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      21.04.2011 16:38
      Very helpful



      A traveller's guide to pleasurable campervan life. Also useful for tent campers.

      The Campervan Cookbook: Life on 4 wheels, cooking on 2 rings.

      Having avidly followed the TV series 'One man and his campervan', I was delighted to find Martin Dorey's cookbook on Amazon for the princely sum of £9.19. The book is very much written in the same style as used in his recent TV series, informal and chatty, littered with personal anecdotes.

      The book is structured to reflect a weekend away in his 29 year old VW campervan, starting with useful practical advice about initial preparations, information and ideas about essential travel / camping equipment and cooking equipment to keep permanently in the van. (This advice is obviously also relevant to owners of other small campervans as well.) There are points about essential van maintenance necessary for preparing your van for the road and hints about road etiquette, such as waving to other VW drivers. And also an interesting, illustrated potted history about the development of the VW cult over the years 1913 - 2010. There are even some basic survival tips are given for going to festivals. I must say, I really like the idea of serving Vietnamese curry with a bottle of champagne whilst the plebian masses are making doing with the usual festival fare of beer and chips!

      Suggestions are given for nutritious, tasty food to prepare in advance, such as Granola, sticky ginger treacle cake, fruit loaf, and, of course, ideas for unusual sandwiches to eat on the journey. Also what sort or pre-prepared meals could be popped into your cool box for consumption on arrival at your final destination.

      So, preparations having been made, the van loaded up, you are then taken away for a weekend in his VW van.

      There are ideas for games to keep the children (and grown-up children!) amused on the journey. I was intrigued at the idea of Eddie spotting. Apparently each lorry has a different girl's name painted on the front. 'Are they the names of Eddie's previous lovers or are they the names of his children?' As I see a lot of Eddie vans in / around Warrington, I will now look at them with fresh eyes.

      Different types of stopover places are discussed and then you arrive, with a sense of triumph, at your final destination, all set to wake up the next morning with the best possible 'room with a view'. I had quite a chuckle at his idea of a seagull alarm clock, especially if applied to noisy neighbours. Apparently you creep out at night and throw breadcrumbs onto their van roof. They will then be woken very early by the scavenging seagulls. This prank was typical of the general style of the author.

      You are taken through each day of his family's weekend, being provided with illustrated details of beach activities, how to make a hammock from a duvet cover, or a kite from twigs and old sheeting, the pleasures of surfing and possible types of boards to use, and even a few tunes to sing when sitting around the campfire.

      There are recipes for each meal of the day, including suggestions re cooking on the campfire. The recipes seem to be fairly easy and nutritious, easy to follow and are accompanied by clear illustrations. For example, first you forage for your mussels, and then you are told how to prepare them for cooking, and given several different ways to cook them. (This links closely to an episode in his T.V. programme.) Mackers and mash (mackerel) are garnished with a smile and eaten as you watch the sun go down. Mulled cider is offered to chilled camping companions. Pimm's is served at Pim o'clock.

      But this book is far more than just a recipe book. It is a traveller's handbook. It will be a treasured accessory for my new little campervan. Who knows? I might even resort to using some of his great excuses for extending my weekend into the work week.

      * 'I'll be there as soon as the bull lets me out of the field.'
      * 'My van broke down and I'm 400 miles away, waiting for parts to be imported from Brazil / Europe. I'll be back in a week / month.'
      * 'We're stranded on an island. The weather has taken a turn for the worse and the ferry isn't coming for another four days. I'll be in NEXT Monday.' (Actually I DID get stranded on the Isle of Wight once, due to inclement weather. I wonder if my boss believed me?!)

      Each section is interesting and amusing, though not excessively detailed or technical. I easily read the entire book in an evening and felt as though I had actually had all the fun of that weekend break with his family.
      I can't wait to try out some of his great ideas and recipes, to transform our weekends away into a totally new experience, having at last upgraded from roughing it in a tent to life in a new (very small) campervan.

      A useful, inspiring little book. One you might even take to the much talked about desert island. Following his tips, I reckon you could have a really fun experience, whether in a tent, a VW Campervan or a van like mine.


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        28.12.2010 18:01
        Very helpful



        A brilliant traction aid for use in wintry weather.

        Get a Grip before you Slip! Due North Everyday Traction Aid Fits Shoes and Ski Boots

        Advantages: Enable me to walk on icy ground with confidence.
        Fairly easy to use.

        Disadvantages: Easily worn out if walking on stony ground when snow/ice is patchy.
        Can fall off your shoe when in use and so be lost easily.

        Paying due heed to weather forecasts giving dire warnings of a harsh winter approaching, I recently bought these Get-A-Grip Ultra traction spikes by DueNorth from Amazon for the princely sum of £19.95. Money well spent. Not willing a risk another bad fall this year, but having to venture out of the house in this inhospitable weather, I have been only too grateful for these wondrous, giant rubber cobwebs clinging to the soles of my horribly sensible work shoes, for all the world like something from Alien.

        How to use:

        These traction aids arrive pre-packed in cellophane, along with a couple of spare studs. Having size 6 ½ wide-fitting shoes, I purchased the large size (to fit sizes 7-13, Euro size 41-49). At the time of purchase, there was the option of a smaller size as well. The device is designed to be worn over ordinary, flat walking shoes, although I believe there is a similar creation online that can be worn over ladies' fashion shoes.

        There is an oval, black rubber, giant cobweb-like device for each foot. This stretchy device is best fastened onto your shoe before you put your shoe on, unless you are particularly supple and can bend easily. Stretch the 'cobweb' over the toe of your shoe / boot first, and then pull it over the heel, making sure that it also wraps round the sides of the shoe. There are four spikey studs that fit under the front padded part of your foot, and two studs that fit under your heel.

        The optimum conditions for using these traction devices are when you wish to walk over consistently compacted snow / ice. They have given me the confidence to walk at a normal pace over otherwise potentially lethal conditions.

        If the road has been partially cleared, then it feels as if you are wearing football boots, clunking along the road. So they are not so suitable for those conditions, as the studs can be easily damaged. Nor are they good for walking through slushy wet snow.

        Disadvantages of these traction aids:

        1. They can be difficult to attach to your shoe as you need to hold them in a stretched position and people with stiff fingers / finger joints might find this difficult.
        2. They can fall off your shoe and be easily lost, unless you notice their absence immediately. (Perhaps you could tie them on with eg a shoelace, to make them extra secure, or perhaps a smaller size would have been more suitable.)
        3. Studs get worn quite quickly and need replacing.
        4. The rubber is soft and also likely to get worn out quickly.
        5. You need to remove these devices when you enter a building, or you may scratch the floor and also cause unnecessary wear and tear on the rubber. This inevitably means that you will also need to re-attach them before venturing back out onto the snow and ice. Not so easy when you are clutching bags of shopping and there is nowhere to sit whilst fastening them onto your shoes.
        6. No good if you suddenly feel the urge to go sliding down a slope, shouting gleefully!


        In my opinion, this has been one of my better pieces of winter equipment as it has made me feel much less vulnerable when walking out in this snowy weather. They were delivered promptly and in pristine condition (having been ordered well in advance of the pre-Christmas choas that hit orders / deliveries in the UK. ) Similar traction devices can be purchased at Outdoors shops, but not at our local one.


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          28.08.2010 14:26
          Very helpful



          The best guesthouse that we have ever stayed at.

          Review: Torguish House, Inverness

          Having decided to visit the Orkneys, we needed to consider the various travel options open to us, taking into account cost, convenience, journey duration, etc. We weighed up the respective merits of flight, rail, coach or car, and decided to maintain a degree of independence by driving up there in my rather under-powered, ancient, then almost 'round the clock' Ford Ka. (Yes, we nearly gave it a heart attack, and displeased a lot of other motorists at our slow, tortuous crawl up the mountains. Well, we don't have many mountains in Warrington, so the poor old car didn't really know how to go uphill.)

          Suitable stopping-off places on our epic, 1200 miles return journey were sought, Stirling and Inverness seeming good choices. After considerable research, we were delighted to discover that we could stay in the childhood home of the late author, Alistair McClean: Torguish House, four miles south of Inverness, in the beautiful Nairn Valley. Torguis house is set just off the North / South A9, five miles from Inverness Station and a reasonable taxi distance from the airport. Guests come from all over the world.

          Having made internet / phone contact with our hosts, Mike, Angie, Ben and Siobhan Moor, we received a comprehensive information pack, including local directions. Now note this - they DID give us a good sketch map and clear, written instructions, so the only reason we nearly ended up in a farm field in the back of nowhere was that our not so trusty sat nav knew better, showing us a good short cut across the fields. So near, yet so far!

          Torguis House, a former manse, was built prior to the Jacobite uprisings of 1715. Many of the original features have been retained, although the house has been modernised to provide a luxurious retreat to weary travellers. Detailed information can be obtained from their east-to-navigate website.


          The long drive from the main road, leads past two small holiday cottages. Torguish House is a beautiful building, surrounded by mature, extensive gardens, the home of maybe a dozen free range hens, Mr and Mrs Peacock and Gertie, the bad-tempered goose. Gertie looks after the pond and the smooth, green lawn in front of the house, and defends the house from all intruders. (We soon understood why Rome was defended by geese!) Beyond the house is a fascinating collection of mostly ancient items for sale, even a totem pole. And then behind the house are the hen-coops and an amusing wooded walk. Ben's quirky sense of humour and artistic skills are responsible for the ... um...interesting range of items spied on the woodland walk. But if my husband thinks he can use MY treasured piano to decorate OUR garden like that, he has another thought coming!

          There are eight letting rooms, including twin beds, double beds, a family room, and rather fetching four-poster bed rooms, all with en-suites and comfortably furnished. "Each room in Torguish is named after a famous Scottish Clan and Alistair Maclean novels are in evidence in each of the rooms." There is a communal dining room, containing three refectory tables. There is also a comfortable lounge for guests to share.

          Walking through the grand entrance, we were greeted warmly by Angie, our hostess, and then shown to our ground floor room. This room was clean and comfortable, furnished with the usual items of furniture. The welcome tray was much appreciated, as was the en-suite shower facility. The bedroom was light and airy, with night-time shutters and curtains. The towels were soft and fluffy. The only disadvantage was the poor signal on the tv, which was no problem for us anyway. There was an extra cloakroom suite outside the room, as there was on each floor.

          We paid £76 for our twin-bedded room and a sumptuous breakfast. The breakfast choices were pre-ordered, and were fit for a king. Fresh fruit salad, YORKSHIRE style porridge, cereal, free-range eggs served in the style of your choice, black pudding, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, all washed down with self-served fruit juice, coffee / tea. (Well, it saved us the bother of searching for a suitable place for lunch!)

          On our departure, we were warmly thanked for our custom and invited to return soon.

          Unfortunately, due to a nasty fall by yours truly, our return was sooner than anticipated. A quick phone call confirmed that a room would be available for us that night, even though we hadn't booked in advance. On arrival, we were warmly welcomed back, like old friends, and much sympathy was expressed about my highly visible facial injuries - don't ask! Let's just say that a purple eye, combined with a grey & yellow cheek, and damaged front tooth, led to a very striking appearance.

          Angie offered us the choice of the two rooms left: an upstairs, four posted bed (VERY nice) or the honeymoon suite, at a special, last minute discount price.

          And so we enjoyed the use of a six foot wide, four poster bed, in the beautifully decorated honeymoon suite, replete with many big mirrors, double shower, and a wash-basin that was so grand that at first we thought it was a special ornament! Having been married for 38 years, we were highly amused and honoured to be given this room and fully appreciated the luxury.

          Our departure was made with warm hugs and best wishes for a safe journey home. What a lovely warm experience it was on both occasions to stay at this lovely guesthouse!


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            23.06.2010 16:54
            Very helpful



            Good value for money

            Colors Hotel, Rome

            A friend and I wanted a centrally-based small hotel or hostel in Rome, at an affordable price. Research found Colors Hotel, located within easy walking distance of the Vatican City, which also had hostel facilities.


            The hotel is located on the corners of Via Terenzio and Via Boezio in the Vatican area. The hotel is approximately ten minutes' walk from both the Ottaviano Metro Station and Lepanto Metro Station. It is just a few minutes' walk from Via Cola di Rienzo, a very popular shopping area and about ten minutes' walk from Vatican City. Many interesting local tourist sites including the River Tiber are also within easy walking distance.


            Until recently, this hundred year old building was used as private apartments, each floor providing accommodation for one family (quite a typical small apartment block.) About ten years ago it was converted into a hotel / hostel, the second floor providing hotel standard accommodation. The ground floor held the Reception area, the breakfast room, and a few bedrooms; the First floor was, and still is, owned / used by the Catholic Order; the third floor devoted to hostel accommodation, and the top floor being used, I believe, for staff accommodation. There is no lift.

            Earlier this year, the hotel was closed for re-furbishment. It now provides a combination of hotel / hostel accommodation in 23 modern rooms, with a total capacity of 60 guests. All rooms have been newly decorated in bright colours and furbished with good quality though basic furniture. There are two small, mixed-sex dormitories, and various combinations of one / two / three/ four person units. On the third floor there is a small terrace, a tiny lounge area and facilities for making drinks. We could not see any other self-catering facilities, although hostel members can pay extra to partake of breakfast downstairs.

            Initial impressions:

            The building is a little over 100 years old and is very scruffy in appearance from the outside. There is only a small sign to indicate that it actually is a hotel, a sign that we couldn't see until we had walked past the entrance. There is a communal entrance, shared by other users of the building / adjacent building. Entrance was gained by pressing the correct buzzer, which was promptly answered.

            A few steps up to the reception desk (no alternative access for disabled people / people with limited mobility / wheelchair users.) The desk is always manned, and the staff all speak excellent English (which was just as well considering how weak my Italian is!) The initial conversation indicated confusion over the booking as my friend and I were offered a Queen-sized double bed, not desirable even for a couple considering how hot Rome is.

            After some thought, an alternative room was suggested. It was actually closed for some basic plumbing work, which was finished pretty quickly and the room was then prepared for us. Whilst we were waiting, we were given bottles of nice, cool water to drink and invited to wait in the breakfast room. There was a covered plate of fresh croissants on offer to guests on one of the tables, which was a nice touch.

            Our room:

            We were given a large room on the ground floor, an ideal situation as we now did not have to climb up three flights of stairs to the room we had expected to have. The room was decorated in lime green, orange, scarlet and brown, living up to the name of the hotel but perhaps not to everyone's taste. Wooden shutters made the room nice and cool, a godsend considering how hot Rome was. The triple (?) glazing was very effective at deadening the sound of the frequently passing traffic. There was a large, comfortable double bed (actually two single beds pushed together) and an extremely comfortable fold-up bed. There was a small en-suite, two wardrobes, two bedside cabinets, a small table with two folding chairs, a fridge, a suitcase rack and a small safe.

            There was no tv, though research has since shown the website claim that all rooms had tvs with satellite tv. Maybe they forgot to put one into our room, as they weren't expecting it to be used? As we didn't want a tv anyway, this wasn't a problem so we didn't ask for one. There was no kettle nor any access to hot water for bedtime drinks. One night-time member of staff just told us we were not allowed to access the kettle in the kitchen. But on another night a staff member offered to boil their private kettle for us, which was a nice offer. We 'made do' with a glass or two of red wine instead of the camomile, which was no real hardship!

            One bedside lamp did not work, but that was promptly dealt with. There were two other problems with the room: the walls were paper-thin so we were disturbed by noisy neighbours one night. Also the marble shelf on the windowsill was extremely hot at night, not because of the sun heating it up, but rather because there was no insulation between it and some special lamp used by the artist in his basement workshop below our room. The unfortunate effect was that it made our room uncomfortably hot at night, at a time when we were craving for the cool, after experiencing temperatures of some 30-38 degrees outside!

            The en-suite was tiled with lime green and orange tiles. There was a toilet, sink, power shower, and a small stand holding soft, fluffy towels, the usual selection of basic toiletries, and a small hair-drier.

            As the hotel / hotel was fully booked, we weren't able to tour the other rooms properly, but passing peeps through open doors indicated that they were furnished to a similar standard. The rooms were cleaned daily, beds were made, bins emptied etc but our towels were only changed once during our three night stay. However, there were plenty of towels, so not really a problem.


            A buffet breakfast was included in the price of our room, and what a super breakfast that was! It was served from 8-10 am and was the standard continental breakfast. There were about eight cartons of juice to choose from, three types of cereal, bread (with the option of using the toaster), croissants, ham, salami, cheese, jams and honey, yogurt, two plates of really nice cake, fresh fruit and, on the occasion, the most delicious home-made fruit salad. There was a choice of hot or cold milk, American coffee, or hot water plus tea (choice of about twelve types of tea). Certainly enough to feast well on, setting you up nicely for the day.

            The breakfast room was woefully small, only having sufficient tables for about 12-14 guests to eat at a time. Also there was a problem with where this wonderful selection of food was set out, as it was squeezed into an L shaped serving area, in a fashion that meant really only one or two people could serve themselves at a time. On one occasion, we elected to take our breakfast across to our room (just across the corridor) rather than wait for a free table.


            This is now a modern hotel / hostel, really handy as a base for touring the centre of Rome. It is clean, comfortable and modestly priced. We paid 85 Euros for our room, but prices do vary according to time of week and time of year. Facilities are basic though adequate. Staff are polite and helpful and do their best to help you with any problems. We felt safe and relaxed whilst there. As at many hostels and hotels, peaceful nights are dependent on the thoughtfulness of other guests.

            We didn't know until our last morning that there was a small lounge area upstairs. No-one had told us. We would have appreciated a kettle / cups in the room, or at the very least a flask of hot water. Other guests might have been bothered by the lack of a tv. and by the unreliable internet access that was in the breakfast room.

            The hotel is not adapted for access for disabled people, and we would have struggled with getting up those flights of stairs up to the third floor with heavy bags or after a long day pounding the streets of Rome, visiting tourist sites. But there is no facility for a lift. As yet, no blind people have stayed there, though we were told that service dogs would be allowed. I felt that my highly allergic daughter would have felt quite comfortable there, because of the modern furnishings and the clean state of the rooms.

            Would I recommend this hotel? Yes, certainly. Indeed, I am planning a second visit in the not too distant future with members of my family, this time sharing one of the larger family rooms.

            So good value for money, despite a few niggling problems. Wear your shades if you are upset by lurid colours!


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              28.04.2010 21:32
              Very helpful



              All part of life's rich tapestry.

              Five reasons why I think I'm *strange* ... no ... 'unusual'.

              Strange? Me? Well, maybe a tad unusual. Five reasons - hmm, she says, scratching her head.

              I think I am ahem unusual because:

              1. I love 'people-watching'. When waiting for a train, to go into a concert or for the concert to start, I just can't help myself. I MUST 'people watch'! Before I can stop myself, I have imagined a total set of life experiences for people being observed.

              That tall guy over there, wearing the strange glasses and baggy tee-shirt. What does HE do for a living? His name is Rupert. He is really an accountant who loves to listen to really retro music. Being an avid twitcher, on Saturday afternoons he likes nothing better than to go out on his bike to the local bird reservation. The old lady waiting patiently on the platform bench? What is HER life story? Well, Mabel has two middle aged 'children' who are too busy to visit her but think their duty has been done by sending the odd birthday and Christmas card. She would love to see her three grand children much more often but 'doesn't want to be a nuisance'. Oh, I feel so sad for her!

              2. I am very resourceful. No, I don't mean having brilliant ideas for coping with life's problems. I mean that I am a collector...indeed, a hoarder. I still have my first mobile phone, the size of a brick. Heavy, slow, and you couldn't text from it. As a peripatetic EAL teacher, I am worth my (considerable) weight in gold, as far as resources go.

              A display about Australia? Yes, I've got the drape, an amazing collection of pictures, information and story books. Africa? Want to borrow my dolls, picture and information books, and beautiful patterned cloths?

              Doing 'Jack and the beanstalk? Feel free to borrow my giant 'beanpod' (really the pod from, I think, the tamarind tree but that is a much less exciting thought.)

              Life in the 1940s - 1960's? Yes, I'll lend you my stone hot water bottles, Granny's corset and the hand-knitted knickers, not to mention a collection of pairs of glasses up to 80 years old....Well, ok, actually I have four BIG boxes of 'valuable artefacts' I can produce at the drop of a hat.

              Dice? I have dice of all sizes and shapes, multi-faceted ones, glittery ones, earring ones, even the 'What shall we do tonight, Darling?' one.

              3. Whilst I have been known to attend meetings suited up appropriately, and usually look reasonable conventional when at work, I am much more comfortable dressed in unconventional clothing. I guess I am a latent hippie. Ankle-length skirts or tasteless tee shirts - brilliant. 'Be clean, but dress for comfort.' Is my motto. Unless I'm at a festival, in which case I DO start off clean!
              There are so many more interesting things to spend my money on than a vast wardrobe of latest fashion clothing.

              4. Having reached my triple twenty, I guess I'm too old to be found in the wrist band section of rock concerts.... Nah, I'm still younger than many of the performers, so why not? Well, maybe fainting at the Bruce Springsteen concert might be a warning that standing for too long is not a good thing for someone on blood pressure tablets... Blow that, I'm still heading for the stage!

              5. It would appear that I have an unconventional sense of humour or attitude, which has to be curbed at times as I guess it can verge on the impulse to shock people.

              For example coaxing the class teacher and the TA to dress up in galabayahs, as well as myself, when I was delivering a talk re my trip to Egypt to a class. Tee hee, he looked very fetching in the black 'dress' !

              Similarly, the 1960s blue bloomers, hand-knitted knickers, granny's corset, the 80 year old Harry Potter style glasses, were all just begging to be modelled by staff and children, to the amusement of the rest of the hundred children being given the 'Aunty Mary artefacts' talk.

              Readers may already be familiar with my favourite winter attire: tellytubby passion killers and slanket.

              Years after I first gave my 'Aunty Mary artefacts' talk, complete with the dressing up experience, I've had pupils and staff laughing about it. So I guess they did learn something that day, if only the ability not to take oneself too seriously.

              What a pity we have to be limited to just five reasons - no place to talk about my travel achievements and dreams, my yearnings to have a 'country cottage' in the outer Hebrides and a campervan. No place to write about my threat to the family that the poem on my opening page might soon apply to me.

              So, folks, am I maybe just a little unusual? Strange, even. Who knows. But just think how boring life would be if we were all conventional and played life straight all the time.

              Thank you for reading this review - no money earned this time, but it has amused me to draw this quick sketch of my maybe not conventional self. I hope something here made you smile as well.

              BTW How can one rate oneself? Star-wise?
              On reflection, I think I'm worth five stars!


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              • Evening News Arena / Musical Event / 101 Readings / 98 Ratings
                More +
                24.04.2010 22:10
                Very helpful



                A world - famous venue for sporting and musical events.

                The MEN Arena

                This place rocks! If you want to visit a concert venue with plush seats and bow-tied ushers, then don't come here. If you want a concert venue where you go dressed up in your finest togs, then don't come here. But if you want a venue that, when full, echoes with the vibrations of fantastic music and excited, appreciative fans, then come to the Manchester Evening News Arena.


                The MEN Arena opens up onto Victoria Station, Manchester and is within easy walking distance of Piccadilly Station. There is also a metro link tram stop at Victoria Station, linking the venue to Bury, the city centre, Altrincham and Eccles. The Arena has a massive, 900 capacity car park of its own, as well as being just decameters away from several smaller car parks. Thus the Arena is easy to access by road or rail.

                Chatting to other concert goers at various events, I've realised that people travel long distances to attend events here, so the place must be doing something right with its publicity of events!

                What is the MEN Arena?

                Opened in 1985 as part of the unsuccessful bid by Manchester to host the 2000 summer Olympics games, the arena was purpose-built to host a wide variety of events. Inside, the building reminds me of a football pitch. It is oval in shape and, when used to full capacity, provides 360° seating for both sporting and musical events. It has an impressive maximum capacity of 23,000, which, when filled with ardent rock fans, makes the very rafters shake with the joyous vibrations of amazing music.

                Every event that I have attended at this arena has been a musical one, so this must inevitable be reflected in my review. But there have been a wide variety of sporting events here as well.

                There are three main entrances to the Arena, making entry and egress relatively painless procedures. Each set of doors actually has multiple doors to enable rapid entry / exit of fans.


                The venue is relatively unusual because it has both an upper tier and a lower tier all the way round the arena. The upper tier seats are not, however, for those of a faint heart. I've known people to leave because of the severe vertigo experienced by those sitting at the highest levels. It is true, a mini parachute could provide a very nifty way to leave these levels quickly and easily! There is also flexible ground floor seating, which can be removed if the event requires this.

                The seating varies according to the show being hosted. If it is a concert that allows standing tickets, such as the many big rock concerts that take place here, the floor seating is removed completely, allowing the many fans plenty of dancing room nearer the back, or the chance to get remarkably close to their idols. I, for one, was just a couple of metres away from the stage when Queen performed there a few years ago, sadly with just the video company of Freddie Mercury. But to be so close to Brain May was really quite an experience!

                Other concerts, such as the Shania Twain concert in 2004, require a different layout, such as the central, circular stage, used to maximise the view for the many thousands of fans. Wherever you sat / stood at that concert, you received a great view of all the action on stage.

                The really 'big guys' who perform there have an end stage layout, with seats behind the stage being used as well as round the arena. The use of additional tv screens at some events, such as when Eric Clapton performed, enable every action of the key performers to be seen easily by those seated further away from the stage. Personally, I take a small pair of binoculars if my seat is a long way from the stage, as can happen at popular events.

                On occasion, for example when Status Quo performed there quite a long time ago, just half of the arena is utilised, the stage being pulled forward and the area behind the stage being screened off by large black curtains.


                On entry, all small bags are searched and small bottles of water / food must be consumed before entry or they will be confiscated. This is quite a common policy at concerts, linked to the licence of each particular venue. But if you happen to have a handy pocket or two...! Sometimes there may be a second check before you can enter the standing area. Any bottles of water found will be politely tipped into large plastic beakers, and the bottles confiscated. I guess a bottle of water could make quite a missile so fair enough. And a bottle of something less pleasant hurtling through the air would be really nasty.

                Once inside, it is possible to access a large number of bars selling the usual range of drinks, and to carry your pints of whatever to your seats for consumption. This does have an unfortunate side effect of creating sticky floors at times, as drinks left on the floor can get knocked over in the excitement of the moment. So it is advisable to take a plastic bag to place your coat / possessions in, should you intend to leave them on the floor during the concert. I must admit that inwardly I do get annoyed by the Mexican wave that results from the need that so many music fans seem to have to stock up on more drinks, with the consequent extra visits to the loo. But one has to be tolerant or irritation would take away the pleasure of the concert.

                Other reviews have criticised the toilets at this arena. All I can say is that, whilst they may not be very grand, the ladies toilets are adequate for the purpose, plentiful in number, and reasonably clean, with the necessary hand-washing facilities on tap (ho, ho!)

                There are also special hospitality suites at the arena, which I have not entered so cannot comment about their quality.

                There are small stores that sell merchandise linked to that particular concert. The stores are open as soon as the doors open, during the concert and also during the interval. But they are closed when it is 'turning out' time.

                There are facilities to enable the disabled to access events here, though it would be wise to discuss your particular mobility needs with the box-office staff before purchasing any tickets.

                Being the sort of virtuous non-smoker who would cheerfully attack smoking sinners with a water pistol, nevertheless I do feel some sympathy towards smokers who attend concerts / events here. There is no 'smoking area' anywhere in the building. What is worse, for smokers, is the fact the there is no option of re-entry if someone wants to go outside the building for a quick fix. Apparently this is largely because there is no obvious safe area near the arena that people could use.

                The temperature inside the arena is always difficult to predict, so I usually take an extra layer in case the seats are too near to the huge air-conditioning fans. The seats are not particularly comfortable so I will confess, much to the amusement of someone searching my bag before allowing entry to some rock concert, that I take a small camping pillow in with me. Doesn't really go with the black tee shirt and denims, I know, but needs must!

                Whichever concert I have been to there, I have felt safe and have had total confidence in the supervision by "the yellow jackets". And let's admit it, the hard rock fans can be a little daunting in appearance to the sweet little old lady that I am(!?!) It was hard not to feel a little apprehensive when waiting to go into the ACDC concert in 2009, for example. But, truthfully, the well 'ard looking fans were perfectly well-behaved. Any odd skirmish would have been sorted out quickly and sensibly.

                (An aside, did you know that Peter Kay once worked as a yellow jacket? Apparently, during his recent prolonged residency, he entered the arena, and walked through the audience to the stage, sporting his "yellow jacket". )

                There do appear to be plenty of emergency exits, though getting out through just the regular exits at the end of a concert can take a long time. I just hope there is never a fire there, though all emergency exits are clearly marked and one hopes that audience and staff would behave in a manner appropriate for a swift but orderly exit in case of such an emergency.

                Over the years I have attended a wide range of concerts at this arena. At some, attendance has been quite disappointing, leading one to think that the promoters would have been wiser to use on of the many excellent alternative venues in Manchester, such as The Apollo, the Lowry Theatre or The Bridgewater Hall. One such event that springs to mind is when Andrea Bocelli performed. What a musical treat that was! But the place was half empty! I'll admit, with a certain amount of embarrassment, to having attended a Status Quo concert there, half the hall being in use and still the place was half empty. I queued since silly o'clock in the morning for tickets for the Paul McCartney concert, finally to be within yards of the box office when the announcement was made that all tickets had been sold...Shortly followed by, 'Would you like the first tickets for an extra show?" Well, I mean, is the Pope Catholic? So I was in the fortunate position of getting far better tickets for the second show that they had agreed to lay on. And what a show that was!

                This ugly building, the MENArena, has brought tremendous pleasure to the people of Manchester and surrounding towns. We have been able to see many big names at what is possibly the best venue in the NW of England. The arena is easy to access, has reasonable though basic facilities, is in a fairly safe area of the city, and is well-supervised. Tickets for popular events sell like hot cakes so it is well worthwhile getting onto the mailing list, as this enables you to receive prior notice of events and the opportunity to purchase tickets before they are available to the general public. Ticket prices are not cheap. The big names such as Tina Turner or Madonna command big prices, and still sell out immediately.

                In my opinion, this place is a real asset to the North West of England, and to the world of music.


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                • Biocomfort Massator / Pain Relief / 72 Readings / 70 Ratings
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                  23.04.2010 20:07
                  Very helpful



                  A massator for treating people with circulatory and joint problems.

                  "A massager which caresses you"

                  Recently I attended a retirement show - purely for educational research, you understand. There were some quite interesting talks and displays going on. Advice about how best to invest your annuity money, gardening tips, and fitness displays. Hmm, line dancing looked fun... That tai chi display looked just the thing for keeping one supple. And then there was the predictable range of stalls - mobile homes for sale, SAGA holidays, blood pressuring and hearing monitoring gadgets, very fancy juicers, etc.

                  A particular stall drew my eye. On display were large posters of knee and shoulder joints, and a couple of people demonstrating what looked like a giant plastic hairbrush without bristles, designed to treat bad joints. Well, being someone who suffers with her joints, I just had to experience this.

                  I sat on a small stool whilst the demonstrator massaged first one shoulder from behind and then the other with this gently vibrating 'thing'. He then showed me how to do the same using the massator on the front of my shoulders. I then tried rotating my arms and shoulders and yes, they DID seem to be moving slightly more easily.

                  When I commented that my knees were bad as well, he massaged each side of each knee. I was then told to walk about ten yards to see if my knees felt any easier and more pain-free. It may have been psychological, but yes, this did indeed seem to be the case. Finally he then invited me to remove a shoe and to place my foot onto the 'thing' which had been placed into a holding tray. OHH! How it tickled! Absolute torture. This was supposed to help to improve my blood circulation. (Hard to prove but, to me, perfectly feasible.)

                  Be warned: I am no scientist or medical expert.

                  As I understand it, the theory is that some people build up uric acid crystals in their joints, usually starting with those in their fingers. The crystals prevent the synovial fluid from doing its job of lubricating the joints properly. After a period of time one might develop problems such as osteoarthritis.

                  The claim is that the daily use of the massator can slow down or prevent the build up of these crystals and so help to prevent further deterioration of the joints. The vibrations, which are indeed quite powerful, break up the crystals so that they will dissipate and disappear naturally.

                  (However, it should be pointed out that drinking the required 8+ glasses of water per day should flush these crystals out of your body naturally anyway. Then the crystals should not collect in your joints.)

                  Some basic facts about the BioComfort Massator:

                  Well, I must admit that I was not tempted to buy this miraculous product there and then. Largely because of the cost. It was on offer at the bargain price of approximately £450, apparently a saving of some £50 to £100. (I can't remember the exact figures, I'm afraid.) Guaranteed for life. But, before you gasp too loudly, consider the price of regular treatment by a professional masseur and then maybe, just maybe, you too might have been tempted. Hmm to choose between possibly effective treatment for chronically aching shoulders, or the price of a week in, say, Greece. Tough choice, but for me the thought of another nice holiday won the day.

                  However, that evening I checked out EBay, the source of all temptation! To my surprise, I found one for sale in Germany, at the much better price of £159.99 plus p&p. Duly ordered, received, and tested. Within days it arrived, expertly packaged. Inside the large cardboard postal box was a strong plastic box, complete with a selection of interesting looking attachments and a small information leaflet.

                  There are three interchangeable plates.

                  1.The first is a spiked plate that you can use to massage the scalp or one's feet. Not very comfortable, to be truthful.
                  2.There's a much more user-friendly brush plate, to use for massage on any part of the body, eg for massaging and, hopefully, dispelling cellulite. 3.The third plate is the one that I use the most. It has rubber studs, great for massaging shoulders and feet.

                  There are also four smaller attachments which I confess mystify me. Each one can be screwed into the base.

                  1.The cosmetic sponge, which was developed for face, neck and cosmetic massage, and is ideal for distributing skin lotions. Not an attachment I can find any use for.
                  2.The natural hair brush, which cleans and stimulates the skin to the depth of the pores. For face, neck and shoulders. Umm?! What's wrong with good old-fashioned soap and water, or face cleanser?
                  3.The massage finger, which is used for effective reflex zone massage and acupressure. I think this could be very useful, in the hands of an expert.
                  4.The suction cup which supports the blood circulation in the peripheral cutaneous tissue. Perfect for face, neck and bust. For me, this one is probably the most useful of the small attachments, as it can also be used to massage the finger joints, to break down the uric crystals and to prevent deterioration of those joints. Now if only that suction cup were large enough to fit round my shoulder! It would be ideal.

                  There is also a stand that you can clamp onto a table, to support the massator so that you can 'operate' on your back independently. I'm afraid to use that as it would damage the family heirloom oak dining table.

                  I was surprised just how heavy the BioComfort massator was. Theoretically I should be able to hold the massator over my shoulder to reach the shoulder blades. However, it is impossible to get the right angle, partly because of the limited level of flexibility that I currently have. So poor old husband gets pestered when I need my treatment.

                  The Biocomfort Massator is made in Germany and is actually quite difficult to obtain. Apparently there is just one licensed importer in the UK, one in Australia and so on. Thus creating a closed franchise situation. This is justified by their claim that you should have the massator fully demonstrated before purchase, so that you fully understand its purpose and the correct way to use it. After all, it is a piece of medical equipment used by physiotherapists and professional masseurs.

                  If you suffer from arthritis, osteoarthritis, or similar joint problems, I recommend you consult your doctor before considering buying this device. Detailed information about the massator can be found on:


                  Then look on EBay, as I have seen more of them being advertised there at a very reasonable price.

                  Used in the hands of a professional, this is a great device. Used in the hands of a willing partner / spouse, it can be very effective. However for use without help, not so good because it is heavy. It is not cheap but it does seem to be fairly effective. So, for me, the jury is still out.

                  The decision is yours. Just remember...

                  A massage a day helps you work, rest and play.


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                    24.02.2010 19:13
                    Very helpful



                    A modern, portable electric heater.

                    Carlton C20CHW09 Convector Heater
                    Disaster struck just before Christmas. Just a few days after the central heating system had been serviced, a major fault developed with the boiler, causing the heating system to pack in. As luck would have it, this was during a particularly cold spell and the only alternative heating we had was an ancient gas fire. Although the gas fire was fully operational, it obviously did not generate enough heat to warm the house. Out came the extra jumpers, blankets, slankets and hot water bottles. Out came the car keys for a quick trip to the local Curry's shop where I purchased two Carlton convector heaters.

                    The original price was £39.99 but they could later be purchased online for the bargain price of £29.99. So check your prices carefully to get the best bargain.

                    Each heater was packaged in a sturdy cardboard box and was light enough for me to carry one at a time to the car, which was particularly useful to me. Once unpacked at home it was necessary to screw on two support pedestals at each end of the base of the heater. This was easier to do once we have found the tiny packet of screws, though it was still not that easy to fit together.! All that then needed to be done was to plug in the heater and switch on.

                    The heater measures approximately 55cm across and 41cm. high, which is a manageable size. Two carry handles make this light heater very easy to carry to the required location of use. The heater is very light grey, with dark grey trimmings, making it look smart and modern in appearance. There is a grill at the top through which the heat travels. (It is important to note that the individual holes could be a source of danger to enquiring little fingers.)

                    The heater is very easy to operate. There's a choice of three heat settings: 0.75kW, 1.25kW and 2kw, the latter providing quite a substantial amount of heat. These are operated by individual switches on the side of the heater.

                    There is an automatic thermostat which is useful for the maintenance of a constant temperature. When the room has reached the desired temperature, you turn the thermostat slowly anti-clockwise until the indicated goes off. When the temperature falls, the heater will switch back on again. It is important to be aware that another family member may have adjusted this thermostat and to check its setting if the heater appears not to come on when you press the switches.

                    A useful safety device is the overheat protection system, which will switch off the heater automatically should it overheat. In this circumstance, the appliance should be switched off completely to allow a safe cooling time before being used again.

                    There is a switch for the turbo fan, which will help propel the heating across the room. It could also be used to blow cool air from the vent when used independently of the heating elements. This could be used in the summer, although I personally would be more likely to use the traditional electric fan!

                    The heater is fitted with a 24 hour timer, that has 96 segments, each one being equivalent to fifteen minutes of time. The timer can be used in the normal fashion to set the heater to come along as and when required. I find this feature really useful as I preset the heater to switch on at about 6.00 a.m., pointing it towards our rather Spartan downstairs cloakroom, bringing the room to a comfortable temperature ready for my morning shower. Again, It is important for family members to agree on the settings or you may find that the heater does not come on when you have pressed the switches!

                    Although this heater is no substitute for efficient central heating, it is a useful source of additional background heating should you have cold spots in your room. For this reason we will continue to use this heater even though our central heating system is now fully operational again. As the sole source of heat for a large room such as our lounge, this heater was inadequate and it was necessary to back it up by using our gas fire. However in the smaller bedroom the heater was great, making the room much cosier. As the two heaters purchased were obviously new, they did emit a slight odour initially but this soon disappeared.

                    To summarize, these heaters are modern in appearance, aesthetically pleasing to the eye and easy to use. They generate a useful amount of heat though would, I fear, have a significant impact on the next electricity bill if used constantly. They were a good purchase, adequate for the purpose and good value for money.

                    This review may be posted on other sites under the same username.


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                    • More +
                      21.02.2010 23:09
                      Very helpful



                      A proud, Northern town

                      Warrington, Cheshire (formerly Lancashire)

                      Warrington lies on the Liverpool - Manchester Railway line. It is linked to the North, South, East & West of the UK by the M6, M56 and M62 motorways, facilitating improved trading and transport opportunities for the town. It is within easy reach of both Manchester Airport and Liverpool Airport. It is within 30 miles of the sea, about 70 miles from the beautiful Lake District, approximately 30 miles from the Peak District, and about 15 miles from the historic city of Chester.

                      At first glance, Warrington looks like any other northern industrial town. There is the usual array of pubs, churches, shopping centres, schools, and other town facilities. Perhaps in some ways it is a sad, old town, wrestling with more than its fair share of unemployment and deprivation. There are the affluent, privileged areas, predominantly in the south of the town. Beautiful housing near lovely countryside. And there are the less privileged areas, mostly centred in the northern side of Warrington. Private housing standing cheek by jowl with corporate housing.

                      Over the last 35-40 years, the town has changed beyond all recognition. Old industries have died, resulting in high levels of unemployment. The atmospheric old market, which consisted of hundreds of tiny stalls, has been replaced by a relatively sterile modern market. The beautiful, though possibly unhygienic old Fish Market, with its characteristic marble slabs, has been removed. Only the roof and four supporting pillars remain in the square. Old shops have been replaced by the ubiquitous chain shops. Now there is a modern shopping centre that almost rivals Trafford Centre. A shoppers' paradise, maybe. An individualistic town centre, maybe not.

                      Many people consider that the town centre has become a 'no go' area at night-time because of many reported incidents of drink-related violence. I admit to feeling a certain amount of trepidation when venturing in for concerts at Parr hall or to attend special events at Porters Bar, an old pub in the town centre that hosts an acoustic night each week. However, if sensible precautions are taken, one should be safe enough.

                      Let us consider the history of this old town.

                      Warrington has been a town of great historical significance since ancient times. There was a Roman settlement at Wilderspool. In Medieval times, Warrington provided an important bridging point across the river Mersey. It also played an important part during the Civil War. The armies of Cromwell and the Earl of Denby stayed locally.

                      So, dig deep and you will find a wealth of fascinating features and historical gems. Here are some of my favourites:

                      1. The legend of the pig

                      The charming village of Winwick, which lies on the A49, the main route out of Warrington towards Wigan and the north, has a beautiful old church built up high from the road. In Spring it is surrounded by a stunning display of golden daffodils. Historical records show that a church existed here at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086. The oldest part of the present church dates from the early C14, though inside is a cross piece from the head of an Anglo-Saxon cross. According to local legend, the original plan had been to build the chuch on the other side of the road. However, each night a pig moved the building materials to the present location of the church. In the end, the builders gave up and erected the church where it still stands some 600 years later. Look carefully at the west side of the tower and you can see a carving of the pig!

                      2. The Penny Ferry

                      The Penny Ferry is a small rowing boat, propelled by a single large oar at the back of the boat. It has been operating since the Manchester Ship Canal was constructed between 1887 and 1894, to connect the city of Manchester via the Mersey Estuary to the Irish Sea. When the canal was dug, it cut through a local footpath and an Act of Parliament decreed that the locals had to be allowed continued access to the other side of the water. So the unique Penny Ferry was created. The fare was traditionally one penny, even as recently as the 1970s, but now the fare has risen to 11p each way! Go to the Thelwall side of the canal and summon the ferryman by ringing the large bell. In the 1970s, the canal was still a busy thoroughfare for ocean-going ships, so the ride across could be quite exciting! There is only a bit of wasteland on the other side, so it will not be long before you summon the ferryman back again, striking the large bell situated on that bank.

                      3. The Town Hall Gates

                      These majestic gates stand proudly in front to the Town Hall. They were originally made for display at the International Exhibition in London in 1862. Apparently they were offered as a gift to Queen Victoria, who declined the offer. Initially kept in Ironbridge, Shropshire, they were eventually presented to the town of Warrington by Mr Frederick Monks in 1893. Unfortunately, the rest of the railings were torn down to supply metal for weapons and munitions in World War II, and were never replaced. In 1977, £33,000 was raised to restore them to their original beautiful black and gild state.

                      4. Cromwell House

                      Near Bridgefoot, there is a statue of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell is believed to have stayed in the beautiful old, timbered building next to the Sainsbury's supermarket, the building now being used as an Indian Restaurant. Across the road stands the public house 'The Marquis of Granby', which bears a plaque claiming that the Earl of Denby had had his quarters nearby. Look closely at the walls of the Parish Church just dwon the road, and you may observe dents in the church walls, perhaps caused by the canons from the time of the Civil War.

                      5. 'Bauming of the thorne'

                      Each June the village of Appleton hosts a special event, the bauming of the thorne. This ceremony dates back to the 19th century, when it was part of the village's Walking Day. On the Saturday nearest to Midsummer's Day, local schoolchildren dance around the tree.
                      "Bawming" means "decorating" - during the ceremony the thorn tree is decorated with ribbons and garlands. According to legend, the hawthorn at Appleton Thorn grew from a cutting of the Holy Thorn at Glastonbury, which was itself said to have sprung from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, the man who arranged for Jesus's burial after the Crucifixion." Wikipedia (http://en. wikipedia.org/wiki /Appleton_Thorn)

                      6. The Parr Hall

                      The Parr Hall is the last surviving professional concert hall / theatre venue in Warrington. Big names performing here in the past have included the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues, The Who and the Arctic Monkeys. Comedians such as Kenn Dodd, Frankie Boyle and Jimmy Carr have also performed here. The hall is still used to house an exciting range of concerts and is the home of the Warrington Male Voice choir.
                      Of particular importance is the magnificent Cavaille-Coll organ, listed by English Heritage. It is "classed as a significant work by the French organ builder Aristide Cavaille-Coll. was first installed in the Parr Hall during 1923 to 1926."

                      7. Risley Moss

                      Risley Moss is my favourite part of Warrington. There are 200 acres of raised peat bogs, wild and beautiful. This fragile mossland became of vital importance during the Industrial Revolution when huge amounts of peat were stripped to meet the needs of horse and cattle bedding in the developing cities. Further changes occurred during the Second World War. "A vast munitions factory took shape on the edge of the bog, hidden from enemy bombers by mists off the Moss. Here, labouring day and night, 30,000 (mainly women) workers produced a staggering one million mines and 500,000 high explosive shells. Though the German air force targeted the supposedly secret site, only one enemy bomb fell anywhere close." http://www.warrington .gov.uk/Leisureandculture /Localhistoryand heritage/parks/Risley.aspx

                      Now Risley Moss is acknowledged as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a designated Local Nature Reserve. The Visitors' Centre provides a wealth of interesting information about the local fauna and flora. There are bird hides to allow twitchers to observe the variety of birds visiting this reserve.

                      I love to stroll round this nature reserve and marvel at the beauties of the passing seasons.

                      8. Movement of the Warrington Academy

                      On 21st May 1981, an astonishing feat of engineering was achieved, when the Warrington Academy, a 600 tonne building constructed circa 1745 at the lower end of Bridge Street, was moved 19m as part of a road widening scheme. Engineers used 'a novel combination of high-pressure grease and 'Floatpads', manufactured by Glover Engineering of Manchester.

                      So, Warrington - a town of beauty? No. A town of interest? Certainly. A town with a proud, creative past. A town with high hopes of a successful future.

                      Visit the town website at: http://www.welcometowarrington.com/ and learn more about this fascinating old town.

                      Learn about the soap works, the old wireworks, the old breweries, the half-timbered Barley Mow pub, the Territorial Army base, the Warrington Wolves, the town's brilliant rugby team, Walton Hall and gardens, the Golden Square shopping centre, opened by HM the Queen in 1980... Meet the people, tune in to the range of local accents.

                      Don't pass this town without a thought. It has a lot to commend it.


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                        16.02.2010 11:33
                        Very helpful



                        A relaxing drink for insomniacs.

                        London Fruit and Herb Company: Camomile and honey tea

                        Baaa. Baaa. Tired of counting all those sheep at night?

                        Why not try the camomile and honey tea? Camomile has long been used as a traditional herb to combat insomnia, and the honey removes the slightly bitter edge contained in pure camomile tea.


                        The teabags are packaged in a tinfoil pouch, to maintain freshness. The pouch is contained in a distinctive grey box, decorated with pictures of camomile flowers. There are 50 teabags in a box, good value for £1.65. As you open the box, the delicate fragrance of vanilla wafts out, tempting you to sample this tea immediately.

                        On the box there is useful information about the properties of this wondrous brew.

                        "Typical energy values per 100ml of infusion:
                        Energy 2kcal
                        Protein - trace
                        Carbohydrates 0.2g
                        (Sugars - trace)
                        Fat - trace
                        (Saturates - trace)
                        Fibre - trace
                        Sodium <0.01g "

                        The main ingredients are camomile (88%), honey & vanilla flavourings (11%) and honey (1%).

                        The tea is a source of antioxidants and is naturally caffeine-free. There are no added colours nor added preservatives.

                        How to make the tea:

                        The tea is very simple to make. Place one tea bag into you favourite mug or cup and add boiling water. Allow to brew for a few minutes, taking the opportunity to enjoy the delicious fragrances emanating from the cup vanilla...honey...vanilla...honey.

                        For those of you who wish to speed up the brewing process, swirl the infusion gently round with a spoon. Do not get too energetic though, or the bag will break! When you are satisfied that the drink has reached optimum strength, remove the tea bag, or the flavour will intensify as the bag is left in the water.

                        How and when to drink the tea:

                        This is a great bedtime drink, perfect to relax you before you go to bed. Most people drink it hot, but it is also quite palatable after it has been allowed to cool down completely.

                        So, feet up, lights down, drink and relax.

                        My favourite way to drink this tea is perhaps rather unorthodox. Set the bathroom dimmer light on low, light a few candles but place them carefully around the bathroom, check the bath is exactly the right temperature and place one or two used bags in the water. Yes, in the bath water! (It can end up looking disgusting if the teabags break, but try to ignore that!) Allow the gentle aroma to percolate through the air for a while. Place your mug on the side of the bath, within easy reach. Climb into the bath and relax. Have regular sips from the mug of tea. Then close your eyes and relax.

                        Be careful - this can have a truly soporific effect! Once you feel fully relaxed, to bed with you, before you fall asleep!

                        Two warnings though:

                        * Two mugs of this bedtime drink can have a diuretic effect, causing a late night visit to the bathroom.
                        * The tea can cause teeth staining if drunk after cleaning your teeth.


                        This is a great bedtime drink for those of us who suffer from insomnia. It tastes good and certainly does help to relax.

                        (The original version of this review was also posted on Ciao.)


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                          14.02.2010 14:11
                          Very helpful



                          The bee's knees!

                          " I need a little oiling," said the Tin Woodman. (And I know how he feels.)

                          About ten years ago, I started to suffer from excruciating joint pains, particularly in my knees. To compound the problem, at that time I worked in an old school, a typical, three storey, Victorian school, and I was going up / downstairs all day. Very good for the heart and general stamina, but extraordinarily painful for my poor old knees.

                          After weeks of painkillers, paracetemol or similar, I finally went to my doctor who recommended a course of Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug. The pains gradually subsided for a while, but eventually X rays at the hospital that I had developed a condition that involved gradual deterioration of the knees. They would never get any better but there were things I could do to slow down the process.

                          1. Weight-loss, an obvious one, not so easy to achieve and maintain.

                          2. Exercise - sounds obvious, though I still struggle to fit a significant amount of this into my usual hectic daily schedule.

                          3. A little oiling! Well, we already included a lot of fish in our diet but something more was needed.

                          Seven Seas Joint Care seems to have provided the solution to my problems. There are seven products in this range, the one that I use the most being the original product. A detailed grid outlining the ingredients in each product can be found on:


                          Seven Seas Joint Care Original consists of Glucosamine, Cod Liver Oil and Omega-3.

                          Glucosamine "lays the foundation for the rebuilding of connective tissue."
                          Cod Liver Oil is "involved in the attraction of fluid that lubricates the joints."
                          Omega-3 is "involved in keeping joints supple and flexible."

                          Nutrition information contained on the box:

                          Each capsule contains:
                          * Triomega Cod Liver Oil blend : 615 mg
                          * Providing Omega-3 nutrients : 200mg, of which EPA &DHA : 165mg
                          * Vitamin D: 1,67 µg - 33% RDA
                          * Vitamin E : 1.37 mg &#940;-TE - 13 % RDA
                          * Glucosamine Sulphate : 100 mg
                          * Energy, Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat negligible

                          To my astonishment, the list of ingredients includes beeswax and Soya Lecithin. Obviously, the inclusion of cod liver oil and products from shellfish makes this product unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans. (I would be interested to learn what they could take instead.)

                          Apparently, Seven Seas "invests in the future of our oceans by sourcing cod liver oil from sustainable fish stocks of Arctic Fisheries. Their unique purification process guarantees the use of the finest quality oil." The end result is a high quality product made produced from sustainable sources.

                          The inch-long capsules look rather like mini torpedoes. The outer layer looks just like plastic, made of a mixture of Gelatine, Sorbitol Syrup and Glycerol,, which makes the capsule astonishingly easy to swallow.

                          Recommended daily dose:

                          One capsule a day, taken with water, should meet most people's needs. If additional protection / repair is needed, you can take up to three capsules a day. You should not exceed this dose.

                          This is a dietary SUPPLEMENT, not a substitute for a healthy, varied diet. Pregnant women should consult their doctors before taking any dietary supplements.

                          I have tried other brands of glucosamine and pure cod liver oil, being sold separately, but they do not seem to have the same beneficial effect for me.

                          For me, Seven Seas Joint Care Original is the bee's knees! Easy to take and keeps my pains mostly at bay.

                          This review may be posted on other sites as well.


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                            08.02.2010 17:59
                            Very helpful



                            Footed pyjamas for adults

                            Babygros for grown-ups

                            When the children were little we lived in a house with very little heating. It was important to keep the children warm. So at night-time, and during cold spells, we would often dress them in fleecy babygros to keep them warm. Babygros are like pyjamas with feet, particularly ideal for the more active baby or toddler who will run around, balance and jump in the cot and persist in throwing off bed covers. To be honest, I was always a little jealous because I wanted a garment like this to wear as well!

                            Imagine my delight when I came across adult-footed pyjamas when browsing the Internet. Giants babygros for adults! They can be found on this American site: http://www.pajamacity.com though the parent company is the Dalmation Corporation. Prices range from 30-45 US dollars.

                            There is an incredible range of colours and patterns available. For example, there are plain pink, red, blue or orange. There is an amusing range of patterns. For example, retro space and robots, wolf moon, kisses and hearts, leopard print, tattoo print, candy cane print, tribal skulls, and dinosaurs. On the site you will find a gallery of photos of adults who have adapted the pyjamas to make DIY fancy dress costumes such as Batman, ladybirds, devils, pumpkins and Smurfs, to name but a few. In all, there are about 100 possible designs, many of them with instructions. Indeed footed pyjamas are amazingly versatile garments!

                            There is a standard fleece material (quite thin) or a warmer polar fleecy material (like on a standard dressing gown). There is also a lightweight, waffle-knit cotton fabric, more suitable for pyjamas to be worn in warmer weather.

                            Some pyjamas have button cuff feet, which means that their feet can be opened and rolled back. This feature could be useful should you wish to wear these pyjamas as part of a fancy dress outfit and need to wear shoes. The pyjamas have non-slip friction dot soles, a useful safety feature designed to prevent accidents on slippery floors. Some designs have kangaroo pockets on the front, at waist level, which are larger enough for eg a few tissues.

                            An amusing feature that one can opt for is the drop seat. Now you need never take the garment off as it is possible to meet the calls of nature by opening the Velcro'd join at the back. However, having trial tested this model, one member of the family complained that the join could be draughty and, more importantly the Velcro formed a stiff ridge at the back which was not very comfortable. So we would only recommend this version if you had genuine need of staying warm when using the toilet (eg old people or when camping)

                            How to purchase:

                            1. Go to the PyjamaCity website http://www.pajamacity.com/Adult-Footed-Pajamas/products/103/

                            2. Browse through the wide range of colors and patterns available.

                            3. Refer to the sizing help page, and measure your height, body and leg length accurately. There is guidance about choosing the correct sizing for your height, plus the option of extra wide sizes for the larger figure. I would recommend opting for a larger size than your measurements would indicate as we found the body length too short, though the leg length was adequate. The claim is made that it is possible to purchase pyjamas for people up to 7ft. tall, whether slim or of a larger build.

                            4. Select your preferred style, colour and fabric.

                            5. Follow the instructions for purchase in the usual manner, choosing quantity, colour, pattern and material.

                            6. When you are satisfied that the products you require are in your basket, go to the checkout and pay in the usual manner, giving details of your address and credit card.

                            This is an American site. Within America, delivery can be expected within five days. The other countries it can take between five to twelve days for the product to reach your country. Then the delivery time will be dependent on your countries custom and postal service. There is the usual tracking system and when we experienced a prolonged delay and contacted the website, they concluded the product had been lost in transit and promptly sent a replacement order. There is the usual money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the garment.

                            Adult-footed pyjamas are a fun product, so you need a sense of humour to wear them! They are comfortable, washable and reasonably warm (not as warm as a thick dressing gown or slanket.) Maybe not too sexy but certainly cosy. When our central heating packed in during the cold spell just before Christmas, I lived in mine, whilst also wrapped up in a slanket, with the settee pulled nearer to the electric heater.

                            Whilst I happily walk around the house in mine, I would feel slightly embarrassed to greet callers at the door when wearing them. It is possible, in times of intense cold, to wear them in bed on top of normal pyjamas, though I think I would find them a little uncomfortable and would prefer to switch on the electric blanket.

                            Used as the basis for a fancy-dress costume, they can be a great source of amusement to others, and later put to their original intended purpose as cheerful, warm garments to wear around the house.

                            Yes, I would recommend this product. It has come into its own during this recent freezing cold weather. Also great when camping.


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                            • ukbiobank.ac.uk / Internet Site / 112 Readings / 112 Ratings
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                              02.02.2010 21:15
                              Very helpful



                              Our contribution to medical research

                              Biobank UK

                              This website for Biobank UK is both interesting, detailed and informative. It outlines the entire process by which vital information is collected, stored and used, information collected to further medical knowledge. Each page is well-organised, information being supported pictorially when needed.

                              I'd like to give you a recount of my personal experience of the research outlined, and invite you to study the website for more detailed information.

                              My husband and I were recently invited to contribute to vital medical research, primarily aimed at building up a valuable resource for "improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of serious and life-threatening illnesses (including cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis and forms of dementia) and the promotion of health throughout society." Researchers are trying to discover why some people develop particular illnesses, whilst others do not. Hopefully, findings will give future generations a better chance of living lives free of these disabling, potentially lethal conditions.

                              Whilst we were not likely to benefit personally from this research, we felt it important to participate, for the benefit of future generations, regarding it as our civic duty to assist in the advancement of medical knowledge. After all, we and various members of our family, regularly use life-saving medications, developed over the last few years. We have also lost our fair share of friends and family members to these terribly diseases, and hope that our children will not have the same sad experience.

                              Our names and contact details had been selected from NHS files. A cross-society selection of 500,000 adults aged 40-69 have been encouraged to participate; this target number has now almost been achieved, the number being considered to be a statistically viable sample, about which important data can be attained. We were informed that all personal information would be held in confidence, being protected by the Data Protection Act. Details stored are: name, DOB, NHS number and General Practice.

                              UK Biobank is a major UK medical research project, being run as a non profit-making charity, funded by the department of Health, Medical Research Council and Scottish Government, and was initially set up in 2000. The analysis of the answers, measurements and samples collected from participants, will, it is hoped, enable researchers to work out why some people develop particular diseases yet others do not.

                              The process of collecting the information:

                              1. After we had accepted the initial invitation to participate, we received confirmation of the date & location of our assessment, plus brief notes of guidance about how to prepare and what to expect. Further information could be gained by reading the information online at http://www.ukbiobank.ac.uk/about/what.php

                              2. There was a pre-assessment questionnaire to complete, to use as an aide-memoire. This included details concerning any medication we were taking, operations we had had, family history (relatives who had suffered from a specific list of medical conditions), our birth details (weight, if breast-fed, address when born.) Personally, I was unable to give precise information about birth details as precise records had not been kept within the family, and there are no longer any senior members of the family alive to ask.

                              3. On our arrival, we were greeted in a friendly, unintimidating manner. We signed a detailed consent form, giving permission for the various tests and storage of the information and samples, even after our death. It also showed our understanding of the fact the whole process was voluntary, that we would not benefit personally, and that we would not have access to any information except for the basic physical measurements.

                              4. We were then led to the computers, where we completed a detailed questionnaire using a special touch screen. Topics included personal and family history, diet and life-style, mental acuity and memory tests, and hearing tests.

                              This questionnaire was fairly comprehensive though not exhaustive. At times it was actually quite frustrating to answer, as there was no opportunity to record additional relevant information. For example, questions about specific types of cancer were asked, but no space given to provide additional information re the type of cancer that actually HAD been suffered by close relatives. And as both my mother and her brother had suffered from the same type of cancer, I thought this was potentially important data. Also, an adult adopted at birth was asked questions related to ADOPTIVE parents, giving answers related to life-style, not taking into account that it was actually possible to answer questions about the original BIRTH parents' medical histories, if such had been subsequently obtained by private research. For every question we had the chance to refuse to divulge that information (eg re sexual history.)

                              The results of the questionnaire were stored on a small memory stick, which we were asked to hand over to the medical personnel at each stage of the assessment process. It was retained after the final test, prior to donating the samples.

                              5. Next we were taken to a separate cubicle where additional information, such as birth details, was recorded. Blood pressure and arterial stiffness measurements were recorded.

                              6. Then we went to series of small rooms where different aspects of health data were collected. At each stage questions were asked to ascertain our suitability for each test. For example: Was I pregnant? Did I wear a pacemaker? We also had the right to refuse any test, without having to give a reason.

                              * First our eyes were inspected (observations of eye, including measurements and the puff test for glaucoma, plus a detailed photo of the retina of each eye was taken.)
                              * Physical measurements were taken: weight, height when standing, height when seated, waist and hip measurements, bone density was measured using 'the foot machine'.
                              * A dynamometer was used to measure the strength of our handgrips. They had to double-check my husband's results as the nurse hadn't realised he was left-handed, and she was surprised by his measurements.
                              * Lung capacity was checked, using a spirometer.
                              * Fitness was checked by 6 minutes on an exercise bike, our heart-rates being monitored with electrodes.
                              * Seven phials of blood were extracted (with some difficulty, in my case - never did respond well to vampires!)
                              * Finally we were asked to collect / donate urine and saliva samples, which we were instructed to place in small sealable tubs inside a sealable bag.

                              7. We were given a printout of key measurements and their interpretation or implications. In my case:

                              * Smoking: non-smoker - good
                              * Blood-pressure : ******** - Good
                              * Weight ********
                              * Height ********
                              * Body mass index ******** - Well, let's admit it, I am now on a diet!
                              * Percent body fat ********* - high (See above comment!)
                              * Heel bone ultrasound - 67 dB/MHz - normal (my husband's was better.)
                              * Lung function:
                              FEV1 value: 2.30 litres - good
                              FVC value: 3.05 litres - good
                              FEV1/FVC ratio: 75 %
                              * Intraocular pressure: 17.0 mmHg - good

                              8. When all the tests had been completed, we were offered light refreshments (a drink and biscuits) and were informed how to claim basic travel expenses.

                              The whole process was interesting and painless, and took approximately 2 ½ hours to complete. All information and samples will be stored safely and securely, though, obviously, researchers will have access to them when required. There is the possibility that follow-up appointments may be issued, should the need arise.

                              For further information of this process, click on the link above.


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                              • What's In Your Bag? / Discussion / 126 Readings / 122 Ratings
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                                23.01.2010 14:14
                                Very helpful



                                Yes, it was time to have a clearout.

                                Review: What WAS in your bag?

                                Having a bad shoulder, I thought it was important to find out what exactly I was lugging around with me. Each section of my bag is positively bulging, so there must be something useful in there! Time to investigate, ...

                                In my day job, I am forever hauling heavy bags in and out of my car - developing the muscles of Superwoman! To detail what is contained in THOSE bags would necessitate ten pages of review - got the time to read all that? Computer, discs, memory sticks, leads, books, files, games, pencil cases, stickers, lunch-box, umbrella, etc. all toted in a plastic trolley.

                                OK, then in that case we will concentrate on the handbag, which has to have a long strap to enable me to carry it across the chest. This doubles as a useful security device, girls, making it a little harder for potential bag-snatches to snatch my valuables. I often wear my bag under my coat, especially at night time, resulting in a slightly uneven contour but what the heck?

                                The bag is fairly small, black, and made of a coarse canvassy material lined with a silky lining. Not beautiful or particularly elegant, rather essentially functional, suitable for my busy life-style. It was bought from BHS travel section, and has a hard, protected outer pocket, designed to make life harder for the razor-operators, though of course a quick slash across the actual strap would release the bag like a knife through butter.

                                So what is in the bag, you want to know!

                                The smaller, outer compartment carries my three mobile phones. Yes, three! My work mobile phone so those that be can contact me wherever I am. This phone is turned on from about 8am until 6pm or even later. (Well we all know what short working days teachers have.) The second phone is my pride and joy - a small Sony Ericsson phone, a girlish pink, that takes lovely pictures and video clips, and came into its element when I was in the wrist-banded section of the U2 concert in Sheffield. Some super clips of Bono singing directly to me!!! The third phone is my old Nokia, not glamorous, but just an old faithful. Basic, always reliable, pay-as-you-go, still holds useful telephone numbers, useful to have in reserve, and doesn't take much space. After all, old friends should not be abandoned just because they are no longer beautiful. These phones have to be in the small, outer compartment as I would never be able to find them in the main part of the bag if they were to ring. (A nightmare when at the theatre / cinema when the audience is reminded to switch off all phones before a performance. One time I forgot, and it was only when the opera was nearly finished that I remembered to 'do the phone check'.)

                                Also in this outer compartment is a variety of medicines: Ibuprofim, which I currently have to take three times a day for my shoulder, paracetamol, an emergency medical wipe, in case I hurt myself, and some clean, folded, paper tissues.

                                Now to the main compartment. Best way to find out was to tip the contents out onto the table. Let's put it this way, it was not without reason that one teacher once said my bag must belong to Mary Poppins! There were even a couple of dice lurking in the bottom!

                                A big bunch of keys - house, office, car, etc with various keytags.

                                My Ipod, and headphones, in a small purple material bag - useful for tuning out distracting conversations when working in the office. Useful for relaxing me when working on the admin jobs. But not worn when driving or walking.

                                A zipped purse, also carrying assorted receipts, and an eclectic collection of cards. There's the AA card, essential when driving old cars as we do, library card, National Trust card, Boots Advantage card, swim pass, a reminder for Boots appointments card, and a couple of cash cards. This collection is pruned at regular intervals, but these have all crept back in recently. There is also a small amount of money - I'm like the Royal family and rarely have more than a few pounds of actual cash on me. Just occasionally, when emptying the purse, I come across the odd tenner lurking there... but not too often!

                                There are the usual girly things - a couple of lipsticks... Hmm I wondered where that one had got to... a small tin of Aloe Vera Vaseline lip therapy (It's important to keep your lips soft and kissable!) and a tiny hairbrush. Also a tiny, circular mirror. A small bottle of Carex Hand Gel - a necessity to maintain the constant fight against the nasty germs that young children share so generously with unsuspecting adults. Two school pens, a pencil and a large rubber band.

                                Rummaging further through the pile, I found a plastic bag containing the receipt and guarantee for a rather uncomfortable black watch strap, various vouchers collected for some of my schools, a huge, motley collection of receipts (now discarded), and a fifteen pound book voucher that I keep forgetting to spend. Also an envelop containing a missive from Tesco, including the opportunity to win double points for various items that I'm only like to buy once in a blue moon - should have used them in December when we DID have a blue moon. Two plastic bags - huh? Two small packets of tissues - well, kids ALWAYS have runny noses and NEVER have clean tissues with them. Three old shopping lists - well, I do TRY to be organised. A folded sheet of A4 paper containing a google map printout of driving instructions, which I didn't use, preferring to rely on the not so trusty Sat Nav.

                                It's only a small bag but carries the basics. What's in my bag now? Nothing! Having this sort-out has been positively therapeutic, though maybe not too fascinating for the reader. Going back in will be just the minimum... until the next big clearout.


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                                • More +
                                  13.01.2010 20:59
                                  Very helpful



                                  A unique experience.

                                  Review: Parasailing in Queenstown

                                  It was the last day of our holiday in New Zealand and we were due to leave Queenstown early afternoon. Now it is important to finish a holiday in style, especially since between us we had already done whitewater rafting, jet-boating down the canyon (FANTASTIC FUN!), horse-trekking, paragliding, the Gravity Canyon Flying Fox, swing and chair, as well as the touristy things. There was nothing for it - it had to be parasailing. Well, the intention was that my daughter would go Para-sailing and I would enjoy a leisurely cruise in the boat, admiring the view and silly people up in the air.

                                  Now the technical term for the activity is 'Paraflight', for a good reason - you fly! High! Some of you may have read my review about gliding and may already be aware of my stomach-churning fear of heights? Bear this in mind as you read the rest of this review.

                                  A short walk down to the harbour, along to the Main Pier in central Queenstown, to enquire about times and availability. We were in luck - the next group of up to twelve people could go out in half an hour's time. Trips went once an hour, so this was good timing.

                                  The advertising leaflets proclaim:
                                  Age is no barrier, our greatest flier is 98 years old.
                                  Fly high, stay dry.

                                  We paid for our tickets - one person to fly, one as an ordinary spectator. Forms absolving the company of any blame in the eventuality of an accident were signed. Weight was checked. The minimum combined weight should be at least 35 kg and the combined weight should not exceed 200kg. Would-be birds could enjoy solo flights or tandem flights. Most people opted for the tandem, preferring to share this experience with a friend. The solo flights cost $110 for adult, $80 for children. Tandem flights cost $85 pp for adults and $65 pp for children. An observer was charged $25, with the option of paying extra afterwards if you were tempted into more active participation once on the boat....as if!

                                  Well we have already established this is an excellent spectator sport. A fairly smooth cruise on Lake Wakatipu, admiring the scenery with the occasional glance of admiration for the human birds above. Sounds good, eh? Relaxing, yes?

                                  Everyone was fitted with life-jackets and then boarded the boat, which was custom-designed for New Zealand conditions and powered by twin 225 horsepower engines. Off we set.

                                  The first two people were fitted into a comfortable, hands-free harness. This looked rather like a twin chair used in ski lifts, except the 'seat' was just a very strong harness. First the harness was laid out on deck and each person slithered into the leg straps. Next they sat up and another strap was fastened firmly round their stomachs. This combination of straps was already fastened to three vertical straps (very strong ones!) which were suspended from a horizontal pole. Those straps were in a convenient place to hold once up in the air, should you feel the need. At each end of the pole, on top, were fastened more straps which attached this contraption to the bright yellow parachute. Yes, parachute! I thought parachutes were intended for use when involuntarily leaving a plane in mid-air?! Just to make doubly sure that you would remember to enjoy the experience, the parachute was decorated with a big smiley face and you were advised to smile at all times as there was a camera which would take sneaky shots of the varying expressions on your face at random times during your flight.

                                  'How did people get up into the air?' you are wondering. Well, clear instructions were given. Each person would have to be ready to take trusting steps backwards onto the platform jutting out from the back of the boat. The boat would surge forwards rapidly achieving the desired speed of 25 km / hour. The combination would, hopefully, launch the fliers into the air, rather like a kite on a beach. Otherwise they would get rather wet.

                                  Steps back. The boat shot forward, rapidly achieving its required speed . The carbon fibre tow line unwound, enabling the fliers to swoop up into the air. Girlish shrieks filled the air as two teenage girls went up, obviously praying they would not lose their shoes. They went higher...and higher...and higher, squealing all the way. The boat swerved to the left, causing the 'chute to swerve to the right. Then another swerve, this time to the right and the 'chute swung to the left. Backwards and forwards they went, the speed at times slowing down or intensifying. The slower speeds caused the 'chute shoot to drop sickeningly, the faster speed lifted it back up again. Eventually the 'chute was slowly pulled closer to the boat by means of a winch, slower and slower, down and down. And the girls landed safely on the platform, staggering slightly forward as they struggled to get their feet.

                                  Once all the straps were unfastened, they were carefully assisted back into the seating area, grinning and chattering in triumph and excitement at their amazing experience.

                                  Two young children went up next - it was a special birthday treat. I think they were about nine or ten years old. Then a young couple went up.

                                  Now all of this activity provided plenty of time for informal chat amongst the passengers, people marvelling at what was going on, admitting excitement tinged with an element of fear. Every now and again the instructor turned to me and asked me if I wanted a go after all. As if!... Hmm...Well, if young children and old people could do it, and if the young man who admitted a total phobia of heights could do it....well, you can imagine what my mouth opened and said! After all, how hard could it be?

                                  We were duly strapped up... straight into action. Now, for some reason, my daughter thought it would be a good idea to take our own digital camera up with us, especially good as it could record video clips as well as take shots of.... the scenery (she said.)

                                  My heart fell straight down into my stomach as we swooped up higher, higher, and even higher. "AGHHH!" could be heard almost continuously from one person - I wonder who? Meanwhile a running commentary could be heard from said daughter into the camera about the magnificent scenery, wonderful views, the beautiful clear water way below us (How on earth did she manage to release her hands? - Mine were clenched tightly round the straps, a true white-knuckle job). Needless to say, the camera ended up incidentally recording my every groan of agony and terror, accompanied by cheerful remarks such as, "Mummy is really enjoying this, aren't you, Mummy?" The replies were barely printable but were something along the lines of, "I'm never going to do this again!" Well, naughty words can't be used in front of one's offspring!

                                  Eventually I stopped screaming...until the boat swung first this way, then the next. As for when the boat slowed down, deliberately to scare us... I still pale at the thought. "Smile for the camera, Mum," I heard in my shell-like. Down / up /down / up... and to think I paid for this torture!

                                  After an eternity it was time to reel us in. The smiling instructor helped us out of our bindings, having prised my fingers off the straps, helped me to my feet (for some reason my legs were wobbly!) and asked how we had enjoyed the experience.

                                  I don't think he quite expected the reply from yours truly. "An amazing experience. Truly a 'once in a lifetime' experience. I AM NEVER GOING UP IN THE AIR LIKE THAT AGAIN!"

                                  At least, not until time has healed me, and I have forgotten the abject terror that tore my heart.

                                  I wonder where we could do this in the UK?

                                  PS The good thing about going on holiday / adventures with the younger generation, is that you get encouraged to try out all sorts of activities which you might otherwise avoid. Their very calmness can rub off on you, or at least give you the courage to be more adventurous than you would be otherwise. Wonder what I'll be encouraged to try next? ;-)

                                  (This review has been posted on Ciao and Igoyougo, under the same user name and with pictures.)


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