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As great and as durable as cast iron pans are, with a brand like Le Creuset you are going to pay well over the odds if you buy new any of their range of cookware. So unless money is no object, the way to go is second hand if you want their brand of cast iron frying pans at a more reasonable price.
The dimensions of this frying pan measures 26cm in diameter. Therefore it's just big enough for frying steaks, eggs, fish, making pancakes etc for a small family. However, because cast iron is weighty, unless you have a very strong wrist you are not going to be able to flip pancakes or vegetables easily like you can with a similar aluminium pan. There are also a couple of odd things about this frying pan.
Normally cast iron frying pans do not come with a non-stick surface, at least not traditionally. But this pan does come with three separate non-stick layers which they claim is 'long lasting'. My experience with PTFE or similar coatings is that they always chip away in time with the result that fragments of the chemical coating end up in your food over a period. That was one reason I stopped using non-stick aluminium pans Having a non-stick pan may be great for making omelettes, or using less fat for frying, but a no-friils, bare cast iron pan is what I would prefer with no PTFE surface or toxic aluminium underneath it. It is down to the user to season a bare cast iron pan to make it permanently non-stick. Then no unnecessary chemical coatings end up in your food. Because this pan has a conventional non-stick surface it also means that you can't use metal handlers such as spatulas or forceps when cooking, which is not a problem with a seasoned pan. So far only anodised non-stick pans seem to be genuinely durable and resistant to metal scrapes, but they haven't really been around that long to see whether they can stand up to heavy use with metal implements. Anyhow this is not an anodised surface pan.
The other oddity is the pan's wooden handle. Normally cast iron pans have a metal handle which means you can bake food with cast iron in the oven. Having a wooden handle rules this pan out for such purposes. As presumably users only intend this pan for frying on a hob it's no real handicap but it's just a little annoying.
If you decide to buy this new then just treat this Le Creuset as an ordinary non-stick pan as you would with an aluminium one until the surface starts to chip and wear away as it will inevitably do. Once that happens though you do not need to throw this pan away. Just sand the non-stick surface down to the smooth bare iron, then season the pan and you will have a non-stick pan that will last a lifetime. It's the cast iron rather than its non-stick surface that is durable.
I've recently thrown out all my non-stick cookware where all had had the Teflon coating either chipped away or missing, exposing potentially harmful aluminium. There's been a lot of controversy over aluminium cookware with some medical experts claiming that this may be a genuine cause in the rise of dementia. But so far nothing has been conclusively proven. As I'm one who believes there may be something in this, it seemed like a good opportunity to ditch my aging cookware and switch to stainless steel pans which have a far better reputation health wise and are said to last forever if you look after them.
Rather than buy cookware sets which nearly always seem to include pans you don't need or want, I bought individual pieces of cookware. One such item was a Prestige stainless steel 18cm saucepan by the Meyer group. As far as I can tell it doesn't come as part of a set, and has been substantially reduced by Amazon over the months, and noticeably cheaper than the more recent equivalent 18cm size in the Create series, also by Meyer. That one does comes as part of a a set, and the 2 saucepans look identical apart from the handle design. As I wasn't fussed as to what the handle looks like I bought this cheaper one. The saucepan comes with a glass lid so you can see through to the food cooking within.
The main purpose of this saucepan is to make soups, stews or casseroles on my electric hob. It's also great for steaming or boiling vegetables, but I use a smaller 16cm pan for that. This pan is quite tall, being 11cm in height. It has a capacity of 2.8 litres. So when fairly full there's enough soup/stew for 3 decent servings. I've also found that the saucepan is equally good for making scrambled eggs or frying a steak, but with its tall sides it is not such a practical idea and a frying pan is more suitable. If you intend to use a stainless steel pan for frying eggs or meat it should be appreciated that these pans require a different technique to the non-stick ones. This is especially important when cooking with eggs, which tend to stick to steel pans unless you know how to cook with them properly. Even using oil you can still end up with eggs sticking to the bottom if you are new to stainless steel cookware, or cook with them like you would with non-stick pans, so be aware.
The blurb says that you can cook with the pan in the oven, providing its temperature does not exceed 180° C. I'm not sure how the saucepan or lid handle would cope as they look like they are made of plastic. They are described as 'phenolic' and on contacting Meyer they assured me that the cookware is safe, but I haven't tried this out yet..
Cleaning the pan is simple. If washing out from cooking with soups or stews just rinse under the tap with warm water and detergent. If food sticks or burns to the bottom for whatever reason, fill the pan with some water, heat up until warm, and let it sit for a few minutes. Any charred or stuck food will be soft enough to release, then just rinse under a tap. If you live in a hard water area, there is one drawback with stainless steel, in that there is a tendency for white spots or deposits to form on the shiny steel surface if water drops are left to evaporate. To avoid these it's important to dry the pan with a cloth thoroughly after washing up. Mineral deposits will not harm the cookware. They just look unsightly if enough of them gather on the steel surface. Sometimes further washing will not remove these white deposits, but I've found rubbing lemon juice over the surface is successful in shifting them. This is one reason that perhaps it's better not to use a dishwasher for these saucepans or let them drain inside. But as washing up is generally quick and easy why waste all that water in a dishwasher?
This USB 2.0 flash drive by Sandisk is really small, about the size of a thumbnail. It comes in three capacities, 8GB, 16GB or 32GB. I found the 16GB version which I own is capable of storing ten full length feature films (over 2 hours each) and even then was only 81% full, which gives some idea of how much data a tiny 16GB drive can store, but bear in mind that even though the storage may be advertised at X GB, in practice you may only get a little over 90% of that. The flash drive comes formatted with Microsoft's FAT32 system as well as pre-loaded with some software by Sandisk, mainly to do with their "SanDiskSecureAccess" system which allows you to password-protect all of your stored files. But by converting the file system from FAT32 to NTFS, I could encrypt files with Microsoft's own EFS system so no need for me to use Sandisk's security system, but it's there for those who want to use it on FAT32. Transferriing this software to my hard drive frees up about 60 MB. The flash drive in FAT32 is of course compatible with Macs as with Microsoft computers.
When you plug the drive into a USB socket a little orange LED starts to blink for several seconds before extinguishing, when it is ready. However this is not a speedy drive to use. It took me an hour to transfer a folder of 12GB which isn't impressive, but there could be a number of reasons for this, not least that I have an old PC with its original hard drive which itself might restrict the transfer rate. However I'm more interested in reliabilty and durability as far as this product goes rather than speed transfer rate, and in future I won't be transferring anything like that amount of data in one go.
Because of its tiny size the Sandisk flash drive fits unobtrusely in the USB port of your laptop, tablet, TV etc. On the other hand it's also very easy to lose or to put it down somewhere and then forget where you left it, so you need to take a bit of care over this. There's also the tendency to grasp the drive rather tightly between thumb and forefinger when trying to remove it from a USB socket where it sits firmly. With a bigger size flash drive it's easier to grip and remove it, and I have some reservation that continual tight gripping of the Sandisk might stress its body in time and cause damage if not cause loss of data. To get round this I inserted some fuse wire into the needle-eye hole at one end of the drive Having made a loop of the wire I just insert my finger in the wire and pull to extract it that way without putting pressure on the body of the drive. The looped wire might be a crude way of also putting this device on a key ring as the hole provided at the end of its body is too small to push a key ring through.
So far this flash drive seems to work well and is ideal for storing documents, photos and plenty of music. You can use this device to listen to music in your car (if you have a modern car audio), instead of an ipod. Just plug this drive into a USB port, or use it to read your stored documents wherever you have access to a computer. However its real purpose is to back-up your files. Hopefully it will last as long as my other much physically larger flash drive which is still going strong for over 5 years but only has a measly 250MB capacity.. The SandDisk 16GB drive has its shortcomings but sells under £8 at a well known online store, and at that price surely is a bargain.
I've read some mixed reviews about the Co-op Bank, some good, some bad because of one unfortunate experience at a branch, and one absurd and misleading review designed purely to denigrate the bank with barely any genuine justification, eg complaining about having to use a card reader which most banks now employ for security measures, amongst other spurious criticisms.
I decided I wanted a second bank account for supplementary purposes together with my Nationwide Flexaccount for primary banking. I chose the Co-op for this purpose for 2 reasons. a) they operate with an ethical purpose, eg they are involved in projects such as sustaining the Indonesian Rainforest, and b) the Co-op was not embroiled in the banking credit crunch of 2008 and so did not have to be rescued, nor have they been involved in criminal practices unlike two of their better known rivals.
The Co-op operate 4 different current acoounts. There is the basic current account, current account Plus, the Privilege account, and the Privilege Premier. The last two are subscription accounts which give you a range of 'free' benefits such as the Co-op legal services, car breakdown and mobile phone insurances etc. I opted for the no-frills, basic current account. It includes a debit card, which enables you to withdraw cash from any Link ATM, as well as pay for goods in shops or buying online; all I required really. You get a cheque book as well. There is no interest paid on the current account so it's not a good idea to leave a large sum on deposit for too long.
With overdrafts you need to be careful. Like other banks the Co-op are not shy of slapping on charges if you give them a reason. There are 2 types of overdraft, the 'formal' and 'informal o/d. With the formal o/d the bank agrees an o/d limit with you, ie you have to apply for one, say £500. Once agreed the arrangement runs for 12 months. As long as you do not exceed that o/d limit you pay a one-off fee for the year of £20. You still have to pay it even if you don't use that overdraft. An informal o/d implies no prior application. However if you go into overdraft you'll be charged £20, plus an additional £20 for each day the overdraft increases. There's a maximum charge of £150 per quarter The same rule applies if you breach a formal o/d. There's also interest payable at 18.9% pa on any o'd balance regardless of arrangement. The good news is that on informal overdrafts you pay no charges if you go into overdraft just once in a year and you pay it off within 6 consecutive working days. If you overdraw again in a year then the usual rules apply.
Online Banking is a feature with the Co-op as you would expect. You can register at a branch or by ringing up their head office, and you'll be given a 4 digit security code, which is separate from your debit card pin code. You'll also need to prepare a number of personal security questions, one of which you will be asked for at login. Once you're logged in you are taken to your account summary page what could be described as a minimalist looking website. However all the necessary menu options are there, eg paying bills, standing orders etc. All direct debits are transferred over by the Co-op from your previous bank if switching from them. The one thing that's missing while online is a customer message service to report problems or queries about your account or other issues, which is a feature with other online banking services. Apart from that omission the site is good enough Tou can always telephone Customer Service who operate 24/7, one of the big plus points about the Co-op Bank. No endless menu levels or hanging on for ages for someone to answer either. It's very quick to get through to them..
Co-op branches are not available in every town, but every city should have one. There's one within 7 miles of where I live. Failing that there are also Britannia branches which are part of the Co-operative bank. I have one of those within a 10 minute walk from me, although I've yet to find a branch of theirs that has an ATM machine. The Co-op banks seem to have them though, but you can use any Link ATM to withdraw cash. You would probably need a Co-op ATM to pay in, or simply queue at the teller at a Co-op or Britannia branch to pay in or withdraw funds. The good news is you won't be queuing for long especially at Britannia branches as they seem to be sparsely used. One thing I've noticed at Co-op branches is that the quality of customer service varies. When I've dealt with a branch manager (recommended) the service is quick and efficient. However with customer service staff you never know what you are getting and experience with them has ranged from good to plain useless. So I wouldn't judge this bank if your first experience with them has been a bad one because you dealt with some inexperienced underling. Just make sure you get to speak to a branch manager or deputy manager if you decide to open an account. Make an appointment to do that if necessary.
Happy so far to recommend the Co-op, and your money is probably a lot safer with them than with the big 4 if the last few years are anything to go by.
As a bloke I've tried different deodorants over many years, and they all seem to operate in the same way, ie they mask BO with a powerful musky fragrance for up to 12 hours. In some instances they fail to even achieve that resulting in a mixed stench of BO and deodorant later in the day which can be as bad as not using deodorant in the first place. Well at long last I discovered a remedy that charmed my smelly pits and finally worked for me like nothing else has ever really done before - not even close. I only wish I had stumbled on a product like this many years ago
The remedy is Pitrok, which comes as either a spray-on, or in this case, 'rub-on'in the form of a solid crystal stick. First thing to emphasise is that this is NOT an anti-perspirant despite the category description given above. This is made clear on the container It is purely for use as a deodorant so it will not stop you from perspiring in the slightest. What Pitrok does do is prevent any BO forming, in my case for at least 2 days, which is pretty impressive considering nothing else really worked previously, and I tend to perspire heavily with physical effort . It works by stopping any bacteria present in your perspiration from multiplying. It is the chemical reaction of bacteria on sweat that gives rise to BO as a rancid by-product is formed Pure sweat has no smell. Even after washing your armpits there will always be a few residue bacteria on your skin which will quickly multiply if left to their own devices.
Ideally Pitrok should be applied when you have just stepped out of the shower or had a bath. The most important thing is that your armpits should have been thoroughly cleaned with soap and water first and then left wet. Do not dry them off with a towel. You then apply the stick like a roll-on rubbing smoothly down your pits and then across, and it's job done. If you haven't had a shower or bath to begin with you can still use Pitrok, but just wash your armpits without drying them then apply Pitrok. Follow this procedure and you won't have a problem. I'm willing to bet that those few who claim Pitrok doesn't work for them, didn't wash their armpits to begin with, or dried them off before applying it.
One thing you will notice is that the Pitrok crystal is completely odourless, so there is no fragrance to mask any nasty BO and that's how it should be to prove that it works. You can buy Pitrok as a spray and that does have a fragrance, but isn't as good value IMO The other thing was in my case I found the crystal gave me 48 hours protection, even as far as I didn't need to change my shirt the next day which was unthinkable previously. If that isn't proof of its capability then I don't know what is.
Two final points. If you are using the crystal stick version of Pitrok, be careful not to drop it on a hard surface. If you do it will probably shatter and will be useless. The other thing to note is that the stick version lasts for ages. It's more expensive to buy than standard roll-on or spray deodorant, (currently under £5 at Amazon) but it lasts so much longer. I'm into my third year still with my original purchase of the crystal stick to give you some idea. But because I find I only need to apply Pitrok every 48 hours it seems great value as well as a first class product that does what it's supposed to so effectively. It comes packaged in a black attractive container as above Pitrok is currently sold at Morrison supermarket, Superdrug and Amazon as the main retail outlets. It's well worth investigating if BO is a serious problem for you.
Wolf Creek (WC) is an Australian film by promising new director Greg Mclean The film focuses on two English backpackers, Liz and Kristy in their early 20s,and Ben, an Aussie, whom they team up with in Broome, Western Australia. The three decide to travel together across the outback to Cairns in Queensland, camping along the way and visiting their first destination, Wolf Creek This is a remote site where a giant meteor impacted leaving a huge crater in its wake. Ben rents an old jalopy for the purpose of the trip. After a drunken send-off party with friends the 3 leave early the next morning worse for wear. The film is done in documentary style with add-libbed dialogue, and has a natural, relaxed and happy feel to it. The location shots are beautifully photographed - one of the film's highlights.The impression of isolation in the outback, and a brief unpleasant encounter at a remote fill-up station with some rednecks making lewd suggestions at the girls, suggests that our trio may be out of their depth should they hit serious trouble of any kind. Although no horror or much else seems to happen for the first 50 minutes this is deceptive. The trio are on the road, laughing and making small chat, ie how most young people behave when they are relaxing on holiday. It's this aspect which gives the film a sense of realism as I could identify with the characters unlike the stereotyped, glossy actors you find in many Hollywood horror films. But it does seem to take an inordinate amount of time to get to the 'horror' part of WC on first viewing, and a younger horror audience or those with low attention spans may get bored quickly.
The transition in mood begins once the group reach their first destination, Wolf Creek.The film starts to take on a more menacing air. The fine weather enjoyed so far has now turned cloudy, and there is distant thunder around. After a wet 3 hour hike to the crater, the trio return to their car to leave, but find it won't start They are now stranded miles from anywhere. Expressions of concern have now replaced the happy smiles on our trio's faces who decide to spend the night in the car. Help appears to arrive in the middle of the night as a truck's headlights approach our stranded trio. A big, rough jovial Aussie called Mick, with a coarse laugh and helpful attitude tries to fix their car, but tellls them their 'coil is ridden' but he has a spare one back at his 'camp' and offers to tow them there and install it all for no charge. Our young trio seem eager to accept any offer of help, but wiiser heads might have questioned the man's apparent generosity more closely. From hereon things get more uncomfortable for the trio then ultimately nightmarish. Sadly for our unsuspecting travellers, Mick's outwardly jovial personality belies a very sinister and psychopathic streak as they were to realise once they reach his 'camp', by which time they are hopelessly trapped. By the end of WC the viewer is left with a far nastier taste in the mouth than watching your average horror flick.
WC is a smarter film than much of today's Hollywood horror. It seemed that when the travellers' car broke down that this was just an unfortunate event. However later on in the film we realise that this wasn't quite what it seemed. Also the killer had selected them as his target much earlier than we believed. There's a brief clue at the aforementioned fill-up station which everyone would have missed first time around. It's explained later in the film Previous victims had been selected by the same means.
Although the events and characters in WC are fictional, the story is partly based on Australian mass murderer Ivan Milat, who was eventually caught. He was someone who preyed on backpackers before luring them to their death by torturing them - he severed his victims' spines and butchered them alive which briefly occurs in this film. So be warned as there are a couple of brutal scenes which may stay with you long after you've watched them
This is a dark, atmospheric film, more psychological thriller than horror. The scenes of violence are genuinely disturbing, but this film is not a gorefest. It breaks conventions with the horror genre, as you will see. The frightening thing about this film is that one can well imagine some sexual predator who's experienced in survival in the Outback, using this as an ideal cover to lure unsuspecting tourists and carry out his ghastly fantasies without fear of discovery. One of the more convincing horror films, I feel this is more suited for the mature fan of 70s horror and is definitely worth viewing.
Eden Lake is a film with some deep flaws. A middle-class, young couple decide to take a weekend break and camp at Eden Lake which is by some woodland in an area which appears to be situated near a rather drab town. This is a strange decision for such a couple to make seeing they had good jobs and were not short of money. If they had chosen to vacate near the Lake District I might have understood their choice of destination a bit better..
As it turns out, soon after they arrive at Eden Lake and pitch their tent a gang of chav youths turn up in the area, playing loud music and just being plain offensive. The boyfriend goes to confront them to ask them to turn the music down, and of course his request is naturally met by a bunch of expletives and aggression. What else would you expect from chavs? However they seem to cooperate reluctantly at first. But unfortunately things don't stay that way for very long. My next problem with this film was why mess about with chavs? Everyone knows that if things escalate and you hurt any of them you are the one that will be prosecuted. On the other hand if they hurt you, then you end up in hospital or worse. So it's a no-win situation for decent folk being harrassed and taking on young brats. Of course there would have been no film if the couple had packed up their belongings and moved on, but that would have been the sensible solution.
This is a horror film that relies heavily on violent exploitation. Most of the action centres in the woodland and leans towards graphic violence and bullying and much of it seems gratuitous. In particular there is one scene where the victim (boyfriend) already bleeding and tied up with barbed wire by the gang then has to endure each of its members taking turns in stabbing him. That's about as gruesome as it gets here.The rest of the film is just generally nasty and menacing with some chase scenes and the protagonist/s generally doing things which will inevitably make life more dangerous for themselves. So there are plenty of the usual horror clichés. For example the girl manages to avoid capture by the gang, but she hangs around the woods hiding and watching her bound, barely conscious boyfriend being tortured. Why isn't she legging it into the town and summoning help from the police? So as you can see unpleasant scenarios are just dragged out for the sake of it.
If Eden Lake is trying to be realistic then I think it fails. Chavs can be vile creatures , but I don't think they'd engage in prolonged torture scenes. In any case as mentioned no one being harrassed by these yobs would have been foolish enough to hang around before things ever reached that level. Also, with the girlfriend still on the loose the cops could have arrived any time yet the gang carry on undeterred.. What the film seems to do is promote one's perception of chav behaviour at its most extreme.I like the idea of a film publicising chav culture in a very unfavourable light, but not when it gets too silly. The twist at the end of the film is also weird and is a coincidental scenario, which is just highly unlikely to occur in practice. I won't give anything away but it just adds to the unrealistic nature of the film.
The acting in the film is quite good, especially by the youths, and particularly the young actor playing the gang leader who is very convincing as a thoroughly evil piece of work, a true psychopath in the making. The cast is only a small one but the characters are far more realistic compared to their Hollywood counterparts who always look like they've just stepped onto the set from the make-up/gloss department. It's just their actions and the storyline which defy credibility. As to whether the film suceeds as an entertaining piece, it probably does a lot better there. If you are young and don't mind watching violent bloody action you'll probably enjoy this much more than a mature, seasoned horror fan who's seen many of the clichés before. It's very difficult to make an original horror film today. Eden Lake,has often been compared to Wolf Creek, a film made 3 years before it, and I feel that is the better if much slower paced horror film with a more menacing and hopeless atmosphere and more disturbing violence, although the scenes featuring those are shorter. But I could be in the minority there as many find it takes too long to get to the 'horror' part..
Buying a new mattress can be a bewildering experience as there are a huge range of prices (£50 - £2000), different mattress construction types to consider (eg latex foam v pocket spring v open coil), soft v firm mattresses, and numerous manufacturers to choose from. One thing I soon realised in my search for a new mattress is that it is better not to choose a top brand name, but look at lesser known, but still reputable, proven brands if you want to save a shed load of money but not necessarily compromise on quality. The other thing is to set a budget from the start, say a maximum of £200 and work down from that level One such brand name that I came across was Bedmaster, who offer very reasonable prices for their mattresses. In the end you are seeking comfort, quality and value for money..
The Ortho Royale Double mattress, manufactured by Bedmaster is an orthopaedic type, meaning that it is firm to lie on. It's also available as a Small Single, Single, Small Double, and King size. The Double measures 190cm x 135cm, and has a depth of 21.6 cm. It is a heavy, thick mattress, which does not need to be turned. The mattress is an open coiled spring type made with orthopaedic bonnell springs which give it its firmness. These are enclosed in a damask fabric with a tufted finish. Open coil spring construction dates back to the 19th century, so this still widely used mattress construction has well proven itself over the centuries..Nowadays open coil mattresses tend to be more at the budget end of the market but without sacrificing quality or comfort. Therefore I'd be more inclined to investigate these types of mattresses first if you want to save some money. Two handles stitched onto the side of the mattress assist in moving or carrying it.
So why opt for an orthopaedic mattress instead of a more traditional softer one? I badly needed a new mattress, as my old one was so worn out that the ends of the springs were already poking through the fabric, digging into me like nails. My old, tattered bed was a small single, so I decided to clear out bed and mattress and go for a brand new double bed set. As I found out a double is some 2ft wider than a Small Single and meant plenty more turning space instead of feeling 'hemmed-in'. I visited retail stores as well as browsing online.The considerable difference between online prices vs retail store prices naturally influenced my decision in the end, but of course you can't try out a bed and mattress online, which is where the visiting of retail stores has some benefits. Having some idea what this was going to cost me, after trying out some conventional soft mattresses the salesman suggested trying out an orthopaedic mattress. Having believed these were favoured by paraplegics or catered for those with back problems, I was somewhat reluctant at first. But the salesman assured me that 'orthos' were becoming increasingly popular amongst the able-bodied. So I tried out the feel of a couple of 'ortho' mattresses, and rather appreciated their firmness. I could see the attraction, but they weren't exactly cheap in the stores. So my next task was to look online. There is no shortage of online firms selling mattresses at much cheaper deals than those in the stores. But are they reliable to deal with? My simple test was to email some of these with a few pertinent questions just to see if they bothered to respond. Having emailed a few firms not one bothered to respond, so I crossed them off my list as I don't buy from companies that don't care about customers. I wasn't going to risk buying from firms that have that attitude despite how cheap their prices looked..
Then I tried Amazon, having read favourable reviews of a particular 'ortho' mattress which had caught my eye. As the seller was considered reliable by reviewers I placed my order for the Otho Royale Double mattress. Within an hour the seller phoned me back. The guy was so helpful, and recommended that I buy a basic divan base to support the mattress. At this stage I still hadn't bought a bed. This was the cheapest way to buy a bed and the best solution for am 'ortho' mattress. More expensive divans come with drawers which I did not need. The double mattress itself was £130 which seemed amazingly cheap. I had seen very similar sized 'ortho' mattress types sold for over £200 in the stores. I was saving at least 33% on store prices. I was also earning Nectar points as this was an Amazon purchase. So now all I had to do was wait for delivery. The bed and mattress arrived slightly later than anticipated Nevertheless the goods arrived in perfect order, with castor wheels supplied with the divan base. I assembled the base and mattress, only to realise I needed new linen as the old sheets only fitted a small single bed. So it was a trip down to a large Tesco to buy some double sheets. Fortunately my old duvet fitted the new bed. While there I spent on a decent headboard that was in a clearance sale.
So was this a good buy? The answer is definitely. This seems like a top quality mattress It isn't until you are actually in bed curling up onto an orthopaedic mattress that you can really appreciate it. The Ortho Royale is certainly firm, but once your body gets use to the feel it is so much more comfortable and desirable than the conventional softer mattress. You just don't want to get out of bed in the mornings. Because your body doesn't sag like with a soft mattress your back and spine are properly supported, 'Orthos' are recommended in the medical profession for those who suffer back or neck pain. But you can enjoy this mattress regardless. But don't think for a moment that this is like sleeping on a stiff board. There is sufficient 'give' in the mattress. I sleep more soundly now, and am unlikely to return to sleeping on a soft mattress again. The mattress + basic divan bed + delivery charges came to £200. For a double bed that's pretty good value. I can highly recommend this quality product.
If there is one major financial institution in this country that has managed to avoid the scourge of the credit crunch in 2007/8 and remain financially intact, it is our biggest independent Building Society, Nationwide. Although they weren't entirely unaffected by that situation they didn't need a bail-out unlike their rivals Northern Rock and Halifax (now part of HBOS). There is a Nationwide branch in nearly every high street and several in a city, so you are never too far from a branch or any ATM machine, which operates on the Link system, eg all major supermarket ATMs, Santander, Halifax and Nationwide outlets use Link and do not charge.
Nationwide have all the facilities of a modern bank, offering a current account, savings accounts, credit card (no annual charge), personal loans, mortgages, and various insurances (home, car, life). Travel insurance cover is free in Europe if you open a FlexAccount, although there are one or two attached conditions (must be under 73 years). And it is their current account (FlexAccount) that I will focus on as people use this on a daily basis.
Nationwide FlexAccount like any other current account has every facility the average person would need. You can request a cheque book if you still want to pay that way. A cheque book can still be useful for paying people like dentists, plumbers etc. With the FlexAccount you receive a Visa debit card, which as well as a cheque guarantee card is also used for ATM withdrawals/pay-ins, and a pocket device that resembles a calculator. You will need this when you login online, which is strongly recommended, and you can register for the online service by the usual completion of a simple questionnaire form after your FlexAccount has been officially set up. Once online you can set up standing orders, payee accounts, arrange CHAPS and SWIFT payments (£25 fee). Having payee accounts is the way to pay all your regular household bills that aren't direct debits (DD). You can also view/print your statements 24 hours online and internally transfer funds between your Flexaccount and other Nationwide savings accounts.
Transferring an account over from your old bank account is a simple process provided you have been granted a Visa debit card. If so, Nationwide take care of all your transferable DD arrangements and standing orders within 10 working days from the working day after your account has started. This is under their 'Account Transfer Promise' terms. You can arrange this online or at a branch. Failure to transfer such payments correctly and they will refund you £100. So presumably they are fairly confident about getting this right. I would still provide Nationwide with a list of all DDs if you have several of them running, just in case. An unpaid DD can cause a lot of misunderstanding.
Since many customers end up in overdraft at some time or other, Nationwide are no less benign than other banks when it comes to charges. If you do not have an authorised overdraft and you go into the red, you will incur a £15 fee on your account and your payment will bounce. But if Nationwide charge you for something which puts you in unauthorised overdraft, there is no bounce and you pay £20. Furthermore you pay interest of 18.9% EAR on any overdraft balance but you forgo any fee if you stay within authorised limits. You could be caught even if you make a payment before funds paid into your account to cover the payment have had time to clear, even though the paid-in amounts show on your statement, although with the recent '1 day clearance automated transfer' policy amongst banks, that's less likely to happen now. But a paid-in cheque still takes 4 working days to clear. If you think you'll end up in overdraft it's best to get a sufficient authorised limit from the start and avoid those fees.
So why choose Nationwide? Well, I've been with them for 20 years and I've never had any real problem with them. I haven't had an official bank account over this period and remember only too well racking up numerous absurd charges when I did have one, and that's when having no overdraft. When the occasional serious query arises, I've rung Nationwide's HO in Swindon, and they've always sorted it out efficiently and to my satisfaction. For simple queries you can also log online and use their message service where they usually respond within 24 hours. They will email you back. Or you can see your local branch manager and sort things out there if it's relevant to the situation. Glad to say I'm a pretty satisfied customer, but then I rarely go into overdraft or pay any fees or charges.
P J Harvey, is a British female 'alternative' musician/singer/songwriter. She's relatively unknown in the UK despite having been around on the music scene for some 20 years now, although she's well known to anyone who regularly watches Jools Holland or listened to John Peel. She has a smallish, devoted following here, whereas she's a much bigger name in Scandinavia, France, Australia and the USA, where over the years she's appeared several times on both the Dave Letterman and Jay Leno talk shows as well as extensively touring there. Even Arnold Schwarznegger has personally met her.
Her first album, 'Dry' was released to critical acclaim in 1992. Then, her songs could best be described as eccentric post-punk pop style With each successive album not only did her musical style become bluesier but even her singing style began to change. By 2001 she achieved her greatest recognition with her Grammy nominated album 'Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea' which also won her the Mercury Prize. PJ was the first female artist to win this prize. In addition 'Stories' was included in Time Magazine's top 100 all-time greatest albums. This was PJ's most accessible 'pop' album with some great songs being a mixture of guitar driven rock, and darker, quieter songs, PJ's voice at times sounding similar to Chrissie Hynde's.
PJ's Latest Album
A few months ago PJ Harvey won her second Mercury Prize with 'Let England Shake' (LES), her 8th album released in Feb 2011, the first winner to do that twice. PJ Harvey, now in her 42nd year sounds nothing like her former self. Were you to play a track from 'Stories' against the title track here to a non-PJ fan and ask what they had in common, I'm sure such people would not make the connection that it was the same person. PJ's punk/blues credentials have now been laid aside for a quieter, more folksy sound. On LES her voice mainly sings in a quaint English accent using falsetto or soprano compared to her more familiar hard-edged, contralto pitch, and Americanised vocals of the past. She seems to be deliberately singing in a sardonic way on a few of these tracks, eg The Words That Maketh Murder. The songs sound much more suited to folk-rock music fans. It seems like PJ Harvey may have musically broken with the past. LES is a concept album with all the songs having a common theme of England's past wars and battles particularly their aftermath. PJ Harvey stated that she did a year or so of historical research before writing these songs. Although she claims the album is not supposed to be anti-war or political, more of an observation, one can't help but feel that the overall sentiment lies in the former camp.
Let England Shake is not a long album, with its playing time coming in at just over 40 minutes with 12 songs included. The lyrics of some of these songs are dark, grim yet at the same time poetic, all written and arranged of course by PJ Harvey. As usual in her case, most of her songs take several listens, after which you'll either 'get it' or you never will. LES is no exception. Nearly all the songs are 3 chord tunes and sound deceptively simplistic at first. But I found that most of them grow on you with repeated listening. Some of the songs have a haunting feel to them, eg Hanging In The Wire is sad, yet gorgeous. Other treats I found were The Glorious Land, Let England Shake, All And Everyone and The Last Living Rose. The latter song is a little like the PJ of past with its steady rock beat and guitar.. Most of the tracks feature PJ playing autoharp rather than guitar. One song, Written On The Forehead is a good example of a song I didn't like at all to begin with. It starts out very ethereal then develops into a reggae beat, which is sampled from an old 1969 forgotten reggae tune. After several listens it suddenly grabbed me. Now it's my favourite song here.
To sum up I like this album overall. Some of the tracks I prefer a lot more to others, but I think PJ Harvey took a brave step making this, and with its dark and sometimes unrelenting bleak subject matter and some quirkiness added I can't see LES having mass appeal. I believe that anyone who likes challenging, "popular music" with a difference should give this a serious listen. Meanwhile, it doesn't do PJ justice to simply review LES on its own without consideration of how she used to sound, as she was so different several years ago. To get a more rounded idea of what she's about it won't do any harm to listen to some of her earlier work
Other recommended P J Harvey albums:
Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea,
To Bring You My Love.