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Sarah_Louise

Sarah_Louise
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    • Pets at Home / Highstreet Shopping / 81 Readings / 64 Ratings
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      01.09.2005 13:01
      Very helpful
      (Rating)
      26 Comments

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      Disadvantages

      Excellent choice of products. Staff not willing to take responsibility though. Poor fish health.

      (Updates found at the end of this review)

      Well, where to start?

      I used to absolutely love Pets at Home. Having been an animal lover all my life I was delighted when Pets at Home first landed here in the UK back in 1991 (after the demise of the PetsMart stores throughout the country).

      The store practically has everything any pet owner could ever need. They stock all necessary (and luxury) items for out canine, feline, feathered, furry and fishy friends. Many stores also used to stock items for our reptilian friends but Pets at Home appear to have ceased this throughout the UK some years back. So whether you're after/have already got a dog, cat, bird, rodent or fish, you're sure to find what you want in a Pets at Home store. Many prices are competitive and some deals you can get are very good indeed, especially some of their "all in one" type packages (otherwise widely referred to as "Starter Kits" where you get the cage/tank/etc. with everything you need to start up with a certain animal).

      This is the good side to Pets at Home.

      However, with all good things come some bad points....

      First however, let me just explain why I've recently been spending a lot of time at my local Pets at Home store.

      Some weeks back (14 to be precise), my partner and I decided to aquire a small bundle of fluff otherwise known as Wilf. He was an 8 week old border collie pup. Needless to say, being our first puppy, we went along to Pets at Home to get all the necessaries in advance of his arrival.

      Then, about 4 weeks back, whilst I was sunning myself in Blackpool (hahahaha!) on a pre-arranged holiday with my best friend, my partner made another trip to Pets at Home to purchase a tropical aquarium. He bought one of the "Starter Kit" type systems I mentioned earlier. It was a Fluval Uno tank. Capacity coming in at 13.8 gallons, the tank is a fair size, ideal for tropical fish tank newbies such as ourselves. He did everything right. He set the tank up after thoroughly cleaning all the gravel, plants, ornaments, etc. He then filled it up, placed all the relevant water treatment liquids in the water, including some treatment to help the filter reach maximum capacity in minimum time (works by some kind of "friendly bacteria" from what I can gather - not disimilar to the promises made by Actimel and the likes I suppose!) This was then left running with the filter running constantly for over a week (as per instructions). On my arrival back from Blackpool I then visited some local garden centres with a view to purchasing our first batch of tropical fish.

      Being new to the area (having only moved to this area at the beginning of June), I must admit, trying to find a garden centre that stocks tropical fish isn't easy. (Especially with my exceptionally bad sense of direction!) So, after travelling through one town where there was meant to be such an aquatic centre, I suddenly found myself on a road heading towards where I knew the Pets at Home store was. To be honest, I'd had no intention of trying to find the store as I suspected I'd never find it in the maze of complicated road junctions. (Barring in mind I'm from the nice quiet area of North Wales.... I'm not used to roads with more than one lane!)

      So after a few seconds of wondering "do I? don't I?" I decided to risk it and try to find the Pets at Home store. By some sheer miracle I managed to find the store (and find a parking space with ease - another minor miracle when you realise how much I HATE parking manouvers if it involves having to park in any awkward spaces!)

      So off I trundle into the shop. I head straight for the fish aisles rather than going via the puppy aisles as I knew I'd end up spending a load of money on unnecessary items for the puppy. (Don't we all?)

      Now as I've never really owned tropical fish before I decided to put the Pets at Home staff to the test by asking them some questions. I knew the basics of fish care and knew the ins and outs of various fish species as I have been involved in animal care practically all my life and the Vet nursing course I studied contained a small section about aquatics. The young lady I got speaking to seemed to be very knowledgeable about fish. I asked her mainly for advise over which fish to add to the tank first. (Having already come with the idea of only buying 5 or so fish to start off with as you are meant to stagger the introductions to let the fish get used to it and also to enable the tank setup itself to settle down (e.g. the filter will suddenly find it actually has a cleaning up job to do)). So I asked the young lady for advise over which fish were the best to introduce to a new aquarium and also which ones weren't likely to try to eat one another. I remember from many years back when I was a wee nipper and my dad had a tropical fish tank. He had a couple that were quite frankly vicious little things that I wouldn't want to touch with a bargepole. They were like miniature Pirahna's and from memory seemed to constantly be trying to eat the other fish in the tank!

      The lady I spoke to on this occasion checked to make sure the tank had been running for a week and also asked what size the tank itself was. I was quite impressed she checked such matters out first as, presumably, had I answered "no" to her question about whether the tank had been up and running for a week or more, she would have advised me not to buy any. (Which I must say, a lot of shop owners probably wouldn't have done!!)

      So thumbs up to her there. After ascertaining the tank was suitable for its first batch of fish, between us we decided on 2 bottom feeders (catfish), 5 neon tetras and 2 phantom tetras. All of which are said to be hardy, ideal for beginners and friendly towards one another. Super!

      I introduced the fish to the aquarium exactly as instructed to do so by the Pets at Home staff and also the instructions on the back of the plastic bag the fish travelled in.

      She advised me to wait a few days before introducing any more fish for the aforementioned reasons.

      So, a few days later, I trundle back off to Pets at Home (safely in the knowledge that I might be able to find it again and I might be able to find a parking space!) This time there's a bit of a queue on. Lots of people seem to be wanting fish this time. So I wait patiently reading all the information under each aquarium and eyeing up which fish look like the type that'll be both pleasing to the eye and not trying to eat one another. After doing some earwigging, I was equally as impressed by the young lady offering advise on the fish aisle today. She was different to the one I'd seen the other day but knew just as much stuff as the other one. After a short wait, she asked if I wanted any help. So again, I explained the tank had now been up for 2 weeks and explained I'd bought 5 neon tetras, 2 phantom tetras and 2 catfish from them a few days back. She then asked what size tank it was and proceeded to offer me advice on which fish would be ideal companions to those already in the tank.

      So I then opt for 5 Zebra Danios and 5 male Guppies. Introducing them into the tank in exactly the correct manner. We then wait another few days to let this lot settle in properly and to let the aquarium acclimatise.

      So a good 4 or so days later I make my last trip to Pets at Home for a while (so I thought) to just get another 5 neon tetras. We decided this would be enough for the time being, we'd leave it at this for now as we were approaching the desired number of fish for the tank.

      So again, we get a different person altogether this time and again, we get quizzed on the size of the tank, number and type of fish in there already, etc, etc. I must say, I am over the moon with the staffs advice and general knowledge.

      A few days after introducing the last lot of 5 neon tetras we notice that one of the guppies had sadly passed away. There was no sign of disease on it at all. Then another guppie starts looking unwell and died the following day. Then two neon tetras meat the same demise. I thought this was odd as it had all started to happen so quickly with fish that are meant to be extremely hardy. There was no sign of any disease on any of them at all.


      Then, a few days after this, I noticed that one of the phantom tetras appeared to have what is commonly known as White Spot (otherwise known as Ich). From having coldwater fish before I knew this was highly contagious and if one fish showed signs of it, all the others would have it too. So I pop down to another pet shop (closer than Pets at Home) to get some treatment for the water to aid with White Spot and other such problems. I popped this in the water as per instructions. Needless to say, the following day, the remaining phantom tetra also appeared to have White Spot. (This was not unexpected though). Treatment for White Spot doesn't kill off the symptoms already showing on the fish, it just stops re-infestation. Then the following day, two more of the neon tetras had died (neither of which showed any signs of disease or illness). Shortly after this, both phantom tetras had passed away too and, one by one, the guppies started dying too. The ONLY fish which showed any signs of illness or disease were the phantom tetras (with White Spot - which shouldn't have killed them as it was just the beginnings of the disease and White Spot doesn't usually kill fish, certainly not that quickly!) None of the other fish showed any visible signs whatsoever. So, by this time we are now left with NO guppies, NO phantom tetras and only 6 neon tetras. The only fish (touch wood) to have not (so far) shown any problems at all are the two catfish.

      Like I said earlier, I am no fish expert. However, I did know one thing for certain. We'd done everything "by the book" and had been told we'd been doing everything correctly too. The water quality in the tank was exactly right. The temperature was exactly right. So something was obviously going wrong.

      I'm not the type to try and pass the buck but when it clearly wasn't our own fault and we'd lost such a high number of fish in such a short space of time (including most which showed no signs of disease or illness) we knew something was up.

      Each time you buy fish from Pets at Home you get a receipt which clearly states:

      "Thank you for buying your new pet from our store. Please remember that all pets must be properly cared for throughout their lives. We pride ourselves in supplying healthy pets and never knowingly sell one that is sick or injured or suffering from any visible deformity. Please contact us immediately if your new pet appears unwell soon after purchase. If necessary, we will consult our own vet. We do not pay vet's fees except by prior arrangement"

      "Note: We are unable to guarantee the sex or age of our livestock."

      So we decided to make yet another trip to Pets at Home for some further advice. This time there were no members of staff hovering around the fish aisle so after having a look at most of the tropical fish tanks, my partner and I noticed a considerably high number of dead/dying fish. There was barely a tank in the display that didn't have at least one dead or dying fish in it. Many of the dead fish appeared to have been in that state for some time as they were well and truly eaten/pecked on by the other fish in the tank. Of which doesn't happen all that quickly unless you're housing something like a Pirahna!

      So after waiting a few minutes I nip off to try and find a member of staff to chat to. I find one chap who's re-stocking the dog toy aisle so he happily comes over to offer some advise. It's at this point that I read his name tag and notice he is the Assistant Manager. We start telling him about the problems we've been having and the first thing he does is change his general approach and attitude towards us. Whilst still trying to appear sincere and helpful, you could just tell he was getting more and more worked up (despite us only asking for some advise on what may be going wrong). Within a few minutes of explaining the situation, he asks us how many fish we'd had in before they all started dying. By doing our sums quickly it came to 22. He then immediately said "thats your problem then. Thats way too many". So we went onto explain that the tank had now been up and running for quite some time and we'd introduced these over a period of time AND from recommendations by the Pets at Home staff. He seemingly ignored this and continued to think up every known reason in the book (e.g. asking us if the temperature was right and whether the water was cloudy, etc, etc). Everything we said basically seemed to be ignored and he then started to try to say we'd gone wrong by not cleaning the gravel properly. My partner explained he'd washed it thoroughly before putting it in the tank for the first time and that the gravel was clean now, the water quality was just right, as was the temperature and the water wasn't remotely cloudy or unduly smelly (more than any fish tank is). The chap then started telling us that we still needed to clean the gravel (and suggested buying a gravel cleaning kit to do the job) so reminded him that, yes, when it came to doing water changes and such like, we would obviously do such a job but in the meantime, this did NOT explain why a total of 11 of their fish had died in such a short space of time despite us seemingly doing everything right.

      I personally would've expected to lose some fish as this is only natural when setting up a new aquarium but to lose half of your livestock is pushing it a little if you ask me.

      The chap was adamant we'd done something wrong and asked us all manner of questions like how long we had the light on for, whether we'd had the light on at all, whether we check the temperature was correct daily, whether we'd been feeding them correctly, etc. Then he even asked whether we'd stocked too many female guppies to male guppies as apparently if you have more than a 3:1 ratio of females to males, the males get stressed and die. I can't say I've heard of this one before but I suppose it makes sense. Now barring in mind that Pets at Home ONLY stock male guppies, we'd told him we had just bought the 5 male guppies from Pets at Home and ALL our fish were from their store, quite how he thought we'd have too many females to males is beyond me.

      But there was one essential question he missed out. Both my partner and I noticed this right from the outset. Remember right at the beginning when I said he'd immediately said "thats your problem then. Thats way too many" when we told him how many fish we had in the tank?

      Well, the chap failed to ask one essential question.... how big was our tank? As far as he was aware we could've had an allmighty huge aquarium. If he was assuming we had a tiny fish bowl then fair enough but surely it would've been a good idea to at least ask about the size of the tank before assuming we had too many fish? He seemed to ignore us completely whenever either of us told him that not one but three of the members of staff had all told us we were doing things exactly right.

      So the final clincher came when my partner enquired about the number of dead/dying fish they appeared to have in their tanks. The reason he gave? That they'd had a power failure the night before and as such the filter systems had gone down and as such they would inevitably lose fish. Fair point. They would indeed lose fish. Who are we to question this anyway? It may well have been the truth. However, one thing is for certain, for there to have been that many fish who were so well and truly dead that their carcasses were floating around in the tanks half eaten, they'd have been dead for much longer than just a couple of hours.

      So, to conclude, the Assistant Manager tried to blame us for everything under the sun essentially. He was not willing to accept that either there was some kind of problem with their fish or that the staff members had perhaps given us the wrong advise. He concluded by making a joke saying that he doesn't always do things exactly by the book with his own tropical fish tank at home with such things as carbon filters as they're meant to be changed weekly, he waits 6 weeks before changing his. It seemed he was trying to lighten the topic up a little by admitting that if he doesn't do things by the book then maybe we also hadn't done? (Again, was he just trying to pass the buck back onto us?)

      I really wouldn't like to say one way or the other but one thing is for certain. We will NOT be buying any form of livestock from Pets at Home again. It's one thing buying 'hardware' for your pets but quite another buying any animals from them.

      I have yet to see any truly sick or injured or indeed mistreated animal (discounting the poorly fish already mentioned) in any Pets at Home store but to be honest, you can't expect all the staff to be experts on all the animals they stock. They don't seem to have specialist members of staff that only deal with certain animals as all staff appear to rotate between tills, stock taking, giving out animal advise, etc. so I'm guessing they also all muck in with the animal care itself too. Like I say though, all three members of staff certainly appeared to know what they were talking about and I would trust all three of them to offer more thorough advise than that given by the Assistant Manager too. I am tempted to call in again to inspect their fish tanks again and to also ask a different member of staff for the same advise we asked the Assistant Manager to see whether they also try to blame us for everything under the sun.

      So, to conclude, despite once loving the Pets at Home stores for their general convenience, good layout, helpful staff, excellent stock, etc. I certainly won't be recommending the store to anyone wishing to actually buy any animal off them, especially not from the aquatic section.

      My advice would be to go to a reputable aquatic centre. Somewhere that specialises in such creatures. You'll not really pay any more for your fish from such a place, in fact, you may well end up paying less for them. It isn't worth losing half or more of your fish stock in the first month though through seemingly no fault of your own.

      Fish don't generally come overly cheap to start with. So in addition to the start up price of a new aquarium you really don't want to start having to re-stock your aquarium from such a low level of fish.

      We haven't started re-stocking our aquarium yet. We figured that if there is something wrong with the fish we've aquired already then it'll be best to wait a while to see whether any more fish die or come down with any illness or disease. Luckily, so far, we seem to be being lucky. Our remaining neon tetras, catfish and zebra danio's all seem happy and healthy. The White Spot that had passed onto the remaining tetras seems to have disappeared now too. We've raised the temperature of the tank a little (to 28'C - still within tropical fish tank range of course), as per instructions to held rid your tank of a White Spot infestation. I've now completed the dose of water treatment for White Spot so will leave the tank at the slightly higher temperature for a bit longer before dropping it back down to 23'C or so. Then see how they fair on that for a few days before going to a reputable aquatic centre to purchase a few more fish. I suspect that if we explain our problem to any reputable aquatic centre, we'll get told to never buy fish from Pets at Home!

      So all in all, I've given Pets at Home 3 out of 5 stars as the shop itself is superb. I have selected "No" for whether I would recommend the store or not though, "No" being for those wishing to actually buy any animal from them. If you're just after buying food, treats, medications, grooming accessories, cages, etc. then I can still heartily recommend the store.

      ---------
      UPDATE
      ---------

      I wrote this review about a week or so ago and have only just got around to posting it online. However, between writing this review and actually posting it online as of today, my partner and I have visited a local garden centre with a relatively large selection of tropical fish. We asked the man working in the aquatic centre for further advice about setting up an aquarium (seemingly we'd done everything perfectly 'by the book'). We then explained the problems we'd been having. He pretty much confirmed our suspicions - Pets at Home just isn't any good for tropical fish. He's had lots of people complaining about their fishstock dying after buying any from Pets at Home. He then told us that all their tanks are run on the one system. Meaning they're all at a set temperature and all at a set pH. This means that this is ideal for some fish but not all of their stock. It also means that if one tank comes down with an infectious disease, chances are, they all will. So, although it is all set to an average temperature and an average pH, it is NOT ideal conditions for all their fishstock. Most can survive at the average temperature and pH but it certainly isn't overly good for the fish. It increases stress levels in the tanks which then makes them far more prone to disease and illness.


      -------------
      UPDATE 2
      -------------

      Well as of this evening (Monday 5th Sept) my partner arrived back from work at about 8pm following a trip to Pets at Home on his way back to collect a few more bits and pieces for the puppies. He popped over to look at the tropical fish and guess what? It seems out local Pets at Home is having a complete re-stock of their fish. All the fish were small (seemingly young ones) and all the tanks had either been changed completely or they had undergone thorough cleaning.

      So it most certainly seems like they know something they're not letting on. I suspect they might've had a few more complaints and enquiries....


      FOOTNOTE:

      You'll notice I have not mentioned any names or the location of the exact store in question. However, please note that this is a nationwide problem regarding their fish.

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      • Border Collie / Pet / Animal / 56 Readings / 50 Ratings
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        26.07.2005 19:13
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        14 Comments

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        Guide to Border Collies and puppies

        Life for Sarah_Louise has been pretty hectic lately, what with moving to a completely new part of the country for a start. My Internet addiction has consequently taken another hit. However, as I recently decided to give Dooyoo one last try, I thought I'd pop this review over here too.

        As many of you know, I'm a huge animal lover. I am by far the biggest animal lover I've ever come across in fact. Isn't it strange that, as an animal lover, the vast majority of my friends are those that just don't see the fascination? Or indeed those who can't stand the thought of sharing their homes with an animal!

        Sure, I adore horses. I've been a keen horse rider for the past 12 or so years and have worked as a Stable hand/Groom for the past 10 or so years. Sadly though, horses are a tad expensive. Not only to buy in the first place but also to keep. Have you ever looked into the price of a piece of land suitable to keep a horse on!? Or indeed the weekly cost of keeping a horse at Livery? Well lets just say that until I win the Lottery, I sincerely doubt I'll be becoming a horse owner anytime soon. Dogs have always been on my number 1 of realistic pets that I wanted to get. I've had two cats but sadly my parents (mainly my mum) would never let me get a dog. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond my control, my mum was certain she'd end up having to look after and take the dog for walks. She didn't want to do this. She'd had her own dogs in the past and didn't want anymore. (Reasons beyond my control being both my older sisters being allowed dogs of their own when they were younger - neither of whom looked after the dog once the novelty had worn off).

        So then. Here I was. I'm in a completely new part of the country with new people, new surroundings, new job prospects, new place of residence.... there was just one thing missing. No pets.
        I'd moved out from "home" where I'd been living with my mum and dad back in Wales. We had a cat (Rosie) but my mum was really attached to Rosie so I decided to leave her behind. So here I was, petless for the first time in my life. (I've always had at least goldfish and a whole host of creepy crawlies that I used to collect from the garden!)


        THE START

        I moved up to the North East of England at the beginning of June. I moved in with my partner and started at my new place of employment. Within a matter of just over a weeks time, I was back out of work (due to them trying to get me to sign an illegal contract.... but that's a different story). My partner has always fancied the idea of getting a dog but, working full time and living on his own, meant it just wasn't the right time to acquire a dog. Up until about February of this year he was working in a "normal" 9-5 job so it just wouldn't have been fair for any dog. Then, out of the blue, he was made redundant. Since then he has been working "freelance" as an Archaeologist (his real vocation). Some weeks he's at home doing drawing and illustration work for the digs and other weeks he's out in the field doing the digs. It is commonplace for Archaeologists to take their dogs with them when they're out on digs (as long as the land owner agrees to this of course!) So, with me moving in (and now being currently out of a job), and as I've done Vet Nursing and have worked in a Kennels for the past 9 months, now seemed like the ideal time to embark on puppyhood. We've both always wanted a dog but neither of us have been in a position to get one before so what better time?


        THE SEARCH WAS ON

        Initially we thought about rescuing a dog from a Shelter. This seemed like a good idea as of course we'd be helping to give some poor dog a nice new home. I did however point out the disadvantages of this. We could never be certain how the dog had been treated in its previous home. We were looking for an older puppy/young dog (less than 2 years of age). Medium size. Apart from that, we didn't mind what we got really. So, we hit the local (and not so local) rescue centres. We set our heart on one young dog (about 7-8 months of age we think). She was lovely looking, ever so friendly and seemed very intelligent. She seemed to "click" with us. We enquired about taking her home. She was to be up for rehoming on a certain date so we were told the shelter opened at midday and we were welcome to queue from whatever time we wanted. (Initially recommended about 10:30am).

        We knew that our chances of getting this dog were slim but as we knew we'd get one sometime, we got the puppy food in, some toys, bowls, collar, lead, etc. and also one of those puppy cage things for in the back of the car and the likes.

        After a bit of a hassle getting the rehoming date right (the Shelter got the day wrong to start with), we set off into Newcastle City Centre at 7:30am with a view to getting to the Shelter (far side of the city) at about 8:30am. Yes. We were going to queue for 3.5 hours with no seats or shelter nearby. We took our own chairs and books and warm, waterproof clothing. Only to get there to find another chap queuing. On quizzing him, he was after the same dog. I asked if he was certain he'd stick it out for the duration, he said "I have to. My wife has set her heart on this dog. She'll kill me if I don't get it!!" So that was that. There was no point us queueing too. So we left. Sure, we had half expected it but we were still sad to miss this one.

        A few more trips to Shelters came about but no dog pulled at our heart strings quite the same. We were going to just continue in this fashion until the right dog came along. That was until I hit the web in search of pet adverts on the offchance any on their pulled at my heart strings.

        I've advertised on a few such websites myself when I've been advertising my (ex) Pet Sitting and dog walking services back in Wales but bizarrely I'd never come across one called Ad-Trader. It was on here that the 'ideal' dog seemed to come along. Puppy in fact!

        The advert was for a border collie puppy. Male. Aged 8 weeks. He was down in Leeds (just short of a 2 hour drive from here). So I phoned up, spoke to a lovely woman who quizzed me about my experience with dogs. She was relieved that I'd had as much experience as I have and she was a Vet Nurse too so was pleased I'd also done Vet Nursing. So we set off that day to go and look at him. We arrived. He was absolutely adorable. A bundle of predominantlely black fur with bits of white. Tiny. Very friendly with the most gorgeous eyes you've ever seen in your life. The owner was more than happy to let us take him so we handed over the cash (£120) and took him home with us that day. He was puppy cage trained so sat happily in the car all the way home. No throwing up or anything (amazing!!) It took us about 3 hours to get home due to the traffic too so he did exceptionally well. Apparently she'd had a number of enquiries and visitors wanting him for retired elderly companion type dog. Anyone wanting a border collie puppy for those circumstances must be insane! Luckily she had some sense and hadn't let him go to anyone like that.

        My partner and I's dream had finally come true. We were now officially dog (well, puppy) owners!

        On the way home we were suggesting names for the new puppy and decided to see whether anything sprang to mind on his first evening in his new home. We eventually decided to go with Wilf. Reasons unknown. It just kind of 'stuck'. He seemed to like it and he most certainly suits the name!


        ORIGINS

        Border Collies were (and still are) bred for working. Otherwise known as "sheepdogs", they are particularly used in Farming communities for herding of sheep, cattle, chickens, ducks, in fact, anything that moves basically! As such, they are naturally a very fast, inquisitive and exceptionally intelligent breed. (Said to be easily one of the most intelligent of all dog breeds).
        Wilf originated from a farm in Cumbria. He's a pure bred collie. Both his parents are working collies. His father was a short haired collie, his mother being a long haired collie so I should imagine Wilfs coat will grow to be a nice length. He's still got that oh-so-lovely soft puppy 'fur' at the moment.

        He is now aged 11 weeks (as of yesterday - 21st July 2005). We've had him just 3 weeks yet he's settled in ever so quickly and really bonded well with us both.


        BREED BASICS

        Border Collies are noted for being affectionate with friends. Sometimes they can be a little reserved with strangers but this is largely down to their socialisation as a young dog/puppy. They are highly intelligent and, like most working dogs, have a tendancy towards neurotic or destructive behaviour if not given enough to do. This makes them sound like problematical dogs but in reality, with the right training, the right type of household and the right type of owners, border collies can make wonderful companions.

        Border Collies are medium sized dogs. They have a double coat which is usually black and white but can also be red and white or red merle, blue merle or tri-coloured. There are smooth coated, short-haired and rough-haired varieties.


        TEMPERAMENT

        Border Collies are extremely energetic and require a lot of attention. They are better off in a household that can provide them with plenty of exercise and a job to do. Like most herding breeds, they will attempt to herd family members, cats, squirrels, bicycles, cars, or anything else that moves! (Care should be taken with this however, it might sound amusing or indeed look 'cute' but they can get themselves into trouble/danger. Herding cars can prove fatal, as can herding animals that belong to other people - if a farmer deems your dog to be a pest, he may well take his rifle to him).

        Border Collies make bad pets for people who cannot provide a considerable amount of daily exercise, both physical and mental. Many Border Collies end up in Shelters because families, attracted by their appearance, discover that they cannot even begin to provide the attention and effort required for this driven, active, easily bored breed. Among some breeders of the breed in Britain, there is a common saying: "no sheep, no collie", referring to the dog's usual unsuitability to people who just want a "smart dog". Border Collies love to play and do not always know when to stop on their own; owners must ensure that they do not overexert themselves especially in hot weather, which can be dangerous. These dogs just don't stop!!


        HEALTH

        Unlike many pure bred dogs, Border Collies (on the whole) tend to be healthy creatures. They don't usually tend to suffer from many eye or ear problems like many pure bred dogs. However, as with most medium-large pure bred dogs, they can be prone to hip dysplasia.


        HERDING

        As already mentioned, Border Collies naturally have a herding instinct, this is inbred so there is just no getting away from it. This means that they will nip at your ankles and try to "herd" you around the house. This can be extremely painful and should be "nipped" in the bud as soon as possible. However, they are NOT really being naughty and are certainly not actually trying to hurt you or indeed inflict any kind of "bite" upon you. They are simply doing what comes naturally to them. They do exactly the same to animals they would herd on a farm. Granted, people generally don't look overly like a sheep but then Border Collies do it to sheep, cows and poultry, which of course also don't look anything like one another!

        As previously mentioned, herding of anything should be refrained from unless you know its safe to do so. After all, do you want your dog to try herding a line of cars on a busy road just because he saw they were moving and thought "oooh, work!!"?


        INTELLIGENCE

        The Border Collie is an extremely intelligent dog (I dare say they are more intelligent than many humans!). The trouble with this is that they will run rings around you if you let them. You must again be firm with them and get them into a routine as soon as possible and stick to it. They like routine but at the same time need mental stimulation and LOTS of it to prevent them from getting bored. It is only when they get bored that they get destructive as a general rule.

        Intelligence with regards to training as a 'proper' working sheepdog though can vary greatly between individual dogs. I have first hand experience of this variety to the extreme. My dad helps out with regards to pest control (shooting) on one of his friends' farms back in the wilderness of North Wales. On one occasion a few years back, the farm dogs had a litter of puppies. My brother-in-law and sister live next door to my bro-in-laws' mums farm where my bro-in-laws brother still carries on in the family business as a Farmer. He'd recently lost one of his sheepdogs so was looking for one or two others to train up. He decided to send my bro-in-law and sister down to Wales to collect two puppies from my Dads friends' farm. They cost about £50 each (or thereabouts - I can't remember exactly how much!) We saw both the mother and father of the pups at work on the farm. They were superb dogs. Anyway, just a matter of a few weeks after they had bought these two puppies, the puppies father was entered into the World Sheepdog Championship. (That's right, you read that right, it was the WORLD Championships). He won. Out of all the other sheepdogs in the world, my dads' friends dog won. The father of the two pups my bro-in-law had taken back for his brother to train up for his farm. My bro-in-laws brother has a lot of experience with sheepdog training, having done it all his life. He's never had any trouble before. Yet still to this day (about 3-4 years later), he's STILL not been able to get these two sheepdogs up to scratch!! So that definitely goes to show it isn't all hereditary or indeed training. Each dog truly is different.

        Of course it was good time to buy puppies from this dog though as of course, now having World Champion after his name will certainly mean his puppies are worth more than £50 each!


        EXERCISE

        A Border Collie can walk up to 20 miles in one day, so you can imagine how much exercise they will need to keep them in line. Just imagine how much ground they cover in one day herding sheep and you will get some idea how much you will be taking on. If you are not a person for walking your dog for 2 or 3 miles a time, 3 or 4 times a day then please do not get a Border Collie. Wilf is still only 11 weeks of age but can dart about in the yard like a speeding bullet. He's extremely quick, despite still only having tiny little legs!!

        These aren't dogs for the faint hearted. These are dogs for people who intend to work their dogs or for owners who enjoy lots and lots of walking (and running!) Luckily both my partner and I are the energetic type who enjoy hiking and suchlikes.


        TRAINING

        As I said earlier, the Border Collie is an extremely intelligent dog. It is said that you should start training your puppy from birth. This is especially important with a breed like this. Luckily the puppies mother tends to do the hard work at such a young age. As soon as they are able to walk around with their eyes open though, it is never too young to start getting them used to things. Even simple things like being picked up. Other people say that you should let your puppy settle in for a few weeks until he/she has finished all his vaccinations. Only then is it 'right' to start properly training and socialising your dog. Personally, I disagree with this idea.

        Wilf is a prime example here. He was 8 weeks when we got him. He hadn't had any vaccinations so we got his first one done at 9 weeks. He's in for his second (and last) vaccination on August 1st. He'll be 12 weeks of age. It is a week after this that he'll be able to head out safely covered by his vaccinations. I'm glad we didn't wait this long to start basic training. His intelligence already shows just how much his brain his working.

        He already knows "Sit" (albeit he mainly does this when he knows he'll get a treat, a toy or generally when he wants a fuss - he won't yet do this at a distance when he's not necessarily going to get anything out of it!), he knows "Lie Down" (same applies as above) and he also knows to "Give Paw" when he's sitting (or indeed lying down) too!

        He had his first collar put on him a few days after we got him. He soon got used to this (after some frantic scratching and running around backwards trying to get away from it!) and a few days after this we started introducing him to his lead. (For very short periods of time - a few minutes once or twice a day generally). He mainly just chewed it to start with but is generally now walking around the yard with it quite happily. Still lots of room for imrpovement but for 11 weeks of age he is coming along very well indeed.


        SOCIALISATION

        You have two forms of socialisation required here. People and other animals.

        With people, you should start immediately. You will find lots of people wanting to call around to see you (sorry, I mean the puppy....) but this is a good thing as it gets your pup used to strangers. We have found that Wilf loves everyone. He is THE nosiest dog I've ever come across as he only has to hear someone walking past outside and he'll be straight to the gate for a look at who it is hoping they'll give him a stroke!

        With regards to socialising your puppy with other animals. It is essential you socialise him/her with other dogs. After all, you WILL bump into other dogs whilst out on walks.
        You can take the risk here and start socialising your puppy immediately if you know the other dogs have been vaccinated or you can just wait until he/she is up to scratch with all the vaccinations. This is the approach we're taking. We don't know anyone with a fully vaccinated dog (for definite) so we're not risking it. Both neighbours either side have dogs but they aren't fully vaccinated so we're not letting him come into contact with those.


        HOUSING

        How you choose to house your dog is entirely up to you. Border Collies are perfectly happy living outdoors if you are happy with this. Remember they have a double coat and most live outdoors on farms so they are well and truly used to this. (Although I wouldn't dream of putting a puppy outdoors permanently - not until his/her coat has developed fully). We're going for a half in, half out option. Wilf has an absolutely huge kennel in the yard which was courtesy of some of the Gamekeepers we're friends with from the local Phesant Estate. The kennel was handmade for a Rottweiler apparently so they've given it another new lick of paint (pet safe paint of course!) and put a name plate on the front for him. He loves going in there to play at the moment. We don't leave him outside to sleep unattended. Mainly because puppy napping is big business these days (more on this in the next section).

        Inside, he has a puppy cage which is for medium sized dogs so he has plenty of space. He willingly goes in there to sleep and play as he has been used to these from birth. We also use this for car journeys too. So he currently gets shut in his cage overnight. He sleeps happily in there until we let him out in the morning to do his business (outside!) This not only stops him doing any damage to the house but also prevents him from hurting himself. We put some toys in with him too of course to keep his jaws active when he's going through his (regular) teething fits.

        We then leave the cage door open during the day and the door to outside. (Well secured yard). 99.9% of the time he goes outside to do his business of his own accord but often pops into his cage to puppy nap. Otherwise he'll just sleep on the floor.


        DOG NAPPING

        Unfortunately there is a relatively new trend in the doggy world. That being dog napping. People pinch your dogs from your own homes, yards, gardens, outside shops, unlocked cars, wherever. The dogs don't have to be pure breeds either. Any dog will do. They nappers will then hold the dog to ransom and demand money off you or else they'll kill your dog. Sometimes they send photos of your dog being tormented and suchlikes. It must be heartwrenching for any owner to go through. As such, do keep your eye on your puppy/dog at all times. I know this is easier said than done but just imagine how you'd feel if you went out to see where your puppy was only to find him gone. No trace of him left at all.


        TAGS AND MICROCHIPPING

        It is illegal to not have a tag on your dogs collar these days. When out walking, if the Dog Warden chooses, they can fine you £90 on the spot for not having a tag on your dogs collar. This must have the dogs name and your contact address and/or telephone number.

        We are also going to get Wilf microchipped when he goes in for his second vaccinations on August 1st. That way, if he ever got lost of his own accord (as opposed to dog napped), any rescue centres, boarding kennels, police stations, etc. all have the machines to check for microchips. Each has a unique number which will immediately trace Wilf back to us. It is a small (grain of rice sized) chip injected under the skin (neck area).

        We have also registered Wilf with the Missing Pets Bureau for a year too as we got our first years membership free with the Puppy Pack we got from the Vets when he went in for his first injection. (This contained some food, a frisbee and a few other bits and pieces - a nice touch, I think you'll agree!)

        You can have your dogs DNA recorded with the Missing Pets Bureau if you wished too. This costs £99 (one time payment if you sign up on registration). They then send out a swab to run along the inside of your dogs mouth which you then send back and they keep his/her DNA on file so you can prove ownership in the Court of Law if (God forbid) it ever came to that.


        GENERAL PURCHASES

        As with any puppy, be prepared for lots of biting and chewing. He/she is just teething and not being naughty. You can buy a whole variety of special "teething" toys from pet shops but generally ANY toy will do the trick (maybe apart from bog-standard balls which just won't help ease the discomfort much).

        You can get flavoured teething bones, rings, keys, tyres, all sorts in fact!

        We've currently got Wilf:

        TOYS:

        1 x hard Nylabone (chicken flavoured) - not cheap but should last him a LONG time. It cost about £8 for one 'fake' bone. Specially designed for teething but as its hard, no dog should be able to chew through it, even with adult teeth so it'll last him a while.
        1 x slightly flexible Nylabone (beef flavoured) - smaller than the one above and was about £4. This has to be disposed of once he gets any adult teeth as he could chew bits off then. Ideal for teething puppies though.
        1 x teething ring (vanilla flavoured) - about £3.50 (but it smells gorgeous - even after being chewed!)
        1 x squeaky hedgehog toy - about £3. Mainly for just playing and general amusement. Also good for his gums though as it likes teething on the hedgehogs nose!
        1 x ball - for teaching him "fetch" but he's also started trying to herd it now.... (about £2)
        1 x durable dog tyre - about £5. Specially designed tyre shaped dog for general games but also extremely durable for chewing purposes.
        1 x frisbee (free in Puppy Pack!) - he loves chasing this around.
        FOOD:
        You'll need special puppy food if you get a dog under 12 months of age.

        Wilf is fed on a mixture of Bakers Complete Puppy mix (dry food) and Pedigree Puppy mix (dry food) mixed in with either the Pedigree pouches or the tinned meat. (Both puppy versions of course). This is to provide the ideal nutrients needed for a growing puppy. As a rough guide. A 5kg bag of Pedigree Puppy Mix costs about £5.20 from supermarkets while 3 tins of puppy meat costs about £1.50. (As a general guide, I put about a handful and a bit of dry food in with either half a pouch or just short of a quarter of a tin of meat for each meal). So he goes through 2 pouches a day in addition to dry food or about a tin a day with the dry food.

        TREATS:
        Wilf adores Pedigree Gravy Bones (and the Milk Bones variety). He's also keen on the choccy drops (for dogs), Dentastix (designed to help clean dogs teeth but also helps the pupster with teething!), pigs ears (again, helps with teething), in fact, he'll eat ANTHING to be honest! Treats can be as little as about 50p for a small bag of doggy choccy drops or chews through to £3 or so for larger 'chew' type things.

        He also adores icecubes. Especially when the weather is hot! He loves batting them around the yard with his paws but also likes chewing them. I should imagine they feel nice on his gums. He always looks bemused when they melt too. Bless him!!

        OTHERS:
        Don't forget you'll also need things like blankets, bowls, a collar, a lead, a kennel (if you choose to use one) and a cage (also if you choose to use one).


        VETERINARY INFO

        Vaccinations can cost anywhere between £15 and £30 per jab. So you're looking at £30-£60 just to get your puppy safe to go out and about. Then he'll need a booster (just one) every year for the rest of his life.

        Border Collies, being the extremely alert and inquisitive type can get themselves into some scrapes.

        Microchipping generally costs between £25 and £40 (generally depends on the Vets you take your dog to to get him/her done).

        Don't forget that human chocolate should NEVER be given to a dog. It contains a chemical called theobromine which is toxic to dogs. You can of course give your dog special choccy drops designed for dogs as a treat but give in moderation.


        CONCLUSION

        Although puppys of any kind are hard work, Border Collies remain hard work pretty much all their lives because of their endless amounts of energy. Having said this, if you're an active person/family and aren't out at work all day, I would definitely recommend this breed.

        I've not looked back from getting Wilf. Even when he has had me up at 2am to let him go for a wee (only happened the once though)!

        My partner and I are considering getting another border collie puppy in a few weeks time so Wilf will always have a similarly aged companion too (after all, dogs are sociable creatures). Whether we will or not I don't know. There are a lot of practicalities to way up first. In the meantime though, Wilf is a happy little puppy whom we both absolutely adore!

        Photos can be found over on Ciao for the "awwww" factor!
        (http://www.ciao.co.uk/Border_Collie__Review_5521314)

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        • Nokia 7250i / Mobile Phone / 49 Readings / 42 Ratings
          More +
          21.07.2005 15:24
          Very helpful
          (Rating)
          9 Comments

          Advantages

          Disadvantages

          Easy to use, nice looking phone, camera with nightmode and radio

          (Here goes, my first review after deciding to give Dooyoo another go....)

          Well, following my last mobile phone review dated September 9th 2003, I titled that “Sarah_Louise turns her back on Nokia!!”. I had just bought a Sagem MYX5 – my first colour mobile phone. I thought it was the bee’s knee’s and gave it 5 stars. That soon changed though. Shortly after I bought this mobile, camera mobiles became the new “in” thing. The were out when I bought the Sagem MYX5 but they were pretty new and were hence VERY expensive. I didn’t need one. I had a digital camera. None of my friends had one either so who would I send the pictures to? And of course it costs quite a bit to send photo messages. All of these points meant that I really didn’t WANT a camera phone.

          Now camera phones are all over the place, wherever you look, there’s someone taking a photo with their phone! And now of course there is also video phones too.

          It was time to upgrade. I can never afford to buy a “top of the range” mobile and I am never too bothered about this either. So long as my mobiles do their job and look relatively stylish then I’m happy!

          So, Sarah_Louise decided it was time to revert back to Nokia. Having started with a Nokia many years ago (a 5110), I must admit, I’d missed being a non-Nokia girl! I started shopping around for a Nokia (within my budget (£100 was my absolute maximum)) that had everything I currently wanted from a phone. For a start, my new phone HAD to have a camera. It also HAD to be able to play the radio. After my sister upgraded to the Nokia 8310 with a radio function shortly after I’d got my Sagem I must admit, I was mightily impressed with the quality of it! She was on contract though so she got it for free! So, I had quite a small list of “must have’s” really. However, not all that many phones have a radio function so this limited my choice somewhat considering I was on a limited budget.

          I finally decided that a Nokia 7250i was the way to go. They were selling fairly cheaply (£89.99) in Currys/Dixons/etc. now so I thought I’d give it a go. I actually ended up buying one off eBay (it was a bargain at £80 on Buy it Now basis!) but that’s besides the point.



          = = = Why did I want a new mobile? = = =

          Well although I didn’t NEED a camera phone. You know how it is. You can’t afford to stay TOO far behind in technological terms – you have to keep at least relatively up to date with these things. As I mentioned earlier, of course video phones are now out and will soon be as common as muck but for the time being, a mere camera phone will be sufficient for me.

          I have a digital camera anyway so I knew I would never NEED to use the camera on my phone but I did like the idea of always having it with me. You never know when you might want to take a photo!

          Also, as mentioned earlier, I quite fancied the idea of a phone that you could play the radio on. Having listened to my sisters’ old phone, I was confident that I’d be happy with the radio function on the 7250i.


          = = = Why choose a Nokia 7250i? = = =

          Well as previously mentioned, I was on a budget to buy a phone for under £100. Yet I still wanted snazzy features, namely the camera and radio. If you check out the Nokia range (or indeed any make) you’ll find that phones that have a radio function aren’t actually all that common. Indeed, there weren’t any other mobiles under £100 that had this function AND a camera.

          Basically, I wanted a light phone, good looking, possibility to change the front and back covers, decent polyphonic ring tone selection, a game or two for extra boring train journeys up and down the country, a camera (and obviously colour screen) and of course the radio function. All for under £100.

          The Nokia 7250i fitted all of the above specifications perfectly. They were in the region of around £250 when they first hit the shops and were pretty much picked up by those on contract deals at the time. So I thought that they must be pretty good phones to have ever been worth that amount of money.



          = = = What’s the Nokia 7250i got to offer then? = = =

          Well of course, being originally worth £250, these phones do have quite a lot to offer. (Certainly a LOT to offer for when they first came out anyway!) For those in a hurry, firstly I’ll just list them, I’ll then go into a little more detail for those of you who are actually interested in buying this phone.


          ~ Features and Specifications ~

          · XHTML Browser (over WAP Stack)
          · Integrated digital camera
          · MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service)
          · Tri-band phone works in three networks on five continents (will work in the USA)
          · Downloadable personal applications via Java™ technology
          · GPRS (General Packet Radio Service)
          · HSCSD (High-Speed Circuit-Switched Data)
          · Image Uploader
          · Wallet over XHTML
          · Stereo FM radio
          · Handsfree speaker
          · Customizable and timed profiles
          · Polyphonic ringing tones
          · Wallpaper: Full screen colour image
          · Changeable colour schemes
          · Screen saver: Digital clock
          · Clock, alarm clock
          · Calculator, currency converter
          · Stopwatch, countdown timer
          · Connectivity options: IR and cable

          1 - Messages
          Within this menu, you can create a message using the original text typing or use the text predictor (T9 dictionary). I personally have never ‘got on’ with any kind of predictive text system and find it much quicker to just type out the message without this function turned on. One great thing about the 7250i when compared with my old Sagem phone is that it remembers your setting. I.e. when I go to compose a message now it remembers that I didn’t use the predictive text system last time and hence doesn’t come on automatically now. Whereas each time I went to compose a message on my old phone it always started up in dictionary mode so I had to manually turn off the T9 dictionary each time.
          With the 7250i, you can send texts as emails too should you desire. I can’t comment on how good this is as I’ve never done it. I’ll have to try it sometime and let you know!

          Obviously the other menus within the Messages menu is that of Inbox, Archive (you can save unsent messages in here) and you also have a Sent folder (comes in quite handy sometimes!)

          You can store up to 150 normal text messages in your Inbox or up to 50 picture messages. This should be ample for everyone – anyone who needs more space than this has FAR too many friends! :-P


          2 - Call Register
          As with other Nokia’s and indeed all other mobiles I’ve ever used, this is fairly standard and it just keeps a record of missed calls, received calls and dialled calls as well as recording the length of your last calls and calculating the total length of all calls, received calls and dialled calls. If you’re on PAYG, you can also have it show you how much the cost of your last call cost too.

          3 - Contacts
          I’m not sure how this compares with other Nokia’s as my first Nokia didn’t have this menu option at all (well before its time!) However, basically the proviso over this menu is that you can put the people in your phone book into contact groups, e.g. friends, family, colleagues, etc. You can create and/or rename any caller groups and assign pictures or even photos to them so you can ‘see’ who’s calling you. Very good idea in principle but I really can’t be bothered assigning photos to everyone in my phonebook, especially given that I very rarely see half of the people in there in order to get a photo of them anyway!

          4 - Profiles
          My last Nokia had this menu so I’m assuming its been around for quite some time. In case any of you don’t really know what it is/does, basically it just allows you to have different usage settings for your phone. E.g. which ringtone you want and at what volume for certain circumstances. E.g. “normal”, “meeting”, “outside”, etc. You can customize it to suit and its very easy to switch between different modes. E.g. I just put it onto Silent mode when I’m in work, have it on General mode for every other time and would occasionally have it on Loud mode when I’m outside and somewhere busy/noisy where I need the volume turned up. All pretty self explanatory really.

          5 - Settings
          You can change the wallpaper, colour schemes and whatnot in this menu. Again, I can’t compare this to other Nokia’s but my Sagem had very similar functions, just with less choice of wallpapers. There’s quite a high choice of wallpapers but I can’t tell you exactly how many you get on as standard as I bought this phone second hand so some of the ones I have access to may well have been downloaded from elsewhere.

          6 - Radio
          Yes, one of the main reasons for me buying this one! There are 20 programmable slots so you can pick your favourite stations and then when reception goes funny on one, quickly flick to the next.
          The handsfree set included with the phone works as your headphones for the radio. Without these plugged into your phone, you will not be able to turn the radio on. Once you’ve got the radio turned on however, you can switch to loudspeaker mode and hence you don’t have to actually wear the headphones. If you have the genuine Nokia headset then theres a very handy little button which you can press on the headset itself that switches between radio stations. I didn’t realise this until I accidentally pressed it and wondered what sort of damage I’d done only to be pleasantly surprised to find that I’d just switched stations!!
          One thing to note here is that the phone still works perfectly normally while you’re listening to the radio. I must admit, I did wonder whether you could still receive/send calls and messages while in this mode. I assumed you would be able to do but I really wasn’t sure. I can now assure you that this is possible and very easy. The radio turns itself off automatically when you make/receive a call and it also is interrupted by the message tone you set when you receive a message.

          P.S. you can even set the radio to go off as your alarm - just remember to have your hands free plugged into the phone!

          7 - Camera
          Apparently, this is (or certainly was) one of Nokia’s best cameras with very high resolution. Once the picture has been taken, you can rename it, zoom in and move around the picture or set it as your wallpaper.
          One thing you should be aware of here is that when you see the phone being marketed as having a zoom function. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is for actually taking the photos themselves. This is NOT the case. What it means by this is just that you can zoom in on the photo once you’ve taken it. A little pointless really but I suppose some people may find a use for it!
          Now, another reason why I chose this phone over other mobiles with camera functions is that the 7250i is one of the very few phones (and certainly the only one under £100) that has “night mode”. As a “ghost hunter” its absolutely essential that I have a camera that works in low-light conditions! ;-) I am of course just joking here, I don’t use my phone whilst on investigations as the quality simply isn’t good enough for that purpose but I must admit, I have tested out this night mode function just out of interest. Its good but not great. I took three photos. One with the lights on, one with the lights off and camera in normal mode and then one with the lights off with the camera switched onto night mode. Although the quality wasn’t overly great with the one taken in the low-light conditions with the night mode on, it was quite clear that the night mode had definitely kicked in when I compared it to the other one. Another thing to note here though is that the camera does NOT have a flash so you won’t see a thing if it is very dark. You do need at least some ambient light.

          8 - Gallery
          This is where your photos are stored. There are 3 folders within this section:

          ~Photos~
          Self explanatory really! You can view, zoom in, edit, rename, etc. your photos in this section.

          ~Graphics~
          There are a number of pre-loaded images but they’re not overly exciting. More can be downloaded if you so desire.

          ~Tones~
          Here you’ll find the larger ringtones and those that you’ve downloaded/been sent. There is a large selection of tones to choose from but I must say, none are exactly thrilling so I would recommend you either download some or get yourself a data cable. (More on this later).

          9 - Organiser
          This menu houses your alarm clock, calendar and to-do list. I use the alarm clock and calendar and they're very useful. The calendar is great (especially when you save someone's birthday-you can enter their year of birth and it tells you how old they'll be on that birthday) I was also surprised and pleased that old dates can be viewed too and reminders and notes are also saved once the day has passed. Although not used a great deal, I can certainly see me using this in future. (I’m very forgetful!) ;o)
          One slight niggle here is that you have to turn the alarm clock on each time you wish to use it. Although it does remember what time you last had it set for. However, my old mobile remembered the time AND that I had the alarm turned on for that time each day. Granted, I had to turn it off each time I didn’t use it and it did prove annoying on the occasions that I forgot to turn it off and was hence woken up by it. But I still think this is better than having to turn the alarm on each day. I use the alarm clock function daily so I have to remember to turn it on again each night. I forgot completely on one of the first days that I had this new phone as I was so used to my old phone remembering that I wanted the alarm to go off in the morning. Thankfully my mum gets up early so she was up in time to wake me up for work that morning!

          The alarm works even if you turn the phone off overnight (very handy!) and it also still works when you have your phone in Silent mode. There is also the good-old Snooze function (very useful indeed!)

          10 - Games
          On this phone, you'll find two games preloaded:

          ~Bounce~
          This is a maze type game where you direct a ball over and under walls, past spiky obstacles, spikes, etc. Its very logical and not overly easy to start with. Although granted, I have only played this for a few minutes. I kept dying! I’m sure it’ll come with practise though.

          ~Triple Pop~
          This is quite a good game, I can’t remember the name of what it reminds me of but it is VERY similar to a PlayStation game that my sister has. If you like strategy games then you’ll enjoy this. Basically you have a small circle onto which colourful balls are fired from the sides of the screen. You have to rotate the circle to join the balls of the same colour. Join three and they evaporate. Vaguely reminiscent of Tetris I suppose, just working in a circular motion as opposed to a vertical one!

          11 - Applications
          The only application I have is converter (called Converter II so I don’t know whether this is an upgraded version?) I suppose it might come in handy occasionally but I’ve yet to use it. It does have a quite wide selection of possible conversions, including currency, temperatures, length, area, volume and weight.

          12 - Extras
          Here you have your calculator, countdown timer, stopwatch, wallet (it took me a while to learn what exactly the point in this was. Basically it’s a place to store your credit card numbers and other personal details. It is password protected function obviously and enables you to make payments with your phone. I haven’t used this and won’t be doing either. It doesn’t sound overly sensible to me! There is also something called Synchronisation in this menu. I’m not entirely sure what this does though to be honest. I can tell you it has something to do with the Internet though as it mentions a few things in the Settings part of this section. As I don’t use the Internet on my phone, I won’t be needing it. I’m sure its very useful for those who do and for those who can figure out what it is though!

          13 - Connectivity
          Here you can activate your Infra-red and GPRS connections. It’s easy to turn either of them on but I’ve never used either so I can’t comment on how good they are. My PC doesn’t have an infra-red port so I shall be using the data cable instead. (Again, more on this later).

          14 - Services
          Again, this is to do with using the Internet where you can set things like your Bookmarks and Homepage and whatnot. I’ve never tried using the Internet on my phone though.

          15 - Go To
          This menu's quite useful as it has shortcuts you'll often need to use. These are:

          Contacts
          Radio
          Multimedia Inbox
          Create MMS (a multimedia message)
          Inbox

          It also enables you to switch between the 2 main profiles:
          General
          Silent


          = = = Ease of Use = = =

          The phone is very easy to use. I must admit though, although I never thought I’d forget how to use a Nokia (i.e. just the menu buttons and remembering that the left hand menu button means “Select” while the right means “Exit” (generally) but in comparison to the Sagem which is pretty much the exact opposite, I must admit that when I first got the 7250i, I was exiting and selecting things I didn’t mean to do! Incidentally, I have now well and truly got the hang of it again though. I’ve recently sold my old Sagem on eBay and I was just deleting the messages I’d stored in the phone memory before I post the phone off to the highest bidders and I was getting in a real muddle again because I was exiting things I meant to be selecting! It subsequently took me a LONG time because I’ve never been very good at keeping on top of my messages, I let them build up for months!


          = = = Reception Quality = = =

          A friend of mine phoned me a few days after I’d got my new phone, which was handy because I rarely use my mobile to actually make calls (far too expensive usually!) The reception seemed about normal to me to be honest. As I’ve only spoken on it the one time its difficult to judge it properly. It certainly wasn’t bad quality by any stretch of the imagination. The reception in the room I took the call in was pretty much perfect!

          As with 99% of mobiles these days, the aerial is an internal one so it doesn’t get in the way!


          = = = Battery Life = = =

          So far, so good! I’ve only charged my phone 3 times and I’ve had it a number of weeks now. And one of those times wasn’t really necessary, I just charged it to make sure it was brimming over with fresh charge as I knew I may well need to call on the battery power to the full extreme – in other words I was heading for a loooong car journey up to Newcastle so I thought I’d need to keep myself entertained by playing the games! As it happened, we drained another one of the Committee members’ phones instead as we decided to play a game of Monopoly on her phone (4 player!) lol.


          = = = Connectability = = =

          (For some reason or another, MS Word is telling me that the word “Connectability” doesn’t exist, but I assure you, it DOES exist in Sarah_Louise language!) :-)

          For the first time in my mobile usage history, I’ve actually purchased a method of connecting my phone to the PC. I bought a data cable (also off eBay) seeing as my computer doesn’t have an infra red port. I also bought an extra Nokia customisation CD ROM off eBay which has loads of wallpapers, tones, games, etc. It works out MUCH cheaper doing this than downloading them conventionally off the Internet or indeed phoning or texting those premium rate numbers.

          You can also view the photo’s you took using the data cable and PC suites. I have only downloaded the trial version of the software I use though so I haven’t been able to download the photos I’ve taken onto the PC as yet.


          = = = Good points = = =

          What I like about this phone, apart from its ease of use, small compact size, lightweight and generally good looking is the fact its so easy to personalise and individualise it. Not only can you change the front and back covers but you can change the screen savers, logos, ring tones, etc, etc. There’s so many different things which you can set to personalise it you’re unlikely to run into another Nokia phone with exactly the same settings as yours (and, given that there are a LOT of other Nokia phones out there, this is quite impressive!)

          Facia’s are cheap and relatively easy to pick up. Check out eBay. I’ve just bought a few on there which have all been under £5. (Genuine Nokia ones tend to be anywhere between £10 and £20 though).

          Naturally I have to rate the radio function highly on this phone, the quality is VERY good. Well, it is when you have good reception anyway of course. National stations such as Radio 1 I find are generally excellent quality in most places, however, not all. I currently walk someones dog for them at lunchtimes, they live on the West shore of Llandudno so I take the dog for an hours walk along the beach and up along the sand dunes. Its hardly out “in the sticks” in comparison to many areas of North Wales but it just will not pick up Radio 1 here. It does however pick up the local radio station perfectly.

          The camera can be both deemed “great” and “cr*p” at the same time. It depends what you’re comparing it to. By todays terms, I guess the camera is far from great. The Sagem MYX7 (about 4 phones up in the line from my old Sagem) for example has a camera with a 1.3 mega pixel display. This is extremely high quality.

          I must admit, I was a little disappointed when I first took a photo with my 7250i but I was pleasantly surprised when I viewed the photos on the PC. They are actually a lot better quality than they appeared on the phone. Overall I’d give the camera a thumbs up.


          = = = Bad Points = = =

          As previously mentioned, the fact that you have to turn the alarm clock on every time you wish to use it can be problematical for forgetful people like me! But then on the same hand, I suppose it means you don’t get woken up when you don’t need to be! I got grumbled at just a few months back when we were down in Cardiff conducting an investigation in a private house that we’d been called to. We had a TV Producer with us on the investigation to ‘shadow’ us to see exactly what we do as he’s hoping to be making a series about the paranormal shortly. Conveniently he lived in Cardiff and lived in a huge house so as a ‘thank you’ for letting him attend, he let us all crash at his house for a few hours (and provided a very nice brekkie for when we got up too might I add!) But anyway, so there was the Committee all crashing in this one (rather large!) bedroom. We’d got back to his house at about 6am and I’d got up at about 7:30am the morning prior so of course my alarm woke everyone up at that time when we’d been up all night. Oops!!

          There is just one other thing I've noticed about this phone that I've never had with any previous phone. That is that when I drop the phone (not from any great height, but you know how it is, sometimes they get knocked off the desk or something, don't they?) Well, this phone tells me that the SIM is not inserted. I have to switch the phone off and then back on again to correct this problem. No big deal as that is all I have to do. I don't have to actually fiddle around with the SIM itself but none of my other phones have said that, despite facing much larger drops!

          Other than that, I really don’t have any gripes with the 7250i to be honest. Not yet anyway!


          = = = Conclusion = = =

          All in all, this phone gets top marks from me!

          As I said, I got this phone off eBay for £80. You can probably pick up some other bargains on there if you so desired, I just went through a Buy it Now to save me faffing around with bidding on this occasion.

          I’d give the phone a 9/10 rating. Or a 4/5 rating if we’re going off Dooyoo terms!

          = = = Links = = =

          For full specifications and information about the phone please see the official Nokia website here:
          http://www.nokia.com/nokia/0,8764,27399,00.html
          (That page will take you straight to the Nokia 7250i pages).

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          • General / Discussion / 24 Readings / 48 Ratings
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            29.06.2004 19:57
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            Heil Jill Murphy for coming up with this ?challenge? (of sorts!) Who was I to turn this opportunity down? Here?s what she had to say.... ?I thought we might all like to play lazy debating. So here are a few issues for you to think about - and write about. By filling this in, we get to distil our views into just one paragraph. I rather like this idea, because I am a lazy opinionator, who doesn't like to plan or research, but just likes to type as the mood takes her. I have lots of strong opinions on current debates, but I'm just too lazy to sit and properly structure an entire piece on any of them. A few gut reactions in one paragraph is a format that suits me fine. So, here goes?? ● Do you believe in life after death? I would love to say that I did believe in life after death. I'd love to be able to believe wholeheartedly. Having such a strong belief in this topic must be very reassuring, being able to live your life "knowing" you'll never actually die... Sadly I can't. I do believe that there MAY be something after death but I don't believe this with 100% certainty. I'm fascinated with the whole field though (hence I started a paranormal research group to look into paranormal phenomena scientifically. http://www.nwpr.org.uk [sorry but I couldn't resist a personal plug!]). As of yet, I've not experienced/got evidence of anything that proves life after death with any certainty. We have however captured some strange footage (genuinely strange, not just the orb cr*p you see on the TV!) There is certainly a lot more to this world than meets the eye and a lot is (as yet) unexplainable. But is this life after death? Time will tell I suppose! ● Should smoking be banned in public places? I don't think so, no. Despite not being a smoker myself, I have no problem with anyone else smoking. (A
            lthough I'd much rather my mum didn't for her own health). I must admit, I don't enjoy breathing in other peoples' smoke in a public place but as long as they don't go out of their way to breath in your general direction (e.g. enforcement of "smoking" and "non smoking" zones in Pubs, restaurants, etc) then I don't see that it should be banned. ● Is capital punishment wrong? This is a tricky one. I'm not sure what I believe on this one to be honest. On the one hand I'd say "yes" while on the other I verge towards "no". Of course it?s not a pleasant thought to think of people being killed for committing a crime (often 'petty' crimes in other countries too). But at the end of the day, imagine someone murdered your mother, father, brother, sister or children. The murder was awful, you saw it with your own eyes. You only just escaped death yourself. Would you not want to see that person punished in the harshest way possible? I know I would. I wouldn't feel guilty about it either. So long as I knew with 100% certainty that the person being punished was the guilty party. ● Should cannabis be legalized? Yes! I've never tried it personally but I don't see any harm in legalizing it. Much like cigarettes and alcohol. It's a form of "recreation" in the 21st century so why not go the whole hog and legalize it? Hell, just legalize the whole drugs scene. There are ALWAYS going to be people using drugs, no matter how dangerous they may be or indeed whether they are illegal or not. People will always overdose and indeed die from this "recreation" but by legalizing them, I fail to see how this would prove to be any more problematical as it is currently. People die all the time through smoking related illnesses, in drunken brawls and other such similar forms of ?recreation?. I dare say the dr
            ugs scene is no more dangerous. It would be less dangerous if it was all made legal as it?s the dealers you have to be careful of these days. Sensible use/distribution/rules associated with drug usage (e.g. not allowing people to inject themselves in public places for instance) would be sufficient in my opinion. Those who want to try drugs will try them whether they are illegal or not. ● Is beauty only skin deep? Hell no! Traditionally "beautiful" people may well be indeed beautiful and pleasing to the eye but at the end of the day, would you want to spend the rest of your life surrounded by people who are as thick as two short planks and extremely vain, spend ALL their time shopping for make up and have no interest in anything other than Maybeline? Of course such "beautiful" people can be intelligent and have lovely personalities but the same goes for less "beautiful" people too. Personality is what counts in the long-run. ● Do animals have rights? Of course they do!! This is something I feel EXTREMELY strongly about. Having been a HUGE animal lover all of my life, I really do find it difficult to comprehend how people can treat animals cruely. Deliberate cruelty is a major pet-hate of mine. I really can't begin to explain what I'd like to do to such people that inflict such cruelty on animals. (Lets just say it could not be aired on TV!) When it comes to animal testing, I disagree with it. I completely disagree with testing makeup, shampoo, washing powder, etc, etc. on animals. I also disagree with testing drugs and medicines on animals. I'm not saying that we shouldn't aim to test such products in one way or another before applying them to humans but I really don't think animals should be used for this purpose. Not only is it cruel to the animals involved but it is also (largely) a pointless routine.
            The vast majority of drugs testing is useless on animals because (quite logically), animals and their metabolisms are VERY different to that of humans. Granted, chimpanzee's are 97% the same as us genetically but their appearance should be enough to show that each % counts for a dramatic difference. (After all, we don't look ALL that similar to chimpanzee's do we? And that?s just the outside appearance!!) Another large gripe I have with such testing is the doses used. Why give a guinea pig 1000 times the daily dosage limit (recommended for humans) to see if it harms the guinea pig? OF COURSE IT WILL! It you're giving it 1000 times the daily dosage limit recommended for humans then it will MANGLE the guinea pig. Ok, so you've proved that it's not a good idea to over-dose on the product but what have you achieved? All drugs will do us harm if we overdose on them so what is the point in testing the theory time and time again? With advances in science, it would be far better to test the products on what they are going to be used by. I.e. humans. I know I'd volunteer if the opportunity arose. I'd not really have any qualms about dying through such testing because we'd be closely monitored. They'd not overdose us by 1000 times the daily limit just to see what it does to us then, would they? Of course not. Because we're not animals after all, are we? <rolls eyes> (sorry but I feel strongly about this!) ● Does Britain still need a monarchy? Ummm, I've never been sure on how to answer this one. I don't really have any strong feelings either way to be honest. The monarchy don't do me any harm so I see no harm in them staying around for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, what have they done for us exactly? (Lately I mean). ● Should fox hunting be banned in England and Wales? In a word, YES. As I'm sure you ha
            ve gathered from the previous animal question, I really hate animal cruelty of any kind. And ripping a fox to pieces is a form of cruelty. I don't care how many huntsmen and women tell me that the hounds kill the fox quickly and that it doesn't suffer. I really don't believe this AT ALL. Indeed, not just fox hunting should be banned. All hunting for recreation and "commercialised" hunting should be banned. I don't have a problem with a farmer shooting an animal that is deemed to be a pest if it is going to kill his/her livestock but any other kind of hunting should be banned. The whole fox hunting field is a bit of a farce really. Like I say, I see no problem in killing the odd fox if it is being a pest but claiming that they are doing the nation good because foxes are pests is just stupid. Since when did 20 or so riders, chasing after a fox with a pack of dogs, letting the dogs rip it to pieces and then smearing the poor animals' blood over the riders do the nation any good? The pests still remain. Of course there is the theory of "survival of the fittest" and that hence a lot of the animals killed in such hunting instances are older or ill foxes but NOT all. It's just a ludicrous form of "pest control" for horse riders to have a bit of fun with. I'm a horse rider myself. In fact the yard that I help out at (and have done for 8 years now) has some horses that go hunting. The yards' owner and two of her children participate in hunting occasionally. It's one thing that I refuse to participate in. (NB. for the majority of the time they don't hunt though, it?s not predominantly a hunting yard). And do they hate foxes or think they're pests or take joy out of seeing animals being ripped to shreds? NO. The only reason they go hunting is because of the enjoyment factor from the riding perspective. I must admit, galloping over open c
            ountryside, jumping over hedges, trotting through a village with a load of other horses, through streams, etc, etc. would be great fun and indeed a real adrenaline rush. I'd do it myself, if it weren't for the outcome.... So they just do it for the fun factor. I?m sure there are many others who are the same. So what exactly is the point in killing a fox at the end of it all? ● Should Britain join the Euro? I don't know to be honest. I don't know enough about the whole Euro debate to answer this properly to be honest. I have no strong feelings either way. ● Should all fire arms be banned for private use? No. My dad owns fire arms (and has done most of his life!) He was brought up on a farm and so has been brought up around guns. He developed an interest in them at an early age and as soon as he was old enough to own a gun himself, he trained for his fire arms certificate and bought a gun. He now owns a couple. He's a responsible person though and keeps them locked away securely. (You have to have the Police out to check your house and where/how you plan to keep them so they're perfectly happy with this). He uses the guns to shoot at targets in a local gun club and he also uses it on a friends' farm. (Much to my disgust. He knows I disagree with it but he doesn't listen!) So, I can of course only speak for my father. I see no reason to ban them. He's not done anyone any harm. Shooting animals that are pests on a farm is useful to the farmer and shooting at targets at a local gun club is a hobby. Just like me and my horse riding. Should I be banned from keeping a horse? However, I do think there should be tighter/stricter controls on fire arms. It IS easy to gain a certificate and indeed purchase a gun. It should be made harder in my opinion. This would, if nothing else, put off the yobs that obtain guns for a bit of &quo
            t;fun". As for those idiots who go around shooting wildlife (of the non-pest variety) or indeed peoples pets or people they come across in the street for "a laugh". Well the same should be done to them in my opinion. Simple as that. ● What is your opinion on legal prostitution? I see no harm in it to be honest. Much like the cannabis question earlier. It's always going to occur so why no legalize it? Who is it harming? (NB. of course those participating in prostitution are taking risks but who else does it harm?) On the whole they don't do anyone any harm other than themselves. (Naturally sexually transmitted diseases are liable to spread). But they'd do that now when prostitution is illegal anyway. With legalization (just like drugs), the industry could be regulated properly. ● Are we living in rip off Britain? Definitely! (Or so I'm told!) I've never actually been abroad (yet!) but I've heard all about prices abroad. I think its disgusting the prices we're charged for practically everything. My friend has recently moved over to the US to work as a groom, she's been telling me about how much cheaper everything is over there. I'm seriously considering joining her! ● What is your opinion on pornography? Again, I have no problem with it personally. What people get up to in their own time is of no consequence to me. Looking at pornography doesn't generally do anyone any harm. And taking part in pornography - well I suppose it?s a job! Each to their own on that one I suppose. Child pornography or that where one (or more!) people are not consenting is not right though. ● Is genetically modified food right? Technically I could write a whole essay on this! Having studied A-level Environmental Science (I did my exams yesturday!) We've studied GM
            crops in quite a bit of detail, looking at the moral and ethical aspects to it as opposed to the financial aspect. I also studied A-level Biology two years ago so I've also studied it back then from a biology angle. So.... Q: Is genetically modified food right? A: I don't know! (Of course that wouldn't get my 30 marks in my exam(s)). However, the fact is, NO one knows for sure. GM crops are still new to this world. We do not know what effects GM crops will have on the natural environment. We do not know how many knock-on effects such meddling with nature will have on the environment. We don't know what they will do if GM crops cross pollinate with non-GM crops. We also don't know what would happen if the 10th generation of GM crops will not suddenly start developing some chemical that is toxic to humans. We don't know what such crops will do to our insides in the long run. Until that day comes, no one will know for sure whether GM crops are right or not. Until that day, we can only speculate. However I'd personally edge on the side of caution, we all know what feeding the remains of sheep and other carcasses to cattle can do.... And who would have thought the effects would have been that dramatic? Time will tell I guess....

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            • More +
              09.06.2004 02:32
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              Well Sarah_Louise is about to embark on something completely new to herself. Something so new she's starting to feel nervous. Like the feeling you get just before going into an exam. You know that "I'm never going to be able to pass this off, I don't know enough about the subject!!" kind of feeling you get? You see I have never written a review on a car in my life. In fact I've only owned a car for a couple of months of my life. (Which goes someway to explaining why I've never reviewed one before!) As those of you who read my "Anything that begins with L..." opinion will be aware that I passed my driving test back on January 7th 2004. I went a number of weeks (just over a month in fact) before I got my first car though. I was going to buy my own (second hand) car until my dad suggested buying a new car. At first I looked shocked and enquired how on earth he thought I could afford that. (I'm a student after all!) He had a number of reason's for suggesting this option to me. Namely: (a) A new car would last me longer than a second hand car that has the potential to have problems with it (and no guarantee....) (b) Some companies offered free insurance deals for the first year. It was this latter point that swayed me! You see as a new driver under the age of 21, insurance for the first year was working out between £980-£1500 ish. So on top of the price I'd be paying for a relatively decent second hand car I'd still be pretty skint just getting the bloomin' thing insured! My dad certainly had a valid point here. So, it was time to look into which companies offered free insurance for your first year. Dad found that quite a few offered this deal but most seemed to be for drivers ov
              er 21 years of age. I'm 20 which meant I'd have to wait till November 8th before I could claim these. There was no way I could wait that long to get a car! However, dad continued looking/asking around and found that Vauxhall offered the deal for people aged over 19. In fact it was great timing as Vauxhall was just embarking on their free insurance deals on Corsa's (a car I actually liked!). So that was that. I was to buy a Corsa. Or rather my dad was to buy it for me and I'm to pay him back over x number of years to suit my income. (My dads nice like that) :-) So, enough of the background info. Onto the scary bit. This is the bit when I actually have to talk about the car itself. EEK! I don't know the first thing about engines or anything like that so I may make the worlds worst car reviewer of all time but you can't blame a gal for trying! My car is a 3 door, Corsa Life 1.0 litre. I didn't really need any bigger engine (or indeed car). So long as it got me from A to B safely and effectively, I really didn't mind. Corsa's have recently undergone a minor alteration, mainly in the front bumper being restyled and the lights at the back changing slightly in shape and position. You might want to double check your Vauxhall garage has the latest one's in stock as I believe some are still selling off the "old" shape. Vauxhall are generally offering 3 door hatchbacks from £8360. (Or 5 door versions from £9020). But it is well worth shopping around for the best deal. My dad seems to enjoy haggling (something I personally HATE doing) so he's always a useful man to have around when you're shopping around for a bargain too! As an example, here's what it cost us (well
              him technically, so far at least!): (Barring in mind that my current car (Corsa 1.0l 12v 3 door hatchback) is advertised at £8360.00) Our deal worked out as follows: £6200 + VAT with metallic paint thrown in for free. (I have "Breeze Blue" metallic paint which would normally set you back a further £325 in itself). Not to mention 1 years free insurance, 3 years free AA and warranty. All in all, had I bought this at the listed price, spent the extra £325 for the metallic paint (something I wasn't bothered about until they said they'd throw it in for free!) it would have set me back £8685. Add about £1000 to insure me on top of that alongside the AA cover and we're talking nearly £10,000! So I'm sure you will agree, a VERY decent saving! And how did my dad manage it? He simply phoned two garages. He worked them against one another until one of them (incidentally the one just up the road from us!) came up with the best deal (i.e. they phoned a couple of days later to say they had a car on the forecourt waiting for pick-up and it was in metallic blue....) Who were we to turn that down? The other garage had dropped their price by £2000 ish too by the end but as this garage was up in Lancashire it would have required us to go up there and would have required me to drive back on my own from that area to North Wales on my own as my mum can't drive. The only way around it was either we went on the train (i.e. I took my dad with me so he could direct me on how the hell I was meant to get home!) or persuade the garage to deliver. They did actually offer to deliver it for us but like I say, the £325 worth of free metallic paint swayed us to stick with the local garage. (Vauxhall Slaters in Col
              wyn Bay if you're interested). Like I said earlier, I wasn't at all bothered about metallic paint (in fact I'd not even looked at what metallic colours they offered). Ideally I wanted a car in Aruba Blue (can anyone guess what my favourite colour is?) but at least metallic paint will retain the value of the car a little later in life when I decide to sell/part ex it. Here's a picture of the car I have (from the Vauxhall website): http://www.vauxhall.com/repositories/images/VehicleLargeColour/ 7;orsa/corsa_life_3dr_breeze-blue_2004.jpg? My car has the standard "Orleans Charcoal cloth" interior and has the usual dark grey/black plastic interior trimmings. The Corsa Life has a number of useful key features that come as standard. These include: ~ Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) ~ Remote control central locking ~ Electrically operated front windows ~ CDR 2005 stereo radio/CD player ~ Speed-sensitive electric power steering ~ Door-to door illumination ~ Rear window wash/wipe ~ Body side-protection mouldings ~ Front body-lock seatbelt pretensioners As any self respecting young person should do, I had to check the sound system was decent! Like the specs above state, a CD player comes as standard in this car (woohoo!). Another nifty addition to this car is that there are volume switches, switches to change between a CD/radio and a switch to change between radio stations (pre-tuned might I add with all the main BBC stations, the local station(s) and the likes of Classic FM). All these can be found on the steering wheel which not only looks rather swanky but its also extremely useful (and far more safe)
              compared with having to look around and fiddle around while you're driving. I won't list ALL the standard features as you can find these for yourself on the website or in the brochures. Instead, I'll just list some of the standard features that aren't always found in some cars: ~ Multi-function display panel showing time, date, audio information and outside air temperature (with ice warning function) ~ Drinks holder and coin holders in centre console ~ Dipping rear-view mirror (which incidentally works REALLY well) ~ Security code protection for audio equipment ~ Hinged luggage compartment cover Any many other seemingly unimportant features that are actually VERY useful. Not to mention such things as: ~ Driver's seatbelt force limiter ~ Driver's airbag ~ Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) ~ Side-impact protection beams And many other safety features that could well save your life. For those interested in technical details, the car can reach a maximum speed of 96mph (NB. I've not tested this personally!). It takes 15 secs to accelerate from 0-60mph. Now as this is my first car and I've only ever driven two cars before in my driving lessons (I switched driving schools half way through), I really don't have anything to compare the Corsa too. I don't know about you but I couldn't tell you what the car(s) I learnt to drive in were like to drive. I was too concerned with learning HOW to drive at the time! However my dad has driven my car. He usually drives much bigger cars. His current car is a VW Passat (couldn't tell you what engine size it is, so lets just say its powerful!) He sai
              d he was quite surprised with how "nippy" my car is. Considering 1.0 litre is a mere drop in the ocean in comparison to his cars, he was expecting my car to FEEL slow and unpowerful. I'm assured it doesn't though. It handles well around corners and the likes, accelerates smoothly and is generally a nice drive. Not only does it feel nice to drive, its also a pleasant car for any passenger. Another thing we all noticed (mum, dad and myself) about my car is that it feels surprisinly roomy inside. As we're used to bigger cars we were expecting it to feel smaller as of course it IS smaller in both length and breadth than my dads' car. But it doesn't *feel* it. You don't feel like you're cramped, leg room is ample for all but the tallest of people and theres plenty of room for luggage in the boot. It's an economical drive too. I've driven 1320 miles so far and have probably put about £120 in the tank in total. As usual when you get a car from a garage, there was hardly any petrol in at all (just about enough to get me home (5 minute drive) and to the petrol station (a futher 15 minutes). It cost me about £28 to fill it up completely. So far, I've not had any problems with my car and can't think of any reason to not recommend Corsa's. I sincerely hope this review is useful for anyone considering buying a Corsa. Like I said from the outset, I don't know a great deal about cars and as this is my first car I don't really have anything to compare it to. All in all, 10/10 from me! For more information please see: www.vauxhall.com (or call in at your local Vauxhall garage to pick up a brochure). NB. the ratings below were answered as well as I could so far. Like I say, I can't rea
              lly compare it to any other cars but they are correct in my mind!

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              • The Wicker Man [1973] (DVD) / DVD / 6 Readings / 30 Ratings
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                22.05.2004 01:26
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                Horror tends to be my favourite genre. I don?t know why. I usually end up hiding behind the nearest pillow/cussion/arm/person/delete as appropriate. But for some reason or another I feel drawn to scaring myself sh*tless. I guess its usually because a lot of horrors tend to be gory. And as I have a gruesome fascination?. You can fit the rest together yourselves. It is because of this that I don?t usually bother watching older horror films. Not only have I usually seen most of the ?scary? scenes on such programmes as ?The Top 100 Scariest Movies? type programmes but also because they?re older, the graphics just don?t live up to my life-like expectations. The Wicker Man was released 10 years before I graced this Earth (in 1973). Normally I wouldn?t be in too much of a rush to see a film of this age. However, as I?ve been interested in witchcraft all of my life and have dabbled in such arts in the past, I thought I?d watch it to see just how far-fetched and un-lifelike this film was. It was shown on TV a couple of months back. I?ve been meaning to review it ever since but you know how it is, real life takes over and review writing gets postponed. Still, better late than never! --------------------- ~ Introduction ~ --------------------- To some, The Wicker Man represents one of the best horror films of all times. To others it is merely the best British horror film. I figured it must be at least pretty good to be viewed so highly. Whether it lived up to my (high) expectations or not is irrelevant in this part of the review. For those who don?t know, here?s some background information. The Wicker Man is based on a remote island, Summerisle. It is of course fictional but it was fil
                med on the West Coast of Scotland. http://www.scotlandthemovie.com/movies/fwickerman.html This island is extremely secluded. Transport to and from the island is in the form of plane or boat so they don?t get many visitors. The island is owned by Lord Summerville. He has a house on the island which is, shall we say, different! At this point, the mainlanders know very little about the inhibitors of Summerisle. There are of course rumours about them but that is all they are ? rumours. As its difficult to access and not many people visit the island, no know knows much about the place. It is only when the Police on the mainland hear of a girl (Rowan Morrison) going missing on Summerisle that they send an Officer over to investigate the disappearance. It is at this point that the police realise all is not quite as it seems on Summerisle. When the Officer goes to meet Lord Summerisle at his house (which is surrounded by phallic-shaped hedges), the Officer soon realises that the rumours may well in fact have some truth to them. Namely, the inhabitants of Summerisle were different to those on the mainland. The locals remain uncooperative as regards to Rowan?s disappearance. Sergeant Howie finds it difficult to get any sense out of the locals, never mind any leads. He resorts to researching the island and the locals in books found in the library. It is only through reading these books that he learns about the May Day Festival. It seems the Summerisle inhabitants follow the Pagan religion. He reads about this Festival and realises that many people following this religion take part in ritual sacrifice. He puts two and two together and comes to the conclusion that the locals are planning to sacrifice Rowan. In amongst some group sex and other ritua
                ls, he plots a cunning plan to save Rowan from this fateful end. The question is. Does he succeed in saving her? You?ll just have to watch to find out! This film is the type that would be ruined completely if I told you how it ended so I?ll refrain. All I?ll say is that its an unusual ending. --------------------- ~ Conclusion ~ --------------------- On the whole, this film was more interesting than scary. In fact it didn?t scare me at all. It isn?t particularly gory and it doesn?t make you jump. It doesn?t have you hiding behind the nearest pillow/cushion/arm/person (delete as appropriate). So, for a horror, I must admit to being disappointed. It just didn?t ?do it? for me. Having said that, for a film, it was interesting. (And like I say, its unusual too). Like I said earlier, I have dabbled in Paganism/Wicca/Witchcraft in the past. I must say, this film is largely based on fiction. Widespread and regular ritual sacrifice of children (and indeed anyone/thing) is not common. I wouldn?t bother watching this film again I don?t think. As I now know the ending it will ruin the whole film (hence me not saying how it ends in this op). The film, on the whole, was eerie and when you consider that there is truth in the film (i.e. ritual sacrifice has and does still occur, just not all that often thankfully). It?s more unsettling than scary though. The acting is of a high standard in this film in my opinion, the Sergeant (Edward Woodward) plays a brilliant part. He appears genuinely uncomfortable with the activities of the islands? inhabitants. The music was very much centred around the music you?d expect to find on such an island ? i.e. folk songs. I couldn?t tell you what the songs were called or wh
                o they were by other than the traditional May Pole song that is often sung on May Day. This film could easily offend some people as it is deemed as being the first of its kind in many ways. It advertises sexual promiscuity, ritual sacrifice and deceipt. Having said that, the final scene does involve scenes of animals being part of the sacrifice with the fateful Wicker Man. As I am a HUGE animal lover and absolutely abide any kind of animal cruelty, this film, although unsettling, did not offend me. However, I just thought I?d warn those of you who may be likely to be offended by such a film. --------------------------------- Where can I get a copy? --------------------------------- As this film is 21 years old now you may not be able to pick it up all that easily. However, Amazon.co.uk stock it currently. You can get the DVD for £7.97. I?ve never seen this though so I couldn?t tell you what extra features you get (if any). -------------------------- ~ The after effect ~ -------------------------- As previously mentioned, this film is now deemed as a cult. The film has its own fan club and its own followers. There is also a real-life Wicker Man Festival held in Scotland which is deemed as being ?Scotland's Alternative Music, Dance and Arts Festival?and ?Fun, Fire and Freedom? (Tickets are available for £30 (day ticket) or £40 (advanced weekend ticket including camping!) ? NB. I?ve never been. I simply found this on http://www.thewickermanfestival.co.uk --------------------- ~ Further info ~ --------------------- A comprehensive guide to the film (from start to finish) can be found here: http://www.tylwythteg.com/WI
                CKERMAN/WickerMan.html -------------------- ~ Boring Bits ~ -------------------- Directed by: Robin Hardy Running time: 102 mins Released: 1973 Music composed by: Paul Giovanni Cast: Edward Woodward: Sergeant Neil Howie Christopher Lee: Lord Summerisle Britt Ekland: Willow

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                • Timotei Golden Highlights / Hair Care / 2 Readings / 14 Ratings
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                  08.05.2004 01:42
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                  Well, its been a while so I thought it was about time I wrote another op! Being a natural dark blonde myself I often wish my hair was a bit lighter naturally. I've died it a lighter blonde in the past (although not really light it must be said!) But re-growth REALLY annoys me. I've even used the lemon stuff you can put on your hair in summer to take advantage of advanced lightening through the sun. This helps but it doesn't help when the UK is plunged into darkness for the rest of the year. What's a girl to do between October and March? Well, ever since Timotei brought out the new "Golden Highlights - Camomile" range which, according to the TV advert naturally lightened your hair through regular use of the shampoo. The TV advert (and the back of the Timotei bottles) would have you believe that 86%* of women have perceived highlights in their hair after product usage. (* consumer test carries out on 245 women with blonde to light brown hair) I'm a sucker for TV adverts and fell for it hook, line and sinker. I wanted it. I NEEDED to try it. However I was in love. With Herbal Essences Clarifying shampoo. I didn't want to switch. I bravely decided to branch out from Herbal Essences the other week and finally got around to trying this (once new) Timotei range. I bought the shampoo (in "New Larger Size" - 300ml) from Asda for £1.68. As I knew I wanted to try it I didn't actually bother having a whiff of it before I bought it. So, I stuck it in the trolley and proceeded to try the shampoo that night when I came to wash my hair like I do every evening. Whilst lying in the bath I decided I'd read the back of the shampoo bottle before applying. Nothing of real interest on there it must be said, just the above statistic already quoted. Just as with the TV advert, I was impressed. "The active power of nature brings you 100% natural beauty"
                  Sounds impressive for £1.68 doesn't it? Well, it claims that its the highly concentrated active camomile flower extract that does the business. It combines these lightening properties into a gentle yet highly effective formulation. Result: hair is shiny and healthy looking, with beautiful natural highlights. And yes, you've guessed it. I just copied that from the back of the bottle too! So, enough of the theory, it was time to put it to the test! I opened the bottle and took a whiff of it for the first time. I must admit, I was a little disappointed. I'm not overly fussy when it comes to shampoo smells, I'll usually like anything. (Although I do have a preference for fruit type smells). However, the Timotei one doesn't smell like other Timotei ranges, its different in a hard-to-describe manner. To me it kind of smells a bit too much like bathroom cleaner (or something similar). Its different, I'll give it that. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying its an unpleasant smell in any way, shape or form, it just isn't to my personal taste. I dunno, it may smell like camomile for all I know, I'm not sure I know what camomile smells like! So, having whiffed it, it was time to apply. I squirted some out onto my hand to find it was of a good consistency - I hate it when shampoo's are so runny they might as well just bottle it as plain water. The first thing that struck me about the shampoo itself though was that of the colour, or more precisely, the seemingly sparkly bits inside it. Its not actually glittery bits as such. (That would just be impractical, afterall!) Its more like dissolveable bits of fine sparkly powder. Or thats the best way I can describe it anyway! Away I go and apply it to my hair. I have long hair (to about waist level) so I need to apply quite a bit of shampoo to get a decent lather going usually. Timotei was no different. I applied a good 50p
                  piece and a bit extra size to my palm, this seemed to later up well so full marks on that aspect. Some shampoo's are terrible and mean you need to put LOADS on to get any lather going at all. I decided to leave it on my hair for a few minutes. I thought this might increase the chances of the camomile getting to action! (Can't blame a gal for trying, can you?) Then it came to rinsing time. The shampoo rinsed off easily and left my hair feeling clean and soft. I let my hair dry naturally so I had a long time to wait to see the results. In fact I had to wait till the morning until my hair was 100% dry. So, the important bit.... Was it any lighter? Well, I can't say I noticed it looking any different to normal. I tried recalling the TV advert. Perhaps it had claimed that the results were noted after 3 washes. Or maybe 5? (Wishful thinking). I've now been using the shampoo for a couple of weeks, generally every evening. Sadly, I still can't see any difference in the colour of my hair. Still, on the plus side, at least my hair isn't any darker! My hair is slightly lighter at the ends than the roots due to a previous colouring I had in a few years back (like I say, my hair is long). This I don't mind so much as re-growth near your scalp. It just looks really obvious when its near your scalp but half way down your back when the colour you died your hair was just a shade or two lighter than your natural colour anyway and it doesn't look obvious at all. I've been inspecting these ends and comparing them to my roots diligently to see if there are any differences. I honestly can't say that there are though. I've even asked my mum but she can't see any differences either. The bottle clearly says that the shampoo is designed to work on blonde to light brown hair so my hair should be ideal for it to work on. I guess I must be in the 14% of women who di
                  dn't notice any difference though. Sadly :'( However, as those who may recall reading my previous shampoo op's may know. My main problem when it comes to shampoo's is that of build up/rinseability (dunno if thats a word, but it is now!) :o) You see my hair gets greasy if I don't wash it every day or so. I couldn't possibly go more than 48 hours without washing it. This was the only reason I took so long to even try this shampoo. I didn't want to change from my Herbal Essences Clarifying range that I absolutely adore because its the ONLY shampoo I've EVER found to not get built up over time. Like I say though, so far I've been using Timotei for about two weeks. Its yet to get built up but then I did switch brands on two occasions due to staying at a friends house. I do feel like its about to get built up any time now though. Call it psychic or womanly intuition, I don't know. I just get the feeling its only a matter of time. I *highly* doubt I'll get through the whole bottle without feeling my hair getting greasy and built-up despite just having washed it. I sharn't bother buying another bottle of this. I'll be sticking to good old Herbal Essences for the forseeable future I think. Conclusion: Smell = 2/5 Consistency = 4/5 Rinseability = 4/5 Effectiveness (cleaning) = 4/5 Effectiveness (lightening) = 1/5 Total = 15/25 = 60% So, overall, its not bad. It's just not great. I would try it if you're after highlights and have light brown to blonde hair naturally. You may be one of the lucky 86% after all. Just don't expect miracles.

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                  • Compaq Presario 5250 / Desktop PC / 0 Readings / 23 Ratings
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                    17.03.2004 02:56
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                    ****UPDATED**** PLEASE NOTE: This review is NOT about the Compaq Presario 5250. It is actually about the Compaq Presario S5100. This is the most appropriate category I could find. I asked Dooyoo to add the category for me but was told they'd not add it. The reason they gave for not adding the category was because.... "our research has found that this model is no longer available to buy in the shops". I pointed out to them that it was indeed available as I had bought it just a few days earlier in Curry's. It is also available in Dixons, PC World and many others. So where they did their "research" I'm not sure! So, bearing this in mind. Onto the review.... It was about 5 years ago that Sarah Louise turned from TV addict to Internet addict. It was at this time that we went from the ?pay per minute? Internet user to ?pay per month? user. Whereby we could use the Internet unlimited off-peak (well, they say its unlimited but technically its x hundred number of hours per week usually). This was what did it for me. If we got x hundred number of hours per week/month in which to use the Internet then why not get your moneys worth out of it? (Albeit, my dad was the one paying the bill?.!) Anyway, it was in 2000 that we got our second PC, brand new, Intel Pentium III, 866MHz, 30GB, DVD-ROM, Windows Me Operating System, basically it was pretty ?top spec? at the time, it was great, the speed of it in comparison to our old Pentium system that was running on the ancient Windows 95. It served us well. That was until a year or so ago. You see, at the
                    time of buying the PC, the guy(s) in the shop s all told us that ?30GB ? you?ll never need more than that!? and ?866MHz ? that?s as fast as you?ll ever require!?. They were wrong. You see it was a year or so ago that Sarah Louise started putting her PC to real use. No longer did I just mess around writing reviews, playing games and cha tting on the Internet. Oh no. I needed a PC with lots of space and lots of speed. You see, being the Founder of a paranormal research society that starts to take off significantly only means one thing ? shed loads of reports, photos, video clips, sound files, not to mention thousands and thousands of emails, many hundreds of which containing rather large photo files, video clips and sound files, all piling up ready to be ?analysed? because people assume you?re the next photography expert or qualified parapsychologist. I soon found my faithful PC getting slower and slower. It was now slow. Very slow. The PC ?ageing? process can be viewed as being a fast or slow one. Technologically, PCs, ?age? remarkably fast. You can buy a brand new, top of the range PC one week and its old and out of date by the following week. However, for personal use, they tend to ?age? quite slowly. In this, I mean you don?t necessarily notice your PC reaching OAP status until its too late. I only noticed my PC seemed a ?little bit slower than normal? a year or so again, thought nothing of it. It got worse, but seemingly quite gradually. To the extent that I couldn?t remember how fast it used to be. I started questioning my sanity thinking ?maybe its always been this slow but now I?m used to running newer PCs at college and things, maybe I?m just expecting too much of it?? Anyway, a few weeks passed and Macromedi
                    a brought out their latest version of Dreamweaver (the p ackage I use for web design). I installed the latest version only to find that my computer didn't have enough RAM to run the program. So, after waiting ages for it to install, I had to uninstall again! Enough was enough! It was time for an upgrade! Anyway, a number of months ago I decided it would be useful for me to have a firewire socket on my PC in order to download video directly from video cameras we use in the paranormal research group. I went to a few local PC shops to enquire about how much it would cost and also looked into upgrading whilst I was there to enable me to have Windows XP installed. I told them the specs, they then raised one eyebrow as if to say ?how do you live with a system so old?? and said that in order for me to upgrade to XP I?d ideally need more RAM and would need a faster processor. And with a new processor comes more fans and heat sinks. And with more fans and heat sinks comes a new cover because my old one wouldn?t fit. I also needed a CD-Rewriter installing in order for me to save all my photos, video clips, etc onto CD instead of taking space up on the harddrive. All in all, this came to over £150 just to ?upgrade? my PC and even then, I?d be running a basic PC which would, in effect, still be my old PC. And as they suggested (as had others I?d been speaking to) that perhaps my extremely slow PC was being slow because of a virus of some description or another? In which case, by merely upgrading, I could not guarantee that the virus would be transferred and would remain in my ?new? PC, hence being a COMPLETE waste of money. As I?m sure you can guess, this was a situation that needed some ponderin
                    g. I looked around at Dixons, Currys and 0;C World only to be told to stay well clear because they were rip-off merchants. However, my dad gets 15% off any purchases at any of these stores due to his work. So, I start my search on the Internet for new base units to buy from scratch and found some quite cheap ones that were relatively ?top spec?. I was all set for buying one of these and using an *ahem* copied *ahem* version of Windows XP to save me spending about £60 on a CD ROM. That was until my dad raised his eyebrow over the warrenty and guarantee that runs if you install a copied version of XP onto the new PC. It was a valid point and as we don?t know all that much about PC repair, we figured it wasn?t a good idea for us to do this. But by purchasing an official XP CD ROM, this pushed the price of the base units up to those comparable to Dixons, Currys and PC World (taking the 15% off into consideration). That was it. I?d had enough of my old (read ?ancient?) PC. Despite my dad telling me it was a waste of money buying a new PC because our old one, and I quote, ?works fine for me?. (However, bare in mind that he spent a fraction of the time I spent on it!) So, I went out and bought myself a brand new computer. £420 it was to cost, so that?s £357 with discount. A good discount, don?t you agree? For the first time in my life I?d branched away from Intel Pentiums and opted for a Compaq Presario AMD Athlon (model number S5100) instead as I?d heard from numerous people that these were faster in general. It came with Windows XP installed on it (officially, and not from a copied source so my dad was happy!) It has funny numbers after its name, reading AM
                    ;D Athlon XP 2400+. It comes with 256MB of RAM and 40GB hard drive. And, as if that?s not enough, it also comes with Integrated NVIDIA GeForce MX graphics and 64MB allocated memory! (And if you understood that last line, please feel free to explain in the Comments box because <Manuel voice> I know nothing about computer graph ics!) So, barring the graphics that I?m afraid I know very little about, what does all that gobbledygook mean? In layman?s terms it means?. This PC is suitable for everyone really, from beginner to advanced user. It could cope with most things that any heavy user could throw at it so anyone but the most determined gamer would probably find this PC to be more than adequate for their needs. (For the foreseeable future at least). And, for those of you wanting more technical knowledge, do the following. Open a new Internet Explorer window (or your default internet browsing software). Type www.google.co.uk into the address bar. Await Google launch. Type in ?AMD Athlon S5100? into the search bar. Press Enter. And await your answer! :-) Only joking, I?ll do my best to explain! For ease of reading and layout, I?ll lay it out in a more ?Specifications? manner like you?d find on other websites explaining new PC?s. So?. ------------------------------- ~ SPECIFICATIONS ~ ------------------------------- = = = Hardware = = = · AMD Athlon XP 2400+ - Logically you?d think this perhaps meant it runs at 2.4GHz wouldn?t you? Well, that?s where it gets tricky. Technically speaking,
                    a 2400+ actually runs at 2.0GHz. You see there are two main &# 67;PU (Central Processor Unit) manufacturers, those being Intel and AMD. So, a 2400+ running at 2.0GHz actually runs as fast as an Intel Pentium running at 2.4GHz. So, quite illogically, AMD decided to name their CPUs with reference to how fast Intel chips run. Yes, I know. Stupid isn?t it? And thanks to Gareth (aka bujin) for that answer! (Ahh, the wonders of MSN Messenger whilst writing a review!) It is for the reason reading ?So, a 2400+ running at 2.0GHz actually runs as fast as an Intel Pentium running at 2.4GHz? that I was recommended to buy an AMD Athlon rather than another Intel Pentium computer. Technically, they run faster than Intel models for the same price. · 256MB of RAM - My old PC had just 128MB of RAM but most PCs you buy today come with 256MB of RAM. However, not only has the amount of RAM increased, but the type has changed too! You see my old PC had what?s known as SD-RAM (often incorrectly referred to as SDR-RAM for some reason or another). SD-RAM stands for Synchronised Dynamic Random Access Memory. This runs at either 100MHz or 133MHz. However, the newer version of RAM is different. In my new PC it is actually what?s known as DDR RAM. This stands for Double Data Rate Random Access Memory. As you may have guessed from ?Double Data Rate?, DDR runs at twice the speed (i.e. 200MHz or 266MHz). An
                    d, thanks again to Gareth for providing much of the technical knowledge in th e above paragraph! · 40GB hard drive - Gareth becomes a little redundant here as there?s not all that much that needs to be said about the hard drive. What I can tell you though is that it runs at 7200RPM which is the fastest you can get. · 64MB allocated memory - Gareth has his job back as ?personal Sarah Louise review writer helperer?! Apparently, allocated memory simply means that it effectively nicks 64MBs of the 256MB DDR so in effect you?re actually running the PC at 192MB. · Integrated NVIDIA GeForce MX graphics - I?m not even going to pretend I know anything about this as I?ve already told you I don?t. So I?ll quote direct from the MSN window?. ?The graphics 'card' is integrated onto the motherboard instead of as an addon card. The GeForce MX is roughly equivalent to the GeForce2 card, which is a little out-dated and probably wouldn't perform too well on the latest games.? So there you have it. If you?re a major game player, you may be better going for a higher spec graphics card, otherwise, this is perfectly adequate. · DVD ROM/CD Re-writer combo drive - This basically means that you can play DVD?s and CD ROM?s and can copy CD ROM?s with the re-writer. It?s a combo drive so it?s all done in the one drive, as you might expect. (Even I understand that bit!) In a bit more detail, it?s a 48x CD-RW which means that its 48 times faster than the first ever CD drive released. The first ones released run at about 150Kb/s. S
                    o a 48x CD RW will run at about 7.2Mb/s. You can get 52x C& #68; RW but 48x is more than adequate for most peoples? needs. · As with all PCs, you?ll find yourself with a standard 3.5? floppy disk drive. Not a vast deal I can say about this to be honest! · As previously mentioned, something I was looking to have on this new PC was that of a Firewire socket. I only needed one re ally but this PC has two. A Firewire socket allows fast an easy upload from things like video cameras onto your PC, which was the sole reason why I wanted (read ?needed?) one. It has one socket at the front for easy access at one at the back for tidiness on the front. · There are 6 USB ports on this PC. It?s the USB2.0 type which is the latest version and is faster than the USB1.1 version. You?ll find 2 USB sockets to the front and 4 to the back. So, that?s the hardware covered?. = = = Software = = = · As previously mentioned, this PC comes ready installed with Windows XP Home Edition. Once you load your PC for the first time you?re guided through the Registration process, its all very simple, even first time PC users should have no problems completing this process. · Along with the Operating System you get the usual with this PC, e.g. Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, the usual array of games, Microsoft Paint, etc. · However, you also get Works 7.0 if you wish to install it. (It?s not pre-installed, its on CD ROM). You do not get the Office suite so if you?re used to this, don?t forget to buy yourself a copy. I bought this PC from Curry?s, it wa
                    s delivered to the store within 3 days and it came with a keyboard and scroll mouse. (You could buy it with a monitor too but we didn?t need a new monitor). One thing to bear in mind is that the PC manual(s) you get with this base unit all state that you need ?Active speakers?. This means your speakers need to be controlled separately from the computer itself (e.g. basically they need to have a volume button on them). How ever, our old speakers didn?t. You just plugged them in and altered the volume by using the ?Volume settings? thing in the toolbar on the screen. As we didn?t know we needed ?active? speakers until we?d already got it all set up, we decided to try our old speakers. It turns out, you don?t NEED active speakers at all. Our old ones worked perfectly well. However, as I was selling my old base unit on eBay along with the old keyboard and mouse, I decided to buy some new ?active? speakers too so I could throw the old speakers into the eBay deal. And, I think that?s it all pretty much covered really. You can see from the photo that this is a silver/black cover which is the standard colour now for new PCs, along with a silver/black keyboard and mouse too. I haven?t had any major problems with my new PC yet barring getting a virus on the first day (before I?d had chance to install antivirus software and a firewall!) However, a combination of AVG and Norman Virus Control have now enabled me to get rid of the virus. And Zonealarm Firewall will hopefully help prevent any unwanted hackers. This combination has, so far (and to my knowledge) prevented me from being infected by any more. (Although I have personally been infected?. at the time of writing, I?ve got a cold!) All in all, this PC is easy to use (once you
                    get the hang of XP anyway, it is somewhat different to Windows 95, 98, 98Me, etc) . And in comparison to my old PC, this is remarkably fast. All in all, it gets 10/10 from me. Especially with a discount meaning I got it for just £357! ;-) Incidentally though, after selling my old PC on eBay and waiting for the buyers? cheque to clear, I set the old PC back to factory settings using the ?Restore disk?. When I restarted after doing this, the c omputer loaded remarkably fast. It amazed me and actually made me think ?so my dad was right after all, there IS nothing wrong with this PC!?. It just goes to show how much a collection of ?junk? and software that you install/download goes to affect the speed of your PC though doesn?t it? Thanks for reading! Sarah_Louise P.S. Hopefully this review will have the proper capitalisation. If it doesn't, I apologise, I used chuckleweb fix-it for the first time for this review! P.P.S. Due to some queries in my Comments section I decided to update this review. Firstly, there IS such a thing as Norman antivirus software. I don't mean Norton and its not a typo. You can find Norman here: http://www.norman.com And just as extra proof that this product IS still available in shops, direct your browser here: (Just either search for Compaq Presario S5100 or go via the Computing ----> Base Units only pages if any of the following links don't work) - DIXONS - http://www.dixons.co.uk/martprd/store/dix_page.jsp?BV_SessionI D=@@@@0871645009.1080259636@@@@&BV_EngineID=cccjadcldeele hkcflgceggdhhmdfif.0&page=Pro
                    duct&sku=986836&category_oid=-9183&fm=4&sm=11&tm=1 - CURRYS - r>http://www.currys.co.uk/martprd/store/cur_page.jsp?BV_Session 3;D=@@@@1158754246.1080259751@@@@&BV_EngineID=cccladcldee llgkcflgceggdhhmdfhl.0&page=Product&sku=986836&category_oid=-11462&fm=9&sm=1& tm=0 - PC WORLD - http://www.pcworld.co.uk/martprd/store/pcw_page.jsp?BV_SessionI ;D=@@@@0897641433.1080259841@@@@&BV_EngineID=cccladcldeel gfkcflgceggdhhmdfho.0&page=Product&sku=986836&category_oid=-15247&fm=0&sm=1&t m=1 (Interesting how the URLs are so similar isn't it - anyone would think the three companies were all the same company wouldn't they! ;o))

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                    • GHD Mk4 Straighteners / Hair Care / 1 Reading / 30 Ratings
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                      24.01.2004 01:07
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                      skip this first bit to be able to read the review with capital letters intact. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. <
                      br> I?ve been meaning to write a review about this wonder product for some time now but what with one thing and another I?ve just not had chance. However, I simply couldn?t put it off any longer. I hate my hair. It?s simply horrible. I honestly can?t stand it! Wavy, frizzy, generally downright yucky hair. Even with the help of BaByliss Straight & Shine hair straighteners it failed to impress me. I used to have really long hair, it was much finer than it is now and was relatively straight and non-frizzy. I took the plunge and had it cut to shoulder length aged about 10. I can honestly say that is a huge regret. Since then its been thick, frizzy and gone ultra wavy! So, it was a few years back when I decided to try growing it again. Maybe it would somehow reverse the damage of having it cut in the first place!? I was doubtful but what did I have to lose? I?m still growing it. Its got quite long now in fact. However, the damage just isn?t being reversed. Its still wavy, thick and frizzy. In a word, my hair is simply unruly. You lucky lot out there with poker straight hair may think we have it easy, no need to curl our hair or use thickening shampoo or any of this. You?d be wrong. Of course no one is happy with their own hair (or very few people!) but you?ll just have to trust me when I tell you having hair like mine is a pain in the butt. You can?t do anything with it and the moment you step outside with just the slightest hint of a wind or rain you consequently end up looking like you?ve been dragged through a hedge backwards whilst being electrocuted. I got the BaByliss Straight & Shine straighteners aged about 14 as a birthday present after I?d dropped some hints after seeing them in the Argos catalogue. I tried them and was quite impressed at the time. They did indeed straighten my hair. However, not only did it take AGES (to the extent of me having major arm ache by the time I?d finished)
                      but the results were far from miraculous. They were what you?d expect from effectively ironing your hair. I.e. straight-ish results with a few kinks here and there. Overall the results being slightly straighter than your natural look. First whiff of rain or wind and you?d be straight back to square 1 again though. I used these quite a lot at first. I soon realised they were drying my hair out even further so I decided to quit using them for a while. Since then I?ve rarely used them, only when I was desperate. I?d pretty much resided myself to having yucky curly hair for the rest of my life with little I could do about it. That was until recently. Cast your minds back a year or so. Ok, so technically its two years ago, bare with me though, my brain hasn?t adjusted to it being 2004 now so I?m still in 2003 mode! However, cast your minds back to when ?The Salon? (first series) started on Channel 4*. At the beginning, end and during the commercial break, this company called GHD advertised acting as ?Sponsors of The Salon?. GHD was being marketed as the God of hair products. The "new religion in hair care". GHD? I thought. Who?re they when they?re at home? BaByliss I?ve heard of but GHD?? And the God of hair products? Come off it! As if!! Or so I thought?. As time went on I started hearing more and more about this GHD company. I eventually learnt the initials stood for ?Good Hair Day?. I thought that was highly amusing. I mean really, what a tacky name for a company! GHD soon started to focus in predominantly on their hair straighteners. This was when my ears pricked up to listen intently. Ok. We?re always seeing these hair dressers on the telly demonstrating how easy it is to get straight hair. They run these hair straighteners through someone?s hair and miraculously the hair is transformed from a frizzy mess into a sleek, smooth head of hair. I?d come to the conc
                      lusion that it was either a trick of the camera or they were using some kind of chemical treatment on the hair in addition to the straightening irons. Despite lots of people praising these GHD straighteners, I remained unimpressed. Continued reports kept filing in about these ?wonder hair products?. Over time I started to wonder whether it was true. Had someone really invented something that straightened your hair? And best of all something you can use at home on yourself? Surely not! I looked the straighteners up on the Internet to find they were averaging around about £100 ish. £100!!!!!!!!!!!!! I nearly fell off my seat when I saw that!! I struck these off my wish list. There was NO WAY I was going to spend that amount of money on a small machine to effectively iron my hair. Especially after the BaByliss ones being ?top of the range? (at the time) which, quite frankly, were a bit rubbish! (Admitted, they were only about £26). So, that was that. Scrap that plan. This time I really am stuck with frizzy, wavy hair for life. Or so I thought?. Nicky (Welshtigergirl in these ?ere neck of the woods so go and have a looksie at her ops, she's a newbie!) Anyway, where was I after that plug? Ahhh yes, Nicky bought a pair of GHD hair straighteners. She proceeded to send me a photo over MSN messenger of the results. I was impressed. Very impressed! She had straight hair!! She claimed it hadn?t taken long to achieve those results and that the straighteners didn?t damage her hair either. Surely it was too good to be true? Nicky MUST have been lying. But then they do say the camera never lies?. A few weeks later I got to sample the goods myself whilst at Nicky?s house. She was right. It was fast, painless and, best of all, IT WORKED!!!! I was so suitably impressed I started saving from that day forward. It was mid-November when I decided I couldn?t wait any longer. I?d saved
                      up a decent amount of money in PayPal and started an eBay hunt for some GHD hair straighteners. (Incidentally, you can only buy them at hair dressing salons, online or second hand, you WON?T find these in high street shops or catalogues). Anyway, Nicky had spent about £90 on hers (bought from eBay) so I was expecting a similar amount. I came across someone who had about 15 sets for sale. Within a few minutes of me pondering whether to buy or not 3 sets had been sold (on ?Buy it Now? basis). You see, not only was this a lot of money to spend on something I may live to regret, but this was also going to be my first eBay purchase! I?d sold but never bought on eBay before. It was daunting. I finally plucked up the courage to hit the ?Buy it Now? button. I?d just bagsied a bargain at just £86 which included P&P! I paid over PayPal the same night and hoped they?d arrive the next day or so (they promised next day delivery on orders made before 4pm. I?d ordered mine at about 4:05pm so I was hoping they?d sneak me into that batch!) Anyway, shortly after this I received an email from eBay to say their account had been suspended. OH MY GOD! STRESS!! I?d already paid them by PayPal so what was I to do?? Fortunately it all worked out ok. My hair straighteners arrived 2 or 3 days later nicely packed in a huge jiffy bag. I eagerly opened the box, plugged them in and waited a few seconds for them to heat up. Unlike BaByliss, the GHD ones heat up remarkably fast. There?s a small, red LED light on them which flashes intermittently when they?re at the correct temperature. (It takes about 5-7 seconds). Within this time they reach 210 degrees C. Yes. You read that right! It?s no wonder these straighten your hair at that temperature! They?re much lighter and easier to use than BaByliss and similar makes too. They?re much slimmer, less bulky and glide through your hair easily. They?re slim enough to enable you to get right
                      to the roots if required. This is where the major difference between GHD and BaByliss and similar makes differ. You see GHD straighteners have ceramic plates. This is the key to what makes them work so well apparently. Unlike the metal plates the older models have, ceramic plates distribute heat evenly and hold the heat more effectively. They glide through your hair easily, no matter how curly to start with. To prove just how good these are, you don?t need to brush your hair before you use them! These sort out knots as they go, taking them all in their stride! My hair is now just over half way down my back and I can have my hair poker straight (with no prior brushing) within 10 minutes. In fact, on average, it takes me just 7 minutes. I know, I?m sad to time it but the first time I used them I didn?t bother looking at the clock (I was too eager to just get using them!). When I finished I thought ?that didn?t seem to take long!? so I made a determined point to time myself after that. The results last all day on average too. I can straighten my hair before leaving for college in the morning, walk a good 15 minutes to college with my hair down, spend all day at college with my hair down and then walk home again with my hair down and I?ll return home with straight hair. That was impossible with my old hair straighteners! In fact you?d barely get out of the door with ?straight? hair and it?d not be anywhere near as straight as it is with the GHD ones anyway. I?ve even walked to and from college in the rain before and still returned with straight hair. However, please note, when I say straight hair now I don?t mean poker straight. But in comparison to my natural hair after facing the rain it is still straight! It doesn?t go particularly frizzy either. GHD can deal with wind particularly well I?ve noticed too. The cord is a decent length too, longer than with my BaByliss pair. The cable on the GHD set is approximately
                      2.5m as opposed to about 1.5m with my old set. This may seem like a trivial point to raise but its very useful as I can now plug these in and actually use a mirror at the same time. With my old set I couldn?t do this as no plug sockets were close enough to any fixed mirrors in my bedroom or any of the spare bedrooms either. I now use one of the front bedrooms in order to straighten my hair. The end of the straighteners (where they attach to the cable) have a special swivel fitting thing so you can twist them around without getting yourself into a tangle with the cable. Again, a trivial point but it all helps make hair straightening a breeze! So, to conclude?. =========== GOOD POINTS =========== I?ll warn you now, this could go on a bit! ª They work. (I figured this was the most important point to raise!) See photo as proof - a before and after shot! (Also, my Ciao profile photo is showing the results too!) ª They?re easy to use. ª Quick to use ? from curly to straight in a matter of minutes. ª No need to purchase extra products like hair serum, hair spray or anything else in order to achieve excellent results. ª The don?t damage your hair. (Although do bare in mind that they can?t be good for your hair as such). I don?t need to condition my hair any more than I used to do though and I now use these once daily (on average). ª The ceramic plates avoid snagging of the hair ? causing less damage, quicker results and its less painful! ª They?re lighter than older models and glide through hair easily = less arm ache (in fact I no longer suffer from arm ache, possibly because I complete the look within 10 minutes! ª The cable is a much better length with fancy swivel system where it attaches to the straightening irons. ª LED indicates when they?re ready to use (after ~ 7 seconds it goes from solid to intermittent flashing light indicating they?re ready to use). ª Heats up to the
                      required heat far quicker than older models and at 210 degrees C you?re bound to get great results! ª Seem to deal with knots with ease. ª Results last all day even in the wind and rain! (Although albeit, the rain doesn?t help) ª Another trivial point but they look the part. They look top quality and behave as such too. They look professional. ========== BAD POINTS ========== ª They are far from cheap. But then you DO get what you pay for with these. You can expect to pay between £80 and £100 for a set (even second hand). Currently they?re on sale at £95.00 on the official GHD website but you get a free brush and free delivery with this. ª It hurts when you accidentally touch your skin on the plates. (Tip: make sure your ears stay well out of the way whilst straightening!) ª Beware of running your hand over/through your hair immediately after running the irons over it. Remember it takes a few seconds to cool down afterwards so you?ll burn your hand if you do touch it immediately. Same goes for tucking your hair behind your ear immediately. ª Use with care but also remember they remain extremely hot for a considerable length of time after turning them off again. You wouldn?t put a clothes iron down on your floor and leave it unattended would you? So don?t do with these either. You can buy special heat resistant mats to put the irons down on after use. I didn?t bother buying one of these though as the £86 was enough to spend in any one go! I was stupid and risked it by leaving them on the carpet. I always made sure the swivel cable thing at the end though stayed where I put it so the straighteners stayed in a ?stood up? position so as not to touch the carpet itself. Be careful with pets too, don?t let them sniff them when they could still be hot or else they?ll end up with sore noses. I was always careful to shut the door after use so my cat couldn?t get in. I now put my straighteners on a small piece of a me
                      tal ?bridge? shaped thing my dad knocked up for me out of a bit of scrap metal. It serves its purpose well as I can just put them down now and leave them on that with no danger of anything catching fire. I still make a point to shut the door though as this wouldn?t prevent Rosie from getting a sore, burnt nose! I can honestly say they?re the only bad points I can think of. I would HIGHLY recommend these, despite the high initial outlay for them. They are quite possibly my most useful purchase of all time! So, do I believe in God? Maybe not. Do I believe in GHD? I certainly do!! ===================== FURTHER INFORMATION ===================== For more information on these and other GHD products you can visit their website here: www.ghdhair.com * Please note, I do not actually watch "The Salon" I merely channel hopped across it a few times and noted the above points! No, but honestly, I admit to watching one episode to give it the benefit of the doubt. I have not tuned in since. Nuff said!

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                      • Learning to Drive / Discussion / 7 Readings / 40 Ratings
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                        08.01.2004 01:23
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                        • "It gets boring....!"

                        skip this first bit to be able to read the review with capital letters intact. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. <b r>Well, Sarah_Louise is a happy bunny today. Why? Have I just found a pound coin down the back of the sofa? Just discovered I still have some chocolates left over from Christmas? Nope!! Neither of the above! For I, Sarah_Louise, have, as of this morning, January 7th 2004, passed my driving test!! So, as a legal driver, I now feel I should share my learner experiences to you all. As some of you may know, I'm now 20 years of age. As a learner I was a slow started I guess as I didn?t even start learning until February 2003, aged 19. I sent off for my provisional license shortly after my 17th birthday but had no real intention of learning. I only sent off for it to get my parents and the rest of my family off my back! Despite living in North Wales and therefore not having the worlds best public transport system, I always coped. At age 17 I only really needed to get to and from college on a regular basis. As I live a 15 minute walk away this was no problem. What was the point in spending £17 (ish) an hour learning? Some of my friends started learning at age 17 and practically all of them complained about it non-stop. They all complained about the cost of lessons and all but one complained about their instructors too. They were all learning with different instructors/driving schools. Just one friend had no qualms with her instructor. She said her instructor was nice and had no real problems with her at all. (Although she still didn't like the £17 per hour rate!) So, after listening to all the horror stories from my other friends regarding their instructors being horrible and always in a mood and shouting at them for the smallest of mistakes, I really had no intention of ever learning! Why pay £17 per hour to be shouted at? You can join the army to get that AND get paid!! (And that was an excuse I used on a regular basis!) lol. Anyway. Finally, aged 19, I decided it was time
                        to try it. I figured that if I really didn't like it I could always quit. There was no harm in trying it. Needless to say, I decided to learn with the one instructor I hadn?t heard any bad things about. I phoned her up (that?s right, she's a woman, quite rare in the driving instructor world!). Anyway, she charged £17.50 an hour by this time. I didn't really mind this 50p extra as it was either a case of saving 50p per lesson but being shouted at left, right and centre or spending 50p extra to have a nice instructor. She used to work for BSM but quit about 6 months before I started learning with her to be an independent driving instructor. So. The day dawned for my first driving lesson. I was SOOO nervous! What was making it worse was that I had never been behind the wheel in my life. My dad had recently just upgraded to a new car again and even so, he has a VW Passat so it was a bit on the large side to have a first go being behind the wheel in! (That and he didn't trust me within 10m of the steering wheel!) Lol. All of my friends all had parents who let them practise before their first proper lesson to know the basics. This lead me to believe most people do. (Maybe most do? I don't know, I just know all of my friends did!) Anyway, this made me feel far more nervous though. 'She'll expect me to know the basics though!' Or so I thought! So, my instructor arrived. First shock of the day was her car. I'd asked my friend what car she taught in but my friend knows as much about cars as I do and so she didn't know the make of it. She knew it was burgundy in colour and that was all she could tell me! I was expecting a nice small car as most instructors seemed to have. WRONG! She actually had a Hyundai Accent, 3 door admittedly but they are quite big cars. Certainly to learn in. Couple this with the fact that it didn?t have power steering, it certa
                        inly wasn't an ideal car to learn in! I think it was a Wednesday morning my first lesson. It was to be a 2 hour lesson. I decided to book 6 lessons (3 x 2 hour lessons) in one go. I got in the car (passenger side, much to my relief!) and handed over a cheque for £90. (Slight reduction if you pay for a few in a row!) It was very much a Chris Tarrant moment? - 'are you sure you want this cheque?' As a skint student as it was, handing over £90 to a complete stranger to teach me something I didn't actually want to do and it was to cover just 3 lessons effectively, well, it was difficult! Had I not been in the presence of a stranger I may well have shed a few tears! Anyway. She then drove out of my street, along the prom a bit (while I was thinking 'so I've paid and she's now not even letting me get behind the wheel!!?') and took me onto a quiet street. She explained, along the way, that she never makes people drive from home on the first few lessons for obvious (embarrassing) reasons involving immediate stalls and the likes! This was a huge relief for me as I didn't really want my neighbours laughing at my expense! She pulled up at the side of the road and then explained it was my turn. We got out and swopped places. Finally, I was behind the wheel!! How did it feel? Damn nerve wracking!! 'What do I do?!' 'What's those buttons for?' 'How do I get the car moving?' 'And where the hell is the brake?!?!' I really was nervous. (Tried not to let it show though!) On the way she'd already asked if I'd ever been behind the wheel before. I explained I'd never driven in my life and make it clear I really didn?t have a clue. She put me at ease and said it wasn't all that uncommon. (Huge relief!) When I was sitting behind the wheel she ran through the basics like what the pedals were and what they did, how to hold the steering whe
                        el, how to indicate and how to change gears. It was time to start the engine. SCARY! I turned the key, the engine kicked in. She explained how to get the car moving and within a minute I was officially on the road! (Albeit a quite housing estate!) lol. This particular street was a rather large oval-ish shape with a number of streets running from one side to the other. Ideal to learn the basics on, plenty of left and right turns, not too much traffic and a couple of small hills to start learning how to do hill starts. I can't remember exactly what I did on my first ever lesson. I know I didn't do much but it seemed like I had at the time! I spent a good 1 hour 30 minutes driving around on this one street. Despite this seemingly jading task, it seemed to go quite quickly. My instructor then got back in the driving seat and drove me home again. One week later the whole process repeated itself. The week after that, on my final pre-paid for lesson, she drove me to the same street again. I went over the basics again and then it was time to emerge onto the real roads. Now this was scary! Approaching the end of the street I could see cars hurtling past. They seemed to be going so fast, even though it was only a 30mph stretch of road! 'What if I stalled when I was trying to emerge into the main road??' How embarrassing would that be!! I don't think I did if memory serves me right. I was reassured all the time though and my instructor said I came across quite calm and under control. (She obviously didn't have her x-ray specs on at the time as she clearly couldn?t see the butterflies in my stomach!) By the time my pre-paid for lesson came to an end I decided I couldn't afford £30 per week so I decided to go for 1 hour lessons. These, as I said, were charged at £17.50 per hour. If you booked a series of 10 she gave me a reduction so I p
                        aid £170 for 10 hours. It was a bit daunting knowing I was to be learning to drive for at least another 10 hours (effectively the next 10 weeks of my life). After all, I didn't think I'd be learning to drive at all! Another 10 weeks passed, quite slowly in all honesty. I was starting to get bored! And gradually getting more and more skint! By this time though it seemed a bit daft to give up. After all that money I was determined to continue until the bitter end! My instructor fell ill for a few weeks, and went on holiday too once. This meant I probably went a month and a half with no lessons through no fault of my own. It was nice for a break to be honest. On her return to work she turned up 10 minutes late one morning. I didn't think too much of it. She brought me back home on the hour, meaning I'd lost 10 minutes of my lesson. This happened the next week and the week after that. Sometimes she'd be just a few minutes late, other times she'd be 10-15 minutes late. Sometimes she'd bring me back a few minutes later (never 10-15mins though) but more often than not I'd be home on the hour. Over time my parents noticed and weren't too happy. I wasn't either. By the end of the 10 lessons I'd paid for she probably owed me at least 1 hour and a half. Anyway, I continued with this instructor simply because, by now, I was used to the car and I did like her, she never got angry and was always really friendly. With another few weeks/months break in amongst I finally put in for my theory test in September. I passed first time. By this time I'd come to the end of another block-booking of pre-paid for lessons. As I could now put in for my practical test straight away I decided to look into the intensive driving courses I'd seen advertised. I'd had enough of the weekly lessons. Although I never wanted to learn to drive, by this time I just wanted to pass
                        . I phoned one up who advertised in the local paper as doing 'Intensive courses'. He charged £150 for a 10 hour course. This was quite reasonable I thought so I decided to try it. I had to have a 1 hour assessment lesson which was included in the £150 dropping me to 9 hours of 'Intensive'. The assessment lesson was to see just how good/bad I was. The assessment lesson went well, he thought a remaining 9 hours tuition would be fine and so he'd put me in for my test. (The test was also included in the £150 too, which is a bargain as its £40 alone!) So, after getting the date of my test through I booked the remaining 9 hours. Just one problem. It wasn't 'Intensive' at all. He was so fully booked himself I had to wait a good 6 weeks for my test date to arrive as he had no slots in which to let me hire his car for 40 minutes for the test before then. This was very annoying in some respects because I really just wanted to get on with it now. However, it was tricky getting used to a new car and instructor combination so, in hindsight, it was probably a good thing. This new car I was learning in was a Fiat Seincento. Hence it was MUCH smaller than I was used to. Not only that but it also had power steering! I knew nothing other than a non-power steering set-up prior to driving in this new car so it was all a bit strange. How much easier is it to drive with power steering though! In comparison to the old instructors' car is was far simpler to manoeuvre. My first driving test was in November (I can?t remember the exact date!). I failed. I knocked up 7 minors (you're allowed 15, this is as of May 1999, prior to this you were allowed countless minor faults!!) Sadly I also got a serious fault though through no fault of my own (no, seriously, I'm not just saying that! Lol) and one of the manoeuvres I did went pear-shaped, again, through no fault of my own! Yo
                        u see, the serious fault I knocked up was the result of the examiner asking me to 'pull over in a safe and convenient place' just after going over the brow of a hill. Shortly after this hill there was another junction and a primary school with the main gates facing onto this road. I had no choice but to pull up as far down the hill as possible but before the junction and school gates. He then asked me to 'move on when I was ready'. I got ready and waited for a gap in the traffic (that which I could see as there was now a hill behind me). I pulled away when there was a gap and had just set off, just picking up speed when a taxi came hurtling over the brow of the hill and overtook me. As I had affected his driving the examiner failed me :-( Later on in this test I was asked to reverse around a corner. This would have been fine had the corner not been up a whopping great big hill. Of course you should be able to deal with such things as a driver, examiners aren't supposed to ask you to do this. The specifications for this manoeuvre are simply that you can reverse around a corner. Needless to say, when I told my instructor what I'd failed on he couldn't believe it! He was even pondering whether I should appeal. However, as that would take weeks in itself it wasn't worth it. And highly annoyingly for me, not only did I have to folk out another £40 for another test, but as my instructor is so fully booked I faced at least another 5 weeks wait. I finally got the date through. It was for today, January 7th 2004. 11:41am was the time, just like my first test. I was expecting to wake up to find awful weather but was pleasantly surprised to find another sunny, dry day. At 9:40am I was to start a two hour lesson (I had 2 hours on Monday to refresh myself as I'd not driven since before Xmas) - remember I don't have a car and I can't practise with anyone. 11:41am finally came aro
                        und. I was fortunate in that the only examiner working today was a lady by the name of Angela. I was hoping and praying not to get the same examiner as I'd had before! Not only did I now not like him due to what he'd made me do on my first test but I'd also heard some not-so-nice things about him being really horrible! (Although I must admit he was friendly enough with me). Anyway. I signed my form and made my way outside to the car park. Went 20.5m from a car when she asked me to then read the number plate. This went fine. I made my way to the car. As of September 1st 2003 there is now a new, additional part to the driving test. This bit is called 'Show me, tell me'. Two questions are asked at the start of the test, following the eye test (reading a number plate from 20.5m away). One question is a 'show me' type question in that you have to physically show the examiner what you'd do. E.g. 'show me how you'd check your indicators are working'. You physically do this. The next is a 'tell me' type question in that you simply have to tell them how you'd do something. E.g. 'tell me how you'd check the engine oil'. You open the bonnet, point out the oil dipstick and explain the oil should be between the minimum and maximum marks on the stick. There are a number of other questions they can ask ranging from inside the car, outside the car and under the bonnet questions, not forgetting the tyres which is the most commonly wrongly answered question. If you're asked about tyre tread just remember it should be 1.6mm in depth across the central ¾'s of the tyre right around the circumference. Don't forget to say you'd also check for bulges and scrapes on the outside of the tyres too. I was asked this one today as my 'tell me' question. Fortunately I'd memorised it! :o) And then the really scary bit comes. Time to get in the car! <gulp> <
                        br> The test starts. Before I even move I'm asked to do my first manoeuvre - reverse bay parking. I pull out, straighten up and then reverse straight back to where I was a minute ago. Somewhat pointless but it went ok so that was a good start! Then we hit the roads. One reversing around a corner (not up a hill fortunately) later and a number of 'pulling over', 'moving off' and the likes the later its time to head back. 35 minutes or so later I'm back in the same parking space (now facing the other direction!) lol. I couldn't make my mind up how I'd done really. I didn't think I'd had any serious faults but I couldn't decide how many minors I'd clocked up. So, I just had to wait. A few seconds (which felt like hours) later came.... 'Well, Sarah, I'm pleased to say you've passed your driving test'. WOOHOO! I was soooo relieved! So, to conclude.... ================================== Does Sarah_Louise recommend learning to drive? ================================== Now I've passed, yes, I do! I'm not going to lie and say I enjoyed it all. I didn't. I found it boring after the first 10 hours or so. Not to mention the expense. It is expensive, far too expensive in my opinion. However I guess it must be expensive for driving instructors to insure their cars so I suppose they have to charge such high prices. It may be a nerve wracking experience. Some (lucky) people don't find the prospect of learning to drive scary at all. Other (lucky) people have parents, other relatives and/or friends that will let them practise with them. This would be a great advantage. Not only will it give you experience driving other makes of cars, it also means you're learning to drive with people other than your instructor. Not to mentioning giving you more overall practise, meaning fa
                        r less lessons should be required and hence saving you money too. All in all this is highly recommended. If I was 17 again and about to embark on learning to drive I think I would seriously consider buying a car before I started. Of course it would cost a fortune to insure (average was about £1000 or there abouts when I looked into it). Not forgetting the price of the car and petrol on top of that. However, when you consider the amount of money it could save you by having a car in which to practise and remember you'll still have it after you've passed, it may well be worth it. There are clear differences between the pass rates of those who get to practise and those who don't. Taking 6 of my friends as examples: 2 did no practise, one through being lazy and one due to not having a car and parents who weren't willing to let her practise with them. 1 had permission to practise in her parents' car. The remaining 3 had their own cars and had people to practise with on a regular basis. The 2 who did no practise both failed their first tests quite miserably. They both failed their second test too, not quite so badly as the first one but nevertheless failed it. They passed on their third attempt. The one who practised in her parents' car passed on her second attempt. The 3 who had their own cars all passed on their first attempt. Just goes to show doesn't it? Of course buying, running and insuring your first car under the age of 21 with a provisional license is VERY expensive and it may seem a little daft compared with the price of a test being 'just' £40 as opposed to the thousands you'd spend with a car of your own. However, coupled with the extra lessons you?ll require and the fact that you won't be able to just have a test within a week or two of failing (possibly needing to wait more than 2 months before your next test, having more lessons a
                        gain in order to not forget the basics!) it all adds up. I'd seriously look into it. Of course its still expensive when you've passed your driving test. Insurance is very expensive for those under 21 years of age. Don't forget you're still on 'probation' (of sorts) as well for the first two years. You're allowed 6 points, after this you'll have your license revoked. You'll have to sit your driving tests again (both theory and practical). ========================= Sarah_Louises' top tips for passing ========================= ~ THEORY ~ This is relatively simple to pass. I say 'relatively' simply because its like any other exam, you can't tell what the questions are going to be. For this reason you could be unlucky. However, put the work in and you could almost guarantee a pass. Unlike exams you sit in school, college and the likes, the questions CAN be predicted. Although there are hundreds they can ask you, my top tip is to buy the DVLA Theory Test questions & answers book. This contains all the questions they can ask you. You?ll soon find a lot are the same, just worded differently. If you work through this book you?ll be practically guaranteed to pass. Also get your hands on the CD ROM with both the theory questions and also the hazard perception part of the test which is now compulsory. If you fail either part you fail the whole test. You have to get 30/35 questions right to pass the theory question part. Like I said, you can do this by just using the book. However, the hazard perception bit can't be learnt from a book. You need the CD ROM. The DSA Hazard Perception Test has 14 different moving scenes shown from moving video clips filmed from a car. The scenes will have one or two hazards to identify. The 14 scenes will be taken from a bank of 200. For the Hazard Perception Test, the DSA
                        does not let anyone have any samples of the actual video clips. They merely supply "examples". You have to get 44/75 in order to pass this part of the test. Also try tests on the internet: http://www.2pass.co.uk/theory.htm (Loads of others to choose from too, do a web search on Google or the likes) ~ PRACTICAL ~ The eyesight test for a start. Your instructor should ask you to read a number plate at the required distance (to read a standard number plate the distance is 20.5m) to check you're ok with this. If you wear glasses or contact lenses to do this correctly then you will have to wear these after you've passed your driving test. You CAN however revise for the 'show me, tell me' part. There a re a set of questions you can be asked. These can be found here: http://www.bostondrivingschool.co.uk/show_me_tell_me.htm (There are many other websites too) Even if you answer both questions incorrectly you'll only get 1 minor fault. This seems a bit daft to me because what if you answer one perfectly and the other incorrectly? You'll still get 1 minor fault. This seems a bit unfair to me. Sadly, the practical test isn't really something you can revise for. This comes with practise and practise alone really. Whether that'll cost you a fortune or not just depends on whether you have access to a car and brave people that'll sit in with you! ============ Final thoughts ============ Remember, if you fail you can always apply again, just do your best, you can't do any better than that. Good luck!!

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                          • "Does Jane really need to wear high-heeled shoes ALL the time??"

                          skip this first bit to be able to read the review with capital letters intact. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. <
                          br>< br>Jane Goldman Investigates was a new series on Living TV which started just a few months back. It was aired from 10pm-11pm on Tuesday evenings, straight after Living TVs' (now) cult TV programme, Most Haunted. Most Haunted rakes in thousands of viewers each week so to bagsie a slot straight after the show, any programme about the paranormal was bound to be a success. Jane Goldman Investigates (hereby referred to as JGI to avoid RSI!) was, not surprisingly, presented by Jane Goldman. Who's she? I hear you ask. Well she is actually Jonathan Ross' better half. Jane is also the author of two best-selling, non-fiction books with accompanies the X-Files series. Each week, Jane learnt a different "psychic" skill from a leading expert in the field of the paranormal. She had 1 month in which to learn this skill. At the end of the month she was to be put to the ultimate test. In some respects, this programme resembled the "Faking It" series on Channel 4 in that Jane was to try and pass herself off as being as good as any professionals in various different fields within the paranormal circle. When I said "psychic" skills earlier, this is rather deceptive. More on this in a moment. When I first heard about this programme on the grapevine, only to see it advertised at a later date, my first thoughts were "well, that looks a bit rubbish!" Firstly, Jane looks a bit, well, ummm, how do I put this nicely? Arty farty I guess is the term I'm looking for! You know how it is. Never dressed appropriately and with long bright red hair she just didn't look like the type to take things seriously. As I'm into the paranormal in a big way and into it from a serious, scientific angle, I was not too impressed by the looks of this programme. However, like I say, as it was on straight after Most Haunted (a programme I watched every week) I decided to
                          give it a c hance. Did it live up to expectations? Well, in my humble opinion, this show exceeded all expectations I had for it. Jane herself was far more level-headed than I was expecting. (Which just goes to show that looks really can be deceptive!) At the start of every single episode (there were 10 in total), Jane said she was quite sceptical about the whole paranormal field but she was open minded enough to look into things to see if there is any truth in it. This was a superb start in my opinion. Personally I feel in order for anyone to investigate the paranormal effectively, they need to have a little scepticism. For example, taking my group (North Wales Paranormal Research)'s particular "specialist" field, that of hauntings/ghosts/spirits. If you go in believing wholeheartedly in life after death and that spirits walk the earth then any little thing that happens on an investigation will simply be put down as being "paranormal" or "supernatural". I'm not saying this never happens. It does. We *do* have things happening that can only be described as being paranormal. However, as we all have a healthy dose of scepticism to go with it we look into alternatives first before branding anything as being "spooky". So, for Jane to openly admit to being at least a little sceptical on camera she was to look into things properly and not just jump to wild conclusions. So, right from the start, the JGI show was in my good books! Over the 10 weeks/episodes, Jane looked into a number of different fields. These were: ~ Episode 1: Psychometry ~ This is the psychic ability to pick up information from an object simply by touching it. Jane was taught by one of Britain's best-known psychometrists. Travelling across the UK, she worked with a psychic detective in an attempt to find a missing dog, as well as visiting Eyam Ha
                          ll, a 17th-centur y homestead soaked in history as she attempted to master the skill for herself. ~ Episode 2: Tarot ~ Janes' teachers prepared Jane to give both personal and predictive information for those seeking answers with the aid of a pack of Tarot cards. ~ Episode 3: Ghosts ~ Jane joined a ghost research group as she attempted to learn the rules of her first ever ghost hunt. She consulted a leading parapsychologist in an effort to see whether she could make contact with a ghost herself. ~ Episode 4: Astrology ~ The mysteries of the stars are slowly unravelled as Jane learned the arte of plotting birth charts, as well as predicting the Horoscopes for a national newspaper. ~ Episode 5: Dowsing ~ Jane investigated the art of dowsing, the ability to find people or things using a 'wishing rod' or a pendulum. Her research lead her to seek the advice of leading dowsers as she attempted to locate things ranging from water to finding her way through a manmade maze. ~ Episode 6: Psychic healing ~ Concentrating on Reiki healing, the ancient Japanese art, Jane investigated the nature of psychic healing, from animal healing to psychic surgery, to try and discover exactly why so many people think it's one of the best things that's ever happened to them. ~ Episode 7: Clairvoyance ~ Jane learned the ancient and mysterious arts of clairvoyant prediction. Fate and destiny are put to the test as she finds out how to read everything from crystal balls to tea leaves. She met the real-life Monsieur and Madame Zeldas who devote their lives to predicting the arrival of that tall, dark and handsome stranger. ~ Episode 8: Past life regression ~ Jane looked at hypnotherapy as a tool of being able to retrace a person's past life. Through group and individual work, she investigated her own past lives
                          as well as trying to someone else of a fear inherited from a former life. ~ Episode 9: Spell casting ~ The Wiccan religions are frequently misunderstood, and in this episode Jane tried to explode the myths. The UK is home to over twenty thousand practising witches and as she delves deep into the magical traditions, she teams up with comedian David Baddiel to cast a spell that might well have an impact on her hubby, Jonathan Ross. ~ Episode 10: Talking to the dead ~ Is it really possible for a person to contact the spirit world? Jane tried to connect with spirit guides as well as talking to a psychic artist in an attempt to prove that there is life after death. I was looking forward to the ghosts, clairvoyance, dowsing, spell casting and talking to the dead ones myself more than the others as I personally find these the most interesting. That is not to say I don't find the others interesting though! All the programmes had their good and bad points though. Mainly good points I must say. Like I say, Jane actually investigated things quite effectively on most occasions. (Ghosts being the only obvious exception in my opinion). Taking the ghosts programme for example. A friend from another paranormal research group appeared on this show. They spent the night with Jane investigating the ghosts of a certain building. I was looking forward to this programme, not only because I knew/have worked with the group appearing on the show but also because ghosts are my personal favourite topic. I was a little disappointed though. Jane didn't investigate this programme as thoroughly as she could have done. Whether this had anything to do with the group she was with or not I don't know. I can't really comment on it either! For example, one thing this research group do on a fairly regular basis when investigating ghosts is that of "table tipping". Th
                          is combination and Jane bei ng a little sceptical just didn't seem to mix well in my opinion. For a start, you could not tell whether the table was moving of its own accord or whether someone was moving it themselves. So, coupled with the fact that Jane prefers to have things "proven" to her one way or another, this combination just didn't gel somehow. I only really had a problem with one of the other programmes too, that being the one labelled "Clairvoyance". In the description above you'll see its mainly about being able to predict the future from "reading" things, e.g. tea leaves, scrying (e.g. looking into crystal balls, etc). As I'm sure many of you know, clairvoyance is nothing to do with this. Clairvoyance is the ability to see dead people (for lack of a better expression!). I.e. a psychic medium who can actually see spirits has the ability of clairvoyance. Some can't see spirits but can hear them (clairaudience) while others can sense them (clairsentient). While some really lucky people have all three abilities! So, by labelling an episode "Clairvoyance" I was expecting Jane to try and learn to see spirits. This was not the case. She spent 80% of the episode learning to read tea-leaves. I was a little disappointed to say the least! General bad points about the show were that you simply cannot fit 1 months learning into a 1 hour show. It goes against the laws of physics. Its impossible! Taking the Psychic Healing episode for example, this one focused on the ancient art of Reiki healing (which is something I trained in over summer). I learnt one heck of a lot over the two day course, more so than was conveyed in a 1 hour programme. So, if Jane really did spend a month learning the art then a LOT must have been missed from the show. Hence Reiki came across to look like it was rather simple, anyone can do it with no training, that sort of thing. Like I
                          say, I realise its impossible to squash a potential 672 hours worth of learning into a 1 hour programme but I do feel a little more emphasis on the important points would have been better. On the other hand, in each episode Jane did her best to approach things rationally. If she didn't believe in something then she said so. There was no beating around the bush with Jane involved! I particularly like Janes' rational approach to every field and her honesty. I also really liked the fact that she tried to get opinions from all sorts of different people. For example, she approached Ciaran O'Keefe, a Parapsychologist from Liverpool University (who's also appeared on Most Haunted). He appeared on a few episodes talking about how a Parapsychologist would approach things. Taking astrology for example. By saying "Monday will be a bad day for you". Just how many millions of people will that fit? Statistically, is there any significance to any of it? I rest my case. So, alongside Jane learning from the experts in their fields, e.g. spell casting, dowsing, etc. she also approached the people on the other side of the "fence" as it were. Getting a balanced opinion to everything. The Most Haunted programme tried to do this in series 2 and 3 but somehow failed. At the end of each episode they had a short (5 minute, if that) section by Dr Matthew Smith (Parapsychologist from Liverpool University) or Ciaran O'Keefe (previously mentioned) whereby they would "analyse" footage and events from the nights investigation. However, as neither of the Parapsychologists were present on the night itself it was nigh-on-impossible for them to be sure. Hence kind of defeating the object somewhat. A second series of Jane Goldman Investigates has now been commissioned so I shall be keeping an eye out for the second series. I highly recommend this programme for anyone remotely inter
                          ested in the paranormal. Having spoken to Ciaran O'Keefe since filming for this series, he also enjoyed doing the show and commended Jane on her open minded approach to things. So roll on series two I say! ------------------------------------------------------------------ For further information you can see the Living TV website: http://www.livingtv.co.uk/janegoldman ------------------------------------------------------------------ P.S. As for the title. A friend of mine said this a while ago. He remained under the impression that this programme wasn't his "cup of tea" despite being a member of NWPR and being interested in the paranormal. As for what the "two things" refer to, you'll just have to watch for yourself and use your imagination! ;o)

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                          • Miracle On 34th Street (DVD) / DVD / 5 Readings / 22 Ratings
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                            13.12.2003 01:38
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                            skip this first bit to be able to read the review with capital letters intact. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. <
                            br> = = = BACKGROUND WAFFLE = = = Considering we're now well into December and the weather is still rather mild and has been rather nice lately I've not really been feeling particularly festive. Even with the onslaught of Christmas adverts on the telly and all the tree's and decorations in the shops, without some freezing cold weather this time of year (and ideally some snow!) it just doesn't feel like Christmas does it? I saw, by some miracle in itself, "Miracle on 34th Street" in the TV guide the other week. I say its a miracle in itself simply because I rarely bother looking in the TV guide these days. I generally only watch TV one night a week, that being Tuesday on Living TV when Most Haunted and Jane Goldman Investigates is on. (Which have both sadly finished this week) :-( Anyway, on flicking through the TV guide I noticed "Miracle on 34th Street" advertised, to be shown on Channel 5 just a few days ago. I was quite pleased about this because I knew it'd get me feeling a little more festive. Or at least I was hoping for that affect! = = = THE FILM = = = Thats enough of the waffle. I have to make a conscious effort to halt with the waffle or else this entire opinion would consist of waffle and waffle alone! And I'm starting to waffle again now, so, back on track.... This film is a remake of a 1947 film of the same name. It is essentially a childrens film with a rating of PG. It isn't really too childish though, or I don't think it is. Its far from being all fantasy and fairy tales in this film, despite it being about Santa Claus predominantly. Unlike many other films revolving around Santa, this film isn't all happy-cheary Santa stories about him flying around the world in one night, eating mince pies and drinking sherry. This is in fact a film about belief. Dorey, working for Cole's department
                            store on New York's 34th Street, decides to employ a man called Kriss Kringle to play the part of Santa in the store over the Christmas season. Dorey doesn't believe in Santa and has consequently instilled this scepticism in her young daughter, Susan. For them, Santa Claus is a myth passed down from parents to children. This lack of faith leeches away the magic of the season for them. That is until Bryan Bedford comes along (Dorey's neighbour and boyfriend). Bryan feels sorrt for both Dorey and Susan, especially Susan. No child should have Christmas spoiled for them by such scepticism. Believing in Santa is a natural thing for any 21st century child. Isn't it? So, with the help of Kriss they set about persuading them *both* that there is such a thing as Santa. The twist in the tale is that Kriss Kringle really *is* Santa! (Much to Bryan's surprise as much as Dorey and Susans'!) It all sounds a bit far fetched I'm sure, and I have only summed up the very basics of the film above. There is obviously far more to it. All in all this film encompasses a range of stories. In part its a childrens film, in other parts its a love story. However, throughout the whole film the issue of belief is raised. For example. An important part of the film is that near the end when a Judge declares Kriss Kringle as the real Santa. Claiming that if the US Government can have "In God we trust" printed on all their bank notes then why should the general public not believe in Santa? = = = GOOD POINTS = = = There are a number of good things about this film. ~ Gets you in the festive mood. ~ Overall its a "feel good" film. Nothing to get your upset unduly. And, as with most films, it all turns out fine in the end. ~ Its not just a silly childrens film. (Although on the surface it may appear to be so). Stic
                            k with it though, you'll have to trust me on this one! ~ Raises some important issues about our society. Why aren't we free to believe what we want? Of course some are lucky enough to escape with their beliefs but there are so many other, less fortunate people, who have to hide their beliefs from others for one reason or another. Of course this film is about belief in Santa, which is an important part to any childhood I believe. However, the underlying issue in this film is that of belief in general. = = = BAD POINTS = = = I honestly can't think of any regarding this film to be honest. The only flaw I have with the viewing I sat though the other night was that it was on Channel 5 and, for some reason or another, the film was being played quite quietly which meant I had to turn the volume up, only to be deafened every time the adverts started! = = = CONCLUSION = = = I have now seen this film about 4 or 5 times and I've enjoyed it on each viewing. I don't know, maybe I'm a sucker for Christmas "feel-good" films? I do recommend this film highly though. Give it a go. You may enjoy it too! = = = COMPLIMENTARY BORING BITS = = = Feel free to skip this bit but a film op just isn't a film op with the boring bits! ~ Set in: United States, 1994 ~ Release Date: 1 1/18/94 ~ Running Length: 1:53 ~ Rating: PG (Nothing offensive) ~ Cast: Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott, Mara Wilson, J T Walsh, James Remar, Robert Prosky, Joss Ackland ~ Director: Les Mayfield ~ Producer: John Hughes ~ U.S. Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox = = = FINISHING NOTE = = = In case this is the last op I get around to until the big day I'd just like to take a moment to wish all
                            you in dooyoo land a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. }:o (That's Rudolph, in case you were wondering!)

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                            • Why (not) travel? / Discussion / 0 Readings / 29 Ratings
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                              05.12.2003 22:53
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                              skip this first bit to be able to read the review with capital letters intact. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. <
                              br> ---WHAT MALU SAID--- "This is my christmas prezzie for you, my dears, I´ve posted it now so that you can complete it. I can give you only the first half, the second half must come from you. Do it before Christmas Day so that you can fill your coffers and have some dosh for your next holiday! Another reason for posting it before Christmas is that I want to read some of your answers; I`ll be away during the festive season on an excursion for travel guides, expenses covered by dooyoo.* This challenge does not compete or interfere with the official guides` challenges. * only kidding" _______________________________ = = = INTRO = = = So, here I am! I'm a real sucker for challenge op's here and abroad (on "the other side"!) I couldn't resist this one and like Malu rightly says, whilst dooyoo are offer 6p/read, why not take advantage of this rare treat?! _______________________________ Q: How many times a year do you travel? A: This has altered somewhat since Spring 2003. Prior to Spring this year I would have said once or twice a year. We used to go on family holidays generally once or twice a year (normally during the Summer months and then perhaps again in Autumn for a short break). However, this year's been different. My parents have been on holiday twice this year. Once to the Norfolk Broads and once to Jersey, the latter holiday was just a few months ago. I decided not to join them this year. Not because I now consider myself too old (or cool!) to join them but because I've simply been too busy. This year has easily been the busiest year of my life so far. I have been run off my feet, literally in some instances! However, because of the 'work' I now do I have been around the UK on a number of occasions. I've lost count how many trips I've been on this year in fact! _______
                              ________________________ Q: For how long do you go away? A: Again, up until this year I'd have said from anywhere between 1-2 weeks per holiday. However, this years been different, most trips have been between 2 and 3 days in duration. _______________________________ Q: Do you stay in your home country or do you go abroad? A: Sadly, so far in my 20 years of life I have yet to leave British soil. I've been to Jersey and Guernsey though so technically I've been nearer to France than I have been to mainland UK. But alas its still classed as British turf so I've yet to go abroad. I don't actually have a passport at the moment. Having never needed one. My parents, or more precisely, my mother, isn't keen on going abroad. Firstly she's not too keen about the prospect of flying and secondly she doesn't like hot weather. Now don't you agree with me that the latter reason is just the most feeble of excuses? We could always have gone to Lapland after all! :-) Anyway. Now I'm well and truly old enough to go abroad by myself I intend on getting a passport shortly. I may not use it for a while but I definitely intend on seeing at least part of the world before I die. _______________________________ Q: Do you organise your holidays yourself or do you go to a travel agency? A: Neither. Why? Because my parents have always organised proper holidays for me! They organise it all themselves though. I don't think we've ever used a a travel agent to be honest. Or not that I can recall anyway. This year I've organised all my trips across the country on my own though. I've had to, no one else would do it for me! _______________________________ Q: Do you prepare your holidays in advance by reading guide books and studying maps? A: I do like to know where I'm going, what time I'll be arriving
                              and leaving, etc, etc. I like to be as organised with things like this as far as possible. _______________________________ Q: Do you travel alone/with family or friends/with an organised group? A. Like I say, up until this year its always been with family. Namely my mother and father. Many years ago we also used to take my Grandmother with us on holiday too (on my mothers side of the family). She has now passed away though so we obviously no longer take her with us! (Unless she comes in spirit form?!) ______________________________ Q: Do you prefer the sea / mountains / plains / cities as destinations? A: When I was younger we mainly used to go to the seaside. All kids love the sea don't they? Playing on the beach is such fun when you're little! However, I've now lived by the sea for coming up to 5 years so the novelty wears off somewhat! I've always adored the Countryside though. My Grandparents (on my fathers side of the family) were farmers. I guess it must be hereditary as I adore the Countryside and would love to live on a farm. Prior to moving to the seaside we lived in the Conwy Valley (North Wales). This is a fairly remote area and is fairly mountainous. I adored it. I love mountains. I really do. So out of all of the above I'd choose mountains. However. Plains. Now then, the African plains also hold an attraction for me personally - safari. Which is something I intend on experiencing when I've got a passport and some spare money! I really aren't keen on cities so I'd never dream of going on holiday to one. __________________________________ Q: Do you mainly relax or are you an active holidayer? A: A bit of both I guess. I like to relax just as much as the next person but I also like to try things. I've never been on an "activities" style holiday but would consider going on one.
                              Especially if it involved horse riding! :-) One thing I don't do on holiday is lounge by the Hotels' pool for the whole time of the holiday. I can never understand that. Same with sunbathing on the beach. Yes, fine for a few hours but surely its a waste of money?! __________________________________ Q: If you go abroad do you learn at least some words of the foreign language? A: Not applicable for me really but then again they do speak French in Jersey and Guernsey. To be honest I didn't learn any new words because I didn't realise it was going to be as French as it was the first time I went. I was quite taken aback when people spoke French in the shops and things! Fortunately I was in my second year of High School when I went to Jersey so I had very basic French. Not enough to hold a conversation though! If I was going back to Jersey or indeed going anywhere truly abroad I would aim to learn the basics to get by and take a guide book with me! :-) _________________________________ Q: Are you interested in the cuisine of a foreign country? A: Now then, this is where I have to say no! I'm far from adventurous when it comes to new food stuffs. In fact I am one of the fussiest people I know. I was *the* most fussy eater until I met my now best friend, Liz. She is far worse than me! But no, I'm afraid I probably wouldn't try a vast deal of foreign cuisine. However, I would try things if I was sure of the ingredients. If I knew there was no cheese (or similar) food and nothing obscure (e.g. dog, horse or any other lovely PET animal!) then I would probably try a VERY small amount! When I'm forced to try it I generally relent! However, I've had enough of odd food this year thank you very much. I ate some bizarre food at a Reiki weekend I attended in Summer. It was all healthy beans and the likes and it tasted, smelt and looked VILE
                              ! I had to eat it on two consecutive days too. YUCK! _________________________________ Q: Which means of transportation do you prefer? A: As I've never flown, I've only ever travelled in the following ways: ~ By car, ~ By train, ~ By bus, ~ By ferry (both the slow and fast varieties!) ~ On horseback I'd have to choose horseback as being my favourite! :o) So far as I'm aware I have nothing against flying. I certainly intend on trying it one day. _________________________________ Q: What kind of luggage do you take with you? Have you got problems packing? Do you tend to take too many / too few things with you? A: I tend to pack just about right. When I used to travel on holiday with my parents, my mother tended to do my packing for me. She's one of those who always packs FAR too much. You know how it is. You're going away for 1 week and you've got enough clothes to last you 3 months! Since packing for myself I have fortunately not picked up her genes on this one. I can pack light! In fact I can get everything I need (towels included!) for a duration of 3 days in the one backpack! (Which is quite an accomplishment in my opinion! - considering I'm female....!) _________________________________ Q: Do you send picture postcards to your family and friends? A: We have done in the past yes. I do think its a bit pointless though. Not only do you often get home before they arrive at their destination (even if you're only in the UK yourself!) but: ~ The postmen can read them - nosey beggars! ~ Who ever writes anything interesting on them? "Today we went to the Zoo. It was nice. Yesturday we went to the War Museum. It was very interesting. The weather has been lovely so far, it even got to 25 degree's C yesturday!" Really. Not only is it a waste
                              of paper its also a waste of ink! (Unless you write it in pencil....!) Merry Christmas and a happy new year to everyone reading this! :-)

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                              • More +
                                27.11.2003 20:32
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                                skip this first bit to be able to read the review with capital letters intact. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. <
                                br> = = = FIRST THINGS FIRST = = = Firstly I'd just like to say that this op is about the Fruit Fusions version of the Herbal Essences range in particular but, as dooyoo haven't got a category for this at the moment and as this op also contains info about other shampoo's in the Herbal Essences range I opted to put it in the "In General" category. = = = BACKGROUND INFO = = = It was many months ago, in the warm and sunny Summer of 2003 (seems like a distant memory now!) when Sarah_Louise set off on a quest for some freebies. I trawled through the freebie websites and came across one offer. It was for a free bottle of Herbal Essences shampoo. Having never tried Herbal Essences and always contemplated trying it but never quite getting around to it (you know how it is....) I decided to take the plunge and risk a tonne of junk mail by signing upto said freebie. Anyway, I sent off for quite a number of freebies. I then awaited the post. I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Sadly, 99% of the freebies I'd sent off for never turned up. Despite me now being on the receiving end of loads of extra junk mail..... However, this lil' package arrived one day. I eagerly opened it to find two mini bottles of shampoo. (Or, more precisely, one bottle of shampoo and one bottle of conditioner). The mini-bottles are so cute, containing just 45ml of shampoo/conditioner, they're like the lil' tubes of toothpaste you can get. They're so cute looking you don't want to actually use the contents! Or is that just me? :o) After testing the products out I came to the conclusion that they not only smelt nice AND they seemed to get on well with my hair. What more could any gal want? That was many months ago. I have since now become a Herbal Essences addict. Seriously. Herbal Essences is wonderful stuff! (They do say admitting your addictio
                                n is the first step to recovery 'n' all that....) I have since NOT used any other brand of shampoo. This may not be such a big deal to some of you, i.e. those of you with the annoying 'normal' hair that doesn't seem to be affected by build-up of residues. My hair is highly annoying. It gets greasy if its not washed every 24 hours. I can go 48 hours at a push but it really is pushing it when its nearing the 48 hours mark. For this reason I wash my hair everyday. Needless to say, shampoo's tend to build up relatively quickly. Before discovering the wonders of Herbal Essences (more precisely, the "Residue Removal/Clarifying" brand of the shampoo), I used to have to use about three brands of shampoo, alternating between them regularly to help stop the build-up. Since discovering Herbal Essences though this is no longer the case. Like I said earlier, I have not used any other brand since. HIGHLY unusual for me! "My hair doesn't seem to be affected by build-up by using this shampoo so I'm going to stick to it" Or so I thought.... It was a few weeks back and I was running out of the "Residue Removal/Clarifying" shampoo. I ventured to Superdrug to discover they had a BOGOF offer on on all of the Herbal Essences range. Excellent, I thought. I was going to buy two bottles of the Residue Removal/Clarifying stuff. Until I spotted te Fruit Fusions bottles.... Their brightly coloured contents enticed me to take a whiff. The advert of the lady in the pond in some tropical oasis came to mind. As did her lovely shiny, healthy looking hair. It was sold. (I'm a sucker for adverts!) It was just a case of deciding on which colour to go for. After whiffing them all (all 4 varieties) I decided to read the labels. It turned out they all smelled the same (or VERY similar) to me, despite the ingredients supposedly being different. <
                                br> I opted for the green bottle which is "Purifying". I decided on this one because I figured it was closest to what I'd originally intended on buying, i.e. the Residue Removal/Clarifying variety. I also bought a Residue Removal/Clarifying bottle to go with the BOGOF offer just to be on the safe side! I nipped off to the counter and the deal was done. That night it was time to put it to the test. Did it live up to expectations? I'm pleased to announce that it did, and still is doing! As with the Residue Removal/Clarifying stuff, the Purifying version of the "Fruit Fusions" range isn't causing build-up either. = = = SO WHATS THIS PURIFYING STUFF LIKE? = = = Well, where to start!? Firstly, the Purifying stuff is in the green bottle. It contains Kiwi, Kumquat and Fig extracts. I love the smell (but then I do tend to like fruit smells when it comes to things like shampoos, body washes, etc). My mum isn't keen on fruity smells in soaps and things herself so I guess its just down to personal preference, as with everything else in this life! I'm not sure what Kumquat smells like to be honest so I'll hazard a guess and say it smells more Kiwi/Fig extract smell in origin. To be honest though I can't put my finger on it! And as the other 3 versions (different colours for different types of hair) all contained different fruits, they all smelled the same (or very similar) to me anyway so I suspect its the standard fragrance they use rather than what the ingredients actually are. Rest assured, it does smell nice! (If you like fruity smells of course....) = = = USAGE = = = One great thing about Herbal Essences (or so I've found) is that you can get a really good lather up without having to put too much shampoo on. Which, not only saves on faffing around, it saves on shampoo usa
                                ge too and therefore you may have a few extra pennies for Christmas! As with all shampoos, don't bother getting any in your eyes, it'll hurt like crazy so just rinse, rinse and rinse some more. Don't get any in your mouth either as it WON'T taste like fruit! (Trust me. I'm talking from experience here! I once tried tasteing some GORGEOUS chocolate smelling bubble bath. YUCK. It was vile! It smelt nice but thats about all I can say on the matter! NB. I was only about 7 at the time so don't laugh!!) It recommends you use with the Purifying Conditioner too. But then all bottles of shampoo recommend that! Having never tried it myself I can't say whether it improves the results or not. = = = CONCLUSION = = = Herbal Essences is the ONLY shampoo I've ever used thats not got built-up on my hair. And, because of this, it is now my all-time favourite shampoo brand. Although this is predominantly about the Fruit Fusions range, I'll conclude by saying that I recommend ANY of the Herbal Essences range. If you're partial to fruit smells then give the Fruit Fusions range a go while you're at it. Most of the 250ml bottles will set you back around about £1.10-£1.30. I spent £1.19 on mine. BOGOF offer. So for two 250ml bottles for £1.19 its not bad value at all! = = = BORING BITS = = = Feel free to skip these bits if you wish, they are boring! This shampoo blends natural Kiwi, Kumquat and Fig extracts, specially formulated for greasy hair to: ~ Cleanse without stripping, ~ Remove grease and styling built-up, ~ Clarify to give hair a fresh start Fruits are grown under certified organic conditions including high quality ingredients derived from pure renewable plant sources. Herbal Essences shampoo bottles use 25% post-consumer recycled plastic and are recyclable. Da
                                ily use is recommended. = = = MORE INFO = = = http://www.herbal-essences.co.uk/ (You can, I've just noticed, order a free Fruit Fusions sample from the website, so guess where I'm off to now?!)

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                                  skip this first bit to be able to read the review with capital letters intact. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a.
                                  a. a. a. a. It was way back in July, shortly after conducting an overnight investigation at one of the UK's most haunted locations, Derby Gaol, that we booked ourselves into going to what was set to be the biggest paranormal convention of its kind in the UK. And it's name? GhostCon. It was to be held in Nottingham, Bestwood Lodge to be precise. A few weeks passed and our tickets arrived. We forgot all about it for the time being. It was a couple of months later when I received an email from Jason Karl (presenter of Most Haunted, Strange but True, The Why Files, amongst many others). He was inviting us to do a talk at GhostCon. Excellent, we thought, it could only be good publicity for us. As no publicity is bad publicity we agreed. However, with just over a month to go before the big event (over Halloween 2003 by the way) we realised we had a bit of a rush on to find accommodation. Being autumn/winter though we didn't think it would be too much of a problem. How wrong were we?! All the B&B's seemed to be fully booked! There were vacancies at some of Nottingham's top hotels but when you're looking at £70+ per night they were well out of our budget (or certainly out of mine!) We were left with just a couple of alternatives: 1. Sleep in the car - this was unpractical though, when we?re going on investigations and events around the UK we normally have 'the big gold fun bus' as we refer to it. In other words it's a land rover! However, having 5 in the car meant it would be a bit cramped! We were to be staying Friday and Saturday night. As our talk was at 10:30am on the Saturday morning we didn't want to appear like we'd just slept in a car all night! So we struck that off our list. 2. A tent - same problems arise as with the car! That, coupled with the fact that we'd have had to trespass on some farmers land! 3. And last, but by no means least, we're left with the alternative we went for - Travel Inn. I'd never personally stayed in a Travel Inn before. A few members of the Committee had and had not really enjoyed their stays at them before so they were not looking forward to it! However, my parents have stayed at a couple on occasion in the past and recommended them to me. Just the week prior to Halloween my dad was on a course for work and stayed at a Travel Inn in Nottingham itself. It turns out there are three Travel Inn's in Nottingham. A city centre one, city South and one to the West of the centre. So, whilst talking to some Committee members over MSN messenger it was decided we'd have to go with this alternative. If we didn't we'd look like we'd been dragged through a bush backwards for our talk and that would not look good!! Off we scuttled to the Travel Inn website. http://www.travelinn.co.uk. (Which, incidentally, is generally very easy to use when its working, on a couple of occasions we had problems getting it to work but whether this was just a temporary hitch we don't know, it seems to be working ok now!) We checked vacancies for Nottingham city centre, city South and West. By huge relief there were vacancies at the the City South one with the rooms we required. And, as it was a Friday-Sunday we got the reduced rate rooms (£49.95 per room, per night). So we booked ourselves into City South for the two nights. I personally didn't do the booking but from what I can gather it was all very simple. We placed a credit card on file and paid for the rooms on arrival all from the one card. Choice of rooms is fairly standard but please note, they don't do single rooms. Now I don't know if this is nationwide or just Nottingham Travel Inn's but the other Travel Inn's my parents have st
                                  ayed in don't appea r to have single rooms either so I'm guessing it's a nationwide trend? However, there seems to be 'Single' options when you go to the 'Online booking and check availability' link on the website. Just out of interest I just tried checking availability of one single room at a few Travel Inn's around the country for one night and on each occasion got a message saying: 'We're unable to fulfil your exact request at ???? Travel Inn. Below is the alternative we can offer. If this doesn't suit you, use the option at the bottom of the page to check availability at other nearby Travel Inns: Room number: 1 Description: Double room' This, again, leads me to believe they don't have single rooms. Surely they can't ALL be booked up!? It seems a bit daft to me though. Firstly, why not have single rooms, and secondly, if they don't do single rooms, why have that option on the online booking system at all? Anyway, back onto my stay. You can therefore choose from double, twin or family rooms. This works out quite economical in that they charge you per room rather than per person. So for a Friday-Sunday stay at £49.95 this works out at £24.98 per person per night based on two sharing either a double or twin room. This meant I paid £49.95 for two nights. Which isn't too bad at all, although it did rock my bank balance a bit at the time! (Being a skint student!!) So, Friday 31st October arrived. Off we went on our 4 hour journey to Nottingham. Nerves were starting to show a little as our talk loomed! On arrival in Nottingham we drove around the ring road a couple of times in the vain attempt to find the Travel Inn. We passed the Travel Inn West one and nearly pulled in until we realised we needed City South! Eventually we found it. Check in is a simple procedure, simply provide your name, address, telephone
                                  number, etc. You're asked whether you want breakfast in the morning or not (usually about £5.00 depending on whether you choose continental or fully English style). We knew we'd not have time though so we didn't bother. Then you're asked to sign a form and that's it. You're given your key and left to it. (Incidentally, I've since learnt that this is unusual, you're usually given a key card with which to open your door apparently). Rooms are easy to find as each corridor is labelled 'Rooms 1-10', etc. Our first job was to memorise which rooms our fellow Committee members were in. It turned out there were three floors to this particular Travel Inn and we were all on separate floors! Between us we'd booked two double rooms and one twin. Only one room was a smoking room - one of the double rooms. We desperately needed to have a run-through of the talk but also desperately needed to get to GhostCon itself. We were an hour late as it was due to our run in with the dreaded Nottingham ring road! So we scuttled to our relevant rooms, dumped our bags, grabbed our essentials (camera, torch, EMF meter, and other things essential to any paranormal investigator!) and then all met by the desk in the front lounge. Piled into the 'big gold fun bus' again and set off trying to find Bestwood Lodge. Despite having a map we found it very difficult to find this place!! However, with the help of Gareths (aka bujin) superb pathfinding skills we managed to arrive before midnight! Thank God our talk was on Saturday morning and not Friday night! In theory, if you're to be arriving back at Travel Inn after midnight you're supposed to hand your key in at reception and then collect it again when you get back. We were in such a rush to leave though we completely forgot about this and darted out of the door without a thought about our keys! As GhostCon included 'ghost hunts&
                                  #39; we weren't back until about 1am. By which time we'd remembered about this key rule and tried sneaking in past reception hoping no one would notice. There was one person behind the reception desk by they didn't say anything at all. Phew! We desperately needed to have a run-through of our talk though so we all headed up to the smoking double room on the third floor in which to have a practise run-through. We'd gone through the basics by 1:30am so as we had to be up relatively early the morning after it was time for bed. Now we could finally inspect our room properly. (I'd not had chance earlier, merely dumped my bags!) The room was of average size, not too big, not too small. In the room there was the bed (no surprise there then!), usual two bedside tables, lamps, wardrobe, dressing table, wall mirror, a small table with 4 chairs around it, tea/coffee making facilities (with a few biscuits, only a few though so bring extra's if you're likely to get peckish!), spare towels and the all-important TV. There's a clock on the TV too which can be used as an alarm. (NB. remember to leave the TV on standby rather than turning it off completely if you're wanting the clock & alarm facility, something we forgot about and only remembered about when we'd got in bed, neither of us could reach it with our toes and we sure as hell couldn't be bothered getting up again so we used our mobile phones as alarm clocks instead!!) Anyway, that's enough of the bedroom, now onto the bathroom. All Travel Inn rooms are en-suite. The bathroom was quite small but adequate. In it there was a bath (with overhead shower), sink and toilet. Also, a handy heated towel rail type of affair. One thing I did notice in the bathroom though was that the towels themselves were tiny. Really, they were. There?s no way you could class them as 'bath towels'. They were more hand towel
                                  sized verging on face cloth/flannel size! Had I wanted to sit with a towel on my head if I'd had time to do such a thing after washing my hair rather than dar ting out of the door in a mad rush I'd not have been successful. The towels were simply not of adequate size to wrap wrong long hair! You got two bars of soap and that's all. No shampoo, shower gel, shower caps or anything else you may associate with more e xpensive, 'proper' hotels. After having a high-speed wash, cleaning my teeth and doing my business it was time for bed. The bed itself was relatively comfortable. I can't really fault the bed itself but we only had one pillow each. Now I'm used to two pillows so this was a bit annoying. I could have asked for another one at reception but at 1:45am when you're worrying about the dreaded talk you've got to present in the morning this wasn?t on the agenda! I didn't sleep too well on Friday night. At the time I blamed it on the noise of traffic outside (that, and my boyfriend is a sheet nicker!!) This is the main flaw I found with Travel Inn to be honest. No, not that my boyfriend insists on having more than 50% of the sheets! But that the noise of the traffic outside could be heard outside. Despite closing the window (which was open on our arrival) you could still clearly hear it. It wasn't a Metro Travel Inn either (i.e. one right next door to a motorway). It was on a fairly busy road but far from being a main road. Yet it was still quite noisy. Incidentally, the others thought the same too so it wasn't just me and the fact that I can never sleep well in a strange bed on the first night! However, having since spoken to my parents, they've never had this problem, they've never been able to hear the traffic really, despite one of their stops being at one by a motorway. Perhaps they've had triple glazed
                                  rooms? I'm not sure. One nights 'sleep' over with and it was time to get up again before I knew where I was. We'd all agreed to meet in Reception at 8:45am. We ni pped over to Sainsbury's to grab a bite to eat (or they did, I?m no a breakfast person!) And then hurried back to Bestwood Lodge to present our talk. One talk out of the way we were at GhostCon all day through until gone 1am. At which time it was time to head back to Travel Inn again. And, again, we'd forgotten about our keys! We sneaked in again looking sheepish, but, as with the night before, no one said anything. Being completely knackered this night, slightly more used to the one pillow situation and having no talk to worry about I got a much better nights sleep. The morning after we simply had to hand our keys back in at Reception. No form filling to do or anything. All in all it's a very simple procedure. Unlike many hotels and B&B's you don't have to leave your room until midday so you can have a lie-in if you wish! Like I say, we didn't have time to do any eating really barring dashing and eating on the go! However, all Travel Inns have a restaurant either incorporated into the building, or directly adjacent, which may be one from a selection of chains including Brewsters, TGI Fridays, GrillBar, Out 'n Out, or Brewer's Fayre, Beefeater, amongst others. Ours was a GrillBar but like I say, we didn't get chance to sample the food on offer here. If you're to be staying in a Travel Inn, just don't expect luxuries. You get what you pay for. However, most people use Travel Inn's just for a night or two (like we did), in which case I see no harm in booking into a Travel Inn. I wouldn?t recommend them as a proper holiday accommodation if you?re predicting to spend any length of time in your room. But for the odd trip up and down the country th
                                  ey are fine. If you're on your own it's quite expensive for £49.95 for a room (unless some Travel Inn's do have single rooms?) but if there's two or more of you sharing it works out reasonable val ue. All in all it worked out to be good value for us (as no one was staying in a room on their own). If you're staying during the week you can expect to pay higher prices of £52.95 per room per night. So, to conclude, would I stay at a Travel Inn again? Yes. Would I recommend them? Yes. All in all they get the thumbs up from me then!

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