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One thing that we’ve always ‘keep meaning to buy’ has been an answering machine – with plans for our wedding hotting up we’ve often found that we’ve missed calls from people such as florists, photographers and the people we are inviting. So a few weeks ago (which also happened to coincide with pay-day) I went into town with the intention of buying a standalone answering machine. A look in Argos didn’t really reveal much, so a trip over to Currys was undertaken. It’s here that I found the V-Tech Mirage on special offer for £50 – a bargain I thought. Instead of buying just an answering machine, I ended up getting a DECT cordless telephone with built in answering machine instead! A DECT phone is the next-generation in cordless telephone, standing for Digitally Enhanced something or other (sorry, can’t remember) they offer crystal clear sound – kind of like having a normal phone’s quality, but with none of that buzzing and interference you often find with normal cordless telephones. Plus they often have many features you would expect to find on a mobile phone: For example, you can store up to twenty names and numbers in the phones memory – searching through a phone-book much like you would on a mobile phone, you just scroll to the name of the person you want to dial, find their name and press the ‘dial’ button – a very handy feature for me to keep all those important numbers stored. It also has a quite decent range that you can take the phone away from the base station (the charger that it sits on when not in use), I think that the range is up to twenty metres, which allowed me to take the phone out into the garden on the weekend and still get a terrific signal when talking to people. Other features include the ability to set up a ‘network’ in your home with other handsets – this might be useful if you live in a big h
ouse, you can call another phone for free and speak to someone in a different part of the house. My house isn’t exactly a mansion though so it’s a pretty redundant feature for me! The design of the phone is simple enough, coming in silver it has a LCD display screen that shows the battery life left, the number you are typing in to dial and also the number of messages you have on the phone. I’ll come to the answering machine aspect of it in a minute, but discuss the features of the phone a little more first. As I mentioned, the phone comes with an LCD display – the only complaint I have is that this display is not illuminated. It’s not difficult to illuminate a LCD screen, and it would have been a real bonus to have this included. It can sometimes be a little tricky to read the screen in poor light and you may often find yourself angling the handset in the light to read any text on screen, but it’s only a minor inconvenience. Operation of the phone is quite simple really, basically enter the number of who you want to call and press dial – not too tricky was it! The number you are entering is displayed on the screen as you enter it, but if you enter an incorrect digit you can delete them one at a time until you’ve put the right number in – another nice little feature. The navigation around the phones various menus’ are handled in a similar fashion to a mobile phone too. You’ve got a ‘menu’ button, a ‘down’ button to cycle through the sub-menus and a ‘select’ button. It would have been nice to have an ‘up’ button too though. I’ve often went past the option I wanted to select, meaning that I have to scroll through everything again in order to get back to the option I wanted to select. Another minor quibble is the option for switching the answer machine on/off is quite far through the various menus
– it would have made more sense to have it as one of the first things you could select as obviously it’s something you’ll be using quite a lot. The actual quality of calls though is a vast improvement over my older cordless telephone – much smaller and lighter too, so I’ve no complaints on that front. Onto the answer-machine aspect of the machine then. Instead of using those little tapes that we used to have with answering machines, this unit stores your messages inside the phone – so no more wear and tear on tape, and no degradation in quality either – the messages will always come across nice and clearly. This phone can record up to 15 minutes worth of messages – after looking at various other phones in the shop this would seem to be the average really and it’s more than enough for what we use it for. You can listen to your messages in two ways – either through the handset earpiece, or if you put the phone on the base unit, via a loudspeaker on the base. Each message is preceded by the date and time of the call too. As well as having messages stored, you can leave a voice message for someone in the house too – just say that you are popping out somewhere, you can leave a voice message on the machine for someone else to get when they return home. A number on the LCD display on the phone indicates new messages, although there is no display on the base unit itself, which would have been handy. It would also have been a good idea to have a button to activate/deactivate the answer machine easily too, but alas this is not the case. The base unit itself is quite dinky too – a simple slot to stand the phone on to charge and that’s about it. There are no cumbersome aerials like those found on more traditional cordless phones and the loudspeaker on the back gives very good playback of your messages. The instructions that came with the phone are a
bit cumbersome though - it took us ages to figure out how to record a message on the machine, and the guide wasn't too helpfull sadly. A bit of perserverence though soon got it set up and running. You can even have two different outgoing messages for people to hear when they call - so that you can have a standard message, and another to give out other numbers to reach you on if you wish. Features such as 'last number redial' are here, as are mute and a handy list of the last ten calls your phone received. If you subscribe to BT you can also have caller display activated - this means that the LCD display shows the number of the person who is ringing you. If you have that person stored in your phones memory it will also display their name, so it will show 'Mum' on the display for example. I bought my phone for £50 – which I think is excellent value for money given the cost of standalone DECT telephones, never mind those that come coupled with an answering machine. Easy to use and a quite stylish design can only leave me with high recommendations for this phone.
The computer-game/Movie crossovers have often had a pretty bad press – more often than not the fans of the game complain that the movie is nothing like the game, and movie buffs slate the script, direction and, well, pretty much everything about the movie to be honest. The end result is usually a movie that is universally panned by all concerned and destined for video-rental hell. Not sure what I mean? Well let me throw two names at you – Street Fighter and Mario; two great games, two dire films. Tomb Raider attempted to buck this trend – whilst the movie was panned by some, I actually quite enjoyed it in a ‘no-brainer’ type of film you can chuck on and watch on a Saturday night. The growth of the Playstation saw the release of some pretty amazing games – one of which was the horror-game, Resident Evil. Now, if ever a game had the potential to be a great game then surely this was it – set in the zombie-infested fictional town of Racoon City, Resident Evil focused on the Umbrella Corporations experiments into genetic research that went horribly wrong (as genetic experiments by shady corporations often tend to do). In the game you played part of a rescue team attempting to stop the zombies, solve puzzles and basically save the day. Mixing horror and action it would already sound like a fantastic idea for a movie. Fast-forward and we now have that movie, although it isn’t without fault. Originally the movie was set to be written and directed by horror-master George A.Romero – the man who probably gave us the Zombie movie genre, his 1968 movie ‘Night of the Living Dead’ has often been imitated but for many (myself included) never bettered. However, Romero had some ‘creative differences’ over the plot of the movie and it’s style. So instead of having Romero’s idea (much of which is floating about on various fan websites) Paul W.S. Anderson had to
try and fill the shoes left by Romero. Anderson has earned a bit of a reputation for turning out films that are, well, how can I put this – a bit rubbish. His previous work on another game/movie crossover in the shape of ‘Mortal Kombat’ probably helped him get the job here and there’s no doubt that he can turn out movies that would appear to have cost more to make than they actually did, the question is, how does the movie stand up? Well, if a comparison is to be made let’s get it out of the way – this movie is a blatant rip-off of ‘Aliens’ in many ways. We learn that the Umbrella Corp. manufacture a great many products which are used by nearly every home in America – they are a real global force too. What many don’t know is that all their work is a front for their research into viral weapons and genetic research. Much of this work is conducted in an underground factory known simply as ‘The hive’. As the movie opens we learn that someone has released the ‘T-Virus’, a lethal concoction that, once killing someone brings them back to life as blood-thirsty zombies – hurrah!! In order to stop this virus from coming out of the hive and affecting the citizens of Racoon City an elite group of marines are sent in to shut down the computer system inside the hive – you see the computer system, known as the Red Queen, is intent of sending this virus out and affecting as many people as possible – I’ve no idea why and it wasn’t really explained all that well, but their you go. So, we have our group of Marines who are sent in after the Aliens, sorry – I mean Zombies and they start to form a plan. The only way into the Hive is via a building used as a ‘house’. This house is another front by the Umbrella Corp. In here we have Alice (played by Milla Jovovich) someone who has lost her memory but has flashbacks t
o hint at her past. The movie then drops into ‘get in the building but something goes wrong’ territory – seeing the marines killed off one by one until only Alice remains. The movie is VERY reminiscent of Aliens, even some of the characters are similar in style too. You may have already read some reviews of this film in the press, and for the most part they have been fairly ruthless in slating it. Particularly in the style of directing that Anderson uses – basically it’s a case of ‘bang bang, big explosion’ with a thumping techno-track blasting out in the background – it does get a little repetitive after a while, but it kind of added to the ‘daft nature’ of the whole thing for me. The zombies themselves aren’t overly impressive to look at, but then this movie didn’t have a massive budget to spend on special effects. The sets themselves are quite impressive in themselves though, and the movie has the best end-shot I’ve seen in a movie for quite some time. Back to the faults though I’m afraid – the editing seemed to jump around a little for my liking, characters would appear in one location for no reason and disappear again just as quickly – a bit confusing to say the least. Anderson seems to have thrown in certain effects just for the sake of looking ‘cool’ with various scenes having special effects similar to those used in ‘The Matrix’. I suppose the intended audience will lap it up, but I was just left thinking ‘what was the point of that?’ The cast of relative unknowns do the best they can with a pretty ropey script, and Jovovich was probably hired down to her looks than her ability as an actress. The story has some decent ideas, but they bear no resemblance to the Resident Evil games, but perhaps this will be resolved in the future sequels that are already underway. All my slating
is perhaps a little harsh – I still enjoyed this movie despite all of my previous complaints. It’s a daft no-brainer, which is something I seem to find myself watching more and more often of late! The frights aren’t very frightening, you know when the ‘jump’ sections are going to come and you’ll find yourself laughing at the dodgy looking Zombies. I guess it’s a case of ‘it’s so bad it’s good’. I managed to pick this up on VCD from Japan for a fiver and I certainly don’t regret my purchase – rumour has it that the DVD release would see more gore, something that was missing from the film and a surprising omission given the nature of the film so perhaps a directors cut might solve some of the problems. It’s worth a watch, but I’ve seen a lot better of late. Do yourself a favour and watch ‘Aliens’ instead to see a better version of this movie. And ten points go to whoever can identify the Mike Myers movie that my title for this opinion comes from!
It’s been a year of sequels in many respects this year. Most of the big releases have been follow-ups to successes from previous years, already we have seen the latest instalment of the Star Wars series, we’ve witnessed the return of Austin Powers and Stuart Little and later in the year we’ve got the new Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies to look forward too. Sequels invariable fail to go one better than there previous movie, but more often than not the film could stink and it would STILL make a profit thanks to the large fan base from the first movie. 1997 saw the release of the first ‘Men in black’ movie and so five years on we now have the sequel, once again teaming Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones up again to take on the scum of the universe. In the first movie, our heroes had to stop an evil extra-terrestrial menace from getting it’s (many) hands on an interstellar artefact that could destroy planet earth. Smith was the new rookie who was amazed and confused at all the wondrous creatures around him – he was a real fish out of water. Sadly for the sequel the plot is more or less exactly the same! Evil alien comes to earth, threatens to destroy it unless it gets alien item (here simply known as ‘The Light’) – the only real difference is that this time Tommy Lee Jones is the character who hasn’t got a clue about what is happening around him. Together J and K try to piece together his memory before it’s too late. As I say, the story is virtually identical to the first – the movie opens with a clip from an old TV show showing how an alien craft landed on earth fifty years ago and left an item in the hands of the Men In Black – except that an evil alien called Serleena is intent on getting this item back. If you’ve seen the first movie (which you probably have done) you may remember that Agent K (Jones) had his memory erased at th
e end of the movie. Agent J (Smith) finds himself working with a series of useless agents – they just can’t cut it, but news of the arrival of Serleena means that Agent K must be brought back to the agency – for he alone has the vital clues needed to defeat Serleena. Here’s where the movie kind of twists on the premise of the original. K doubts Agent J, he has no memory of his previous life whatsoever, but together they need to get his memory back and track down the item Serleena is looking for before it’s too late! I guess the phrase ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ would certainly apply here, not only do we see the return of many faces from the first movie; we also have the same team behind the camera too. Director Barry Sonnenfeld returns once again to helm the sequel and he does a pretty decent job. The style is the same, the jokes are in a similar vain and the aliens are just as impressive as in the first movie. Will Smith is as wise-cracking as ever, but his time he also has a new partner in the shape of a small pug-dog named Frank – he actually has some pretty funny lines (well, for a dog anyway) and the new ‘character’ adds something new to the movie. The main twist that Tommy Lee Jones has no recollection of his past life as an agent works really well and breathes new life into the movie – but that’s not to say the film doesn’t have any faults. Firstly, it is pretty much identical to the first film – it would have been an idea to have Smith and Jones venture to an alien world instead, to find themselves as the ‘aliens’ as it were, but instead it’s more or less a repeat of the first, a few twists and the introduction of a love interest for Smith can’t really disguise that. Secondly, the special effects, whilst on the whole very impressive, looked very dodgy for one character – S
crad, played by Johhny Knoxville. That’s only a minor quibble though, for the most part the visual effects are of a very high standard and in a movie like this, that’s essential. Is it worth seeing? Undoubtedly I would say yes, it has some great jokes and is certainly very enjoyable, but I can’t see me buying the DVD release – the rewatch value won’t be that high. A shame that it’s a rehash of the first then, but it isn’t the worst film you’ll see this year!
It’s somewhat ironic that I recently posted an opinion about Donnie Darko, saying that I was becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of new ideas and formulaic drivel we see being churned out of Hollywood. Yet here I am writing about ANOTHER by-the-book ‘thriller’ movie, which has been remade on the basis of a probably far superior original. Picture the scene, it’s a fortnight ago and we wanted to see ‘Thirteen Ghosts’ after being told by Susan’s sister that it was ‘fantastic’, off I go to the local Global video store to be told that it is released in two weeks time. So, leaving empty-handed and a bit disappointed we went home. Fast Forward to Saturday and I managed to secure the last copy in the rental store. Our anticipation was sadly a bit too high though. For those who are unaware, I’ll give a brief synopsis to the movie. Basically, there is a ‘collector’ called Cyrus Kriticos, but instead of collecting fairly harmless things like stamps, or maybe butterflies, Cyrus has embarked on capturing ghosts. He needs these ghosts to power a machine that was allegedly designed by satan to open the gates to hell – whoever controls this gate can then control the world, maybe collecting stamps isn’t quite so interesting, but I’m sure it’s a lot less dangerous. To help him in his devilish plan (I’ll get my coat) Cyrus enlists the help of psychic Dennis Rafkin who is played quite well by Matthew Lillard who’ll you’ll recognise from such movies as ‘Scream’ and the recent Scooby Doo release. Dennis tracks down the ghosts that Cyrus has to capture and helps him in order to get rich quick. Sadly though (for Cyrus at least) things go wrong when he tries to capture his final ghost – things go terribly wrong when he is killed by a ghost known as ‘The Juggernaut’. Cyrus wasn’t much of a fa
mily man, his only living relative is a nephew called Arthur played by Tony Shalhoub (Spy Kids, Galaxy Quest, Men In Black 2). Arthur has next to no money and is struggling to raise his two kids and pay his childminder following on from the death of his wife in a house-fire. Now, let’s stop to think – dead wife, a film that involves ghosts – can you see where we’re going here, hmmm – I wonder what might happen later in the movie? I’m hardly spoiling it for you, as anyone with half a brain can see where the film is going right from the start! Anyway – back to the plot! Cyrus leaves Arthur his ‘house’ and all it’s ‘contents’, obviously his family jump at the chance, including his little brat of a son (bet you never saw that coming!) to move in to the place. So off they go, to what is, to be fair, one of the most impressive sets I’ve seen on film. The house itself is a kind of huge glass construction – every wall in the house is visible, you can see right through it, save for the Latin inscriptions that are on every wall, floor and ceiling of the place. (we later learn that these are ancient spells). They have no idea what this means, but are so impressed by the whole thing that they immediately get themselves inside. Waiting for them at the house is Dennis, posing as a worker from the electrical company. Dennis is keen to get his hands on the money he was owed by Cyrus, and so convinces Arthur to let him in the house to ‘fix the junction boxes inside’. Dennis then takes himself down into the basement, not knowing what to expect. With the aide of special glasses though he is able to see the ghosts that Cyrus has imprisoned in the cells of the basement below. The ghosts themselves are all incredibly well made up, and do look very convincing – but here is one of my main bug-bears. We have no real explanation for why the ghosts look
the way they do. Take the ‘naked woman’ for example – it’s a girl covered in bruises and slash marks, but nothing else – she’s stalking around the place as naked as the day she was born with a huge knife in her hand, in once scene the words ‘I’m sorry’ are on the floor next to her, but it’s never explained why the ghosts are the way they are. On the DVD itself is an interesting little feature that explains the ‘story’ behind each of these ghosts, had they included this in the film somehow it would have really helped to ‘flesh’ these ghosts out a bit, if such a thing is possible! A chain of events happens that then seals everyone inside the house, as well as releases the ghosts one by one too! Initially Dennis gets very agitated, telling Arthur all about the ‘house’ that is actually this machine designed by Satan. Initially sceptical, Arthur soon believes Dennis once he sees a ghost for himself! And wouldn’t you know it, Arthur has become separated from his kids, so begins the ‘find the children before the ghosts do’ chase. The theory sounds great; the execution is appalling I’m afraid. I’ve got no problem with the ghosts; I’ve got no problem with the special effects. The movie just seems to take ideas from every other horror you’ll have seen. They even have Arthur’s son going about on a scooter – a blatant rip-off from ‘The Shining’ if ever I saw one. Even more recent films like House on Haunted Hill (another remake) has ideas taken from it too. Sure there are ‘twists’ but you just know what’s coming, because you’ve seen the same ideas all before. Even the script has the usual ‘I love you dad’ lines that made me want to throw-up! With nothing really new to add to the genre and no actual ‘jump out of your seat’ moments I felt the mo
vie was a real opportunity missed. Filmmakers can try shock tactics all they want, but they don’t work when you know when to expect them I’m afraid – and nothing can scare you more than your own imagination – but with everything being so ‘in-your-face’ it just didn’t work for me. A throwaway popcorn movie that you’ll watch once and soon forget about, worth renting maybe but definitely not one to own I’m afraid! I’d love to see a genuinely scary, haunting movie get released from Hollywood but this certainly isn’t it.
I don’t know about you, but I’m growing increasingly bored with the mainstream movies that Hollywood seems to be churning out of late. I desperately wanted to see something new, something different and a movie that really makes you think about it for days after your first viewing. In Donnie Darko I believe I’ve seen such a movie. You know those movies that are just so bizarre and twisted that you find it impossible to explain to a friend – the sort of movie that, once you give the plot you get blank expressions and a ‘riiiiight’ reply to? Well, the story in this dark thriller is a bit like that – but I’ll give it a go. Set in 1988, the story revolves around Donnie Darko, he lives in a small town called Middlessex in the United States and is a somewhat troubled kid. On prescrtiption medication for his ‘emotional problems’, Donnie has become convinced that the world will end on October 30th – giving him 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds precisely to save the world. Now, how does Donnie know this to happen, well it’s because a VERY sinister 6ft rabbit called Frank told him. When sleeping, Donnie will often hear a voice telling him to wake up, upon waking he will often commit acts of both creation and destruction. This rabbit is really incredibly sinister looking – and very confusing. We never really know if what Donnie is witnessing is a side-affect of his medication, or if Frank really is following him – controlling him and making him commit these crimes. His somewhat semi-dysfunctional family struggle to try and help, but even his therapist cannot really cope with Donnie. The only person who does seem to understand him is a new girl at his high-school, Gretchen played here by Jena Malone who you may have seen in the Julia Roberts movie, Stepmom playing the Daughter ‘Anne’. Anyway, Gretchen befriends Donnie (played supe
rbly by Jake Gyllenhaal ) but even she eventually struggles to understand him. Donnie is convinced that a local recluse can help him solve the riddle of what’s happening to him – you see, Donnie wakes up to the voice of Frank telling him to get out of his house, when he does so a jet engine falls out of the sky and completely destroys Donnies’ bedroom. This sets of the whole chain of events, the visions, the doubting – his belief in time travel. His peers, apart from one teacher, Professor Kenneth Monnitoff, laugh all of these things off. Monnitoff show’s Donnie a book written by this local recluse, known as Grandma Death (so called because she always stands in front on oncoming traffic!) Grandma Death describes in her book everything that Donnie is witnessing. So much so that he is convinced that time travel is a possibility, that he has to figure out a way to travel back in time and stop the events that lead to the end of the world from ever taking place. We then have the introduction of self-help guru Jim Cunningham, played here by Patrick Swayze in what many would see as a ‘come-back’ movie for him. He plays the part well and is a character that Donnie just doesn’t trust at all, but can’t place his finger on why. I know that the plot-outline probably reads really poorly, but it is a VERY difficult movie to describe without giving away most of the actual plot. The movie itself is very dark, very – not surreal, but a twisted kind of a fantast in some sort of way. The scary thing is that all of the characters are quite believable. Donnie’s Parent’s (played by Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osbourne) are acted superbly – they portray them wonderfully and have some great lines, even Donnie himself is quite believable, in a scary sort of way! Director Richard Kelly creates a wonderful world for Donnie though, and the 80’s soundtrack helps the
movie along too. What really strikes you though is the menacing, foreboding feeling you get as the days count down to the end of the world. The special effects used aren’t amazing, but they convey Donnie’s’ perception of the world around him really well. It’s a sort of movie that, once you’ve seen it you’ll need to see again to just try and understand what is going on here – I suppose it’s a little similar to ‘Memento’ in that kind of way, but that’s the only similarity! There are loads of websites dedicated to trying to explain the different viewpoints for what has gone on in the movie, but I’d advise you to go in with an open mind, sit back and try to figure it out for yourself. One of the best movies I’ve seen in the past year easily and highly recommended! Just make sure you don’t have nightmares about that rabbit!
Normally I only receive two types of Email – either spam ones offering me the chance to magically increase the size of my breasts – which as a bloke I do find quite disturbing and worrying, or I get email from a friend or two once in a while saying ‘how are you’. Pretty pathetic I’m sure you’ll agree – everyone checks their Email first thing of a morning when they get into work, so why not get a daily Email that is actually an interesting read in topics that appeal to you? I can’t remember how I discovered Zooba if I’m being honest, but I’ve used the service for a good few years now. Zooba send Emails about a variety of different subjects to you on a regular basis; they take the form of short informative subjects that really are quite diverse – here are the topics you can select from Zooba to learn about: Biography -------------- Entertainers Great Minds Leaders Business ----------- Entrepreneurs & Enterprise Management & Strategy Investment & Finance Harvard Business School Publishing Entertainment ----------------- The Movies TV, Radio & Theater Fine Arts ------------ Architecture & Design Art History 20th Century Art Health -------- Mind, Body & Spirit Fitness, Nutrition & Diet History --------- Ancient & Medieval History American History Military History European History Lifestyle ------------ Fashion & Style Food & Cuisine Wine & Spirits Society & Custom Black Voices Literature ----------- Classics Bestsellers Mystery & Suspense Science Fiction Music -------- Rock, Pop and R&B Blues & Jazz Classical World Music Country & Folk Parenting & Chil
d Development --------------------------------------- Toddlers (Ages 2 & 3) Preschoolers (Ages 3 & 4) Kindergarteners (Ages 5 & 6) Tips for Talking with Kids (Grades K-12) Religion ----------- Religions of the World Science & Nature --------------------- The Natural World Theories & Discoveries Sports -------- Baseball Football Basketball Golf Travel --------- Destinations Now, just looking through that list I’m sure you’ll find something that might interest you. Personally I subscribe to the history, entertainment and movies options. Then you keep getting an Email each day to read a bit about. At the end of the email you will often see books or movie recommendations that relate to the subject you’ve just read about if you would like to find out more about that particular subject. The subjects themselves are quite diverse; I’ve read about Alexander the Great, Harry Houdini and the works of Francis Ford Copolla! Now, as this is an American based site much of the information tends to be of an American slant – I used to subscribe to the ‘football’ section under the sports category but it was all about the NFL – which I have no interest in – but for the most part I’ve found the information to be well presented and easy to understand. For me the appeal is the sheer range of subjects you can learn about – some of it was familiar from school and college but I always like to learn a little something new. Every once in a while you can subscribe to a set of Emails that concentrate on one specific subject – this week for instance I’m reading about the life of Harry Houdini and it’s quite interesting stuff. If you want to learn a little something new each day then I’d heartily recommend you give Zooba a try – It’s e
asy to set-up and easy to unsubscribe from too. You can also see a ‘preview’ email on a web page to give you an idea about what to expect in future Emails to see if this sort of thing appeals to you – well worth a look!
I’m a real softie when it comes to animals, and I just can’t stand to see animals being mistreated. There are a great number of animal welfare organisations up and down the country, be it the RSPCA, the National Canine Defence League or the countless other local charities ran by people who have little or no funding and look after animals purely because they want to make their lives that little bit better. Pet Rescue is a show that used to be shown each night on Channel 4, with the series ending though it has found a new home on Discovery Animal Planet on Sunday Mornings. Quite sad though it is, our Sunday routine more often than not involves having breakfast and watching the show between 10:00 and 11:00 (it is on earlier, but I need my lie-in on Sundays!) The show is presented by Wendy Turner, who is infinitely less annoying than her more famous sister Anthea, each week they look at the work undertaken by the RSPCA up and down the country and focus on the welfare of different animals. Running for half an hour, it usually looks at maybe three or four different animals and their search for a new adoptive home. Animals can end up in animal shelters for a variety of reasons, sometimes it may be because an owner is no longer able to look after the animal, but more sadly it is often because the animal has been abandoned. Such animals may often be suffering from various ailments and so will require medical attention. Here the show shifts it’s focus a little and shows s the dedicated vets who try to make the creatures feel a bit better – it’s interesting to look at the sheer variety of animals brought in to the rescue centres, be it cats or dogs or more exotic creatures like snakes and lizards. Once the animal has been nursed back to health they will be put up for adoption for a new home. Here we often see people come in to the centres and try to find a new pet. As well as telling people about the needs of t
he animal, we are often shown the best way to care for pets and these tips can often be quite useful for the viewer too – dog training lessons for example, as well as the right way to litter train a new kitten. It’s not just the ‘pets’ that get the attention on Pet Rescue though; the show often deals with wild animals that have hurt themselves somehow. In these instances we get to see the work of the RSPCA inspectors. Basically these highly trained people have to try and capture an injured animal such as a swan or family of ducklings (aw!) and get them to a vet for help. It really does open your eyes up to just how much work is undertaken by these people, as well as how badly some animals are treated (which REALLY annoys me!) The final segment of this half hour programme look at animals that have been successfully adopted by viewers of the show (when first shown on Channel 4 they would run appeals for animals to get people to adopt them). Obviously as this is a repeat this section is no longer shown, but we do get update reports on how they have settled in with their new owners. Its’ great to see what was once a very poorly puppy or kitten enjoying their lives so much. I guess this show appeals to the animal lovers out their, and more often than not they focus on the really fluffy bundles that everyone goes all ‘gooey’ over, but for a half hour’s entertainment I think it’s perfect fun. The knowledgeable staff all come across on camera very well and each week we get to see new locations and new animals. It’s also a great show to introduce children to all the work that’s involved in looking after even the smallest of pets. I’m sure many children don’t realise just how much care a cat or dog require and here you can show them how dedicated they would need to be. Pet Rescue is shown on Sunday mornings between 9:00 till 10:00 on Discovery An
imal Planet and 10:00 till 11:00 on Discovery Animal Planet+ --edit-- Couldn't beleive my luck this morning- Pet Rescue is also shown on Discover Animal Planet EVERY DAY between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning, then repeated an hour later on Animal Planet+. Much more interesting than watching the depressing news when having your breakfast!
Now, when I were a nipper, school was a pretty hard place to be – you see, there were certain ‘unwritten rules’. Rules that were so, secret, that most of the people who ‘knew’ the rules didn’t really know them at all – it really was that unwritten. Breaking such rules and laws would often mean ridicule for the victim (which more often than not was me) but it was the same at every school. I’m sure most of you have some tales about things you used to get up and I bet some of them are pretty funny. Well, here is a website that archives tales from people up and down the country and some of the ‘myths’ and stories sounded really familiar to me. Some of the tales are hilarious and I wouldn’t recommend reading the website at work, because it really is that difficult to hold back the laughter. The site is alphabetised and is fairly free of images or fancy layout, just plain text really with the torrid tales listed for you to peruse through at your pleasure. The site also has a facility for you to submit your own school tales. It also features a free subscription service, whereby you receive Emails telling you when new stories have been contributed to the site, as well as have a search page to look for text-based results – it’s not the most exciting feature I’ll grant you, but handy to have all the same. Apart from a ‘News’ section that keeps you informed about new additions to the site, as well as a small section dedicated to American playground insults. I’ll be honest, the website isn’t much to look at, and this review is incredibly short – but there’s not a whole lot more you can write about ‘The Law of the playground’ – the only thing left to say is go there, have a read few and I guarantee you’ll find SOMETHING to make you laugh and remember a few school memories of your own!
Trying to name just ten top television characters is a real challenge – I’m bound to finish writing this then suddenly remember someone I should have added, but (for now) here are my top ten telly characters (in no real order) 1: Jack Bauer Sunday evening viewing is usually a pretty dire affair. If you’re idea of television heaven is fluffy dramas’ set in chocolate box style settings, then you’re in luck. Personally I’d rather pull out my eyelashes one by one than endure anything on the ITV or BBC schedules on a Sunday evening. Thank heavens then for ‘24’ a show, which has probably single-handedly resurrected the career of Keifer Sutherland and brought him firmly back in the limelight. ‘24’ deals with a single day, each episode lasting in real-time for one hour, so what you see on screen happens in the time it would take to happen – for example, if it takes 20 minutes to drive from one location to another, that’s how long elapses between the character leaving point A and arriving at point B. The whole story of 24 deals with Jack Bauer. He works for a government counter terrorism unit and on this particular day it is the Presidential primary elections. It’s believed that one of the candidates is being targeted for a possible assassination attempt – As Jack tries to prevent this from happening he learns more and more that he, as well as his family are being targeted by the same people. With plenty of twists and turns, this series has been outstanding and I’ll be gutted when it finishes. News of a second series has helped a bit though. 2: Sam Beckett I’m sure everyone must have heard of ‘Quantum Leap’. The BBC used to show this series every week, and Sky has started repeating it again on UK Gold (I think). Quantum Leap has two main characters, the first being Sam played here by Scott Bakula (who no
w features in the Star Trek spin-off show, Enterprise). Sam is a quantum physics expert who helped develop a machine that enabled someone to jump into any point in history. Now, as often happens, something went wrong – leaving Sam stuck in the past. In order to ‘leap’ to a new time period he has to help someone resolve a problem. The beauty of this show is that each week he’ll be in a completely different location, every episode (more or less) is wrapped up in an hour too, meaning that if you miss an episode things aren’t too bad. The character of ‘Sam’ is a bit of a moral goody-goody, but the way he always helps people out and ‘puts things right that once went wrong’ make it a firm favourite with me! 3 and 4: Harold and Albert Steptoe Another favourite comedy of mine. The constant bickering between Harold and his Dad Albert as they live and work together everyday. The long-suffering Harold, always trying to better himself, be a bit more sophisticated. Then there’s his dad – words can hardly describe Albert, a scruff, conniving and downright - words really do fail me 5: Matt Malone Now, many of you are probably saying (in a mark and lard voice perhaps) whoooooooooo? Well, during the 1990’s I was hooked on a comedy called ‘Game on’. It centred on three twenty-something’s who all shared a flat in central London. The character above, Matt – was originally played in series one by Ben Chaplin, but later replaced by Neil Stuke. Matt suffers from Agoraphobia, and as such hasn’t left the flat in months – foul-mouthed, abusive to his other housemates - he cracks me up. Matt has to be the epitome of cool, he need designer gear, he even has a surfboard, even though they live nowhere near a beach and he hasn’t set foot outside in god knows how long. Classic comedy and well worth picking up on D
VD. 6: Alan Partridge Possibly one of the best comic creations for a long long time. The ever despairing situation that Alan finds himself it, be it obscurity as a sports presenter for ‘The day today’ to even more obscurity working on Radio Norwich. – I’m sorry but I have to put this in ‘ A-HA!’ 7:Major Glowen Another ‘Who’ I would guess from many – he’s the Major from Fawlty Towers and was played by Ballard Barclay, which is unarguably the greatest name of all time. Major was a somewhat forgetful guy who would start a conversation – then stop mid-sentence with no idea what he was talking about. Fiercely patriotic and despising of Germans (who are all ‘bad eggs’) he was the best character in the show for me. 8: Niles Crane From the hit US Comedy, ‘Frasier’; Niles is the neurotic brother of the shows main character. He’s a bit of a snob with a razor sharp wit and also some of the shows best lines. Not hard to see why this programme has remained so popular for so long. 9: ‘Rocket’ Romano ER has been another show I’ve watched since the start really – and although a lot of the original (and better) characters have left, one of the few ‘characters’ in the show remains. Romano is the self-assured, arrogant surgeon who knows just how good he is. A barrage of one-liners and put-downs somehow endears this character to me. It’s a pity I’ll always remember him as one of the bad guys in Robocop though! 10: Harry Wycof Another obscure one for you – anyone remember watching ‘Wild Palms’ – it came out in 1993 and was a mini-series set in a near-future America. Harry (played by James Belushi) secures a job working for a gigantic TV company who use a new technology to beam 3D pictures into your home. Except Harry soon
discovers that the technology is being used to try and brainwash. Murder, betrayal and loads of plot twist. A classic series that I bet nobody else remembers!
Being a bit of a computer geek myself (although I tell people I’m a software developer, rather than a computer programmer) ‘Sneakers’ has long been a firm favourite of mine, yet I’ve got a feeling it may be a movie that many may have overlooked – how do I come to this conclusion? Because whenever I mention this film most people reply ‘Never heard of it’ – so it’s time for me to enlighten you! ‘Sneakers’ is based on a group of computer hackers, led by Martin Bishop (played by Robert Redford); these hackers hire out their services to businesses to test their computer security systems – basically once they break into a system they advise people on how to improve their security. The movie opens with a couple of college guys (a young Bishop and his friend Cosmo) they are fooling around on the computer system at college, Bishop goes out to get pizza but on his return discovers the place swarming with police and his best friend being led away in handcuffs. The police are onto Bishop too, so he goes undercover, changing his name and identity and becoming the Martin Bishop we now know. In his workforce he has Dan Aykroyd playing a conspiracy-theory buff called ‘Mother’, an ex CIA agent called Donald Crease, a blind sound expert called Whistler (David Straithman) and a computer genius named Carl played by the late River Phoenix. A pretty mixed bunch of characters, but all cast perfectly. Take Mother and Crease for example, Crease is still a ‘government man’ as it were deep down, very ‘the law is right’ and he often has blazing arguments with Mother about who shot JFK, or whether the moon landings were faked – they provide some of the comic moments that are littered throughout this movie, its not a laugh-out-load comedy, but the humour is clearly there and it appealed to me. Anyway, back to the plot. It becomes evident that a Russia
n mathematician has invented a device that can break ANY encryption code in the world, you just plug it in, and the device hacks into any system you want – one key scene shows our team starting small, breaking into a local office system, then the police, then the airports, then the FBI – it soon becomes evident that this device would be worth a lot to someone, and very dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands. Here’s the twist however, Bishop is led to believe that the US Government want him to give the device back to him, in exchange for his criminal record from the past to be erased. He jumps at the chance, perhaps not thinking clearly, because is soon becomes evident that the people he THOUGHT he was helping aren’t government officials, they are working for his old friend, and now bitter enemy Cosmo (played superbly by Ben Kingsley). So leads a plan to try and get this device back from Cosmo and the code-breaker destroyed. Filled with comic moments, a terrific cast and a sound script, it would be easy for a film of this nature to have aged badly (especially when you consider it is now ten years old) – but it more than holds its own, computer hacking is still the same, the technology may have moved on slightly, but the principals remain the same. The other good thing is that you don’t need to be computer-literate to understand what is going on here, things aren’t overly-complicated and the technology never gets in the way of a great plot with plenty of twists. Right, that’s the synopsis out of the way – now onto the DVD. As this is a fairly old film, you mightn’t expect the picture to be all that great, and you’d be right. The picture isn’t as pin-sharp as many more recent releases with a few minor blemishes becoming evident. However, the fact that you get an anamorphic wide screen transfer more than makes up for this – for me it was the first time I had seen
the movie in another format other than pan and scan – so I’m more than happy with it. Definitely much better than my old VHS copy at any rate. We don’t get a 5.1 sound remix – more to do with the fact that 5.1 sound tracks weren’t all that widely used (if at all) ten years ago. Instead you are given a Dolby Prologic track instead, which to be honest doesn’t use rear speakers all that much save for the musical score (which is also pretty good to now I come to think of it). Once again, for a ten-year-old film it’s as good a sound track as you could hope for really and is more than up to the job. On the extras front, it’s all a bit disappointing really, you get the movie trailer, some production notes and that’s it. A few interviews might have been nice and a commentary would have been great, but alas this is not to be – never mind though. I picked up my copy of Sneakers from an on-line retailer recently for £8.99 delivered, and so I’m more than happy with my purchase – a favourite because of the characters and storyline and a movie I can watch time and time again; a classic caper movie then. Even if you don’t want to buy this I would urge you to seek it out, it’s age might mean video-hire stores don’t stock it anymore, and it isn’t on television that often either – but have a hunt around and if all else fails order a copy from www.choicesdirect.co.uk - even if you don’t like the movie you can always chuck it on Ebay and probably come out with a profit at the end! --Edited, because I'm a muppet and forgot to put this, the most important part of the whole thing in - sorry Jill :( ---- Jill Murphy asked me to write about one of my favourite things to help her celebrate her fourth anniversary of cancer-free living and to remind ourselves of all the nice things in the world. It takes more muscles to mak
e a frown than a smile you know. If you'd like to join in, whether you've only just joined dooyoo, or you've been here ages, you're more than welcome. Just write about one of YOUR favourite things, make your title "A Favourite Thing: [your choice]" and include this paragraph at the foot of your opinion. And post before Friday, 9th August."
In a role that may have been tailor-made for her, Sandra Bullock stars in this action comedy as FBI Agent Gracie Hart. Before I dive into an analysis of the DVD, I’ll give you a brief outline of the movie plot. The movie opens with a shot of a children’s playground – two boys are having a fight, with a girl looking on at events. She wades over, saves one boy from a right pummelling and gives his attacker a pretty mean right-hook for his trouble! Sadly for the little girl the lad she rescues though doesn’t overly appreciate her actions L Fast forward twenty years and we see the same girl, this time on a stake-out – it transpires that this girl has been a tom-boy all her life, she shies away from things that many of her peers would be interested in. Rather than buy things like make-up, she’s more likely to invest in a new gun, or pay for self-defence classes. Basically, a one-of-the-boys type of girl. The backbone of the story is that there is a nutter on the loose calling himself ‘The Citizen’, sending a series of coded messages, The Citizen has already attacked a number of public functions and events – the latest being the ‘Miss United States’ beauty pageant (sorry, I meant to say ‘Scholarship programme’). It’s obvious that this lunatic must be stopped – and the only way of doing this is to send an FBI agent in as an undercover entrant. Enter Gracie Hart, or as she is now known, Gracie Lou Freebush from New Jersey! So begins the transformation of the kickboxing tomboy into a potential Miss United States. Now obviously in order for this to work at all she’s going to need the help of an expert in the world of beauty pageants, so the help of Michael Caine is required – here playing a wonderfully camp character called Victor Melling. The movie follows the various twists and turns of the preliminary round of the competition, w
hilst also looking at Bullock getting more and more in touch with her feminine side. Great gags, a pretty decent cast and a fairly good script leave the way for a comedy that you can watch a fair few times – the casting is spot-on (especially Michael Caine) and, despite it being fairly obvious about where it’s heading, it still makes for a fun film. I know that the synopsis was a bit short, but there are plenty of other (about 40 at least) reviews of the film, so lets take a look at the DVD itself. First up I’ll deal with the main feature itself; presented in a fairly flawless 1.85 anamorphic print the picture really does look great – and for such a recent movie I wouldn’t have expected anything less really. The movie features a whole variety of colours – dark nighttimes in particular might have proved a bit of a problem, but thankfully there are no artefacts or blemishes that I could see – so full marks for the picture. Sound-wise we have a 5.1 surround track, which to be honest isn’t going to amaze you. As with most films of this genre the rears are only really used for spot-effects (a plane landing at an airport being a particular example) but it’ll be your centre speaker doing the majority of the work here. The same can be said of the sub-woofer too, it is only really called upon when we have a scene set in a nightclub. Lets be honest though – you’re not watching something like Predator Special Edition, or Aliens here, many of these films don’t really over-use a surround sound system, so I wasn’t surprised at this. Put it this way, the sound it clear and does the job required of it really well – again, no complaints. On the extras front we do get a fair selection here – first up we have two commentary tracks, the first featuring Sandra Bullock and writer Marc Lawrence (who also worked on another Bullock move, Forces of Nature). The fact th
at these two have worked together in the past really shows here, comfortable in each others company, they spend the duration clowning around and chatting about the various scenes – even pointing out some continuity errors you may have missed on a first viewing. The second commentary track is done solely by director Donald Petrie, director of TV’s ‘The Equaliser’ – top show people! This is completely different in style to the first commentary – more of a technical look at the process of making the film. Once you’ve listened to both tracks then you’ll know pretty much everything you’d want to know about this film. It’s pretty unusual to have more than one commentary track, so it’s nice to have different views on the movie making process. On the more ‘traditional’ extras front few have a few featurettes to take a look at, the first, entitled ‘Preparing for the pageant’ and the second, ‘The pageant’ are both similar in style and also content (there’s actually a few scenes that feature in both of these extras, which is a bit annoying) but essentially we are talking about interviews with the various stars of the movie, the usual back-slapping stuff you’ve come to expect from such features by now I’m sure. Both of these sections also feature some out-takes, which are fun to watch, as well as some deleted scenes, theses scenes are introduced by Donald Petrie and he explains why they never made the final cut of the film. The final extras are the trailer for the film and also some biographies for those involved in the film. The menu’s themselves are static, but I don’t find that a problem – they are clearly laid out and easy to use. I don’t know about you, but I get fed-up of flashy animated menus that take forever to cycle through, this is much simpler to use! All in all, a good, if somewhat
slightly predictable movie (but don’t let that put you off) presented on a more than competent disc. If you’re a fan of Bullock then no doubt you’ll enjoy this – there’s plenty of laughs and the extras really do complement the film well. The only downside? Warner and there insistence on using snapper cases!
It’s not too often that I see someone praising an on-line supplier, so credit where it’s due must go to Crucial Ram, they made a potentially difficult purchase an absolute doddle! Our PC at home was starting to creek a bit, more often then not Computer Software nowadays puts an increasing strain on memory resources, so my golden rule has always been to put as much RAM into your PC as you possibly can afford. Now, to the uninitiated this has the potential to be quite a daunting task – there are so many different variations of memory module to choose from. The type of memory you need to buy depends on the type of motherboard you have installed on your PC – now, hands up, who knows the exact model of the motherboard on their computer? I certainly didn’t, so what a bit bemused. Luckily Crucial have a really nifty little piece of software that is free for you to download called Belarc Advisor. Once downloaded (and it isn’t very large, so you can download it very quickly on even the slowest of modem) you install the advisor. Basically it scans your PC and tells you absolutely everything about it – literally. A comprehensive list is provided of what software you have installed on the machine, as well as the makes and models of every component inside your computer – makes of graphics cards, types of soundcards and memory are clearly listed. Now, the most useful section for me is the ‘Memory’ section – here it tells you how many memory modules you have installed, how memory slots are free and the type of memory you have installed. A clickable link is also present that says ‘buy more memory now’, when you click on the link it opens Internet Explorer, takes you to the Crucial website and straight to an order page with the type of memory you need – even the most technophobe can cope with this! Now sadly, our home PC is so old Antiques Roads show are con
sidering doing a one-off special solely about it, so I couldn’t find an exact match for my computers motherboard. Initially I thought I might have hit a brick wall, but Crucial even provide you with a free phone telephone number to go to a technical department. Instead of the usual wait of half an hour listening to Greensleeves that I normally endure when ringing customer services, a really helpful guy who was able to help me straightaway answered the call almost immediately. By relaying information about what the Belarc Advisor reported back to me, the operator was able to advise me on what to click on the website to get to the memory that would work with my machine, great stuff! I then selected the size of memory module I wanted and, via a secure website, entered my payment details, thus completing the order process. If you are a bit more technically minded you can hunt down the memory you need on the website. You select the type of PC you have, then the model of the PC, but then you do need to know what motherboard is installed on your machine, so you may well end up using the Advisor once again. A few moments later I received an Email with a confirmation number as well as details regarding the memory I had bought. Now here comes the really good part. I placed the order at around 1:00 and the memory turned up the next day in the post. Normally I’ve had to wait a fair few days when ordering on-line, but not with these guys! The memory was packed securely inside the box with plenty of foam packing to keep it safe and secure. The only problem may be in installing the memory itself – now, because I know what I’m doing in this respect it was really easy, but if you’re not sure it may be best to ask the advice of someone who knows what they are doing. Basically it just clips in though, so not too bad. The instructions included were fairly basic and not much help to be honest, but the memory
arrived in excellent time, this coupled with the really helpful customer service and competitive price ensure that Crucial will be a company I shall no doubt use again in the future.
I’m getting married on July 26th next year and as you can imagine things can get quiet hectic very quickly indeed. Once we had set a date in mind, we needed to try to find a venue for our reception after the ceremony itself. I live in the Scottish Borders and in this area things tend to be a bit ‘spread out’, so we needed to find somewhere that wasn’t too far away from the Church. A drive round the countryside led us to various places, but as soon as Susan saw Tillmouth Park she fell in love with the location. Tillmouth Park was originally built on a design by Charles Barry, whom I’m sure you’ll all know was the architect for the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Constructed in 1882 (which makes my house older than it by 50 years, now that’s scary!). It is set in 15 acres of really beautiful gardens and woodland – something which no doubt will be really good for all those wedding photographs that’ll be taken on the big day. The house itself is situated just outside of Coldsteam, once you enter the actual grounds you slowly snake around a road with extensive forests either side of you – after a few minutes you will soon see the house itself. Tillmouth has 14 bedrooms; each is uniquely styled but retains a period look in its design. If you visit the official website for the hotel at www.tillmouthpark.co.uk you can have a look at a photo gallery of pretty much every room in the hotel. I personally found the website very useful, I was able to give the website address to friends and family who will hopefully be attending the wedding and they could have a real look at where they will be visiting. The Hotel comprises of 14 bedrooms (as I already mentioned) and also has 2 large reception rooms as well as a smaller reception area. The main room where everything will be taking place has a view straight up to the top of the building, around which are a series of landings
that lead to the various rooms – a terrible description I know but hopefully if you look at the website photo’s you’ll get the idea. If you are going to hire Tillmouth for your wedding reception then you have to take the hotel for your exclusive use of a weekend (or in other words, Friday night and all of Saturday) It’s also a pre-requisite that you have to fill at least eight rooms on the Friday night – you have to pay for them regardless of filling them or not, which I thought was a bit much to be honest, but luckily our friends and families are looking forward to making a real weekend of things, so it’s not so much of a problem. There are two well-stocked bars (although that’ll soon change once I get there!) that overlook the gardens as well as a bistro restaurant for a less informal meal. The hotel really does give a sense of luxury and opulence it must be said, from the warm, wood panelled walls to the wonderfully ornate architecture inside the hotel, I know it sounds corny but it does give a ‘timeless elegance’ feel to it all and I can’t wait to see all my family together here! Should you look for something to do, you don’t need to venture too far from the hotel either – if the thought of blasting clay pigeons to smithereens appeals to you then the staff are more than happy to arrange it for you – if fishing takes your fancy this can also be arranged to, but it doesn’t stop there. There are plenty of good golf courses in the borders and packages can be tailored to suit your needs, something for everyone to get the feel of a country retreat I’m sure you’ll agree. Once we decided to use Tillmouth as our reception venue we were contacted by the Hotels events planner, she took us through the various options open to us in terms of menu ideas for both the daytime and also evening events, as well as a selection of wine lists that we can choo
se from. As with most reception venues you can bring your own wine if you wish, but the hotel does charge a fee for corkage, making it fairly redundant in bringing your own drink. The planner also told us that menus’ can be customised to whatever we wish, and she also provided a detailed list of ‘Things to do’ when preparing for a wedding. A list of local companies for photographers, car hire etc. was also given, so they really do try to help you as much as possible. Of course, it’s best to visit any reception venue a few times to get an idea of the food etc. When we visited the hotel the planner happened to bump into us and was really warm and friendly, the staff were all very pleasant and the food served was really delicious. Sadly (as with most of these places) it isn’t cheap unfortunately, but we’ve saved up long enough to deserve something special and hopefully Tillmouth will give us that. It is of course also a ‘normal’ hotel should you fancy a weekend away. Once again a visit to the website gives you a tariff for different rooms, as well as an idea for places to visit in the Border region. There is also an ‘availability’ checker that lets you see if rooms would be available for your intended stay in the area – why not treat yourself and try it now!
If you were a bit fed-up and at a loss for something to do yesterday you may well have read an opinion I wrote about using a power devil heat gun for removing paint. Now, whilst the heat gun is great at tackling flat surfaces for removing paint, it does struggle a little with any carved wood – elaborate designs that may be a little fiddly to target the heat gun with. So, to finish the job off I visited my local DIY superstore last night and asked if they could advise me on any good strippers (yes, I realise that joke is getting a bit thin now, but still it’s the best I can come up with). The main brand they stocked was ‘Nitromors’ – it’s available in both 1 litre and 5 litre tins so best to consider just how much paint you need removing, on the back of the tin it advises you the area one litre can cover – so you should get a rough idea how many tins you need to buy. Whilst you’re in the DIY store you may as well pick up some rubber gloves, as well as a set of safety goggles too, yes you may look like a prat wearing all of this gear but safety is very important when using this stuff. Now, before you start to use Nitromors it’s very important that you read the safety instructions on the back of the tin. Nitromors should be used in a well ventilated area as the fumes could become quiet overpowering if used in a confined space – this is why it also advices not to use this substance in places such as basements or under stairs. Next it’s time to put those rubber gloves on because the paint stripper is very corrosive (obviously) and it can burn your skin should it come into contact with you (as I found last night, because I forgot to use gloves!). So, you’ve got your gloves and goggles on (to protect your eyes from falling paint) – what now? First up you’ll need to find a suitable container to put the Nitromors in, I used an old tin pan that we neve
r use – you’ll also need some clean brushes to apply the stripper with. Nitromors needs two applications to make it work – you basically apply it the same as you would if you were painting the wood. Using your brush you cover the wood with a fine layer – not too thick then leave the wood for five minutes. During these five minutes you may notice the paint begins to blister a little (similar to the effects of a heat gun). Once the five minutes are up you need to apply another coating of Nitromors to the same area, this time working the liquid more into the blisters themselves. Once you’ve treated the area you need to leave it for twenty minutes this time – this obviously gives you an ideal opportunity to make a cup of tea! During this twenty minute wait the chemicals in the Nitromors really get to work in attacking the paint, on the label it claims that Nitromors can penetrate up to fifteen layers of paint and I can certainly believe them. Once the twenty minutes is up, you then use a paint scraper (I’d recommend a tool called a ‘shaving hook’ for getting into the nooks and cranny’s, basically it’s a sharp triangle that you use to get into little crevices and getting paint out of hard to reach places. The Nitromors makes the paint just peel away very easily indeed, exposing the natural wood that has been hiding underneath dozens of coats of paint for all those years. Using this stuff could obviously be a bit messy, but if you put down some newspaper first for the paint to land on then you should be okay – plus the non-drip formula of the liquid stripper means that it should be easy enough for you to handle. It really is quite easy to use and the safety instructions are pretty straightforward really. At around £5 it may sound a little pricey, but it really is worth getting hold of the stuff and trying it out for yourself. Simple to apply, it gives i
nstant (well, in 25 minutes) results that leave a great finish for you to repaint, varnish or do whatever you want to really! Nitromors should be available from most DIY Superstores including B&Q, Homesbase, Focus DIY and Wickes.
I’m not the worlds greatest reader, whenever I do pick up a book it tends to be something you can easily dip in and out of without worrying about forgetting any key plot points along the way – out of the few books I have recently read, this diary from Sir Alec Guiness is one which I had enjoyed immensely. Rather sadly Guiness is probably best remembered for his roles in the Star Wars movies, now, before all the star wars fans start attacking me, I’m a fan of the movies myself but it’s obvious that the role of Obi-wan Kenobi wasn’t exactly the most taxing of parts he played. Many of his fans would do well to look at some of the other movies he starred in, titles such as ‘The Bridge over the River Kwai’, ‘Smileys people’, ‘Kind hearts and coronets’ and my personal favourite ‘The Lavender Hill Mob’. I often find it sad that such a talented actor will probably be remembered best for three movies which he himself didn’t rate all that highly at all. His quote that ‘I shrivel up every time someone mentions Star Wars to me’ just about sums up his feelings. Picking up this book however gives you a brief glimpse into the life on a man who, it would appear, was somewhat bemused at how people fawned over him due to his success as both a theatre and movie star. Written between 1995 and 1996 the book is littered with anecdotes about his day-to-day routines, even the minutiae of everyday life make for a fun little read. One particular section which makes me chuckle is Guiness recalling how his eyesight was steadily becoming worse with age, one day he bent over to what the thought was an injured bird in his garden; trying not to frighten it he crept forward carefully, before finally realising he was saying calming words to a twig from a nearby tree! I agree it’s hardly hilarious but the gentle humour certainly raises a smile. Visits to the doctor, g
oing to the shops – dining at restaurants with the rich and famous – each is tackled in the same ‘it could only happen to me’ manner and makes it a joy to read. As I mentioned at the start of the opinion I prefer books you can pick up and read easily and this book would certainly fall into that category. You can read just a short entry for a day or you can read entire months if the fancy takes you! A book that was a genuine joy to read, I can honestly say that I never lost interest in reading it and was quite disappointed when I finished it! I guess that this book might only appeal to those who have seen a few of the movies that he appeared in, the narrative doesn’t reveal any bombshells really – just a gentle read to wind down to at the end of the day really!