- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
I think it?s probably fair to say that most women speak with two voices. So for example, when I watched a recent documentary about Jennifer Lopez, my (loud) outer voice was saying, ?Oh for GOD?S SAKE, what a ridiculous woman. Who the hell cares about her arse? Anybody could look like that if they had her money!? etc etc. But my quieter, inner voice was saying, ?Sigh. Look at that rear end. Wish mine was as pert as that. I?d kill for those buns.? My inner voice won that little argument, and before you can say cellulite, I?d signed up to add spinning to my bulging gym class repertoire. Now I?ll be honest. When spinning first burst onto the gym scene a few years ago, I was pretty sceptical. After all, it?s just going quickly on an exercise bike, isn?t it? And that?s not exactly new ? I mean, who here doesn?t have a dusty old stationary bicycle taking up space in the spare room? Spinning looked to me like just another fad from across the pond, designed to part us with our cash. However, I soon learned from friends who had actually tried it that spinning was in fact a whole world away from plodding along on an exercise bike in your pyjamas with Abba on the headphones. Spinning was a whole new approach to the world of stationary cycling ? and one that was catching on with as many men as it was with women, a sure sign that it wasn?t just a girly aerobics fad. Most decent gyms will have a bank of exercise cycles as part of their ?cardio theatre? ? as they rather bizarrely call it. These bikes are often very advanced, with all sorts of whistles and bells attached, including of course the beloved calorie counter. But a spinning bike is nothing like this. It?s pared down, has a hard seat, and only one wheel. It looks almost like some kind of medical contraption, and I must admit at first glance it?s less than inviting. But with J-Lo?s glowing buns hovering adamantly in my mind?s eye, I was willing to take the risk and give
spinning a whirl. Here?s what happened: OK so I turned up to my spinning class in plenty of time to adjust my bike. The seat is meant to be at hip height but I found this was too high, resulting in a very sore backside the next day! Stick with what you?re comfy with would be my advice there. I sat up high on the seat, and off we went. The class began with a ?gentle warm up?, but it wasn?t so gentle for me, as even adding the slightest bit of resistance caused my leg muscles to scream and my lungs to feel like bursting! I stuck with it though, and after the warm up the real work began. I should point out that after the ten minute warm up, sweat was running down my face so much that I had to take my glasses off to avoid a slippy nose/ smashed specs incident. So the rest of the class was done with very poor vision! The great, strong music kicked in and off we went, on an hour long endurance ride, up hills, along the flat, and (mercifully) also enjoying ?recovery? periods. My particular class is called ?RPM?, and consists of lots of separate dance tracks, each with their own cycling programme. The music is pretty much what you?d hear at a gay disco ? funked up remixes of female vocalist tracks like Cher, Pat Benatar and Sophie Ellis Bextor etc, with a few ?classics? thrown in too. This is great, as it means the tempo is always varied, and that there?s some great, hard beats to keep up the motivation. Some spinning classes are done to an hour long mix of generic music, and these are much harder going in my opinion as they don?t provide that ?lift? that only really funky, poppy music can give you. The instructor kept barking out unfamiliar phrases, but I quickly caught on. For instance, ?Ride easy!? doesn?t refer to your lax morals, it?s just a term to describe sitting in relaxed fashion, both hands on the bars, cycling at a relatively easy rate. She also kept saying, ?And a little bit more!?, meaning, turn that dial and add
on yet more resistance. As a beginner, of course I couldn?t add nearly as much resistance as the other class members, but the joy of spinning is that nobody else knows how much resistance you?ve got on, and so they can?t kick sand in your face! I hate being the newbie in any situation, and I found this ?ability anonimity? to be very comforting. I can?t begin to describe to you how hard I worked in that first class. I have literally never sweated so much in my life ? and folks, I?ve been to Las Vegas. Just when you think your feet can?t push the pedals round another inch, it?s time to add on yet more resistance, and stand up out of your seat in ?race? mode. This is the true killer in spinning ? the standing up bits. Luckily, these most intense sections are kept to bursts of no more than about four minutes at a time, followed by a nice ?ride easy?, but if you haven?t done it before then prepare to suffer ? it?s really, really hard. Those of you who are into sports science will be aware that repeated hard bursts of work followed by recovery time (known as ?interval training?) is the most efficient way of burning calories and strengthening the heart and lungs. With luck you?ll have an instructor like mine, who constantly shouts out encouragement and motivation ? whilst pedalling furiously herself, and even smiling at the same time! I made it to the end of my first class vowing never to try spinning again ? I was so sweaty and uncomfortable I just couldn?t bear it. But a funny thing happened during the cool down. I began to feel great. Having burned many hundreds of calories, and soaked my clothes and hair right through with sweat, I realised I hadn?t expended this much energy in recent memory. As I stretched my muscles I began to wonder if in fact I could bear to come back and give it another go. You can guess the rest ? I?ve now been going for weeks and hate to miss a class. I?m not the newbie anymore, I can add a decent amount of resistance
, and already I can feel my legs and bum getting that bit firmer. I?ve even invested in some spinning-friendly slinky cycle pants, which never fail to show up every lump and bump, giving me all the motivation I need to go on! I can?t recommend spinning enough to anybody who wants fast fitness results. You?ll burn enough calories to effectively cancel out your evening meal ? and if weight loss is your goal, this can only be a good thing. You will sweat uncontrollably, so if you?re one of these hilarious ?ladies? who think the point of going to the gym is to ponce around in Nike gear, full make up and fake nails, whilst never breaking a sweat or huffing and puffing out loud, then this isn?t the class for you. You?ll feel jolly undignified. Take a large water bottle with you (you clip it to the bike) or you will faint with dehydration. Take a towel to mop down your dripping face. And take that big, wobbly backside ? and whip it into buns of steel. Anybody got any walnuts they need cracking ?
Are you like me? Do you cherish and covet bottles, tubs and tubes of glamourous potions? Do you scour the beauty pages in the hope of finding the lastest miracle in a jar? Are you seduced by smells, packaging and wild promises? Does your bathroom groan with shampoos and contitioners for every possible need and mood? Do you slow down whilst walking past the hairdressers to admire the ranks upon ranks of desirable, barnet-enhancing goodies?.... ... if you can answer YES to any or all of the above, then your internet spiritual home is at lookfantastic.com, the place where all the sensible girlies go to puchase the latest and greatest in haircare and beauty, without leaving the luxury of their couch, and without wearing out the leather on their treasured Manolos. (Question: does anybody actually *own* a pair of these? or have the magazines made it up?? discuss!) The site does exactly what it says on the tin: it supplies top end hair and beauty products, at discount prices, direct to your door. Just like Amazon does with books, only you can't smell books, can you? You can't nip off into the bathroom with a mere *book* and come out half an hour later transformed into somebody better, can you? You can't waft a book under somebodys nose at the gym and have them envy your glamourous lifestyle, CAN YOU?! Ok, I'm getting hysterical now. Deep breath..... Mmmmmm! Ok, so what can you get here. Well, you can buy a huge range of products from the following ranges: Redken (my fave), Kerastase (my other fave), Aveda (for the glamourous hippy chick), Paul Mitchell (hmmm, bit Eighties, non?), American Crew (mainly blokes), Philip Kinglsey (professional trichologist, ideal for problem scalps), Tigi (soooo funky), Wella (that classic standby) and the awesomely expensive but Hollywood-endorsed Alterna range too. Phew! And that's not all... there is a full compliment of body products too, and the site now stocks the ent
ire range (mitts, buffers, you name it) of St Tropez goodies too, so no need for peely wally skin neither. You can search for haircare in the following ways: by manufacturer, by 'special offer', and by product type ie shampoos, serums, etc. The site is sooo simple, and easier to navigate than the route from the couch to the fridge. Within a few minutes of surfing, you'll be pretty well aquainted with the sites stock. Like any shopping site, you will need to register before you can make purchases, this is your bog standard form filling that you've done a million times online, and there are no tricky questions. You choose a password (I use the same one I use for everything else - keep it simple huh) and then, as a *member*, you will be entitled to automatic discounts on every single product, of at least 15%. Hurrah! The discount is not deducted until you put your chosen goodies into a basket (not a real basket! an internet one!), but panic not, as you can easily delete any items you don't want to actually buy. The basket page will also calculate postal charges, and add them automatically to the price you would pay. So you can click your fantasy shopping list all over the place, and then whittle it down to your final, realistic order. Postage is currently £2.50 for any order, plus 50p for each item. It makes sense to order one of the sites many 'packs' as that way, your 50p covers more than one item. You check out via a secure payment page (the padlock in the corner lets you know it's safe) and entering your credit or debit card details. Your order is confirmed back to you via email, and then you sit and wait for your new, fab goodies to arrive.... So, how quick is the service? It's unbelievably quick! I ordered 3 products yesterday at about lunchtime, and they arrived first thing this morning!!! I ordered: Kerastase Nutritive Protein Milk
Kerastase Nutritive Satin Bath level 2 Kerastase Nutritive oleo-relax serum. All products are huge, full sizes, and the total cost including postage was £28. This is great value, and saved me the indignity of the hairdressers 'hard sell' - well, we've all been *there*, haven't we. Best of all were the two little surprise freebies they popped into my parcel (a tough ittle box which I will recycle for my ebays): a 30ml Oleo relax shampoo, and matching 30ml pot of masque!! I was delighted - these are the loveliest, dinkiest little products, exact replicas of the full size packaging, and *ideal* for my gym bag. This is obviously a great marketing tool for the site too, as it allows you to try out new products, in the hope that you will be impressed, and order the full size ones. When was the last time your hairdresser gave you free posh shampoo? Exactly - never. For those of you who prefer to buy products such as Organics, Pantene etc, you won't find these ranges here. But if you do decide to trade up and go 'luxury' then your hair will thank you in the long term. Those cheap products may appear to be doing a great job, but in truth, they're coating your hair in plastic, resulting in long term damage. Eek! My mate is the princess of cheap haircare - but the thing is, she chucks the bottles out before she's even finished them as she's 'bored' with them. With professional products, you only need a tiny bit at a time, and they don't lose their 'power' on your hair over time. I honestly believe that this means they are better value than the cheaper ranges anyway. Oh listen to me, justifying myself. Whatever! This site is ideal for those of you who live in the sticks, or who aren't able to get out and shop around for your hair and beauty stuff. Like Amazon, sites like these are transforming the face of shopping in Britain, and I for on
e think we should support this trend of low prices and home delivery - and just think of how your Christmas shopping nightmares can be relieved just by clicking away in the warmth and comfort of your very own home. There is heaps of advice given on the site, and clear pictures of what you're getting. The tone is friendly, bordering on a wee bit camp (well, it *is* run by hairdressers!) and you will always feel welcome - sadly, not something I can say about some of the snootier salons. So girls (and guys!), don't sit there, sweating over what you're going to tell your hairdresser when she asks that immortal question: 'going anywhere nice on your holidays?'. Just sit back and click your way to a shiny, happy head of hair. Warren Beatty was never *this* good.....
Ok, I'll get the disclaimer out of the way first: I, like pretty much all of this country's citizens, found myself genuinely and physically upset last week to learn that two young children had been abducted and murdered. I myself have young nephews and neices, and find the idea that a stranger could step in and inflict harm on them absolutely horrifying, to the extent that I feel sick if I even think about it. Having watched those parents, as Milly Dowlers so recently did too, pour out their grief and worry on television was utterly appalling - and I just can't even let myself imagine how I might feel if that were me in that nightmare situation. Whoever is responsible for these sickening crimes must be found, brought to justice and punished with the full weight of the law without delay. I guess there's nobody in the country who doesn't share these sentiments. And yet... that sickening feeling is starting to arise from other things too. From lurid, crowd-baiting headlines. From lingering shots of those two girls - whose tragic fate we already know about. And now from Frankenstein-esque crowd scenes, complete with baying villagers and calls for the return of hanging.... The grief and anger this case has aroused in Britain is now being likened to that of when Diana was killed - another media-led, photo-friendly circus. The whole world was led to feel like somehow it was involved in this tragedy - and that the best way to deal with the grief was to do it as loudly and as publicly as possible. I find this to be in appallingly bad taste. And now it's happening in and around Soham. Mountains of flowers. Books of condolence. Angry mobs yelling at whoever they can think of. I do fully realise that the grieving process is a strange beast, and that those affected by this tragedy will need to work through their feelings in whatever that they can. But am I the only one to feel a growing sen
se of a bandwagon here? Please don't think I am disrespecting the bereaved in any way - I'm not. But I do feel confused as to why some murders engender these mass outpourings more than others. And the only real answer I can come up with lies in the tabloid press - and even indeed now with the 'quality' press and our news programmes too. Extended bulletins, 'pullout photo specials' etc just make this awful and depressing event seem like some kind of circus - roll up for a front row seat. You too can be involved in the most people friendly crime of the year. All you need is righteous indignation and a computer to email your condolences on, to - well, to some people you don't know. I felt pretty sick when I saw the Daily Record (Scottish red-top) emblazoned with 'Holly and Jessica: 5 page special' - I mean, couldn't they even *pretend* not to be cashing in on this tragedy? And who needs a 5 page special? What will these people do with it - pin it to their walls? The tabloids I find particularly hypocritical are those who so vigorously defend our 'innocents' and then promote topless teenagers on page 3 wearing sexy schoolgirl kit. It is this kind of double standard that just makes me want to scream - and that takes away from the brutal and serious impact this kind of vile crime has on our nations psyche. And now we have crowds venting their feelings by travelling hundreds of miles to scream 'kill the bitch' at a woman who has been accused, but not yet convicted of, perverting the course of justice. She hasn't even been tried yet and the public want blood. You can just sense the tabloid fever reaching meltdown - it's a woman! Let's hope she's guilty. Then we can demonise her and call for lifetime imprisonment with no parole. Let them try to release her - we'll see to it she doesn't get far. Their glee is almost palpable. Quotes from th
ese rabble-rousers make for disturbing reading. Many people brought their children, some of whom were crying. Well yes, I think I'd cry if I was a confused eight year old amongst a fevered crowd of vigilantes. 'We came here to show our support', seems to be the common thread of these peoples motivation. I just don't see how creating an ugly, violent scene could possibly make those bereaved parents feel better. Making a donation to a missing persons charity, yes. Having a civilised chat with your own children about 'stranger danger' etc - yes. Even just trying to savour your childrens existence a bit more, as a tribute to those children whose lives have been taken - yes. All of these actions would be a fitting way to make your feelings known. But throwing rocks at a van, with the hope of being put on the six o'clock news? I really don't see how that helps anybody at all. And yes, when violent murderers are convicted, there is usually a gauntlet of angry people to be run through. These people may not have any other chance to show their anger directly to that perpetrator. But this woman has not been convicted. We have no idea what, if any, her involvement is in this crime yet. Presumably if any of these people found themselves arrested for any reason, they would expect a fair trial and the right to remain innocent until proven guilty. I just feel that the longer this case goes on, the bigger the hype and the hysteria get. The sad fact is that children are abused and murdered on a depressingly regular basis here in Britain. Barely a month goes by without my local paper reporting that some scumbag, usually a step-father, has neglected or abused his baby, and that they are now dead. The outcry lasts for a day or so and we never hear that man's name again. Kids neglected in the home just doesn't do it - it doesn't have that crucial, media-friendly circus factor. Who cares? Th
ere's no snatch, no chase and no dramatic ending. Just some sad junkies and a kid who's life would have come to nothing much anyway. Those kids deserve to be remembered too - and not in 'condolence books', whatever they might be. I'm sad to hear of the deaths of Holly and Jessica, but I don't know their families and now I feel it's time to let them grieve in peace. Stop the blanket coverage unless there's a genuine development. Stop the endless 'live from a pile of flowers' reports, and the deep, sincere voices. Stop the talking heads, giving analysis on events that haven't yet and may never happen. How this country is meant to come up with 12 impartial jury members I just don't know. As far as most are concerned - the news media included - we already know who did it. All we have to think of now is punishment. Please, do not think I do not care about those two little girls - I do. But I am tired of being manipulated, and tired of being brow beaten into involvement in a tragic crime that has been turned into the most tacky spectacle since the death of our 'Queen of Hearts'. Let's respect Holly and Jessica, and move on.
(DISCLAIMER: yup, I know I'm in the wrong category - this programme aired on channel 4 not BBC1, but my last 3 requests for new items have gone ignored and I have nowhere else to place my op! Forgive me, I am mortal...) OK. Every now and then, an edition of a 'reality' programme comes along that doesn't sit comfortably alongside the others in its' series. You know, like when there's a couple on 'Changing Rooms' who just don't get the concept, and get genuinely upset when their bedroom ends up orange and fuschia. Or when Sandy and Sunita suddenly decide after watching two years worth of Big Brother, that in fact it's not for them - as the rest of us scream - 'Why did you go in, then?!!' These editions of our staple faves on TV can be either hilarious or very uncomfortable viewing. Last nights edition of the fabulous dating show, 'Perfect Match' was one such programme, and I'm still not sure if I think the producers should have aired it at all. For those of you who've never seen the show, it's a really simple concept. Take one long-term singleton (male or female), and then get them to choose two people they trust to pick them a 'Perfect Match' from a pre-selected batch of about thirty eager love seekers. There's a relationship expert on the panel too - she's usually the brains of the outfit - and the controversy comes from watching in horror as somebody's mum or boss picks their partner for them! The panel bit is great fun, kind of like a relationship 'Pop Idol' as we see hopefuls whittled away and the winners emerge. The lucky date then gets to move in with our singleton (that's a bit weird, I must admit) and we see how they get on as a couple - much cringing, laughing and occasional romantic sighing later. There's a fallback plan too - if date number one doesn't cut it, there are two more
hopefuls in the wings who can be substituted at any time. Basically, it's a lighthearted show designed to appeal to the nosy, match making gossip in all of us. Personally, I'm addicted and my boyfriend is too! It's become our 'must see' tv of the week. Last night however, we saw a much different version of this programme. With as much sensitivity as I can muster, I'll try to describe it to you... Our lonely heart was a girl called Anita - a 28 year old sales rep. Anita was of Indian origin, but tended to socialise in very mixed circles, and appeared to have a typical Westernised lifestyle - BMW included! Anita struck me as very pretty, but perhaps not the most charismatic of girls. She was obviously intelligent, but had quite a whiney demeanour that I found a bit off putting. Her background was that she still lived at home with her wealthy, but very traditional, Indian parents. Her best friend (who wasn't Indian) and her parents were the lucky people Anita chose to be her match makers. I should have seen it coming from the start - when questioned, her mother basically said that she wanted Anita to find a man for marriage, as at 28 she was getting far too old to be single. The young Indian men they had lined up for her over the years had proved unsuitable, as Anita wasn't keen to have any kind of arranged relationship. The best friend, however, had a whole different idea of what would make Anita's perfect match. She said, he'll have to be tall, sexy and white! She was there to counteract the parents more conservative ideals... As the panel cranked in to action, however, it became clear that this wasn't the right kind of programme for Anita's parents to be on at all. They just didn't get it. They rejected every single man who appeared before them. 'Not for our daughter. Not for our Anita' was all they said. Finally a real conte
nder turned up - an Indian guy who was - ch-ching! - a doctor. He was deemed to be good enough, and sent off to live at snob towers with our princess. Jenni, the counsellor, and Anita's best mate could only put their heads in their hands as all manner of fine specimens (white/ black/ professional/ non professional) were rejected without mercy. Of course the joke was on mum and dad, as this doctor bloke turned out to be far too groovy and outgoing for their daughter - who started off on a very bad note by not knowing what to do with a bottle opener (at age 28?!) and being unable to make a meal for them as she had 'never had to use a cooker before'. I almost felt sorry for her. And it made compelling telly to watch Anita whine and moan and eventually drive this cheerful, gregarious guy up the wall. When reporting back to the panel after a week, it was obvious this was nowhere near a perfect match. Time to draft in man number two then... Only here's the problem. Anita's mum and dad refused to allow the carefully selected second and third men anywhere near their daughter, and said they would only consider continuing with the programme if they could now choose a replacement from a pre-screened selection of Indian professionals. Hmmm.... are we still comfortable with this? Then things lurched from bad to so much worse. The clearly deeply annoyed Jenni turned up at Anita's house to dicuss criteria for selecting Mr Right. And it turned out that not only did the hopefuls have to come from India, they had to come from specifically chosen, socially acceptable regions of India. Are you following this? Channel 4 funds matchmaking for racists? But the best was to come: when asked why her daughter wasn't to be allowed to meet any men fron the Punjab region, her mother explained it like this, 'for us, this is not a good area. it is like for you, you don't want your daug
hter to meet any Irish' - !!!! I am quoting here. Directly. I am not making this up. Jenni's lips became very thin at this point but she soldiered on (she's a big and very brave woman!). When asked what kind of family Mr Perfect was to come from, her mother stated loud and clear that no man would be acceptable if his parents owned a corner shop. Yes, this was on Channel 4. 'No corner shop owners please, we're prejudiced'. Anita's mother was not taken to task for her outrageous comments - I can only imagine that the programme makers felt they spoke for themselves, and that the viewing public would be outraged anyway. So... back to square one. New men, same questions. Whats your surname? Your profession? What does your father do? etc etc. Soon enough another fall guy was selected to enter the dread zone... He was really, really intelligent and deep. Oh, and a doctor (of course). Good looking, stylish and with loads of charisma. Not suitable for poor old Anita then, who couldn't answer his 'rude, probing questions' such as - what gives you a buzz? What do you want to do with your life? etc etc, preferring to curl up in a chair and look the other way. Pretty soon we realised that bloke number 2 was on a hiding to nothing too, as he tried and tried to make some kind of connection with the pampered princess. So soon enough we were back in front of the panel, with Mr and Mrs Snooty basically being told that once again, their daughter had proved un romanceable. At this point, all concerned realised it was time to chuck in the towel. The free holiday that Anita and her new partner were entitled to was taken by Anita on her own. And at last, some sense seemed to be trickling through her brain. She said that she realised she had a lot of growing up to do, and that she needed to start to learn to do things on her own. Which was about the only positive moment in this
whole sorry mess of a dating show. Clearly, this family should never have been chosen to appear on a fun programme about relationships. To them, their daughters future marriage was a financial and social transaction, not based on feelings or on love, but on social status and money. Why did channel 4 allow these people on to begin with? Didn't they interview them first? Did they ask them - are you going to be rejecting men on the basis of skin colour? And if not, why not? Anita's parents clearly love their little girl to bits, and wanted the best for her, as any parents do. But to be told that Punbabi men and corner shop owners need not apply? Hello??!! Major, horrible, nasty prejudice alert!! I squirmed all the way through. And while I realise that the arranged marriage is a strong aspect of many cultures, this couple gave it such a bad name I can just picture the nations Indian youth right now, packing their bags and running away from home. Poor Anita - by the end I really felt for her, literally torn between her own needs and desires, and the desire to please her parents. It wasn't her fault she was a spoilt princess - mummy and daddy had seen to that. I just feel that if channel 4 want to make programmes about Indian culture and relationships, then they should do so in a balanced and sensitive manner. This programme was a chamber of horrors, and made a spectacle of two very narrow minded people. This simply was not the format to use for this girl and her parents - it just made them look bad, and the programme look pretty exploitative. Dating shows are appearing everywhere, and make great viewing. But they should stay true to their remit to entertain and to bring people together, not to give air space to rich, prejudiced gits who could frankly afford a professional dating service anyway. I just can't wait for next week, and a relaxing, sexy edition of Perfect Match. Complete wi
th laughter, snogging and fun. Is that too much to ask?
Have you all seen that hilarious new tv programme? You know, the one where the posh bloke comes to your house, chucks out all your clutter, insults your taste, puts down laminate flooring and then sells it on to some middle aged Ken Barlow types for twenty grand more than you ever dared dream it could fetch?? Well, here in Edinburgh that programme is viewed as escapist comedy. Because Scotland's capital, which has never been cheap to live in, is now gripped with property boom fever. Selling a house goes like this: You put your house on the market, and sit down for a cup of tea. First viewing is on Thursday, when your home is invaded by upwards of thirty desperate couples, all at the end of their tether, gasping with joy at your scabby decor and hideous sofa. You have to ask half of them to wait outside. Second viewing is Sunday. They all come back again, this time with a maniacal glint in their eyes. This is the one! They are preparing their bids as they eye your damp walls and ripped wallpaper - hey, it's only superficial, isn't it? Monday morning, you set a closing date for that Thursday - save you having to do a viewing again. The bids roll in, and by Thursday lunchtime you're offered bids up to seventy percent over your original asking price. Yipee! Edinburgh has made you rich. For those of you who think Scotland is a cheap place to live in - think again. Outside of London, we have the worst, scariest and frankly most obscene property prices in the country right here in Edinburgh. Why? Well, for lots of reasons. The city centre was never built to accommodate single professionals - it was meant for families. But now we all want to live on our own or with our partners, not our parents. So we take up more space, and put the squeeze on housing stock. Add to this the fact that due to greenbelt rules, Edinburgh is not allowed to expand outwards any further, limiting new builds. In additi
on to this, the city is booming economically, with loads of companies relocating here, along with their staff, many of whom will have sold properties in London and have a huge wad to play with. Who benefits from this 'boom'? Not us, that's for damn sure. While the city's solicitors and surveyors are creaming it in, most ordinary people in Edinburgh (and a fair few extraordinary peeps too) simply cannot afford to buy here any more. Ok so you've guessed I'm talking from experience here. I'm not squeamish about money, and I'm quite happy to tell you that both me and my boyfriend earn around £22 k each - lucky us. Or are we? Here in Edinburgh we are genuinely struggling to trade up from our poky, one bed flats in dodgy parts of town into a .... two bed flat in a dodgy part of town. Garden? Forget it. Double glazing? We'll have to take out a loan. Fact is, even with the lump sum we have from the obscene profit my bf made by selling his own flat, the market is moving so quickly that prices are increasing literally week on week, and it's getting harder all the time to 'jump on'. And with the Scottish system of blind bidding at 'overs over' some fairy tale price that the solicitor picks at random out of a hat - we don't even know what we can afford to buy. It's a bit like walking into a shop and asking the assistant how much a CD costs. The assistant says to you, well, I don't know but if you give me a quid I'll give you a rough idea. You pay your quid, they tell you it's going to cost at least twenty quid. Sod that! You say, forget it, I can't afford it. Thanks anyway, says the assistant, and pockets your quid. This is because you have to have your dream home valued professionally before you know what to bid. Those valuations cost £130 a pop, and usually only tell you that you're kidding yourself and have no chance. Some buyers in Edinb
urgh have payed out literally thousands on survey fees, never to bid successfully. In my opinion, the Edinburgh housing market is now in a state of true social emergency. It truly frightens to me to look even a few years into the future - will the only people able to live in this beautiful town be hugely wealthy? The only real winners from this dire situation are those lucky people who sell up here and then move elsewhere, to where prices are cheaper - ie the rest of the UK. Those of us who work in the city are faced with a dilemma - live in town in a poky hovel thats costing us a fortune, or move out somewhere (where prices are suffering a knock on anyway) and try to drive in each day to a city where the council is doing all it humanly can to eliminate car use. Hell on earth, basically. Either way, our teachers, nurses and service industry workers are simply not going to be able to afford decent accommodation. And as for first time buyers!! Forgaddaboudit!! There is absolutely no point saving up here for a deposit, as property values are escalating far faster than any normal working person could possibly save. So your hard won ten grand is made valueless, as in the time it took you to save it, your ideal flat increased in value by twenty grand. It's bizarre - I grew up in lovely part of town called Newington, in a three storey Georgian terrace with a back garden, double garage and two bathrooms. My parents bought it for £15 grand!!!!! Now, I know that I will never again in my life live in a house anything like the one my parents own. Ever. No matter how hard I work. Those houses are now only available to millionaires and their families. Myself and my partner will either have to have a family in a flat, or move out of town. Simple as that. And when you think of how that situation must affect those on low incomes, it's frankly alarming. So - who am I mad at? Well, the government for a st
art. Get over these ludicrous and outdated planning laws, and let builders in Edinburgh go mad - we desperately need new housing stock. And solicitors - for putting houses on the market at hilariously low prices, thus 'stimulating interest' ie attracting half of Edinburgh to each viewing, and thus pushing up bids to the absolute maximum. It seems wrong to me that we are told that high prices are some kind of good economic sign. How the hell can it be good for the majority of a town's indigenous population to be unable to afford decent housing? Well, I guess one day that Georgian terrace will be mine (and my 4 siblings!). By then, it'll be worth so much I'll be able to buy up half of rural Fife with my share. Now, where did I put that arsenic...?
Are my eyes deceiving me??? Nope, it's there in blue and white. dooyoo has now created a category for us all to offload some angst about how embarrassing our moments have been. And I'm frankly embarrassed. What the hell has happened round here?? Room 101 was bad enough, but this really is the pits of desperation. It is so obvious that these categories are created purely to give people who can't think of any new ops to write a reason to get back onto that keyboard and tell us in great detail about the minutae of their lives. I mean no disrespect to those who have written on this new, groundbreaking topic - the ops I have seen have been OK - but how exactly do you rate a story about meeting the boyfriends folks?? How useful is it, exactly??? WHAT PURPOSE DOES IT SERVE??! And to put it in 'speakers corner' along with ops on real and challenging topics is a farce - why not just start a whole new section called 'irrelevant but entertaining personal observation', which we can then subdivide to make way for room 101, embarrassing moments, my top ten one night stands, four reasons why he never called, my best mates and why I love them.... etc etc. The those of us who want to actually read *opinion* can do the bodyswerve thing. I guess there really are people out there who aren't happy without a new reason to write on this site each day, regardless of whether or not they have anything useful to say... good luck folks! Maybe you should try emailing your friends instead, they may find your personal rambles interesting!! Sorry, but I just don't. And I'm probably in the wrong category but how anything in here could possibly be termed useful I'll never know. Thanks. I feel better now - see you next week when we'll be discussing my first snog, and why Sheila McAlpine from the sixth year is a big fat tart. I expect your full attention! Cheers,
There are not many things in life that can be relied upon one hundred percent… but here is something that *always* happens: You sit down in a restaurant. You get comfy. The waiter hands you the menu. You peer at it for about ten seconds and then somebody always asks that age old question… ‘are you having a starter?’ Sure as eggs are eggs. Then, if you are in my family, there is much humming and hawing, lots of ‘are you?’ and ‘I will if you will’ etc, and then of course it’s bloody bruschetta all round. In terms of restaurant predictability, it’s up there with your girlfriend refusing to order chips – and then eating all of yours. However! That question is never asked in one restaurant I know – International Starters. International Starters is a relatively new place that has opened down at the renovated Commercial Quay in Leith, here in Edinburgh. The whole area has been so yuppified and re-generated in such a short space of time, there are still old folks wandering about in a daze down there, wondering what on earth a cappuccino is. Think Albert Docks on Richard and Judy (gone but never forgotten) and you’re about right. Where once was a slummy danger zone that nobody would dare enter without full complement of armoury, now stand trendy shops, bars and restaurants. And modern sculpture too - in fact there’s even a water feature. Which makes the prospect of a night out ‘down the docks’ so much more appealing than it used to be. Ok, so you don’t exactly need to be a roquette scientist to work out that International Starters is a restaurant which specialises in… appetisers from around the world! There are no main courses here. Only starters. BUT… what you do (and the staff will advise on this) is you order LOTS OF THEM, and then your party all tuck in and share each others food! Hurrah! But not
a very great concept for those of you who get the raging heebee jeebees when asked to share plates of food, and I know from experience there are a lot of you out there. The restaurant itself looks fantastic, and has a vaulted brick ceiling and a plate glass frontage - very New Leith. The staff – who appear to all be teenagers – are very welcoming and helpful, and will show you to your prebooked table. Tip – don’t even think of turning up here without booking in advance – you’ve no chance. Everybody else is after those deep fried chicken wings too! Gives me a nice opportunity to mention that other famous restaurant quip – ‘do you have reservations?’ – ‘yes, but we came anyway’. Boom Boom! The table we sat at (there were eight in our group) was round, and had two ‘lazy susan’ type wheely things in the middle for ease of pigging, I mean sharing. We were handed our menus and not one person needed to ask the starter question. The menu is divided up by country – obviously, not every country in the world is represented, just those whose national cuisine can easily be battered and deep fried. Like Scotland, for example! Those of you who haven’t yet partaken of deep fried haggis balls – can I just say, you guys are missing out! Especially as they come served with a tasty salad garnish and a mustard and whisky dip. YUM! There are strong seafood elements – mostly of the small, battered, deep fried variety but yummy and fresh anyway. We ordered the seafood platter, which cost a whopping 22 quid, but was actually well worth it as five of us stuffed our faces from it. We got: prawn kabab thingies, deep fried battered prawns in a Chinese style, a bowl of mussels in white wine, and a humungous portion of chips. I think I’ve forgotten some crucial item there. Anyway – great value, tasty food. Elsewhere on our overloaded table I
spied: deep fried chicken wings, (you’ve guessed it – America) mixed mezze (greek style dips and pitta), chicken served with coconut dip, etc etc. At around 4 to 6 quid a portion it’s not dirt cheap, but you do get huge portions. Which leads me to my next point – this would be an ideal restaurant to bring your kids to. They will love the novelty of it, and the portions are just right to feed little ones (or anybody with anything less than a gargantuan appetite for that matter). If two girlfriends want a wee mid-shopping lunch, for example, it would be great to have a starter each with a salad or chips (well it would be chips if we’re honest, wouldn’t it). Blokes will probably want a selection though, and this is actively encouraged! The atmosphere is great – the Saturday we went there seemed to be about five birthdays being celebrated, each with the requisite cake and singing. The staff were more than happy to take custody of our Bart Simpson iced job (from M&S, great cake!) and put it on a big presentation dish and stick candles in it for us. This saved us from the degradation of admitting we wanted dessert, but if we had, it’s very much the choccy fudge cake, banoffee pie kind of fare to be found here. Nothing too fancy, and everything loaded with a gazillion calories. When the final bill came, there was a hush as I read out the damage. And then an exhale of relief – we had stuffed ourselves silly, and had two alcoholic drinks each, for seventeen quid a head (including a tip). Not too bad for Leith on a Saturday I feel! I would definitely recommend International Starters to any group of friends looking to have a filling, tasty nosh up in trendy surroundings. Gourmet it ain’t, subtle it certainly ain’t, but for the novelty factor alone it’s well worth a visit. And at least you know you’ll never have to ask… ‘are you having a
Ever been totally flummoxed by the categories here on dooyoo? I just have. No Lloyd Cole. No Perfect Skin. No Rattlesnakes - not so much as a Brand New Friend. I did search but I'll just have to go right on ahead and insult this mans genius by slotting his gig review into the hilariously named 'music in general in general' category! Sorry Lloyd... OK, so why the hell did I give up my Sunday night to sit in a church pew in Edinburgh's charming but chilly Queens Hall and listen to an old has been that never was? Well, firstly I'll be honest with you and admit I got the tickets for nothing via a competition in our local paper. Hurrah! I am a winner! Felt good, I can tell you. And secondly, I have loved this mans work since I was fifteen years old and (illegally!) taped my brother's Rattlenakes LP and played it to death in my bedroom. In those days of course Lloyd Cole was never without his Commotions, who appear to have now melted away or indeed gone to cause commotions elsewhere. Throughout the course of his gig last night, Lloyd ( I think it's OK if I just call him Lloyd, especially as he himself refers to David Bowie as 'David'!!) kept us up to date with various snippets of goss about his ex band. Apparently they are all doing well, and one of them has only this week become a new father. Aww! So what has happened in the intervening fifteen years? I won't bore you with my own life story, but in the interests of topicality I'll tell you what I know of Lloyd's news. Well, he has now been married for twelve years, and has two kids. You won't have seen him traipsing round Ikea though, for the simple reason that he now lives in New England, USA. He continues to have success with his songwriting career but I'm picking up a vibe that tells me he has yet to hit the high of his older, best known work (Rattlesnakes, Easy Pieces etc). I can also tell you that Lloyd i
s keen for us to know that he has a new album out soon, it's called 'Etcetera'. And it's ok, but it's not fantastic. Sorry. Right so here goes with the real review... So we turned up at the Queens Hall at the appointed hour (at our age fashionable lateness doesn't seem attractive - we'd have hated to miss the support act) and had a beer in the bar/ cafe place. Nice, civilised - not really comparable to my old memories of live bands playing the Glasgow Barrowlands in my youth, but atmospheric all the same. We sat in our appointed seats (thought this only happened at the cinema?!) and soon the lights dimmed for the support to come on. It wasn't a band, just one guy called Brian Devlin from an Irish band called The Devlins - him and his brother, apparently. He played about six songs with just his own acoustic guitar for accompanyment - and I can honestly say he was awesome. His songs were all sad, melodic little numbers - heavy on love, angst and 'what might have been'. Reminded me of David Gray a bit. He has a lovely, lilting singing voice - yet he was confident, and bantered cheerfully with the ageing crowd. (a quick peep at the Devlins website informs me they are just teetering on the brink of global success, having worked with world class musicians and been featured on 'Dawsons Creek'!) Look out for their song 'Snowbirds', about taking your loved one on holiday. It's wonderful. And then it was time for the master to take his place on stage. I expected him to swagger out, all arrogance and floppy hair. To my surprise, he swaggered out, all arrogance and gray number two all over - well, I guess a floppy fringe doesn't really work with a bald patch and salt 'n pepper hair. He picked up his guitar and strummed straight into.... a song I don't know. It was good though, and I just find Lloyd's voice to be so deep and spine-tingly, I w
as immediately rapt. He thanked us for our applause, and then started in with some of the good natured chat that he kept up all night, making us all feel like we were in his front room and he was just this once being totally candid. Then it was straight into... umm, another song I don't know. This was how the evening went. Chat, song, chat, song. After about six songs that I had never heard before, Lloyd started playing the intro to 'Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken' and the crowd burst into a spontaneous and exhilharated 'Stars in their Eyes' type of recognition hysteria. I was the most hysterical! It was magical. It brought back so many memories - and to my amazement, I remembered every word of every line. I sang along! My eyes were wet, and I was honestly shivering with pleasure. Clearly, the rest of the audience felt the same. We all just came alive at that point. But... if Lloyd picked up on this, he didn't allow it to influence his subsequent choice of songs. It was back to his new and un-famous stuff, with a Leonard Cohen cover and a Lou Reed cover thrown in for good measure. Which is fine I suppose. But I didn't sit up and take notice again after that, and to be honest, the songs have now all merged into one in my memory. They are all about the pain of love, the reality of getting older, unfulfilled dreams etc. And if I'm brutally honest, without any kind of backing musicians, the tunes all blended into each other too. Lloyd showed loads of very endearing self mocking humour throughout, which made me love him. He slagged off his older, pretentious lyrics (and then sang new pretentious ones) and even layed into Keith Richards for being all glamour and no talent!! But I had turned up for one reason only and that was to have my spine tingled with his awesome back catalogue of hum-along hit tunes. Perfect Skin, Brand New Friend, Rattlesnakes etc. Llo
yd just wouldn't deliver. At one point he answered a heckler from the audience who demanded to hear the old stuff by saying 'I am a songwriter you know, and I have a right to perform my new work' - !!! Umm, Lloyd? Hello?? These people have not paid fifteen quid each to hear your middle aged moanings sung to a ripped off Cohen tune. THEY WANT PERFECT SKIN!! In the encore he submitted (clearly doing us a biiig favour) and did Lost Weekend and Forest Fire. But by then he was tired, we were tired, and it was time to think about the journey home. He didn't do either track justice, and my singing along was half hearted. Two hours of unfamiliar dad rock had drained me. What can I say to sum up? I still love Lloyd Cole - I was straight onto the internet this morning to order his 'Collection' album (8.99 at cdwow.com) and I can't wait to get my hands on it. I wouldn't, however, massively recommend his new album. It's ok, but as I said, it's not fantastic. Nobody does moody cool like Lloyd Cole, but middle age has turned arrogance into bitterness. His voice remains the same - deep, sexy and totally memorable (Will Young, read it and weep) but without those hits of our youth, we felt so cheated. Come back Lloyd. British music needs your voice, your charisma, your stuck-up intelligence. And play us the goddamn hits!
Tony Parsons, for those of you who don't know already, is a bit of a controversial bloke. In his youth, as a journalist at the then-edgy NME, he was married to Julie Burchill. She famously left him holding the baby, giving the inspiration for Parson's first novel, Man and Boy. As a proper grown up, he has now graduated to contributing challenging, angry pieces to various mags and papers, as well as spraffing pretentious yet compulsive drivel on the wonderful Late Review programme. He is famously outspoken on the subject of women’s equality (sample quote:'there is no sight more degrading than that of a drunken woman') and never shies away from the non-PC. Having said all that, both of his novels have had major success with the masses. In fact, he has been compared with Nick Hornby etc when it comes to chronicling the angst of the modern male. But do his books do what they say on the tin...? I read Man and Boy on the recommendation of a friend, and found it to be an intelligent, humourous page-turner. I also found it to be annoying, overly sentimental, and full of 'me me me' from Mr Parsons, writing in a fictional voice but sounding just like his sharp suited self. I hated the fact that his character wanted to have his cake and eat it - claiming he was 'too romantic' for this modern world, and that he wanted 'too much'. And yet - this same man slept with somebody else behind his wife's back. Explain that, please! But... I do love a controversial read. So I was keen to grab his latest, One for My Baby, as soon as it came out! (I'm a contrary bugger!) The first thing I noticed was that the cover design was near identical to that of the first book - could cause problems for those of us dashing into Waterstones on our lunch break and grabbing the wrong book, but also showing a strange lack of originality on the part of the publishers – well, whatever. It'
s what inside that counts. And I'll start on a very positive note. One for My Baby impressed me from the outset, simply by avoiding some (not all) of the usual cliches of it's genre. Yes, of course it's set in London. (boo!) But loads of the action also takes place in Hong Kong - a place I know little about, and have never previously read about (hurrah!). Parsons has clearly spent time over there, as he writes so fondly and descriptively about the place and it's peculiarities. The picture he paints is of a vibrant, crazy and totally unique mixture of Chinese and British culture. If he was trying to sell the place as a travel destination he succeeded in my opinion! But what's this? Our leading character is a man in his thirties called Alfie Budd?? Groan... a nostalgic name, signalling a very nostalgic book. Alfie is similar to many of his contemporaries in a lot of ways - his confusion in relationships, his desire for the au pair, his worries about his ageing, his concerns for his future. But at the same time, he is dealing with some fairly unique problems. The loss of his much loved young wife in a diving accident, for instance. His hugely successful writer father. His time spent overseas, and his 'newness' to his own country. Parsons gives this man so much warmth and self-mocking humour, it is impossible not to fall for him. He is an easy going chap, likeable, kind to his family, and grieving his lovely wife. His observations about the London he has returned to will raise a smile from anyone who has ever felt jaded with city life. And he admits to being not that great looking, and having crap clothes. Which I admire! His friends, on the other hand, aren't quite so convincing. More of which later. As Alfie comes to terms with his bereavement, and starts to get into real life again, he meets some very groovy people. George Chang, the restaurant-owning Chinese ta
i chi master, for instance. He tries to teach our Alfie all that he knows – and has some measure of success. But wipe ‘The Karate Kid’ from your mind! This is a bit grittier, and a bit sadder. The kids at the language school where Alfie teaches are larger than life – Parsons has really gone to town here, creating a mixed bag of foreign students with all the usual teen hangups, but with weird names and frankly bizarre hairstyles. At first he is infuriated by them – but of course, gradually they grow on him. And on us too – the scene where Alfie and the kids discuss the many uses for the word ‘f*ck’ is just beautiful, and will make you laugh out loud. For me, it is this kind of observational humour that makes Parsons so readable. Having said all this! There is a tendency to nostalgia in this book that I found pretty sickly. Most notably, this manifests itself in Alfie’s musical tastes (well, how else would a bloke-lit author define his character?). Basically, they begin and end with one artist. Nirvana? Jethro Tull? The Smiths??? Nope. Frank Sinatra. Hmmm. A lovely idea, but really – how likely is any groovy, culturally aware London lad in his thirties to actually go home and play Ole Blue Eyes in his spare time? Once a year at parties maybe – but not only does Alfie love the man’s music, he loves what it represents. Which is – a better world in days gone by. Our Alfie seems to be stuck in a timewarp that he never even lived in – he yearns for the days when it really all was as simple as ‘Fly me to the Moon’, when girls were girls and men were inarticulate. But Alfie! We cry – it was never like that, mate. The good old days were actually very hard on most working families, and relationships only lasted for fifty years because divorce was a scandal. So snap out of the rose tinted reverie! And even though our hero longs for t
he romantic times of years gone by, he lives his own personal life by a very modern code. Eg – he shags around. Which struck me as a bit hypocritical, but I guess it’s nice to see a multi dimensional character for once, even if he can be infuriating! I was particularly narked by the way he always casts himself as the good guy – saving fair maidens (average age 19) from their rich, grumpy boyfriends. And then dumping them….? Hardly the actions of a latter day Sinatra I felt, but perhaps this was representative of Alfie’s general confusion in the love arena since the loss of his wife. Alfie only has one good friend – a rugger bugger public school type called Josh. Plausible? Not really. In fact, I thought poor old Josh had been invented purely to serve as a foil for Alfie’s lack of pretension. There were a couple of scenes where Josh showed himself up to be arrogant and snobbish – and of course Alfie came out smelling of roses. Good for the drama factor – but not exactly credible. Alfie just wouldn’t have stuck with a mate like that, even with their shared past. The many women in Alfie’s life are a mixed bunch. From his lovely old nan (they don’t make ‘em like that any more) to his young conquests and even Jackie the school cleaner, Parsons gives all of his laydees lots of charisma and lots of balls. I enjoyed this aspect of the book, and credit to him for his strength of observation – even if he is a sexist pig on the telly! I did love this book, as it kept me guessing all the way through. His parents have their own major traumas too – don’t want to spoil the plot on this – and generally speaking, the story meandered about fairly unpredictably. Which is cool, and makes a change from the ‘here’s the first page, now you fill in the blanks’ stuff that so many authors get away with these days. Alfie is no hero, but of course w
e are on his side from page one. He makes plenty of screw ups, but we admire him for having the character to be *aware* that he is a screw up. His weaknesses make him what he is, but there is always hope for redemption! The ending was, in my opinion, tacked on in a Hollywood stylee. In fact, I could actually visualise this scene as the final part of a film starring Hugh Grant – I wonder if Parsons has the same fantasy??! But I do urge you to give this man’s work a go – love it, hate it, chuck it on the floor…. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.
Sex and the City - you love it, don't you? The jewel in channel four's crown, the talk of the office, the show to revive your own flagging love life... ... even blokes love it! They can learn *so much* from following the fantastical exploits of our four sex-mad heroines as they f***, suck, and lick their way through Manhattan's male population faster than a hot knife through lox and cream cheese. Shocked? Sheesh - you'd better not watch the programme then. This show has taken every sexual taboo you can think of (and many more that even the most liberal minded of us can't) and proceeds to dissect it loudly and at length over cafe lattes whilst strolling down Fifth Avenue. You'd better not be timid - you'll be spitting out your chocolate hobnob when you hear *this* girly chat. Or should I say womanly chat? None of our four minxes are exactly young - and Samantha (the show's 'gay man') hasn't seen forty for a wee while, but is the most sexually voracious of the lot. Which certainly makes a welcome change from the Buffy/ S Club/ Dawsons type output that programme makers are so determined to foist on us. Women over thirty having fun and being sexy?? It's real life for many of us, but sadly not normally seen on our youth-obsessed goggle boxes. Thank god for a bit of maturity I say - the dialogue is sharper, the apartments sweller, the issues deeper - and of course the stakes higher. These women don't really want to be single - but are wondering if 'this is it'. The relentless dating is a game with a goal - a relationship that works. (Unless you're Samantha of course, in which case a relationship will bore you - so much *talking*!) And as for the clothes!!! Have you *seen* what these women wear? Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw is quickly becoming the world's style dictator - all she had to do was wear a corsage pinned to her jacket last summer and bingo!
Within weeks the shops are full of them and we're all suddenly blooming with flora. It's not exactly casual wear though - my own favourite coffee-spitting outfit that Carrie wore was the short-shorts and white stilettos for a run in the rain, closely followed by Mr Bigs shirt worn as a dress for that handy 'morning after' outfit. Durr! None of us would be seen dead - but aren't those outfits fantastic? Sweet, innocent Charlotte thinks nothing of wearing a fitted ballgown to meet her girlfriends over Sunday brunch. Miranda never lets her red hair get in the way of a cerise showstopper, and Samantha is just plain slutty - the tighter the better for this blonde. Show me a trend that hasn't started on this show and I'll show you a New York virgin. So - what do we think of the new series so far? Well, the biggest difference is that SJP is no longer a mere actress on this show - she is now a producer. Which might explain a few worrying things! Surely I wasn't the only one throwing my Manolo's at the tv in disgust at Carries 'supermodel' storyline last week? Ummm - *how* self indulgent was that?! I nearly barfed as all her friends persuaded her that she was beautiful enough to model - and then, when she put on the little g-string! ARGHH! The little 'I love me' grin to the camera at the end was the final insult. Get a life, woman! And as for the Mr Big story - aww, this is just boring now. And he ain't all that! GET OVER HIM! We all know what it's like when our friend insists on droning on about some idiot who isn't even worthy of her - we don't need this on our tvs! And last night Carrie shocked me by insisting poor Miranda accompany her on a double date with their exes, only to ask her to leave when they started enjoying themselves! This is typical of Carrie's character - question is, is she deliberately written this way? Or does Mis
s SJP just love being the queen bitch on this show? And let's be honest - are we really convinced by Samantha's lesbian conversion? I'm not, and frankly, the sooner she starts pulling blokes again the better. Since the new series started the sex issues covered have included sex with priests (in a fantasy), anal licking (nice!), female ejaculation, oedipal realtionships, and bowel movements in front of new partners. Is it just me, or is this programme getting just a bit too much? Hey - I'm no prude, but some of this content does seem to be a wee bit forced. I'm not offended by the sex stuff, just a little bit jaded. The scripts are so sassy, the acting so natural - do we really need the constant taboo breaking? And come on - wouldn't it be nice just to get a little peek into these girls' non sex lives? Like - their jobs, their families, their *other* problems? Yeah, us girls do like a chat about blokes and sex, but that's only a small part of our conversational repertoire! We have other interests too besides men - and I'm sure these smart cookies do too. Ok - so these are my moans. But you can bet I'll still be tuning in each week - for the clothes, the locations, the one-liners, the world class acting and of course, the sex. I love it, my boyfriend loves it, we all love it. But Carrie - if you break Aidan's heart again, your Jimmy Choo's are going in the incinerator, and your blusher in the bin. GOT THAT, BITCH?
Exercise classes - don't you just love them? Draughty community centres, middle aged ladies in lycra g-strings, all chanting 'one two three four five six seven eight' as they repeat their starjumps... OK, so that was the Eighties. As epitomised by Jamie Lee Curtis in 'Perfect' and of course Victoria Wood ('let's just funky it up a bit' - etc). Classes were attended almost exclusively by women, mnay of whom referred to it as 'keep fit' or 'popmobility' or something equally oh so cringy. Style was not the name of the game! My how times have changed! Your average class these days is taught in a mirrored studio, by a Geri-alike with enough energy to power the national grid, with the whole class whooping along with each crunch/ rep/ kick etc. And your class will have a motivational name - something to make you really feel you are cranking up that fat burner as you power your way to a Madonna-esque physique. A quick perusal of the classes at my gym throws up 'pump', 'power', and 'blast' to give just a few examples! Now, what kind of girl would fall for a gimmick like that? Ummmm... Well, the kind of girl who would like to see maximum results in minimum time. Like me, for instance. Having never attended any kind of organised exercise class in my life, it was with a wee bit of fear that I turned up for my body combat class. Firstly, I was worried I was going to look out of place - would everybody else be fit and lean, clad in the latest sports fashions? Nah - to my relief they were a mixed bunch in age, gender and body weight. Of course there was the obligatory token 'fit bird' (she haunts every gym, doesn't she?) but the others were just normal like me - phew. The instructor turned up, and I waited for what I assumed would be a nice chat, some preamble, a few explanations etc. HAH! No chance. Hiya! she said, through her
remote control mouth piece, which appeared to be connecting with Fatboy Slims touring PA system, and basically - we were straight into it. Eeek! Body Combat is a fantastic, exciting workout. It basically draws (with much artistic licence) from the disciplines of self defence - lots of kicking, punching, right hooks and uppercuts etc! Those of who who are into kickboxing, taebo etc will be on familiar ground here. But for me, the very best thing about Body Combat is that it is tightly choreographed, so that every kick, jump and stab is done to a specific line/ beat of a specially chosen track. So for instance, when working out to 'Walking on Sunshine', the chorus bit is where the whole class 'walks' (actually shuffles very energetically) across the room. The moves always follow the music, abd the songs are all really beaty, uptempo numbers. After a full warm up, it's on to the 'power' section - the bloody hard bit. If you think boxers have it easy as they dance about the ring - think again. Accompany that dancing back and forward with hard punches, high kicks and jabs, all at breakneck speed - it's a recipe for much sweatiness! Tai chi gets a look in too, with occasional mystic-style arm swirling. All of this is led by the fitness dervish - your instructor. I have had two instructors in Body Combat and they have both been awesome - shouting, singing along with the music, and generally pumping the energy and atmosphere up to the max. They are specially trained to do the moves along to each track - and their confidence soon rubs off on the class. Now for the bit that may make you break down and weep - the mat section. This is where each person gets a wee mat to themselves, and proceeds to basically kill themselves along to the sound of 'Wild Boys' or similar, in the name of abdominal and tricep work. Girls, can you do chest press ups? How about doing them double ti
me?? And let's face it, ab work is always going to be agonising, however you dress it up. This is the part of the class where I just grit my teeth and soon enough - it's over and time for our cool-down. Cool down is so much fun! The songs vary but a couple of weeks ago we stretched and waved to 'Funiculi Funicula', the rousing opera number! Complete with moch sword fighting - great crack. And then - look at the clock. A whole hour has gone by, of pretty much solid, energetic exercise! I can honestly say that the time flies by. I mean, who would class doing 'Crouching Tiger' high kick moves to the the sound of 'Kung Fu Fighting' as anything other than fun? However - be warned. You will ache the next day. And maybe even the day after that. Body Combat is so much fun, you can easily forget how hard you are working. It does get easier with each class though, so don't worry if you feel you can't keep up to begin with. Honestly - for a person with an inbuilt aversion to doing anything energetic in public, I have become instantly hooked on my Body Combat class. It's fun, motivational, and it promises fantastic results. The energy and commitment of the instructors is totally inspirational - no matter what your fitness ability. And although I think the self defence aspect is slightly over-hyped, it can't hurt anyone to learn how to throw a good hard punch! Come on... We will We will ROCK YOU!! *** UPDATE **** UPDATE **** I asked my instructor last week how many calories this workout burns - she tells me it's an awe inspiring 500 to 600 per session!! Bring on that chocolate!!
I've been becoming increasingly irate recently with opinions here from people who feel that the religious meaning has been taken out of Christmas. Of course, these people are absolutely right - Christmas has now come to mean so much more to us here in Britain than a religious festival. My point is - isn't this a *good* thing? Millions of kids are now brought up with absolutely no influence whatsoever from the church. We live in a secular society - gone are the days when the minister was the most respected person in town. Schools do teach religion, but it's in the context of the wider world picture, with Christianity as just one of the many faiths explored. Those people who do practice Christianity are of course free to teach their children whetever they like in the home, and to encourage church attendance. But for most kids church is somewhere you go to when you are attending a wedding, a funeral... ... or a Christmas carol service. My memories of our school carol service are still fresh in my mind - I always looked forward to it for months! The beautiful, uplifting songs, the wise words of the minister, the singing along with your parents (!) and the cold walk home, chattering with excitement about Christmas. The church we went to always seemed to be freezing, and it smelt a bit musty, but the atmosphere at Christmas was of true community celebration. My parents may not have believed in the literal truth behind the songs we were singing, but they loved taking us along to this happy annual ritual. And why not? You don't have to believe in mangers and donkeys in order to appreciate beautiful, spiritual music. Christmas for us was about so many things - the presents of course (though not a battery or microchip in sight - it was the 70's!), the food, the waking up in the night, the letters to Santa - just the sheer magic and enchantment of it. Yes, Jesus played his small part, by being
represented in our school nativity play by a wee boy with a tea-towel on his head, but that was about it. The day was about family, pure and simple. And that was enough to fill our hearts with wonder. Now, as a grown up, wage earning adult, Christmas means even more to me. It means great nights out, the office party, shopping for lovely pressies (and of course my new Christmas outfit), sending and receiving groovy cards - and so much more. I love all of it - and guess what, I have no religious beliefs whatsoever. Surely any true religious spirit would embrace any celebration that brings us all together? Sure, for many people the whole thing is just a reason to slump in the sofa stuffing their faces with chocolates - but what's wrong with that? The whole nation has a chance to chill out, spend time with loved ones, and to worship should they feel like it. And surely this year more than ever, we should be trying to embrace all cultures and faiths, rather than trying to exclude the non beleivers (the infidels??). The world is a big place, and we are all very different. But for me, Christmas is the ideal time to celebrate our similarities. Many people manage to keep in touch with friends simply by sending cards every year - what a great ritual this is. I love getting cards from old friends - and the christmas spirit has a way of making us forget old grievances too! Isn't this the true meaning of Christmas - to spread joy? Do we really have to be card carrying church menbers to join in this nationwide celebration? Our Pagan forefathers celebrated in the midwinter long before JC turned up in a stable. They needed the light relief! Fire, light, music and food were the best ways to celebrate after all the hard work they had done all year. Don't we all deserve this? Of course Christmas is disgustingly commercial - but what isn't? Those parents who heap obscenely expensive pressies onto their al
ready spoilt kids do so through choice. Most of us don't really approve - but who are we to tell others what to spend their money on? In a free country - it's their choice. We don't have to join in. If our own kids moan about their gifts not being indulgent enough, surely that suggests that they haven't been brought up very well! We were always delighted with whatever we got - and much of it was second hand. The secret is in the ritual of presentation! In closing, I'd like to take this chance to invite everybody to come right here and see the wonder of an Edinburgh Christmas. Our local council has outdone itself this year - we have a true 'Winter Wonderland' of fun. There's an outdoor ice rink, a funfair, a German market, a huge ferris wheel - and so much more to see. All lit up with a million twinkly lights, glowing under the Castle. It is a spectacle to rival New York's Central Park, and the atmosphere is truly festive. And it doesn't matter who you pray to - it's for everybody to come and enjoy. I'll be keeping the Christmas spirit alive in my own way this year, as I always do. I'll be having fun, seeing friends, getting drunk, spending waaay too much money - and generally spreading good cheer. I wish you all a wonderful festive season - whatever your pleasure this Christmas!
Remember the Eighties? Batwing sweaters, chunky bangles. Adrian Mole and... the F-Plan diet? This was possibly the biggest publishing phenomenon of it's time - the diet that promised you could lose weight whilst indulging in bread, baked potatoes and heaps of healthy veggies and cereal. It was huge - every celebrity in town was trying it, even our otherwise sensible politicians (David Steel springs to mind) were leaping on the bandwagon and bragging about their weightloss. Perhaps the biggest testament to how huge this book was is the fact that nowadays virtually every charity shop in Blighty now has at least one copy of it on its' shelves - along with Adrian Mole of course. So either you can read about the trials of being a spotty teen in love with Pandora.... ... or you can read the F-Plan and learn how to lose weight for life. The basic principle in this diet is simple - you decrease your number of calories eaten (boo! hiss!) whilst upping your intake of dietary fibre. Fibre can be found in all fruit and vegetables, and in other 'brown' foods - brown bread, cereal with bran in it, etc. EASY! The ideal high fibre meal would have to be a baked potato with sweetcorn. This is my favourite dinner, so it's no surprise that when I read this book as an impressionable batwing-sweatered teenager, I was very excited. I had found *my* diet - the one that helped me lose a stone at the time, and that I have used as a basic principle ever since. OK - and here's the squeamish bit. Look away now if you're easily offended by frank discussion of bodily functions: Right. The reason why the F plan works so well is basically because all that fibre works its' way quickly through your body, taking lots of rubbish with it on its' way, and produing regular and copious bowel movements. Excellent! That's just what we need. Less fat and calories are absorbed - and we lose weight.
Also, that bulky food helps us to stay satisfied for longer, so we're less tempted to raid the biscuit tin come 11 o'clock. Now, I have to tell you that my obsession with high fibre breakfasts began many years ago, and I now consider myself the national, white coat-wearing, clipboard-brandishing expert on this subject. If you want to stick to your tea and toast - then that's great. Just make sure that the bread is either wholemeal or granary, or similar high fibre content. This will always be displayed on the label, and should be at least 4 grams per 100 to be considered fibre rich. Yum! But if you want to venture into the world of cereal - well, where to begin. The array is staggering. I'll start with the bad news - 'Fruit and Fibre' cereals are actually delicious and with a pretty reasonable fibre content, but are also packed to the gills with added sugar - hence that addictive yummy taste. Sorry! However, if weight loss is not your goal, then this tasty cereal could be the one for you. Bah! Bran Flakes also have added sugar, but a bit less than in Fruit and Fibre. They are really tasty (according to me, and to the pre-smug Angus Deayton in that excruciating advert) and again a good fibre content. Ideal if you're new to F plan and want to start the easy way. Weetabix - that old childhood favourite - has a really good fibre content too and everybody loves it - a great cereal for you and for your kids. And good free gifts in the box sometimes too! But - the daddy of them all, the biggest fibre kick by a million miles, the one to frighten all these tiddlers into storecupboard submission is: ALL BRAN. Right - I've said it, it's out there. Yes, I eat All Bran every day, and that is why I can also indulge in goodies (beer, chocolate, the occasional Chinese takeaway) on a regular basis and still maintain a not entirely minging size ten figure. M
ost people think that All Bran is only eaten in old folks homes. WRONG! How do you think supermodels and popstars manage to look so slim and fresh? By eating a high fibre diet. And you can't get more high in fibre than this. Thirty whopping grams in the hundred - this stuff will give your insides the dyno-rod treatment and leave you feeling a stone lighter. Frightened? Don't be! You can ease yourself into this really gently. If you don't, and your body is not used to the fibre, then you will get painful stomach cramps anyway, so easy does it until you've acclimatised to the change. Here is what to do. Have some weetabix for breakfast, and sprinkle some all bran on top, leaving it to soak in the milk for a minute or so. This is what many people do each day anyway, and they don't take it any further than that. But I'm an extremist in everything I do so with the above 'breaking in' completed well before my eighteenth birthday, I've been having the same breakfast every day now for the past twelve years: Half a weetabix, covered with enough all bran to reach the top of the cereal bowl, soaked for five minutes in semi skimmed milk. For me, it's the ultimate comfort food - rich, tasty and slurpy. If you don't soak the cereal it'll be dry, crunchy and taste like cardboard. And a word about brands - Kellogs is horrible. It's by far the driest of the bunch. My top favourite is Safeways own brand 'High Fibre Bran' - it's got a deep, almost caramel toasty flavour. Sainsbury's own brand is lovely too - and of course these brands are cheaper too. And you may also be worried about having 'wind' on the F plan diet. This is true - while you body adjusts to the increased fibre intake you may well become a bit 'pumpy', but this will go back to normal when you're used it. Just keep a can of air freshener handy those first couple of w
eeks! I have become famous in my circle of friends (no, not *that* circle of friends) for my odd and eccentric breakfast obsession. When visiting pals overnight, I take my own box of cereal with me. One cheeky monkey even gave me a jumbo box for Christmas! But the bottom line is simply this: the f plan diet works for me. It always has, and I don't intend to change my eating habits. If all you do is switch to a high fibre breakfast each morning, you cannot help but lose weight and feel healthier. And just think how much easier it'll be for you to adjust to that old folks home when the time comes!
Why fly to London? Ok, well maybe you're located in Scotland and need to visit England for work on a regular basis. Most business peeps here in Edinburgh can regularly be seen dragging their mini trolleys and their laptops out to the airport - convinced that the one and a bit hour flight down to London town is going to save them time, money and hassle. Oh - and make them look prestigious too. As if! I have been a frequent flyer on the Edinburgh - London route for five years now, and have tried BA, British Midland, Easyjet and Go. All of them are ok, but none of them are or ever will be perfect. Now it is time to confess my weakness - lately I have become a bit nervous of flying. My fear began way before September, but let's face it - recent events haven't exactly inspired confidence in airline safety. So when it came to booking my recent travel arrangements down to London for a meeting - I booked the train. THE TRAIN????? But isn't it horrible, unreliable, laughably expensive, slow, smelly, and with a level of catering that would shame the works canteen? Ummm - maybe, I thought, but at least I don't risk plummeting to certain death if it all goes pear shaped. Tell me I'm not the only one around here having similar, irrational thoughts! My first surprise was the price - my return ticket to London from Edinburgh cost £37.50, booked three weeks in advance. That makes the entire journey a simialar price to the hilariously named 'Stansted Express' that I usually rely upon to whisk me into town when I arrive in Stansted. And by the way - Stansted is as far from London as Edinburgh is from Glasgow. Figure that into your travel time next time you fly! Since I booked, GNER have offered a promotion of any journey made on their route (that now includes Glasgow too) for only £20 - but I still think I got a bargain. OK - next surprise. I was served by friendly peopl
e in the station, and my tickets were presented to me in a v. stylish wallet - difficult to lose on the journey and handy for receipts etc. Now for the journey! My seats had been reserved for me both ways, so there was no need to turn up very early to ensure I got a seat. So I only had to factor in some goodie buying time - Edinburgh Waverley has WH Smith, Boots, Costa etc. I loaded up with mags and snacks, and clambered on board. My seat was 'facing' which meant I was looking forwards as we travelled, and I was pretty comfy straight away. My table-mates were friendly and civilised, and there was no smell of smoke or anything grim like that. There is also a designated 'quiet coach' where mobiles and walkmans (walkmen?) are banned - very relaxing. I then spent the next four and a half hours ignoring the book I had brought and gazing hypnotised out of the window as the beautiful scenery rolled past me to the sound of the rails rattling away rythmically underneath the carriage. WOW. How much more relaxing is this than clinging to my seat rests for dear life during turbulence??? No contest. As I admired Englands cathedrals from the comfort of my seat I felt as if I was going on holiday. I only visited the buffet car once and that was for a cup of tea. GNER now proudly claim to offer a range of 'fresh gourmet sandwiches' - you'll forgive me if I bring my own from M&S, as even I wouldn't go that far in the name of research! The overwhelming impression I got though, was that GNER are desperately trying to offer a serious alternative to flying - and upgrading standards generally. By the time we got past York, the train was much less busy, and I was able to grab a double seat of my own to stretch out on. I nearly fell asleep - and then, bada bing! We were pulling into King's Cross station, the real life jumping off spot for all mini wizards and witches. There were only muggles in eviden
ce when I arrived, but again, I was impressed with the range of shops and services the station had to offer. Without needing to go outside (or through arrivals!) I tootled down the escalator into the underground - and was on the way to my hotel in the time it would have taken me to buy a train ticket at bloody Stansted. HURRAH!! I really can't recommend the train enough for your journey to the south of England - or vice versa. Four and a half hours flew by, and I arrived refreshed, relaxed and with no anxiety. For those of you who still need convincing, here is a handy comparison: Time spent getting to London by air: Bus from my house to Princes Street - 15 min Airport bus out to airport - 30 min Check in time - one hour Flight time - one and a half hours (to include inevitable delays) Time faffing through airport onto rail platform - 15 min Waiting time on platform - 15 min Train into London - 45 min. OK, so now we're in the centre of town. Door to door it took four and a half hours (on a good day, with no major dalays) and I'm knackered, stressed, and feel as if I'm ready for a nice lie down. Compare that to: Time spent getting to London via rail: Bus up to Princes street - 15 min Train journey - four and a half hours. And that's it - I've been sitting on my ass the whole way and I feel great. There were no incidents involving chocolate frogs on my journey - but who knows? Next time I may be whisked to another dimension!
Last night's documentary on Channel 4 was originally filmed as part of the very entertaining 'Can you live without...?' series, but somehow ended up being shown as a one-off. For those of you who avoid programmes like this, here's what happened: Jordan, top tabloid 'babe' took on a challenge to live without fame for... ummm, I think it was about four days. To do this, she was asked to take a job at a stables, as a trainee. She was to do without makeup, tight clothing etc, and pass herself of as an unknown - 'Allie'. So far, so intriguing. I myself have always considered Jordan to be a sad wannabe, with an obvious desperate need to do anything and everything to get her face (and other bits!) 'out there'. Her constant appearance all over the tabloids, usually displaying her g-string over her hipsters, falling drunk out of cars doesn't exactly inspire respect. But! I will give anybody a chance - and I was fascinated to see if 'Jordan' - without all the media-friendly trappings to support her, would turn out to be just an ordinary girl like you and me. HAH! Well, my hopes were high - I imagined perhaps at least one scene in which Jordan (real name Katie, confusingly) might break down and tell the camera that her need for attention stemmed from her childhood, or that sometimes she dreams of living like a normal person, free from the constant spotlight and the frenzied attention of Britain's white van driving population. Sadly, this documentary turned out to be much like Jordan herself - shallow and a bit pointless. Firstly - Jordan without makeup is not like the rest of us without makeup. Her poor old face has been blasted by sunbeds for so many years now that even without slap, she would still give your average fluorescent tangerine a run for it's money. Secondly - this girl wouldn't play ball right from the start. Her agen
t gave her some (rather nice, I thought) black shirts to wear to her new 'job', but Jordan claimed they were 'minging' and promptly put on a Polo t-shirt that my three year old neice would struggle to get into. Ok, Ok, so I'm shooting a very easy target here but god bless her, clever she ain't. Her entire vocabulary seems to consist of the phrases 'come on' and 'bring it on' - said in a very strange mix of Essex and American twang. Before she even arrived at the stables she was playing up to the camera crew - well, the male members of the camera crew anyway. She constantly whined, 'I look minging! don't I? don't I?' in her desperation to be fawned over. Then, when being 'wired' - she assaulted the sound guy's ears with 'ooo! you just want to look at my knickers!' etc etc. You get the idea. We realised pretty soon that this was as far and as deep as this girl's personality goes. The crew seemed to have absolutely no control over her, and pretty soon she was hanging out in the crew car, texting her friends and having a fag, whilst the other trainees shovelled the shit. At this point my boyfriend pointed out the ironic fact that the woman who ran the stables was actually far more attractive that Miss Frankenstein - and more interesting too. At no point did the producers of this programme make any attempt to have a serious chat with Jordan about the meaning of fame. And at no point did we get to see her in a 'fly on the wall' sense, as she was constantly girning for the cameras. After a few days, the stable boys had sussed her out. By this time, sick of looking 'minging' Jordan was now attending her job dressed in hotpants and pink knee socks. Hmmm... not very 'undercover'? I got the distinct impression that Jordan was calling all the shots here - any other documentary would have insisted on her
playing by the rules. The result was that the 'disguise' didn't work, and by the time she outed herself on the last day, everybody had already realised that there was a lot more to this bizarrely shaped stable girl than met the eye. The show climaxed with Jordan putting on a demure little outfit (pink frilly knickers and a vest) to go and pose on the top of all the stable lad's cars. The boys were in Sun-reader heaven, the girls didn't know what to do and looked pretty bemused. The weird thing is, Jordan is actually a dab hand with horses, having grown up with them from an early age. She is a pretty accomplished horsewoman, which is one of the things that led me to think perhaps I shouldn't write her off as an attention seeking idiot. As Jordan backed her flashy sports car out of the stable car park for the last time, leaving behind lots of stunned faces, she bashed her rear end by mistake. She giggled, and kept on driving her dented car off into the sunset. And we were left with the realisation that sadly, she *is* an attention seeking idiot. Nul points, Channel 4, for this half hearted and poorly made documentary. Next time, make your subject truly incognito, and follow up the whole experiment with an interview or two. Otherwise, we might just be able to see your g-string.