me too much, but Deefa appreciates a nice shot of cold air when she’s hot in the summer. Also, the hairdryer doesn't appear to be widely available. Boots stock it and, I believe, Argos. Charles Worthington (a world famous hairdresser) puts his name to a number of hair styling products. He also makes heated rollers, and various types of brush hairstylers, as well as shampoos and conditioners. The website is www.cwlondon.com Finally, I’m going to end with some advice. When using a dog to help with an opinion, make sure they can understand vowels as well as consonants. Elli x
My very first mascara was bought from Woolworths when I was thirteen, and was the “spit and scrub” type. This came in a compact with a solid block of mascara and a tiny flat toothbrush. The block was moistened with a few drops of water (or spit if you were putting your make-up on at the bus-stop) and then scrubbed with the brush to get a nice thick goo. The goo made your lashes clump together, somewhat becomingly I thought at the time, but you had to be very careful not to laugh too much, or cry, or get caught in the rain, or else you ended up with black streaks all around your eyes. With my first Saturday job wages I treated myself to an expensive mascara. This was made by Helena Rubenstein, was navy in colour and had a curved wand with no bristles. A few years later mascara was supplemented by false eyelashes, with a few extra lashes painted on underneath the eye. Mary Quant was the fashionable brand at that time. The mascara I had tended to buy over the last couple of years was Maybelline’s Great Lash. Only £4.49, nice and gloopy, with a great build-up, and hardly any smudging, it was very near perfect. However, the packaging was a hideous bright pink and lime green. Easy to find in your make-up bag, but not at all classy. Time for a change, I thought. Browsing around the internet I came across some make-up chat sites, and looked for recommended mascaras. One that seemed to crop up again and again was Christian Dior’s Mascara Parfait. Off I went to John Lewis to the Dior make-up counter to have a look. The description of Mascara Parfait is “thickening lash care with cashmere”. Now, doesn’t that sound luxurious? The display mascara was in clear tubes, and there were several colours, including violet and bright blue, as well as the more ordinary colours. “What a good idea”, I thought, “I’ll be able to see when the mascara is running out.” I
usually steer clear of black, but the chestnut brown looked too light. The girl behind the counter assured me that the chestnut dried to a dark brown, and so I bought the mascara, gulping at the price. My delight at the several freebies popped into the bag was somewhat diminished when I saw they included: “Time-fighting serum for eyes” and “Ultra time-fighting serum (for skin)”! What was she trying to tell me? The first thing I realised when I actually opened the mascara is that it doesn’t normally come in clear packs, that’s for display purposes only. The packaging is Christian Dior’s signature royal and navy blue, with gold edging. Because the colour of the navy base is different to that of the royal blue top, you don’t find yourself constantly trying to undo the base from the top instead of the other way round. (Their lipsticks have a similar practical packaging.) The tube is only 4 inches long, so it easily fits into any make-up bag. The consistency is soft and thick with no bits in (I do hate those mascaras that are supposed to make your lashes longer by means of added fibres - I end up with bits all over my cheeks!). The especially good feature of this mascara is the brush. It’s very big with a pointed end and this means that you can cover all your lashes without smearing your eyelids. It has an excellent, quick, build-up effect without too much effort. It lasts all day without smudging, and yet is easy to remove. I don’t like scrubbing away at mascara to remove it only to end up in the morning with big dark circles, where the remains have worked away all night to give you a beguiling hungover look. Mascara Parfait is much kinder to your skin than that. Now, for my overall opinion. Do I prefer it to Maybelline’s Great Lash. Yes I do, just. Is it worth the extra money? (Mascara Parfait costs a whopping £14 compared to Maybelline’s £4.49.) Well,
I'm not sure. For me, yes. The mascara itself probably isn’t that much different, but the packaging and the brush make the extra worthwhile. And it’s probably the closest I shall ever get to wearing cashmere!
Saturday morning shopping is always a fun-filled time in our Asdas. It starts off at the entrance with a “greeter”, usually a pensioner, who wears a smiley face badge labelled “Always Happy to Help”, and whose job it is to make you feel welcome with a warm “hello”. Unable to face the enthusiasm? Just wait for a group of shoppers all going in together, and slip in behind. Or go in the other side of the doorway, The branch at Hatfield is huge and the range of goods is amazing and includes: hardware; clothing; bed linen and towels; music; groceries; dairy produce; delicatessen; fresh fish; tinned fruit and veg as well as fresh; organic food; foreign food; wines and spirits; snacks; cakes and biscuits; bakery; frozen foods; pet foods; toiletries; books; magazines; greetings cards; kitchenware. If I’ve missed anything out and you’re wondering if they sell it - well they probably do. In our store, the first section is George clothing. The prices are reasonable, and the designs tend to be functional but wearable. At this time of year there is plenty of “back to school” uniform. For instance, I saw a pack of two school polo shirts for £3.95. They always were good on basics, but until two or three years ago the rest of their clothes were a bit too cheap and cheerful for me. If you rubbed the sleeve of one of their blouses, you felt you could be re-charging the National Grid with the electricity produced. The design and quality of their stuff has improved greatly over the last couple of years. All over the store Asdas have their own range of merchandise, called “Smartprice”. It always has white minimalist packaging, with a minimalist price to match. I bought a tube of toothpaste in that range for 26p, compared to £1.32 for a similar size in a commercial brand. That seems amazingly cheap to me. There is a very exclusive hotel in London, called the Hempel, where th
e decorations are neutral, mainly white. The room rate is probably £200 a night plus. I wonder if they’ve thought of using Asda toiletries in their bathrooms? I might drop them a line and suggest it. There is always a wide selection in the fruit and vegetable department. They also have an organic range. I normally buy all my fruit and veg here, because you can make your own selection, and it’s convenient. Time is tight for me at a weekend, but I am aware that if I made the effort to walk outside to the local market, I would be able to buy at a much lower cost. I think Asdas are pricey in this department. A really exciting part of your shopping trip is when you arrive at the milk counter. There you will find Daisy the Cow, who has a button which makes her moo. On a Saturday, children are constantly pressing the button, so the noise makes for a lively experience. By the eggs, there is also a clucking machine. Asda staff here are always helpful and friendly. Before the start of every shift, Asda employees get together for what they call a “huddle”. As you probably know, Asdas are owned by Walmart, an American company, and they go in for all the cuddly, friendly stuff. I think that’s why all the checkout operators always say hello before they start on your shopping. The first time a checkout operator said “good morning” to me, I thought she said “get moving” and apologised for being slow! Now I’ve got used to the idea that shop assistants don’t have to look as though they’d prefer to be somewhere else, I like the friendliness, even though I know it’s just company policy. Asdas also will accept coupons for goods that you haven’t bought, as long as they stock them. The exact rules on how this works seem to vary between stores. The current instructions to the checkout assistants at Hatfield are to accept no more than three coupons at a
time. It’s an excellent way of reducing your shopping bill. A good tip is always to take one (or two) copies of the free Asda magazine. There are usually a couple of poundsworth of coupons in it. The Service Desk at Asda is always staffed by helpful employees. In fact they have a display board which says they offer “Help and Advice”. So, if you’ve had a row with your best mate, or want to know what to do about noisy neighbours, just ask them. The Services Desk will also do their best to deal with complaints. My mother once bought a bottle of sherry from Asdas. My brother had given her a lift in his car to do her weekly shop. When she arrived home, there was no sherry, and realised she must have left it behind on the till. She went back to the Service Desk, in the hope that someone had given it in, but no, there was nothing. In the interest of customer relations, and probably because my mother made a fuss (and I have every sympathy with Asdas - it’s not easy to confront this particular feisty pensioner), she was very kindly given a replacement bottle of sherry. Two weeks later, my brother was driving along when he heard a clinking sound in his car, and there, rolling around under the passenger seat was a bottle of sherry! Now, my mother may make a fuss in a good cause, but she is totally honest. She actually found it much more difficult to persuade Asdas to take back the spare bottle. Apparently, they hadn’t come across that sort of situation before. Finally, when you’ve had enough of all this fun and are on your way out of the store with your shopping, Asdas have one last helpful suggestion. There is a sign outside our store which says “Carry to Car? - Just Ask!”. I have never actually liked to take them up on this offer. The employee outside always seems to be a lanky student type, not really strong enough to carry me. I would probably need two of them just for me
(using a cat’s cradle type of lift), and then another for my shopping. But I would encourage any slim Dooyooers to take them up on this offer, because they’d probably only need two students, if a fireman’s type of lift was used. I’d love to know how you get on!
Do you ever buy a bunch of flowers from the local flower stall, or pick an assortment from your garden? Or (lucky you!) get given a bouquet as a pressie? How long do they last? Three or four days, I’ll bet. If you’re lucky, five or six. I’m going to give you some tips on how to make your flowers last for longer. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Obtaining the flowers ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ * If you are buying flowers, look for those with a good long sell-by date. Choose the bunch with the flowers not quite open, rather than fully in bloom. Put them in water as soon as you can. * If you are given a bouquet of flowers at work, please don’t put them in a shallow sink in the loo. That is a pathetic resting place for your poor flowers! They won’t be able to drink properly, and they’ll get overheated with the hot air hand dryers. Try using a water-filled waste paper bin as a temporary container, and keep them in a cool place until home time. * Pick flowers from your garden either early in the day or late. Flowers picked in the heat of the day will not last as long, because they will not be as turgid. * When picking from the garden, have beside you a bucket of water into which you can put your flowers immediately, so they do not have a chance to get thirsty and form air locks in their stems. * Cut the stems as long as you can. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Preparation and conditioning ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ * Ensure the vase or container is spotlessly clean. Use lukewarm water together with commercial flower food, if possible. The flower food will keep the water clean and feed the flowers much better than any home made preparations of aspirin, sugar, bleach or anything else you may have heard about. * Strip off any leaves that are going to be below the waterline. They will otherwise rot and spoil the water. * Consider stripping off e
ven more leaves if there are lots of them. For instance, long-stemmed roses will often come with lots of lovely glossy leaves. If you leave them all on, the leaves will take up water at the expense of the flowers, which will wilt quickly. You can always put the leaves in separately. * Using a sharp knife, secateurs, or flower snippers, cut off the bottom 3cms from all stems, using a slanting cut. The slant is so that there is a bigger surface area to take in water. If there is a knobbly bit (node) on the stem where you were planning to cut, make the cut above it. * If the flowers have been out of water for some time, make them burp by standing them in 3cms boiling water for a minute or so. If you look carefully you will see a stream of air bubbles coming out of the stem, with the occasional burp. That is air which would have stopped your flowers getting a good drink. You will then need to recut the flowers before arranging them. * The above tip works for most flowers, but not all. Flowers with milky stems such as poppies or euphorbias should have their cut ends quickly sealed with a match or candle flame before being put into water. (NB Be very careful with any type of euphorbia - the sap is poisonous and can give you a nasty skin reaction.) * Flowers with hollow stems, such as delphiniums, or hollyhocks, should have their stems filled with water and then be plugged with cotton wool. * Woody stems, such as shrubs, should have their stems split for 3 or 4 cms, in order to take up more water. And if you’re thinking of bashing their bottoms, don’t. They don’t like it. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Caring for your flowers ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ * Keep your vase of flowers out of the sunlight or any source of heat or draught. * Change the water every two days, and top up the water level in between. * Consider misting the blooms with a water misting spray. But be carefu
l about which varieties of flowers you treat like this. Sweet peas, for instance, will mark badly. * Keep the flowers away from bowls of fruit. The ethylene in the fruit will make the flowers grow old very quickly. * Remove any dying flowers immediately. * You can give the flowers a new lease of life after about five days by taking them out, recutting the stems, using the boiling water treatment (as above) if necessary, and rearranging in fresh water. ~~~~~~~ Other tips ~~~~~~~ * You can make a small bunch of flowers go a long way by using extra foliage. Foliage is easily prepared by soaking it in cold water for a few hours. I sometimes use the bath overnight. If you’re going to do this, especially if you’re using holly, please warn any early risers or they might get a nasty surprise in the morning! You can’t soak grey leaved foliage, such as senecio or santolina, successfully because it goes green if you submerge it for too long. Other ideas for foliage are: bergenia; variegated privet; ornamental grasses; hostas; mahonia; ferns; skimmia; cupressus. Use mature foliage. Young growth won’t take up water properly. * Try not to mix too many colours together. What looks perfectly natural in nature sometimes looks a bit messy in a vase. The colours should complement each other. For instance, pinks, mauves, greens and greys look good together, as do reds, oranges, greens and yellows. Be careful with white. Too much can overpower the look of your arrangement. * All kinds of plants can be sprayed gold or silver to make festive Christmas arrangements. For instance, dried sedum flower heads, holly, or tree ivy (including the berries), works very well. * Daffodils are not very friendly. Their sap will upset other flowers, so keep them separate. * The pollen from lilies will stain indelibly if it gets on your clothes, or carpets. Cut th
eir stamens off to avoid this happening. * Please don’t pick bluebells from the wild. They are now very rare because of over-picking in the past. I have some in the garden, although I suspect they are actually reverted hyacinths because I have white and pink ones, as well as blue! Normally, if you pick them they will wilt completely in a matter of hours. Put them into 6 cms of boiling water, and let the water go cold, and they will last for ages. (You will need to recut the stems.) * In early springtime, flowering shrubs can be made to flower early by cutting off branches and putting them in lukewarm water. Beware of bringing flowering currents (ribes) indoors. One of their other names is “tom cat bush”! I do hope some of these tips are useful to you. Have fun!
Barney is the most magnificent black cat you ever saw. Large and stately, and dignified, he recognises the honour we feel to be his owners. Barney has, I’m afraid, been overweight for most of his life. The overfeeding had never actually been my fault. Barney always was a home-loving cat. In his view, you could never have too many homes. We had never allowed him the freedom of the house when we weren’t there. He got into far too much mischief. So, every morning, about 7.30 am, we put him into the utility room, where he had a cozy bed and access to the garden through a cat flap. And every morning, at about 8.30 am, Jenny, my neighbour, would see a black cat peering through her patio doors. Barney had arrived for his snooze by their radiator. But Jenny never fed Barney. She was content to have his company in the morning. He had his own special chair, and his own grooming brush and (wait for it!) his own silk polishing scarf to make his coat glossy. After his morning nap, Barney would saunter over to the block of flats nearby, visit anybody that made him welcome, and partake of any tasty morsels that came his way. There was also a house on the corner, rented out to a different set of students every year, usually including one or two cat lovers. Oh yes, Barney made regular visits there. I resorted to putting a label on Barney’s collar. “Please don’t feed me. My vet says I’m too fat. I get enough to eat at home.” This ploy worked. Barney definitely lost some weight, but could always be described as portly. Last year our eleven-year-old Barney had to have some teeth removed. Although he seemed to recover well from the operation, his once glossy coat was dull and he was no longer bright-eyed. Having been overfed and overweight for most of his life, he was starting to lose weight and look scrawny. Barney had definitely lost his appetite. He was starting to leave food in his d
ish, much to the dog’s delight. Before resorting to the vet, I thought I would try changing Barney’s diet. We had always fed him on dried food in the morning (this was meant to be good for his teeth) and Whiskas regular tinned cat food in the evening. Perhaps it was time for a rethink. I had a look in the supermarket and discovered that Whiskas make a tinned cat food especially for elderly cats, called “Whiskas Senior”. So I bought some for him, and he ate it. Every single scrap! So now, I give this to him every evening, and he is looking healthier and glossier, and he has put on weight. I also changed his breakfast to a different dried food product, but that perhaps is another story. The tins come in packs of four: two with chicken; one with tuna; and one with rabbit. Barney enjoys all the flavours. They are small tins, 190g, which is half the size of a normal tin. I paid £1.35 for four tins. It’s nearly 50% dearer than regular Whiskas (£1.78 a kilo, compared to £1.21). There is also a similarly special range for kittens. The contents appear quite bland. You definitely couldn’t imagine eating it on hot buttered toast, unlike some of the regular Whiskas flavours. But it seems less rich, and therefore probably better suited to elderly cat stomachs. Oh, and Barney got into mischief again last week, for the first time in months. He got his claws into a kitchen roll, and shredded all of it before being discovered. I couldn’t scold him. By the time I found him, he was lying in a soft bed of kitchen roll confetti, looking rather tired but very pleased with himself, one or two pieces of kitchen roll still wafting gently around above him. His yellow eyes looked at me and then he blinked. This may be soppy anthropomorphic imagination, but I’m sure he was saying “Don’t worry, you’ve got me for a few more years yet”.
Have you noticed the blackberries this year? Hot sun and plenty of rain have made the wild brambles set masses of fruit. Being early August, most of it is unripe, but I have already picked several piesworth of ripe ones. I love blackberry picking. At weekends, Deefa (our sort-of Jack Russell terrier) and I go for our walk. Our favourite route is along a disused railway track. Squirrel territory. Deefa lives in hope of catching a squirrel. A mere glimpse of one in a treetop, the fur rises all along her back, and she leaps skywards, stretching out the whole of her ferocious two foot length, all the while barking wildly. She knows that one day she is going to manage the twelve foot launch required. Or maybe she thinks the squirrel will surrender to such a fierce doggy display! While Deefa’s busy on squirrel alert, I pick blackberries. There are a few things to remember if you are setting off on a serious (as opposed to accompanying a loopy dog) blackberrying expedition. Wear a long-sleeved top and thickish trousers. The thorns will otherwise scratch you to ribbons. Stinging nettles against bare skin aren’t too much fun either. Take plenty of containers, so as not to squash the berries by piling them in altogether. When I go blackberrying with Deefa, I take two or three smallish carrier bags. Plastic ice-cream boxes are better, but I can’t manage to carry a box, lead, doggy treats and poo-bag all at the same time. Some years ago we went blackberrying in some open fields. We had been very successful. Several well-filled four litre plastic ice cream boxes were put in a row on the ground, while we finished filling the last two. Hearing some odd noises, a kind of snuffly squelchy sound, we turned round to find three cows, side by side, their faces stained deep pink, dripping with blackberry goo and saliva. Apparently cows love blackberries! Certainly these three looked very smug. So, if you wa
nt to avoid smug, pink-faced cows, remember to take lids for your containers. A walking stick, or a tree branch with a “hook” on the end is very useful to pull down the plumpest, juiciest berries which will otherwise always be just out of reach. When you get home, soak the berries in a saltwater solution (about a teaspoon of salt to two pints). You will be amazed, especially late in the season, at all the squirmy wormy things that rise to the surface in their death throes. If you have never bothered with this saltwater treatment before, don’t worry, it just means you have been eating added protein with your blackberries without realising. Then wash the berries well using several changes of cold water. I like then to extract a few of the most perfect, tempting berries for use in fruit salads and trifle toppings, or just to eat as they are. If you are going to freeze them, drain the berries well, and spread out onto plenty of kitchen paper to get them as dry as possible. The berries will then freeze separately, so that you can use the exact amount you need, instead of having to defrost a great frozen wodge. Blackberries can be used for all kinds of desserts, pies and crumbles, and are often combined with cooking apples. You can also make jam with them. Personally, I find blackberry jam rather pippy and much prefer jelly. My blackberry jelly has an intense fruity flavour. It is labour (and blackberry) intensive, but the flavour is absolutely delicious and you cannot buy anything as good. ~~~~~~~~~~ Blackberry Jelly ~~~~~~~~~~ (Makes 2 jars and a bit) 2lbs (or 1 kilo) blackberries Juice of 1 lemon (make it a large one if you’re using metric measurements) 3/8 pint of water (or 230 mls) Sugar (NB The metric measurements are not exact equivalents, so either use imperial or metric, not a mixture of both!) 1 Simmer the blac
kberries in a large saucepan with the water and lemon juice for about 30 minutes until the fruit looks really squishy. 2 Strain through a fine sieve, pressing the pulp to extract as much juice as possible. 3 Measure the juice and add 1 lb (.5 kilo) of sugar to each pint (115 mls). Stir to dissolve the sugar. Then bring to a rolling boil until the jelly is at setting point. (Test for this after 5 minutes and then at intervals.) 4 Put jelly into prepared (ie scrupulously clean) jars and cover. My extra tips for those unused to jam-making: ~ The saucepan needs to be big enough for the jelly to rise and bubble while it’s boiling. And don’t do what I once did, turn the heat right down so that you can go away and leave it to simmer. “It’ll take longer” I reasoned to myself, “but it’ll get there in the end”. Well, it didn’t! It never got hot enough to set, and all the water evaporated. Disastrous! ~ If you have a sugar thermometer you can test for setting point in the professional manner. If you don’t, you will need to test by putting dribbles of jelly onto a fridge-cooled plate. When the jelly has cooled push it with your finger. If it wrinkles, it’s ready. It can be difficult to judge, but I think it is better to err on the side of under-readiness. The jelly will be continuing to cook anyway while you’re testing and messing about with plates. Sloppy jelly is still usable and very delicious. Jelly which has set hard is disgusting. Do have a fruitful season, and please avoid pink-faced cows!
If you use a VDU screen at work, you may be able to reclaim the cost of the eye-test from your employers. Let me explain. The “Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992" specify minimum health and safety requirements for Users, ie those who “habitually use display screen equipment as a significant part of their normal work”. ~~~~~~~~~~ Are you a User? ~~~~~~~~~~ If all or most of these statements apply to you, then you would be defined as a “User” under the Regulations: 1 You depend on the use of display screen equipment to do your job. 2 There is no choice as to use or non-use of the display screen 3 Significant training and/or particular skills are required in the use of display screen equipment 4 Display screen equipment is used for continuous spells of an hour or more at a time 5 Display screen equipment is used in this way more or less daily 6 Fast transfer of information between you and the screen is an important requirement of your job 7 The performance requirements of the system demand high levels of attention and concentration, for example, where the consequences of error may be critical ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ How to get a free eye test ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ If you are a User, then you can ask your employer to provide and pay for an eye test, and for further regular eye tests, as suggested by the optometrist. If you have visual problems which may be related to work with VDUs, in between eye tests, then, on request, your employer has to pay for another test. Also, if the optometrist recommends glasses especially for VDU work, then your employee must pay for those also (but only if they are used “solely” for VDU work). If you are prescribed glasses for general use, including VDU work, your employer may offer a contribution. Our company pays £30. <br> You n
eed to have a chat with your employer, firstly to gain agreement that you are a User, and then to find out if they have a procedure in place for dealing with eye tests. There may be a company optometrist you are required to use, or forms to complete. You can’t just go to your employer with a till receipt and say “This is what you owe me.” If you are able to use the optometrist of your choice, be wily. Don’t do what I did for my last test. Being the bargain hunter I am, I went to my local Boots armed with my double points vouchers (lots of points to be had if you need varifocal glasses and lenses - they are very expensive!). I was delighted that they also were running a special offer of free eye tests. I only realised later that it was my employer who gained from that offer, not me! ~~~~~~~~ Why bother? ~~~~~~~~ Many Users do not know that they are entitled to regular eye tests. There is no legal requirement for employers to provide an eye test automatically, unless there is a request from the employee. A Health and Safety Executive survey in 1997 showed that only 1 million out of 5.5 million display screen workers had been given eye tests since the introduction of the Regulations. Did you know that under the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 employees have a duty to “take reasonable care of own health and safety, and that of others affected by what you do or do not do”. In my opinion, that means getting your eyes checked regularly, even if you have no current eyesight problems and don’t wear glasses. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ How you can help yourself ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There is no evidence to show that using VDUs can cause permanent damage to your eyes, but intensive VDU work can cause great discomfort. I don’t use VDUs for long periods every day, but at times, when I am doing budgets, or accounts, I do use the computer in
tensively for several days at a time. A year or so ago, after several stretches of intensive VDU use, I had real problems with my eyes. They watered and stung, and in the evening I could hardly read a newspaper. My eyes just refused to focus. I went for an eye test, and the optometrist suggested varifocal glasses. That, together with a new computer monitor (I think the refresh rate on my old monitor was at an unhealthy level), sorted out my eye problems, and I’ve been fine ever since. If you are a VDU user, your employer should have carried out a risk assessment of your workstation. As far as your eyes are concerned, the risk assessment may include such questions as: ~ Do you have regular breaks from VDU work? (You should be aiming for about a ten minute break every hour. And no, that doesn’t mean hourly coffees! It is a change in activity that is needed, for instance by making some phone calls, or doing some photocopying.) ~ Is the lighting in the room comfortable for you? ~ Can you prevent any glare or reflections on the screen, for instance by tilting or moving your monitor, adjusting blinds, or by using an anti-glare screen? ~ Are the characters on your monitor screen sharply focussed and are they stable, with no flickering? ~ Is your monitor a comfortable distance away and at a comfortable level? (This will probably mean that the top of your monitor is at eye height or below.) ~ Can you adjust the brightness and contrast on your monitor to suit the lighting conditions in the room? ~ Can you clean the screen easily? You can also help avoid headaches and eye strain associated with VDUs by: regularly looking away from the screen and focussing on a distant object; stopping and closing your eyes; yawning and blinking. If you have any queries, the Health and Safety Executive run a public information line on 08701 545500, open 8.30 - 5.00 weekdays, email hs
firstname.lastname@example.org And finally, a freebie. Download the HSE's free leaflet “Working with VDUs” from www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg36.htm.
Overdoing the foundation on an experienced face is like plastering a cracked wall; it settles into all the lines. Not nice. Over the last couple of years I have steered clear of foundations completely. They’re just too heavy for my skin. Over the last few years I have been using less make-up, but still felt I needed something. Tinted moisturisers now, I liked the sound of those. Moisturise and cover up at the same time, what a great idea!. So I tried Nivea Visage Tinted Moisturising Creme. The palest shade is Natural, but I can assure you that on my skin it is orange! Next I tried Boots No 7 Light Diffusing Tinted Moisturiser. The colour was better, but still too dark, and I hated the nasty glistening effect. “Perhaps I need to spend a bit more”, I thought. So I investigated the more expensive ranges at my local department store and came across Yves St Laurent Tinted Matt Moisturiser (Teint de Jour). They have four shades, called simply 1, 2, 3 and 4. When I opened the Tester 1, the lightest shade, it looked very pink, but the colour seemed to blend well into the skin on my wrist so I bought a tube (swallowing hard at the price!). The first time I tried it, I admit I was disappointed. The directions say “Apply directly over cleansed skin as you would a day cream.” I did that, but the effect was blotchy. So then I tried putting on some moisturiser first. Ah, much better, the Teint de Jour went on beautifully, and gave me just a light covering of matt make-up. I would say the effect is like using a face powder from a compact, but instead of having to remember to top up from the compact at intervals (which I always forget to do anyway), it lasts all day. All day long. Brilliant. The tube is a rather snazzy cream and gold design. It only contains 40 mls, but using it as I do, over moisturiser, you only need a little so the tube will last a long time. The cream has a slight, grassy,
flowery scent. It is described on the box as being suitable for normal to combination skin. Warning: Boring bit: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ For those of you who have allergy problems, I need to warn you that Teint de Jour has over 40 ingredients! They are: Aqua (water); polymethyl methacrylate; titanium dioxide; phenyl trimethicone; C12-15 alkyl benzoate; dimethicone copolyol; glycerin; hydrogenated lecithin; cetyl alcohol; palmitic acid; propylene glycol; bambusa arundinacea stem extract; butylene glycol; hexylene glycol; phenoxyethanol; helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil; hydrolyzed soy protein; parfum (fragrance); tocopherol; methylparaben; fructose; glucose; trisodium edta; butylparaben; ethylparaben; cucumis sativus (cucumber) fruit extract; propylparaben; alanine; sodium hyaluronate; urea; aspartic acid; glutamic acid; glycine; lysine; [may contain: C1 77491 C1 77492 C1 77499 (iron oxides); C1 77019 (mica); C1 77891 (titanium dioxide); C1 77007 (ultramarines); C1 77510 (ferric ferrocyanide); C1 77742 (manganese violet)]. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Although this product is described as a tinted matt moisturiser, I think of it as a long-lasting extra-light matt foundation. Especially useful for old palefaces like me!
I have seen car reviews in articles and magazines, but I have never read one that really tells me what I want to know. If, for example, you look at a Peugeot 206 review, they always go on and on about boring stuff like “1124 cc ”, manual (5 speed) gearbox and unleaded petrol. Yawn, yawn. As a non-driver, I’m not really interested in all that boring stuff. In my opinion, and as a passenger, the important questions to ask about a Peugeot 206 are: ~~~~~~~~~~ Is it big enough? ~~~~~~~~~~ This is an obvious question, as it looks such a dinky little car. It’s certainly big enough for the two of us (plus dog). The front seats push right back so there’s plenty of room for your feet. But if you are a large person, ie a six footer, you may find there’s just not enough space, especially for your top half. An adult sitting in the back certainly has a squashy time of it. Small children are fine. Deefa, our dog, is happy enough, but then she just goes in the cat basket on the back seat. The boot is small, but you can still pack a lot into this car. The last time we went to France, we came back with: 6 cases of wine; 8 wine boxes; several crates of beer; 16 kilos of coffee beans; and several bags of assorted cheeses, herbs, radishes and pastries. We could have brought back even more if we’d pushed the back seats down flat. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Is it reliable? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ We’ve had our car for two years now, and the only problem we had was just after a service (by our local Peugeot garage). It started hiccupping, in an intermittent, worrying kind of way. The garage took it back, reloaded all the software (!), and there have been no problems since. Yes, it’s reliable. Get in - start the engine - off it goes. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Is it fast enough? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It goes up to 70 mph easily. Which is as fast as anyone needs
to go. When we first had this car, I was very impressed that my husband was making a real effort to stay within the legal speed limits at all times. I was checking the speedometer frequently, as one does, and never once had to say “Oh, be careful, you’re doing nearly 80" and he never once had to say “You watch the maps, and I’ll watch the driving”. After a few weeks, he pointed out that I was actually looking at the wrong dial. The speedometer is the one on the right, the left hand one tells you the revs (whatever they are). If you stick to looking at the revs dial you will find that you never go above 70. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Is it economical? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Yes, it is. Very. It does an average 45 miles to the gallon. Also the car itself is cheap. If you had been considering paying £12,000 for a standard size car, then choosing this Peugeot means in theory you have a spare £3,000 to spend. Just think what you could do with that! A luxury holiday, or perhaps a new kitchen. ~~~~~~~~~ What else? ~~~~~~~~~ The car has air conditioning (to keep the heat out), and a sun roof (to let it back in again). It also has a tape player. There’s nothing to beat driving along the motorway, music on loud, singing along to Dire Straits. “Money for nothing, and chips for tea....” There’s a dip in the passenger dashboard which is exactly the right size for a travel pack of tissues. Ledges along the inside of all the doors make comfortable leaning places for your arms. Deefa likes these ledges because she can use them for her front paws when she wants to look through the window. Maps can be stored in the passenger door. Very handy when the driver suddenly says “Isn’t our turning coming up soon?”. You can quickly put your magazine down, grab the map from the door, have a quick glance, panic, and say
220;It’s half an inch on the left, I think”. He can do his usual gritted teeth thing of “Why can’t you .. ever .. plan in advance” and you can say, in a reasoned tone “Can’t we just stop and see where we are?”. The exploding bit comes next “But we can’t .. just .. stop .. in the middle of three lanes of traffic ... !!!” And so on. In the glove compartment, there’s a handy cup holder, and extra room for ice scrapers, wipes, windscreen wash and sweeties. Oh, and there’s a handy coin-holder compartment between the seats for car park change. Central locking means never being able to lock the keys inside, and yourself outside, the car. Never again will your driver accidentally do this, turn to you and say “You’ve got the spare keys, haven’t you?” only for you to have to admit “Yes, they’re at home in my other handbag.” Have you ever noticed how cars have faces? Some are very wide-eyed, and some look rather stern. A Peugeot 206 has a friendly, smiley cat face. Ours is a lovely bright blue Siamese cat. Don't you think “Peugeot” is a difficult word to spell? I have to use the word frequently at work, and I was always having to look up the spelling until I thought of the mnemonic “Elephants Understand EveryOne”. E-U---E-O. Now you know it too.
Any cat lover will know that all cats love catnip. Certainly a toy containing catnip will retain a cat’s interest for longer than one without. But bought toys usually contain a tiny amount. The cat toy my cats have enjoyed the most has been a catnip “beanbag” I made myself. You need a packet of catnip leaves (available from most pet stores - cost about £1.50 - Good Girl was the make I bought) and a piece of closely woven material (I used an old tee shirt - double thickness). Make a bag, about 3" x 4" in size, insert plenty of catnip, and sew up the end. You should be able to make about three of these bags from one box of catnip. Give the catnip beanbag to your cat and watch the strange effects! My black cat, Barney, a large, majestic, 11 year old neutered tom, usually has one or more of these reactions: ~~ Rubs each cheek rapturously along the bean bag and purrs loudly ~~ Does roly-poly over the bean bag, first one way and then the other ~~ Hooks the bag onto a claw and uses the beanbag like a flannel wiping it round and round his face ~~ Kneads the beanbag with his two front paws ~~ Lies stretched out with his head on the beanbag, eyes slightly closed in ecstasy, purring and dribbling at the same time ~~ Lies tightly curled, protectively round the beanbag, slightly cross-eyed, and making little miaowing sounds I tend to allow Barney to have the beanbag only for about an hour or so. It gets very wet and messy where he’s dribbled on it and, to be honest, I’m not sure that it’s healthy for an elderly cat to behave in such an wanton, abandoned manner! It’s a very strange thing to watch. If you buy one of these boxes of catnip, make sure you store it away carefully. I bought some once intending to make Christmas presents for all the family cats, and left it in my shopping bag in
the hall. Next thing I knew, Barney had managed to extract the catnip from several layers of cardboard box and plastic bag. The stuff was all over the floor, together with all my shopping, which had been chewed and clawed in an effort to get at the catnip! Oh, and it doesn’t have the same effect on dogs. Deefa, my dog, just sits there in amazement, head slightly cocked, looking at Barney playing with his catnip beanbag. She is not at all tempted.