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I joined Amazon DVD rental in the hope that it would cure me of buying DVDs (my DVD-laden bookshelves are sagging in the middle). Like many people I find local video shops are not terribly useful unless youre only interested in mainstream movies. I joined Amazon for the simple reason that it was easy and I already have an account with them.
Joining the DVD rental scheme simply involves clicking a few buttons. You can either pay £7.99 a month for 4 DVDs or £9.99 for 6. This does seem a bit stingy as so many of the other online DVD rental sites claim to offer you an unlimited number of DVDs. You can keep 2 DVDs at a time if you are on the £7.99 scheme or 3 if you are on the £9.99 scheme. You can keep the DVDs as long as you wish. The choice of DVDs is excellent as you can have almost every DVD on the site (excluding the region 1 imports). You can easily check out what DVDs are available before joining up as there is an orange rental button next to an available title. When you sign up you are encouraged to start creating your DVD wish list. Amazon suggests you list 20 titles I listed 35 in under 15 minutes!
I have been very pleased with the service so far (I have been a member for 4 months). The majority of titles have been available and they arrive very quickly indeed. I have also found that the DVDs are quickly processed on their return. I was somewhat concerned that the DVDs would disappear in the post as the envelopes have DVD written all over them! So far I have not had any problems though (touch wood!). The selection is excellent, I have been able to watch DVDs that I could not have rented elsewhere (old TV programmes from the BFIs archives, folk music concerts, obscure foreign films). I cant comment on what happens if an incorrect or faulty DVD is sent as I have never had any problems.
The site is very easy to use. Changing the order of your DVD wish list or deleting items is very easy. I alter mine about once a week because I keep changing my mind about what I want to watch next! One of the major bonuses of joining the scheme is that you automatically receive 10% off any DVD you buy from Amazon. If you buy a lot of DVDs youd easily make back your rental fee. The only drawback is that you might be encouraged to buy even more DVDs!
As you can probably tell I am very pleased with the service. I do think it's a little expensive compared to other sites and I would prefer it if I could have 8 DVDs a month. But I have heard so many tales about bad service from other online DVD rental sites that I shall stick with Amazon.
B4U (Bollywood For You) is probably the most well-known Bollywood channel broadcasting in the UK. The channel broadcasts Bollywood movies (both old and new) as well as music shows and gossipy TV programmes by the truckload. It?s rather loud and colourful and, dare I say it, a bit tacky (in a good way!). A subscription is probably essential if you are a Bollywood fan as you get the opportunity to see plenty of award shows and interviews with your favourite stars. B4U music is included in the price and I actually prefer it to B4U movies. It?s great to see all the new music videos, although I usually end up shelling out money on lots of CDs after watching B4U. When I subscribed to B4U Sony Asia was included in the price, but don?t think this offer is applicable at the moment. I pay about £160.00 a year for my subscription, but you can also pay monthly. I think the the subscription is reasonably priced as they do show lots of new films. In my opinion there are only two things about B4U which annoy the hell out of me. The first is the VJs. I don?t know where they find these people who regularly make an utter fool of themselves on my TV screen. The men all seem to think they are great comedians and just sit there laughing at their own lame jokes. The women aren?t much better and seem to have spent more time worrying about their lip gloss than what they are going to say. B4U recently held a talent competition to find some new presenters and I sincerely hope the winners will raise the collective IQ at B4U headquarters. The other thing which really, REALLY annoys me is the fact that movies are shown without English subtitles. I find this very frustrating as a non-Asian viewer (my attempts to learn Hindi confirmed my GCSE German teacher?s opinion that I am the most inept language student ever). I know I am not the only person annoyed by B4U?s oversight. My Bollywood-obsessed friends include other non-Asians, Asians who don?t speak Hindi and Asians
whose terrible Hindi leaves their parents shaking their heads in despair. B4U has no excuse as many of the films they show were originally released with English subtitles. If you want to find out more about B4U you can visit ww.b4utv.com (you can also read the latest gossip and downloads wallpapers etc.) I have also found the staff at B4U very helpful when I have had need to ?phone them.
When Andrew Lloyd Webber announced that he was going to be producing a musical inspired by Bollywood no one knew quite what to make of it. It has now been running a few months and people still don't know what to make of it! While Bombay Dreams has been very successful at the box office the jury is still out on whether it is a 'good' thing. One potential problem with this musical is who is it trying to appeal to? Will Asians find it patronising? Will non-Asians be put off by the Hindi? Well, I shall attempt to answer these questions... BACKGROUND - Bombay Dreams is basically inspired by, and about, the Indian film industry, better known as Bollywood. Andrew Lloyd Webber has produced it, Meera Syal wrote the book and the legendary A.R.Rahman provided the music. (VERY BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE) STORY - The story involves around Akaash, a boy bought up in the slums of Bombay. He dreams about one day becoming a Bollywood star (don’t we all!). He does eventually get his big break and becomes a huge star and also falls in love with Priya, the beautiful daughter of a movie director. Unfortunately she is engaged to a slimy lawyer called Vikram. The musical revolves around this story as well as Priya’s attempts to make a movie that is about real life and not the artificial world of the Masala movie. The end of the musical involves Akaash having to choose between fame and the people he left behind in the slums. Throw in some eunuchs, the underworld, corruption, a ‘Smita Smitten’ style reporter and lots of gorgeous gals in wet saris and there you have it. THE MUSIC - The music is by A.R. Rahman who is revered by Bollywood fans (Don Black supplies some of the lyrics). Most of the songs used in Bombay Dreams are from films so there is a danger that Bollywood buffs will feel they’ve heard it all before. I don’t think this is necessarily a problem as it is great hearing these songs 'live' (some involve t
he actors miming in true Bollywood style). Chaiyya Chaiyya is as stunning on stage as it was in ‘Dil Se’ (they even try and recreate the train scene!). Shakalaka Baby is great fun and very sexy and the Wedding Qawwali is stunning. I wasn’t as keen on the more Western numbers, although they are needed as this is, of course, first and foremost a West End musical. Some of the songs are in Hindi, but it doesn’t matter as it’s not necessary to know what is being sung. Plus they wouldn’t sound half as good in English. The dancing is fantastic and I would go and see Bombay Dreams just for the dancing. The moment in Shakalaka Baby when the fountains come on and soak the sari-clad dancers is wonderful (wet Sari scenes are very popular amongst male Bollywood fans!). THE CAST - I have seen this musical twice and had my doubts about the casting the first time round. I saw it early in it’s run and some of the main characters were not managing to hit their notes during the songs. Andrew Lloyd Webber has very admirably used an all-Asian cast, but the problem is that they do not have the training that your experienced West End star has. I’m glad to say that by the second time I saw it they had improved considerably. Raza Jaffrey and Preeya Kalidas are a believable hero and heroine, although I didn’t think Raza had the charisma of your average Bollywood heartthrob. Ayesha Dharker is stunning as the Bollywood diva and got tons of wolf whistles from the men in the audience (if you have a daughter who is obsessed with her weight take her to see the curvacious Ayesha looking scrumptious in her soggy Sari). Raj Ghatak is wonderful as the kind-hearted eunuch and Shelley King is excellent as the show biz reporter, although Meera Syal has rather lazily just recreated her Smita Smitten character from ‘Goodness Gracious Me’. The supporting cast are all very good, although I wish Ramon Tikaram (who you may remember from
‘This Life’) had a larger role. THE CRITICISMS - There have been many criticisms of Bombay Dreams and I would agree with some of them. Meera Syal’s book has come in for a lot of flak which I think is justified. The dialogue did seem terribly stilted and the whole thing didn’t gel too well. I love Meera’s writing so I was expecting greater things. Some people feel that the story is outdated and cliched which I would also agree with. Bollywood films have changed a great deal and this musical only really focuses on your stereotypical Masala movie. The portrayal of Bombay has also annoyed some Indians, I’ve never visited Bombay so I cannot comment. I also understand that some Asians feel that this musical stereotypes the Asian community. I have to admit that I feel torn over this argument. Yes, it probably does to some extent, but musicals are not documentaries. I don’t think anyone goes to see ‘Les Miserables’ to learn about French history! I think that the fact this is the first musical of this kind in the West End has made people oversensitive (and I don’t mean that in a bad way). ALL IN ALL - Yes, it’s flawed, but I really enjoyed it. The cast really throw themselves into it and it’s definitely a high-energy musical. The music and dancing is wonderful and I really felt that the audience got into it. I had an America guy sitting next to me who asked me what Bollywood is and was surprised to hear that there is a film industry in India (!?). During one scene he just leapt up and started dancing! The price is a bit off-putting as I paid about £35 for my ticket, but you expect that in the West End. Plus you really need a good view of the stage. I would recommend this to anyone, just don’t expect a perfectly polished West End musical. You won’t know whether you like it until you try it! P.S. If anyone can tell me what 'Shakalaka' means I'd be most g
Revlon Colorstay Overtime Lash Tint - A mascara that lasts three days and doesn't smudge or flake? Hmmmmmm, I was intrigued when I saw this new product from Revlon mentioned in a magazine. It sounded too good to be true, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway. My eyelashes are annoying buggers at the best of times so I'll give anything a try. I have to say that I'm not 100% impressed with this mascara. The people who have been raving about it in magazines are either being paid by Revlon or have not actually tried it yet. I think there is a lot of potential in the product, but it just needs to be developed further. APPLICATION - I've been wearing mascara for years so I consider myself an expert on application. I do all the right things such as look down into a mirror to apply the mascara and dab the brush on some loo paper to get the excess off etc. What I'd not realised is that this stuff is not like mascara. It's quite watery so it does tend to go everywhere. I did find it quite fiddly to apply, especially as the brush is very thin. You definitely need to wipe any excess mascara off the brush before you use it. You also have to make sure that you don't go over the same lashes twice as it goes into clumps which are difficult to remove. After I'd applied it I waited for it to dry before assessing the damage. I have to say that I wasn't keen on the texture. My lashes were stiff and slightly sticky which surprised me. I suppose I was expecting my lashes to feel normal as if I had dyed them. Some of the lashes were stuck together and had clumps on them so I had to go through them with an eyelash comb (easier said than done). It was rather messy, but achieved the desired effect. Basically if you want to try this product don't do it half an hour before you're going out on a date! APPEARANCE - I have to admit that my lashes did look sensational. The first thing I noticed was the colour. I always bu
y black mascara, but this stuff is really, really black. My black lashes looked amazing next to my green eyes. (If you are fair you will have to buy the brown/black version as the black one will just look too harsh). My eyelashes are very, VERY straight and completely resistant to eyelash curlers. I won't say this Revlon mascara curled them as such, but it did seem to help the lashes at the end curl up which looked great. All in all, I do think it looks better than conventional mascaras. THREE DAYS? - Does it last three days without smudging or flaking as they claim? Hmmmmm. Yes and no. Yes in that you do still look like you're wearing mascara on the second and third days. The claim that it won't smudge or flake is complete rubbish. I did wake up each morning with panda eyes (not as badly as if I'd gone to bed wearing normal mascara though). I also found flakes of mascara and smudges on my face throughout the day as well. The big problem I had was removing the smudges. Revlon are selling a special remover, but Boots had run out when I bought the mascara. I tried my normal eye make-up remover, but I did have to do a lot of rubbing before I cleaned up the smudges. DODGY EYES? - I do have sensitive eyes and wear contact lenses and had no problems at all. MY CONCLUSION - I don't really know whether I like this stuff or not! I think I would have preferred it if Revlon had included an instruction leaflet containing some tips on how to apply the stuff. I didn't know what to expect from this product and an instruction leaflet would have really helped. Would I recommend it? Well, I do think this product has potential. If you wear mascara every day I would recommend you giving it a try (I think people with fair eyelashes may be better off having their lashes dyed professionally). I wouldn't recommend this product to people who only wear mascara occasionally - it's just too much bother for just one night. If you d
o buy it just make sure you buy the remover as well!
I'm not going to discuss the actual film (nothing confuses my brain more than the plots of Bollywood films!), I'm just going to discuss the actual DVD. There are two discs - one contains the film and the other contains extras. The extras disc is great, it works fine and the documentary and interviews are very entertaining. The problem lies with the first disc. The first three quarters of the film play fine, but then it all goes pear-shaped. The disc continually jumps, pauses and eventually stops altogether. I was about to send the disc back, but first decided to do a little research. I discovered that this DVD has a known problem in that it was badly made. I can play it on the DVD player on my computer, but not on my proper DVD player. People to occasionally have problems with Bollywood discs as they are usually made for the American market, but I've never had problems like this before. If you want to buy the DVD do a bit of research on whether your DVD player can handle it.
The Great Hedge of India is about a Great Hedge that was in, errrrr, India. I saw the book in a shop and picked it up out of curiosity. Surely, it couldn't be a book about a big hedge? Perhaps it was some obscure piece of abstract fiction? No, it was about a VERY big hedge so, of course, I had to buy it. The Great Hedge referred to in the title was constructed by the Victorians and was 2,300 miles long and was manned by 12,000 men. Roy Moxham came across a reference to the hedge in a second-hand book and was immediately curious about why he's never heard about the hedge before. After months of fruitless research in which he studied maps and countless books he started to wonder why no one had heard of the hedge (who can blame him? How can a 2,300 mile hedge just disappear into the mists of time!). The book chronicles his research as well as his trips to India to track down the remains of the hedge. The Great Hedge was constructed as a customs barrier to allow the British to collect a tax on salt. The story of how the Victorians built the hedge (with difficulty) and the effect it had on the Indian population is fascinating. Salt was an essential ingredient of the Indian diet and the salt tax led to parts of rural India being deprived of salt. This led to widespread illness and death. Roy Moxham even had problems researching salt deprivation (doctors in the West are obviously more concerned with getting people to eat less salt!). I found the chapter on salt deprivation as interesting as the rest of the book as I didn't know such an illness existed. What I loved about this book is that there is so many different aspects to this story. On the one hand it is an entertaining travelogue, but it is also a fascinating account of the British in India. On the back of the book there is a quote from Jan Morris which goes, "At first I thought this remarkable book must be a hoax...". The story is almost unbelievable and this is wha
t makes it so fascinating. I picked up this book on a whim, but I couldn't put it down once I started reading. One minute I was laughing at Moxham's description of meetings with Indian officials, the next I was horrified at the misery the British inflicted on the Indian population. I think Roy Moxham must be congratulated on the way he manages to veer between the serious and lighter moments so effectively. As you have probably guessed I would recommend this book to anyone. My lasting impression of the book is that while I am disgusted with the way the British treated the Indians a little bit of me can't help admiring anyone who thinks that constructing a 2,300 mile long hedge is a feasible idea!
I say "Yippee!" as it has taken me years to find a facial scrub to suit my truly appalling skin. I have been "blessed" with dry, sensitive skin and have always been told that exfoliating is good for dry skin. What I wasn't told is that every facial scrub on the market would leave my skin red and sore. When I was in Superdrug recently I spotted a skincare range called "Olive" which I'd not seen before. It was on special offer so I thought I'd give the facial scrub a go despite the vile packaging. I got home and immediately headed for the bathroom. I wet my face, I slapped it on and scrubbed away. No irritation so far - good. I rinsed it off and put my moisturiser on. Still no irritation - blimey! An hour later my skin is (almost) as smooth as a baby's bottom and still no irritation - IT'S A MIRACLE! God Bless Superdrug! I now use it twice a week and my complexion looks a lot fresher. The facial scrub contains ground olive stone and I presume the entire range must use olive oil. I found it very pleasant to use and very easy to rinse off. You won't be picking granules off your face for three days afterwards like you do with some facial scrubs! A little goes a long way so one tube (100ml) will last you ages. I confess that I can't remember exactly how much this costs as I bought it when it was on special offer. It is definitely under £3 though. If you have skin that normally reacts badly to facial scrubs I would advise you to give this one a go. I must say goodbye now as I'm off to buy the rest of the range!
Lactose Intolerance is regarded by some people (including some doctors) as just being another fad. The fact that almost every female celebrity was at one point claiming to suffer from a food intolerance has not really helped the matter. The image of lactose intolerance as just being a silly fad angers me as this is a 'disease' that nearly ruined my quality of life. Lactose Intolerance is simply an intolerance to the lactose (surprise!) that is found in milk and other dairy products. Lactose Intolerant individuals aren't equpped with enough of the lactase enzyme that is needed to digest the lactose. Some doctors believe that we all become more LI as we get older as our lactase stores decrease. Some medical boffins also believe that humans aren't designed to drink cow's milk although this argument is, of course, widely debated. I think that I was probably always LI, but my symptoms only went into overdrive when I went away to university. I began to drink more milk at university as it was a cheap way to stave off those hunger pains suffered by all impoverished students. By my third year at university I was constantly suffering from bloating (I looked a good few months pregnant) and was suffering from several violent bouts of diarrhea every day (sorry to be so graphic!). I was also constantly in pain and would spend hours lying on my bed clutching a hot water bottle to my stomach. The symptoms got so bad that I hated going out in case there were no loos nearby. When I returned home after I finished my course I was sent to a consultant who immediately started asking me about my diet. Thankfully, he was LI himself and sent me off for a blood test. I used to have a phobia of needles, but the LI test soon cured that! I had to have a blood test and then drink three glasses of lactose (blerg!). I then had to have another four blood tests over a two hour period. After that butchering my arms were bruised and bloody, but I was deli
ghted that I might finally get some answers. The tests did confirm that I was LI, but they are not foolproof and the doctor should question the patient about how they felt they reacted to the test. I got a splitting headache and had to go to bed for three days as I felt so ill. A postive result I think you'll agree! My consultant put me on the lactose-free diet and within a week my stomach was beginning to return to normal, I was pain-free and I didn't have to worry about where the nearest loo was. I was a very happy bunny indeed! I have now been LI for two years and it is a struggle keeping away from the ice-cream! The most important lesson that the LI person has to learn is that they must get to know their body. Everyone reacts differently to LI - I know people who can eat a little every day and I know people who end up confined to their bed if they eat the tiniest of morsels. Some people also suffer from fatique and joint pains and they seem to have the strongest reactions to lactose. I have found that I can manage the occasional cheese pizza (mature cheese does not contain a lot of lactose), but some foods I have to avoid (milk, ice-cream). The medical profession is now claiming that the LI individual can slowly introduce lactose into their diet with no problems. Tosh! I have tried this and my symptoms returned with a vengeance. Lactose Intolerance is one of those diseases where the medical profession does not always know best. I have written this in the hope that it might help newly-diagnosed LI's. I have therefore compiled a little list of tips:- 1) Read "Living Well With Lactose Intolerance" by Jaime Aranda-Michel - it's very orientated to it's American readers and I don't agree with everything said, but it is one of the few books on the market. It's also £3.74 from Amazon - bargain! 2) Keep a food diary when you start your lactose free diet. Remember that if you have a reactio
n you must look back at what you have eaten over the last 24 hours. 3) Experiment. LI people do seem to react to different foods. Maybe you can treat yourself occasionally. 4) Teach yourself about nutrition. Parts of the world that eat very little dairy produce have been shown to have virtually no problems with osteoporosis so dairy products aren't essential for calcium. I do take 1000mg of calcium (along with a vitamin D pill) 'just in case' (on my consultant's advice). You also need to teach yourself about food labelling - e.g. you will also need to avoid Whey. 5) Eat yogurt containing live bacteria. It's thought to help LI and provides some much needed Calcium. 6) Try lactase enzyme pills (about £7 from Holland and Barratt). I don't find them 100% effective, but they do reduce the symptoms. They are very handy if you're going for a posh meal and don't want to make a fuss. 7) If it all goes wrong (which it will, especially at Christmas-time) and you make yourself ill you will need to clear out all that naughty lactose. I tend to just stick to a bland diet containing lots of fruit and veg plus water until my stomach returns to normal. P.S. If you suspect that you might be LI please go and see a doctor. I have known people who have had tests in health shops and been told that they are allergic to virtually every food on the planet! They have eventually gone to their doctors as they couldn't stick to the rigid diet, they have then discovered that it was just one food that was making them ill. The medical profession are worried about the unregulated allergy/intolerance tests on the market and this is one instance where I am on their side.
I was honestly looking forward to trying this lipstick as I love a beauty bargain and had heard great things about the Kolor range of cosmetics. To say I was bitterly disappointed is something of an understatement. I chose the lippie in Sheer Pleasure (a gorgeous reddy-brown colour). On the packet is said that it contained UVA/B filters (excellent) and it seemed to be very moisturising. Oh, how wrong I was! I tried the lippie on and thought, "mmmm, nice colour!", but within a few minutes my lips were stinging and felt very dry. I ended up having to scrub it all off and apply half a ton of lip balm. I do have dry, sensitive skin and so I thought I ought to see how a more 'normal' person would react to it. I decided to give the horrid thing to my friend to see what she thought. Wellll, she ended up 'phoning me to tell me that her lips were now going red and she couldn't stop the itching. Oh, dear... I wasn't exactly flavour of the month. I know lots of people who adore Kolor cosmetics, but I can't believe that I'm the only person who has reacted to the lipstick. If it wasn't for the reaction I would be heartedly recommending this lippie. It's cheap. The packaging is rather nice and doesn't look at all tacky. The colour is very nice indeed. Basically, if you have skin that is so robust that you don't even know what the word 'sensitive' means this may be the lipstick for you! As for me? Well, I'm going back to No 7. P.S. I'm sorry, but I can't remember the price. It's only a few pounds though
I am a huge fan of Kate Rusby so I'm not going to claim that this is a wholly objective review! "Little Lights" has been getting fantastic reviews from the press (both from folk and mainstream magazines) and effortlessly climbed to the top of the folk-y charts. I therefore feel that this review does reflect the views of other folk fans (finger's crossed!). This is Kate's third solo album and like the first two it contains a mixture of traditional songs as well as Kate's own compositions. I think the real strength of Kate's albums is that the old and new material fits in so well together. When I read the sleeve notes I am often surprised to discover that I didn't manage to guess which were the old and new songs. Kate Rusby's real strength is her gorgeous lilting singing voice, she always manages to convey all the emotions in a song. On this album she is joined by her usual rabble of scruffy chaps (I saw them in concert, I don't think any of them have ever seen an iron!):- John McCusker, Andy Cutting, Andy Seward and co. There's some great instruments on this album: fiddles, guitars, cittern, double bass and whistles. And now on to the songs:- 1) Playing of Ball - a nice traditional love song about a boy called Willie. I can't work out whether all traditional songs are about chaps called Willie or whether Kate just likes boys called Willie! This song also contains the word "bosom" which is one of my favourite words so I give it top marks. 2) I Courted a Sailor - One of those Kate Rusby compositions that sound like they've been knocking around for centuries. This song has a very bouncy chorus. I warn you that you will end up walking around the supermarket singing "Oh, I am bound for the waves, the waves dearest Annie" under your breath. People may possibly start phoning for a padded ambulance at this point, but do not fret. A nice bit of tin whistling too. T
he heroine of the song actually gets the guy which is a nice change. 3) Withered and Died - a gorgeously sad song by Richard Thompson. It suits Kate's voice very well and Eddi Reader sings the backing vocals. If you want to have a good mope this is the song for you! 4) Merry Green Broom - a song traditional music fans will probably know very well. A nice rendition of it, but I have to admit that this is not my favourite version of this song (I prefer Jo Freya's version). 5) Let the Cold Wind Blow - Another Kate Rusby love song pretending to be a traditional song (and there are no boys called Willie in it!). A song about someone whose love-life goes pear-shaped (If you don't know anything about traditional music I should explain that hardly anyone ends up happily married in traditional love songs. Traditional love songs are generally about betrayal/death/other people splitting the lovers up. Any song that contains all three of these elements is generally much-admired ;o). Kate seems to be following in this fine tradition). 6) Canaan's Land - a wonderfully rousing song, although you will end up constantly singing "Where the soul of man never dies" whilst walking around the supermarket (if they let you in after the "I Courted a Sailor" incident). A nice bit of drumming at the end. 7) Some Tyrant - Another traditional love song. One of the less impressive songs on the album in my opinion. 8) William and Davy - 'tis Willie again! A Kate Rusby composition. I love this song, very bouncy and I like the guitar on it. 9) Who Will Sing Me Lullabies - I adore this song, it is just so beautiful. If you have ever woken up at 3 am feeling down this song is for you. I'm sure a lot of people can relate to the line, "I fear I am broken and won't mend, I know". I think the part at the end where Kate and guest artist Tim O' Brien sing "who will sing me to s
leep" over and over is just gorgeous. 10) Matt Hyland - Yet another traditional love song where the poor girl's nasty parents try to prevent her marrying her true love. 11) My Young Man - I have to admit that I usually skip this song as it always makes me cry. The song is about Kate's grandfather who developed emphysema whilst working as a miner. Kate begins the song by singing unaccompanied and then she is joined by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band (this is the point where you will get a lump in your throat). My father died of lung cancer a couple of years ago which is probably why I start crying whenever I hear this, although I have heard big hairy blokes admit that they got a bit tearful too! All in all this is an impressive album, it's just a shame that so few people will hear it outside the folk scene. They were playing it in Border's though and I heard a few people asking what it was so it might gain Kate some new fans. If you've never heard folk/traditional music before this is probably a nice, gentle introduction.
"Okay, so I start with a slip knot, errrm, how do I do that? Arg! Mum, can you do me a slip knot? Right! Soooo, I cast on with the right hand.... Ooooh, no! It's got a tangle in it. Oh, I know, I'll start again.... BAD CAT! Give me back my wool... NOW!" If this is your experience of knitting, perhaps you ought to buy 'The Knitter's Bible' by Kate Buller. Knitting has always got on my nerves as I really want to be good at it, but so far I'm just rubbish. It really annoys me when I see young children and 90 year old women who are half blind knitting away, their hands a blur. Here I am, an intelligent, able-bodied young thing and I can't even do a ruddy slip knot. I must have a gene missing. 'The Knitter's Bible' is aimed at those of us who can't even work out how to hold the needles. Kate Buller aims to teach the reader everything from what wool to choose to how to adapt existing patterns. The one thing I really like about this book is that the pages are cut in two. The bottom half of the page contains information on how to knit and the top half contains the patterns. This means that if you get stuck halfway through a pattern you can flick through the techniques section without losing your place. It does mean that the pages are a little more vulnerable to wear and tear though. The TECHNIQUES section - this is very easy to use. There are lots of nice clear photos and there is a photo for each stage of the explanation. The techniques section covers the basics as well as more advanced techniques such as creating buttonholes and decorative knitting. Debbie Bliss's book ('How to Knit') seems to be the favourite book for beginners, but I think the instructions and photos in 'The Knitter's Bible' are far easier to follow. The PATTERNS - VERY nice! My heart has sunk whenever I have approached the knitting section of my local bookshop. Most knitting books seem to c
ontain jumpers that my mum wouldn't wear let alone anyone under the age of 40! Most of the clothing in 'The Knitter's Bible' is refreshingly stylish and modern (the fashion photography is also nice and modern. There's none of that "standing about in a manly pose pointing at things" photography you usually see in knitting patterns). There are quite a few patterns for strappy tops and those little cardies that have been in fashion for ages. Most of the patterns are for women (there are a couple for men and children). I found this quite refreshing as lots of knitting books seem to be full of baby patterns. The patterns are labelled easy, intermediate and advanced. Some of the nicest patterns are in the easy section so there is no excuses for not picking up those needles and just getting on with it! Kate Buller ends the book by including a glossary and some useful information on caring for your clothes. This is a good quality book which you will undoubtedly refer to again and again. My only criticism concerns the fact that Rowan yarn is used throughout the book (it's also used in the Debbie Bliss book). It is quite expensive and I've had a real problem getting hold of it. Knitwear designers have clearly been selling their soul to Rowan. It is a good quality yarn, but I feel beginners would probably be happier using a yarn that is relatively cheap so that it doesn't matter if it all goes pear-shaped. Now, where did I put those needles...?
I originally got this video out of the library when I first decided that I wanted to be a musical genius (ha ha). I am a huge fan of 'teach yourself' products of this kind as I feel that many people would love to learn to play a musical instrument, but cannot afford lessons or simply feel too intimidated. I certainly fitted into this category and my confidence was crushed further when I visited a few violin message boards on the Internet. There does seem to be a (very vocal) minority of people out there who claim that (i) if you aren't prepared to pay £1000 for a violin you shouldn't even bother learning and (ii) it is impossible to teach yourself to play the violin (despite the fact that there are some very talented self-taught fiddlers out there). I am not saying that lessons are pointless as I would love to have lessons if I could afford them. I just feel that people should be encouraged to get involved with music and videos and books are a great learning aid. Enough of me waffling and more about the video! The video is part of a "Music Makers" series presented by Jools Holland (there are also videos about other instruments). The videos are still available to buy, but you might need to order a copy. The actual teaching part of the video is presented by Ric Sanders (a likeable nutter if ever I saw one). I really loved the fact that Ric does not come from a classical music background as I am not particularly interested in playing classical music. Most violin books I have looked at are very classical music orientated. Ric Sanders comes from a folk background, but he does not focus only on folk. He plays a few samples of different styles of music (folk, classical, jazz etc.) to show you what can be achieved once you have mastered your instrument! The video begins with advice on choosing your violin. Basic information on caring for your violin is also covered in some depth. The majority of the video deals with the basics of
holding, tuning and playing the violin, although you do get to learn some simple tunes. I liked the fact that Ric Sanders does explain everything slowly and practical examples are often repeated twice so that you can play along the second time. There are lots of close-up shots of Ric's hands so you do get a very clear idea about where you should put your own hands. I know the pro-lesson brigade worry that people may get into bad habits re: holding the violin incorrectly if they try to teach themselves to play. I don't think that could actually happen with this video unless you aren't paying attention! Learning to play scales takes up a large part of this video as it should as that is that is the most important thing the beginner has to learn. During the practical examples the notes will appear on screen so you can play along and this also helps anyone who is learning to read music. Of course this video will not teach you everything you need to know, but it will teach you the basics. Hopefully this will give you the confidence to join a local fiddler's group or sign up for an evening class. The only slightly off-putting aspect of the video is that Ric Sanders does go a bit mental with an electric violin to show you what can be achieved. This may inspire you, but it just made me feel very untalented indeed!
The Official Kate Rusby website IS the best Kate Rusby site on the web, but that in itself is not much of a compliment. The web is unfortunately rather lacking in sites devoted to the talented Miss Rusby. This is rather odd when you consider how popular she is amongst folk fans young and old (you only need to attend one of her concerts to see that she has an extraordinary diverse bunch of fans). I do visit Kate's site regularly and it is very easy to navigate and I have never had any problems with broken links etc. I shall review the different sections of the site separately or I shall just ramble on for hours:- The inevitable BIOGRAPHY - this is a well written (and funny) biography, but is rather lacking in facts such as her birthday (facts which fans always want to know). The many quotes from Kate make up for this though as they give a real indication of her character. DISCOGRAPHY - An excellent, and very detailed, list of Kate's albums. There are full track listings, pictures of the album covers, sound samples and lyrics. You can also order the albums from the site (there is secure online ordering or you can order via fax/post). GALLERY - some nice photos, but a few more would be nice. REVIEWS - same criticism as above. It is interesting to read past reviews, but there are only a few posted on the site. TOUR DATES & LATEST - the news section is always up to date as are the tour dates and the 'phone numbers of the venues are listed. NEWS - the absolutely best part of the site as it contains Kate's newsletter. She doesn't write them that often, but they are great fun to read. Her humour, down-to-earth charm and ability to ramble on really comes through! All in all this is a nicely produced site, but like many official sites it is lacking that extra something. I would like to see a links page, more photos in the gallery and an archive of Kate's interviews. A message b
oard would also be a great addition. I can only assume that lack of space is the reason behind the lack of content. This is a good site though as new fans can listen to sound samples and find out about Kate and established fans can catch up on the latest news.
Clinique liquid lipsticks are basically lipsticks that are, urmmm, liquid (gosh, what a snappy beginning to a review!). They come in a tube with a little sponge wand applicator. I was given a sample in 'Pure Heaven' (a nice pinky brown colour) and was keen to try it out as I find most lipsticks too drying. I splodged the lippie on (very nice to apply), grimaced at myself in the mirror for a few minutes and then set out on my quest (okay, I went to the supermarket, but you know what I mean). I have to confess that I was a little disappointed. Yes, it looks great, but I can't really see the point of it. My first problem with it is that I found it quite drying and would therefore prefer to use Clinique's wonderful Glosswear which is far more nourishing. The colour was much brighter than you'd get with a conventional lip gloss, but it didn't stay on for very long and this is my real problem with this product. Liquid lipsticks are just a novelty in my opinion. If you want a moisturising hint of colour you'd use a lip gloss, if you want a definite long-lasting colour you'd use a conventional lipstick. I can't really see why you'd want to buy this product instead of a normal lipstick, especially as there are lipsticks that are more moisturising than this product on the market. Yes, the colours are lovely and it has a SPF 15, but the Body Shop have been selling a similar product to this for years. A nice product, but not exceptional in any way.
I have to confess that I am a relatively vice-free person. I don't smoke, drink or partake of 'interesting' cigarettes. The nearest thing I have to a vice is my devotion to Late Review/Review. I expect you are thinking that this is not really a vice to write home about. I started watching this when I was at school though and (i) I went to a 'working class' school where a love of the arts was regarded with deep suspicion and (ii) I used to watch it in bed when I should have been doing last-minute revision for my GSCE German exam (I just scraped through with a 'D' if you are interested). Late Review was therefore a programme I had to watch furtively. Late Review/Review, if you don't already know, is a programme where four large-brained persons sit around a table and argue a LOT. It used to be called Late Review until it was moved to it's Sunday evening slot when, in a moment of brilliant originality, it was renamed 'Review'. It is hosted by an amiable chap called Mark Lawson. Well, I describe him as amiable in that he does actually like some of the books/plays/films/programmes/exhibitions being reviewed. He probably deserves a medal for bravery though as it is his job to shut the guests up mid-rant and disagree with them. Anyone who has seen the programme will know how brave an action that is! The best thing about Review is the guests and the best of the guests is Tom Paulin who should be made a saint in my opinion. Tom Paulin is just brilliantly entertaining because he usually hates everything and I mean hate. He always shouts and appears to be having a cardiac arrest, he's also very prone to just dismissing an author's entire body of work in one go. What I like best about Tom Paulin (apart from his accent) is his ability to go off on some mad tangent. I can't work out whether he took some serious drugs in his youth or whether he has just read too many books on symbolism, but there is always a
point during the programme when he will say, "I know 'Spot the Dog Plays with a Ball' appears to be about a small dog and his ball, but it is actually about the peasant's revolt in Outer Mongolia in 1652". Wonderful! Other regular nutters (sorry, academics) who appear on the programme include Germaine Greer who always starts off speaking really slowly and ends up shrieking. She also peers over her glasses at the other guests which would leave me struck dumb with fear if it were me. There seems to be some unwritten rule that only one female-type-person can appear on the programme at a time. Natasha Walter, Bonnie Greer and Allison Pearson are often on it, although they shouldn't be as they seem to have some sort of grip on reality! Tony Parsons left the programme when it become Review as he felt it would be 'dumbed-down' and he is right to some degree. There are more celebrity guests on it these days. This is entertaining as sometimes they turn out to be far more intelligent that previously though. It's also entertaining when they just sit there looking totally out of their depth though! I have some serious reasons for watching this programme though. It has encouraged me to read books I wouldn't normally read or see plays I wouldn't normally see. If all the guests like the book/play etc (yes, it does occasionally happen!) I have to immediately go and discover it for myself to see if it really is that wonderful. If they all slag it off I want to find out whether I agree with them. I also find this programme teaches me to look at things in different ways. I'm intelligent, but not an intellectual and sometimes need a push in the right direction to look a little deeper into things. I don't always agree with their interpretation, but at least it gives me a different perspective. Review is also a must-see for any Dooyooer! Can you imagine what dooyoo would be like if we all reviewed things in
the style of Paulin, Greer et al! The reviews would be useless, but wonderfully entertaining. Go forth and pick up some tips! Just imagine a vacuum cleaner review written by Tom Paulin. "I know the Dyson appears to be a vacuum cleaner, but it actually symbolises the potato famine in Ireland"... UPDATE - Review is now shown as part of Newsnight on a Friday night at 11pm. The panel features the same bunch of academic nutters and it looks like the programme will be on all year - hurrah!