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Cast your mind back to last summer and think on the Olympics and I'm sure you'll have visions of purple and red clad keen people, giving up their time and energy to try and make sure the Games worked. Well, I was one of them and this is my story.
Where It All Began:
It all began in a rather ordinary and boring way. I seen an advert seeking people to apply to be Gamesmakers on the back of a bus and thought, "Oh, I'll need to look that up when I get home." The Gamesmakers were recruited long before the games and so the enthusiasm wasn't hugely high yet. The ad I saw was in about winter 2011 so the Games seemed a long way off but I got home, went online and filled out an application form and then forgot all about it until I received an email inviting me to an interview.
I was a bit in two minds about whether to go or not but eventually decided it would be good interview practice, if nothing else, and I'm so glad I did. I made my way to Glasgow Science Centre in the rain and found my way inside. I was early and got chatting to other applicants outside for a while and then we were shepherded up to tables where our names were checked and we were given bands to wear. These were in different colours depending on the group we were in and were embossed with London 2012 Gamesmaker Selection Event. We were told we could keep this as a memento of our day.
We then moved to a table where our ID was checked and our photos were taken and then into a holding room where boards on the wall talked about the history of the games and the events that were included in London 2012. Best of all, as Cadbury's was an official sponsor, there was a huge stand filled with Heroes and we were allowed to indulge in as many as we wanted while we waited! Finally, we were led into a cinema room where an inspirational video was shown, featuring Eddie Izzard and Seb Coe.
After this ended, we were taken to our 'pods' where our interview took place. The volunteer interviewers were great: very upbeat, cheerful and put you at ease. I really enjoyed the experience and I never thought I'd say that about an interview! The long wait then began to hear if I was successful or not.
I was chosen to be part of Workforce Operations at Hampden Park and the training dates quickly came rolling in. First of all we had an inspirational evening at Glasgow Concert Hall, led by Jonathan Edwards where, among other things, our uniform was revealed to us. We had other training events where we were introduced to the venue or our specific roles as the Games time drew nearer. We had to learn some basic sign language as well as specific role training.
The Journey Begins:
My journey began earlier than expected as it turned out the Uniforms team was short staffed and I was asked to join it. This team operated pre-Games, giving out Uniforms to all the volunteers as well as people affiliated with the sponsors. Many of our uniforms had been pre-packed if volunteers had filled out an online sizing survey but for those that hadn't, we had a changing room and a computer system set up to issue them. We rotated between positions. We could work on the front desk, checking people had their ID and were volunteers or on giving out the pre-packed Uniforms, or we could be working in the changing rooms assigning Uniforms through the system or lastly, in the stock room.
It was great fun even though it was freezing! Our Team Leaders went out their way to make things fun and successful. We used to hide prizes every day for us to search for. We had bucket lists written on the wall of things we wanted to achieve and other lists up of things each team member had already achieved. We had a 'mini' Olympics on a slow day with events including skipping and running up and down the stadium stairs! We built a 8ft ship out of left over cardboard boxes and filmed a flash mob to "You Can Call Me Al" in the stadium. The best bit was slowly watching the stadium take shape. We watched the branding come down and be replaced with the Olympics branding and logos. We watched the pitch get prepared and the goalposts being set up and we seen the security slowly becoming more rigorous as the Games approached.
The best bit of the job was guiding people from Accreditation over to Uniforms as the route we took them was through the Stadium tunnel out onto pitch side and up the stadium steps. A lot of them lit up when realising how close to the pitch they were.
Soon, of course, the Games crept round and my days in Uniforms were over and I moved into Workforce Ops. Basically, my job was to scan people in for their shifts, make sure they had their meal vouchers and to troubleshoot anything that came up such as someone who wasn't on the system to be working that day. We also had the nice job of giving out rewards and recognition items which included things like pin badges and an etched relay baton. These were given out on certain days to all volunteers to thank them for their time.
We also were supposed to be in charge of the chocolate reserves but they unfortunately didn't turn up until the last match day! We ended up with tonnes of chocolate all to be got rid of in one day. We had a fun time filling up buckets and giving sweets to queuing spectators. The police and security staff were also keen to grab a handful and my fellow volunteer had the dubious honour of feeding a police horse a chocolate after being asked to by its rider!
The job had its perks, of course. Most of the days our work was over fairly early on in the day after scanning people in and we weren't needed for much else so we would take it in turns to go to one of the executive boxes that we had to use and catch a little bit of the matches. We missed out on a lot of the Olympics action as we were working through it but it was so worth it.
We all came down to earth with a bump when the Games were over and the Games Makers more than anyone! I didn't have an excuse to don my Uniform any more and Hampden park was no longer my daily location. The response to the Olympics and to the Games Makers was huge, though and I could feel proud to be part of it. There was an event at George Square where the Scottish athletes were honoured for their efforts and Games Makers were encouraged to wear their uniform so I went with a fellow Games Maker. So many members of the public were coming up to thank us for volunteering or to ask for our picture. It was really overwhelming and I've never been thanked so much for volunteering at something before in my life!
I still have my uniform as a reminder of my experience and all my reward and recognition items. Maybe one day I can show them to the grandkids.
I straight away got onto finding out more about the Commonwealth Games and have started to now volunteer as a 'Frontrunner' for them where I am interviewing volunteer candidates and also doing promotional stuff for them. I'm being interviewed for a Games time role of Uniforms again, so hopefully I can relive the experience again and this time be truly part of the action since Glasgow is the host city!
My old electric toothbrush was on its last legs and I mentioned it to my mum and then lo and behold, guess what Santa brought me this year? Yup, one of these babies. I actually felt a little annoyed at my mum for buying it when I saw the cost of it as I thought that that was a rather excessive price for a toothbrush. Argos is currently selling it for £70!
The first thing I noticed when I took it out the box was how small, slim and light it was. Most electric toothbrushes, my last one included, are rather chunky affairs but this one isn't much bigger than your average normal toothbrush and was wonderfully light in my hand. The charger was nice and petite, too, and looked relatively aesthetically pleasing, as far as chargers go. The brush slotted into it neatly and is supported through charging. This was another improvement on my last toothbrush which sort of balanced on a spike on the charger to charge but tended to be easily wobbled at the slightest touch and was always falling off and hitting the ground which isn't too hygenic for a toothbrush! This one, however, is very secure with really no chance of that happening without a hard knock.
As with most of these devices, you'll need to ensure you have a shaver adaptor to charge it with as this doesn't come with the product and is needed to connect the product to the mains electricty supply.
So what was the brushing experience like?
Well at first I was really pleased with how it felt in my hand. As I said, it is really light and slim and so feels a bit odd at first as I was used to a chunky electric toothbrush. The brush head isn't round like some other brushes and so doesn't move rotationally. It is meant to provide 27, 000 vibrations a minute to clean your teeth but it didn't feel as thought it was vibrating as much as my old brush even though it was fully charged. It has two settings: the default setting when you switch it on which is your bog standard setting, or if you press the on button once more, it'll go to a sensitive setting for those with sensitive mouths or those who want to use a more sensitive setting for say the gum area. This is a bonus for me as my dentist is always telling me I'm brushing too hard and damaging my gums.
Another nice feature is the fact that it pauses slightly every 30 seconds of brushing and then after 2 minutes pauses longer. This doesn't interrupt your brushing but makes you aware of how long you are brushing for and when you have reached the recommended two minutes mark.
It is meant to provide you with whiter teeth by the precision bristles wiping off stains but I must say that I haven't seen any difference in the whiteness of my teeth while using it, so I'm not sure this is a believable claim.
Two types of head are available for this brush: the ordinary head as in the picture and a precision one for hard to reach areas. I've only used the former, though, so can't comment on the precision brush.
One thing that is nice about this brush is that it is easy to keep clean. My old brush had lots of nooks and crannies that water and toothpaste seemed to get stuck in and you had to get out cotton buds to clean it. Toothpaste also tended to dry in and harden at the base of the brush head unless you carefully cleaned it after brushing but with this brush you only need to quickly rinse it like you would a normal toothbrush to keep it clean.
It is the nicest electric toothbrush I've ever used but I don't think it lives up to all its claims and also, I don't think it is worth the price tag, especially when you have to also shell out an extra £10 for every 2 fresh heads you buy for it and no spares come free with the brush.
I really enjoy fitness but usually go to the gym. However, I like to have a few wee bits and bobs lying around at home that I can use if I have a spontaneous burst of energy or if I don't have time to head out to the gym. Skipping ropes are a great stand by as they really do work your cardio system and get you sweating.
So I headed off to Argos to invest in a pair of ropes. These ropes currently retail for £2.99 which I would say is about average for a pair of bog standard skipping ropes. They are Argos value range so there isn't anything particularly special or exciting about them.
I did like, however, that the rope bit was actually made of rope as lots of skipping ropes these days seem to be made of plastic which I don't think works as well. Plastic tends to get kinks in it that don't really come back out and it really hurts if you get slapped at the back of the leg with the plastic ones so I prefer the more traditional rope ones.
These also have a nice soft foam handle (again, this seems to be common with most modern skipping ropes) which is comfortable to hold but I imagine could begin to absorb sweat and get a bit stinky after a while.
They are 270cm in length so should be long enough for anyone who wants to use them! I'm only around 5 foot so that was plenty of length for me but my boyfriend at 6 foot 5 was able to use them, too, so I think these really would be suitable for anyone.
They have lasted me for the length of time I've had them although I don't use them often and haven't had them any more than 6 months but they seem sturdy enough and at the price, you wouldn't mind if they only lasted a year or so.
I've got a terrible habit of leaving headphones in the gym, managing to put them down in my room and never find them again or of coiling them up so tight around my iPod that I end up damaging the cable and need to throw them out, so I'm always on the lookout for some headphone bargains. I saw a pair of these on sale in a music store for around £10 so decided to buy them. However, they retail on the Skullcandy website for £17.99 currently.
I actually had a pair of Skullcandy earbuds before which broke but I really like the look of Skullcandy earbuds (my previous pair were a Paul Frank pair with Julius on them) and these ones looked cool, too, with the Skullcandy logo of a skull on them. They also come in various colours such as red and black, gold and black and purple and black. I opted for the purple ones.
Like most ear buds now, these came with a choice of fittings, depending on the size of your ears. I'm a pretty tiny person so opted for the tiniest rubber fittings but experimented with all three. I felt that the bigger sizes didn't really fit inside my ear where the smaller ones did but I find that the smaller size maybe isn't big enough as it is almost impossible to keep my earbuds in if I'm out jogging or even just using the cross-trainer at the gym, although they are usually fine when just out walking with them in. Maybe I just have strange ears, though!
I find it hard to judge sound quality as I'm by no means an expert but these seem to be middle of the range in quality to me, but then again, I suppose that can be expected as they are in a middle of the range price bracket, too. The sound quality seems to improve when I make sure the buds are deep into my ears.
The buds seem to irritate my ears after a while but again, I suspect this is nothing to do with the brand and is just due to my ears being easily irritated by ear buds in general.
I am extremely cautious with these ones since my last pair broke (the wire came loose which made the sound juddery eg. I'd get sound and if I moved then the wire would move and I'd lose the sound again or it would go crackly). I blamed myself for wrapping the earphones round the iPod too tightly when I used them but perhaps this shouldn't have happened as I've had other brands of ear buds that lasted much longer before they broke. The previous pair of Skullcandy earbuds only last me perhaps 6 months or so of not very frequent use (maybe once a week on average). So with this pair I'm cautious to not wrap them up at all.
As Skullcandy goes, it is a recognised brand and seems to be widely available in shops. I'd probably buy Skullcandy earphones again just for this reason alone and that it is convenient to buy them. However, I'm not convinced that they are the best quality earphones available and I probably wouldn't buy an expensive pair in case they didn't last.
I went to Oban in February for a few days having not visited in years. My closest friend comes from Oban, too, so she was able to advise me of what was hot and what was not, so my boyfriend packed our bags and headed off for a couple of days.
Oban is roughly about 100 miles from Glasgow and is a lovely coastal town with links to quite a few of the Scottish isles. It has a large Ferry harbour and links to the town from the major cities by bus and train.
There are a few attractions in and around Oban itself. There is the Oban distillery first of all, although I haven't been in. There is also the Scottish Sea Life sanctuary which is a good day out. There is also McCaig's tower in Oban itself which is a large, circular tower overlooking the town. There are some good views but expect a bit of a climb! There are loads of boat trips available from Oban, not only on the ferry, but also boat trips aimed more at tourists visiting the town. Again, nearby there is the power station of Cruachan which is built under a mountain and can be visited, also. You can also, of course, hop on a ferry to go to a nearby island. Oban also has a Tourist Information which is open during the summer season.
There are some shops in Oban (most aimed towards the tourists, so expect quite a few of your typical 'Scottish' type shops) but also some other High street chains such as New Look and Argos. There are two supermarkets: a Co-op and a Tesco with the Tesco being the largest and some other smaller, independent shops. It isn't a hub of shopping, that's for sure but has more shops than some other small towns I've been in!
There are loads of pubs in Oban and most of the ones I've been in seem friendly enough although I did only pop into a few.
Places to Eat:
There aren't a huge number of places to eat but then, it is a small town. There is a fish restaurant overlooking the sea and an Italian called La Piazza which was very nice. There are a few fish and chip shops dotted about but these seemed really expensive if you wanted fish which I found strange considering we were near the sea! There are also some smaller cafes dotted around and some of the pubs also do food.
The best option, really, would be to take a car with you to Oban as that way you can access the surrounding areas easily but if you don't drive, the next best option is buses. These weren't hugely frequent when we were there but the timetables do improve in the height of the summer season. The main bus provider here is West Coast Motors and I found their service very friendly and their prices very reasonable.
Since we went in February, a lot of the attractions/boat trips etc. either were shut for the season or had reduced opening hours. I was also saddened to see the town seemed to have been hit by the recession as have so many other places. A few shops had shut since the last time I'd been there and the small cinema and arcade had closed down.
I'm sure in the summer Oban will be busy as usual, however, with day trippers in particular going for the views and to eat a chippy by the sea. It is a nice town and is definitely worth a visit if you're in the area but try to head there in the summer season when you'll get the most out of the attractions.
I'm a big kid and love the Toy Story alien....he's just too cute! It was a bit of a running joke with my boyfriend and I that he needed to get me a cuddly toy of one after I spent hours trying to win one out of a claw machine on holiday to no avail. Anyway, lo and behold, after months of searching for one, we ran across this little chap by chance when we were in Home Bargains. We got him for a mere £6.99 which is a real bargain considering I found him on Amazon going for £33!
He is quite big for a teddy but not massive. He's about 30cm, I'd reckon and is quite chunky and heavy so isn't really very toddler friendly or 'cuddly' due to that, I'd say. He is soft but has a little package of electronics in his back that you can feel depending where you squeeze him.
The body is made of soft, cotton-like material and has the Pizza Planet logo embroidered on his chest which is nice as some of the other alien teds that are available have the logo printed on his chest but not sewn on. The embroidery just gives the whole teddy a more luxury and well-finished feel. His feet and dark blue belt are made of a different material which is more velvety and his skin is made of a nylon type of material which is quite nice as this makes him feel more like he's got real skin as the contrast between the skin material and body material is so different. The details on his face are great too. Again, not just printed but sewn in with a two-tone mouth and solid eyes. He's a very well made and good quality little chap.
He has a velcro panel on the back so you can access his electronics, presumably to replace the batteries if need be. Obviously, he is meant to be a night light and so you find that if you squeeze his hand you'll feel a little button and this is what turns his light on. The light is in the eyes, so his three eyes light up. In a dark room the colour that the light produces is a slightly eerie green because the light filters through his green skin a little. The light can be turned off by squeezing his hand again or will automatically go off itself after about 15 seconds. This might make him seem useless as a night light but as he's a teddy, a child could easily take him to bed and re-press the button whenever the light went off. Then, of course, when the child finally falls asleep, the light will go off automatically and won't be burning power all night.The button would be very easy to find and operate, even for a very young child.
I think he's really cute and the light off him is enough to light a room. I sometimes turn him on to light the room until I've turned the light off at the light switch and walked to the other side of the room to get into bed and he always gives me enough light for me to walk to bed without stubbing my toes! I would recommend him if you manage to get a bargain but I think the £33 current price on Amazon is far too steep and you'd be better just buying an ordinary night light for that price!
I guess I'm quite a tactile person and enjoy squishing things, stroking things and just generally getting touchy feely with objects. In shops I'm always picking things up to handle them and this was how I met and fell for my Cushtie.
I'd seen these cushions before in the plastic bags that they come in but I'm not a very cushiony person so it had never attracted my attention. They are capsule shaped, not pillow shaped and come in a range of colours (the most commonly available seeming to be pink). Anyway, while out shopping one day I was in a shop that had a Cushtie out on display and me, being the tactile person I am, reached out for it. That's when I found out exactly what the selling point of these rather small and otherwise seemingly useless creations is!
The exterior of the cushion is made from very soft fabric. It is hard to describe as it isn't soft in the way that cotton is soft but an entirely different and unusual feeling. It feels synthetic but very smooth, soft and strokeable. It feels almost silky. Inside it is filled with beans such as those that are in Beanie Babies instead of padding. This makes your hand sink into it when you touch it and when you hold it, it almost moves about in your hands like it has a bit of a life of its own.
It makes it a great tactile toy for people like me. You can fold it in half, stuff parts of it inside itself, flatten it out, flail it around the air like a lassoo or just sit stroking it! It is strange to describe but very addictive!
As it is so soft and mouldable it wouldn't do a great job as a cushion or a pillow if you needed it to provide some form of support for your head or back etc. but I do like to sometimes rest my cheek against it when sleeping as the material is very soothing and it just squishes into your face.
The range of colours is fairly large, too, and are quite funky. There is the negative, though, that the cover can't be taken off the Cushtie if it needs a wash which is sad as mine is looking a bit dirty after years of being fondled. A damp cloth usually gets most marks off it, though.
The range has expanded ever since and they now have travel versions, heart shaped versions and neck support versions. They are quite widely available and are currently retailing on Amazon for around £10, depending on the colour or version.
I love anything crafty so was really excited when Hobbycraft first came to the Glasgow Fort. I believe it is an American company originally but there are now some stores over here. The one in Glasgow is the only one I've ever run across, though. To find a Hobbycraft near you, however, check out:
The Glasgow store is pretty massive with an upstairs and a downstairs section. When you enter the tills are on your right hand side and the wonders of the store await you in front. Usually any special offers and reduced items are on display near the front of the store as you walk in or on the left hand wall as you enter or are in big baskets laid out up the aisles, so keep your eyes peeled for a bargain!
I'm not even going to try to explain a store layout because the store is so vast I'm sure I wouldn't be able to remember what is in every aisle and also, half the fun of this store, I think, is wandering about not really knowing where you're heading and then finding yourself in an interesting aisle with items in it that you might want to try out.
There really is something for every crafter in this store! From baking supplies/tins etc, to jewellery making, sewing, latch hook rug making, card making, model building, Fimo, painting, picture frames, cuddly toy making and even wedding supplies for the crafty wedding planner!
The really nice thing about this store is the amount of things you spot when walking around that make you want to try new things. As a crafty person, it is great to have some new ideas and inspiration! There are even leaflets dotted about with craft ideas that are free to take and show you the list of what you need and give instructions on how to make the item. There is a good range of stuff on offer for all age groups, too. Kids are well catered for but so are adults.
There are also sometimes demonstrations of craft techniques in store. The staff, I've found, are always well presented, helpful and polite and the till staff always get through queues quickly and efficiently.
The one downside to this store is that it is rather on the pricey side. Most of the things here you could probably get cheaper online and for some things it is easy for the costs to mount up. For example, I do jewellery making and usually buy my beads, wire etc. off ebay vendors but in here I decided to stock up one day and quickly spent about £30 on items that I could have got off of ebay for probably half the price. However, the price is worth it when you know that you'll definitely be able to get the crafty accessories you need out of here if you're in a rush and can't wait for online delivery.
I definitely recommend this shop, even if just for a browse and a bit of inspiration on a dull, rainy day.
I'm far from a fashionista and had never heard of Toms shoes but my sister had seen celebs wearing them and then told me about them.
Basically, they are shoes with a difference and were founded by an American traveller who found that when he was in Argentina, he saw a lot of children without shoes. He decided that this needed rectified and set up Toms shoes. The system works by people like us buying a pair of shoes but really paying for two pairs. So the pair we buy means that a pair will also be given to a shoeless kid in the developing world. Nice idea!
I thought it was a cute idea but was shocked when shown the shoes and told the price. Currently a pair of the Classic types cost around £40 for an adult pair and around £26 for a kid's size. I know that you are paying for two pairs of shoes but the shoes you are getting look essentially not much different from the 'gutties' that you used to do gym in at school.
My sister bought a pair for herself though and a pair for my mum. Not long after this my sister broke her toe and couldn't wear hers comfortably any more and my mum found out she had diabetes so decided to convert to wearing Hotter shoes instead to protect her feet, so I ended up inheriting a red and a grey pair of Toms.
As I say, I hadn't been convinced when my sister had showed me them but since I had two pairs now, I thought I may as well wear them so took a pair out for a trial run when I was cycling. Since they don't have laces and are small and tight to your feet, I thought that they'd be ideal for cycling as there was nothing to get caught up in the gears or anything. They were comfy but then again, this was no real litmus test as I'd been sitting down wearing them and not walking around in them.
Next time I decided to wear a pair on a short walk and again, found them comfortable. Ever since I've worn them time and time again and although they slightly rub on one foot if I've been walking in them for a long time, I don't think this is the fault of the shoes but is instead caused by my dodgy shaped toes which tend to rub with most shoes apart from big, roomy trainers.
Although they look flimsy, they are surprisingly comfortable to walk in and the sole of them is quite thick. They are made of canvas, though, so they aren't the most waterproof of shoes but are ideal for the summer and are nice and light.
I've found that they actually go with everything, particularly the grey pair I have. You can wear them with jeans or with a skirt or a day dress or even with shorts. They really go with everything and as they are so light they are easy to pack if you are going on holiday.
I didn't think they looked sturdy enough to last but I suppose when you consider that the same shoes get given to the kids in the developing world, then you begin to realise that they'd have to be good quality or else there would be no point dishing them out to these kids. I've had mine for about a year now and wear them quite often when the weather permits and they still look just like new. There isn't any wear or tear on the uppers and although the sole is beginning to get worn down, just like any shoe, it is nowhere near being worn out.
I really love this shoes and I think in this modern era when we tend to buy so many cheap, sweatshop clothes, it is nice to have a company who is doing something to help other people rather than exploiting them and now that I know these shoes are comfortable and of quality, I would definitely invest in another pair.
If you want to own a pair of these, check out:
Batiste is a dry shampoo and is meant to make your locks nice and clean without you having to actually give your hair a wash. For girls with long hair this sounds like a good thing as washing and drying hair can take quite some time and isn't ideal if you're in a rush in the morning.
I'd heard a lot of good things about this and so decided to try it myself. Usually my hair is washed and clean but there are those days when you are too lazy to wash your hair in the morning or when you just feel like it needs a quick freshen up and this is where Batiste is meant to come in.
It works by holding the aerosol a few inches away from your hair and then spraying the product all over your hair. You then massage it in with your fingers before brushing it through with a brush. The product has a very distinctive but pleasant smell to it. It is so distinctive, however, that anyone who had used the product before would probably smell it on you and know that you hadn't washed your hair that morning! The smell does seem to hang around for about an hour or so after use.
When the product goes onto your hair it coats it with a white residue. After rubbing and brushing this should no longer be visible but sometimes it is hard to shift it all and I'm always paranoid that white stuff will be visible at the back of my head where I can't see my hair! It also coats your hands when you rub it through so you need to wash your hands after use.
It is meant to make your hair look and feel fresher but I don't really feel it works for me but maybe this is something to do with my hair type. I feel it works a small amount but not enough for my hair to look or feel fresh and I usually end up just giving up and washing it anyway.
Batiste dry shampoo comes in a bright green/blue bottle with a yellow stripe so it is quite an unusual and eye-catching container. I've seen it on sale for as little as £1 but it is usually closer to the £2 mark and is available from most supermarkets. It is also available now in other varieties.
Ah......an angry glare and the smell of stale urine in the morning. Who could ask for more? Good job I'm getting on a First bus and get both included in the cost! OK, to be fair, most of the buses don't actually smell like stale urine but that's possibly the only good thing going for them!
First Bus, if you don't already know, is a nationwide travel company that also operates some rail services now, as well. They pretty much have a monopoly on the bus services in many areas of the UK, my area being one of them unfortunately. They are easily recognisable as they have a definite brand identity (the buses are white/cream with a stripe of colour running along the side).
A bus is a bus, surely, though. If it gets you from A to B, then what else is there to complain about. Well, with First Bus there's quite a long list. I'll detail some of their finer points below:
--First of all they seem to have the most horrible drivers. I'm sure that the drivers are just as depressed about working for First Bus as we are having to ride on a First Bus and their attitude to customers reflects this. My dad is a bus driver (not for First Bus!) and so I always make a point of smiling at bus drivers and saying 'thank you' when I get off the bus and I can count on the one hand how many times a First Bus driver will smile or acknowledge me in return. When using non-First Bus buses this is rarely the case. Usually the drivers will always be polite and will reply with a 'bye' or something when you say thanks as you leave the bus.
--The buses are rarely on time or as frequently as they promise them. Today I waited 40 minutes for a bus that is meant to run every 10 minutes!
--They are not the cleanest of buses. Some are worse than others, to be fair, and they tend to get more gross as the day goes on as I'm sure the buses don't have time to be cleaned during the day. Chewing gum squished into seats or onto the back is common as are empty cans or bottles rolling around the floor. If you're really lucky you'll get to step in someone else's spit as you walk on or off the bus.
--Prices are extortionate! I know the cost of fuel is rising but the prices are extortionate. Not so long ago there were 4 competing bus companies in the area and the cost of a return to Glasgow was £1.90 on one of the competing companies. Now that First bus has a monopoly here the cost has sharply risen to over £5.
--Their complaints procedure is rotten. A few years ago I was on a First Bus with a friend. We were actually travelling into Glasgow to do a sponsored sleep outside to raise money for a homeless charity so we had our sleeping bags with us. Some little troublemakers came on the bus and wouldn't leave us alone. It was only ourselves and the troublemakers and they were far from quiet so I'm sure the driver would have noticed them. They were throwing things at us, flashing us and all sorts and then started trying to set fire to our sleeping bags. The driver ignored all of this but when they called him a name, he proceeded to get out of his cab and chase them down the street. I wasn't going to complain but when I told my dad (as I say, he's a bus driver), he said that if that had been him driving and he'd seen girls being tormented like that he'd have shouted at the boys as a man intervening might be all that it takes for them to leave. He phoned First Bus to complain and they basically told him to shut up. OK, fair enough, the driver maybe didn't want to get involved but surely the driver should have some control over who is on his bus and surely the least First Bus could have done was be polite to someone who is making a complaint about an incident that could have resulted in injury or worse that happened on their buses.
For those of you who have never had the pleasure of using a First Bus, I particularly recommend getting one late at night when the drunks climb aboard, screaming and shouting at the top of their voices. OK, fair enough, that isn't really the fault of the company, I suppose but still makes for an unpleasant experience for the rest of us. I often travel on local trains and on trains conductors ask people who are being overly unruly to shut up or get off so I don't see why bus drivers can't do the same thing.
The other particular little trick First Bus likes is to wait until you get on and then start moving, usually very quickly and usually swerving at a sharp angle. This is particularly charming when you are elderly or in charge of a person with mobility issues. I used to work as a carer and one day I boarded a First bus with a client who used a wheelchair but was able to walk a few steps. It was easier for her and myself to walk onto the bus with another worker folding up her chair and carrying it on, so this is what we did. It was very clear that she was, however, a wheelchair user and struggled to walk. Still, the driver drove off before she had sat down (and we were by no means taking a long time to do this as usually me and the client would go on first while the other worker would sort out the tickets behind us, so the driver would have only needed to have waited an extra ten seconds or so for her to sit down). Another time, with another client, we were getting off a bus and the driver told us to hurry up, although in slightly more flowery language. Again, the client clearly had mobility issues. A wonderful disabilities policy in place here!
First Bus really enrages me. They are an awful company who often come into an area, monopolise it and then reduce the services available and increase the prices as soon as they've killed off the competition. They care very little about their customers and offer a terrible service. If you have a choice between getting a First Bus or using boot leather, do the walking!
I haven't used the Spanish version of Rosetta Stone but I have used the French version and a little bit of the Greek and Latin versions and can confirm that the same method is used in each with a slight variation in parts for the Greek version due to the fact that learners need to learn a new alphabet there, too, so what I am going to say below will apply to the Spanish version.
For those who haven't heard of Rosetta Stone, it is a language learning platform on CD Rom that utilises the immersive method to teach you a language. The immersive method basically means just what it says on the tin. You are immersed in the language so unlike other language learning CD Roms and audio tapes where a speaker might say the word in English and then repeat it in the language you are learning, in Rosetta Stone you are exposed completely to the language you are learning. No explanation of the grammar or vocabulary is given in English at all. This might sound a bit crazy but it is meant to mimic the way we learn language as a child where we have to interpret what is being said by taking it in context. So if our parents point to an orange and tell us 'orange' we realise that that is what it is called. Similarly, if we see a picture of an orange on Rosetta Stone and it says the word for Orange in the language we're learning, our brains will make the connection without needing to use a language we're familiar in to interpret it.
Many institutions that teach languages also now use the immersive technique and so it isn't something exclusive to Rosetta Stone.
When you start with Rosetta Stone, you make your own account, so if there is more than one user in your family, you can still keep track of your own personal progress. Each level in Rosetta Stone is broken down into four smaller levels and each of these is broken down again in four even smaller levels. This sounds confusing, so for the sake of this review lets call the main overall level, the level, the smaller 4 within that sub-levels and then the smaller ones again, modules.
So Level 1's first sub-level is on the language basics and each of its four modules gradually builds up your vocabulary. Each of the modules starts with an overview of everything. This can be overwhelming because you don't know the vocabulary or the grammar yet but that's fine. Just take a guess and if you get it wrong, it doesn't matter, you can try again. Then after you've completed this you get to focus on each component individually such as grammar, pronunciation etc. At the end of each module you get a short review to see what you remember and at the end of a full sub-level you get an assessment where a real life scenario plays out in front of you and you've to do all the talking!
Rosetta Stone works by showing you pictures of people, objects, and activities and sometimes these pictures aren't instantly clear and that can make it confusing. For example, someone going peering into a fridge to teach you the verb 'I am hungry'. It seems obvious after you've worked it out but at first you're not sure if it is the verb for 'open' (as in the fridge), for 'look' or for something else but seeing it used in other contexts helps you to work it out in the end and probably makes it more likely that you'll remember it because you've had to think about it so much!
Also, the modules repeat a lot of the material from previous modules to ensure that you remember it and this is good but can also get repetitive at times.
I learned both Latin and ancient Greek at University and both of these are very grammar intensive languages and because of that, I think, I was naturally looking for such things as changes in verb endings and changes to reflect the gender of nouns etc. and so although Rosetta Stone worked for me, I'm not sure it would have been as easy if I hadn't already learned a lot about the structure of languages which helped me to make sense of what was going on in Rosetta Stone. My boyfriend tried to use Rosetta Stone and found it useless and confusing so maybe my previous language experience helped.
It isn't as 'fun' as other CD Roms I've used to learn languages which use games such as memory card games to teach you vocabulary but it did seem, for me, to be far more effective.
It also doesn't tend to focus on teaching the obvious tourist phrases, either. For example, some of the first words you learn are the words for girl, boy, man, woman, eat, drink, play etc. Some of these might be useful in conversation but I'm sure most tourists would rather learn things such as how to say "Where is the...." or "Can I have..." etc. whereas this seems to come later in Rosetta Stone.
The one major drawback I feel about Rosetta Stone is the extortionate price. Currently it is £149 for one level or £299 for three levels of a particular language! You could probably finish one module in about 2 or 3 hours, so with 16 modules in one level, you are talking about maybe 48 hours of language learning in one level. However, I don't the software is doing anything breath-taking to justify the price. Showing a picture of something while someone says the words over the top of it does not cost that much to produce, surely? Obviously, if you didn't know if it was going to work for you or not, then that is a lot of money to risk as well.
All in all, it works for me but doesn't seem to work for everybody and at the price of it, I really don't think it is worth it. There are websites out there now for language learners that let you talk to other language learners online and that would surely be very effective and free as compared to this software.
I spend a lot of time at the gym and a lot of time trying (and failing) to run outside but have always had trouble with my feet. I think I might be slightly flat footed and my feet like to make their presence and discomfort known about 10 minutes into my workout by aching in the middle. My feet and I then play a little game of me ignoring them and continuing to work out while they become increasingly painful until eventually, I have to stop, shake them off for a minute and then start again.
So, in my quest to defeat my evil feet I have bought many a pair of trainers and many a pair of trainers has returned, vanquished, back into my cupboard never to be worn again.
It was wandering around a Nike outlet store that I first came across a pair of Nike Air Zoom trainers which looked nothing like the picture above, by the way. They had a strange band across the middle of them that was made of a soft, vinyl type of material and you could tighten this or loosen it by tying the laces through it or not tying them through it. Intrigued by their strange design, I picked them up and wow, I was taken aback! They were amazingly light! So much lighter than any other pair of trainers that I'd ever owned. They were on special offer and were going for cheap, so I bought a pair and from that day on I fell in love.
Going to the gym in them felt amazingly weird at first because my feet felt so light but at the same time well protected. Some other trainers that are designed to be light lose a lot of their weight by having really thin soles but this isn't the case with these so you aren't feeling ever little step you take trembling through your body like you would in a cheap pair of slippers. I imagine the fact that they are lightweight is meant to enhance your running speed but I'd need a heck of a lot more than a light pair of trainers to achieve that! They are made mainly of a mesh type of material like most running shoes but it seems a more prominent feature in these than in other trainers I've owned which sometimes only have the mesh at the toes. Although they are mainly mesh, I've worn them in all weathers and I can honestly say that my feet have stayed fairly dry every time I've worn them apart from when I've stepped straight into a puddle and most trainers wouldn't withstand the puddle test, so I can't complain on that front.
They aren't a chunky trainer and are fairly slim-line so I feel quite feminine in them as well but the best bit is undoubtedly the fact that the feet wars have been somewhat quieted by these trainers. The feet still occasionally decide to make their presence known when I'm training but not as painfully or as often as before. I don't know what it is about these trainers that seem to support my mid-foot more. There is no support built into the base of them (I've had trainers with arch support built in before that actually caused me more trouble) and even though there is the vinyl strip that runs up the side of them, I've never tightened that to use it. Whatever their secret is, I'm now onto my third pair!
The type I wear usually retail at around £55 but can sometimes be found for cheaper in Nike Outlets. They come in Nike+ and ordinary varieties (Nike + ones have a space built into the sole for a Nike+ sensor that monitors your running but you need to purchase the sensor separately and have an iPod touch, iPhone or iPod nano which also needs a receiver part for the base) in order to use this.
I've seen (and bought) them in three colours: white, black and sky blue but I'm sure other colours are available.
I live a short distance from Motherwell and have also had the dubious honour of working there at one point in my life. It is in the district of North Lanarkshire and is the home of the Civic offices of North Lanarkshire council, therefore it tends to get a bit more love in terms of flowers getting planted in the Spring etc. than some other towns. So what is there to do there and is it worth a visit?
Motherwell has a far better shopping area than nearby Wishaw but possibly not as good as the other nearby town of Hamilton. The main shopping area includes shops such as Primark, Poundland, Dorothy Perkins, Argos and Boots but a few other shops in the area seem to have shut down recently, perhaps due to the recession. Motherwell was the proud owner of the first Wilkinson's store in Scotland and also has a large 24 hour ASDA a short walk away from the main shopping precinct. The shopping is nowhere near as good as Glasgow but is more than adequate. If you were needing anything in an emergency whether it be a mop, a dress or a donut, then you'd probably have success finding something in Motherwell, even if you would have more choice in Glasgow.
There are quite a lot of pleasant enough little cafes dotted around Motherwell for you to grab a bite to eat. There is, of course, the ubiquitous Greggs and there's also an Auld's (which I like to visit for a fudge donut when in Motherwell since there's no longer an Auld's in Wishaw). McDonald's and Subway are also available if you fancy some fast food. The large ASDA has a cafe but it can often be busy. If you want pub grub there is a Wetherspoons and The Railway Tavern, I believe, sells food. The GLO is a popular cafe in the town which sells hot meals, sandwiches, cakes and biscuits but has become increasingly pricey, I feel. There is also a Chinese buffet restaurant called the Hup Lee which has a chocolate fountain on at night as part of the choice of sweets.
Motherwell has a fair selection of pubs although I haven't drank in many of them and from the looks of them from the outside, I'm not sure that I'd want to drink in some of them! I have been in the Wetherspoons which is a typical Wetherspoons pub although the decor is quite dark and dingy and not the most welcoming.
Things to Do
I think because I'm from near Motherwell I tend to take it for granted and laugh at what is on offer there but actually, when you think about it, there's quite a lot on offer. The big attraction is probably Strathclyde Park which has a nice walk round about it. You can hire bikes here, have a bite to eat in the cafe or have a shot of one of the boats on the lake. There's always inquisitive (and hungry) swans floating about on the lake and there's also playpark areas for kids. There's also a large gym here that looks out over the loch. Of course, this is the home, also, of M + Ds. This is advertised as a 'theme park' but is actually more of a fun fair as it isn't that large but it does have amusements, pool, ten pin bowling, mini golf, Amazonia (an exotic animal attraction) as well as a fair number of rides, so you could easily put a day in here.
There is also The Zone in Motherwell which includes a lazer quest and, I believe, a soft play area for little ones. Just behind it you can find Motherwell Heritage Centre which is quite an interactive museum that tells you the history of the town and surrounding area: from the early Roman beginnings up to the War and the days of the Steel Works, this museum is informative and, best of all, free. There's often free events on here for the kids during school holidays, too.
The RSPB also has a nature reserve in Motherwell called Baron's Haugh. It isn't particularly well known but is quite well kept and there are hides there for those who want to do a spot of bird-watching.
There is also the Aquatec leisure complex. This used to include ice skating but the rink has now been turned into a gym. There is also a play pool with a flume, a jacuzzi and a sauna and steam room.
Finally, there is Fir Park football stadium, if you want to catch the home team of Motherwell playing a game.
Just like anywhere, you get a mix of good and bad but like the nearby town of Wishaw, quite a few of the people of Motherwell are a bit rough and ready. The area has suffered quite a lot of unemployment in recent years since a lot of the heavy industry round about has shut down and the area has, unfortunately, developed some problems. There seems to be a fair bit of a drug problem apparent and sometimes the place can feel a bit threatening, especially at night.
Motherwell is one of the main interchange train stations so the public transport links to and from here are great. The trains to London run through Motherwell which means it is relatively easy to get most places in the UK using Motherwell as your starting point. Bus services to Glasgow, Hamilton and Wishaw are very frequent. Bus services to Lanark less so but the trains run through Carluke and Lanark from Motherwell twice an hour.
All in all, Motherwell has quite a lot to do and enough shops to get by with and although I wouldn't recommend that you go out of your way to visit, if you're ever passing through, there is plenty to do.
A few years ago I was going through a stage of having really dry skin. Nothing seemed to shift it no matter what I did whether I exfoliated, slathered on the moisturiser, covered up my skin from the elements or anything else. I was beginning to despair until I found this.
Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula is, unsurprisingly, made using cocoa butter mixed with some other stuff such as Vitamin E. Cocoa butter is a natural vegetable fat and is also found in chocolate. Apparently, the most high quality cocoa beans are used to make Palmer's but, then again, they would say that!
This product comes in a large white bottle as pictured with a flip top. The bottle is flexible so you can squeeze it to release some of the product. It is also able to balance on the lid so you can store it 'upside down' this way to make sure the product comes out easily when you want to use it.
As you might expect with its main ingredient being cocoa butter, when you open the bottle you immediately smell the lovely aroma of chocolate. This aroma lingers on your skin for quite some time after using this product which is nice if you are just sitting around in your jammies at home but as it is quite a strong smell, it might be a bit odd if you are out in public smelling like a giant bar of chocolate!
The product is advertised as being non-greasy and I really must admit that this is the case. There's nothing more annoying than putting on moisturiser and then sitting around feeling like a slime-covered sea creature and I have the way I have to wash my hands after using some moisturisers before I touch anything else with them. Neither of these are problems with this product. Only a small amount is needed to cover quite a large area. About half a tea spoon does my whole arm when rubbed in.
My skin, bizarrely, feels slightly "tight" immediately after using this product but it definitely works wonders for any problematic dry skin areas. After using it once or twice my stubborn dry skin was gone and even though I then stopped using Palmer's (and other moisturisers on it), it didn't return. This product is also meant to be effective if used daily on stretch marks although I haven't used it for this. My friend swears by rubbing it on her belly during her pregnancies to ensure she doesn't develop bad stretch marks but again, I can't comment on whether this works.
If there is one small problem with this, it is that over time the cream 'crusts' around the top of the bottle and becomes orange, slightly hard and unsightly but this would happen with many other products and is easily wiped away. Of course, with careful use of the product, ensuring that none of it gets on the bottle, this could be avoided altogether.
I've only seen this product sold in 250ml bottles although I might not have been looking hard enough for other sizes and it currently costs £3.44 on Amazon. This is quite pricey for a moisturiser considering you could probably get a big tub of something else from Poundland for a fraction of the cost but I think it is worth the cost for a good body butter that is effective on dry skin and it does last a good while.