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    • More +
      22.08.2014 19:49
      Very helpful
      1 Comment


      • "Leaves hair looking very refreshed"
      • Mild
      • "Safe for coloured/bleached & Grey/Blond hair"
      • "Removes chlorine"


      • "Very strong so perhaps moderate use or small amounts"

      For any type of environmentally/sports stressed hair.

      Aubrey Organics has been around for 47 years, a US based company and one of the best known alternative health brands. I buy their products online from UK stockists. They are against animal testing, use biodegradable recyclable containers and many of their items are vegan. They are predominantly plant based and so far I haven’t noticed controversial ingredients in their lists and the formation/preservative ingredients are on the milder side.

      Reviewing both the shampoo and conditioner as I bought them together. They are Gluten Free and 325ml. Depending on where you buy them the conditioner can be more expensive but lookout deals to buy as a pair; a little goes a long way so they last.

      The hair ‘type’ on the label is ‘Environmentally Stressed’. I’m not a regular swimmer but first used these after swimming on holiday. I was worried about the impact of pool chemicals on my bleached locks (though I keep them light with natural products so don’t have to bleach as often or for long/high percentage strength) and recently done roots but had no problems using this. On the bottle it stated ‘Ideal for gray or blond hair. Safe for colour treated hair… Has your hair been overexposed? Sun, salt, chlorine and perspiration can take their toll on unprotected hair. Take cover from dryness and brittleness with this protective, PH-normalizing shampoo. Naturally removes chlorine, minerals and other impurities to neutralize odor, prevent discoloration and leave hair soft, rebalanced and revitalized.’

      That’s a lot to live up to.

      I then used them afterwards as I did a lot of exercise and was sweltering in the weather so thought it would be good to use after sweating. However I find Aubrey shampoos very strong/stripping/cleansing to the point of squeaky clean hair goes stiff and sticks together so even though they recommend to shampoo twice and then condition I usually shampoo once.

      Stripping the hair so much means that the conditioner is essential and I’ve find that all the Aubrey ones I tried instantly detangle and make the hair so soft and silky. Then when dry it’s bouncy, bright, light and voluminous. I’d say there’s a connection between the strength of the shampoos and the characteristics of the conditioners. Both are bright White, thick and smooth in texture.

      Unfortunately the Swimmer’s conditioner is no longer vegan but vegetarian friendly so something to consider if vegan, maybe investing in a very moisturising and nourishing one with coconut oil, shea butter in the base and other oils would be something to think about. Or use one from their other ranges depending on your hair type, I’ve mixed and matched before.

      I did find them handy for both swimming and regular activity particularly living in a polluted city where you get ‘Black bogey’ by the end of the day and when you wash your hair the water looks really murky. Although due to the strength I moderated my use to when my scalp was greasy or has excess oil from styling.


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        21.08.2014 22:13
        Very helpful


        • "Long lasting"
        • Moisturizing
        • Nutritious
        • " no extras"
        • "Pure ingredients"


        • Price

        Lush Therapy Bar - Cheaper Than a Date on the 'Couch', I think.


        Everytime I’ve been into a Lush store it was like Charlie’s Chocolate Factory but for cosmetics, being awed by products that looked good enough to eat. They display huge loaves/wheels of soap and open/chilled face masks so you can see what’s inside. I always feel energised, revitalised and strangely happy when I’m in there though I know a few people who dislike it and it’s true that you can smell a Lush down the street. They have great customer service, support a lot of causes and have an incentive recycling scheme whereby returning 5 of their trademark Black pots in any size you get a free face mask. However all that glitters is not Gold, Lush is an amazing brand/image though it bothers me that they have/use a plethora of natural ingredients but they combine them with a lot of artificial colours, perfumes (remember when you see ‘perfume/parfum’ on a label that one ingredient is itself made up of upto 100’s of ingredients, mostly synthetic and quite possibly unhealthy), SLS, ALS and parabens. That said they are a standout on the highstreet, mid-ranged prices for the eco-genre and a very high amount of vegan friendly products.

        Massage Bars:

        This is a solid product which I prefer over liquids/gels/etc because they tend to be more natural and/or organic/fairtrade. Massage bars look like soap and were intended to be a partner/romantic experience but regardless you can have friend/someone close massage this into your skin or you can do it yourself.

        I tend to just use them as I would any thick/deeply moisturizing product, to me they’re a solid version of body butter.

        Have a container/plate ready to put the bar on as it gets sticky, warm the bar in hand until soft enough to break a smaller piece off or wait abit until you’ve got oil on your hands. Next in rounded sweeping motions spread and rub it into the skin with medium pressure. It does take some time to sink-in so make sure you have some time or wear fleecy clothes over to help keep your skin and it warm to fully sink in (it will go into the fabric but not as much as on satin/cotton types). I find after a bath/shower is best, the pores are clean/open and a little goes a long way so these last well and have long expiry dates.

        The Bar £6.50 @ 50g

        It was marketed as ‘Euphoria-inducing bar with uplifting neroli.’

        Therapy isn't as pretty as other massage bars but it's one of the best imo, 100% organic with fair-trade cocoa butter. Added to the usual shea, then with sweet orange, lavender and neroli oils, that’s it. Lovely. It’s soothing and mood enhancing with the partnership of calming and invigorating neroli – a real complimentary balancer. I also find it softens the skin longer than Each Peach, and being of nigh nutritional value. I wouldn’t say ‘euphoric’ but after a stressful day or to prepare for a nervous event? Yes please.


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        21.08.2014 21:39
        Very helpful


        • "A treat"
        • Softening


        • "Doesn't last a whole day"
        • "Unecessary perfume"

        Each Peach & Two's a Pair Massage Bar, No Peach In It ;-)


        Everytime I’ve been into a Lush store it was like Charlie’s Chocolate Factory but for cosmetics, being awed by products that looked good enough to eat. They display huge loaves/wheels of soap and open/chilled face masks so you can see what’s inside. I always feel energised, revitalised and strangely happy when I’m in there though I know a few people who dislike it and it’s true that you can smell a Lush down the street. They have great customer service, support a lot of causes and have an incentive recycling scheme whereby returning 5 of their trademark Black pots in any size you get a free face mask. However all that glitters is not Gold, Lush is an amazing brand/image though it bothers me that they have/use a plethora of natural ingredients but they combine them with a lot of artificial colours, perfumes (remember when you see ‘perfume/parfum’ on a label that one ingredient is itself made up of upto 100’s of ingredients, mostly synthetic and quite possibly unhealthy), SLS, ALS and parabens. That said they are a standout on the highstreet, mid-ranged prices for the eco-genre and a very high amount of vegan friendly products.

        Massage Bars:

        This is a solid product which I prefer over liquids/gels/etc because they tend to be more natural and/or organic/fairtrade. Massage bars look like soap and were intended to be a partner/romantic experience but regardless you can have friend/someone close massage this into your skin or you can do it yourself.

        I tend to just use them as I would any thick/deeply moisturizing product, to me they’re a solid version of body butter.

        Have a container/plate ready to put the bar on as it gets sticky, warm the bar in hand until soft enough to break a smaller piece off or wait abit until you’ve got oil on your hands. Next in rounded sweeping motions spread and rub it into the skin with medium pressure. It does take some time to sink-in so make sure you have some time or wear fleecy clothes over to help keep your skin and it warm to fully sink in (it will go into the fabric but not as much as on satin/cotton types). I find after a bath/shower is best, the pores are clean/open and a little goes a long way so these last well and have long expiry dates.

        The bar, £5.75 @ 50g.

        It was marketed as ‘The one to brighten, lighten and throw off the gloom with a concentrated citrus fix.’

        A typically moisturizing, softening base of cocoa and shea butters and rich, creamy avocado and mango kernel butter with lime, sweet orange, mandarin and grapefruit oils and safflower petals. Very nutritious ingredients overall but perfume is the third ingredient so a very strong scent/effects permeating the rest. Hence I prefer Lush Therapy Bar, purely organic with ‘clean’ content. This is still rich and uplifting with all the citrus though not long lasting enough to prevent another moisturizer before bedtime.


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      • More +
        20.08.2014 01:49
        Very helpful
        1 Comment


        • Soothing/cooling
        • "Spreads evenly"
        • "Absorbs quickly"
        • "Instant hydrating boost"


        • "Not long lasting for dry skin"
        • "Perhaps not for older skin so much"
        • Expensive

        Helpful as a travel moisturizer in hot weather as a refresher


        Neal’s Yard is an ethically inspired UK brand using other UK companies for testing and manufacturing. They have their fair share of awards and a firm believer in organic and natural ingredients. They’ve been around for 30 years and advocate cruelty free experimentation, support many causes and believe in benefits of herbs for health and well being. They aren’t a high street brand but they are well renowned, I appreciate their serious approach and that they don’t compromise on their products for the sake of image. They don’t use petrochemicals, SLS, mineral oil (paraffin), synthetic perfumes, silicones, unnatural preservatives, parabens or phthalates. Remember that those ingredients can cause skin irritation so if you have sensitive skin or if you don’t want ingredients that your skin can’t process it’s always good to keep an eye on the label or these brands that are committed to high quality. They do use plastic packaging for their products but many benefit from their trademark blue bottles; blue glass and dark glass in general act as a filter for UV and preserve oils for longer (cooking oils also) and prevent the leeching of plastic chemicals into the product, plus the glass bottles are re-usable.

        The Performance:

        Power Berry Daily Moisture 100ml £23.75 – marketed as ‘lightweight, easily absorbed daily moisturising lotion containing antioxidant-rich acai, bilberry, goji berry and rosehip, supports the skin with hyaluronic acid to boost skin moisture levels, whilst a synergistic combination of buddleia and thyme, containing antioxidant flavonoids, and anti-inflammatory saponins and triterpenoids, acts as an anti pollutant to help combat ‘city stress’ and promote skin radiance and vitality.’

        I find this very hydrating and revitalising, and even though I don’t generally have sensitive skin my jaw and neck can react to creams but I haven’t had any problems with this. I dehydrate quite easily so this is helpful for my skin as a thirst quencher, it gives a ‘wake up’ call making my face feel immediately perky. It also smells mood enhancing and is very smooth.

        Unfortunately I wouldn’t say this has deep moisturizing effects, perhaps for younger and combination or oily skin but for 30+ and dry skin it seems like more of an instant boost than long lasting such an overnight lotion. Long term it does make my skin feel supple and abit firmer but it doesn’t do much about lines, it doesn’t plump the skin or make it ‘radiant’ so for me it doesn’t improve the overall condition of skin making it look younger.

        My hands look older than I am as I’m constantly cleaning so it’s a shame that isn’t enough for them and they look tired again as soon as I wash them so the lotion doesn’t do much there other than a quick ‘facelift’ so to speak.

        Overall I’d say this is a good hot weather moisturizer when you just want it to absorb quickly, sit well under makeup (if you wear any) and refresh. Other than that something stronger may be needed.


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        • 9 To 5 (DVD) / DVD / 33 Readings / 30 Ratings
          More +
          18.03.2014 13:22
          Very helpful
          1 Comment



          If you were the 'boss' what would you do and how would you treat others?


          9 to 5 is a common expression for the daily grind at work excluding commuting and getting ready/winding down, of course times have changed a bit since this film was released in 1980 but when someone says 9 to 5 office hours are still what is implied. Needless to say this film is all about work, set in a big office building but the principles of what many employees feel and how people should be treated are similar to other working environments. Starring Jane Fonda (as character 'Judy'), Lily Tomlin (Violet) and Dolly Parton (Dora Lee) this was a box office smash hit comedy which spawned a 5 season tv series, a theatre production and talk of a sequel that Jane Fonda remarked could be called '24/7' for modern working standards.

          A quote from Violet about fairytales sums it up "Gruesome and horrible and real gory... But kinda cute."

          PLOT SUMMARY

          Judy is starting her first day of work after having been a housewife and recently divorced from her cheating husband, as a senior supervisor it's upto Violet to show her round and help her out. Dora Lee is the boss' secretary and as such, combined with her looks and lying/gossiping tongues is seen as a loose woman who sleeps with her boss and is shunned by most of the office. The three women become united when three events inevitably bring them together; an employee being unfairly sacked, When Violet is passed up for promotion due to being a woman and whose family is seen as not as important because she's a single mother, and Dora Lee finding out what people have been saying about her. This all leads to what can only be called an entanglement in pandemonium when they fantasize about how they would deal with the boss and some of their fantasies suddenly come to life! They find themselves having to deal with all kinds of things in ever mounting circumstances such as dead bodies and blackmail and it becomes a race against time to see if they can beat their boss and not end up in jail.

          Quote from Judy's fantasy about hunting the boss in which she's a safari style hunter:

          Boss: "Judy you've got to help me. That mob out there is crazy, they're trying to kill me!"
          Judy: "Now why would they want to do a nasty little thing like that?"
          Boss: "I don't know, I'm not such a bad guy!"
          Judy: "You're a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot."
          Boss: "So I have a few faults, who doesn't? Is that any reason to kill me?"
          Judy: "You're foul, Hart. A wart on the nose of humanity and I'm going to blast it off."
          *points her shotgun at him*
          Boss: *stutters*
          Judy: "Goodbye boss man. It's quittin' time."
          Boss: "Why me? I'm just an ordinary guy trying to do his job."
          Boss: "Holy S**t" - and runs away as she shoots.


          This is a relatively old film and as such I had it on VHS at first, the quality was grainy and the sound seemed as if it was coming from a little distance. I have the Region 1 DVD now and the picture quality is very clear and the colours sharp, the sound is also clearer but as not as clear as modern films.

          The costumes/outfits, hairdos, makeup etc are very retro which is fine by me and I'm a fan of vintage styles but it does date the film. The office furniture still holds true to today in my opinion as many contemporary looks are retro based and offices that are comparable to restricted confinements/cells can easily be thought of as minimalist.

          I didn't really notice much of the soundtrack other than in the daydream sequences and the famous theme tune sung by Dolly Parton but that's fine because the acting really does take centre stage. It's sad that this film has become somewhat obscure but it's still classic.


          A lot of people feel stifled at work, it's something that takes up a huge part of life other than sleeping so as a location it's an alternative home/living environment along with the commute yet it can be so uncomfortable/frustrating. Other people can get through the mundane nature of it day in and day out but it doesn't change they still spend most of their time there, do another activity before/afterward or go straight home, wile away a few hours, go to sleep and start the whole cycle again; they barely left the workplace before they're back there again. Then there are things that really get to people like management trainee and fast track programs which leapfrog over all their time/effort and don't include them because they've been there a while even if they have the necessary 'qualifications'. Many feel as if they haven't been rewarded for their efforts at some point, that someone has taken credit for their work, they've been ignored, they're a number rather than a person, that they work longer and harder or make less mistakes for the same or less remuneration than they should get or in comparison to someone else or in contrast to living costs. This film is a classic example of Corporate vs the Worker, previously Man against the Machine or Worker against the Man (aka stickin' to the Man). It shows how people can be seen or likened to automatons rather than living beings that will need a bit of leeway now and then as things happen in their lives. It show people being demeaned and belittled seen as 'ten a penny' or 'a dime a dozen' by default reinforced by draconian rules like not being allowed to talk about your salary, and sabotage, backstabbing and company spying as standard.

          This film covers the stress, frustration, being made to feel like an automaton and to an extent thinking that's ok because its 'business' but the personal side can't be ignored. That said it's all cleverly wrapped up in a witty comedy of office politics and budding, whirlwind friendship to overcome the odds.

          DVD INFO

          Both the Region 1 and Region 2 versions are available on Amazon between approx £1-£8.
          The Region 1 - Age U - English and Spanish Sub-titles.
          The Region 2 - Age 15 - English Sub-titles.
          Run Time: 110min.

          Both were released in 2006 and both are widescreen. Region 1 has the film available in English, French and Spanish dubs.

          I'm in a position to compare my Region 1 2006 version with one from 2001 (from a friend) and can say the major difference is in the Extras. The previous version is sparse with only the original film trailer and some stills. The 2006 version has:

          Video commentary/interviews from the three stars, producer and writer
          10 deleted scenes
          Gag reel
          A tribute to a deceased member
          And a karaoke feature that plays over various scenes in the movie.


          This was one of those films I first watched when I was younger and didn't realize why it was shown so late at night rather than a day movie when it was portrayed in a light hearted/comic way. Then I watched it as an adult and realized it wasn't light hearted at all though it did have both direct and veiled comedy; but that's the nature of people. Where things like drinking alcohol, smoking, poisoning, abduction, fighting, overt sexualisation and murder are socially acceptable viewing for youngsters pot parties and getting stoned aren't. However the version I'd originally watched had the drugs cut out so why was it still shown near midnight I wonder?

          Even though the film is from a feminist angle which can be off-putting for a lot of people, many don't seem to realize that anybody can be a feminist, you don't have to be female to be a feminist just like you don't have to be other than heterosexual to support LGBT rights and the film shows that the names/faces/groups may change but the issues are similar or the same e.g. a young Black male internal employee from the mail room is bypassed for a job in favour of an 'outsider'. Then when the trio get more power in the office they make wide sweeping changes that benefit everybody from making the surroundings more pleasant/welcoming and less institution like to equal pay, job sharing, flexible hours, childcare, health care and a scene that intentionally shows a wheelchair user as an employee.

          All in all this is another film that I can watch over and over and who doesn't think it has a catchy theme tune!?


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          • Short Circuit (DVD) / DVD / 71 Readings / 70 Ratings
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            13.03.2014 03:06
            Very helpful



            A robot learns the meaning or life with metal for skin & battery fluid for blood but a heart of Gold


            Short Circuit (1986) is a film about the possibility, reactions toward and relations with artificial intelligence that is or becomes sentient and in this case cute, friendly and sassy. It's more of a personal take on being friends with a sentient robot one on one rather than as a group/'species' and overall is a comic sci-fi with an unusual buddy pairing. It was popular enough to get a sequel and even though I love both films the first one holds a special place. There's a number of familiar faces in the cast including Steve Guttenberg and G.W. Bailey (both figured prominently in Police Academy) which help to set the tone since they're acting like characters we already associate them with instead of treading new ground and overall the film has a comfortable/familiar feel rather than scary, awestruck or threatening sci-fi.

            PLOT SUMMARY

            Being electrocuted is a recurring theme in bringing beings to life or sentience and Short Circuit is no exception. The military via a company/offshoot called NOVA is developing robots for warfare (big surprise) that can not only destroy things efficiently but pour you a gin and tonic. Their newest line of robots, named Strategically Artificially Intelligent Nuclear Transport or ironically SAINT for short are the products of their latest efforts, but when you make things so well are you bringing them closer to the possibility of turning into or doing things you wouldn't expect? Saint Number 5 goes through a series of inexplicable events that causes 'it' later him to not only gain his own sentient identity but to escape the secure laboratory facility. The scientists that developed him (think the predecessors of The Big Bang Theory) are in the usual 'but I want my technology to be used for the benefit of humanity' vs the military bind yet they still work for the military because you know, they wouldn't get to play with expensive tech otherwise. Newton Crosby and Ben Jabituya aka the two scientists behind SAINT's development in particular are sent to retrieve their missing child after the usual gung-ho boys with toys and SAINT No: 5's own siblings fail to get him back.

            No: 5 is an armed to the teeth weapon/solider of war but meets a passionate and compassionate woman named Stephanie who is trying to make enough money to look after her dependents whilst fending off external influences like a parasitic ex-boyfriend and regulators, yet takes him in thinking he's an extra terrestrial and does her best to help him learn and be friends. Not the usual combination in a movie but they are so endearing and peaceful with each other minus an argument when she finds out he's not an alien but even then, while she's ranting and having a go at his origins under the belief that he's a non-sentient machine she still talks to and argues with him like a person and treats him with that respect.

            The rest of the film outlines No: 5's physical and mental journey of discovery, meeting a best friend who tries to help them both live free and arguments for and against whether a robot can think and feel.


            Even though on the surface this film might seem superficial there are really heart moving, wrenching as well as warming and comic parts and there's quite the elated feeling when No:5 renames himself as Johnny 5. He and Stephanie are very protective of each other. Both only really have themselves to rely on, yet instead of being suspicious and scared of the other they become very close. It's not as if they were lonely before meeting, but their pure friendship is really beautiful and they feel better for it. Their friendship is even highlighted in his naming as he wonders about calling himself Kevin or Dave but decides on Johnny. Wonder why? I only recently noticed the very first song he hears with Stephanie - a clever bit of background detail that's easily missed.

            Technically the film is dated but in comparison to modern equivalents there's something charming about the seeming simplicity robot design. I'm obviously not the only one who thought so as the design is similar (in my opinion) to that of Disney's Wall-E (2008). The cuteness is emphasized by details like Johnny's voice changing from a creepy voice scrambler style and his eyes looking less threatening when he becomes 'alive'.

            The film is action packed with shootouts, general fights, chases and confrontations but there's enough dialogue, jokes, tongue in cheek one-liners and sentiment to keep the pace and the plot moving without getting boring at any point. Even the closing scene is one of movement which feeds into the idea of a 'journey'.

            Interesting note 1) The stereotypical 'Indian guy' is not Indian, the use of darkening actor's skin to play roles hadn't disappeared yet and of course Gandhi (1982) was a major movie that did the same. That said I haven't come across any upset over it nor with Gandhi where Ben Kingsley is half Kenyan Indian but still had dark makeup to play the part.

            Interesting note 2) There's a plethora of cultural references in the film i.e. music and other famous flicks that are used in Johnny's education. That helps to make it more 'real' and relatable to people who remember those times well but conversely dates the film and makes it less recognizable to younger people.

            Interesting note 3) The closing credits show scenes that didn't make the cut and for the longest time before I had the DVD I kept thinking I'd missed something or somehow hadn't seen the whole movie!

            All in all who wouldn't have liked a friend like Johnny?

            MAIN CAST
            Character - Actor - Notable Other Film/Shows

            Johnny 5 - Tim Blaney (voice) - Puppeteer for The Muppets
            Stephanie Speck - Ally Sheedy - The Breakfast Club
            Newton Crosby - Steve Guttenberg - Cocoon
            Ben Jabituya - Fisher Stevens - Early Edition
            Howard Marner (executive at NOVA) - Austin Pendleton - A Beautiful Mind
            Skroeder (enforcement at NOVA) - G.W. Bailey - Police Academy

            DVD INFO

            Runtime: 95 minutes
            Rating: PG

            I have the 2012 edition which available at a range of prices on Amazon upto approx £11. Thankfully its rich in special features:

            *Scene Selection,
            *Commentary and Interviews from the Cast and Staff,
            *Official Trailer,
            *'The Creation of Number 5' which is really interesting showing how they transfered human movement to the machines and;
            *Behind the Scenes

            The film is also available as a double feature on DVD with the its sequel Short Circuit 2 (1988).


            If you like/d this film you may like E.T (1982) about an alien stranded on Earth simply wanting to contact home and return. It sparks up a close friendship with a young boy and his siblings, and they band together to help against the authorities whilst keeping it secret and get their friend home safely.

            Batteries Not Included (1987) - The residents of a building about to be torn down find themselves in a tough position, accept the forced offer and aggressive method of being moving or stay and protect their home. They are assisted by mechanical looking mini-aliens who also live in the building whilst waiting to be rescued.


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            • Without A Clue (DVD) / DVD / 70 Readings / 69 Ratings
              More +
              08.03.2014 21:01
              Very helpful



              Essentially a buddy movie where the two learn to like and depend on each other.

              I was given this dvd from someone who knew I like detective shows but a quick search shows that it's available between £1.15 to £5.99 in English language on Amazon and between £5-9 on eBay.

              Starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsly this is a comedy caper, a parody on the canonical crime fighting duo this film uses role reversal to show Holmes and Watson in a different perspective. Holmes is a fictional character in a work of fiction based on truth and Watson is the author and the detective.

              The characters we know and love are played by:
              Michael Caine - Reginald Kincaid aka Sherlock
              Ben Kingsley - Dr Watson
              Jeffrey Jones - Inspector LeStrade
              Pat Keen - Mrs. Hudson

              Dr Watson is a doctor who solved crimes on the sly and writes the popular Sherlock Holmes adventures for The Strand magazine, the only thing is no one is interested in Dr Watson or his opinions unless they are voiced via the fictional Sherlock Holmes who the public believes to be real. Hence he employs an actor named Reginald Kincaid to pretend to be Sherlock in flesh and blood; unfortunately he's also an avid drinker, gambler and womanizer. His ability to remember his lines is pretty good but he does insist on fluffing his lines, ad-libbing and mistaking words but manages to save himself through bluffing and bravado, with trusty Watson watching his back and ever imagining stabbing it. Watson wishes he could rid himself of his bumbling Sherlock but is forced to admit he needs him. The plot revolves around the counterfeiting of £5 notes, the rivalry between them and LeStrade/the police and battling an archenemy (three guesses who it is, easy to guess hence why I haven't given it away). Overall is funny, has a touch of the ridiculous, a tad slapstick and a decent armchair detective movie. It's not laugh out loud but more satire on people's hypocritical attitudes towards celebrity, in this case pandering to popularity.

              The film highlights the difference between detective fiction and crime drama and their respective followings. The former is more personal, based on the individual/detective and their personality, lifestyle/habits/preferences and people around them whereas crime drama is more about the actual case, the technical elements and can be grittier/more gory in presentation. It can be argued that there's a lot of 'facts' and technical presentation of deductions as proof in Sherlock Holmes and at least starts off with physical clues in contrast to other detective driven fiction such as Poirot who starts with psychological analysis, but I'd say that much of Sherlock's evidence is circumstantial and akin to Poirot is unfair on the part of the author/director to the reader/watcher. Clues and connections are plucked out of the air and the viewer would be unable to deduce them because they are often presented in the same way as an illusionist or stage magician - with shock and awe, and sometimes late in the 'game'. It's only really when such detectives apprehend the culprit that their understanding of the case starts to make sense to the viewer and only at times can they work out the mystery along the way with the detective. This sub-genre of crime is character driven and I do prefer it to crime drama but Holmes is not the most likable of characters; pretentious, sexist, brash with those of lesser social class, had a privileged upbringing, can pretty much do as he likes and his only real angst being a big brother complex to which he feels inferior simply because he's second fiddle even though there's nothing wrong with admitting someone is better than you if they are and your own character (and/or achievement) is nothing to be sniffed at. He doesn't really garner sympathy or empathy so of course it's only with his pairing with Dr Watson that he becomes more than a clever action hero that we are enthralled by, he becomes more 'real' or perhaps just more revealing. Through Dr Watson this behind the scenes helper is brought into light/the forefront. It's this relationship that's turned on its head in this film.

              With Watson as the major brains and Sherlock as a figurehead Watson's frustration is palpable and probably only too understandable by many who have to put up with others they feel dependent on yet are carrying or assisting significantly but at least in this movie Watson and Sherlock come to terms with each other. Not the usual buddy movie but still one where the characters learn to appreciate each other, though don't seem to improve!

              Besides the main duo all of the other characters are played well from bar folk and gangsters to pompous politicians; it's of course a very British affair and the filming, setting, costumes and accents are true to form and time. The skies are pretty much always Grey, the industrial smoke is not amiss and most of the indoor scenes are chintz and print laden. The hair and fashion are also spot on and the score, though not entirely noticeable to me did change tempo as necessary.

              1) The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975 PG) - Starring Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman.
              2) Sherlock Holmes (2009 12A) - Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong.
              3) Murder by Death (2007 PG) - Starring David Niven, Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Eileen Brennan.
              4) Clue (2003 PG) - Starring Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean.

              DVD INFO
              Available in Region 2
              102 minutes
              English sub-titles

              Unfortunately there are no extras such as footage, scenes or interviews.

              It's true to say that I don't enjoy this film as much as other films I've noted in this review but I'm a big fan of detective fiction both as the written word and on screen, and with Holmes being a classic benchmark for a detective, the Holmes/Watson relationship being the cause quite a bit of controversy and speculation on the part of fans and the adventures of the duo being continued by many writers other than Conan Doyle it's safe to say that the characters hold a fascination for many. A spoof like this speaks to my appreciation of irony in the world we live in and suspicion that Holmes and Watson as they were originally written and perceived may not be in accord.

              'He's got his hat, he's got his pipe...but he hasn't got a clue!'


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                21.02.2014 11:38
                Very helpful



                Anyone can fall through the net and what's right vs law can be two different things


                "If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time."


                To Kill A Mockingbird was published by Harper Lee in 1960 and is a book about the nature of people's bias and prejudices, with a focus on race and particularly Black/White race relations. It set a precedent for many later books on racial conflict and inspired many to go into law. The book was set and inspired by events/people in the 1920-30's and so parts of it can seem outdated but there are many principles on human nature and nurture that are just as relevant now as they have been for such a long time. The setting is mainly in/about a courtroom case and the differences between law, ethics and the minds of people are highlighted.


                A Black cotton worker is falsely accused of raping a White teenager, it's up to the legal system of the area to give him a trial and to defend/punish him fairly but in a society where such crimes be thought of, happen, and can also be falsified is a defence and playing by the social/legal rules going to help? Will it help the individual and the masses? Do the adages - if you've got nothing to hide then you have no problem, or if you're innocent why hide/run - really have relevance/confidence/sincerity/truth? This is a book about tragedy and written in both satire and irony, using characters voices in sardonic and sarcastic tones.


                The main questions and expositions in the book being on: "how can we trust people to be fair?" So what if you put them in an orchestrated setting and tell them to behave, like in a courtroom (where Black and White are ironically used as the costume of the court) - it doesn't mean they'll suddenly turn into fair minded people who can see various points of view. If it did, would that mean they were acting, what about how they are like in everyday life? Many people view it like being on stage, where they don't want to give their opinions and don't want to take part due to possible repercussions or because it interferes with their lives. What about the hierarchy of people's positions in groups? Just look at the mini societies-micro infrastructures in the practise ground of educational institutions where the social/political or personality based roles people take in groups are then often repeated in the workplace and other areas in life where there are face-to-face situations. The same happens in juries, not every member is equal and even if they shouldn't be, look at some of the factors behind what determines how a group votes. When they are anonymous a number of 'nasty' things can turn up for organisers where people decided to show their 'true colours' instead of going with the group - or when it's not anonymous, who has the pervading roles and what is harbouring? What about the idea of a jury of peers? Are they really peers, do they really understand or have any experience in the situation, do they really care, what are their opinions based on? Preferences and resentments from life, watching and experience transfers to the ability to judge and what are instincts based on?

                People often say 'if so and so weren't ruling, things would be better' and vice versa or as is the case in many uprisings 'well someone will be chosen from the people, an upstanding citizen'... But what makes the 'people' really better than their so-called 'leaders'? Do you really trust everyone around you to do the right thing? Do you really like everyone around you despite situations where you have to get along? What does that lead to - popularity votes from a selected few (and how are those few chosen, usually through having enough status and money to run in the first place and how did they get that) and one regime copying another. People often start out or sound as if they have ideals, but when push comes to shove they'd rather not have it as bad as others and if others have to have it bad so that they don't have to or so that they can at least be in a position they can manage that isn't too repulsive to them - guess who gets sacrificed. Who is running and working in the court? Interesting question. Kinda like how is it countries can be at war with each other, have masses of propaganda and convenient social division and cohesion on issues/events at certain times yet their 'nobility' are going off on business trips together, sharing dinners and going to each other's weddings? Protocol, work? Yeah like those excuses really help anybody, well anybody outside the inner pyramid.

                A secondary theme is family; that you can't generally choose them and no matter what happens they are called 'family' in name at least. Many people are not happy with their families or particular family members but yet they are usually given priority over non-members. Then there are family members who are not wanted, replaced and passed on from place to place. The example is extended to various groupings people fall into - how people are members of a race/ethnicity, of social and financial classes and ultimately the irony of sub-group clashes when we are the same species/family. How much does family vs personal merit count?

                Another theme is that of revenge and what happens when people are made accountable for something, they usually take it out further on the victim or others. Disproportionate emotions which led to the offence and factors into the reactions afterwards. The opposite to which is 'blind justice' - highlighting issues where 'justice' that is ignorant, distant, uneducated, disaffected and composed of groupings that have to mind their associations with each other. Retribution isn't really touched upon but that might seem vigilante and would go against the courtroom setting as well as the notion of democracy.

                That is the gist of the book - players and the game/system, the players who make up the game and keep it going, how the game takes over society and the consequences. Players doing what they can in the game or only what is acceptable yet acknowledging the human mental conditioning and the motivations behind it. As aforementioned it was based in the 1920-30's so minor things like half the population not being thought of as sound enough in mind to deal with big matters like dispensing legal 'justice', people thought of as crazies, demented, too young, criminal, bloody foreigners, people generally not liked at that particular time aren't really given the same credence as the main character representations. For example the females in the book that are respected or shown as intelligent are rebuked (e.g. one being told by the school that she shouldn't be allowed to read and write) or given second fiddles in the usual 'not bad, for a woman' ethos.

                The actual crime that the story revolves around is of one of the worst acts of violation that can be desired/planned/aided/committed but not much focus is given to the issue of rape in general, it is instead used as leverage to heighten the injustice of the situation and everyone's feelings of quiet rage, disgust and ultimately desensitization/acceptance to 'the way of life'. The only connotation of interest it is given is that it is a man who came up with the idea to use it as a false accusation and was backed up by others because of their prejudices. The girl involved isn't really focused on in the story but goes along with it.


                I've focused more on the plot and questions from it rather than the individual characters because the story is written in a way that the characters could be anybody, any person who has fallen into one of the roles whether we can relate to it or not, it could and has happened to many and none of us are immune. There isn't really character development; it's more narrative from some and watching events unfold for others.

                The Finch Family - their religious ancestor travelled to the Southern US from England and from his work (including owning slaves) acquired enough wealth and position/stability for him and his inheritors to be considered respectable. The family in the book consists of two children; the younger sister Scout, older brother Jem and father Atticus. All three act as narrators in the book with Atticus taking the lead as the lawyer and the children additionally taking roles as voyeurs to the unfolding events. The children are often accompanied by their close friend Dill Harris. They take a lot of disapproval from their community for acting on behalf of a Black man.

                Tom Robinson - the Black man who is falsely accused of raping a White teenager. He is disabled due to a severe injury to his left arm as a child. He is married to Helen Robinson and has three children, Helen becomes somewhat a co-narrator at times when speaking of the trial.

                Robert Ewell - The father of girl who is the subject of the accusation. It was his idea to accuse Tom of rape and carries out a vicious campaign of lies and irrational hatred against him and those around him.

                Mayella Violet Ewell - The daughter of Robert 'Bob' - confined to the house to look after younger siblings and her abusive father, she knows little of the place where they live/society. She tries to take her and Toms impersonal 'friendship' to a more adult level. Her father catches them, brutalizes her and hatches the plan of persecution/termination of Tom.

                Calpurnia and Miss Maude - the former being the Finch housekeeper and the latter being a neighbour. Both are older women who play replacement maternal figures in the Finch's life having known them for the duration of it. 'Cal' helps more with their academic education and physical upbringing whilst 'Maudie' offers social/cultural education. Cal is Black and Maudie is White; Cal is observed as more capable 'than other coloured nurses' and Maudie is not racist unlike most of her peers.

                Alexandra Hancock - Atticus Finch's sister and aunt to the children who goes to stay with them in the middle of the story. Classic in name and classic in nature she represents the females who've agreed and helped with repressing other females. In her case she cares but the care is backhanded.

                Boo Radley - He is a bit like the old man in the film Home Alone (1990), a hidden helper in the neighbourhood though generally keeps to himself and is seen as mysterious/dark/quiet, someone to be uncertain of. The person he was inspired by in the life of the author was a man kept locked away by his father for 24 years after some kind of incident.

                Mrs Dubose - an elderly neighbour of the Finch's, she is very racist and not shy about it though she has a Black nurse. She is seen as very brave and courageous when she dies of a fatal illness hampered by morphine addiction.

                John Taylor and Heck Tate - The judge and the sheriff. Two friends/allies of Atticus, and believe in him to have a chance arguing the case. That said the three hold the major positions of official authority yet atrocity and miscarriages of justice happen in their jurisdiction and by their own workers and neighbours who hold them in respect/fear. They also hide events/truth in the name of 'protection'.

                Braxton Underwood - represents the media. A news reporter and friend of Atticus he is torn between his friendship and racist beliefs.

                Dolphus Raymond and Link Deas - two landowners. The former is married to a Black woman and has mixed raced children, he dislikes the community they live in so garners the reputation of a town drunk, though he's sober. The latter employed Tom and Helen Robinson and defended Tom at the trial, getting sent out by the judge, and also defended Helen against Robert.

                There are many other side characters who play important parts in showing the hypocritical and conflicting nature of people's motivations and actions, how they can be nice/kind/sincere or ethical to one/certain groups and different or the opposite to others.


                This book shows that people can't trust what they consider to be their instincts much of the time especially since so many of them are fear based including impressions and opinions on physical appearance. Racism is an excuse for an outlet, a symptom of further internal desires to subjugate and control, hence it sits well with other prejudices.

                The Black/White colour clash goes beyond the skin to the mind as well - it shows that no matter how clear cut our ideals may be people find it very hard to live by them, mainly falling into shades of Grey where they believe positive and negative character traits and behaviours/actions can offset or redeem each other. The book features miscarriages of justice both in and outside of the legal setting, the loss of innocence and people doing what they think they have to be a part of society, of family, of their group. Going along with one and going against another because the obligations are hard to juggle, big and small actions that affect everybody slowly making dents in the overall consciousness but nevertheless trying to move past things that can't be undone. No matter the atrocities the living always try to move on continuously repeating things they'd rather not happen to them in the quest of making life more acceptable and bearable, but to do so they have to forget to an extent and have the ability to normalize atrocity.

                People are people wherever they are, whatever they look like, however their cultures may be decorated - their behaviours and personalities don't differ. The 'prick us do we not bleed' figure of speech applies to all.

                Two famous films that remind me of this book are A Time To Kill (1996) and The Green Mile (1999).


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                • More +
                  11.02.2014 16:08
                  Very helpful



                  Natural, pure, soothing and awakening at the same time.

                  Pukka is a company mainly known for products based on Ayurvedic lifestyle teachings and include teas, vitamins and oils. However for a time they also produced cosmetics which were widely praised but unfortunately discontinued. I was lucky enough to receive the Uplifting Toner before hand and was/still am impressed with it enough to write about it just in case you find similar products on the market or want to start learning more about the ingredients which is essential for anyone interested in Ayurveda. For trivia's sake 'pukka' implies something that is ready/finished e.g. 'fully formed' or 'ripe' though thanks to Jamie Oliver it now applies to anything genuine/sincere/high quality - which isn't a bad use of slang I suppose :-)

                  WHAT IS AYURVEDA?
                  In brief Ayurveda is an ancient and comprehensive medicinal and health care system from India and means 'living wisely'. It focuses on balancing a natural healthy body with one's surroundings in harmony mainly via prevention but also includes many treatments and remedies. The closest system for comparison would be Traditional Chinese Medicine though Ayurveda is strictly vegetarian. It encompasses the whole lifestyle from our mental balances to environment and further depths cover areas such as foods beneficial for the body, mind and 'spiritual' capacities. In regards to skincare most of the companies I've seen that sell Ayurvedic products tend to go by the tri-dosha method where there are three general types of person ('person' meaning both the body type and personality) and hence provide products with ingredients that cater well to each of those types. Pukka also follows this system and the three personality types are: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

                  You can read more about the three types and do a brief and fun quiz on Pukka to check your type here http://www.pukkaherbs.com/Ayurveda/dosha-quiz

                  I personally have a huge crossover of two types with a small but still significant third type so when buying Ayurvedic beauty products I tend to just have a general mindset and pick things based on ingredients I like and know work well for me. I find that acceptable for 'light' Ayurvedic products such as the ones from Pukka with well known ingredients commonly used and grown or imported here but I tend to be more cautious with 'heavier' Ayurvedic products with lots of exotic and often strong ingredients especially those with numerous spices. In those cases I think being a crossover type has more of a consequence since I've had skin irritation and long periods of breakouts after using strong products meant for one type. After having tested some of the Pukka range I don't personally think I need to worry about that and haven't had any adverse reactions but I'm mentioning it for people who are new to Ayurveda and are a crossover type who might think it'd be ok to use any Ayurvedic product because one range was ok for them. In those cases where people are interested in a tailor made program or products they should seek the advice of experienced practitioners.

                  Uplifting Toner - Organic Rose & Orange Flower Skin Firming Formula

                  Rose Flower Water*, Orange Flower Water*, Alchohol*, Aqua, Calendula Extract*, Chamomile Flower Extract*, Marshmallow Root Extract*, Gotu Kola Leaf Extract*
                  Organic content: 100% of the agricultural ingredients are organic.
                  'Completely free from parabens, petrochemicals, synthetic fragrances and colours' and not only was the cardboard box recyclable but the bottle and lid were too.

                  Spray onto your face after cleansing or as a refresher, and potentially over make-up.

                  It was a watery thin liquid perfect for a spray and Gold in colour. The first time I used this I was feeling very tired and insufficiently hydrated and as soon as I sprayed my face I felt instantly refreshed and invigorated. I became wide awake and all traces of sleepiness were gone. It absorbed very quickly and left my skin feeling a bit more toned. The scent was fresh and citrus with a sweet undertone, it didn't last long after use which was advantageous for people who don't want fragrance or excess fragrance mixing with their other products.

                  I don't usually use sprays over my make up but since the directions said it was ok to do so I thought I should give it a try. It was those attempts that emphasized the only downside of this product in my opinion, and it's to do with the packaging not the cosmetic. The spray nozzle had one small hole in it which meant that whenever I sprayed my face with it, it came out in a splurt rather than a fine mist and that happened regardless of the pressure I used on the pump. Hence when the liquid came into contact with my skin it instantly fell down to my neck and chest if I wasn't quick enough to stop it. Therefore I didn't find it suitable for spraying over make up, that is unless you wear make up that won't streak or wash off easily and it's not something you'd want to try unless you have your make up on you to reapply afterwards just in case. To rectify the issue I sprayed the palm of one hand (with both hands cleaned beforehand) to then quickly pat together with the other hand and spread the liquid over my face/neck manually, and when wearing make up lightly dabbing/patting my hands over my face.

                  Back to the many plus points of this product; I found myself using it when I was home particularly after having sat in front of the computer for long periods of time and feeling zombie like. I drink liquid regularly to stay hydrated but I often find that the effect doesn't reach my skin and so external hydration is necessary - it's at those points where I'd use this and feel all the better for it. My skin would instantly perk up and after about a week or so there I noticed that it both appeared and felt more toned. My eyes/forehead felt less droopy and tighter which gives the added bonus of wider eyes.

                  It also had a lovely, soothing cooling effect which was particularly welcome in hot weather or stuffy rooms (I used this a couple of times when I was almost alone on the underground). It was basically a wake up call that also nourished my skin leaving it younger looking and softened.

                  Size wise it was perfect for carrying, extremely lightweight and would fit in any bag were it a tiny clutch to a fashionably large handbag. The size and the thickness of the glass/secure lid meant it never got damaged even when loose amongst all manner of things from keys to loose change. Though I would of recommended putting it somewhere safe and being careful when sitting if putting it in a pocket.

                  Former Price:
                  Full size 100ml - £17.50
                  There were sample 10ml sizes but I couldn't find any price info.

                  Rose Flower Water - Used for both cosmetic and cooking it is a direct bi-product of rose oil making and has been used throughout milenia for its sweet flavour, scent, soothing and clarifying/cleansing purposes.

                  Orange Flower Water - Like the rose water orange flower/blossom water is made from distilling the blossoms and is also edible. Another ancient ingredient it is was commonly used as skin freshener which also made the skin bright/radiant and had a distinctive scent.

                  Alchohol and Aqua - aka rubbing alcohol and water - for cleaning, hydrating, filler and making a product more liquid like.

                  Calendula Extract - A type of marigold used for culinary, cosmetic, mecidinal, fabric dye and ceremonial purposes. It has been used for its detoxifying and infection preventing properties such as being antisceptic and antihemorrhagic.

                  Marshmallow Root Extract - Nowadays this is more commonly known for sore throats and easing the stomach but thick lubricant extracted from the roots have also been used in skincare for treating topical wounds to preventing gangrene i.e. so on a lesser scale can help with facial/neck skin irritations.

                  Gotu Kola Leaf Extract - aka Indian Pennywort - is a herb that has been used for wide range of traditional medicines dealing with issues from blood circulation and purification to breathing issues or from serious skin conditions to anti-stress and memory enhancement. In Ayurveda it has mainly been used for it's mental rejuvenating properties such as alertness and increasing focus though also for treatment of wounds.

                  The product came in a solid glass bottle with a securely fitted spray dispenser and strong plastic lid. The bottle had the company logo and summary info printed on to it in Black - it looked not only professional but very pretty. The twist lid was plastic and the whole thing came in a little attractively decorated/arty looking cardboard box.


                  Overall I liked using this product before or after moisturizing in the mornings, or by itself during the day to benefit from that instant revitalization. With a nozzle adjustment it would have been perfect for long haul trips too. I'd rate this as 4/5 due to the packaging which made it difficult to fulfill its purpose, but the liquid itself does what it says in the title. If I'd had a spare spray bottle it wouldn't have been much of an issue though I don't think it's something customers should have to do by default. It lasted quite a while despite regular use, approximately 3months so was value for money.


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                  • UK Fashion Trends / Discussion / 81 Readings / 79 Ratings
                    More +
                    28.01.2014 16:48
                    Very helpful



                    A classic layering item with a surprising history & a recurring trend


                    High collars come on many garments be them tops, shirts, waistcoats or jackets e.g. Mandarin or Nehru styles but in modern Western culture they are most often associated with the 'roll-neck' though that in itself can be confusing. High necked clothing doesn't have to roll, some have a collar high enough to be worn scrunched or rolled over and some are designed with just enough fabric to stand up and cover part of the neck.

                    One type of clothing, many names.
                    US: Turtle Neck
                    UK: Polo Neck.
                    AUS/NZ: Skivvy.

                    All refer to what is basically a top with any length sleeves or sleeveless and most importantly a collar which covers at least part of the neck and is not sewn on separately such as on shirts/blouses.
                    It can be confusing to understand what a person means when they use any of the above terms because of culture differences e.g. in the UK the 'turtle neck' refers to a top usually of short sleeves, with a rounded and defined neckline that sits close to the base of the neck usually covering the collar bones but not always (known as a 'crew neck' too). OR in the US the term 'polo neck' could be mistaken for 'polo shirt' which is an item of apparel associated with people who play the sport polo. Those shirts have made their way into many schools as part of Physical Education uniforms as well. The Australian and New Zealand term 'skivvy' is probably most appropriate because 'skivvy' is also a common term for underwear or under garments in general and the top was and is still commonly worn for layering against the weather and was often worn by manual labourers, athletes and sailors.

                    SMART IN BOTH LOOKS AND BRAINS?

                    In the earlier part of the last century high necked tops were adopted from the working class by famous creative thespian types such as Noel Coward and Andy Warhol and hence made popular in fashionable circles full of raconteurs. Later on in the century they had filtered down to the less glittery but still artistic and thoughtful 'poetry house/café crowd'. Either way they most oft adorned the bodies of those considered intellectual, deep and broody, creative or those self proclaimed as such and thought of as smart mouths and bums/street philosophers to many.

                    DOES THAT MAKE THEM ELITIST?

                    High neck tops have become unisex and were made so by people seeking to forward women's position in society through the feminist waves in the early to mid 20th century. That in itself was a huge anti-elitist point coming after the worldwide history of women having to wear skirts and dresses no matter what the terrain, weather conditions or activity and those flouting convention having received mass backlash both as humans and as cultural/religious members. Once they had taken that step items such as high neck tops and fedoras were to follow. Then the film Annie Hall (1977) really broke the boundaries and catapulted menswear towards women and the title character was notably played by Diane Keaton who of course is known for being very dapper.

                    Another arena in which high neck tops play an anti-elitist role is in the workplace, specifically offices. Most adults are acquainted with business suits whether for work or special gatherings dealing with the ownership and belonging of people such as ceremonies connected to birth, death and marriage. Suits are sometimes known as 'stiff' (particularly those associated with the latter occasions) and thought of as uncomfortable with images of choking stiff collars (some detachable), braces, cummerbunds, ties/bowties, suspenders, cufflinks, possibly detachable cuffs, tie pins and other accessories coming to mind. Some of those items are required social paraphernalia and whilst some have been dispensed with altogether in modern times, such as the shirt bib, high neck tops offer an alternative to getting so dressed up whilst remaining smart or a freedom from the mounting feeling of constriction. Whilst I personally think that there's few things better than a well cut and tailored/customized suit for making you feel smart, confident, strong and making you look sleek and elegant - it can be too much, particularly in warm weather or if the event is semi-casual/formal. In the early stages of the garment's popularity wearing them as part of visible formal wear was seen as defiant, as a form of individuality, making a stand against the shirt and tie combo and what it represented to those who rebuked the whippersnappers and dissenters daring to do different.

                    Such a simple item of clothing, yet so controversial!


                    Back to practical matters, to the modern person considering wearing a high neck top a major aspect of interest is comfort. How comfortable are they, really?

                    We've moved on from the days of itchy, scratchy undergarments and clothes that immediately touch our skin. Our variety of fabrics has increased and high neck tops come in everything from cotton to stretchy mesh, woven to unwoven, knitted to netting. Many are soft, smooth and stretchy which are nice for everyday wear and depending on the fabric, breathable. Some are rugged, heavy and chunky for colder weather. Then there's the type associated with athletes e.g. leotards, unitards and separates worn in various sports from athletics to gymnastics to swimming. It was actually through gymnastics that I first experienced wearing high necks (worn with shorts) and once I stopped in my teens I cut the leotards into tops so as not to waste them because by then I'd thought of them as an asset for coverage, layering and comfort. I found they gave a feeling of both safety and warmth underneath my school uniform and were like tights/hose but for the upper body instead. They also didn't scrunch or upset the upper layers so I never had to adjust or wriggle around whilst wearing them. It turned out that it was lucky to cut them into tops because shortly after it became increasingly difficult to find lycra leotards in women's underwear/shapewear shops and the only places they were available in were sports stores within a considerably higher price bracket.

                    The comfort of layering is different for different people but it is possible, especially with the advent of internet shopping, to find high neck tops that you will feel comfortable in. If lycra is too tight and impractical (though has a pretty sheen/shine ) there is spandex, if spandex is too tight there is poly-spandex or polyester or polycotton. There are thicker fabric mixes like viscose, bengaline, stretch ponte etc. I've mentioned stretchy fabrics thus far because high neck tops are mainly seen as a second skin but as a top layer and for colder weather the heavier versions tend to have wider/looser necks and are made with fabrics such as acrylic, fleece and even faux fur. Not being particularly sensitive to collars I even wear double layers of high neck tops, for staying warm or when I have a sleeveless version that I provide coverage for with a long sleeved one worn underneath. It all depends on the thickness of the fabric and how loose/easy to fold the collar is.


                    We've discussed the history and covered the basic elements of what makes a high neck top and how they can be used/worn, but there's also the subjective element of taste and the fashions brought about by different preferences. In short, style darling.

                    ***Sleek silhouette
                    This is in my opinion is ultimately the look that high neck tops help create. They smoothen the body shape and give an almost all-in-one flow between the upper and lower body whether wearing a skirt or trousers, for everybody regardless of sex or gender. Instead of the body being cut in half by a loose top or shirt the length is preserved more with a high neck top and the effect is one of sleekness. When combined with classic Black the illusion of length and slenderness is intensified even when worn with a belt. Those two qualities may not be particularly desired by the wearer though and the effect varies per person but it is noticeable so if you don't want to look like a stereotypical cat burglar nor perhaps too thin or elongated but still want the sleek effect you can always opt for classic White (including any of the Whitish shades).

                    ***Tight or loose necked tops
                    Tighter necked looks smarter when made of a thinner fabric rather than thick fabric which can make it look like the wearer is being strangled. High neck tops with loose necks tend to be of thicker fabric to allow for layering underneath but when loose necks are combined with thin fabrics it's usually so that the neck isn't folded over but left to sit/fall in a wavy/curvy shape giving an informal appearance.
                    Even cowl neck tops (uh-oh another one - cowl necks are tops with very loose/draped collars that usually sit below the collar bones and sometimes sitting on the very edge of the shoulders) can be pulled up and pinned behind the neck for a high neck look and then released back to their original style when/if necessary.

                    ***Underwear and sportswear as overwear
                    Where hemlines apparently mark a pattern in economic prosperity (shorter being for highs in prosperity and longer for lows) thankfully we don't have to wait until we feel financially broke or flushed to change the length of our tops. The traditional high neck top is approximately hip length but can be shorter or longer. The ascension of the cropped/'crop top' (also seen as a training bra) in the 80's alongside the development and obsession with gym wear pushed high neck tops to a whole new level. They again went from the sports and under/shapewear domain to being fashionable attire (akin to leggings...) So rather than being a type of functional wear it became fashionable to bear ones midriff, a trend we saw make a comeback last year, but not always to bear one's neck and perhaps not arms either.

                    The reverse is also true for length where high neck tops can be longer than hip length, sometimes much longer and can border on being a dress.

                    Note - I've used the term 'overwear' rather than 'outerwear' because the latter pertains to top layers such as jackets and coats.

                    ***Colours, Prints & Textures
                    Classic Black or White have been joined by the almost endless possibilities of colour and print. High neck tops are such an essential to many that they likely have them in an array of colours and prints and if they can sew all the better for variety! Conventionally these tops are seen as smooth or chunky knit/ribbed but they can come in everything from sporty, shiny lycra to sparkly lurex and even sequins. Lace to houndstooth it's been done. The only fabrics/textures I haven't seen make the design make use of are technical fabrics such as acetate and rayon bases used for things like waterproof clothing but you never know.

                    TIPS FOR WEARING

                    ***HELPFUL FOR -

                    1) Covering double necks or multiple chins,
                    2) Covering anything in the neck area such as scars
                    3) High neck tops create a distinct cut off point/line between the upper body and the face hence highlighting the face shape which is complimentary for those with transitional or mixed facial types. For example those who have a face shape that's in between being square and rectangular or a mix of two very different shapes such as rounded and heart shaped, a high neck top provides definition.

                    ***NOT HELPFUL FOR -

                    1) On the flipside of no: 3 above, people with distinctly angular faces or very prominent cheek bones may find that high neck tops make them look gaunt, particularly if wearing one a dark colour.
                    2) People who are sensitive to coverage on their necks.

                    ***TIPS -

                    Fabric choice is important, as depending on that and their fit high neck tops can make you appear thinner or bigger. Some will hold you in at places such as the waist, gut and upper arms but some will enhance those places so pay attention to the nature of the fabric (how tight fitting or stretchy) and the sizing when you buy. The same applies to textures such as ribbed or wide braided. To adjust this effect:

                    1) Buy the next size up to help overall and/or tuck it under trousers/skirts.
                    If you can't or really don't want to tuck it in, belts can help.
                    2) For the waist - if you have an hourglass figure or normally slim waist a wide belt can help.
                    3) For the gut - a low slung/loosely worn hip style belt can help.
                    4) For slender people in particular - either shorter or longer than hip length high neck tops are complimentary and...
                    5) On longer length versions a slim width belt worn between the natural waist and hips can widen the look of the body a bit and cuts the top into two parts which are fairly wide helping the overall illusion.
                    6) High neck tops with long sleeves can be worn with accessories such as statement necklaces and cuffs to give them a dressy look or bracelets and rings for a 'boho' look.
                    7) High necks in thinner fabrics with the neck folded once and that stay in shape without falling can give the impression of a longer neck.
                    8) Thicker fabrics and fabrics that fall in waves (unless sewed at the sides in ruche style) can give the impression of a wider neck.
                    9) If the fabric of your top stretches too much and stays that way (e.g. cotton/polyester mix) or it's just too loose for your liking, keep a safety pin on you to discreetly pin it behind your neck to preserve the shape (it's good to carry safety pins anyway).
                    10) If your neck feels uncomfortable roll the neck down and breathe deeply and calmly.

                    Thanks for reading - the full photo edition is on my blog where I used pics to illustrate and compare. Thanks and all the best!


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                      04.11.2013 15:49
                      Very helpful



                      Handy little heating machine.

                      WHY DO WE NEED CAMPING STOVES?

                      Good question, there's the obvious answer that we need something to cook on when we go camping or motoring in mobile homes. But there's also some other very handy uses such as a backup to the garden BBQ equipment, a way to keep food warm on the table (which is very handy for dinner parties where candle warmers can't handle the job) and then there's power cuts of which many may have experienced in the latest weather storm we had.

                      WHAT IS IT?

                      This particular stove is a portable single hob which acts as an all-in-one gas powered heating unit. It is a solid metal, rectangular container with one enclosed side for a gas canister and the other being the space for the hob. Both the gas and hob plate are removable. The hob plate being removable means that when not in use you can turn it upside down with the prongs facing inwards for easier storage. The gas being removable is handy so that a) you don't have to worry about there being gas open in the hob and b) after each use you can remove the gas canister so that it doesn't slowly leak over time.

                      The hob is what I would call a medium size as a 1.5lt-2lt pot and small frying pans sit on it nicely. This is a single hob unit but there are double and freestanding 'mini-cooker' units available.

                      I bought mine from eBay and the kit included:
                      1 x stove
                      8 x Butane 227g liquid gas canisters
                      1 x griddle (for pots/pans that would otherwise be too small or big for the hob the griddle allows you to use the circumference space more efficiently)
                      1x mini heater/hand warmer (sits on top of the hob)

                      The stove came in a solid, thick plastic/rubber style briefcase with instructions and a safety warning sticker on the stove itself. Everything cost approx £25 including delivery but it was a special offer some years ago and after a quick search I've found that the versions for sale now consist of the stove and butane for under £20 hence I'll just be reviewing the stove and gas as pictured.


                      On the right hand side, outside the gas compartment, there is a lever and a dial. The lever should be at the top when the gas compartment is empty and pushed down when the gas canister is in place (I'll explain further later). The dial should be kept at the top position when not in use - that means it should be turned clockwise the most it will go and that is the 'OFF' position. Turning the dial counter-clockwise all the way will bring you to the ignition point and all the turning in between those two points will turn the fire up or down.

                      Left hand of dial = Ignition/'ON' position
                      Turning upwards and around clockwise = high to low fire
                      Right hand of dial = OFF position, the gas will go off and you shouldn't be able to hear or smell it.


                      The procedure for use is very simple, even the least gadget friendly adults should be ok with it and that includes those scared of handling gas in any way.

                      Step 1:
                      Open the lid on the gas compartment. You'll be faced with the mechanism for holding the canister in place and allowing the gas to flow, nothing fancy or too tricky. All you have to do is remove the lid/top on a gas canister and horizontally place it in the stove. To do this correctly simply and gently push the nozzle of the canister into the circular metal slot/hole with one hand and push down the external level (as aforementioned) with the other. By doing this the canister should be gripped and held in place by the mechanism. Close the lid of the gas compartment.

                      Note - Remember to check the instructions first so that you know what I mean by the 'circular metal slot'. Also bear in mind that when you place the nozzle in the slot and also later when you remove it, you might get a whiff of gas because the air seal in the nozzle has momentarily been broken whilst making the connection or disconnection between the two parts (canister and stove).

                      Step 2:
                      Make sure the removable hob is the right way up (prongs facing outwards), have a suitably sized pot/pan on the prongs and that the handle is facing away from you as spills are not encouraged.

                      Note - Spills are not encouraged in cooking anyway it's true but as those with gas cookers in their kitchens will probably know; if you spill food/liquid on a gas hob and it falls into the gas section underneath the hob you have to shut the cooker off, remove the gas cover, clean the section out and wait for it to dry. On old cookers spills like that can prevent a hob from working and on portable ones like this there's no way to clean out the gas section underneath the hob so spilling can decrease the lifespan of your equipment.

                      Step 3:
                      Turn the dial all the way to the left, you should hear a click and see a Blue light under the hob - that is the ignition. The gas is also released as soon as you turn the dial so the ignition is automatic/immediate and straight after the little Blue light there should come a bigger Blue flame hence no need for matches or lighters.

                      Simply turn the dial to the heat setting you want and watch your consumables cook :-)

                      POWERFUL LITTLE FIRE

                      I used my stove recently over the course of a few days and managed to make the following with a fair bit of gas left in the canister:

                      2lt pot of popcorn x 6 times
                      2lt pot of soup x 2 times
                      1.5lt pot of tea x 4 times

                      The above takes into consideration the various temperatures I was cooking in e.g. from general lukewarm room temperature to freezing at night and early morning. Remember that it takes a bit longer to cook in the cold as the pots/pans and food/drink starts off colder and the gas will have more work to do but even then I found the food cooked and heated quickly enough. I didn't need to cook or heat anything for more than 5min. Other than simple meals I haven't tried cooking anything from scratch on the stove but I would surmise that cooking takes longer than heating and anything more complicated than toast, soup, popcorn, porridge, ready meals etc will take longer and hence use more gas. Bear that in mind if you're using a stove in circumstances where you have limited gas and might not be able to get more straight away.


                      There are a number of cautions provided on the packaging and instructions for this and I'm not going to go into them all as it's important to read them properly before using. However I'll give some pointers which I've come across having used my own and watching others use theirs:

                      *Don't use on grass. This is a tabletop stove and whilst the casing doesn't get very hot it is designed to have a little space underneath it and to stand on something solid and smooth such as a counter or a table. I've seen these used on grass before only to burn the grass underneath and with long grass there's the risk of some getting in the way of the gas and causing sparks.

                      *To prevent leakage from the gas canister it should be removed after cooking. To do so first ensure that the dial is in the OFF position (turned fully clockwise), then release the canister by pushing the lever upwards. Open the gas compartment lid and gently pull/slide out the canister and put its lid/top back on.

                      *Burn off any remaining gas in the stove. After the gas canister has been removed, leave the lever in 'release/OFF' position and turn the dial anti-clockwise to ignition/'ON' position to use any gas left remaining.

                      *Use in a well ventilated area.This is a small unit and doesn't release much gas particularly as you don't have to muck about trying to light it but it's better err on the side of caution.


                      This is a nifty little heating device which is light in weight and easily stored/stowed away in its briefcase, the gas came shrink wrapped though once opened I store them upright in a cool place. I've found that the gas lasts a long time, the heating times are efficient and the fact it gives off precious heat in cold conditions is warmly welcomed. The unit is sturdy and durable and so is the perfect companion for those who like to eat and drink hot meals when in the great outdoors, those who like to cook hotpots on the table with loved ones or to have on hand as an auxiliary energy source.

                      Thank you for reading and this may be posted on my blog and on Ciao.


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                        09.10.2013 18:22
                        Very helpful



                        Two men, one mutual name. Two women who want that name.

                        THE AUTHOR AND THE BOOK

                        The Importance of Being Earnest was a short play written by the classic Victorian satire writer Oscar Wilde, it was to become one of his most famous works though initially was subject to a controversial spotlight due to scandal in his personal life. It debuted on Valentine's Day 1895 and ran for 86 performances but was prematurely closed. Wilde later revised the script meticulously even removing an Act and combining two others, conversely taking him not only a long time but an arduous effort for what resulted in a concise and sharply witty product.

                        My version of this book was bought in the days of '£1 classics' which were unedited copies of 'classic' published works without introductions or further review hence it is basically just the script of the play without any extra frills. It's a book that I find I can come back to and re-read particularly if I'm feeling a bit sardonic. Even if you've never seen one of the films or adaptations or even if you generally prefer to watch plays rather than read them, I believe Wilde's effort really gave the words and lines vibrancy and every character has a lively persona.

                        THE PLAY

                        'The Importance of Being Earnest' is a fast paced, quaint little comedy that runs through many of the pretensions of the Victorian social elite in regards to marital eligibility in quick succession. All of Wilde's work deals with morals, ethics and social conventions and this is no exception. However the major difference with this particular piece in contrast to his others is that it borders on the ridiculous in regards to the superficial level it touches upon without any real discussion or critique of social values.

                        The characters are downright comical and theatrical in nature and all exaggerated in their characteristics. From the carefree John Worthing (Jack) who leads a double life as a jovial bachelor in the city and the grave yet fair uncle to his ward Cecily Cardew to the second lead character Algernon Moncrieff who lives a life of 'Bunburying' which is basically cavorting between town and country using the excuse of a sick friend that he is obligated to visit; a sick friend that really doesn't exist. Due to requests from their lady loves both men are eager to be named Ernest and in a opportune twist of fate that goal is reached but only after much frustration and valuable lesson learning in, as aptly titled, the importance of being earnest in both name and nature.

                        CHARACTERS AND GENERAL PLOT

                        The play is split into 3 Acts and involves the following characters.

                        John Worthing, J.P also known as Ernest (1) - Is a City and a Country fellow, the hedonistic Ernest in the city to his social acquaintances and responsible John (nicknamed Jack) in his other home, the countryside with his family. He tells his family that he has an irresponsible younger brother in the city named Ernest, who he then uses as an excuse to satisfy his need for jaunts to the city.

                        Cecily Cardew--John's ward and heiress. A young lady who has led a somewhat sheltered though indulged life in the home of her firm but fair 'Uncle Jack'; she has a naive, flirty and curious personality. She becomes the love interest of John/Ernest's reckless friend Algernon after having been impressed with the romanticised notion of 'Uncle Ernest' the Black sheep in the city.

                        Algernon Moncrieff also known as Ernest (2) - A friend of John Worthing and who is also secretly playing the City and Country game. Upon discovering that John is up to similar antics, he infiltrates his friend's country home and the heart of Cecily whilst pretending to be her honorary Uncle Ernest.

                        Gwendolen Fairfax - Algernon's cousin. She is the love interest of John Worthing and accepts him readily when he proposes, though it seems much of her love for him is in his name 'Ernest' and the assumed connotations that has i.e. having a sound social reputation and respectability, which in itself is strange since he's the opposite of earnest when in the city. She is seen to be very much under the guidance of her mother, until she runs away from home...

                        Lady Bracknell-- Gwendolen's mother and a stern supporter of class difference or at least marrying within one's class. She appraises 'Ernest' (John) to be a decent enough fellow but lacking the necessary class credentials to marry her daughter. She has a sister whose baby was lost and is perhaps even more careful with her own.

                        Miss Prism--Cecily's governess, and also the cause of one of John's mistaken indentities.

                        Rev. Canon Chasuble, D.D-- he does the honours for the couples in the play; marrying and re-naming. He is also the love interest of Miss Prism.


                        It all depends on what you are expecting or what you want if you are to get satisfaction from this play; for example if you desire the tortured soul and in-depth drama/trauma as featured in 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' then you are in the wrong place. This book is for amusement purposes only and will bring a chuckle rather than a tear to your eye. In terms of plot there is nothing too trying here only cute 'coincidences' and lucky timing with sweet romantic encounters and high-strung attitudes. The play in general makes for quick and light reading very much in the pace and convoluted style of later author PG Wodehouse (best known for 'Jeeves and Wooster') or a modern comparison would be the TV sitcom 'Frasier' for its droll sense of humour, elitist perspectives and being known as a 'comedy for intellectuals'.

                        Overall it's a tongue in cheek look at 'birds' of the time aka young well to do gentlemen with too much time on their hands, and in this case baptism being used symbolically to necessitate the chameleon nature of the characters from unsuitable to upstanding. I would say it's less sarcastic or cynical in tone to some of Wilde's other works and so easier to read quickly enjoying the quips.

                        Thank you for reading, this is a fleshed out revision of my review on Ciao under my old username ladyofsorrow. My current username is ladyofflame.


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                        • Asus Eee PC 900 / Netbook / 131 Readings / 125 Ratings
                          More +
                          03.10.2013 00:19
                          Very helpful



                          Economical, efficient, essential, easy for everyday use, expeditious etc.


                          The Asus 'Eee PC 900(HD)' is a mini laptop of sorts, classified as a 'netbook' with the original purpose of being convenient for people who like to be online when out and about - at the time they were seen as web friendly notebooks. I remember a fair bit of online buzz surrounding the launch of the Eee 900 in 2009/early 2010 but it didn't get to run its course as Asus decided to release a whole line of variations in record time. Regardless of mine being one of the early models and hence not 'updated' with whatever super duper features the later ones had, I find it to be easy to use, intuitive for those used to Microsoft/Windows common products and quite simply compliments my lifestyle.

                          I'm a laptop gal and there's no getting away from it, I have no issues with PC's but a portable laptop is where my heart is. Even then though I find laptops can be quite bulky and heavy as a travelling kit in a specifically designed carry case (with the added risk of being a target for muggers) or a rucksack.
                          When my darling Dell Inspiron died (RIP) after an arduous ten year lifespan with consistent use and abuse (parrots...) I received the Asus netbook as an Xmas gift whilst in the US. I don't know what the price was but I remember looking it up online at the time and the prices were approx $140. I can't find any for sale anymore in the UK (not surprising as the market moves along so quickly) except for a couple of similar models on Amazon for £90-100, there are cheap ones available from the US but it wouldn't be worth the potential import tax. That said all of the replacement parts are still available in the UK at places like Amazon and eBay though thankfully I haven't needed to change the adapter, battery or upgrade the harddrive or RAM.

                          I haven't needed to upgrade the harddrive or RAM some of you may say? For my personal use I don't need an overly powerful machine, I'm not a pro designer or big gamer and I don't use the active desktop. For those who don't remember what an active desktop is due to the lack of it in Vista, it's where you can customize your desktop further than just changing the theme and background. You can make it into something akin to website, almost, by adding links, animations (gifs) and video content that will work offline. Doing that eats up a fair bit of power and I used to change mine on my Dell regularly but this with this machine I don't want to risk slowing it down or overloading its ability and I don't really need an interactive visual desktop.

                          'THE SCIENCE BIT'

                          Inside the box I received the standard fare; the netbook, power lead/adaptor, manual, quick user guide, a recovery CD and support CD, battery guide (with info such as how to dispose of it) and warranty. For those that don't have access to a CD/DVD drive the CD's are a moot point as this netbook doesn't have a CD/DVD drive.

                          It came pre-loaded with Windows XP Home (the gift giver knew I had an aversion to Vista but then who didn't, at least as first) and took very little setting up; actually it was the fastest and easiest Windows setup I ever had to do. Once I pressed the start button for the first time it simply asked me to christen it with its own name, choose some settings, register the warranty and voila ready to go. For reference the Asus Eee 900 and 900HD came with optional operating system, either Windows XP or GNU Linux.

                          GENERAL SPECS

                          WHAT IS HAS:
                          *8.9" LED backlit screen (*sigh* I miss my LCD liquid crystal display from Dell)
                          *512MB internal memory for XP (1GB for Linux)
                          *160GB harddrive capacity
                          *1GB RAM (can be replaced with upto 2GB max)
                          *10GB free online storage (bit more on that later)
                          *0.3M built-in webcam/microphone
                          *Rechargeable Li-on battery (boasting a 3.5hr life *SCOFF* for XP and 3.3hr for Linux)
                          *Size: 170mm(L) x 225mm(W) x 34mm(H)
                          *Weight: 1.12kg/2.5lbs
                          *Colours: Infusion Shiny White, Shiny Black, Pearl White, Black (mine is standard Black)
                          *High speed wireless connectivity with Wi-Fi 802.11b/g
                          *Max Resolution 1024 x 600 (it does go to 1024 x 768 but you'll find the desktop becomes too big for the screen)
                          *Harddrive Interface: eSATA - so if your hdd dies for some reason you can get a SATA or combined IDE firewire/USB enclosure to hopefully rescue your files.
                          *3 USB ports (2.0 so will play items with the older 1.0 and 1.1 USB ability.)
                          *1 Ethernet port for home LAN use.
                          *1x audio port
                          *1x microphone port

                          WHAT IT DOESN'T HAVE:
                          *Neither a CD/DVD or rewritable drive, there simply isn't the space but that is easily rectified (more later).
                          *Bluetooth (some will hate the lack of this, some will love it - I love it)
                          *I've heard that some (perhaps the ones specifically sold in the UK) didn't have internal modems but mine did though I changed it so don't remember what make it was.
                          *Vista or Windows 7
                          *This comes with Microsoft Works software rather than Office so some programs/features available to Windows Office or Media Centre are not available without an upgrade.
                          *It's missing some of the keys such as the extra set of numbers available on a full qwerty keyboard as this is a mini version.
                          *Doesn't come with an external mouse (just the touchpad).
                          *It has one set of left/right click buttons rather than two nor the middle 'dot' button in the centre of the keyboard as some laptops do.

                          USAGE AND EXPERIENCES

                          MORE DETAIL ON SOME OF THE SPECS:

                          Asus offers what is called 'hybrid' storage space which basically means that on top of the harddrive capacity you also get 10GB of online storage which has user friendly drag and drop ability from your desktop/folders straight into the website. All you have to do is register and you can take advantage of the generous offer, you can upload multimedia files as well as share them via social media options.

                          The screen resolution is 1024 x 600 - the '1024' being the standard for viewing A4 size pages/documents on most laptops (though my old Dinosaur Dell had a massive resolution that surpassed many contemporary laptops *sniff/crocodile tear*) which is handy on this smaller screen because you don't need to scroll. I find excessive scrolling up or down, left or right to be a pain and distracting.

                          Being a netbook it came with Internet Explorer 6, MSN instant messenger and live-mail built-in, many may have preferred Explorer 7 but it's easy to upgrade via the Microsoft website and many users probably use different browsers anyway.

                          The lack of a CD/DVD player can leave many in sorrow initially however you can buy USB portable external CD/DVD and rewritable drives quite affordably (I got one for approx £15 on eBay) that come with video software and work just as well. They are small and easily sit alongside the netbook.

                          Screen size - whilst everything is perfectly proportional on the screen remember that everything you are looking at will look bigger on a regular laptop so for example if you do a lot of social networking and upload photos you may think you've got a photo just the way you like it but then you see it on someone else's monitor and it looks totally different. I don't mean different in terms of colour/contrast (which always have to be allowed for between different hardware) but the photo will be bigger on a laptop or PC screen and so things you thought may not have been visible will be ;) and strangely enough the image may even appear stretched out in comparison to the compact picture on the netbook screen.


                          1) Its runs pretty fast and smoothly for example blink and you'll miss the initial setup option screen prior to the trademark Windows loading screen, so if you want to adjust the computer/operating system settings before Windows loads you need to be even faster to press F2 or F8 for safe mode! Mine takes approx 45 seconds to get from pressing the physical start/On button to my desktop (30 sec to password screen, 5 sec from that to desktop, 10 sec to load everything on the desktop.)

                          2) The wireless connectivity is good, it picks up networks easily though sometimes I need to refresh it as networks will come and go on the availability list. I've never been unable to find or connect to paid or free wi-fi spots. The netbook comes with the LAN Local Area Connection and Wireless Network Connection enabled but you can easily disable them by clicking on the little icon of two computers in the taskbar which opens the Network Connections folder -> clicking on the LAN or WNC -> choosing 'disable' from the task menu.

                          3) I'm not a big gamer but I've bought some of the visually detailed PC games from BigFishGames before and this had no problem running them. I can also run multiple programs including the resource heavy GIMP design program and other programs whilst online without losing speed. Of course that doesn't mean that it won't eventually slow down (though it rarely freezes) but all I have to do on those occasions is restart to clear the memory cache.

                          4) All of the plug'n'play devices I've used have always started and installed without having to resort to the CD/DVD or installing drivers. (Note that plug'n'play can be disabled for those wary of self installing hardware and software.)

                          5) Small netbooks = smaller prices for accessories. I didn't want to spend what I consider a lot of money on a supportive insulation accessory and I randomly found a nice thick, foamy 'bag'/carry case for laptops and if folded in half for netbooks in Pounland. It fits this model perfectly and gives it good support when surrounded by numerous other objects in my bag and getting bumped along the way. Poundland do a lot of cool technical accessories so it's always worth a look though of course they have their fair share of duds.

                          6) Speaking of bags this doesn't need a purpose made laptop bag/satchel and will fit in many handbags, rucksacks or 'man-purses' without being conspicuous.

                          7) The touchpad is what I consider 'old school' in that it's fairly soft and not made of the same material as the outer casing. I dislike the hard plastic or metallic ones as they make my fingertips sensitive so I'm happy with this. The left/right click buttons are metal with soft finish and I prefer that to the hard plastic ones because I find them more durable.

                          8) Speaking of durability - goodness knows how many times this has been accidentally dropped and only a small piece of the side casing near the keyboard has broken off. It's a bit like bread and butter when it falls, it never falls on the screen and sometimes even closes itself as it falls so the screen doesn't break off. VERY durable.


                          1) The Asus website and packaging claim the battery has a 3.5hr lifespan (3.3hr for Linux) before needing a recharge. Oh please. Mine initially had 2 hours and then after a virus had 1 hour though a strange phenomenon has recently occurred where it's now saying 1hr25min and getting a little higher everytime I use it...

                          2) Some like it HOT - this netbook gets hot and really quickly particularly in warm weather and from the warmth of my hands. The internal cooling system isn't as great as modern laptops and it doesn't have visually obvious fans at the back either like my dinosaur Dell so I stand it on something to let the air can circulate. I bought a 'fan stand' from Poundland that perfectly fitted underneath with a fan in the centre, Blue LEDs and rubber corner points to stand without slipping. It worked by slotting it into one of the USB ports though in all honesty it looked like something those who 'pimp their rides' would use and didn't really make the netbook any cooler. In Winter it's fine but definitely take care in warm weather or with prolonged use, I use a mini desk fan or just wave a hand fan/paper notebook at it whilst outside which cools it down quickly.

                          3) As aforementioned I have the standard Black version but I would have preferred the Shiny Black one because this one leaves fingertips and grease/oil stains (yes I'm naughty and eat whilst using it or use it straight after applying moisturiser). It wipes clean simply enough but I'd prefer not having to as often.

                          4) As with most laptops/netbooks I've tried the sound is reasonable on some things and barely there on others and since this is XP there is no variable master volume control where you can adjust the volumes of programs separately rather than altogether hence active speakers are a must for home use. However, depending on the make/model some of them work in the audio port, some in the microphone one.

                          5) The Keyboard is very small even for my small hands/fingers and the keys are somewhat old fashioned in that they aren't soft or feel cushioned hence you have to use a little more force which may not be helpful for people with repetitive strain. I've never had any come loose/off so I don't know if they are the type that can click back in place or not or where after a while you just have to replace the keyboard.

                          6) The built-in webcam/microphone is low quality so if you instant message/Skype a lot you may want to use an external USB cam/mic instead. For those who don't need either feature, it can be manually disabled either through the system options screen that appears just after turning the netbook on or through the Control Panel.

                          EXTRA INFO:

                          Just recently my right-click button suddenly stopped working; I knew it wasn't a virus (though I ran all of the checkers just in case) and that it wasn't an incorrect registry key so it had to be the hardware. The casing was easy to dismantle/open - just make sure you either have a multi-head screwdriver kit or one that is most commonly used on mobile phones and laptops. The screws came out easily without having to force them, I had to unscrew six of them on the underside of the netbook and then carefully move the section of casing surrounding the touchpad. The casing on the top i.e. surrounding the keyboard and touchpad is split in two and interconnected so it's easy to take off/lift one half without having to face the sight of exposed wiring/circuits, just remember to do so delicately as being interconnected means that one side slides a little under the other for a firm fit. The left/right click buttons sit above a 'ribbon' which is touched with every left or right click and after a lot of use (especially the right-click) it can move out of place. In this netbook the ribbon is held in place/enclosed by a small sheet of 'foil' and it takes the merest tap/touch on that foil under the right click button to push it back into place. So all I did was touch it and tada(!) the right click worked again. After that the casing was just as easy to put back together as it was to take apart. NOTE - always switch off and unplug your device before attempting to access any internal hardware. Also remember that the warranty can be voided if you tinker with things, mine is out of the warranty period so I'm ok with it.

                          Being the US version my netbook has a US style keyboard with the @ and the " in each other's place and a $ instead of £ sign. This was easily rectified by switching it to UK mode. To do this go to Control Panel -> Regional and Language Options -> 'Language' tab and click 'details', a new box opens. Choose 'English (UK) in the Default input language section and choose 'UK' from the Keyboard layout menu. Under Installed services click 'US' and then 'remove', finally click 'Add' and 'UK'.


                          Known for being at the lower more affordable end of the price scale Asus brought out a load of variations, so many that it's easy to lose track but for what it is and for users with less technical needs this netbook does what it needs to do as long as you have small nimble fingers.

                          I haven't looked up what the 'Eee' stands for (if anything) in the 'Eee PC' and I've always been put off doing so because it reminds me of the squeal some people make when exclaiming that something is awesome, or perhaps the kind of sound picked up on sonar from aquatic mammals but I prefer to think of it as economical, efficient and essential.

                          Thanks for reading :-)


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                            26.09.2013 21:59
                            Very helpful



                            From skincare to household cleaning tea tree oil is handy to have around.

                            WHAT IS TEA TREE OIL?

                            It is an oil with many medicinal properties, as with many oils it is Yellow in colour though pale and not as thick as many other oils but that said it is very strong and has an intense 'cleanser'/anti-sceptic type scent. It's one of those oil that appeals to the general public because of its array of uses and mainly because it's commonly used as a headliner in many cosmetics from shampoo to deodorant. Its ph balance is nearly neutral and as it is non-toxic is safe for humans and animals.

                            I recently ran out of mine and went to Holland and Barrett to top up. The usual sizes and prices are:
                            10ml @ £3.99
                            30ml @ £10.75
                            60ml @ £19.25

                            H&B are currently doing a buy-one-get-one-half-price promotion (which applies to all products whether shelf or fridge in my local store at least) and so I was delighted that I could get more for my money. I bought 2 x 30ml (30ml being approx 600 drops) for just over £16. I would have made a much bigger saving buying two of the bigger bottles but as I mostly dilute mine I don't need that much. A 150ml bottle of diluted oil can last me up to 2 years. I blend 60 drops of essential oil to 150ml carrier oil which is as a general rule of thumb 2% (for small amounts 12 drops to 30ml). I'm no expert and there are different recommendations but 2% is what I'm ok with.

                            The H&B 100% Pure version comes in a dropper pipette dark glass bottle. Oils need to be kept out of bright light and heat e.g. sunlight and that is where the dark glass comes in as it acts as a filter and stops the oil from breaking down. To expound on that, oils only really need to be kept this way once ready for use/storage because they last a long time and people generally want the quality to be maintained as long as possible but for people who extract their own oils or use oil quickly sunlight is very enriching and purifying (e.g. UV light for purifying filtered water, or sundried fruit/veg) but after a while too much light/heat will go from building to breaking down and so oils are best kept in dark glass bottles (always handy to have some just in case you get an oil in a plastic container).

                            WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?

                            The Tea Tree plant or Melaleuca Alternifolia of the Malaleuca Tree is native to Australia and for thousands of years have been used by native Australians/Aboriginal people. They have a story about a wonderful lagoon full of tea tree leaves which cured many ills - perhaps it is an allegory for using the tea tree leaves, branches or oil in water for medicinal uses.

                            CAN IT BE USED UNDILUTED?

                            For many uses it is generally diluted in a carrier oil, a 'carrier' or 'base' oil is an all round oil that is mild/gentle (though not without their own excellent properties) in which a stronger oil can blend and sit with nicely to make it safer for use. I tend to use sweet almond oil as it is fairly easy to find and inexpensive as well soothing and moisturizing. I've read that grapeseed oil and fractionised coconut oil (fractionised meaning it will stay a liquid and won't constantly turn back to its more solid lard looking state) but I like to eat my grapeseed oil and I only use solid coconut oil (which I also like eat). They are also more expensive than sweet almond oil and as oils tend to last for years if kept in their containers and in cool, fairly dark places I don't worry about any of them going off/rancid. Other common and affordable carrier oils are jojoba and olive oil.

                            Tea Tree oil can be used undiluted in very small amounts on localised areas e.g a drop or two on cotton wool to apply to mild spots, shallow cuts and cold sores. It can also be applied directly via the dropper onto more aggressive versions of the former and onto things like blisters, verrucas and warts (I will go into more detail on its uses later).

                            WHY IS IT CALLED TEA TREE OIL WHEN IT'S NOT A TEA?

                            I found that confusing as well, at first I wondered if it was the oil from the tea plants we commonly use to get tea from (as seen in the tea fields of Asia often seen in adverts and on packaging) but it's not, there is a 'tea oil' that comes from the seeds of that plant, Camillia Sinensis, but this is not it.

                            Apparently the generic and confusing name is Captain Cook's fault. When he 'discovered' or travelled to Australia in 1770 he came across groves of these trees and natives making tea out of it and so he called them 'tea trees' - or maybe he just saw the steam (distillation) and thought they were making tea when really they were extracting the oil. Supposedly he and his group did make a spicy tea and learned to do so from the Aborigines though on our side of the world it is not recommended to take it internally, neither diluted or and especially not undiluted, but perhaps the Aborigines had/still have a tea making recipe for it.

                            ITS PROPERTIES

                            Anti-bacteriaI, anti-fungal , anti-inflammation, anti-microbial, anti-sceptic, anti-viral and an insect repellent - you can see why it was such a hit in the hot and humid climate of Australia (Queensland and New South Wales) not only with the native peoples but the later settlers.

                            Balsamic: The Tea Tree plant and oil is balsamic as Capt Cook saw the thick sticky substance all over them, meaning that it heals and soothes/calms/cools. As a balsam it can be used as a base for medicines and perfumes.

                            Cicatrisant: This might not sound so appealing but sometimes it is necessary for speed. This property means that tea tree oil closes and heals shallow cuts/wounds/non-poisonous insect bites or simply broken skin by the encouraging the formation of scar tissue as a preventative layer against infection. That said it also works both ways as it can also be used for scar reduction.

                            Expectorant: Encourages your respiratory passages to expel liquids/mucus causing or perpetuating things like colds, flu and bronchitis.

                            Stimulant: It can stimulate hormone secretions, improve blood circulation and encourage it to move to the area where tea tree oil had been added.

                            Sudorific: Causes sweating which can be very helpful for expelling toxins, hydrating the skin and cooling it.

                            THINGS I USE IT FOR

                            SKIN & HAIR:

                            General Spots: A single drop either on a cotton bud or directly onto the spot should zap it in no time.

                            Breakouts: A couple of drops added to my cleanser and then a couple added to my moisturiser for good measure. OR regular cleaning and then applying diluted tea tree oil all over the affected area/face.

                            Acne: I was a bit more liberal with this one, approx 20-30 drops added to a bottle of face wash.

                            For spots and acne - remember that much of these conditions are caused by lifestyle habits such as diet, cleansing and how much we are out and about in polluted environments, even stress can cause them. Tea Tree oil can help topically by reducing or clearing the symptom but it can also help the skin by boosting your immunity and deeply moisturising. However its efficiency is decreased if the above issues aren't also changed or reduced.

                            Lip Balm: I've used 1 drop added to chapsticks and left to sink in. 2 drops to little pots of lip balm and mixed. I find this very helpful in cold weather.

                            Cold Sores: As with all cold sores it takes a bit of work. On new/not fully developed cold sores I've directly applied 1 drop to the affected area and repeated 3 times a day. I've found it reduced the usual cold sore period of from approx a week to 3ish days. Before I knew about this technique I used to apply salt to the area, leave and refresh it as necessary in an attempt to dry it out and that would usually stop it getting too visibly awful. However now if I have a developed cold sore that for some reason I couldn't treat early I add two drops of tea tree oil and repeat 3 times a day.

                            Moisturiser: Tea Tree oil isn't usually thought of for this property but when diluted it really does soften the skin nicely, and when I want a particularly refreshing and soothing feeling I mix it with diluted lavender oil (also diluted in sweet almond oil).

                            Sunburn: I don't often get sunburn but it has happened and I find mixing tea tree and lavender (like above) helps. For this case I tend to use jojoba oil or wheat germ as they are even more moisturising and add 1 drop of tea tree and 1 drop of lavender and dab onto the affected skin. On one occasion I mixed the diluted oil with aloe vera straight from a plant.

                            Hair: Stress and hair loss = not a good thing, when feeling particularly stressed a good head massage with diluted tea tree oil can help strengthen the follicles and increase blood flow/help it flow freely around the scalp. This has a double benefit for those with dandruff as it moisturises the skin making it less flaky.

                            MOUTH & THROAT

                            Toothbrush Cleaner: 1-2 drops onto the toothbrush, leave for 10min and then rinse; monthly or bi-monthly.

                            Toothpaste: I sometimes add 1 drop to my homemade toothpaste.

                            Troublesome gums: 1 drop of tea tree oil and 1 drop of peppermint oil in a cup of water, swish and spit, don't swallow.

                            Mouthwash: 2 drops and a pinch of salt (sea salt or rock salt) to a cup of warm water, swish and spit, never swallow. For sore throats the mouthwash can be made and repeated 2-3 times a day.

                            Colds/Sore Throat/Congestion: Steaming the face technique, I use 1.5 to 1.7l (1 kettle) worth of nearly boiled water, fill a pot/bowl with it and add 3-4 drops. Then I sit (stand at first until I get used to the heat!) over the bowl and cover my head and the bowl with a towel and breathe deeply for approx 10-15min. If necessary I do that twice a day; morning and night.

                            Replacement Vapour Rub: 2-3 drops rubbed/spread onto the chest and inhaled while sleeping, or 1 drop on the pillow. I suppose 1 drop could be put on the nose or above the top lip but I haven't tried that so don't know how/if it would work.


                            Muscle Strain/Soreness: You know the feeling, if you over exert yourself either through general exertion or exercise your muscles can stiffen up for 2-4 days and you feel like you can barely move for the pain. I add 15-20 drops to a full bath of warm-hot water and half a cup of epsom salt.

                            OTHER USES

                            These are uses I've read/heard about but haven't tried.

                            Superficial Cuts and Blisters: Clean the area first and then depending on one's sensitivity, 2-3 drops of oil can be added to a small cup of water and used to soak the cut or be sprayed onto it if you have a spare bottle with a nozzle. OR upto 3 drops can be added directly. OR If a bandage is going to be add upto 3 drops to cotton wool/ball and lay it oil down on the cut and bandage over it.

                            Insect Bite: 1 drop directly onto the bite.

                            Bruise: If you don't have any arnica ice the bruise then gently massage in 2 drops.

                            Toe Nail Fungus: Up to 2 drops directly to the nail(s) and underneath the tip, allow to dry, apply once daily.

                            Finger Nail Fungus: Up to 2 drops directly to nail(s) and immediate skin, allow to dry, twice daily.

                            General House Cleanser: If you have a spray bottle or even just a regular bottle keeping a mix of approx 2 tsps of tea tree oil and 2 cups of water. Shake before using and wipe with a cloth to spread evenly. This can also help to remove mold and deter insects. As a better cleaner (not insect repellent) 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar can be added.

                            Air Freshener: Soak some cotton balls, tissues, sawdust (large flaky type used for small pet litter not the actual dust type) or clean shredded fabric strips (these are also sold as small pet litter) in tea tree oil. (Soak as in enough for them to retain the oil, not cover them in too much oil where they drip.) Leave some out in a bowl until the air feels/smells fresher and then dispose of them.


                            Depending on the person and what they use it for the results of tea tree oil may vary but I personally prefer it to using alternatives with long lists of ingredients and processing. At least this way I know what I'm getting and without worrying side effects.

                            Tea Tree oil has been used since ancient times, with all those people using it and hence providing free results to the doctors and chemists of bygone days or those still living in places out of reach or even modern aromatherapists and homeopaths, I'm happy with that and continue to use it as one of my staple oils.


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                              25.09.2013 01:49
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                              Explore the dynamics and social awkwardness of a group of people racially/culturally different.

                              ...and so it continues with each person knowing what they want to say but being unable to convey it clearly or understand the other person. That is the basic underlying theme of this show and it's the basis of ongoing hilarity throughout.

                              Mind You Language (1977-1979) was a tv show of the classic British comedy genre which spanned 3 seasons (29 episodes) and had an elusive fourth season (13 episodes) made separately and which has not currently been released on DVD. This review will focus on the first three seasons with the complete original cast and are provided in this boxset (2007 edition with complete 3 seasons). Each episode was 25min long and the certificate is PG. There is some extra footage in the form of uncut scenes. It is currently selling on Amazon for approx £13 and eBay for £15+.

                              PREMISE AND INTRODUCTION

                              In an adult further education college there is an English As A Foreign Language course aimed at helping people to learn English and those with English as their second or later language to improve. Every student is of a different racial/cultural background though some share nationality and some share the same overall religion but are members of sub-sects. In addition to their varying levels of English and idiosyncrasies this makes a very interesting and difficult job for the teacher Mr. Brown and is extremely frustrating for their principal Ms. Courtney who has always disliked the course.

                              This show apparently garnered dissention and controversy in its time but conversely has gained a lot of fans over time, of many ethnicities (YouTube). In my personal opinion it is obviously based on racial stereotypes but is more in the mild self-mocking tone of the more contemporary and hugely popular race related shows such as The Real McCoy, Goodness Gracious Me and 4 Non Blondes. It is a bit more patronizing and condescending than those but not in keeping with many of the shows of its time that were outrageously inconsiderate and biased or at least portrayed some of their characters as discriminatory and/or prejudiced whilst the rest of the cast would try to get them to change their ways. Mind Your Language shows many of the things that people may associate with certain groups of people in their minds or in the safety of their own group(s) but not necessarily voice outside.

                              When it comes to the entertainment media I personally cannot sympathise or empathise with characters I really dislike and find them unwatchable and that would include racist (or any '-ist') ones but I liked and enjoyed almost all of the characters in this show to different extents and found them to be an eclectic mix. I can see that being set in a classroom atmosphere primarily showing the student/teacher relationship probably didn't help the viewers that disliked the show because it focused on the wall between those in the know and those learning, making the pupils look unintelligent. The mistake is to assume that just because someone can't or is as yet unable to communicate in 'your' language that they are not intelligent. One of the great things about this show is how it highlighted many common misunderstandings that are present for anybody learning a language, particularly the difference between traditional grammatical teaching and practical teaching which attempts to get students to learn metaphors, similes, nuances, timing, tone and sub-text as well as the grammar/correct construction. It shows that language is an ever evolving and changing tool depending on who uses it and what their purposes for using it are but the important thing is to be able to understand each other clearly.


                              Where to start!?

                              As a mirror to real life there were initial onscreen groupings of various students into the groups they felt they most belonged or understood. For example the characters from the Romance languages of France, Italy, Spain and Greece immediately found common bonds with each other in language and religion and those of the Indian sub-continent or South Asia verbally understood each other quite well but also had the biggest cultural angst. The South East Asian or Chinese-Japanese relations were less frequent but always had a tentative balance of hostility-competitiveness and politeness. Also as a mirror to actuality - a common bond that saw all the men in agreement regardless of race or culture were the women they found attractive.


                              **Jeremy Brown:
                              Played by Barry Evans - probably best known before for his role as Michael Upton in Doctor in the House (1969-1970) and Doctor at Large (1971). As Mr Brown he continues the well spoken, mild mannered, likable and gentlemanly character that he developed previously and where he was treating patients of their ills in Mind Your Language he treated his students not only in their language skills but often in the personal lives as well. He had a firm but fair attitude and cared about the welfare of his students.

                              **Dolores Courtney:
                              Played by Zara Nutley, the principal was quite ahead of her time and old fashioned at the same time. She reversed gender roles as much as possible and is the first character I've seen in a 70's show referred to as 'Ms'. She was old fashioned in the sense that she held sexist views against men (twisting regular sexism and that of those in usually in high profile positions). She was fully against Mr Brown being the course teacher at first because he was a man and besides not thinking that men are as capable as women, in her experience the English As A Foreign Language course always had problems with sexual attraction i.e. it being too distracting for the males (students and teachers) hence she wanted a female teacher.

                              Ms Courtney is a tough character who is generally unyielding and very demanding.


                              **Giovanni Vincenzo Marco Dino Alberto Leonardo... Capello:
                              Played by George Camiller is the Italian, he's a chef and has a pretty good grasp of English. He stands out by being the tallest, thin and partial to wide stripes and tight jeans. He is often the class monitor when Mr Brown has to leave on errands and in that position can be quite the mafioso. Like many people where English is not their first language he often reverts to 'home' style phrases when shocked but in English terms that refer to Italy rather than swearing or portraying surprise in Italian e.g. he often says 'Santa Maria' or 'Holy Ravioli'.

                              Mr Brown: "Giovanni, the correct word to describe a relative by marriage is "in-law", as in "brother-in-law", and not, as you put, "outlaw"."
                              Giovanni: "It's the same thing."
                              Mr Brown: "It is not the same thing. An outlaw is a bandit."
                              Giovanni: "So's my brother-in-law!"

                              **Maximillian Andrea Archimedes Papandrious:
                              Played by Kevork Malikyan is the Greek, he works in a shipping office and is close friends with Giovanni. Max and Giovanni often compete over the French lady with Max playing the shorter but strong in self belief and so-called charm counter to Giovanni. Max's particular linguistic quirk is that he adds a 'H' to the beginning of many words such 'h-ok'. (Perhaps in a throwback to the late Latin influences on the some of the later languages that influenced English e.g the late Latin affect on French where h's were added and spoken but not written and became quite common whereas in the UK the lower classes are thought to drop their h's whilst sometimes adding them to other words - and the upper classes are known to add them.) Like Giovanni his conversational English is pretty good.

                              **Danielle Favre:
                              Played by Françoise Pascal is the French character and also the 'sexpot' of the class. She represents the sexual centre of attraction that Ms Courtney has seen over the years and she relishes every bit of her role. She pretty much always has sex on the mind and sets her sights on Mr Brown to add to her list of boyfriends for every day of the week. She is an au pair and gets on very well with the other women in the class until a Swedish beauty comes along... Danielle's English is also one of the best in the class but suffers from word 'ze' instead of 'the' or adding innuendo.

                              Substitute Teacher (to Danielle): "Explain the meaning of the phrase 'to bury the hatchet'."
                              Danielle: "To chop someone's 'ead off."
                              Substitute Teacher (points to Giovanni): "You. Complete the following proverb 'people who live in glass houses...'"
                              Giovanni: "...should get undressed in the dark."

                              **Juan Cervantes:
                              Played by Ricardo Montez is the Spanish ambassador in the class, he is a bartender and always upbeat. Juan's English is very poor and so we don't really hear much of him, he often says 'por favour?' as an all round answer to most questions, even greetings and as his English slightly progresses 'por favor' changes to 's'alright!' As such he doesn't progress much throughout the show though he does improve and even believes he can teach a Russian how to speak English. He still managed to be one of the funniest characters with his rare interjections of lucid English and general demeanour. Giovanni and Max tend to translate for him.

                              Police Sergeant: "What is your name?"
                              Juan: "Por favor?"
                              Police Sergeant: "How do you spell that?"
                              Mr Brown: "That's not his name!"
                              Police Sergeant: "Oh, giving me a fake name, are we?"
                              Juan: "Por favor?"
                              Police Sergeant: "I'll come back to you, Mr. Por Favor, or whatever you name is!"

                              **Ali Nadim:
                              Played by Dino Shafeek, he grew up in Delhi and moved to Pakistan. He is unemployed and is another character who has quite conversational English. His religion is a major aspect of his character, he is Muslim, always has his jinnah hat/cap and is often in an argument with the Punjabi Sikh character. Ali often says 'yes please' instead of 'thank you', 'oh blimey' and 'jelly/jolly good'. He often smiles when he says that he doesn't understand what the other person is saying.

                              Mr Brown: "Ali where would you go to get some aspirin?"
                              Ali: "The Tandoori Takeaway."
                              Mr Brown: "What?"
                              Ali: "My jolly good friend who works there always has plenty aspirin."
                              Mr Brown: "No, where would you buy aspirin?"
                              Ali: "Why would I be buying aspirin when I can get it from my jolly good friend for free?"
                              Mr Brown: "All right, where would you go if the Tandoori Takeaway was closed?"
                              Ali: "Oh blimey, The Taj Mahal Curry house!"

                              ***Ranjeet Singh:
                              Played by Albert Moses is the aforementioned Punjabi Sikh who carries a tradition kirpan knife and wears a turban. He works on the London Underground (when he first introduced himself he neglected to say 'London' and so it appeared as if he worked in shady underworld dealings). His English is also fairly understandable and every time he makes a mistake he puts his hands together in traditional prayer position and says 'a thousand apologies'.

                              He and Ali share an open hostility and use everything they can to turn a situation into a religious mudslinging match, at first their arguments had the threat of becoming physical and having to be separated by Mr Brown or other members of the class but over time they simmered down and even became friendly towards each other with occasional bouts of rivalry for the sake of it. That said, their insults were always phrased weakly (and I don't believe that was due to their levels of English), more personal than culturally offensive but with the cultural references thrown in as the cause of their fights but to anyone quite laid back, tolerant or laissez-faire the verbal content of their arguments tends to be silly. For example:

                              Ali: "Did you know it takes two Sikhs to milk a goat? One to be holding the teats and the other to be moving the goat up and down, up and down!"
                              Ranjeet: "And did you know that Muslims have no ice? Because the man who is making the ice has left!"
                              Ali: "Are you saying that all Muslims are stupid?"
                              Ranjeet: "No, just you!"

                              **Jameela Ranjha:
                              Played by Jamila Massey is an Indian housewife who speaks Hindi. Like Juan her English is very limited but unlike him she is very shy and tries not to be noticed, preferring to pay attention to her knitting than participate in class. She never gets into arguments with Ali or Ranjeet and they never approach her that way, her religious background is not certain and certain episodes hint that she is a converted Christian who admires Buddhism. She refers to teachers as 'master-ji/master-jee' and her first English breakthrough is 'gud havening' (good evening). Her English progresses well throughout the show.

                              Quote 1)
                              Jameela: "I sit at backside with Taro."
                              Mr Brown: "No, Jamila. You will sit at the back. Backside is what you sit on."
                              Jameela (laughs): "Oh no, master-ji! What I sit on is chair!"

                              Quote 2)
                              Ms Courtney: "If someone were to stop you in the street and ask you the time, what would you say?"
                              Jameela: looks at her watch and replies in Hindi.
                              Ms Courtney: "That wouldn't help them."
                              Jameela: "Oh yes in my street it's all Indian peoples."

                              **Chung Su-Lee:
                              Played by Pik-Sen Lim is the Chinese character, she is a secretary in the Chinese embassy and is very forthright and determined. She always carries her 'Little Red Book' (the communist manifesto of Chairman Mao) and knows it by heart being able to quote it efficiently at every opportunity. Like Jameela she often wears clothing from or inspired from her homeland. Her English is quite fast and fluent though she pronounces her 'R's as 'L's. She and the Japanese character sometimes come to loggerheads over their respective country's approach to the handling of society and patriotic achievement.

                              I find Su-Lee very interesting in that the major way she differs from the group is through her political beliefs which demonstrates that within any group, with lots of obvious differences or a seemingly homogenous group there will still be plenty of divisive factors such as politics, financial class and title/peerage based class.

                              Quote 1)
                              Ms Courtney: "Can anybody tell me who said "To Be or Not To Be"?"
                              Su-Lee: "Chairman Mao!"
                              Ms Courtney: "This may come as a shock to you, but there are people who've written things besides Chairman Mao."
                              Su-Lee: "Chairman Mao lite evelything!"
                              Ms Courtney: "Well, he certainly didn't lite... *write* "To Be or Not To Be"!"
                              Quote 2)
                              Mr Brown: "Su-Lee, spell "Democracy""
                              Su-Lee: "C-H-I-N-A"
                              Mr Brown: "And I suppose if I asked you to spell "Dictatorship", you would have spelt "England"?"
                              Su-Lee: "Or Amelica!"

                              **Taro Nagazumi:
                              Played by Robert Lee he is from Japan and works for an electronics company, always carrying a camera around his neck. His command of English is similar to Su-Lee's but far slower and less passionate in tone. As a character he is very well mannered and when personally addressed always stands, bows and says 'ah so!' He always seems slightly amused, a trait that only changes when arguing with Su-Lee or defending Su-Lee. He has that particular quirk that people joined by a common bond (be it marriage or by being cultural/geographical neighbours) tend to have where it is acceptable to quarrel or debate amongst each other but will stand united or stand up for the other against anyone else. He tends to add the letter 'O' to the end of words.

                              **Anna Schmidt:
                              Played by Jacki Harding is the German representative of the class. Like Danielle she is an au pair and in line with her admiration of 'German efficiency' has a decent level of English. She is strong both physically and mentally with her no-nonsense attitude, wears her hair in a classic functional braid wrapped around her head, takes the class seriously by paying attention during it and concentrating on her homework. She doesn't have any disputes or close personal friendships with any of the other students. Any religious affiliation is ambiguous but she once mentions Lutheranism as the true religion and yet later says there is no life after death. Her noticeable linguistic issue is confusing 'V's for 'W's.

                              OTHER CHARACTERS:

                              Gladys the Tea Lady, Sid the Caretaker and temporary students Ingrid Svenson (Swedish) and Zoltan Szabo (Hungarian and reminiscent of Juan but in a subdued way).

                              British people aren't left out when it comes to making light of language barriers as the subject of dialect is touched upon with Sid being 'a cockney' who can speak in rhyming slang and a one off character from Glasgow who doesn't begin or end his words and hence sentences end up as a string of 'mished mashed' half words. When these characters speak in dialect the students wonder 'blimey if that is English, what is it we are learning?' as the native speakers are unintelligible to all but Mr Brown.

                              EPISODE GUIDE

                              Disc 1:
                              Series One: (30th December 1977 - 24th March 1978)

                              1) The First Lesson
                              The pilot acts as the introductory episode showing Mr Brown as the new teacher on a trial basis, he does the register with all of the students telling a bit about themselves and Ms Courtney generally surveys them with disapproval/dismay.

                              2) An Inspector Calls
                              An education inspector (Gyearbuor Asante aka Matthew from 'Desmonds') visits the college and is mistaken for the new 'African' student (who we never actually see) - Mr Brown makes a few verbal faux pas to him his wife but the inspector learns a few things about Mr Browns teaching methods and all does not end too badly.

                              3) A Fate Worse Than Death
                              Ranjeet's betroved (arranged marriage) turns up surprisingly and when Mr Brown joins the fray trying to help he ends up in a right pickle.

                              4) All Through the Night
                              The class is accidentally locked in the college and have to try to survive the panic and inability to escape by extending their studies.

                              5) The Best Things in Life
                              The word 'free' has a wide scope for Jameela and she is caught shoplifting due to misunderstanding a promotion in a magazine, they all visit the police station and then have to help when they realize that the word 'free' surpasses Jameela's common sense.

                              6) Come Back All is Forgiven
                              Happy birthday Mr Brown - or is it? The students manage to get into a fight over his presents, his trial period is over and he is quickly replaced. However has Ms Courtney met her match in the new English teacher?

                              7) The Cheating Game
                              An official exam is looming and Mr Brown is worried, his unease is obvious and so the students decide to 'help each other' by cheating to prove that they have improved and know more than he thinks.

                              Disc 2:

                              8) Better To Have Loved and Lost
                              Ali and Su-Lee decide on a marriage of convenience shocking everyone with their decision but all react with hearty congratulations. The celebrations are cut short though with the discovery of Ali's wife.

                              9) Kill or Cure
                              Mr Brown has the flu and is absent, Ms Courtney takes over the class and is as usual very impatient being unable to tolerate the student's inability to understand her questions. She dismisses them early and go to Mr Brown's home with the aim of trying to cure him.

                              10) Hello Sailor
                              Juan meets a Russian sailor who wants to defect and so brings him to class as sanctuary and for assistance. Boris (the sailor) claims to have fallen in love at first sight but when his Captain comes for him things go awry... In this episode the Captain admiringly refers to Ms Courtney as 'British Bulldog!'

                              11) A Point of Honour
                              Danielle has been receiving the aggressive and inappropriate attentions of another teacher at the college. Mr Brown ends up enlisted as her champion and has to fight the other teacher. Ms Courtney is at first against such barbaric behaviour but is brought around and happily recommends the gymnasium for their boxing match.

                              12) How's Your Father?
                              The students are given the oral task of a 1min speech on a given topic. We learn that Taro didn't know his parents and Mr Brown empathises telling the class that he was left on the doorstep of an orphanage as baby. He later learns that Sid may be a close relative but he and his wife would be better off not knowing his identity and he gives them a big gift.

                              13) The Examination
                              Mr Brown has a kerfuffle with a couple in a bar local to the college who then may hold a threatening influence over the future of his students as they prepare for their Lower Cambridge Certificate exam.

                              Disc 3:
                              Series Two: (7th October 1978 - 25th November 1978)

                              1) All Present If Not Correct
                              Mr Brown prepares for a new school year and new students, we are introduced to two new faces; Ingrid Svenson and Zoltan Szabo. Ingrid is noted for her tight fitting clothing and traditional Blonde hair and Blue eyes, she obviously attracted to Mr Brown. Zoltan is tall with a stooped/hunched posture, very hermit like in appearance with his beard and perpetually carries around a translation book. Expecting more new students Mr Brown is surprised as all of his old students return with blasé at not one of them having passed the exam.

                              2) Queen for a Day
                              The Queen and her husband are scheduled to visit the college and Ms Courtney goes into a frenzy trying to make the place and the students look as acceptable as possible. They decide to give an official greeting wearing their home/national apparel with Max giving the others a laugh in his mini skirt and all ends in a humourous mix up.

                              Ms Courtney: "Sidney, go and sweep the school yard!"
                              Sid: "I swept it up once."
                              Ms Courtney: "Well, sweep it again!"
                              Sid: "You wouldn't like me to go down on me 'ands and knees and scrub it, would ya?"
                              Ms Courtney: "Don't be ridiculous! It wouldn't dry before they arrived!"

                              3) Brief Re-Encounter
                              An old flame contacts Ms Courtney for a reunion and we learn that Ms Courtney is a confirmed spinster partially due to this former heartbreak a previous elopement that was interrupted. Mr Brown et al have to help her when they realize that said flame is not good news.

                              4) Many Happy Returns
                              Ranjeet is looking forward to holidaying to his homeland to visit his mother. He has saved long and hard for the airfare and wants it in safe hands, Mr Brown's. Unfortunately the money is lost and the students do their best to raise the money for another ticket. They don't fully manage it but thankfully there is a happy ending.

                              5) Don't Forget the Driver
                              The class goes on a field trip but their bus breaks down and they have to manage in the middle of the countryside.

                              6) A Hard Day's Night
                              Mr Brown is unable to stay at his place for the night and is off to the local YMCA but Giovanni and Max won't hear of it offering him a stay at their home. He accepts expecting a nice bed for the night only to find it's really a couch in a tiny flat situated right next to a busy railway track. All he wants is a quiet night but haplessly gets involved in shenanigans and ends up in a police cell.

                              7) Take Your Partners
                              Ms Courtney offers Mr Brown a bribe, buy tickets to a charity ball to gain the favour of a local education official and cement his place as a teacher at the college. He is forced between a rock and a hard place, both in having to accept and in ending up with three partners!

                              8) After Three
                              There is an obligatory college talent show coming up and the students fail to present Ms Courtney with an acceptable idea for their entry, their respective talents seem talentless. Their national dress gets re-used in this episode as they decide to do a group song (the show's theme tune which has no words).

                              Disc 4:
                              Series Three: (27th October 1979 - 15th December 1979)

                              1) I Belong To Glasgow
                              Ms Courtney accepts a payoff from a wealthy Middle Eastern sheik to enrol his Glaswegian chauffeur as a late entry into the English As A Foreign Language class. Mr Brown disputes it but has no choice. The chauffeur speaks in heavy dialect and the other students struggle to understand him and during their oral presentations of their beliefs (philosophical life beliefs, not necessarily or just political or religious beliefs) he is brash and belligerent. He succeeds in interrupting and upsetting everybody to the point where it's not he that has to take a language course.

                              2) Who Loves Ya Baby?
                              Danielle has to bring her charge to the college - the baby of the family she works for - this is not allowed and she has to hide it with Gladys the Tea Lady. However the baby goes 'missing' whilst passing through the hands of people thinking they are taking care of it but neglecting to tell each other!

                              3) No Flowers by Request
                              Mr Brown breaks his leg and has to stay in hospital. Unfortunately during a mistaken conversation with hospital staff Juan thinks Mr Brown has died and passes the news to the rest of the college. They all go to his funeral.

                              4) Just the Job
                              Mr Brown is offered new prospects in a well paid position at a school, he quickly accepts and hands in his a very honest resignation to Ms Courtney. Unfortunately he wasn't fast enough and finds the position has been filled. How will he get his old job back?

                              5) Guilty or Not Guilty?
                              The students are given day trip assignments to be carried out in pairs. They get arrested for causing a public nuisance and Ms Courtney is the magistrate. Mr Brown defends them all only to be held accountable.

                              6) Repent At Leisure
                              Anna's work permit is about to expire and after an unsuccessful enquiry about its renewal she is left despairing. The other students try to cheer her up and encourage her to enter a marriage of convenience. She doesn't see how it will work and so the students take it upon themselves to make the idea happen. Fortunately for Anna, due to new legislation West Germany visas were eligible for renewal/extension and she is allowed to stay but what about her husband to be?

                              7) The School Fete
                              It's time for the school fete and Max accidentally lets slip that he knows Arthur Mullard (boxer turned tv celebrity in real life) and is put in charge or securing the celebrity appearance. But does Max really know him?

                              8) What a Tangled Web
                              Ali is upset suspecting that his wife is having an affair and confides in Mr Brown. Mr Brown follows his wife only to find her going to a very unexpected place. He misreads the situation and acts as counsellor to them both trying to get them to forgive and move on but ends up making it appear as if Ali is having an affair. Everything almost ends in a punch up but ends in a food fight instead.

                              COMMON PROBLEMS
                              No matter how adept, passable or uncomprehending their level of English all of the students had most difficulty with seeing past the literal use of words, imagining hypothetical scenarios, metaphors were hard to fathom and mostly just unseen, puns were lost and words that had more than one meaning particularly totally different meanings were a real quandary. If the show had been made in a modern setting I would have sympathised with the perplexing nature of 'office speak' that seems to take over both grammar and common usage e.g. a 'hyphen' being called a 'dash' and some confusing it with a forward slash, the ever changing format of letter writing, the general loss of the semi-colon and the 's' disappearing from words well known for having two of them such as 'dessert' yet still having to pronounce it differently to 'desert'. Or 'preasant' (gift) now and 'present' (time and tense). Then there's the Americanized version of words being accepted in the UK. That said, those are just examples of how the language has changed in my time and as it has been around for quite a while people through many ages have learned it and still continue to learn it so even though the examples in such a modern version may be different the challenges would probably be the same.

                              Not understanding the question:
                              Mr Brown (holds up lime juice): "Giovanni?"
                              Giovanni: "A lime juice."
                              Mr Brown (holds up milk): "Juan?"
                              Juan: "Cow juice."
                              Mr Brown: "Milk."
                              Ms Courtney: "Do you know where we get milk from Juan?"
                              Juan: "Si, senora. The milkman!"

                              Not understanding figures of speech:
                              Mr Brown: "Where are you going?"
                              Giovanni: "We go to spend 2p."
                              Mr Brown: "The phrase is "spend a penny"."
                              Giovanni: "Sure. I spend a penny, he spend a penny; we spend 2p."

                              Not understanding sub-text:
                              Ranjeet: "If at first, you are not succeeding, try try!"
                              Mr Brown (corrects him): "Again. "
                              Ranjeet: "If at first, you are..."

                              Ali: "Oh dearie me!"
                              Mr Brown: "You can say that again!"
                              Ali: "Oh dearie me!"

                              Not understanding the multiple meanings of a single word:
                              Mr Brown: "How about a toast for Ali and Su-Lee?"
                              Giovanni: "No sorry, we have no toast, only biscuits."
                              Mr Brown: "No, I mean a toast for Ali and Su-Lee."
                              Max: "We have no toast for them either!"

                              Mistaking one word for another:
                              Mr Brown (calling the register): "Giovanni?"
                              Giovanni (stands up): "Si, professore!"
                              MR Brown: "No 'professore'!"
                              Giovanni: "No "professore"?"
                              Mr Brown: "No, from now on you are to address me as "Sir"."
                              Giovanni: "'Sir'? Now I understand!
                              (he bows) You have gone to get knotted!"
                              Mr Brown: "Come again?"
                              Giovanni: "Si you have gone to get knotted by the Queen!"


                              Many of the people I've personally known with English as a second or foreign language have said that English is one of the easiest languages to learn, particularly in comparison to their own. I didn't understand that at first because to me the foreign languages I'd started to learn were easier and English is a 'lingua franca', a trade language, brought about by and for the purpose of national/international trade. It was considered a 'junk' language because it was a mix and match of predeceasing languages akin to the way history shows common thought of Latin in its days of founding and common usage and yet now it's seen as noble, for the well educated/elite and difficult to learn. I guess I had a similar view that English was difficult to learn because it has so much variety, the rules are bent and twisted in its constant adaption but those more multi-lingual people made me realize that it is the other way round. It is because it's so versatile that it's easier to learn and customize, to comes to terms with in one's own way - it's not like how we're taught French for example in school and then go to France to converse with a French speaking person only to realize they talk much faster than we expected and we can't really comprehend their replies because we weren't taught all the 'filler' words linking the 'correct terms'. (Thankfully in my experience the French people I've encountered were very tolerant as long as you made the effort to speak French, no matter how ineptly, they appreciated the effort and were more than willing to speak slowly and basically or if possible in English in return.)

                              Also, as the students in the plot illustrated - once you know one language you will be able to at least basically understand a similar language and as English is the product of many languages there are many undertones and unchanged 'exotic' words that have been accepted as English (as I've intentionally used in places within this review along with English turns of phrase) making it easier to learn as a second/later language. Plus it offers a flexibility of expression for many people from the stricter or more rigid language systems whilst having softer overall tone (one of the reasons many Western European music bands/groups learn English). Watching this show made me realize why it was/is probably easier for a group of non-native English speakers to learn to comprehend each other enough to be friends than it probably would be for a group of all native-English (English as a first language) speakers to learn a different language together in the same classroom. (From my experience in different schools I've seen that modern foreign languages classes were mostly treated with contempt, mockery or as a 'doss' class with foreign language and religious education teachers being amongst the highest turnover. I've also seen rapid learning English classes full of non-native English speakers of various origins where paying for the class and needing the language to function in society was a bigger motivator but they did seem to take in the lessons better than their counterparts.)


                              One of the things I really liked/admired about this show and one of things that placed it firmly in the comedy genre is the way in which the students handled their frustration and difficulties in learning English. It was like water off a duck's back to them, they just took it at their own pace never getting too down or being put down and never really doubting their ability or that of their teacher. That's partially why I don't consider this to be a serious or negative racial/cultural show - it was more of an eye opener to help viewers see the view from those teaching and those learning and showed how it can be when both sides try to be considerate to each other.

                              Additionally I liked that the main setting was the classroom - it put pressure on all involved in making the show to focus and rely on quality dialogue and body language. Though the inevitable need for variety was catered to with well timed excursions outside or in their homes; it was nice to see them out and about doing practical homework or getting along with their everyday lives as well as interacting with people they'd never met before.

                              The show demonstrated that visually obvious differences between people, differences based on living in different climates/geography or culture constructed differences are not sole factors for segregating into groupings of 'similar people' and their difficulty to communicate. It's a blend of all three factors because just as the characters in the plot saw common threads/bonds which led to a feeling of 'safety'/being comfortable and hence increased likability and willingness to put more effort into understanding or tolerating each other, people in 'real' life agree and differ whether they are from the same social group or not.

                              When it comes to tv shows/films (and books) there are very few that I can revisit again and again without diminishing enjoyment or concentration, there are even less that I increasingly enjoy with each review. This show slots into the former category but the fact that I can laugh with equal fervour each time I watch it tells me that it is just as relevant today as it was when it was made and perhaps still as instructive.


                              For anyone who likes cynical humour, classic British comedy and for those who have watched/liked shows such as The Real McCoy, Goodness Gracious Me and 4 Non Blondes or even US sitcoms like Perfect Strangers or the manga/anime [Hetalia] Axis Powers.

                              EXTRA INFORMATION

                              There was a fourth season made in 1986 but only Granada aired and as far as I know it wasn't repeated and hasn't been released on DVD. Of the original cast featured Mr Brown, Ms Courtney, Giovanni, Ranjeet, Anna, Juan and Ingrid were present alongside new characters.

                              Barry Evans (Mr Brown) met a tragic end, after failing to continue his acting career due his looks being too 'youthful' he became a mini cab driver and was found dead in his home, alone with a bottle of alcohol and aspirin and injury to the back of the head.


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