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Member since: 27.10.2001

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    • More +
      31.03.2014 19:05
      Very helpful
      1 Comment


      • "Keeps water nice and hot for a while"
      • "Works fast"
      • "Lovely colour"


      • "Slightly flimsy button."

      A fabulously good red wine!

      I've had my eye on a new kettle for several months now, I just couldn't make up my mind as to design or colour. I had been umming and aahing over this particular one, and had my hand pushed when the Other Half told me I had 5 minutes to decide. So I bought it.

      It's a very fashionable cone shape, as in old-fashioned fashionable that is.. It is quite heavy even when empty so possibly not suitable for those who have difficult lifting heavy items. It's a very fluid shape with a small lid and over the top sturdy handle. It also has quite a wide spout which does make filling it easier, and easier to pour, without splashing it all over the place.

      It has a nice sturdy base and there really no chance of knocking it over accidently. It has a decent length lead which also winds into the base so the excess tucks away quite nicely.

      It has a good gauge on the size showing a minimum and maximum level. Unfortunately it does end up with condensation in it for quite a while obscuring the number. The leads you back to the age old tradition of guessing the amount of water but gently sloshing it around and making an educated guess!

      Turning it on is a simple push down small lever on the base. This is perhaps the only flaw that I can see in it, in that where it attaches is actually quite flimsy and I wouldn't be surprised to see that break.

      Its boil time is extremely quick, less than 30 seconds on a minimal filling. You do have to be careful as the outside does get rather hot. But it does keep the water inside hot for a considerable amount of time. Certainly enough for me to finish a cup of camomile tea and then go back for a refill without re-boiling. It also successfully dissolves granules and the like, it was the last kettles increasing inability to do so that meant it had to go. It's also easy to clean with a quick wipe-over.

      I don't want to be shallow enough to say the coluor was the deciding factor....but it was. It's a lovely rich red, kind of red wine like. It's a fabulous kettle, it doesn't just do the job, it does it well and it looks fantastic too!


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      • Seabrook Beefy Crisps / Snacks / 18 Readings / 14 Ratings
        More +
        29.03.2014 16:38
        Very helpful


        • "Get plenty to a bag"
        • Cheap
        • "Lovely thick crispy crisps"


        • "They dont really taste like Beef"

        A Beefy claim that doesnt live up to the crunch.

        I love crisps, there?s no getting over it, crisps, crisps. Except crisps can be expensive now, oh and too many contain gluten which I am avoiding at the moment. But the pound shops always have crisps, and for some reason Seabrooks are always in stock. So a quid for a 6 pack which then added 2 free was put into the basket.

        So here I am, sat in front of the pc eating a pack of the Beefy variety which apart from the Prawn Cocktail are my favourite! But then I turned to the ingredients and was astonished to find they are suitable for vegetarians. Beef does come from a cow right? Something hasn?t changed when I wasn?t looking, perhaps they have turned into giant mushrooms.

        Presumably they think the Beefy flavour can be imitated by the yeast extract and onion powder. Yeast extract is that Marmite stuff that they try to pretend has a meaty flavour and the onion powder to try and make a lovely steak and onion flavour. The answer is always in the taste though!

        One of the good things about Seabrook is that they fill the bags right up with nice crinkled crisps. These usually stay nice and intact, they are always quite thick so you get a nice decent crunch. So you get a nice decent crunch but I'm not sure you get a nice decent flavour, despite not having any in the first flavour that comes is vinegar, it ends up being the prevalent smell, I know its not vinegar but my mouth is stinging, especially my tongue.

        It's the Marmite flavour trying to break through, thing is, I'm a loathe it when it comes to Marmite, I really don?t like it. So I don?t like them and nothing is going to improve them whilst it is in it. I'm back off to Poundland to get the Prawn Cocktail ones!


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        13.12.2013 19:29
        Very helpful



        A 'professional' nail polish which strengthens and shines (apparently)

        I have bad nails! As a consequence of my daft thyroid gland they are soft and prone to peeling. Hence I've been looking for one of those strengtheners to paint on my nails in the hope of making them tougher. And I thought I'd find it in this pale pink looking liquid which had the words Forever Strong +Iron written on the front. It was also on offer in Tesco for 99p so I grabbed what I thought was a bargain.

        Except it wasn't really, as anyone who knows what this particular product is. It is actually just a nail polish, it does though, have extra iron and added calcium. Quite how that's going to benefit me I'm not sure, surely iron and calcium needs to be absorbed into the body to be of use? And before some smart alec points out that nails are porous I shall point out that it is actually recommended that you put a base coat on first to avoid your nails going yellow.

        So I have purchased myself shade 285, Pink Shimmer. From the outside of the bottle (a very chic rectangular shape I must say), it looks like the pink that you get with a French Manicure, slightly deeper colour maybe.

        Now the brush with this bottle is apparently a new innovation, it has a curved brush. This gives you a 'higher degree of accuracy' As someone who usually splodges this all over the place, this is a welcome invention.

        It is actually easy to apply, as long as you brush the excess off, it is thinner than other polishes I've had, I am impressed, just for once I don't have to dab around the edge of my nail with a cotton bud and varnish remover.
        It dries extremely quickly, surprisingly so, so its all dried and I look down to see my lovely high shine (for that is what they promise) pale pink nails. And you've guessed it, pale pink they may have been, shiny they were not. What I had was this yucky matt pink in which you can see every separate brush stroke I did. It actually looked as if I'd put too much on, but I did follow the instructions of 2 thin coats. My nails certainly didn't feel any stronger either so it negated the usefulness of wearing it under a nice shade. Being lazy I did leave it on for a week even though I disliked it and it didn't chip the whole time which was possibly the best thing about it.

        I think it may work better in stronger colours but I personally wouldn't buy it again just in case I ended up paying £4.99, its usual price, for a product which I needed to keep re-doing in case of lingering brush strokes. Its probably worth it for 99p to test it out though. Have a rummage in Tescos, you might find one like I did and have a cheap experimentation!


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        23.08.2013 18:10
        Very helpful



        Decently priced hotel in the heart of Milton Keynes entertainment centre.

        Points to those who guess the author!

        As part of a little sojourn to Milton Keynes we needed to stay in a hotel, as the rest of our friends were staying in the Ramada Encore it made absolute sense to stay there with the rest of them.

        The Ramada group has hotels all over the country and they seem to be part of the new breed of hotels which offer decent rooms but at those Premier Inn type prices. Indeed the Premier Inn in Milton Keynes is more expensive and less conveniently placed then we wanted.

        We didnt actually book through the hotel website but through booking.com and I must admit they had quite a range to choose from. Family rooms, doubles and twins, smoking, non-smoking and executive versions of the above. Rather sneakily on their own website they dont advertise they have smoking rooms, booking.com give it away but you do have to send it as a seperate request. You also have to request it again when you get to the hotel.

        The hotel is a mere 5 minutes walk in a straight line from the train station, and I really do mean that it's 5minutes walk. It's situated in the The Hub complex next to the Jurys Hotel and several restaurants and pubs. The entrance is actually down the side of the building, theres no directions to this but thankfully I'd already read this on a review. Parking is outside the hotel on a first come, first served basis at a cost of £10 for the day, but theres only 4 spots! There is an NCP car park opposite the hotel and on the complex itself. It's free between 7pm and 7am, for those other 12 hours it's going to cost £12! So make sure you factor that in to the cost of your trip.

        The foyer of the hotel is fairly small but bright and airy, theres a massive table advertising their Christmas deal but rather annoyingly no other seats. When theres a queue at booking out and in theres nothing worse then having to stand up for 10 minutes.

        The staff were impeccable and extremely helpful, we were booked in swiftly and with our request, were up on the 7th floor which had nothing but smoking rooms. I'm glad to see a hotel which acknowledges that quite a few of its guests still partake of the evil weed and dont shove them down at the end of a corridor.

        Quite often when you go towards the smoking rooms or get off in the lifts on those floors, 2 huge lifts by the way, excellent when you have lots of luggage. And even better for those hen parties who squeezed 10 people in along with huge inflatable penis's. But back to the subject I started with! You cant smell that you are in the smoking area at all, I can only presume that they have some great air freshners or some damned strong air conditioning!

        The room itself was quite nice and large, it had a larger than double bed, laminate flooring, a red leather sofa that turns into a bed, desk and chair. They also provide towels, hairdryer, tv and tea and coffee tray. It's not an over-large bathroom this is probably due to the fact that half of the room is taken up with the shower (no bath) which easily fits 2 people in it! Theres no complementary toiletries but tubes of shower cream and hand cleanser stuck to the walls.

        The room itself was clean as were the sheets and pillows, however I didnt really notice the dirty great long black hair on the shower wall until the Sunday morning! And it definitely wasnt one of my purple ones or partners blonde locks! Ordanarily I would have raised it with the hotel but with a few hours to go I couldnt be bothered!
        I didnt have any problems with the laminate flooring but then I was on the top floor. I did hearfrom people on other floors that you could hear people walking about particularly if they were wearing heels.

        There was a rather annoying event in the bathroom, it was pretty much a wet room with the shower cubicle having a slope towards the drain. Except it doesnt drain quite quickly enough and goes out onto the bathroom floor leaving you nowhere to dry your feet! With my damp feet I walked towards the tea tray intending to have a decaff coffee except I had to boil the kettle twice as it only boiled to warm the first time. Safety feature or just flipping annoying?

        I loved the bed though, not too soft or hard but just right, giving me a perfect sleep. Well, when I could finally get to sleep. The hotel is right next to the Wetherspoons pub which doesnt close till gone 1 am, you then have people wandering around for a couple of hours being generally annoying and loud. Thankfully we were on the further side of the hotel so didnt get too disturbed too much. I did hear that it was horrendous for the people whos room faced onto the pub and also had the taxi queue right underneath their windows. So thats well worth considering if you are intending to stay here.

        We didnt use the bar or restaurant but our friends did on the previous evening. Apparently the service was a little slow, well, they actually had to go and get someone from reception to come up and serve them. I'm assuming that they dont place much emphasis on their bar and restaurant with all the different places around them.

        Checkout was like booking in, quick, painless and very polite.

        All in all I was perfectly happy with the hotel but I think that was quite by chance. I dont think I would be quite as happy had I been on a lower floor facing the pub, and I have to say was I to stay here again I would request the same rooms I had been in this time. For me it was worth the £59 but it could easily have been worth much less.

        So make sure you know exactly what you may be letting yourself in for should you book into this hotel!

        Information about the place.
        Check in 2pm, check out 12pm
        * 159 bedrooms
        * Direct dial telephones
        * Tea and coffee making facilities
        * Interactive colour TV with Sky, radio channels and pay movie channels,
        * Internet access available
        * Ensuite bathrooms
        * Hairdryers are provided
        * Same day laundry and dry cleaning service
        * Irons and ironing boards can be borrowed from Reception.



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        14.08.2013 19:43
        Very helpful
        1 Comment



        The 3rd novel by Gillian Flynn exploring love, romance, hate and where on earth did he hide the body

        So the blurb on the back say "Who are you?, What have we done to each other" A brief round-up of the back is that these are the questions Nick Dunne asks himself on his 5th wedding anniversary when his wife disappears. Her friends say she had secrets and was afraid of him, his pc shows strange searches and then there are the persistent calls to his mobile. So what has happened to Amy?

        Now let me say that the title 'Gone Girl' and that little blurb didn't appeal to me too much, I can't put my finger on it. Perhaps, as a thriller fan it came across a little romantic and chick lit. As it happened it must have aroused a little interest or maybe it was the fact that it was a £1 in the charity shop, the 3 pages of praise may also have helped! And personally I hadn't heard all this hype that has been around about it, which is good as I probably wouldn't have bothered with it except maybe downloading it to put on my Kobo.

        So to the story....

        Due to them both losing their jobs Nick and Amy have had to leave their beloved apartment in New York and head back to his hometown, as well as being there to look after his terminally-ill mother and his father who has senile dementia.

        As a couple their relationship starts to unravel then when Amy disappears, of course Nick becomes the prime suspect especially when a trail of clues seems to lead to him being involved with the disappearance.

        The book itself is written in a very interesting way, you could call it a cliché one chapter being written by each character. Except in this one Nicks chapter is written in real time after the disappearance and Amys chapter is an excerpt from her diary leading towards the murder. Each chapter gives us a new facet to the characters personality and its not always good, what each chapter will do though is give you a bit of a shock or introduce a new twist, which I loved!

        Nick is an interesting character, of course he is initially devastated by his wifes disappearance, then 'bam', a new revelation comes along, sometimes it will make you feel sorry, other times it will make you dislike him. This makes him less of a shallow character then many I have seen in books; there are many different depths to him.

        Amy is another interesting one; in essence it is best that the two main characters are interesting! Again she will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions, hate, love and sympathy. I do hope that no reader says they can empathise with her though! Her whole life has been modelled around a series of books called 'Amazing Amy' which were invented by her parents and became the family income for a long time.
        With these characters come that whole twist and trip thing though, you get half-way through and it's all changed.
        To do too much in-depth analysis would, I fear, give some of the twists away, which I have to say dear reader I am struggling not to do!

        There are other characters but not quite as involved, apart from maybe Go (Margot) Nicks twin sister, her and Nick own and run their own business which was funded by Amy with the last of her money. Go, of course, supports Nick but even she is beginning to question him as the story goes on, but with this book never following a straight line there becomes a point at which you think Go may be involved.
        The detectives Boney and Gilpin are just straight forward characters, there to carry the story along really, rarely do we get an insight into who they are.
        There's quite a few 'bit part' people but to talk about them or describe them would give away who they are and spoil the story. Essentially though the whole story is Nick and Amy. It really does have some amazingly good, life-like characters.

        The story-line is far-fetched but scarily real at the same time, I loved the idea of the treasure hunt that Amy used to do on their Anniversary which of course she has left in place to do when she disappears, this very small thing increases the tension especially when you realise Nick hasn't told the police that Amy has still done it.

        Although its set in their home-town the environment doesn't really play any point in this book, they could describe it as anywhere and it wouldn't make a difference. It doesn't need it though, there are not many books where the setting isn't that important but this is one of them

        The end was horrible, not as in rubbish but it was one of those that left you on a bit of a cliff hanger, not quite knowing what was going to happen. But whatever it was, it wasn't going to be pretty!

        This is one of the most difficult books I've ever had to review, imagine trying to review milk without saying its white comes from a cow and tastes creamy. Well that's what this has been like. Most of the characters don't matter, the scenery doesn't matter and I can't go in-depth about the story-line or characters!
        I must therefore apologise dear reader if you feel a little cheated at the lack of information, but I've done what I can! Oh dear, I'm starting to sound like Amy! *wink,wink*

        I'm impressed, I haven't had a book impress me like this in a little while, it came across quite new and interesting. I would definitely recommend this to a wide range of people. And I've already found Flynns other 2 books 'Sharp Objects' and 'Dark Places' which do sound rather interesting!


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        • More +
          11.08.2013 20:50
          Very helpful
          1 Comment



          A halal chicken take-away.

          I'm a life long avowed KFC fan, of course this was probably due to the fact that KFC was the only place you could get decent fried chicken and be relatively sure that a cockroach wouldnt be served as a side order. Of course this is probably because Dixy Chicken is relatively unknown down in Bristol and after moving to Manchester I stayed loyal! Until my partner suggested we try something different and after noticing quite a lot of Dixy Chickens around the area we decided to try there.

          Dixy Chicken is a franchise company, they say they have over 100 outlets world wide but I think at least 10 of those must be in Manchester, and all their outlets are Halal.

          So Dixy Chicken, guess what it sells? Yep, chicken and lots of it! Not just any old chicken though, they have original recipe, sizzler recipe and peri-peri chicken.
          And you would hope that it was easily enough to choose from, but no, you'll be ages!
          The first thing you'll see when opening the menu is 12 meal deals.

          Chicken Fillet Burger
          Supreme Chicken Burger
          Mega Mix Burger
          Peri Peri Burger
          Quarter pounder burger (blimey, a cow!)
          Breast Fillet Panini
          Value Box (Chicken Pieces)
          Combo Box
          Sizzler Box
          Chicken Bites
          Chicken Strips
          Tortilla Wraps

          Of course you could be buying for the whole family, so you might choose:

          Family Buckets
          Boneless Buckets
          Party Buckets
          Family Treats
          Deluxe Party Buckets
          Deluxe Combo Buckets
          Full Platter
          Deluxe Platter

          Of course they have kids meals but they also have

          Loaded Box Meals
          Spicy Bean Burger
          Fish Burger
          Mini Beef Pounders
          Snack Packs
          Mini Chicken Burgers.

          My local one has also started doing pizzas, but I dont go to Dixy Chicken for pizza, I go to Dominos for that. I have actually had one though and it was good and crispy with plenty of toppings.

          Do you see what I mean? Not forgoing the fact that all the Buckets and Platters are different sizes you really could be there a while. Indeed we now phone our order in advance instead of spending 30 minutes in the place choosing!

          You've managed to choose and have your meal in front of you, but does it taste any good. Oh I just cant describe it! The chicken is of course encased in some secret recipe coating, this particular coating is probably somewhat spicier than KFC but not as heavy. The coating does give it a good crisp crunch and I've never had it soggy! The fries are a bit more of a let down, my local Dixy havent quite got the hang of making them super-crispy yet which would improve them no end. The one thing that KFC has over Dixy is their chicken gravy. KFC's is thick and quite peppery, Dixys is thinner and not as nice. But by Lordy their coleslaw makes up for it! Oh and their garlic mayo dip is just sublime!
          All their Peri-peri chicken comes in Mild and Hot, a word of warning, the Mild is really not mild, and I'd hate to think what 'Hot' was! The peri-peri chicken marinade is thickly slathered on the chicken and is not hot to the point of inedibleness but a lovely mix of seperate spices dance around your mouth.

          Value for money wise they are better than KFC, especially their Party Buckets and Platters. For a mere £19.99 you can get the Deluxe Party Bucket, you get yourself 8 pieces of chicken + 6 Sizzler Wings Or 4 chicken strips +2 Fillet Burger, 2 mini Burgers, 1 Reg Bites, 4 Reg Fries, 2 Reg Sides, Bottled Drink.
          If theres 4 or more of us we get the Deluxe Combo Bucket again costing £19.99. This time you'll get a FULL Peri-peri- chiclen, 6 chicken pieces, 6 sizzler wings OR 4 strips + 1 Reg Bites, 4 Reg Fries, 4 Dips and Bottled Drink. Even with 3 hungry men we managed to still have some left for the morning!

          Even a Family Bucket of 14 Pieces + 4 Reg. Fries only costs £14.99, if you ask nicely they'll also chuck in some free dips. They also automatically add serviettes and sachets of mayo, ketchup, salt and pepper.

          I've always the restaurants clean, tidy and comfortable. The staff have always been polite, take your order promptly and deliver it up promptly. Any mistakes, and there arent many, are rectified swiftly with many apologies.

          Better still, they also deliver, well my local one does anyway, they are also on just-eat, but I wouldnt order via that again, a couple of items cost more than in the take-away which I did raise in the comment box. I was rather surprised when I got a call from the manager who was very honest and explained about profit margins and having to pay to use just-eat, but to apologise he included extra fries, sides and dips which I thought was very nice.

          I wouldnt order to be delivered again though, the food doesnt really travel well in those heated bags, it most definitely did something funny to the fries which became almost chewy. Thankfully it didnt make the chicken soggy but the hash brown in the burger became a little soggy, and the whole thing was warm, rather than hot.

          I'm definitely not holding it against Dixy Chicken though, it was a learning experience. In future I shall be picking it up or eating in. I'm afraid KFC has now taken a back seat as Dixy Chicken wins the crown of best Chicken Burgers!


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          • More +
            05.08.2013 21:11
            Very helpful
            1 Comment



            Soap & Glorys signature hand cream

            I've not had a huge problem with dry hands, nor do I do a job which dries the skin. I have however, had to do a fair amount of cleaning recently and forgot the gloves a few times so they are a little dry.
            I've got tons of this Hand Food stuff, like Girligo It seems to be in every gift set so I decided to try one of the several I have, rather than spending more money.

            It's the usual looking Soap & Glory products, hot pink with silver writing on it. It's the signature smell that tickles the nostrils when you flip the lid of this product. In case you've never actually smelt it, it's a mixture of Rose and Bergamot, with apparently touches of strawberries, mandarin and vanilla.. I think it's a rather warm smell, definitely floral but not over-powering.

            Give the tube a squeeze and it comes quite easily. It's not think but not the thickest hand cream I've ever come across.. I usually put on a slightly larger than a pea amount on the back of each hand then rub in. Well, I kind of got the back of each hand and no further, slight exaggeration I managed a little up each finger but not even in between!. So it was another dollop for the palms and all the other in between bits. It certainly was about double the usual amount I use.

            Because of the amount I had to use it was rather pungent, I could smell it wafting up from my hands. I can get rather paranoid about these things so refused to touch any food. I have been known to go and wash my hands after applying hand cream for fear of making my chicken smell like Lavender. It think its also left over from the days of being a smoker where if you didn't rub it in properly you could taste it as well, and this can take a while to soak in and I can attest it has the above effect.

            The smell does only last about 30 minutes though and then its only noticeable by sniffing your hands, it also soaked in within a matter of moments as well. I certainly didn't feel as though I had a layer of grease on my hands as has happened with some hand creams.
            It did take a couple of days before I noticed the more permanent effects of using it, before that it only seemed to last several hours and I would occasionally find myself putting it on before bed. A small tip, slather it on, put a cotton glove on and leave it when you go to sleep, works a treat! The active ingredients and well known for their softening abilities are Shea butter, macadamia oil and marshmallow

            Of course cost is a consideration and as many fans may know they are not the cheapest brand, the small 50ml tube is £2.50, the 125ml £5, and the hand pump of 250ml, £7. Now if you do like the stuff I would consider buying the big hand pump as it does seem to reflect good value. But for someone like myself, once I've gotten through the 5 or so tubes I have I shall be moving onto a cheaper, probably non-branded version, non-perfumed version which could cost a ¼ of the price.

            Not tested on animals

            Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Dimethicone, Glyceryl Stearate, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Macadamia Integrifolia Seed Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Propylene Glycol, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Methylparaben, Parfum (Fragrance), Ethylparaben, Potassium Hydroxide, Dipropylene Glycol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sorbitol, Limonene, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Linalool, Benzyl Salicylate, Althaea Officinalis Root Extract, Geraniol, Morus Alba Leaf Extract, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Tocopherol, Propylparaben.


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            • More +
              25.07.2013 18:19
              Very helpful



              A S & G shampoo with the usual fabulous claims

              I'm not afraid to say I dont have the best hair in the world, too much bleaching means that it's quite processed and quite dry. I'm therefore trying to find the perfect shampoo and conditioner for it. To date my search has been fruitless whilst my dry ends expand!

              I do tend to go for products that declare they are for dry and damaged hair so I wouldnt necessarily go for Glad Hair Day. I probably wouldnt have even tried it but for getting it in a big S & G tote box.

              I have to say that this shampoo proclaims to be all things, it apparently creates ultra-shine, it glosses, smooths, repairs and strengthen. It's for all types including highlighted and heat process, it also, apparently, has a 'no build up formula' meaning that you never have to change products.

              I don't really describe packaging as I don't think it says a lot so rather quickly, its the typical S & G pink with some quirky phrases on it. The tube has a flip lid but due to the design I don't find it stays on its end very well.

              Glad Hair Day is unusually a clear gel and quite thick, theres no indication of how much to use so I try a 10p size blob at first having shoulder length hair.
              The smell at first is not the best, it just smells like any other non-fragranced shampoo, slightly chemical but there is an undertone to it.

              It's obvious pretty quickly that the 10p size blob isnt going to be enough, it doesnt cover even half my hair so another 10p sized blob goes on, add a little water and I try to lather it up. It manages it slightly to start with and then theres this explosion of smell. The chemical smell goes and it's replaced with this lovely raspberry scent. I dont quite get the lather promised, but then I've never managed that with any shampoo. I wash out the shampoo but I am slightly disappointed that some of my hair is still tangled. I did find it easy to wash out though.

              After getting out the shower I still found that it hadnt untangled the hair at the underneath of my hair despite me paying special attention to it. The raspberry smell does intensify as I dried it which I was very pleased with. I did feel that my hair felt slightly coated even though I had paid attention to washing it out thoroughly,

              So did it do what it promised?
              Gloss: None at all
              Smooth: On some areas but not consistently all over-large
              Repair: Another no no, I still had all the split ends
              Strengthen: Again no, it still broke really easily.

              I'm aware that the above wouldnt happen with one wash but several weeks of using it regularly didnt do any of the above, which was disappointing.

              I cant justify paying over £6 for a shampoo that just makes my hair smell nice so I wont be purchasing it again.. Time for the search to continue!


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              • More +
                19.07.2013 20:29
                Very helpful



                An average room in an average hotel in an average town.

                How is it I always end up in the basic budget hotels? One day I'll manage a room in the Ritz or the like but for now I'll just dream.

                We needed somewhere close to Hatfield which is North London but with Hatfield hotels averaging £70/80 for a Travelodge we had to go a little way out. In the end we were in Borehamwood, 10 minutes drive away from Hatfield and home to the famous Elstree studios, in an Ibis which averaged out at £40 a night.

                The Ibis hotels are part of the Accor hotel group; however the Ibis hotel has branched out in its own little groups. There is the Ibis, the Ibis Style and the Ibis Budget (Previously Etap) If you have stayed in an Etap you will know it is a very basic hotel, most of the rooms sleep 3 people consisting of a double bed then a bunk bed above that. Every time I've been they have basically been full of hen and stag weekends and very noisy. The Style hotel seem to be just a bit extra 'funky' with bright colours although they are reported to have fluffier bedding and a breakfast which is always included in the price.
                Elstree Borehamwood however is just a bog standard Ibis, no fluffiness and no bunk bed!

                It's quite easy to find, Borehamwood is quite a small place just off of the motorways and the Ibis is signposted amongst all the other hotels there. It's also right out on the main road, you can't miss it as it's next to a rather large leisure centre. It's also within a few minutes away from the main high streets with plenty of pubs and take-aways there. I heartily recommend the Chinese on the corner whose name I can't remember.

                The car park is rather odd, it's to the rear of the building and has about 20 spaces annexed off by a low wall surrounded by this massive pay-as-you -go car park that has 100 or so spaces. The Ibis does have about 5 disabled parking spaces right outside the door but these were inevitably taken up by big 4X4 and BMW drivers who felt that they were too important to walk any further. And yes, I did look for the Blue Badges!
                Going back to the car parking, you can actually go into the Ibis and get a voucher which allows you in the large car park for free. I highly suggest you get the voucher by parking in the drop off point and then going to the car park. It's London so getting the parking free is an absolute bonus, but those traffic wardens are out there first thing and will happily wait for you to walk away from the car and book you!

                The immediate area around the hotel was clean and tidy although I was somewhat perturbed to see the cigarette bin on the wall was smoking, literally, it was billowing out and was actually still doing it when we popped out several hours later.

                To me the lay-out of the reception area is fundamentally flawed, go in through the doors and the lifts are to your lift, walk in further and the reception is on your right around a curved wall. Essentially the reception can't see who is coming through those doors unless they peer around the corner. Now I see this as a bit of a security risk, anyone can get in and wander around the hotel, it should be updated as they do in other hotels whereby you have to have your key card to get above the reception floor or to gain access to each floor. Of course it does have its bonuses when you want to smuggle a group of people back to your room! However it would have been even nicer had the doors not still been open at 11.30pm at night.

                Reception was deserted, although I could hear sounds through a door, even peering to the side of the reception I couldn't see anyone. Rather annoyingly I couldn't see a bell or the like to call. Eventually someone came out and looked quite startled to see me just stood there. Another security risk I feel. Still, I was dealt with swiftly and efficiently but with a friendly smile as well, unfortunately they don't always go together but here they did.

                Up in the lift we went, accompanied by a rather strange smell of cigarette smoke, but this is a fully non-smoking hotel so we couldn't work out where it was coming from. Into the room which just seemed to be the usual bog-standard room of this type, the type you would be hard pushed to know if it was yours were you accidentally to go into someone else's! Bathroom immediately to your right, next to the bed you can put your case, squeeze past the bottom of the bed where's there a desk under the window, a very small wardrobe and shelves, a little bench-type seat and then the hostess tray. I actually really like the seat, it really does save eating on the bed.
                Although there was something rather nice about sitting on the bed watching the rather non-functioning TV. We managed to go on the Dominos website and get them to deliver it to the hotel through the free Wi-fi. Well, the Wi-fi they advertise as a bonus for your stay which does actually turn out to only be 1 hour free Wi-fi. Still that hours free Wi-Fi was rather well used with the ordering of pizza and checking my Face book!

                Anyhow back to the room, it was fine, functional, clean and tidy. As was the bathroom, I always have to have an inspection around the place and it did meet my standards. The bathroom is just about big enough to fit two people into it, the shower takes up half the room and gave me a lovely good pounding. The shower people, the shower! It was a really good power shower. The only thing missing was the toilet roll, this was an essential item after a 4 ½ hr journey, why there is only the ability to notice once you've done the deed I don't know, but thankfully my partner was there and we had a chat through the bathroom door whilst waiting 10 minutes for the staff to arrive with more!

                SO we had a nice sit-down with a teeny cup of tea and turned the telly on, its quite nice, flat screen in a wooden surround. Except the quality was appalling! There were channels missing that should have been there and ones that weren't listed in the booklet about the hotel, and it was all slightly fuzzy with some channels blanking out regularly. Others also kept threatening to go into stand-by mode, obviously other guests were just as annoyed by this as the switchboard was jam-packed when you tried to call to report this. Obviously 'The Kings Speech' was proving popular! When I did mention this on the way out that evening I was given a voucher for free breakfast and was told the engineer was coming the next day. Well, they must have called a bit of a crap engineer because it didn't change the whole 4 days we were there.

                We decided to keep the breakfast voucher for the very last day as we knew there was a fair chance we wouldn't be eating for the rest of the day. It's usually £7.95 per person but obviously we got it for free. Which was a good job, because it was most certainly not worth £7.95, but don't go thinking it was bad because it wasn't.
                There was trays of sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, beans, and bread to toast yourself, you could help yourself to as much as you wanted which was a good job because they didn't exactly fill the trays very often, so it was pile it up when they did.
                There was plenty of fresh fruit, cheese, bread and cereal available, there were also machines serving hot and cold drinks. The dining area was very clean but this was probably because it was also pretty empty! For that amount of money if you want a filling breakfast you are better off walking up the road and getting a full brekkie at the Weatherspoons.
                They also serve evening meals here but the prices again were rather expensive so we didn't try them.

                Checking out was also very easy, there were no huge queues and rather nicely check-out is 12am not a 'stick all your clothes in the suitcase and leave' 10am. I do have a few extra thoughts on the place though.

                We worked out that the constant smell of smoke in the left hand lift is due to the fact that it is on the other side of the wall from the ash-tray, the ash-tray that was still smouldering 2 days after we had told them. The reception desk was in the wrong place to ensure security, we didn't see one person asked what room they were in when coming in at 11pm and going straight to the lift. In fact there appeared to be no way of seeing full stop!

                When we left one morning there was what appeared to be a workman at the end of the hallway, huge maintenance trolley full of tools and the like, I assumed he was doing something with the TVs or with someone's room. It was only later that I realised the holder for the shower gels had been changed, evidently that was what the workman had been doing I was more than slightly annoyed at not being told or warned that there would be someone going into my room without my permission, I'm a bit funny with my privacy like that!

                All in all, its fine and a thoroughly businessman-like hotel, or maybe a couple for no more than a couple of days. Certainly not a romantic weekender or a family trip away.

                And if you are wondering about the title its Bristolian for I did have a good nights sleep aka I couldnt think of a title.


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              • More +
                15.07.2013 19:52
                Very helpful



                Quirky little chocolate shop for yummy-mummies and students.

                I just had a little trip to Sheffield as my sister-in-law graduated and the family got together. They do love a good walk and after busting my foot it wasn't going to happen for me. So I got dumped in the pub only to receive a call to say they were sat down having a hot chocolate. I was not best amused even when my partner assured me that he had bought me a little gift!

                The gift turned out to be a little bag containing a beautifully presented little box complete with ribbon. Nestled inside were 6 rather impressive looking chocolates. Still feeling a little peeved I had to try one and I went for an obviously dark chocolate one with a crystallised pink thing on top. Biting into it turned out to be the most fabulous rose cream. Dark chocolate can often be very strong but in this case it only accented the rose cream.

                The next day more walks were planned so my partner, probably having learned his lesson from the day before too me down to Cocoa whilst we waited for the walkers. Cocoa is on a busy main road, slightly set back from the main pavement. It's very small, it does mention chocolate on the window but being frank at a glance it looks like a second hand shop and gives no reason as to why you should stop and take a look.

                The minute you walk in your senses are assaulted by the smell of chocolate. It's a very small shop and every surface is packed to capacity including a rather delicious looking brownie, and a hazelnut and chocolate cake under glass domes. There's a very small fridge full of organic ice-cream. Right in front of you there's bars and bars of chocolate. They seem to be from every corner of the globe with different percentages of cocoa and every ingredient possible. Orange does feature heavily as does mint but there are many other fruits, nuts and spices. I was sorely tempted by the Lavender chocolate but ended up with a Pudding one full of nuts, cranberries and spices. There are also chocolates and pannattones from other countries as well as shelves of 'traditional' sweets.

                Walk through to the back and you'll find a little room full of kitsch and vintage decorations. Every inch of the walls are covered in old advertisements and pictures, there's also a big sideboard covered in kitsch to buy such as aprons, candles, teas, etc. There is only 8 chairs and 2 tables, upstairs is the same but with more benches. The toilet was also very clean and full of knick-knacks, the odd thing was the very tiny kitchen you had to go through to get there!

                The menu is interesting; one side tells you the history of Cocoa and their journey to source the best chocolate. On the other side are lists of the drinks they offer, they don't provide any food apart from slices of homemade cake.
                They do of course have hot chocolate, you can have it milky or thick or as a mocha, which for those who don't know is chocolate and coffee. There is also a large list of different teas and some coffees. As a little extra treat you can get tasters, these are 20 mini boxes of chocolate or chocolates.

                We plonked ourselves on a little sofa and ordered two Rocky Road mocha. They came within a few minutes which was quite impressive seeing as the young lady was making the drinks and serving in the shop. They looked quite impressive in glass mugs, a decent amount of chocolate topped with whipped cream, marshmallows and chocolate chunks.
                It looks, oh so delicious, but sadly the reality didn't match the illusion I had in my head. It was topped with cheap synthetic squirty cream, or so it tasted, a few pennies more for a decent brand would have improved it no end.
                The hot chocolate was thick, and when I say thick, it was more like melted chocolate than a drink. The texture was sublime, but there was a funny aftertaste, something strong left behind. In fact I couldn't even drink more than half the cup, and that was with me continually taking a sip to see if I was going to get used to that aftertaste. But sadly, no.

                The mystery may have been solved slightly when the walkers returned and my brother in law commented that he had the coffee yesterday and wasn't about to today as he'd found it quite bitter
                Therefore may be the reason for that aftertaste, it was just the bitterness from the coffee. SO until they improve the coffee I suggest you stick to the ordinary hot chocolate, oh and have it without the squirty cream topping.

                A couple of people had the chocolate this time but milky, a hazelnut coffee was ordered and I had a Shepherds Delight tea! Not a meaty potato tea you may be glad to hear but a mix of rose, berries and other pink fruits tea. It comes in its own little tea pot with enough for 2 cups and rather predictably an unmatching old-fashioned cup and saucer. It was fantastic, very fruity, and not at all insipid and I ended up buying a bag, although I now have to buy some kind of tea strainer!

                The tasting chocolate was very interesting, for £4.99 you get 20 small boxes with the appropriate numbers on then, then on the inside of the lid it tells you what kind of chocolate it is, those chocolates are then able to buy. All the chocolates which came in little buttons were lovely but none were purchased, I'm not one for chocolates containing licorique, chestnuts and the like. Of course leaving would not be possible without purchasing some of the lovely good. Another brother-in-law insisted of buying some edible gold stars just to put in his curry! I did get some dairy-free chocolate bars for my daughter, there is a limited selection of gluten-free, vegan, lactose-intolerant, diabetes-suitable, etc chocolates and chocolate bars available but certainly more than Tesco's or even Thorntons. I didn't think the price was that much more than for the other ordinary bars. The bars will range from £1.95 up to £4.95

                Cocoa was fine, I loved the décor and the staff were fabulous but I wasn't that taken with the hot chocolate or the Gnaw bar that I had bought. Perhaps next time I will just try a milky hot chocolate. They do hold 'lock-ins' where you can hire one of the rooms and spend the evenings having different drinks and lots of different chocolates to try and I'm sorely tempted to book one for my birthday in May. On a day to day basis I don't think I'd go out of my way to pop in, but then I'm not a yummy-mummy or one of the 'twee' rather posh students who appeared to be most of their clientele. Though perhaps if I ever do become one of them...


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              • More +
                20.06.2013 20:13
                Very helpful



                Budget anti-dandruff shampoo

                Isn't buying shampoo just one of the most annoying things ever? Low shine, high shine, straightening, curling and on it goes.
                Well trying being a man! They just decide whether they have a bit of dandruff or not and go choose accordingly. Well, my partner is a bit of a cheap shot so was quite content that not only was it a 2-1 shampoo and conditioner, that's buy 1, get 1 free as far as he's concerned, it was also a Sainsburys one and mere pence to buy.

                Now I've been bad and have been swimming twice without washing my hair out twice so it definitely needed a good scrub. To do this job I didn't want to use any of my daughter slightly expensive products (I never buy my own!), and I was looking for something easy to use as I find washing my hair extremely boring.

                It's a boring bottle, it certainly doesn't stand out on the shelf, and it just says Sainsburys 2-1 Anti-Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner in a blatant rip-off of the Head & Shoulders logo. So according to the instructions, which is all it really says on the bottle, no gumpf about making your hair shine like the dew on jungle leaves anyway, you have to wash, rinse, repeat if necessary.

                It's a blue, slightly runny mixture with a quite chalky smell and feel to it, apply to wet hair and massage deep into the hair giving the scalp a good rub. I was most astonished to find just how much of a good lather I got with this shampoo, certainly more than I get with most other brands, including the ones specifically for my hair or the ones that boast of their lathering abilities. I rinsed, once again amazed at anti-dandruff shampoos ability to strip hair dye from my hair, then added a bit more to the ends, scrubbed and rinsed again. Thats my little tip of the day as well, if you want to start getting hair dye out of your hair start by using an anti-dandruff shampoo, its amazing!

                It did feel thoroughly clean and for once not full of knots, my scalp also felt like it had had a good tingly scrub, no sign of a scabby scalp anyway (Not that I had one in the first place!) It actually felt quite soft and straight.

                I decided to give my hair a break from the heat of the hairdryer and let it dry naturally, usually this results in a mass of curls, which is preferable to the mass of frizz I get with the hairdryer. This time though it seemed quite soft and straight, I did end up running the straightners over it and was again impressed with nice straight hair. I didn't need the straightening hair serum either. As you may have guessed I am blighted with curls and the odd bit of frizz!

                It's 2 days later and I'm looking at the hair again, whilst its not perfect, but then I'm also getting used to it becoming very thin, its not like it used to be whereby most of it had become greasy but the ends were frizzy, it is still quite smooth and nice.

                I'm actually quite wowed by this product, compared to some of the stuff I have tried the value for money is enormous. I've tried some bottles of shampoo for £5 which has had less effect on my hair whilst this cost me 89p. Not only that I haven't had to use bottles of expensive anti-frizz serum. I think this little bottle may be a bit of a hidden arsenal for many people, for the price and for what it apparently is amazing. A bit like one of those own brand face creams in Lidls that everyone decided was the best thing ever. I don't have dandruff so cant say exactly the effects it would have on it but blimey I bet it's good!


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              • Always Long Plus / Sexual Health / 43 Readings / 43 Ratings
                More +
                16.06.2013 20:25
                Very helpful



                Absorbent adour busting panty liners.

                Oh yes, it's a Ladies review! I'd love to know if the chaps ever read these just to get an idea of what we're talking about! Please admit it if you do!

                There are so many different styles of sanitary towels available now I couldn't even tell you if I deliberately went for these ones, it's very unlikely, they were probably on an offer, 2 for 1, or buy 2 packs for £2. Actually it might just have been the fact that the packet was a nice purple. It would have been something like that; they would have just ended up in the bathroom. It's very rare that I'll choose anything specific although I have learnt my lesson from buying cheap ones! They do have to be very interesting for me to notice anything different about them as well.

                Well, these do have something slightly interesting, not only are they longer than most but they also apparently have 'odour-busting pearls' in them. What I take this to mean is that they have these tiny little balls in them and when you squish them they release some kind of smell.

                Upon opening the packet you will notice a fragrance waft up at you, its not unpleasant, a kind of a cross between lavender talcum powder and lemon cleaner. It's certainly not strong enough to be detected when you've got all yer undercrackers pulled up. You may wonder why, like I did, what was the point in drawing pretty blue patterns on the pad itself, I quite frankly don't care its not like it isn't going to get messy, and I'm not likely to turn around to a friend or colleague and go 'Have you seen those lovely patterns Always are doing now, makes you almost want to stick it on the outside of your knickers' Just keep it plain and simple I say.

                They do settle quite well into your underwear, being long they do feel very comfortable although they you can hear them scrunching into place to start with. What I do like is that once they are in place they do stay there, there's no shifting about even without 'wings'. They do the job very well; I had the Long Plus ones and they did cope well. The next bit is a bit graphic so beware! Smell wise, yes they are quite effective, they do mask that coppery smell quite well, but it can be quite odd, that slight smell with that slight chemically smell also noticeable. However I wasn't worried that other people could smell it, it did also make me feel a little fresher than other brands.

                Are they worth the money, yes I do think so, getting away from that odour-busting, I still think it's worth it. They stay into place well, being long I find them very comfortable and they do what they are supposed to do very well. I might even keep a look at for these when I next need them!


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                • McVities Victoria Biscuits / Snacks / 45 Readings / 43 Ratings
                  More +
                  06.06.2013 17:36
                  Very helpful



                  A posher looking tin than it deserves.

                  It was Christmas, it was biscuit tin season and it was definitely one of my favourite times. Even more so after Christmas when they were on special offer and I grabbed a tin which we finally opened this week!. The tin of choice this year was McVities Victoria in its glossy blue tin announcing its luxury contents. So I feel it's my duty to tell you lovely people exactly what it contains!

                  White Chocolate Cream Wafer: This is rather an explosion of taste in the mouth. Pity about the wafer though. I was expecting crisp and crunchy, but more of a squish. It has two layers of wafer sandwiched with chocolate cream and covered in white chocolate. You can't taste the chocolate cream but the white chocolate is overpowering. Not so much the creamy kiss of Dairy Milk Buttons but a punch in the gob. Thankfully it's the only white one in the tin.

                  Milk Chocolate Wheel: A digestive biscuit covered in milk chocolate but in a wheel shape. Well, what exactly can I say about it? It's not exactly new or different and does exactly what it says on the tin.

                  Milk Chocolate Shortcake: Ooh wrapped in gold foil, we must be getting posh! I like my shortcake crumbly and buttery and this doesn't fail. Exactly for the crumble, it's encased in chocolate and is decidedly compacted but it is buttery and quite delicious.

                  Milk Chocolate Crispy Biscuit Finger: This is to Cadburys Dairy Milk Fingers as a Punto to a Porsche. Absolutely not a patch on them. Ignoring the chocolate they are delicious in their own way and very crispy.

                  Plain Chocolate Coated Coconut Flavour Square: These, long with the white cream flavour are the last left in the tin. They don't look very nice, they're very thin and the dark chocolate is quite matt. But the dark chocolate is quite nice, not too bitter, the coconut is not quite apparent except as an after-taste.

                  Plain and Milk Chocolate Finger Cookies: Two separate cookies by the way! The dark, like above isn't too bitter, but the milk chocolate isn't very creamy. The cookie though is lovely, crumbly and quite sugary.

                  Milk Chocolate Cream crumble: Another posh one wrapped in red foil. Now this is a thick biscuit! A solid slab of buttery biscuit, a cream topping and completely covered in a thick layer of chocolate. It would be the nicest, the flavours are lovely but it's too darn thick and people with falsies are going to have problems!

                  Fully Coated Milk Chocolate Digestives: This I was looking forward to. I love digestives, their wheaty crumbliness and the way it mushes together in your mouth. Bit difficult with these as the wheatiness is solidly welded together giving it a solid snap instead of a gentle parting.

                  Chocolate Chip Cookie dipped in Milk Chocolate: I had to save the best till last. Deliciously large crumbles with large chocolate chips and a just perfect layer of chocolate on top. The kind of biscuit you could eat 20 of and still want more.

                  The main issue with these biscuits is the chocolate; the quality is just not good enough. There's no melt in the mouth, no creaminess to it. The biscuits are covered with 'chocolate', but with the exception of the white chocolate it's so incredibly weak you could eat 4 or 5 before you even feel like you've had a decent chocolate fix.

                  They're perfect for that special tea with granny or as a gift, but for the price of over a fiver you could get a decent box of chocolates. Personally for something extremely special, a cheer me up, or just because you're feeling a bit piggy the Cadburys version would do the job perfectly.


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                • Nicorette Inhalater / Health Product / 46 Readings / 46 Ratings
                  More +
                  17.05.2013 19:45
                  Very helpful



                  A 'stop smoking' product that still requires willpower!

                  As with my review on the patches this is not about giving up smoking, its not about why you should give up smoking, and it's not about what smoking does but about the product that's supposed to help you do it. Hence this may seem a little shorter than some other reviews. I'm doing it with this and the Nicorette patches and its going quite well I must say! At the time of writing 80 days without a ciggie!

                  You can either buy them in the chemists or major supermarkets, if you are eligible you may be able to get them on prescription as I do, they can be prescribed by a nurse or a smoking cessation advisor. If you get them prescribed then you pay the price of a prescription which I believe is around £7.50, to buy the box is around £22, so it doesnt make any sense to get them non-presciption!

                  What you get for your money is a cardboard box with 36 'cartridges; in it and the inhalator. The inhalator is a tube about 2 1/2" long, it flattens at the end with a lip around the edge. Into this goes a cartridge.
                  Easy enough to use, the sections pull apart, you push a cartridge in one end breaking the seal, place the other end on, click together and twist. Then it's all ready to go.

                  So the Inhalator is used at those moments when the cravings hit, not as a complete replacement for cigarettes, sorry to say but you are still going to need some willpower!
                  Each of the cartridges has about 40 minutes of use and you can use this time as you please. So let's say, 4 10 minute inhalations, or 10 minutes the six lots of 5 minutes. However you mustn't use more than 6 cartridges in one day. Then it's up to you how you use it. You can take deep or shallow 'sucks'. What I have found is that I need to take really deep inhalation to feel like its working but that's' just because I've felt like I need to taste it in order to think it's worked. I have been known to just stick it in my mouth for long periods though and continually suck on it long after the cartridge has run out. And no, I couldn't think of one single way to write this without it coming across as a rude innuendo! The taste isn't entirely pleasant either, it's almost a peppery taste or sensation on the roof of my mouth, and you do get used to it though and it's nowhere near as vile as the taste of the lozenges or spray.

                  Another side effect that I have got is that if I over-did it I felt slightly sick and this went on for a while. Oh, and decide to use it just as you put a patch on and you'll get a huge whack of nicotine. Subsequently I managed to make myself extremely dizzy which wasn't at all pleasant.

                  There is a whole list of other side effects; they include Very Common, Common, Uncommon and Very Rare. It could be a cough, nasal congestion, hiccups, palpitations or abnormal heart beats, the former 2 can just be a side effect of giving up smoking anyway, the latter 2 caused by too much nicotine. And as for hiccups, I presume that's just from sucking in too much air!
                  Frightening sounding stuff though. Use them sensibly and there should be no problems.

                  Do remember to clean the filter out a few times a week. I left it a few days and there was loads of fluff in it, I may as well have been sucking on my jumper!

                  It does work, but for me it wouldn't have been enough on its own. It does work as a 'top-up' when the cravings particularly hit. I have reduced its use quite considerably but always have it just in case! It has been the mouth and hand thing that have always been my problem, but this has pretty much solved that problem.

                  What I don't like is, and which was a bit of a revelation was that it is too much like a drug preparation. As is smoking, I guess! But hopefully a couple more months and I'll be totally free of both of them!

                  **Update** After writing this a month ago I'm now off the patches and down to about 1 cartridge a day. Go me!


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                  • More +
                    04.05.2013 19:33
                    Very helpful



                    A tale of the life of Kat Ashley

                    I do like a bit of historical fiction and over the past week have managed to read 2 concerning the Boleyn family. This particular one is about Katherine Ashley, the Governess of Elizabeth I and eventually life long friend. If you've ever see Blackadder Nursie is inspired by Kat Ashley, although I don't think she was ever known as Bernard!

                    Kat Ashley was a young girl living in Devon with her father and evil stepmother, who may or may not have been involved in her mothers' death when Katherine was 10. Like a lot of young women Kat went to work in the local manor as an assistant to their disabled daughter, this was usually in the schoolroom so she received an excellent education even for the daughter of some minor gentry.

                    Then comes the lucky day when fate entwines her with Thomas Cromwell, Secretary to Cardinal Wolsey and as the saying goes her star starts to shine, all the way to the Kings Court! Here she becomes a waiting maid to Anne Boleyn just before Anne becomes Queen.
                    The book then whisks along through Queen Annes fate, meeting Thomas Seymour, her marriage and throughout it all her relationship with Elizabeth.

                    Aah, relationships! In my opinion this is what this book is all about. Of course that is true of the vast majority of books but this one more so, there are no real fleeting meetings but relationships which address different issues.

                    So we have relationships of convenience such as Kat with her families who used her as long as necessary, and of course her them. In the book it can be seen that Anne Boleyn treated her the same way, but that turned into friendship and eventually dependency.

                    Then there's lust entailed with Thomas Seymour, yes that Seymour of the Elizabeth and Katherine Parr, he stays a bit of a bodice ripper from the moment we meet her. There's the relationship with her solid dependable husband John who seems to keep her stable when things go a bit belly up!
                    Once in a relationship Kat never seems to become a 'fair-weather friend, she stays with Elizabeth through thick and thin fulfilling her vow to Anne Boleyn. Mind you that was because she was initially sent to Anne to be a spy for Thomas Cromwell, she found out where her loyalties lay pretty quickly.

                    Motherhood is also a feature of the book, the notion has occurred to the author and she does like to explore it. Kat Ashley's mother died when she was 10, shortly after the 18yr old maid became her step-mother and Kat becomes a veritable Cinderella mostly looking after her new siblings. AT court Kat sees the harsh reality of being a Royal mother and what its like for children, as she already know, to be apart from their mother, and not there before there mother dies.

                    And then of course the parent/child relationship between her and Elizabeth, Kat even relates at one point how her household is more like a family with herself as mother, John as father and Elizabeth as their child. With the love, care and devotion that come through this book you can't tell this is how Kat feels. Perhaps Kat is like this because she knew from a young age that she couldn't have children, certainly she never had biological kids of her own.

                    The book is enjoyable to read, it's easy to, and it does happen quite often that the author seem s to drift across to the more well-known characters and tell their stories.
                    Not so here, Kat is the central focus and everyone else moves around her. She's a great heroine as well as a strong woman. Kat stayed reliable even when she was taken to the Tower of London for 'questioning' and when she spent time in Fleet prison for supporting Elizabeth. She fought like a mother hen for her chick when Elizabeth's enemies were trying to discredit her.

                    Of course its historical fiction so a great deal of what's in the book is speculation or guesswork. Very little of Kats early years is known even down to her parentage although she has been traced to Devon. Her court life is more documented although her relationship with Thomas Seymour may have more than a touch of artistic licence in it!

                    I like the authors writing style as well, it's clear and concise and unusually for someone writing about this period the language used isn't vulgar, of course it probably wasn't vulgar then but it is now. The book reads far more like an up to date Jean Plaidy novel.

                    It's a great book and well worth the £1.99 I paid for it in Sainsburys. I do enjoy reading about the people constantly hear about whilst reading other books and seeing how they did fit in. For Tudor fans it's a must particularly those of the female variety.
                    There's also a really interesting section at the back where the author talks about the research she has done and the possibilities around Kat and her background. Harper also recommends a good selection of other books to be reading.
                    So why are you reading me? Go read her!


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