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The Oban Divers campsite didn?t sound very exciting at first, especially as neither of us dived.However we followed the signs to Glenshellach, which was only just outside Oban and discovered a small and very green valley containing a caravan park that we instantly fell in love with. The park seems to be a labour of love for the owners, they keep it immaculate and in our 6 night stay we astonishingly didn?t come across any litter.Dogs were strictly not allowed which pleases some and saddens others. Differing varieties of trees had been planted and were being well looked after. During our stay we spotted grouse, pheasants, a hare and hundreds of very tame chaffinches that were quite content to eat bread out of our hands. A pair of eagles had also been frequently spotted on the hill above. Unfortunately we never caught a glimpse of them. There are various pitches on differing levels on both sides of the valley with a choice of hard standings and good quality grassy areas. Cars can park alongside the tents if they wish. There are no regimented or numbered slots for caravans or tents and you can choose the pitch at your leisure. Electric hook ups are available. The owner proudly told us of some particularly quiet spots which he had nick-named the honeymoon pitches. Picnic benches were dotted about and you were free to drag them near to your tent or caravan. Facilities were housed in a new toilet block that was spotless. They contained two showers and one private sink cubicle. The showers were piping hot and were included in the site fee. This was great as it meant no hunting around for the right change after a day out hiking etc, and then no stoppages of water when you are still half covered in soap bubbles. There was a separate and again spotless dish washing area with two sinks and plenty of hot water, a laundry room and a drying room. We didn?t use the laundry but it looked well equipped with washers, dryers and a mangle. A large covered ba
rbecue area was freely available alongside a covered cooking and eating area equipped with chairs and tables which was provided for people to use in case of bad weather. 3 Log cabins were available to hire either as the whole unit or for just £7 per bunk in a shared room. A small shop provided the basics at decent prices, they even sold a little pack of 10 Tea bags for just 10p. There was no bar , restaurant or games room and there wasn?t even a pub within staggering distance which in its self has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Children seemed well catered for with a woodland style adventure play area with swings and also a sand pit. A stream ran through the site and had several bridges and stepping stones. Little touches like the well which housed the drinking water tap added to the character of the place. A maximum of 45 pitches at any one time hopefully stops the site getting to overcrowded. We experienced the site the week before the whit bank holiday and so observed the place at its quietest and then perhaps its fullest on the Saturday night. I had been expecting a lot more noise and a wait for the showers at the weekend , but was pleasantly surprised. There was little noise and a nice atmosphere about the place. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the site and are looking forward to a future visit. We paid £8 a night which included car, tent and 2 people. The Oban Divers caravan park Glenshellach Road Oban Argyll Scotland PA34 4QJ Tel 01631 562755
Kimberley markets itself as the Bavarian City of the Rockies. It boasts a population of just 7000 people and located at 3663 ft / 1100m it is also the highest city in Canada. It was named after the famous South African mining town in the hope that it would be just as successful . The "Kimberley Alpine Ski Resort" is about 3km uphill from the town centre and it was here I stayed on a two week holiday in January 2001. By booking early and going off season I managed to buy a holiday for two, including flights, insurance, lessons and the hotel for the incredible price of £900 Getting there We booked with Inghams and flew on a 9 hour flight from Manchester to Calgary International Airport. We then had a coach journey of 5 hours which was routed through the spectacular scenery of the Banff National Park and then the Kooteney National Park in the Canadian Rockies. The Hotel We had chosen to Stay at the Trickle Creek Hotel, which is part of the Marriott group and we had nothing at all to complain about. Ours was one of the smallest rooms and still included a fully equipped kitchen with dishwasher, TV, 2 sofas, gigantic bed, bathroom and a balcony with a view over the nursery slopes and pool. Coffee and microwaveable popcorn was left as a courtesy and the best feature was a complimentary grocery shopping service. Breakfast was included every day, hot chocolate and coffee were freely available in the lounge all day long and on weekday evenings a light snack was also available. There was a very small gym with just 3 or 4 machines and a great outdoor pool and two outdoor hot tubs. Under floor heating around the pool made dashing to and from the changing room a lot more comfortable. The Skiing Unfortunately while we where visiting, the whole of the Canadian Rockies were having a poor season with much less snow than normal. As a result of this a lot of the hardest Black Diamond runs were closed and the lift tickets had been
reduced from $45 to $37. This was almost a bonus for me as I probably wouldn't have used most of the shut runs anyway. Beginners learned on two slopes, serviced by a magic carpet and two drag lifts. These nursery slopes were completely separate from the others so there was less chance of being scared by speeding show offs. Some beginners were put off by the steepness of the second nursery slope. It also seemed a huge leap for some of them to graduate to the main ski area. Due to the resorts recent expansions the main base area had been lowered and where many runs had finished at the original base only one run ended up at the new base. This run also narrowed to go over a bridge. As a result of this the bridge was often congested and very icy. The resort does have plans to demolish the original base buildings and create new runs down to the high speed Quad chair however nothing is finalised yet and the congestion will continue to be a major problem. On the positive side the resort is mainly very quiet. I never queued for a lift in the two weeks, and often had runs all to myself. Skiing in the Easter Bowl we found deeper snow and this is the area which normally is full of powder. The resort has a group of volunteer ski hosts who act as guides, tell you local information and reasons behind the names of the runs. I went out with these a few times and their knowledge led us to the quietest and better conditioned runs.They meet at 0930 and 1330 daily. Night skiing is available and the resort has the longest lit run in Canada. This was mainly used by the locals as most of the tourists were tired out by normal lift closing time.It cost $15 an evening. While we were staying at Kimberly the resort was being used as the base for the Australian para Olympic team . The special world cup is held at Kimberly, and it was awe inspiring watching the one or even no legged athletes race past. Even more stunning were the sla
lom racing blind skiers who trusted their guides walkie talkie instructions. The Ski School The ski school was organised in a very peculiar way. We thought we had booked a six day course, but it turned out that we were issued 12 tickets for twelve group lessons. This meant that during the holiday I had 8 different teachers in classes as small as just me up to about 8 people. For the first few days a ski off was held before each lesson and then a group of about 4 people settled to a regular class. Six of my instructors were excellent and two I didn?t click with at all.A big disadvantage of this system was a lack of continuity and repetitiveness of certain lessons. The only advantage was being able to take mornings or afternoons off from the lessons and not loose out on any instruction. Apres Ski Kimberley was a very quiet place and there was hardly any night life. the bars down town were cheep and included free pool, darts and table football but often we would be the only people in a bar. We even tried the Canadian legion in an attempt to mingle with locals, there was a handful of people there but the place shut each night at 7pm ! 5 pin and 10 pin bowling were located in the town and also a small cinema with one choice of film each week. We did have two great evenings out watching the local ice hockey team, the Kimberley Dynamiters. The atmosphere created by the 600 or so spectators was terrific, the standard of play was pretty good and at $9 a ticket a cheap night out. Beware, spot prizes were awarded for the dirtiest car in the car park, or for the car with the baldest tires. Families with teenage children were the least well catered for and many people I spoke to mentioned that there kids were very bored in the evenings. The shopping street was decked with a Bavarian theme in the 1970`s and was not to my taste. It boasted the largest cuckoo clock in the world, and if you want a laugh put a quarter in the clock a
nd watch Hans the beer drinking yodeller perform for a few minutes.We visited the shops on a Saturday and the place was like a ghostly film set, with no one about.There were a few good gift shops, a couple of sell everything hardware stores and several restaurants.The town has two good supermarkets. Dining there is some great dining in Kimberley and our favourite restaurant was The Bauern Haus. This was housed in a 350 year old barn imported from Germany, and is probably one of the oldest buildings in Canada.The food and service was excellent. Many of the down town restaurants will shuttle you to and from the ski hill and all had good reports.A couple of places will also deliver food to your Hotel. At the base level of the ski hill where a couple of places to buy bar snacks and Kelseys, a Canadian grill was located in the Marriott hotel. Getting about A shuttle bus ran between the hill and the town and cost $2 per trip. Sun, Mon and Tuesday the last bus was at an early 7.30pm the other nights it was 11.30pm. There were also two taxis which were operated by the same company as the shuttle bus. This cost about $8 each way. Other than hiring a car there was no other public transport in or out of Kimberley, apart from a greyhound bus which went at 5.30am each day.
The Sienna Restaurant is located within Selfridges department store at the Trafford centre, Manchester.I have always been interested to discover how good the meals are there, and noticed it had good reviews in a guide to Manchester. My husband and I decided to eat there on a Wednesday evening. The small restaurant was stylish in design, with lit candles on all the tables.An intimate atmosphere was created and 5 other couples were seated. The diners overlook the kitchen in which two French chefs are employed. The menu had just been changed to reflect an Italian cuisine. We took advantage of a great offer in which we could buy any bottle of wine from the drink department of selfridges to accompany our meal. There was no corkage charge for this service. Starters- The starters ranged from about £2 to £6 in price, and all seemed appealing. My husband choose the mussels, which were superbly presented and dressed in a tomato based sauce. I selected ham and aubergine roulade, which turned out to be slices of ham, rolled with the aubergine, topped with cheese and grilled. This was served with mixed leaf salad. Fresh nutty bread accompanied the meals and could be drizzled with flavoured olive oil,- a great alternative to butter. We choose not to have one of the 3 or 4 soup courses available and awaited the main course- For a main course you could select from pasta or meat dishes.The pasta meals were very cheep at about £5 . The meat courses were between £7 and £11 each. I choose the veal . This was two fillets served with 6 gnnochi dumplings on a gigantic plate. My husband had 4 chicken escallops served around a ring of courgettes. Both meals were delicious, and very finely presented. We decided not to choose a desert and ordered a latte and a cappacino from a selection of coffees that included espresso, machiato and coffee mocha. These were reasonable at £1.40 each and again presented superbly. Throughout the meal service was
excellent , we were not rushed or kept waiting at all. We will be looking forward to our next visit.
When I was at school I used to think the most important thing to be a good hiker, was to have the biggest Rucksack money could buy. Nowadays on day hikes I am happiest with the minimum amount of paraphinalia and often venture out with a good sized good quality bum bag. ( Of course I always make sure that I do not jeopardise my safety by leaving out essentials ) I often take with me 2 walking poles. These have recently become very popular and may help to prevent serious Knee ailments in later life. To make best use of the poles have them shorter when walking up hill, and extended on descents. When traversing you can even have them at two lengths. The most useful piece of kit I have ever bought was a drinks bottle holder that can fit on the hip belt of a rucksack or bum bag. It is essential to drink a lot of fluids before, during and after exercise and it is better to keep sipping regularly all day, than to drink only at dinner breaks. No one wants to keep stopping to get a drink from the rucksack all the time and by having the drink to hand you do not need to stop in order to quench your thirst. On hot days a sun hat is a good idea, I use a wide brimmed Tilly hat which keeps the sun off all sides of your head. Also remember to keep reapplying the sun cream. To keep maps, tissues, passports etc dry without spending a lot of money I use Zip lock freezer bags. They work out at about only 6p each and are also good for cycle touring and camping. Instead of chocolate I take breakfast bars or malt loaf, these items are high in carbohydrates, and travel well, do not melt, and take longer to freeze in extreme conditions. Boots - buy the best you can afford and make sure they are fitted well. When walking down hill it is common for toes to rub at the front of the boot. To avoid this it is normally advised to buy larger than normal. when fitting boots you should be able to fit two fingers behind the heel. You should also try the boot on with the s
ock you would normally use. Socks- I prefer one good quality sock, that wicks sweat and is thicker at the pressure points.I use thorlos. Don't underestimate safety precautions. The weather is very unpredictable and in Britain can be very localised. Let people know were you are walking and when you should return Do not swap good map and compass skills for a mobile phone ( mobile phones may be excellent in dire emergencies but cannot be relied on and should not be used for trivialities)
An Antidote : During the fuel crisis (September 2000) I had to commute between Manchester and Liverpool for three days on the run. These journeys proved to be the most pleasant trips I have ever made in rush hour traffic.Travelling on the M62 or the A580 is normally a chore and there are usually plenty of boy racers , examples of selfish driving and loads of drivers revving up at traffic lights. It seemed that everyone was consciously trying to conserve their fuel. Most people kept to about 55 miles an hour, people gradually slowed down at traffic lights and then slowly moved off again. It was a fantastic and unusual atmosphere to be driving in, I felt really calm and relaxed and also happy to know that by driving carefully I was saving petrol money and helping the environment slightly. A lot was said during the fuel crisis about the possible deaths that could occur as a direct occurrence of health staff and emergency service staff being unable to attend work. However we will never know how many deaths were avoided on the roads by drivers taking a lot more care and attention at the wheel. Everything will very soon be back to normal. People will soon forget about saving money and conserving the fuel, horns will start to honk in anger and traffic lights will become pole position starts once more. Well, I enjoyed it while it lasted, and am hoping that I will not be the only person to use the lessons learnt in the future.
If you are a fanatical follower of parodies then you will love this American Movie. If you don?t, then I wouldn?t bother going to watch it at all. The Plot - 6 high school kids recall what they did last summer, and then spend the rest of the movie getting followed about and murdered by a comical ghoul type character. Along the way Parodies from almost every teen horror movie are acted out including Scream, I know what you did last summer, the Matrix, The Blair Witch Project and the Sixth Sense. This movie is not meant to be taken seriously and has to be aimed at late and even early teens, even though it has a well deserved 18 certificate. The film tries to be ?tongue in cheek? at all times and sometimes I did actually find my self laughing but on the whole the acting and the plot could easily be reproduced by any Drama department in any secondary school. For the politically correct amongst us there is a lot to be upset about, from the gratuitous violence to the blatant sexual and racial stereotypes. For me there was nothing special about this film and will become instantly forgettable amongst the drivel that can be churned out of Americas Teen Movie Conveyor Belt.
Set in a very grim version of Manchester this is a modern day fairy tale involving a young Manchester City supporter ( Jimmy Grimble ) and the problems he faces at home and at school. At school he is bullied by a hard core of Manchester United followers, whilst at home he has to cope with his mothers taste in boyfriends. He befriends an elderly bag lady, and she gives him some old and battered football boots that she claims to have magic powers. Jimmy wears the boots and eventually becomes a hero in the Manchester Schools Football Knockout Cup. Wearing the boots give him great confidence and he plays fantastic football. He also manages to win over the friendship of most of the Man United supporters. Throughout the film many of the adults seem to have exaggerated mannerisms, as if seen through the eyes of the teenager. This has quite a comical effect and doesn't go overboard too much. There is also a great soundtrack to accompany the action. I was not dissapointed with this film and would look forward to watching it again. It is as good as any big budget Hollywood film for keeping your attention, and I found myself caring about many of the characters.
The weakest link is a new early evening quiz hosted by Anne Robinson and broadcast daily on BBC2. The contestants play as a team and vote out the person who they think is the weakest contestant, until there are only two people left. They then have a penalty style shootout of 5 final questions each, and the winner takes all the cash accumulated throughout the quiz. Through out the quiz we are kept informed of who the strongest and weakest players really are, and as they are eliminated we get to here their afterthoughts. This quiz seems to be the BBC?s attempt to compete with the very successful 15 - 1, and Countdown on Channel 4 , and is similar in studio design to 15-1. Anne Robinson stands in the middle of an arc of contestants firing questions at them in turn. What is most strange about this quiz is the unusual style and mannerisms of the presenter. At best Anne Robinson could be described as being very rude to the contestants, and comes across as a mixture of the most hated teacher from your school days, the demon headmaster and a drill happy dentist. She never smiles or laughs and is the complete opposite of the smarmy, over confident, glittery dressed presenters of American styled game shows. Her role seems to include belittling all the players and making them as uncomfortable as possible. Nearer the end of the quiz Anne trys to build up the tension by leaving large pauses.(ChrisTarrant style) Whatever the producers are thinking of in the style adapted by Anne in my opinion has and will continue to backfire. The best aspect of this Quiz is the standard of the questions, harder than most quiz shows but not quite up there with 15 - 1.
After winning a Playstation I needed to buy a game to test out the new console. After deciding on Crash Bandicoot 2, I started a price search on Kelkoo.com and discovered Simplygames.com, selling the game for £9.99. This price was at least £5 cheeper than the next shop, and many sold at £18.99. The price at simplygames.com also included postage and packing. (very good , compared to Amazons £2.99 p&p.) Before ordering I consulted Dooyoo for other opinions on simplygames.com and was satisfied with the opinions offered. I was not disappointed. It was a simple ordering procedure, I received an order confirmation followed by a notice that the game had been posted, and was pleased to receive the goods 3 days later. The simplygames.com web site is very easy to navigate, and is split into sections based on the different gaming platforms. It is then further split into a catalogue, a review and preview sections.There were good prices to be found on all the games with a few at £4.99 including p&p. There were also some good deals on consoles.
I discovered this chain of discount shops when I was a student and still pop in if I am in a town centre that has a store. On first appearances many of the shops seem to be very scruffy, small and the narrow isles get jammed quickly with people and their baskets. The reason for so many people is the consistently cheep prices of food, toiletries , household goods and medicines. As a student I bought staples like egg noodles for 17p a packet, paracetamol for about 20p a small tub and loads of really cheep revision foods, like chocolate and crisps at bargain prices. Nowadays I have a look at the cheep foods and drink, and often pick up well known brands a lot cheeper than at the supermarkets. These brands include Epicure, Ribeena, Seeds of Change, Heinz, Cadbury and Mcvitee. Recently they have been selling Galaxy cake bars at 49p a packet, which sell for over a pound at Sainsburys. The food items are always in date but sometimes only have a couple of months or less to go. Occasionally they sell short dated products at tiny prices. After Christmas you can often get gift packs of toiletries such as Lynx, at less than the price of a single bottle of Lynx normally. I always buy non prescription medicines here such as cough mixture and headache tablets. Household cleaning products are about 1/3 cheeper than at the supermarkets. Home and Bargain is great for impulse shopping, but is not the place to go for a large shop as the stock changes regularly, and once gone may not appear again for a while.
We used Bridgfords late last summer to sell our first home. They had a high profile locally with many houses that were for sale displaying their signs. They continually advertised in the local newspapers and had a shop in a prominent part of the local centre. Other aspects in there favour were a no sale no fee arrangement and they were a member of "countrywide assured" which they told us was the largest chain of estate agents in the country. Looking back I would not say that anything stood out in there favour exceptionally well. On the valuation they were an hour late, but very apologetic. The sales patter was very smooth and we were sucked in to signing up with them. They also tried very hard to make us appointments with there own financial advisors which we later found out were tied to a few banks and building Societies only. Bridgfords do have a strict policy for viewing and only allow people who they have financially vetted to view your home. This is designed to cut down on time wasters and seemed to work very well. We eventually managed to sell our home through Bridgfords, but on recollection do think that the fee was a bit on the high side for the amount of work that they applied to advertising and selling the home.
For a person who hates gardening, like myself, the prospect of spending half an hour in the evening watching a gardening programme is something I would have never considered. Then one day I was strangely attracted to a jolly theme tune performed by a brass band whilst flicking through the channels. I watched a bit of the show and then quickly became hooked. The show is based on a simple idea. Arrange for the gardens owner to be away for the weekend, and then completely make over the garden. The presenters include every ones favourite TV Gardner, Alan Titchmarsh, the water feature expert Charlie Dimmock who probably doubles the ratings because she chooses not to wear a bra, and a down to earth construction expert , Tommy Walsh. Complete Jungles of back gardens or even ugly back yards are then transformed into miniature paradises. The team never seems to have much time to finish the projects, and always seem hampered by bad weather. The programme really inspires you to do something with your own garden and has probably tripled sales of decking and pond liners throughout the U.K. A nice touch in the repeated versions of the show is to show footage of a surprise visit back to the garden the following year, to see how the garden has matured or if it is being looked after properly.
The Format; Take two sets of neighbours who want to make over a room each. Assign a mad designer to each room. Provide a budget of £500 Let the neighbours help out in the other home. Keep everything top secret from the home's owner. Await the looks of disgust or delight from the owners faces. Part of the enjoyment of this programme is pre-empting the result of putting lime green or orange paint all over the walls of some ones living room, or being amused by the number of things that can be made very cheaply from MDF. Many of the presenters are very flamboyant in their designs, and there naivete is counteracted by the more down to earth handy man "Handy Andy" and the charms and practicalities of Carol Smilie, the presenter. The neighbours or "victims", have only themselves to blame as they must realise what they have let themselves in for. At the end of the day it is only one room that has been changed and it wouldn't take that long to make over again. Changing Rooms has become very popular and always attracts huge audience figures it is the sort of TV show that once you start watching you have to watch to the very end to see the changed rooms and the surprised homeowners.
The Dualit Toaster range have become design classics and after about 2 years of wishing for a Dualit, I finally succumbed to the great expense and bought one. I purchased the Combi Toaster from Costco at the discounted price of £115 ( instead of the advertised price of £175 ) This combi Toaster is chrome and quite bulky. There are two slots which are slightly on the small side, and the bread is manually lifted with a lever. There is a further slot which can be operated independently of the other two, and is used in conjunction with a cage. This slot is wider and good for toasting scones or buns etc. The cage also serves as a sandwich toaster. You have to butter both sides of the bread , insert a filling such as cheese and onion , put it in the cage and pop it in the toaster. This works incredibly well, and makes far less mess than the traditional sandwich makers. Dualit toasters are not automatic. You turn a dial for the element to heat up, and then it is up to you to keep checking if the toast is done. The bread seems to be toasted very quickly and evenly, and all of the bread is toasted. A crumb tray is located under the toaster and has worked very well in eliminating the mess on the work surface. It is easy to remove and clean. I am hoping that this toaster will last me now for ever, if anything does go wrong Dualit can supply a host of spare parts.
It is strange how the old traditional games can give hours of pleasure and entertain young and old at the same time. The simple context of scrabble is to receive a handful of letters, place them on the board in turn to form words ( crossword style) and count up the value of your turn. The winner is the person with the highest score when there are no letters left or when everyone is stuck. The board includes bonus squares were double or triple word or letter scores can be earned. Additionally letters have different values from 1 up to 10 points. A bonus of scrabble is that everyone seems to know the rules and it is easy to pick up. A downside can happen if one player always takes an age to play there turn. Other benefits can include showing off when countdown is on. Computer games come and go and can be very lonely pastimes, they also tend to alienate the young from the old, So, in Conclusion, Scrabble is the cheep and simple game that past generations and future generations can play and interact over together , brain power is exercised and word knowledge is expanded.