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blue_ashleigh

blue_ashleigh
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Member since: 21.08.2007

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    • British Gas / Utility Service / 74 Readings / 70 Ratings
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      27.09.2011 21:43
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      Please do not use British Gas - not even if they offer you gold nuggets!

      Now I will start by saying that this is a comprehensive look at my British Gas experience. If you want to skip the details and get to the points:

      * Good points: UK call centre with, generally, helpful staff - on a free phone number; you can arrange for them to call you back if there's a long queue to speak to an advisor; the bills are easy to read and understand; you can see your current usage compared to the previous year's usage.

      * Bad points: They are incompetent and will happily gobble up your money unfairly (read on...!)

      I can honestly say I will never EVER use British Gas again and implore all my friends and family to ignore the cute little adverts as they are a misrepresentation of the horrendousness that is British Gas! Fact.

      I have sectioned the below tale of woe into chapters for ease of reading :)


      ~ The British Gas Saga...~

      I am currently in rented accommodation and have been for the past 7 years. All, apart from my latest house, have been rented directly from the landlord and they have all insisted the same gas and electricity is used in the house - presumably to make it simpler on them when they have people moving in and out.

      For the past three years my gas has been supplied by British Gas. Initially when we moved into the property we received a welcome letter outlining that British Gas were supplying the property and for us to call them with an accurate meter reading. I called straight up and provided the meter reading. I was asked if I'd like to set up a direct debit, which I declined as I'd prefer to pay on a quarterly basis. If you provide accurate meter readings and pay for exactly what you've used, you can't be in debt - simple.


      ~ Paper/ Paperless Billing ~

      For the first 12 months or so we received a paper statement through the post. Usually I paid using their automatic payment system which is simple, if a little tedious, to use. You call the free phone number on your bill, enter your account number and then follow the automated messages which confirm your balance, ask how much you wish to pay and then ask you to enter your card details using your phone's keypad. I've never had any problems paying my bill in this way. If you do want to speak to someone you just choose to speak to an advisor rather than use their automated system. You can also choose to pay by SMS, internet/ phone banking, online, at the Post Office, or by Pay point. I've only ever used their automated phone system so can't comment on how well the other payment methods work.

      On every bill there's a little box saying "Switch to Direct Debit to save money" - but I prefer to pay for what I've used. As a student I moved house every year, so I'd rather know I don't owe anything than end up with a balance to pay when I move.


      ~ Setting up a Direct Debit ~

      One day, about 12 months or so after being with British Gas, whilst I was happily filing my bills and bank statements (I absolutely love doing this and will store up paperwork so I can spend a full day filing and sorting and colour coding... !), I realised I hadn't had a gas statement for about 7 months. So I rang them up to ask them to send me a bill. The bills are sent quarterly so I'd not been sent the last two statements. The man on the phone explained I'd asked for paperless billing. I hate paperless billing - I know it saves trees and all that, but I keep files of my bills so it's all in one place and there's no chance of me forgetting to pay! I explained to the man on the phone that I don't want paperless billing, so could he please send me my latest statement. After about 10-15 minutes of arguing that I would remember asking for this if I had done so, and insisting that my partner wouldn't have asked for this either as he doesn't get involved with the bills, the man said he'd switch me back to paper statements. Great!

      "Oh", he adds, "would you like to sign up for direct debit?". I politely declined and said I'd pay when I got the bill through. "Well", he said, "you do owe us £326, so you'll either need to pay in one lump sum or set up a direct debit and pay it in instalments.". Woah, hang on a minute there, Buster. My bills are usually around £80-£100 per quarter and seeing as I'd missed a maximum of two state I should only owe a maximum of £200 (MAXIMUM). So I go outside and get my accurate bill reading... "No", he says, "that reading is showing that you now owe £365". So, British Gas are saying in the past month or so I've used £40 of gas?

      Anyway, I presumed we'd maybe been careless with gas. Perhaps we'd been cooking more than usual and I had been a bit lenient with putting the heating on... So, as I don't have a spare £365 knocking around I agreed to set up a direct debit of £53 a month which, I was told, would cover our usage and pay back the money we owed. To be fair to the man, he was very polite.

      Setting up the direct debit was simple - give your account number and sort code. Done. They managed to set that up without any problems... surprise surprise!!!


      ~ The Incompetence Continues ~

      Anyway, the net quarter I get a bill (paper version this time!) saying we were £520 in debit. I called the free phone number again and told the woman I though something was wrong because despite paying £53 a month I was now over £500 in debit to them. She was a little snooty and said that it had been a cold winter so I'd probably had the heating on a lot. By this point I am now refusing to switch the heating on in our single glazed house and me and my boyfriend are wrapped up in jumpers in bed and huge woolly blankets! (Woe is me!)

      Anyway, I get a letter through the door about 6 months later saying that due to the amount of money I owe them they are going to put my monthly direct debits up to £73 per month!!! Again, I called their free phone number, and spoke to a woman and explained that I couldn't possibly be using that much gas and I just don't have that sort of money to pay out. The lady informed me that as I had used the gas, and they had done a meter reading recently to check, I had to pay the money. However, she said she'd arrange for someone else to come and check the meter in the next few days to make sure.

      Surprisingly I did not hear back from them.


      ~ More Incompetence... ~

      Another 4 months later I had a phone call from British Gas. "Hello Miss Blue_Ashleigh, due to the amount of gas you're using and that you're in £613 in debit to use, we're going to increase your monthly payments to £118 per month". By this point I am tearing my hair out. I don't have a fantastically well paid job and £118 per month on gas alone is a huge amount of money. Not to mention the fact I'd been a mad woman shouting at my boyfriend to hurry up out of the shower, not having the heating on (even in the SNOW), limiting our gas cooking...

      I should point out, on the bottom of the gas statements there is a 'last year's usage' and a 'this year's usage' in an easy to understand bar chart. On our quarterly statements it was showing that this year's usage was 4 times that of last year. I questioned this with the operator who agreed that it was an usual change in gas usage. She took my latest meter reading, but confirmed that I was indeed using over 4 times the amount of gas I had used the previous year.

      I then started going round the house sniffing in case I could smell a gas leak! But no... (thank fully, I suppose!). Our boiler was regularly checked, as it was a rented property, so I knew that wasn't faulty.

      Anyway, as there's nothing you can really do I ended up paying £118 every single month. At least I would still have gas and we planning to move out shortly anyway. Although the thought of having to pay off a massive bill when we moved was weighing on my mind.


      ~ The Lack of Communication British Gas Bestows on Customers ~

      Then I received a statement which was for the Bill Period: 01 Jul 08 - 16 Jun 11. A bit odd, I thought. Anyway, I sat down and read the 7 page bill. At the bottom: "Your new account balance: £849.48 in credit". My first thought was, blooming heck they owe me £849.48 fantastic. Moving swiftly onto, THEY OWE ME £849.48 AND I HAVE BEEN STRUGGLING TO PAY BILLS FOR THE PAST 2 YEARS. Deep breaths.

      There was no covering letter saying they had got the bills wrong. Nothing.

      So I called them. AGAIN. "Oh", the man says, "how odd... let me have a look..." (tumble weed rolls past) "let me speak to my manager". After about 5 minutes he comes back onto the line and says that they had thought I was on a metric metre, but actually was on an imperial metre so they thought I had been using more gas than I had. (Still no apology I hasten to add!).

      To be fair to them, I requested my money back and within 5 days it was sat in my bank account. I am fairly sure if I had moved out before they had got to the bottom of this I would not have got my money back! It is unbelievable that someone comes to read the meter but they can't tell the difference between metric and imperial readings. Anyway...

      Two months later I moved out of that property into a new one... leaving British Gas behind! I called up when I moved to give my last meter reading and settle the account (a whopping £23 for the past two months!). Done, dusted, saga over.

      But no... still they plague me!


      ~ The Inability To Close Your Account ~

      I had a letter from them which had been sent to my previous address but redirected by the joy that is Royal Mail! "Dear Miss Blue_Ashleigh, we hope you're settling into your new property and we're glad you've chosen to use British Gas." Hold up a minute, are they suggesting I have opened a new account with them but at my old address??? Yes, yes that is exactly what they had done. Dimwits. The man was very apologetic and said they had been mistaken - clearly I would not move out on 1st September only to move back in on 20th September. So he said he'd closed it all down and that's the last I would hear from them. Sorry.

      Great :)

      Today I had a letter saying 'Your gas statement - actual' for the previous property but sent to my new address. WHAT!? I call up... yet again. The rather rude man said I owed them the money. I explained I'd settled my account (£23) when I closed my account. Apparently they had not taken that money. So I went online, and true as he said there was no payment to British Gas at the start of September. He assured me that once I paid I would not hear from them again. I agreed to pay if British Gas did not contact me futher!

      He finished the call by saying "Would you like me to change the supplier on your new property to British Gas?". I politely, and reservedly, declined.


      ~ Concluding remarks ~

      Current price I've been paying is 8.454p per kWh - for a two bed, terraced with minimal gas usage it costs (when they charge us correctly) about £20-£30 per month.

      Yes, they have a free phone number. Yes, they are based in the UK. Yes, their bills are easy to read and understand. However, that does not excuse their complete inability to provide the customer care they should.

      If you wish to torture yourself, please visit the British Gas website and request they supply you with gas: http://www.britishgas.co.uk/products-and-services/energy/our-tariffs.html. You can also deal with your account online should you so desire.

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      • Falsifeye Mascara / Make Up / 40 Readings / 38 Ratings
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        25.09.2011 11:40
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        A lovely mascara - highly recommended!

        In my quest for beautiful long lashes I am complete suckered into believing the adverts and claims of beauty companies. You're now hard pushed to find a mascara that doesn't promise to make your eyelashes 3x longer (can you imagine if this was true!) or 10x more volume or any number of other lies... Falsifeye promises to make it look like you're using false lashes.

        Falsifeye comes in a hot pink bottle with a simple screw top. The brush is straight and thick with soft 'bristles'. To be honest I prefer a straight brush to a curved/ spiral/ knotted brush, so it's perfect for me (who even has spiral shaped lashes anyway!?). You can buy this mascara in black, blackest black (whatever that is) or brown depending on your preference. I have the palest lashes known to man, so I always plump for black mascara to make my eyes 'pop'.

        The mascara 'liquid' is fairly standard in appearance and smell. When you pull the brush out, there's just enough mascara on it - no need to scrape off excess and no need to keep dipping back into the tube. The mascara coats the lashes nicely and is clump free every time. For a normal 'day look' I usually apply two coats, for a more 'intense' look I'll apply a few more for good luck!

        Whilst you're not going to get a false lash look without actually wearing false lashes (obviously!) the mascara does make my lashes look longer. It's not a volumising mascara, but it does seem to coat each lash individually producing a really nice look. The shape of the brush means it's really easy to coat even the lashes at the corners of your eye. It also doesn't leave my lashes feeling heavy due to the fact that the mascara lightly coats each lash.

        The mascara lasts throughout the day but is easily removed with make up remover at night. It's not a waterproof mascara, so if you are prone to fits of hysterics it's probably not the mascara for you.

        The mascara is produced by 17, and is currently selling at £6.49 in Boots for 9ml, which is a slightly lower price than some of the 'mainstream' mascaras. As you only need two coats, and there're no clumps when applying, the tube actually lasts quite a long time. Rimmel and Maybeline seem to lead the way in 'magic' mascaras, but this one by 17 is, in my opinion, just as good if not better.

        Normally I switch mascara every time I finish a tube; I think it's that feeling of buying 'something new'. However, I will be (shock horror) buying this mascara again. As an everyday mascara this is perfect and I haven't found anything which produces clump free, longer lashes every single time. This is a definite winner!

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          20.09.2011 21:45
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          Ignoring the colour, it's quite a nice "health" drink

          I'm a big fan of the Innocent smoothies, in particular the Kiwi, Apples & Lime smoothie - a tasty way of getting all those vitamins (when there are colds going round the office I try to eat and drink as much fruit and veg as possible!). However, when I went into Boots for a meal deal they had sold out... oh the dilemma! Naked Green Machine Antioxidant Apple, Pineapple and Kiwi Juice Smoothie, hidden on the top shelf, seemed like the next best option.

          Naked Green Machine is a grey-green 'pond algae' colour - but it does look like it would be good for you! The drink contains 3 &1/3 apples, 1 banana, 1/3 kiwi, 1/3 mango and 1 slice of pineapple as the main ingredients. The other 'antioxidant' ingredients added to the juice are: spirulina, chlorella, broccoli, spinach, blue green algae, garlic, barley grass, wheat grass, ginger and parsley. (Have I tempted you yet!?). Their 'selling point' on the front of the bottle is that there is "a pound of fruit in every bottle".

          The drink comes in a see through bottle (all the better to see the sludge colour!) with a blue cap. The labelling is perhaps a little cluttered, but I like that one side is dedicated to the ingredients of the bottle and laid out really simply. It's not going to win any awards for design, but it's the health benefits not the look of the bottle on your desk that count!

          I was expecting the juice to be quite thick as bananas are usually used in smoothies to help bulk the drink out, so I was quite surprised that Naked Antioxidant has a very watery texture to it. It is extremely smooth, with no lumps or little bits in it.

          As the drink is named an 'apple, pineapple and kiwi juice smoothie' I was expecting it to predominately taste of these ingredients. However, the main taste of the drink is banana, although you do get hints of mango and pineapple. Perhaps not surprising when a whole banana is used but only one slice of pineapple and 1/3 of a kiwi! The taste is quite pleasant and not overly sweet as some smoothies can be.

          With 0g of fat and only naturally occurring sugars, the drink's a lot better for you than most other drinks you may be tempted by. However, if you are diabetic you should note that one bottle contains a whopping 52g of sugar (58% of your recommended daily allowance)!

          The 450ml carton costs a staggering £2.50 from Boots, unless it's included in their £3.29 meal deal. When you get a full carton of the Innocent drink for £2.67, I think asking people to pay £2.50 for a small drink is slightly unrealistic. However, as part of the meal deal it's good value.

          I would buy this drink again, but probably only if my preferred Innocent drink wasn't available. The watery texture and banana flavour are not to my liking, I prefer my smoothies to be a little thicker!

          If you have a strong desire to phone Naked Juice, they do have a free phone number (0800 7833 851) and their UK office is based in Leicester.

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            28.02.2011 21:28
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            Best own brand Cola I've had - if you shop in Sainsbury's it's a definite winner.

            Ok, seeing as most people seem to turn their noses up at own brand products, I will now explain why you should not judge a cola by its label...


            ~ Is it ACTUALLY a bargain? ~

            Let's be honest here, the real reason you would choose this over another Cola product is because of the price... you can either buy Coca Cola for £1.78 per 2l bottle (£0.09 per unit) or buy Sainsbury's Cola for £0.81 per 2l bottle (or 4p per unit). So, unless it tastes so vile I can't possibly drink it, Sainsbury's Cola is already onto a winner in my eyes!


            ~ I bet it tastes horrible though... ~

            It's fizzy (sometimes little TOO fizzy if it's been in the fridge!), not too acidic and it is sweet. It's not as 'creamy' tasting as Pepsi and not as 'sharp' as Coca Cola. Neither does it taste like melted down Cola bottles like most own brand Colas - it has a more acidic taste to it. I wouldn't say it was as nice as Coca Cola, but for the price you're paying I think it tastes just fine. There's nothing horrible about it, it's just a 'regular' Cola and the Coca Cola can be saved for special occasions! For a low budget Cola, this is definitely the best one I've had.


            ~ Well, it's bound to look funny... ~

            The bottle is very plain and not exciting - but if you're idea of spending a fun night in is looking at drinks labels then you should probably get out more.

            The liquid just looks like Cola really - it's brown, perhaps slightly more watery than Coca Cola. It doesn't stain white cups either which is a bonus!


            ~ I'm becoming convinced, is there anything else I should know ~

            For some reason I think this Cola tastes better at room temperature rather than straight out of the fridge. When it's been in the fridge it seems to alter its taste somehow - it's fizzier and not as pleasant. Don't get me wrong, it's not vile tasting, it's just better at room temperature. I know, I know "I like my drinks ice cold..." - honestly I like Coke cold and with ice, but this Cola really is nice at room temperature. Try it and then you'll understand what I'm going on about.


            ~ Well I have been persuaded, should I buy it? ~

            1. If you are taking it to someone's house for a party, then no - you will look cheap! No-one is going to share their Jack Daniels with someone who has brought cheapo Sainsbury's Cola as a mixer. Fact.

            2. If you are having it in moderation (don't want to be accused of making people fat or have rotten teeth!) then yes. It's the best own brand Cola I've had, and I buy it instead of Coca Cola now - for half the price!




            (By the way, I can feel "what do you mean it won't tell me holidays are coming?" comments are heading this way so... Big, red trucks and santa ring any bells? Holidays are coming, holidays are coming... always Coca Cola. Never mind.)

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            02.07.2009 15:19
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            I think this is fab, go order yourself a free sample (go on... off you go...)

            I saw this conditioner in Tesco for a mere 39p (that's right, 39p for 250ml!), so bought it!

            As usual, skip to the parts that you want to read!


            ~ General Overview ~

            Original Souce White Pear and Avocado Damage Limitation conditioner (quite a mouthful!) is a lovely smelling conditioner, which leaves your hair soft, light and bouncy throughout the day. Packaging suggests it's suitable for daily use, but I find it's quite an 'intense' conditioner so only use it once a week.


            ~ Original Source* ~

            Original Source are part of the Aromatherapy Trade Council and also work closely with the Vegan Society. None of their products are tested on fluffy bunnies (or less fluffy rats). They are part of PZ Cussons. They claim their products use natural ingredients. (Thumbs up so far!)


            ~ Packaging ~

            Sort of triangular plastic, textured, see-through bottle. The conditioner itself is white and you can see through to it (handy for knowing how much is left). Flip cap opening at the bottom, which is quite sturdy and I haven't managed to break it (I have this amazing ability to break things I touch). The bottle's made of a soft, flexible plastic so it's easy to squeeze out without developing a hernia.


            ~ The conditioner ~

            The White Pear and Avodcado condition is a 'DAMAGE LIMITATION CONDITIONER' which contains UV inhibitors "to help strengthen and protect hair against the sun". The conditioner also contains "anti pollutants" to reduce the effects of "urban damage". Basically, I think what they're trying to say is, the conditioner will stop your hair going all dry from being in the sun and stop it looking all limp from pollution. On the other hand, this means that the conditioner must leave product in your hair for it to have this coating effect.

            The conditioner smells gorgeous! It smells a little like pear, but it's hard to describe the smell. It is absolutely lovely and The Boy always comments on how nice the bathroom and my hair smell after I've used it.


            ~ Whilst washing ~

            You only need a small amount of conditioner for your hair. I have relatively long hair but only need a small dollop (about a 10p piece size) to cover my whole hair. I've had this conditioner for at least 4 months now and there's still ¾ of a bottle left (although I use it once or twice a week at most). It's quite thick and gloopy, but once it's on my hair it's easily rubbed in. I normally leave the conditioner on for a few minutes just so I can the full effect.


            ~ After washing ~

            I was expecting this conditioner to leave my hair quite heavy from the product being left on it, but actually after washing with this conditioner my hair felt light and bouncy. This conditioner left my hair smelling lovely all day long and I think my hair is in better condition after using it. I don't use the conditioner every day as it's a more 'intense' conditioner, and my hair doesn't really need conditioning daily, I use it about once a week and it brings my hair back to it's 'best'.


            ~ Recommend it? ~

            Absolutely! I think this conditioner leaves my hair looking shiny and soft; I'm definitely going to snap another one up when this one runs out.


            ~ The boring bits ~

            White Pear and Avocado Damage Limitation Conditioner
            PZ Cussons (0800 581 001)
            250ml
            Prices starting from 39p :)


            ~ Other stuff ~

            You can find more information about Original Source and their product range at http://www.originalsource.co.uk/ The website is very modern and slick but does use a lot of space (memory/ internet speed...?) to load and so it can take quite a while!

            Also, you can get a free sample of this conditioner (or any of the others in the Original Source range) by visiting the website above.




            *Information based upon the Original Source website

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            • Casio FX 83 MS / Gadget / 96 Readings / 94 Ratings
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              18.06.2009 15:47
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              I love Mr Calculator

              I LOVE this calculator. Yes, I know that's a bit weird and geeky, but it's true! Mr Calculator has been my friend for the past 11 years and he still works perfectly.


              ~ A Casio fx what!? ~

              The Casio fx-83MS is a scientific calculator (non-graphical). Basically it has all the functions you may require for science purposes. A normal calculator has add, subtract etc. and possibly square root buttons. A scientific calculator has all these but also more advanced buttons, such as factorial, trigonometric functions, ability to input and analyse data (standard deviation etc.), storage buttons, log and exponential functions amongst many more. It also allows you to work in degrees, radians, or standard deviation mode. It's a non-graphical calculator, which means you can't see 'pictures' of the sine curve, for example, but these calculators are often banned in external examinations (such as GCSE/ A Levels) so it's not worth spending the money on a graphical calculator unless you absolutely require that extra function (in my opinion, anyway).

              I could go through all the functions but that would take a long, long time! The most important ones/ ones I like best:

              1. Statistical data entry - if you do psychology (the other part of my degree) this will be invaluable! Rather than putting numbers into a formula you literally input each data value into the calculator (in SD mode using the M+ button) and then it can tell you how many participants you had, the mean value, standard deviation, variance and more. It also allows you to scroll through each data value so if you've entered one incorrectly you can change it without having to start again.

              2. There is a big button in the centre which allows you to see your previous calculations (incase you forgot you needed that value and hadn't written it down) which is fantastic! It also allows you to scroll back and forth through your existing calculation adding and changing bits without having to start again.

              3. It has an on/off button. Some calculators switch off after X amount of time which wastes the battery if you don't need the calculator. This one lets you turn the calculator off when you want to. Little things!


              ~ Why choose a Casio? ~

              1. Many of the people who teach maths use Casio calculators (or at least the ones at my high school, college and university). "So what?", I hear you cry. Well, if they're teaching you how to do something, factorials for example, then if they're saying "you need to use the x! Key" but your calculator doesn't have this key then you're going to have to hunt out the instructions and try to find the right key. One my teachers at college said he would only help people with a Casio calculator as he was not going to read all the different instruction books. Also, some calculators require you to put 'inverse sin' before the number and some require you to press it after the number and it's just a lot easier if you can just follow what the teacher is saying rather than faffing around trying to work it out for yourself.

              2. The battery life is amazing! 11 years of daily use (give or take) and Mr Calculator is still going strong. I'm very impressed that a non-solar powered calculator who's had a fairly active life is still going strong.

              3. Casio calculators are so simple to use. Some calculators have weird places for hiding the buttons but on a Casio it's all in a sensible place - for example, the mean, standard deviation, variance, number option is all under one key, so if you're inputting data you can just type it in and then get all your information out without hunting around for the right buttons.


              ~ Is it worth it? ~

              For GCSE maths exams you will certainly need a scientific calculator and this Casio one will last you for a long time after so if you intend to do A Levels/ a degree then you're sorted. Also, it's not just pure maths that you need a calculator for, if you intend to do Psychology, Science, Geography and more you will also need a calculator. You can buy one for around £6-£10 from new which is blooming good value for money considering how long it will last you.

              There are newer Casio calculators (as there is with anything) and I'm guessing they are of similar quality (although I don't know, having been faithful to Mr Calculator for all these years). From my point of view, Mr Calculator has got me through basic GCSE maths right through to degree level maths and there's nothing which I've felt has been missing or that other calculators can do that mine can't.


              ~ Boring bits ~

              10 digit display
              Deg/ Rad/ SD modes
              9 storage letters
              Slide on case
              Not solar powered
              250 (ish) functions
              Statistical data entry


              ~ And finally... ~

              I would like to take the time to thank Mr Calculator for getting me through my degree. I hope you invest in one of Mr Calculator's relatives if you require a calculator.

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              • More +
                13.06.2009 17:23
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                Worth a read if you see it in the library, but not one you'd buy

                ~ The Author ~

                Philip Glenister, aka the Gene Genie (DCI Gene Hunt in Life on Mars), is on The List so when I spotted this book in the library I just had to read it! Philip Glenister is most famous for playing Gene Hunt in Life on Mars/ Ashes to Ashes but you may also have seen him in Calendar Girls, Cranford, The Other Bolyen Girl, Demons and others. I think what draws me to him is his ability to deliver lines with wit and a bit of brashness which fits the character he is playing. Philip Glenister brings some of this wit and brashness to his writing, and yes there is the swearing and mannerisms I'd associate with him, for example "...maybe that's why my blood boils when I read ridiculous descriptions of good old British food... 'Entrecote of hand reared Kobe beef, tenderly grilled, on a bed of Bedford Browns with a nest of pomme frites'... Steak, egg and chips, my son".


                ~ Premise ~

                The book is laid out in very short 'chapters' which involves comparing two things, e.g. 'Lashings of gravy or a drizzle of jus'; 'Jogging or spinning'; 'Hamster or Nintendog', one from now (2000's) and one from the 70's and 80's.


                ~ The content ~

                The book is not an autobiography by any means, but there is constant reference to Philip Glenister's childhood and his memories as he reminisces about products and events of the 70's and 80's.

                Each chapter begins with a heading 'X or Y', a date and event (no major events, just something relating to the topics - e.g. "26 December 1989: The plot line for this year's Eastenders Christmas edition revolves around Cindy Beale giving birth on Boxing Day - only she and Simon Wicks know that the baby is his and not Ian Beale's...").

                The book is not really bedtime reading more 'toilet reading' if you get my drift... something you just drift in and out of!


                ~ Any good? ~

                I must admit, I was a little disappointed in this book. The very short chapters made it very stilted to read, I felt like the topics he picked were touched upon lightly but there was no real depth to the book, which was a shame. However, the book was very funny in places and you could almost hear him saying the words. Philip Glenister does refer to his childhood and how certain things and characters impacted upon his portrayal of characters such as Gene Hunt. Some of the topics in the book I felt I had no understanding of as it's quite male orientated (with Philip Glenister being male... obviously), there's quite a bit of sport and 'manly' things in there. However, even though I didn't really understand some of the topics I did enjoy learning about his past.

                If you see the book in the library then I would recommend getting it out, but I'm not sure it's worth buying. If you're a fan (or in my case, future wife) it is a good read which I would recommend, if you're not a fan then I'm not sure whether you'd enjoy this book as I felt the best part about it was his personality and memories. It's not a book I would re-read.


                ~ Boring bits... ~

                Author: Philip Glenister
                Title: things aint what they used to be
                ISBN: 978-1-84744-266-6
                Amazon price (used): £1.92
                There is swearing throughout the book, but what else would you expect!?
                If you are a fan of the Gene Genie then this webpage is a must: http://www.philip-glenister.com/

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                • More +
                  11.06.2009 10:06
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                  You should definitely try this out!!!

                  I used to buy Tropicana orange juice, but since I've been trying to spend less money I 'downgraded' to 'from concentrate' orange juice. I never bought the cheapest orange juice as I expected it would have that strange 'bitty' taste that you can get with some orange juices. However, I thought I'd try the 55p Sainsbury's basic orange juice as it's half the price of any of the other orange juices on sale.


                  ~ Taste ~

                  This 'basic' orange juice (6p per 100ml) tastes exactly the same as the normal own brand Sainsbury's orange juice (10-15p per 100ml based on the size of carton). I honestly cannot tell the difference between the two except for the price. I decided to see if there was any physical difference between the two. The ingredients list for both orange juices are the same: 100% orange juice from concentrate; all sugars naturally occurring. The nutritional information shows that both orange juices are pretty much the same: Basics has an extra 0.6g of sugar and 0.2g of fat but 5 less calories per 200ml but otherwise there is no difference. I think if you are buying orange juice from concentrate, particularly Sainsbury's 'prettier packaged' one then you should definitely consider buying the Basics orange juice.
                  The only downside for the Basics orange juice is that you can't get it with bits in (or it may be an upside if you hate bits!).


                  ~ Price ~

                  The Basics orange juice is 55p (for a litre) compared with 97p (for a litre) for the 'prettier packaged' Sainsbury's orange juice.


                  ~ Packaging ~

                  Well as you can see from the picture it's not the most aesthetically pleasing packaging, but if it really offends you then you could always decant it into a beautiful jug...


                  ~ From concentrate ~

                  Not from concentrate orange juice is just squeezed orange juice whereas from concentrate has had the water removed, is frozen, transported and then the water is added again. I do think not from concentrate orange juice tastes better, however from concentrate orange juice still tastes great. Personally, I'd rather pay 6p per 100ml for Basics from concentrate orange juice than 30p per 100ml for freshly squeezed orange juice (Sainsbury's taste the difference).


                  ~Overall ~

                  I think that the Basics orange juice tastes just as good as the other orange juice on sale (from concentrate) and is half the price - it's a no brainer for me. Compared with freshly squeezed orange juice the taste isn't as nice, but it still tastes great.

                  Price: 10/10
                  Packaging: 3/10
                  Taste: 8/10

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                  • readitswapit.co.uk / Internet Site / 231 Readings / 253 Ratings
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                    11.10.2008 11:54
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                    Fantastic site, I would highly recommend it

                    I first came across ReadItSwapIt (or RISI) after reading mummy2harry's review. The idea of the site is you swap books you don't want any more for books you do want. Now, I'm a fairly cynical person at the best of times, so as you can imagine I was very dubious about this site. "You get rid of your books that you don't want in exchange for books you do want!? And the catch is...?" No catch! No, really!


                    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
                    As per usual, those of you looking for a quick overview read the '~What is it all about? ~ section. If you're looking for more detail my review is separated into sections so you can skim over the bits you don't care about. For the rest of you, sit back and read! (Yes, I know it's detailed, but sometimes people want to know different things. If you don't like long reviews, don't read it!)

                    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------


                    ~ What is it all about? ~

                    You list any books you have that you don't want - you can just type in the ISBN number of the book, and RISI finds the author and title for you, or you can type in the author and title yourself. You then need to list the condition of the book (Like New, Excellent, Good, and Acceptable) and you can give a description of the book if you like.

                    The idea is that if someone wants your book they click on a link which asks you if you want to swap your book with one of the books that they have listed. Similarly, if you want someone else's book you ask them if they'd like to swap for one of your books. If you don't want to swap with someone you can click on a link which lets them know why you don't want to swap, most commonly it's "I don't want to read one of their books right now".

                    When you have agreed a swap with someone you post your book to them and you should receive your book from the other person within a few days of agreeing the swap.

                    No catches, no hidden agenda... you just pay postage. Simple.


                    ~ Sounds great... How do I join? ~

                    Simple (as long as you live in the UK. You must have a UK address to register.). Go to www.readitswapit.co.uk, click on 'Register' and then you have to fill in a short form. You will need to give your address, as this is what is shown to the other person when you agree a swap i.e. where your book will be sent to. Once you've filled in the form you're pretty much ready to go.


                    ~ Adding Books ~

                    The next step is to dig out the books you'll never read again and don't want and list them on the site. You can list as many or as few as you like, but obviously the more books you list the higher the chance someone will want to swap with you.

                    When I first joined I listed just 3 books and needless to say nobody wanted to swap with me. However I then got a book of my old books that had been boxed up in my parent's loft and listed them all, totalling about 60 books in one go... the offers flooded in! I swap 13 books in my first week!

                    To list books you click on the 'My Books' link (the site is very very easy to navigate) and then you'll see a link saying 'Add Books'. You'll be given a short form to fill in, which takes maybe 30 seconds to do for each book. Type in the ISBN of the book and it will normally find the book, but you can manually type in author and title. You need to list the condition of the book (there are guidelines on which category to put your book in - http://www.readitswapit.co.uk/BookCondition.aspx) i.e. if you can't tell the book has been read it's Like New, if it has handwriting in the book it's Acceptable. You can only swap books that have all the pages (including cover) and that are still easily read. You can't swap a book you ate half the pages of! There's also a drop down menu for your to describe the main damage to the book i.e. lightly creased spine/ Aged; yellow pages/ handwritten notes inside etc. There is also a book for you to give a short description of the book. Normally I will describe the condition of the book i.e. "Ex-library copy. Library stickers on first two pages and bottom of book, no other obvious marks. Comes with dust jacket." The book cover and a short description are usually displayed alongside your description (they get the pictures/ info from Amazon or LibraryThing using the ISBN), if your book cannot be found though I will normally give a description of the book as well as writing about it's condition.

                    Your book is then listed and available for people to find on RISI.

                    You can make your books 'Inactive' if you're going on holiday, say, or just don't want one or all of your books listed anymore. This was a major factor in me signing up as I figured if I found the site to be rubbish I could always make my books inactive and no one would be able to see them anymore.


                    ~ Swapping Books ~


                    - Finding a book to swap with -

                    Across the top of the page you'll see a link for 'The Library'. This is where you can browse through all the 206185 books available! You can browse by Newest (most recent books added), Most Popular (most commonly requested books), Most Common (books with the most copies available), Category (romance, academic, Sci-Fi, classics, pets...), or by typing in the name of the book you want in the search bar.

                    Once you've found a book you would like you need to decide whom to ask to swap with you. Underneath the book cover and description you'll see a list of all the people with that book available to swap (inc. when they last logged in, star rating (out of 5) and the date they listed the book) plus what condition their book is in. I tend to choose people who have logged in very recently and have 5 star ratings.

                    You then need to click on the 'Swap with this member' link, confirm your address and that you would like to swap, and wait for their reply.

                    If the other person does want to swap with you, you will get a message (by email and also in your 'My Swaps' section) saying the person would like to swap book X of yours, and all that is left is for you both to post out your books. You don't get to decide which book of yours they choose they want in exchange for the book you want... but at the end of the day if you've listed the book then chances are (unless you're a bit silly) you don't want the book and so it's not a problem swapping it! If the other person doesn't want to swap with any of your books, you'll get a message saying why they didn't want to swap i.e. 'I don't want to read any of their books right now'.

                    Sometimes you may get a message saying someone would like book X from you. You can then look at their book list and decide if you'd like any of the books they have listed. If you do you click 'swap with this book' and then you just post out the book to them. If you don't want any of their books you click on 'Don't want to swap with this member right now' and choose an option from a list given as to why, so that the other person knows.


                    - Posting books -

                    Always wrap up your book well; if it arrives with bent corners from where the post office people have thrown it around the room the person who receives it may not be best pleased! I try to wrap mine in a padded envelope, or at least wrap it in a wad of paper. It doesn't have to be a brand new envelope, reusing envelopes is fine! Most people send out their books 2nd class, but do make sure you get a certificate of posting incase Mr Postman drops your book down a drain.


                    - Feedback and star ratings -

                    Once you have received your book you can give the member feedback and a star rating out of 5. There are guidelines for giving feedback, "Please make sure you've made an effort to resolve any problems before leaving negative feedback". The 5 star rating will make a big impact on how likely a member will be able to swap books, so think carefully...!



                    ~ Wish list ~

                    You can add books to your wish list and when a book on there is added to the site you will be sent an email telling you. You cannot directly view who has your books on their wish list without randomly clicking onto people's profiles and looking. I think the main idea of the wish list is to enable you to see who has books you want, rather than who wants books I have.



                    Well, that is the main essence of the site - swapping books. There are other elements to the site, but I shan't go into too much detail as they're not vital to the site, and you will discover them as you explore yourself.



                    ~ Forums ~

                    There is a community feel to RISI and you can chat to other members through the forums or via private message. The forums contain many different sections: Information for new users, questions about RISI, books wanted, free books, general chat, books reviews, hint and tips etc. Once you get used to the site you'll discover all this for yourself.

                    The people on RISI are very friendly and gave me very good hints when I first started! Obviously if you don't want to chat you don't have to. I find the forums useful if I have any questions.


                    ~ The Shop ~

                    Allows you to search and buy books from Amazon.


                    ~ Anything else? ~

                    You can search for members on RISI as well as books (my name is blue_ashleigh, unsurprisingly, should you sign up and want to see a familiar little cat with fish smiling back!), incase you have a 'favourite' member you like swapping with!

                    The site is extremely user friendly and very easy to navigate. You can browse around before signing up should you so desire to get a feel for the place.

                    You are putting faith, if you like, in the other members that they will post the book to you, but I have had absolutely no problems at all. Generally the people on there are people who love reading and love books. If you are thinking of signing up to make money (yes you, you little churners, you) or to swap rubbish worthless book for a brand spanking new £15 book, then stop thinking about signing up because you won't like the site! If you love books, on the other hand, and find yourself in charity shops hunting for books every time you're in town then this is the place for you!

                    Since joining I have swapped books I thought no-one would ever want (i.e. Lilith, which I honestly could not get into) for books such as White Teeth. It makes me one happy little bunny (although it makes The Boy a little less happy as he thought I was getting rid of the massive piles of books, but instead I've got the same amount!)!


                    If there's anything else you want to know then leave a comment (I love comments!) or message me!


                    ~ Other stuff ~

                    The site: www.readitswapit.co.uk

                    FAQs: http://www.readitswapit.co.uk/Questions.aspx?Section=Introduction

                    Oh, and if you do join and want to swap with me, here are a list of books I have:
                    http://www.readitswapit.co.uk/UserBooks.aspx?UserID=35234

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                    • Diet Coke / Soft Drink / 168 Readings / 177 Ratings
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                      08.09.2008 16:22
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                      You just have to watch the advert!!!

                      I must admit, I drink more Coke/ Pepsi than is probably advisable! You've probably heard of Diet Coke already (if not, where HAVE you been!?), so hopefully this review will give you a bit more information about Diet Coke that you may not already know!


                      ~ Who ARE Coca Cola? ~

                      They claim to be the "best known product in the world" and most recognised trade mark. They also claim, though I doubt how true this is, "The word 'Coca-Cola' itself is even thought to be the second most widely understood word in the world after 'OK'" - really... I think someone made that up, but hey, who am I to judge the believability of Coca Cola!? Coke was the first product of Coca Cola and was made in 1886 by a Dr Pemberton; first introduced in Britain in 1900. Diet Coke was first introduced almost 100 years later in 1982, and is now sold in over 149 countries (bet you can't even name that many countries without referring to a map/ atlas/ Wikipedia!)!


                      ~ What is Diet Coke? ~

                      Diet Coke is a sugar free version of Coke. What confuses me is how Coke Zero is promoted as having 'zero sugar' and Diet Coke is promoted as being 'sugar free'. Are they not the same thing? Answers on a postcard.

                      Diet Coke is sometimes referred to as Coca Cola Light.


                      ~The Taste ~

                      You just need to pull back the ring pull and hear that fizzing sound and already you can taste the Coke in your mouth! The first sensation you'll get as you start to drink is the fizzing of the bubbles on your tongue, slowly taken over by a syrup like distinctive 'Coke' flavour. I doubt there are many people, I'm talking about the Western world, that haven't tasted Coke at some point in their life, so I shan't go into massive details about the taste. Suffice to say Diet Coke is fizzy, has a distinctive flavour, and is a 'harsh' drink on your taste buds as opposed to a sickly sweet flavour. There is a slight after taste to Diet Coke, but nothing horrible!

                      Diet Coke works just as well as Coke when it comes to mixers. Bacardi and Diet Coke is a particular favourite! I know lots of people like to mix JD (Jack Daniels) with Coke, but I think you're daft! JD tastes so much nicer on it's own!

                      You can try to make Diet Coke ice lollies, but I can never get them to freeze properly.


                      ~ What goes into Diet Coke? / Health Concerns~

                      - Carbonated water: water and bubbles, which is why you get the fizzing.

                      - Caramel E150d: the colouring. Made from sugar heated with other ingredients.

                      - Sweeteners: instead of sugar to sweeten. Aspartame - which apparently is debated as to it's suitability for drinking because of the acid it is metabolised into. The can does say that Diet Coke contains a source of Phenylalanine. Acesulfame K - again the health risks of this sweetener is debated.

                      - Phosphoric acid: Extracted from rocks containing Phosphorus. This is what gives Coke it's flavour, apparently. I don't know much about Phosphorus except we used to use it in Chemistry lessons!

                      - Flavourings: including caffeine. Natural flavourings are from spices and vegetable extracts.

                      -Citric Acid

                      Diet Coke contains no added preservatives or artificial flavourings.

                      Coca Cola has a Q&A section on their website and one of the questions was about Coke rotting teeth, being bad for internal organs, and other health concerns. Coca Cola say that Coke only stays in the mouth for a short time and so should cause no damage to teeth. My dentist disagrees! They also state there is no conclusive evidence that Coke damages any of your internal organs. Obviously they can't state that no harm is caused to any part of your body by drinking Coke for legal reasons, but at the same time "no conclusive evidence" suggests there has been some studies which have shown some degree of harm to the body.

                      Personally, I don't think Diet Coke is 'good' for you, but at the same time I think a little in moderation isn't going to cause any significant damage. The Boy drinks gallons of the stuff a day, and has done for years, and he's not dropped dead or disintegrated!

                      I got sent a round robin email about the 'DANGERS OF COKE'. One of the concerns was that it was so damaging it would disintegrate a staple. Being a student with too much time on my hands I decided to see if I could disintegrate a staple. I left a staple in a glass of Diet Coke. It was still there a week later... as was some mould! As Mythbusters would say: BUSTED!

                      Caffeine is a stimulant - it will keep you awake!!! Obvious, I know, but The Boy often drinks a good few glasses of Coke before bed then complains he can't get to sleep for ages. Well 'DUH' is all I can say! You can also become addicted to caffeine. You may find that if you have lots and then have none you will get headaches, become irritable, possibly shake. My old housemate drank, and still does, litres of Coke a day (about 5/6 large bottles). I dared him to stop drinking it for a few days - he was so moody and tired! Amusing for the rest of us, not so funny for him! As with anything, moderation is the key. Oh, and if you give this to your child they may become hyper-active... well, we know the obvious solution to that! Don't give it to your child!


                      ~ Packaging ~

                      You can buy Diet Coke in plastic bottles, aluminium cans, glass bottles, soda fountains and there are probably other ways too! The packaging on all these tends to be silver, or have a silver label, with red writing to distinguish it from Coke (red label, white lettering) and Coke Zero (black label).

                      I think the taste of Diet Coke from a glass bottle is far superior to the taste of Diet Coke from any other packaging. You just cannot beat a glass bottle of Coke! I think that maybe something in the plastic and aluminium adds a very slight taste to Coke which is why it tastes different.


                      ~Buying Diet Coke ~

                      A 330ml can retails for around about 60p (I'm led to believe it's cheaper in supermarkets). A small bottle retails at around about 99p. A large bottle is usually about £2, though there are usually offers on everywhere, so you can usually buy a larger bottle for around about £1-£1.50! A glass bottle is normally the most expensive to buy, and also the rarest of all! You can also buy Multipacks, there's an offer in my local shop at the moment - 6 cans for £1.99.

                      Most bars/ restaurants will serve Coke/ Diet Coke or Pepsi. I've found that a larger proportion of places sell Coke as opposed to Pepsi.


                      ~ Diet Coke vs the rest ~

                      I actually prefer the taste of Diet Coke to regular Coke, which is probably just as well seeing as Coke contains 35g of sugars (that's 40% of your recommended allowance) in one 330ml can. Diet Coke, on the other hand, contains 0g of sugars per 330ml can! Saying that though, Coke is not good for you or your teeth, regardless of whether it's Diet, Zero, or otherwise!

                      I prefer Pepsi to Coke, shocking as that may be, but if there are two cans on the shelf - Pepsi 70p or Coke 60p, then I would buy Coke! I think Coke has a slightly harsher taste than Pepsi does and is less sweet. Subsequently I could drink Diet Coke all day long and not feel sick, but after two cans of Pepsi I can't stomach any more because it's so sweet, even Pepsi Max.

                      Some people say they can't taste the difference between Coke and Diet Coke. I can, though, and think it's weird that people can't taste the difference! My friend will ONLY drink Diet Coke and God help the waitress/ bar maid (or waiter/bar man for all you PC lot!) who gives her Coke instead of Diet Coke!


                      ~ Recommend it? ~

                      Yup! I would definitely recommend Diet Coke over regular Coke because of the reduced sugar content. Diet Coke tastes good and I think it's one of the best carbonated soft drinks about (except Pepsi Max!).


                      ~ Anything else... ~

                      Well lets not forget Diet Coke man! I could just nibble his tummy! The advert didn't make me want to buy Diet Coke any more than usual, but it was certainly a talking point (which I guess is one of the main aims of advertising)!

                      There have been rumours that Coca Cola and Pepsi are owned by the same person/ company and it's all just a clever, clever ploy... yes, well, you can make your own mind up about that!

                      There are regularly competitions and give aways which can be found on the Diet Coke (and other Coke products) label/ cans. Sometimes it's just a free song on I-Tunes (still pretty good!), other times it can be bigger prizes like cars or cash. If it is a limited freebie, like a couple of cash prizes etc. then the likelihood of you winning is very slim (think of the amount of people who buy Coke!) so I wouldn't buy Diet Coke purely for the limited prizes!



                      ~ Links/ Other Info ~

                      Coca cola website: www.coca-cola.com

                      About the different products of Coca Cola including Diet Coke: http://www.coca-cola.co.uk/ourbrands/

                      The ingredients of Coke: http://www.letsgettogether.co.uk/IngredientsWhat/

                      About aspartame: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspartame

                      The Diet Coke man (and accompanying advert!):
                      http://www.youtube.com/watch

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                      • More +
                        05.09.2008 13:00
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                        Soot in your face, wind in your hair - bliss!

                        I will start this review by saying that I am not a 'rail enthusiast', I don't know a lot about trains, and am no expert on trains. I will try to be as informative as possible, but I will provide links at the bottom of the page if you do want to know more. I realise this is a fairly lengthy review, but it is a lot of money to spend on something, so all the info I would want to know about it is here.

                        The Boy loves steam trains. So, for his 21st birthday/ Christmas/ our anniversary/ Valentines Day (very cunning, one present but 4 occasions!) I booked us a trip on a steam train from London King's Cross to Norwich and back again.


                        ~ About Steam Dreams ~

                        Steam Dreams is a company which runs steam trains to various locations. Their website is well laid out and easy to navigate. Steam Dreams is internet based for buying tickets/ checking prices/ finding out about future dates etc. although there is a phone number you can ring. You can also order a brochure through their site, which arrives a few days to a week after ordering.

                        The site itself is typed in Comic Sans, which always worries me (don't ask!), but having spoke to the lady and after receiving the brochure to look through my mind was put at ease. Although the site doesn't look as professional as other sites do, I can assure you the site is completely legitimate and if you just look past the font you'll find a really good company!

                        Steam Dreams run Cathedral Express trains, which start at London King's Cross and travel to various destinations which have cathedrals, such as Norwich, Bath, and York. They also do Christmas journeys, which take you to, for instance, Bath to do some Christmas shopping, or Ely for a Carol Service.

                        The staff I have dealt with, online and by phone, have all been very courteous and helpful. There was a slight problem with sending out the tickets, and so they arrived a little later than stated, but the woman on the phone put my mind at ease.


                        ~ Coach classes ~

                        There are various classes of travel for you to choose:

                        - Pullman: A bottle of champagne for a table of four. Brunch will be served on the journey out. Canapés and other such nibbles are served on the return journey, followed by a four course meal. I haven't actually seen any prices for Pullman Class, but I imagine it would be higher than Premier Dining. The phone number's at the bottom in case you wish to ring.

                        - Premier Dining: Champagne brunch served on the way out. A four course meal is served on the return journey. You can book a table for two, rather than four, for an extra £20-£25. Prices are around about £130-£170pp depending on where you're travelling to.

                        - First Class: Champagne served on the journey out, plus tea and coffee for both parts of the journey. Seating is in compartments of 6 people. Prices are approximately £65-£110pp.

                        - Standard Class: Seating is 4 people to a table. Prices are approximately £50-£75pp.

                        In First and Second Class you can pre order platters of cold meats. About £33 for First Class, and £30 for Second Class. This covers both the outward and return journey.


                        ~ Ordering ~

                        I ordered two tickets for London King's Cross to Cambridge, Ely, and Norwich. You can choose to disembark the train at any of these stations along the way, but The Boy said he'd like to go all the way to Norwich, and that's what we did! You do have to decide before buying the tickets, as it's more expensive to travel all the way than it is to travel part of the way, obviously! We chose to sit in Premier Dining, and to have a table for just the two of us (which I'm very glad we did!).

                        I received an email about an hour after ordering from Steam Dreams, confirming I had bought the tickets, and a reminder of the date and destination of the train. The email was a personal email rather than a generated one, which was good!

                        The tickets were supposed to arrive 10 days before the journey, but they still hadn't arrived 5 days before. I got a little worried, so rang them to see what was happening. There had been some problems with printing the tickets, but the woman assured me that there would be men there on the day with a register of who was boarding and which seat they were in. The tickets did arrive, but only the day before we were due to set off. Included with the tickets (which were presented beautifully in a little paper ticket holder) was a letter outlining the times of the Choral Evensongs at Cambridge, Ely, and Norwich should we wish to attend, plus a few links to sites about Cambridge, Ely, and Norwich so we could plan our time at the place we departed.


                        ~ Arriving ~

                        The Boy and I arrived about 30mins before the train was due to depart so he could take some pictures of the train before we left. There were 'officials' at the station ready to answer any questions. The train we travelled on was the 6233 Duchess of Sutherland train. Apparently 'she' (it appears trains are female) was one of 38 built at the L.M.S. Locomotive Works in Crewe and was recently restored for the measly sum of £352,508, top speed 75mph.

                        About 10 minutes before the train was due to leave we were told we could board the train. Finding the carriage and seats was very easy. On every seat there was a map of the journey listing all the stations we would pass through. There was also some information about the train we were travelling on, plus information about the cathedrals we would go past. There was also a detailed schedule for the journey, for example, 0.0miles-King's Cross-1033hrs, 0.7miles-Belle Isle-1035hrs, 2.5miles-Finsbury Park-1038hrs, and so on. There was also space for you to write the actual time we went through each station and hence work out the speed the train was travelling at. There was a rather large amount of people doing this, which I was surprised at! I did think it was a nice touch though.


                        ~ The Journey ~

                        The Boy and I were sat on a table for two, I am glad we chose this, as some of the people on there were VERY talkative! I did feel sorry for some people as they were being bombarded by facts about trains and the speeds and the stations...! If you do choose to travel Premier Dining Class then I would advise getting a table for two if you're not the most sociable, or patient!, of people.

                        We were served a complimentary glass of champagne (or orange juice) once the train had started. We were also given an option of two meals for brunch - Croque Monsieur (posh cheese and bacon toastie!) or potato and onion frittata. I had the Croque Monsieur which was actually quite nice, and came with a little salad, and The Boy had the frittata which he said was nice, but perhaps a little bland.

                        The staff kept coming round with tea and coffee. They did seem to do it in quite a random way so some people were waiting up to half an hour for a cup of tea. Some of the 'regulars' mentioned that there was a different crew onboard the journey, and that they weren't as efficient. Admittedly they could have been more efficient and organised, but I didn't really see it as being a big problem. They were polite and cheerful. One of the crew on the return journey was saying how she'd been working since 6am (the journey started at 10.30am and finished roughly 12hours later) and was only allowed three breaks for some toast! Considering this, I'm surprised they were as nice as they were!

                        There were windows all along the train so you could really get a feel for the train. You could hear the train chugging along and you could smell the smoke. Little bits of soot did come through the window, but I quite liked it! It's not as if you'd be knocked out by one, they were just small flecks!

                        You could go to the end of the carriage (there were 13 in total) and stick your head out of the window if you so desired. I would really recommend sticking your head out at least once! It's amazing to see the smoke trailing along the landscape, with wind in your hair and soot in your face! Ok, so I've not made it out to be as amazing as it was, but trust me! It's a great feeling (and I'm not even a train fan!). There were some hardcore train people who had brought goggles with them, so as not to get soot in their eyes!

                        The train stopped once on each leg of the journey to fill up with water, you could see them hosing in the water!

                        During the journey, some members of the Steam Dreams team came round selling raffle tickets (1st prize was a trip into the engine part and staff quarters) and souvenirs. They weren't pushy though, and you didn't feel like you were being forced to buy anything.

                        There were many train spotters along the way with their tripods and long lens cameras. It was like being royalty! There was one man who was stood in the middle of a massive field with a deck chair and a massive camera taking pictures of the train!

                        The outward trip lasted roughly 3.5hours. At about 2pm we arrived in Norwich where you have a 4 hour break to wander around, see the sights, and attend the choral evensong, before boarding the train again.

                        I would advise, if you like trains, to get to the station maybe an hour to 30mins before the train's due to depart as you can see the front of the train (the engine?) on it's own as the rest of the train is turned round for the return journey. You can also see, and talk to if you'd like, the men who work the train. There was a little man with a flat cap and a very sooty face who seemed willing enough to answer people's questions.

                        The return journey was at 6pm, and by about 8pm it was dark. This meant you couldn't actually see out of the windows, so I think this part of the journey did seem to drag a bit more. I went to the window and stuck my head out for quite a while though. As it was dark, when the train went round a corner you could see the fire increasing as more coal was shovelled in. To see this against the night sky as your speeding through the countryside was exhilarating. Like I said before, I'm no train fan, but this really was a wonderful experience. If I loved it just think how excited the real rail enthusiasts were!

                        The train was an hour late arriving back at London. The 'regulars' said this was normal and they had never been on a journey where it hadn't been late. I would advise checking you will still have transport available if your train is late, i.e. will the tube still running?.

                        There are toilets onboard the train, not the nicest toilets, but toilets none the less.

                        Children are welcome on the trains though I think they may find it a little dull. It is 7-8hours travelling in one day, plus travelling to and from London.


                        ~ The Food ~

                        On the return journey a four course meal was served -started, main, desert, cheese plus coffee. I will give you a little idea of the menu:

                        Starter: Potato and chive bilini with horseradish and smoked salmon. I was expecting this to be really flavoursome but it was actually bland. I couldn't finish the starter, as it was so bland. (Veg option: Tomato and aubergine stack).
                        Main: Chicken stuffed with mushroom and thyme, plus potato cake, beans and carrots. This was delicious! It had many subtle flavours, the beans weren't squeaky, and the carrots were delicious. I really enjoyed this course. (Veg option: butternut, cheese, and sage tartlet, potato cake, beans, and carrots).

                        Desert: Summer pudding brioche stack with berries and clotted cream. The desert was very tangy, and there was only a very small blob of cream. I think if there was more cream then it would have taken the edge off the pudding. However, quite a few people didn't finish the desert as they found it just too tangy.

                        Cheese: A slate (an actual piece of slate!) with two cheeses, some biscuits (4), grapes (4!), and some chutney. The slate was to share for the table, so if you were on a table with people you didn't know, then there was a bit of apprehension about what to eat! The cheese was lovely, not the best cheese but still quite nice.

                        I would have expected to pay maybe £30pp for this meal, as it was nice, but nothing special. The pictures on the website make the food look a lot more appealing than it actually was. I think it was quite nice food, but perhaps not worth the extra paid for the ticket. I saw quite a few people in First and Standard class carrying packed lunches, which I think is a very good idea!
                        You could order drinks from the staff throughout the journey at a cost, so if you are thinking of ordering drinks take some cash! To give you an idea of price: white wine ranges from £3.50 per glass to £25 for a bottle, similarly for red wine. Beers are £2.50-£3.50, spirits (50ml) are £4.50, coke (330ml can) £1.70, mineral water (500ml) £1.50.


                        ~ Overall ~

                        I would think that this journey, or similar, would appeal to people who love steam trains (the look on The Boy's face was priceless!), but I think the cost of the journey is not really worth it if you're not that into trains. I enjoyed the experience, but I don't think it was worth £155, The Boy, however, absolutely loved it, and would definitely pay to go on a journey like that again.

                        Check out the website for more information, or message me if there's anything else you want to know.


                        ~ Useful links/ info ~

                        Steam Dreams website: www.steamdreams.com

                        Steam Dreams phone number: 01483 209 888 (ask for Graeme Bunker, Chief Exec.)

                        About the 6233 Duchess of Sutherland: http://tinyurl.com/6zqsxg

                        Catering by Two Many Cooks

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                          02.09.2008 13:08
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                          Lovely hotel

                          The Boy and I have just been to London for 5 days for my friend's wedding (very beautiful, lots of crying!) and to go on a steam train (Steam dreams, review to come later). So, we spent two nights in Greenwich Holiday Inn (not nice, review to come later too!) and two nights in Kings Cross/ Bloomsbury Holiday Inn.


                          ~ Getting there ~

                          Kings Cross/ Bloomsbury Holiday Inn, not to be confused with Bloomsbury Holiday Inn, is about 15 minutes away from Kings Cross St Pancreas station (roughly £5 in a taxi on tariff 1, i.e. non-peak time, during the day, not on a Sunday!). You can walk to the Kings Cross Holiday Inn (I'll refer to it as 'hotel' from now on) from the station, but I wouldn't advise this unless you have a map or you know the area well. If you are driving to the hotel then just head towards the Royal Mail sorting office on Farringdon Road as the hotel is directly opposite there. There are only 15 parking spaces at the hotel, and it will cost you a daily parking fee of £20 to park there. The spaces are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. The spaces were all full when I was staying there (Sat - Mon), so if you are driving down then I would advise finding somewhere else to park.


                          ~ On Arrival ~

                          There's a well presented reception area as you walk through the doors, which was adequately staffed so you were only waiting a few minutes, if at all. The staff were courteous and helpful. The Boy had already paid for the room, so we were just given two key cards and directed to the lift. In the lobby there is a small newsagents-type shop, but there are free papers for customers by the concierge. I will warn you though, you can either have a complimentary Telegraph or Daily Mail, so I did end up buying The Times most days anyway!

                          To get to your room there are three lifts available. The lifts are quite large which eliminates the potential troubles of annoying families squashing all their annoying children and suitcases onto your feet. Throughout the hotel there is air conditioning which was especially nice on Saturday when it was swelteringly hot.


                          ~ The Room ~

                          The Boy had just booked a double bedroom for the two nights, but because he is a Priority Club member (you get points for staying in Holiday Inns) we were allocated a King sized bed Suite on the top floor (very nice!).

                          As you walk in the room there is a bathroom on your right. In the bathroom there is a bath with shower, toilet, sink, shaving mirror, and the little stand of complimentary products including bottles of shampoo, shower/bath gel, body lotion, a nail file, shower cap, plus two flannels. The bathroom had tiled floor and walls and was very clean.

                          My one gripe about the hotel is that the bath is quite high up. Getting in the bath is fine as there's a little handle to hold on to. Getting out the baths is another matter altogether! I'm fairly fit and healthy, but the stretch from the bath to floor was quite big (I am only short though) and there was nothing to hold onto as the handle was on the other side of the wall. I nearly fell getting out of the bath, but if you sit on the side of the bath and swing round, the risk of slipping is less great!

                          The room was partitioned into two sections by a wooden trellis-style divide. There was a king sized bed to one side, with tables either side, and a sofa on the other side, with coffee table. There was also a desk with a mirror above, plus chair. In the desk cupboards was a mini fridge, tea and coffee making facilities, complimentary orange juice, water, and biscuits. There was also a trouser press, iron, hair dryer, phone, high speed internet access, colour TV with cable/ satellite (15 channels) and complimentary sewing kit and shoe shine.

                          The room had an air-con unit which was situated away from the bed and at the top of the wall, perfect for sleeping as you don't have it blowing on you all night (you'll understand how important this is when I write the Greenwich Holiday Inn review!). It had a fairly consistent sound, so after a few minutes you forgot it was even there. The unit was controlled by a box on the wall so you could switch the air-con off if you liked, choose how strong the fan would blow, and choose the temperature of the 'blowing'!

                          The bed was very comfortable. It had a cover (the only purpose of which seemed to be to make the bed look pretty when it was made!), two medium-soft pillows (spares available in the closet) and a medium-thick duvet. You are provided with a small booklet on the types of pillows available if you would like to swap your pillows for say duck-down pillows, or allergenic pillows, or goose-feather pillows... quite.

                          The room overlooked the Royal Mail Sorting Office. The window couldn't be opened due to health and safety reasons, but with the air-con, it's not like you really need to open the window. The windows were quite thick and there was very little noise that could be hear from outside.

                          You could opt to have breakfast in bed if you filled in the little form that was left for you, but there was a charge for this.


                          ~ Room Cleaning ~

                          The bed linen is changed every three days, but you are provided with a door hanging, so you can indicate that you would like your linen changed more frequently. The bed is still made everyday, regardless of if the sheets are changed, and is left turned down. The towels are replaced every day unless you hang them back on the rails in the bathroom, and then there are just refolded. This is to save on water and the environment.

                          I have a real hatred of people touching my things and I get a little agitated in hotels because they clean your rooms everyday. However, everything was left as it was, even the half eaten sandwich!, and the room was just cleaned and used items (such as the orange juice, tea cups etc.) were replaced. Also, a little chocolate was left on each of our pillows!


                          ~ Room Service ~

                          The room service menu is EXPENSIVE! It was something like £15 for a chicken burger. However, we ordered a hoisin duck wrap with spring onion for me, and a chicken Caesar wrap for The Boy. Both came with a generous portion of chips and a dollop of coleslaw. The order was swiftly brought up, maybe 10-15minutes, and came to £16. Having already paid for the room by card we hadn't left any details with reception, so we had to pay for the order by cash (or you could give him your card), though why he didn't bring any change with him (or a card reader) is beyond me!

                          The food was delicious. I wouldn't say it was exactly worth the £8, but it was still lovely. The pieces of duck were quite big and not fatty, same with the chicken, the coleslaw was tasty, and the chips were hot and crispy.

                          We left the tray outside the room after we'd finished, though this wasn't collected until about 10.30am the next day.


                          ~ Breakfast ~

                          Breakfast was included in the price of the room and there was a large variety of foods to choose from. There was hot food - bacon, sausage, eggs (scrambled and fried), tomatoes, hash browns, mushrooms, beans..., cold food - cereal, fruit, yoghurts, ham, cheese..., croissants, toast, bread, rolls, marmalade, jam, drinks - tea/ coffee, apple juice, grapefruit juice, water, milk, orange juice, tropical juice...

                          The food was delicious! There's something for everybody there. There was never any waiting around for a table either, you just went down to the restaurant, were allocated a seat, and then helped yourself.


                          ~ Amenities ~

                          There's a restaurant there, an Indian, which we didn't eat at as neither of us like spicy food, which was reasonably priced (about £5-6 a curry).
                          Sauna, whirl pool, swimming pool, leisure centre, beauty salon, florist, PC's available... you can see their full list of amenities online.
                          The Boy and I didn't use any of the facilities, so I can't comment on what they're like. I'm presuming they would be up to the same standard as the hotel, so I'd imagine they would be well kept and very nice.


                          ~ Location ~

                          The hotel is well situated with easy access to Kings Cross station and tube line. There's a lovely collection of shops, including Waitrose, New Look, FCUK, Chocolate Chocolate (the most quaint and delicious chocolate shop!), in Bloomsbury (Brunswick Centre) which is about a 10 minute walk (almost opposite the Bloomsbury Holiday Inn). There is a Strada restaurant which serves delicious Italian food, and a Gourmet Burger Kitchen which sells the best burgers I have ever eaten in my life (expensive, but oh so worth it!).

                          The hotel is well situated for the West End, Oxford Street, Covent Garden.


                          ~ Overall ~

                          I liked this hotel a lot. The little touches, like the chocolates on the pillow, really made you feel welcome. The hotel itself was kept spotless, and the staff were helpful and polite. I have nothing bad to say about this hotel at all.

                          There are taxis which pull up outside the hotel quite frequently, so transportation isn't a problem.

                          It cost us, well The Boy, £120 per night for two nights stay, so about £240 overall including breakfast. It is on the more expensive side, but then it is London and the hotel was kept to a very high standard.

                          I would definitely recommend this hotel.


                          ~ Everything else ~

                          - Check in: 2pm
                          - Check out: 1pm (though can be extended)
                          - Guide dogs allowed, but no other pets
                          - Seemed wheelchair accessible
                          - The staff speak lots of languages!


                          ~ Useful (maybe!) links/ info ~

                          - Directions on how to get to the hotel: http://tinyurl.com/59xaw6
                          - About Priority Club, how to apply and rewards: http://tinyurl.com/636nx4
                          - Channels available on TV (incase that's important to you... or if you don't want to be sat watching the football you could hide the remote): BBC 1 & 2, ITV, Channel 4 & 5, Sky One, Sky Sports 1-3. Sky Sports News, a few more sports channels, including a golf channel!, Jetix, a few foreign channels (we watched a bit of German Popstars!). There were also movies (and um... adult movies) available on a Pay-Per-Go service.
                          - Amenities: http://tinyurl.com/5pyqs9
                          - GBK (go find one and eat there!): http://www.gbkinfo.com/index.php

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                            22.08.2008 19:15
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                            Simlpe says...

                            I've become increasingly aware that my skin may not stay so elastic and wrinkle free for much longer and so have been on the look out for products that may help keep my skin looking 'youthful'. I tend to use water and lots of rubbing with a towel to remove my eye makeup, but apparently you shouldn't rub your eyes, as the skin will stretch and bag (eeek!). So, when I saw the bargain offer of two simple products for £4 in Sainsburys, I couldn't resist! The eye make-up remover pads are normally £3.75, which I wouldn't pay because I'm a poor student (sniff sniff), but to get a pack of them AND a pack of face wipes (which are more face friendly than the £1 scratchy wipes from Poundland!) for £4 is a blooming bargain in my books.


                            ~ Packaging ~

                            The wipes come in a reasonably small plastic packet (10x8x1 cm to be precise - I just found my ruler today when tidying, I'm not a freak! Honest!) It looks pretty much like the one in the picture, although the design is ever so slightly different and more colourful. The pack can be opened by lifting a resealable sticker, much like you get on most face wipe packs. The sticker doesn't lose it's stickiness over time either which is good, so your remaining wipes are kept very fresh even as you near the end of the pack.

                            The size of the pack means you can carry them with you, if you so desire. I can't imagine I would need them with me very often, but I am going to my best friend's wedding next week and so I think I could use some of these so I can redo my makeup after the ceremony! You get 30 pads in a packet, so a pack should last you about a month presuming you use one every day. At first I thought I may need to pads, one for each eye, but actually you can get away with only using one for both.


                            ~ A little about Simple ~

                            You've probably seen the advert - "Simple says - never use harsh chemicals, colours, or perfumes. Simple says - Settle for only the purest possible ingredients. Simple says - Trust the natural goodness in all our products on even the most sensitive skin. Simple says - Natural beauty comes from goodness." Basically Simple claim to be "experts in sensitive skin" and their products are natural and don't contain colours or perfumes. This means that their products shouldn't irritate or sting your skin. All their products are dermatologically tested and approved. Also, the Simple skincare range "contains no animal derived ingredients", which is definitely a bonus, although I can't find anywhere saying it's products aren't TESTED on animals. If you're worried about that I would contact them (0121 712 6523). Simple are part of Accania Health & Beauty Ltd.


                            ~ The pads ~

                            The pads are approximately 7cm in diameter (ah the wonders of the ruler!). One side of the pad has slightly raised square bumps and the other side is smooth. It doesn't say to use on side over the other but I tend to use the bumpy side first and then the smooth side to get rid of the remaining make up.

                            The pads are quite moist - not too soggy but not dry either. Even after using a pad on both eyes, the pad will still be damp, which shows there's enough moisture in them. The pads feel a little like a cotton pad which has been soaked in 'stuff'! The pads have a definite smell to them, but it's not overwhelming or a chemical smell, they just smell a little like cucumber - quite a fresh smell.

                            The pads are designed to remove all make up, even water proof mascara. The pads contain no oil, and more importantly no alcohol so they don't sting or dry out the skin around your eyes.


                            ~ Using the pads ~

                            Apparently you should "gently wipe pad over the eye lids and around the eye to remove makeup". I found that I still needed to rub quite a bit to remove my mascara. Removing eye shadow and foundation was done by simply wiping the pad over my eye lid a few times, but this didn't remove my mascara. I had to rub my eyelashes (an acquired art!) a good few times with the pad before all my mascara had been removed - and I don't even wear waterproof mascara, just a few coats of black mascara. However, my eyes weren't sore after I'd removed my make up. They were a little red, but no where near as red as when I use a normal face wipe over my eyes. Also, I find that sometimes my eyes sting a little after removing my make up, but that wasn't the case with the Simple pads.

                            The pads aren't made of a scratchy material, they're quite smooth, and so glide over your eyes easily. If you use the completely smooth side after removing the bulk of your make up, it seems to cool down the eyes a little and make them less red.

                            I know it may sound like these pads made my eyes red and it doesn't sound that pleasant, in comparison to normal face wipes and some other eye make up pads the Simple pads really are quite good.

                            There is a "Top Tip" on the pack which suggests you could put two pads in the fridge for a while and then place them over your eyes to refresh them and reduce puffiness. To be honest, when you think of the cost of the pack, you're probably better of just using two slices of cucumber! You could use these pads to cool your eyes, and if the pads do that when at room temperature then I'm sure they'd work a treat when cold, but I wouldn't personally!


                            ~ Recommend them? ~

                            I would recommend these pads, especially at the bargain prices they're being sold at recently. I am definitely going to go out and buy some more and keep them in my cupboard (I will use them, not just fill up shelves with them, that'd be weird!) as they work a treat. They are kinder on your eyes than other make up removed products that are around, and if they halt the eye bags for the time being, then who am I to complain!?

                            Even if the advert puts you off Simple (I find it SO irritating!), try these pads and you will love Simple again!


                            ~ Everything else ~

                            More information about the Simple eye make up remover pads and other Simple products can be found on their website www.simple.co.uk. If you just type "Simple" into Google (or other search engine) you'll end up with all sorts of weird stuff about computers, software, and "deep, driving, underground house" whatever that is!

                            The pads are on offer, for a limited time, two packs for £4 in Sainsburys. You can mix and match any two Simple products, not just the pads, although the pads are the most expensive so the biggest saving (if you're one of THOSE people!)! Normally, you can buy a pack of 30 pads for about £3.75 from Sainsburys or £3.99 from Boots which is where I know a lot of you get your beauty products here. Superdrug also has an offer on for £1.99 for a packet (which is 6.6p per pad, £3.99 a pack normally). Well, it seems you can get them cheap at the moment so I'd suggest buying them now rather than waiting!

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                            • Toni & Guy Funky Gum / Hair Care / 93 Readings / 94 Ratings
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                              17.08.2008 18:13
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                              If you want really shiny hair then this is good, otherwise it's naff

                              I tend not to style my hair (it's a wash and go job!), but sometimes I want to add curls, or shine, or have messy hair, or flick the ends of my hair... and so products are required. I was looking for some wax or paste that was light and tumbled across a small (25ml) tub of TONI&GUY Funky Gum for £1.99 (this was a few months back, but I think the 25ml tub is still going for around the £2 mark).


                              ~ The claims ~

                              - Flexible separation with shine
                              - Remouldable gum
                              - Creates messy shine for hair of all lengths


                              ~ Packaging ~

                              The 25ml travel size tub of Funky Gum is about 3cm tall and has a 5cm diameter. The tub is red with a silver trim around the edge of the lid. They also do a Texture Paste tub which is silver, so it's easy to differentiate if you have both and you're in a rush! The tub sounds like it's made of some type of metal - which is good because it won't squash and cover your things in a sticky mess!


                              ~ The Gum~

                              The Gum has quite a strong smell, but it's neither a masculine nor feminine smell. It's quite a nice smell - it's a manufactured smell but it's not offensive in anyway! The Gum has quite a horrible feel to it. It's creamy coloured and is sticky, but a little runny - not pleasant! When it's in your hair though, it doesn't feel sticky, just a little greasy - but that's what gives the shine.


                              ~ Directions for use ~

                              You only need a small amount of the gum (remember you can add more, but you can't take it out without washing your hair!). You should rub the Gum between your palms and then "clap [palms] together to activate fibres", whatever that means! To be honest, I haven't noticed any difference in the look of my hair if I clap my palms together or don't before running the product through my hair. I'd avoid using the Gum at the roots of your hair as it ends up looking like you've not washed your hair for a few weeks! I had to experiment quite a few times with the Gum to find a look that kind of worked rather than looked like I hadn't washed. So, I'd advise playing around with the Gum when you're not planning on going out immediately! You can use the Gum on dry or wet hair, but I find it works best on dry hair as you can really see where you're putting it and it's not quite so shiny. If you do want to a really shiny, wet look (think Ross in the first series of Friends!) then use the Gum when wet.


                              ~ The Look ~

                              If you want really sleek, shiny hair, then use this Gum before using straighteners - you'll get very straight hair with a shiny, light-reflecting look. Be careful though, as your hair can look very greasy. This Gum is also good for curls as it holds the curl - and you can separate the curls, whilst leaving them looking shiny. If you're after a messy look then I wouldn't advise using this Gum as it just ends up leaving your hair looking greasy - I'd suggest using the Texture Paste which gives your hair a more matte finish.

                              I've found, with using this Gum, that after a few hours on your hair, even if it looked amazing when you styled it, that your hair looks greasy rather than shiny. For some reason it seems to separate the hair right up to the root. I think this may be because the Gum is mouldable, i.e. you can change your hair - it's not set rigid, and so it just ends up working it's way up your hair. Also, because the Gum is mouldable, if you lean your head on your hand etc. the Gum just squidges in your hair and your style is ruined. I think the Gum May work well on short hair where your hair is less likely to be touched, but otherwise I'd give the Gum a miss. For example, with curls, after a while the separated curls end up being no longer separated and it just looks like a greasy mess!


                              ~ Overall ~

                              I'm not really a fan of this Gum as I think there are better products available. The Gum does last a long time though. You can keep remoulding your hair as much as you like until you next wash your hair.

                              However, whilst the tub is only small (25ml, there are 75ml tubs available) you only need to use a small amount at a time so it will last a long time (especially if you don't use it very often because it's a bit naff!). I wouldn't recommend this Gum, and would suggest using their Texture Paste instead.

                              Funky Gum did win FHM's Men'S Grooming Awards 2003 - so there must be something good about it! Like I said, it may work well on short hair (which I don't have) , but from my experience it just leaves you with greasy looking hair.

                              Oh, and don't brush your hair with this stuff in, it just exacerbates the greasiness!


                              ~ Boring bits~

                              You can buy a 25ml tub for about £2 and a 75ml tub for around £8 (which is more expensive than buying 3 25ml tubs, but there you go!) from Boots.

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                              • La Senza Bras / Clothing / 103 Readings / 101 Ratings
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                                12.08.2008 13:33
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                                If you've never been in La Senza - GO!!!

                                Well now that the title's grabbed the male attention...!

                                I am an underwear-aholic! I have so much underwear it's ridiculous, but I still can't resist buying a gorgeous bra when I see one (much to The Boy's bemusement)! Most of my bras come from La Senza, and it's still the main place I buy bras from.


                                (If you're in a rush, then just read 'The Collections' section which gives you a list of the 7 collections La Senza do, the types of bras in each collection and price ranges.)


                                ~ About La Senza ~

                                La Senza is a wonderful lingerie shop! I have great difficulty buying bras, mainly because high street shops such as Top Shop don't stock 36DD bras, Ann Summers is ridiculously overpriced, and there's no Bravissimo or other bra shop near where I live. The only place I can find well fitting bras is La Senza.

                                La Senza is a high street shop with other 600 stores world wide, 77 in the UK, (I haven't counted them personally, but this is what they claim). The first La Senza store opened in 1990 in Canada and La Senza have been in the UK since 1996.

                                Theo Paphitis (a dragon in Dragon's Den and well known business man) is known for having 'turned around' La Senza and made it the successful company it is today. He still owns a majority share holding and is on the board, although La Senza was sold to Lion Capital in 2006.

                                La Senza stock bras, knickers, control pants, negligees, chemise, nightwear, and all things underwear related.


                                ~ La Senza Bras ~

                                Bra sizes go up to 38F in most styles. They also have a DD+ section. Girly pretty bras can sometimes not give adequate support for someone with a larger chest, for example the straps can be too thin, the strap around the back can be narrow, and they may not be enough support around the bottom of the breast. However, La Senza have made a DD+ range of bras, so the design is essentially the same, still pretty and girly, but the straps may be made wider or there may be more support around the bottom of the breast. For example, a flowery 34B bra with a plunging cup and dainty straps, may be made into a 36DD bra with a slightly more balconnette shape for better support, the material may feel slightly more robust, the cup will cover a bit more of the breast and the straps may be slightly larger. Overall, the same girly feel is there, but there is more support. Genius!

                                I only ever wear under wire bras, as they give me the most support, but if you don't like under wire bras then the amount of styles you have to choose from in La Senza will be greatly reduced. The majority of their bras are under wired.

                                They do have a measuring service at La Senza; I have never used this service though. The shop assistants tend to be in their twenties (my age!) and if I were to get measured I think I'd want an old woman... I have no idea why! I just tried on the same bra in everything from a 36C to a 38E to find which bra fitted best. A good fitting bra should sit comfortably straight across your back, and you shouldn't be able to lift the bra more than 2inches from your body. The straps should be comfortable and not digging in and the front of the bra should sit comfortable between your breasts with no lifting away from the skin. You should not bulge out your bra, and the wire under the bra should sit plush against your skin.

                                Unlike some other places I've found that I can buy the same size bra in every style I wish and they all fit - which is how it should be! A 36DD in a plunging style fits just as well as 36DD in a plain T-Shirt bra. It's amazing how many shops don't do this!

                                My only, only, criticism of La Senza is that the same bras can be in their shops for a year! With clothes shopping, the styles and designs change regularly, however I can go into my nearest La Senza and see the same bras which I bought a year ago still on the shelves. They do bring in new designs, and their latest designs have just been released, but if like me you buy a hell of a lot of bras, then you may find you own most of the bras in there!


                                ~ Quality of the bras ~

                                I think the bras are exceptionally high quality for the money you are paying. The wires have never come out of the bras, there's never any fraying of the bras - these bras last! I have a lot of La Senza bras, and sometimes I'll stumble across a bra I used to love (and wore practically every day for a few months!) but then forgot about - but the bra is in almost pristine condition despite being worn a lot! I also wash my bras in the washing machine (shock horror - I hear women gasping!) but they always come out the same as they went in (but cleaner!). Whilst I won't recommend you wash them in your machine, I think it says something for a bra if it does get washed but stays perfect! The padding doesn't end up lumpy after a while, which is another good thing. Also, whilst the back can stretch a little (as with all material), it doesn't stretch a lot. So whilst you may find you have to do the clasp up another notch, it's not like the bra will become too baggy to wear.


                                ~ The Collections ~

                                They have a wide range of bras - ranging from simple, to practical, to girly, to sexy. They have 7 collections at the moment:


                                1. Pure Luxury

                                These are very sexy bras with rouching, and lace, and lots of plunge! The bras range from about £18 to £25. If you're a guy and looking to give a special lady a bra, then buy one of these! They are very pretty bras, and make you feel very sexy when you're wearing them. My favourite bra of this collection at the moment is the 'Hidden Rosebud' bra (£25), which is a black lace bra with gold, rouched silk over the front. It has a black mesh back, and little rose buds on each shoulder and a black bow in the centre. Divine!


                                2. Girly and gorgeous

                                Quite pretty bras, lots of ribbon edging! Not as sexual as the other bras, but more practical everyday wear bras but with a gorgeous look. There are plain white balconnette bras with daisy meshing, stain polka dot bras, bright and vibrant lace plunge bras. Price ranges from £14 to £16. So as you can see, they are less expensive than the Pure Luxury collection, but they are still very pretty. My favourite of this collection is the 'Candy Girl Lime/Lemon' bra (£16). It's a lime coloured bra with beautiful lemon coloured ruffled trimming around the top of the cup. Gorgeous!


                                3. Glam & Sexy

                                Lots of plunge bras, some see through lace, and big bows. Not as classy-sexy as the Pure Luxury collection, a little more racy. Prices range from £16 to £22. The more expensive bras are the 'air filled' bras. These bras come with removable air filled pads inside each cup (remember to take them out before washing!). The air filled pads increase the apparent size of your breasts whilst wearing the bra, and also, because of their positioning in the bra, enhance your cleavage. Having a relatively large bust anyway I don't normally wear these bras, but if I'm going for a night out I might wear one just to enhance my cleavage a little! There are see through bras in this collection, but not in a tacky, prostitute like way, but lace bras with no backing. So the breast is covered but you can still see flesh through them. My favourite bra in this collection is the 'Cherry Satin' bra (£18). It's a very simple bra, with black cups patterned with pictures of cherries. The cups are edged in a black satin ribbon which finishes in the middle with a black bow.


                                4. Beautiful Basics

                                Cotton or mesh bras with little rouching or ribbons so you can wear them under T-Shirts, yet still remaining pretty. Prices range from £7.50 to £18. Included in this range there are organic cotton bras (cotton grown naturally without the use of pesticides or chemicals - not something that had ever even crossed my mind before!), ULTRASOFT bras (very very soft feeling!), and gel bras. The gel bras do pretty much the same thing as the air filled bras, but are heavier to wear because of the gel. They do enhance your cleavage, though I wouldn't recommend for women already carrying a sizeable weight on their chests as it is! My favourite of this collection is the 'ULTRASOFT blue fuscia' bra (£14) - simple blue soft-feeling bra, with pink edging around the cups.


                                5. Everyday essentials

                                Simple, plain bras in white, nude, or black. Prices range from £7.50 to £16. They have white 3 way bras, a very plain cotton T-Shirt bra, and mesh gel bras. My favourite is the 'Sexy Ultra Mesh White' bra (£16). It is plain white, with seam free moulded cups covered in a mesh material, criss cross detail in the middle of the bra and three way straps. I like my pretty colourful bras, but you need to have a simple bra for under white clothes etc, and it's always handy to have removable straps for under strapless dress or halter necks.


                                6. Bra Solutions

                                Seamless, strapless, low front, self adhesive - the technologically advanced bras! Prices range from £19-£25. There are ITEC bras, which are seamless, stichless, label free bras, with hidden under wiring, usually in white, nude, or black. There are self adhesive bras, which are cups which you stick on your self. They still have under wiring, but no straps, no back, nothing! Perfect for under skimpy clothing! I have never bought this type of bra though, so I can't comment on whether they offer good support or not. There is also a low front bra - where you have the cups, but instead of the middle of your bra being between your breasts, it's nearer your stomach - good for plunging dresses. I haven't bought a bra from this collection as I've never felt the need.


                                7. Nursing Bras

                                Maternity bras with cups that can be removed fro nursing. Prices range between £14-£16. They are still quite pretty bras - polka dot, turquoise for example, but there are very few of bras in this collection. If you are looking for something outside the white cotton bra, it may be worth having a look in La Senza.


                                ~ Buying La Senza Bras ~

                                You can buy from La Senza in store or online. If you are a D cup or above you may not be able to find your size in store. I've found that they tend to only have one DD+ bra, if that, on the rails. It makes sense as the average bra size is 36C in the UK (http://tinyurl.com/3ywc8r) and there aren't many people who buy DD, E, F cup bras, so having hundreds of them on the rails would take up room as they wouldn't get sold. However, do not panic! If you ask the assistants in the shop, more often than not they will have more of the larger sizes in the stock room, plus you have the added bonus that no-one will have tried on the bras they get you from the stock room!

                                The bras are the same price for all sizes in the style, so there's no extra charge for larger bras - which is how it should be! Their typical prices range from around £7.50 for a cotton/ T-Shirt bra (still pretty, not a granny cotton style!) to about £25 for their luxurious bras. I think their bras are extremely good value for money, and to get a gorgeous bra for £7.50 is fantastic. They do often have sales on, at the moment there is a 2 for £20 sale (in store and online) on lots of gorgeous bras which were originally £15. There are also some in store clearance sales, the other week I got a fantastic bra for £5 which I'd seen a month earlier but hadn't bought as it had been £23! Bargain!

                                The other thing I like about La Senza is the way they package their bras. If you buy in store, you'll have your bra(s) wrapped in tissue paper and sealed with a sticker, then placed in a cardboard-type bag (with rope-like handles) with scented beads which is sealed at the top with another sticker. Your receipt can be put in a yellow envelope, at no charge, if the item is a gift. Considering you're paying relatively cheap prices for the bras, the way they package your items is wonderful.

                                Online at the moment you can get free UK delivery. Plus you can see the new styles which are just out. Like I said before, if you know which size bra fits perfectly from La Senza then you can order any bra you like in that size online and know that it will fit perfectly when it arrives.


                                ~ Anything else...?! ~

                                I have given quite a lot of information about La Senza bras - anything I haven't mentioned is probably on their website anyway!

                                I would definitely recommend La Senza bras - there are styles to suit almost everyone, the quality of the bras is very high, and best of all they are relatively cheap for bras!


                                ~ Web Pages ~

                                La Senza website: http://www.lasenza.co.uk/
                                About La Senza : http://tinyurl.com/5vgnn4
                                More about Theo Paphitis : http://www.theopaphitis.com/la-senza.asp
                                DD+ range : http://www.lasenza.co.uk/dd/dd.htm

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