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I make two return trips from Bournemouth to London every week for work. I used to drive all the time, but the cost of petrol and wear and tear on my car made me reassess, hence I started to use National Express on a regular basis.
The coaches themselves are as comfortable as they can be. They have foot rests, overhead luggage storage, booster seats and special seatbelts for children, and a toilet- that usually works.
Most of the drivers are friendly and pleasant to talk to, some are quite grumpy-but these are few and far between. The information staff at Victoria coach station are next to useless. Last time I was delyed leaving by over an hour, a message saying delayed appeared 10 minutes after the departure time. Every time I asked for further information they told me to take a seat and they would let us know when they had some information- it never came.
National Express offer excellent value for money. My standard return fare is in the region of £25, cheaper than petrol. But where National Express excel is there reduced 'funfare' tickets- these are booked for a specific date and time. If I book well enough in advance I can pay £10-£12 for a return. Sometimes you can be fortunate enough to get a £2 return ticket!
Booking a funfare return on the day of travel I can usually still pick up a ticket for £17. The only trouble with 'funfare' tickets is that your ticket can not be transfered to a another service- whether you are early or late for your coach.
On my route, as on many others National Express run a service every hour. The journey time is a little longer than the car, but my route doesn't take in many stops which helps. The commuter coach I catch to get me into London Victoria for 8.20 AM usually gets in early by 10-20 minutes most mornings. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been late for work, due to the coach, in the last few years. I have experienced more trouble trying to get back home on a coach at 18.30 or 19.30. Quite often I have experienced delays due to earlier accidents/traffic that has a knock on effect throughout the service.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
When a coach breaks down National Express don't seem to have a contingency plan involving spare coaches and drivers. Once my coaches wind screen wipers stopped working. We sat at the roadside for two hours waiting for a mechanic. We were told that all the coaches behind us were full. Eventually National Express laid on taxis-however they were told to take us to Southampton(not a scheduled stop, adding further time to an already greatly delayed service) to pick up another coach there! Eventually after arguing with their customer service they authorised the taxi that I was in to go onto Bournemouth- all the others went to Southampton though.
National Express offer a comfortable experience at a good(sometimes great) price. Services 9 times out of 10 run on time. But when things go wrong, they really go wrong.
This is Seattle grunge kings Pearl Jam's third studio album. Following on from the massive hits Ten and Vs, this time the band really descend into a deep down, raw and dirty album. With a heavy punk-like attitude this album feels like an extended jam session, which could have something to do with the fact that most of the album was written whilst the band toured VS and many tracks were recorded on days between shows.
We have frantic frenzied tracks in the first half of the album such as Spin the Black Circle and Whipping that sit along side more measured weighty numbers Not for You and Tremor Christ. Nothingman is Vedder at his most haunting with the music stripped back to accompany his deep tones telling their story beautifully.
The second half of the album is much more experimental with the near irrelevance that is Pry, to and the amusing Bugs a taste of how the album ends as it descends into strange confusion with the instrumental Aye Davantia and the down right bizarre Hey Foxymophandlemama. However stuck between all of this chaos are 4 excellent tracks. Corduroy may not inspire as a title but once the introduction gives way to Vedder at his irrepressible best, this develops into one of the more rounded and most complete tracks on the album. Satan's Bed has a high tempo crazy hook. Then you have two beautiful ballads in the dark, hopeless Betterman and the expansive Immortality.
Overall I think this is an impressive, dark and at times crazy album. Pearl Jam fans worldwide took to it, but as an introduction to the bands music I would look to one of their first two albums.
This is an American comedy from director Todd Phillips. The plot follows four friends who visit Las Vegas for a stag do- or in America bachelor party. The four are Dougs two friends Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms), Doug himself (Justin Bartha) and Doug's oddball soon to be brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis).
The guys rent a villa in Cesars Palace and go to the roof to toast the night. Next we find them waking up with the hangover from hell, no memory of the night before- and minus Doug! The three start looking into the clues they find such as the baby in the cupboard and the full grown tiger in the bathroom. I won't say anymore for fear of spoiling the laughs.
I must say this is one of the funniest, laugh out loud, films I have seen in a longtime. Everytime the trio think they are getting closer to Doug another bizarre twist from their night of debauchery thwarts them. It is hilarious watching them come across the off the wall characters they encountered- each of which they have no recollection of naturally! There is even a cameo from Mike Tyson!
A truly great comedy that was a surprise box office smash. Even my wife, who is more into her romantic comedies, was laughing throughout.
This is an absolute belter of a family film. The forth feature length animated adventure from Pixar.
The story is absed in Monstroplolis- a monster city, where all the power is provided by childrens screams from our world. A clever explanation for the monster in the closet, as the monsters enter special doors at the company each one linked to a child's closet door. The trouble is human children don't scare as easily nowadays and business is bad.
Our central characters are top scarer James P. Sullivan(Sully) and his assistant and friend Mike Wazowski voiced by the excellent John Goodman and Billy crystal. Sully finds an empty door through which a human child escapes. The monsters consider human children to be highly toxic, but Sully soon falls for the small girl that he names Boo. The rest of the film revolves around Sully and Mike trying to get Boo back to her door without alerting the authorities or Sully's nemesis Randall(Steve Buscemi). Who it turns out is trying to capture Boo and hook her upto his scream extracting machine.
The animation is superb, the textures seem toucable and the colours are soo vibrant. The monster world has many funny visual jokes that we encounter in the background of many shots- you can watxch this movie many times before you have seen everything. Which is a good thing as my three year old daughter adores this film and would watch it everyday if I let her. Some of her films I grow tired of after a couple of viewings, but Monsters Inc is definately an exception.
Genuinely funny, excellent cast and stunning animation make for a truly entertaining film for all the family.
This is a low budget independant film that should never have made it to the general public.
This film is based on the true story of two American scuba divers Tom and Eileen Lonergan. The names are changed for the feature and we have Blanchard Ryan and Daniel travis in the lead roles playing the couple- Susan and Daniel. We discover they are an over worked, highly stressed couple with no time for each other. They decide to go on a vacation to add a bit of excitement into there lives. On the second day the couple go out to scuba dive as part of a large group, unfortunately a mix up ensues and they are left behind by the boat. The rest of the film sees the couple stranded in the middle of the ocean. They bicker a lot and get attacked by jelly fish, all the while sharks seem to be closing in.
This film was made on a very small budget and tries to use suspense in stead of lots of blood and gore. The film thrived on its indepentant genesis and must be credited for punching above its weight and bringing in over $50 million worldwide.
However I found this film to be very tedious and boring. You don't engage with the characters, they bicker on land and at sea,so by the end I wasn't too concerned if they were eaten or not. I was bored and had trouble staying awake in the middle. I only woke up to see the payoff when the two would be savaged by sharks, but alas this did not materialise.
I wasted 80 minutes of my life watching this- luckily I had a free pass to the cinema, otherwise I would really have been upset. Don't make the same mistake as me- AVOID AVOID AVOID.
This is the second album from the Seattle grunge-rock group Pearl Jam. Following on from their massive hit debut album 'Ten' this carries on in much the same vein. As a whole not as user friendly as its predecessor- there is a real raw element and feel to a lot of the tracks as well as a bit of dirty funk ingrained within this record.
Of the first 4 tracks 'Daughter' stands out as most accessible- but with a difficult theme of child abuse. Track 5 'Dissident' has Eddie Veder at his best delivering the vocals with aggression and ferocity. Track 8 'Rear View Mirror' is my all time favourite Pearl Jam track, from the moment the bass starts to roll along I am hooked. The momentum builds and builds to a crescendo of a climax that has me singing along every time. Track 9 'Rats' has a real funky underground bass and vibe that captures the subject matter perfectly. Track 10- the longest title in the Pearl jam catalogue and 'Leash' are two more classics very contasting in style that are played at most concerts. The album ends with the beautiful understated 'Indifference'.
Overall less immediately accessable to those new to Pearl Jams music, but when you listen its raw dirty energy it gets under your skin and hooks you.
Blind Melon are an American alternative rock group that formed in California in 1989. They only released three albums- the third post humously after lead singer(and driving force behind the band) Shannon Hoon tragically died of a drugs overdose in 1995.
The band grew in prominance after lead singer Shannon Hoon sang backing vocals on Guns n Roses Use Your Illusion al;bum- most notably on 'Don't Cry'. This their self titled debut album was released in 1993, and initially didn't sell well. However that all changed when 'No Rain' was released as a single with an eye catching video featuring the young girl dressed as a bumble bee captured the imagination of the MTV generation- the album eventually made it quadruple-platinum.
This has to be just about my favorite album of all time. I take great pride and credit for introducing many of my friends to the delights of this top album. I have never had anyone come back to me dissapointed.
Throughout there is a vibrant summer feel, with some truely beautiful melodies on the guitar mixed with up tempo scatter drums. But the main attraction is definately Shannon Hoon's brilliant vocals and excellent song-writing. The album takes you on an up beat journey with influences taken from Led Zepplin and Southern American States country music, but all pulled together to create an engaging masterpeice.
Stand out tracks are hard to define as they are all so good, but for me'I Wonder', 'Change' and 'Deserted' top the rest- just.
If you don't own this album- go buy it, I promise you won't be dissapointed.
This is the first, and one of the best albums that Pearl Jam have ever produced. This also has to be one of the greatest debut albums of all time.Pearl Jam formed in Seattle, Washington- with most members coming from two bands Green River and Mother Love Bone. They along with Nirvana were front runners in the grunge movement coming out of America at the time.Fronted by Eddie Veder Pearl Jam went global with this album.
The album kicks off with 'Once' a mixture of thrashing guitars and up tempo drums and aggressive lyrics. The second track 'Even Flow' is slightly more mainstream, and was released as a single. 'Alive' has delicate guitar intersperced with a sing-along chorus that gets every fan going. For me the 5th track 'Black' is the albums finest moment, you feel real tenderness and pain in Veders lyrics- a beautiful song.
The lead single on the album was 'Jeremy' which tells the tale of a high school kid who is bullied and unloved that commits suicide. The video was hard hitting and so successful that it won just about every award it could, prompting Pearl jam to shun music video's for the next three albums. In fact it wasn't until 1998 that they released anything other than live fottage of the band.
With the up tempo in your face 'Porch' aside the album draws towards its close with several further reaching tracks that add some real gravitas.
Overall an awesome example of a band at their purest rawest moment. Every Pearl Jam fan owns this album. But I would recommend it to anyone who likes good quality guitar driven rock.