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Building blocks are a classic toy that most kids over the age of 12 months are likely to have or have played with at some stage. Mega Bloks are a straight forward lego style chunky set of colourful blocks that come in a variety of shapes and sizes and inter lock. The child (or parent) can build towers, walls or any strange shape that their creative little brains come up with.
The blocks link together well and hold their form. Despite this they generally are easily pulled apart by little hands so there aren't tantrums and tears when a toddler can't pull the bloks apart. I'm assuming all kids have a similar strength to my son (he develops a vice-like grip when I try to wrestle my car keys off him).
As well as being used as building blocks, they have been used as something to chew (though they are all far too big to be a choking risk), something to bang on the table (or any other available surface), something to hide in parental shoes, and something to throw at the cat. I can confirm that they are very useful for all of the above 'somethings'.
The big red plastic tub that the bloks come in is obviously very useful for tidying away the bloks, but is also useful for putting over your head and walking into furniture. I don't know if this will influence your decision on whether to buy it or not.
My son has played with the bloks since he was about 9 months old and continues to today (he's now over 18 months old). I imagine they will continue to hold good playing value for a couple of years yet (the tub suggests ages 1 - 5). We have a couple of other mega bloks products and they are all compatible with the mega bloks in this tub.
I suppose the main downside for this toy is fairly obvious and is only a downside for a parent or guardian rather than the child playing with it - it's messy. The bloks will go everywhere unless you have them in a confined space. We are forever retrieving them from under the sofa, behind the tv, in the washing machine, in the cat's water dish etc. etc. Also they make wonderful trip hazzards, but I guess this is all fairly obvious stuff.
For about £15 for this big tub I feel it is good value for the play time and durability you'll get from this toy.
Some say there's nothing quite like the love between a man and his dog. I say there's nothing quite like the love between a man and his toaster.
Toast is generally considered a good thing, I don't think many people will argue that. It works as a breakfast, a snack, it's highly portable, it makes a good bed for beans or cheese, or my personal favorite cheese melted over beans. You know, I love bread of all sorts, but with some breads you don't see them maximizing their full taste potential until they are toasted; step forward bagels, soda bread and veda. So I stand here before you as a fully signed up member of the toast appreciation society, so it goes without saying I'm gonna want to have me a bitchin' toaster......
I'm not going to lie to you, it was love at first sight for me with this little minx of a toaster. She's (I've only just this second genderized the toaster) one sexy toaster, what with her shiny chrome areas and her cracking browning knobs (the hours I've invested tweaking her browning knobs - to get the correct browning level you understand, it's nothing sexual, honest). However, I wasn't looking for love, I'm a very practical person, I just wanted a toaster that could hold 4 slices of bread at a time, toast them, pop them out and then we'd both go about our business. I didn't want to spend money on toaster that looked nice or went with the kitchen tiles (I'm an ignorant man who needs his wife to tell him what goes with what) I just wanted an uncomplicated relationship with my toaster. Good old fashioned no strings attached toasting fun. But sometimes the universe has other plans for you.
I think I've said enough about the aesthetics of this toaster, it looks great, but I don't just want a 'trophy toaster'. You need more that physical attraction for a relationship to work. You need fully functioning browning controls, a defrost setting, a bagel setting (it toasts the cut flat side and just warms the round side), a cancel button that works without having to press it at just the right angle 50 times and a decent sized crumb tray. The Icona toaster naturally has all these features.
I don't think for one second that any of the features on this toaster are unique, but I do find the toaster has very good build quality and operates to an excellent standard. To minimize energy waste you operate 2 slices separately. This is also good if you are making toast for two people who have different browning preferences. The level of browning is set using the browning knobs and dial (I seem to be typing the word 'browning' a lot - I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this) which gives the toaster a sort of retro stylish look.
It probably costs a little more than some people would be willing to pay for a toaster (myself included I nicked one off a truck at the rear entrance to Currys - that was a joke, it was at the back of Dixons - again a joke) at around £45 - £60 depending on colour. They are widely available in most toaster selling shops, both online and in real life.
If you are someone who likes all their kitchen appliances to match, you could invest in the coffee maker and kettle in the Icona range. All the items come in a variety of colours including pearl white, red, black, silver and blue.
Now, I'm about to sound really old, and to be fair in some peoples eyes I am really old (33!!! How did this even happen????) but I remember living in a time when everyone had phones like these in their house. And you know, phoning that house phone was pretty much the only option you had for contacting the person you were after. You couldn't try a phoning a mobile, or texting or facebooking, if they didn't answer the big old fashioned phone (or their mum didn't answer and then yell out the back door for them) you were screwed.
So the fact that there is a toy for babies based on this old type of phone seems a bit unusual to me (a phone with wheels and a smiley face is fine, that's not unusual at all). Anyway, I liked the retro fun and bought one for my son anyway. I figured if they'd been around since I was a baby and they still made them now, they must be good.
Right, this is a very basic toy. The child can dial on the phone dialer, they can pull the phone along by the string (and watch the wobbly eyes wobble as it rolls along), they can chew on the receiver, throw it out of their cot, generally swing it about (the rope bit attaching the receiver and the main body of the phone is quite short which can be a bit annoying, but I think it's to avoid babies strangling themselves so you can't really argue with that) and that's about it.
My son has always enjoyed playing with the phone. Right away (from about 6 months) he learnt to pull the phone along (well more of a 'get over here phone' type action were he didn't move but the phone was whipped over to him). It's well made so can take a good battering, plus it not expensive - £8 on amazon, maybe a bit cheaper in some shops.
I know I've said it doesn't do much but i have hopes that the boy might go back to this toy again in the future when playing - maybe even play at using it as a phone, when pretending to time travel naturally.
One thing that mystifies me about women (and this is just one of many, many things - believe me) is their seemingly universal love of clothes shopping. I really don't get it. I like to look nice, don't get me wrong, but the actual picking and obtaining of the clothes literally makes my head melt (I may not of mentioned previously that my head is made entirely from wax - it's a hereditary condition, I don't really like to talk about it. Sun bathing is a right bitch). Being in a busy clothes shop, for me, is what hell must be like - albeit with the heating turned right up and the air conditioning off. It's for this reason that I do practically all of my clothes shopping online, and one of my favourite shopping websites is MandMdirect.com.
The clothes they sell won't be to everyone's taste. We're talking hoodies, t-shirts, trainers, jeans etc. Chav chic you might say, stuff you'd wear if you were getting dressed up to hang around outside the local Spar of a Saturday evening. They have a lot of Bench, Adidas, Timberland and Henleys items considerably reduced from the RRP. As well as the chavy stuff you can get some decent smart casual clothes, suitable for the more conservative gent. I say 'gent', but they cater for women and children too. My wife has been known to order the odd item and she's like proper classy innit.
You should try and see views of the clothes you're buying from all angles. I mean, some of the stuff is there at an absolute discount price for very good reason, i.e. most people wouldn't be seen dead in it. What looks like a fairly innocuous jerkin from the front may well have the word 'Bench' scrawled across the entire back of it in day glow pink lettering. Not everyone will appreciate that.
Quite a few of my friends would also use MandM which can be annoying. Picture the scene.... You've just purchased yourself a snazzy new cummerbund or cagoule, you're looking good, you want to go and show it off at the local dance hall, then one of your mates turns up sporting the same thing that he's picked up at a bargain price from MandM too! Men generally can laugh these things off, get drunk and forget about it, but in my experience (WARNING: massive stereotypical generalisation coming up...) some ladies would put this right up there on the ultimate disaster scale. I've seen assassins drafted in to clear up messes like this before.
One thing that I would advise is that you give the super-cheap items a miss. I bought a wallet from MandM for £2.99 and it fell apart in a couple of months. Some of the really cheap clothing isn't of a very good standard either so it can be a bit of a false economy.
Standard delivery in the UK (including Northern Ireland) will set you back £3.99, or it's free if you're spending over £100 - which I find is remarkably easy to do. Delivery takes about a week - an acceptable waiting time if you as me. To be honest a quick search on Google for vouchers or discount codes will normally result in you finding some sort of additional price reduction (5 - 10% off or free delivery).
*** Me and my pancake ***
I'm a person who likes food. I talk about food a lot, I think about food a lot, and I eat food a fair bit too. I can cook to a fairly low standard, say perhaps that of a 12 year old girl from the 1950's (I've made that claim with no real knowledge or experience to back it up by the way)? One of the few things in my cooking locker that I can confidently say I can create to a decent standard are pancakes - I make a mean pancake. I can do either the thin feeble type or the thicker more substantial fluffy thick sort (they're my favourite) but one variety I can't make is the Findus Crispy Pancake.
One of the main reasons for this is that I don't work for Swedish frozen foods company Findus and they've got the recipe. I have however eaten my fair share of said pancakes and think that they're pretty great. Crispy Pancakes have been around for as long as I can remember. Always there like a small orange boxed cold friend, who I eat. And that's the sort of friend I can never grow tired of.
*** Thinking inside the box ***
For anyone out there not familiar with the wonder that is Crispy Pancakes, I should maybe explain that they are delightful folded over pancakes with a minced beef filling and a crispy coating. They can be enjoyed on a bed of oven chips with a side serving of onion rings and possibly an auxiliary serving of baked beans. But don't feel tied down by this serving suggestion, go with your instincts people.
You stick them in the oven for the amount of time on the box, say about 20 - 25 mins at 180 degrees C or gas mark 27 or sumfink. If you're honestly relying on me to give you the cooking instructions it's time you found your independence, I won't always be here to help. Go on, spread your wings.
*** You can have your pancake and eat it ***
Anyone watching their weight will certainly be happy to hear that one of these little beauts will only set you back 95 calories. So not only are they tasty, but also they won't make you feel guilty about eating them - crispy pancakes are the new salad, there I've said it.
*** Findus Keepers ***
I once overheard Delia at a Norwich City match saying that she enjoys nothing more than a cheeky crispy pancake sandwich smothered in tomato ketchup after a hard day in the kitchen. Certainly something to think about.
I do love a good comedy programme. You know, properly funny ones like Father Ted or Frasier or I'm Alan Partridge or Friends or The Office ... (I could go on listing shows for hours). And one thing I don't understand is people who say things like 'I don't like American comedies; Americans just don't have a proper sense of humour like us Brits'. However, if we just do a couple of quick random head to head battles I think I'll prove my point:
The Simpsons or Keeping Up Appearances?
Malcolm in the Middle or You Rang M'Lord?
Seinfeld or Last of the Summer Wine?
I know there are just as many US comedy duds as there are British ones, but I just thought I'd make a small sort of relevant point. Anyway....
The Big Bang Theory is a US comedy from the uppermost echelons of the very top drawer. The set up is very simple. Our two male heroes Leonard and Sheldon are super intelligent uber-nerds who work together in a California University, share an apartment and spend all their time undertaking various geeky activities with their two other friends Howard and Rajesh. Across the hall from Leonard and Sheldon lives waitress and aspiring actress Penny, who is an object of lust for the geeks. Well everyone except for Sheldon. Sheldon is such a geek nothing other than theoretical physics, gaming and science fiction interests him. I've probably done a poor job describing the set up, but when you watch the show you'll see how the combination of outstanding writing and brilliant comic acting in this series make it work so well.
You might recognise Johnny Galecki who plays Leonard from his role as David in the TV show Roseanne (Darlene's (played by Sara Gilbert who also has a small role in BBT as Leonards girlfriend, briefly) boyfriend/husband) however Leonard would have to be my least favourite character in the programme. The star of the show is Sheldon, played by Jim Parsons (who I don't want to know anything about because I just want to think of him as Sheldon). All the main characters are extremely smart, but Sheldon is the genius of the group. He is arrogant and lacking any social skills what-so-ever yet still manages to be entirely endearing.
As for the other characters; Howard is a wannabe ladies man hitting on every woman available, though he is rarely successful, plus he still lives with his dominating mother. Rajesh gets so nervous around attractive women he is unable to speak, unless he's drunk. Penny, though obviously not as academic as the men, has the upper hand over them in any social situation.
There seems plenty of scope for plot development so I hope this series can continue for a number of years as it genuinely is consistently the funniest thing I've seen in years (even funnier than Mad About Alice) and in my opinion can only grow in popularity.
All through my life for as long as I can remember I've always needed to take some time in the morning from the moment when I wake up until the moment when I'm actually ready to get out of bed and face the day. Some people hear their alarm clock go off and then spring into action instantly (I reckon these people either do something they love for a living and can't wait to get into work or have small bladders - neither of these things are the case for me) I on the other hand like to have some doze-time listening to the radio, counting down the minutes before I absolutely have to get up and go to work. So a radio alarm clock of some shape or form has always been on my bedside cabinet. Recently I'd just been using the radio alarm on my mobile phone but I decided it was time to crank things up a notch and move into the modern world of DAB radio alarm clocks.
Ok, so I had a list of requirements that I was looking for in my potential new radio alarm clock:
Good sound quality
A fair amount of presets (both DAB & FM)
User friendliness - especially for alarm setting /snooze buttoning
A good sized clock and display, but one that was not too bright
An aesthetically pleasing device
I set about looking around the internet to see what my options were and after some fairly extensive research I finally opted for the Pure Tempus-1S clock radio, and let me tell you why...
Straight off it is a handsome looking radio. Its real cherry veneer casework, not to mention chunky old skool volume and tuning knobs, adds an old fashioned bit of charm to proceedings right away. The symmetrical half speaker grill, half control panel design again ticks all the right boxes for me in the aesthetics column. So before we've even got the plug in the socket the Tempus has begun to work its beguiling magic on the keen eyed radio fan.
When you do plug it in (power can only come from a mains supply, there is no option to use batteries) the Tempus sets the clock automatically from the DAB signal, and both the FM and DAB stations are easily set up in minutes with an automatic scan. It's very straight forward to organise the stations in the order you desire, and with 30 preset spaces available there's plenty of room to have all the stations you want readily on hand. The sound quality is first class and the radio has the capability to receive all the major DAB & FM stations available in your area (you can get an idea of stations you'll be able to receive by entering your postcode at www.pure.com). The radio display's the usual station and song info on the LED display, but it also has Intellitext which provides headline news, sport and weather via certain stations (BBC 5 Live for example). I found this to be a nice little extra feature.
You can set up to 4 different alarms, which can be recurring daily, on weekdays only, weekends only or one off events. For each alarm you can set what station you want to wake up to and at what volume. If you prefer you can wake up to the alarm tone or a selection of programmed sounds, including bird calls, thunder storm and lapping waves. You can also use the sleep option to listen to radio as you go to sleep, with the radio (or, if you prefer, the programmed sounds - forest rain would be a particular favourite of mine to help me drift off) turning itself off after 15, 30, 45, 60 or 90 minutes.
The Tempus also boosts the trademark registered SnoozeHandle, which as you can probably work out is a handle which doubles up as a snooze button (an essential tool in every alarm clock - postponing your alarm for set period of time of your own choosing). I find an easily accessible snooze button vital and with the SnoozeHandle you can lob any of your chosen limbs in its general direction and it'll provide you with some precious extra snooze time without putting up a fight.
The Tempus has a yellow on black organic LED display which means you can read the time clearly no matter what angle you look at the clock. It also has a light sensor so the brightness of the clock adjusts automatically depending on the light in the room. This was a key factor that swayed my decision to buy the Tempus. In the dark the display is reduced to the perfect brightness preventing any clock light from keeping you awake. Should you need a brighter display during the night one touch of the SnoozeHandle illuminates the clock fully.
Some extra info:
There is 3.5mm line -in connection at the back of the Tempus so you can play your MP3 or minidisc player through the radio speaker, a USB Line-in for product upgrades via the PURE website and a 3.5mm headphone socket. There's also a connection socket for an additional matching auxillary speaker (which needs to be bought separately) to achieve enhanced stereo sound (I haven't got one so I can't tell you how greatly this boosts the sound quality).
The radio's dimensions (in mm) are 175 high x 210 wide x 110 deep.
This is a top class product so it isn't the cheapest DAB radio on the market. It currently is available for around £88 with free delivery on Amazon, but I bought mine on Ebay for about £60 including delivery so I'd recommend you shop around to get a good price.
The 5 C's of Buying a Coat or Jacket.
There are some discoveries/inventions in the world that leave you thinking 'how did people ever cope without this'. For example, cavemen were walking/crawling about happily eating their berries and raw meat feeling not overly warm when suddenly one of them went "Urgh! Bunga rumpagna, go rubuny rubuny et sparky boosh!" Which as most of you will know translates into modern day English as "Here Phil, I've just discovered fire, fancy coming round mine and Tracey's cave the night for a barbeque?" Or back in the day when people needed stuff moving, they used to just drag it about slowly, or pile it all on a donkey's back and tease the creature along with a carrot, until someone invented the wheel. Or the internet, I know it's only new but how did people manage without it? You get the idea anyway, what I'm about to share with you (free of charge) will completely change the way you think for the rest of your life........................................................regarding the purchase of a coat or jacket.
A Bit of History
Before I start to talk you through the 5 C's of Buying a Coat or Jacket (C/J for short) let me give you a brief insight as to how and when I was struck by this genius theory. It was 1998 and I was a student. I spent a good bit of my studenting times either travelling on a train, waiting for a train, or patiently (hmmm) waiting on a broken down train. God bless Northern Ireland Railways. So anyway, my mind tended to wander quite a bit on the commute, and on one occasion I started listing in my head the key requisite factors I needed to consider for the jacket I planned to buy later that day. They happened to all begin with the letter 'C' thus the 5 C's were born.
Ok, so if you are actually reading this review, and not just skimming through it and judging the size of it before you give it the obligatory 'very useful', you might want to take a couple of seconds to predict what you might think the 5 C's are. I've discussed the subject with friends and family on different occasions and they always think they have another 'C' to add, but so far no one has managed to convince me that there are any more than the 5 fundamental primary C's. I very much welcome any comments offering suggestions. Right, C number 1....
This is one a lot of people will guess straight away. Cost is something pretty much every person considers (except maybe the super-rich) before making any major clothing purchase. Normally people will have a fair idea what their budget is and shop in the suitable shops accordingly. I think it is worth mentioning though that something that's on sale and has a bargain knock down price is only a bargain if the person who buys it is actually going to wear it (I know this sounds massively patronising but this bit's not for you, you're not stupid, it's for all the other readers). If it sits in a wardrobe untouched it's just money wasted. So Cost alone is by no means a more important C than the other 4.
Another fairly obvious C is Colour. Sometimes people know exactly what colour of C/J they're after before they buy it. Other times it's the style of the C/J that's decided and the colour is negotiable. Either way, Colour is a major factor that has to be considered when making your purchase.
Cloth is really the material that the C/J is made out of, but 'material' quite clearly doesn't begin with the letter C and 'the 4 C's and 1 M of buying a coat or jacket' isn't as memorable a title. So anyway, Cloth... There are certain materials that some people won't wear, like vegan's won't wear leather, or the upper classes won't wear polyester, stuff like that. There are also different practical uses for different C/J's. For example you might be looking for a new winter coat, so a warm and possibly waterproof Cloth would we what you're after. There's really no disputing it, Cloth is definitely a Primary C.
Cut is an incredibly important C. It basically defines the shape and size of the C/J. You could see the most desirable jacket ever in a shop, within your budget, but if they don't have it in your size or if it's designed in a way that doesn't fit your body, it's not the perfect jacket for you and ultimately it won't be worn. Since everyone's shaped slightly differently this can often be the most difficult of the 5 C's to successfully put a tick in the box.
Possibly the most controversial C in the list, and that's why I've left it to last. Generally a compartment could also be known as a pocket, but for the benefit of this list, it's a compartment, alright?! Some people will argue that their perfect jacket does not need compartments. That's fair enough, but a definitive list to describe everyone's perfect C/J needs to cover compartments, as to a lot of us good pocket space really is a key requirement. I can only speak for myself, and to a certain extent my gender, and on the whole most men do not carry handbags, or manbags, whenever they go out so they can often end up putting a lot of stuff in their pockets. A good C/J for me will need room for a wallet, phone, keys, MP3 player, not to mention my hands too. I know this is less of a priority to some people but the fact remains, Compartments are a key requirement for the perfect C/J even if just for aesthetic value.
Primary or Secondary?
The 5 primary C's are quantifiable, not qualitative. What I mean, is you can measure them definitively. For example the cost is a certain amount, or the cloth is a certain substance or a mixture of a number of substances. These things cannot be argued or disputed, but secondary C's are open to individual interpretation by each of us and very much down to personal preference and opinion.
Whenever I've initially asked people to guess what the 5 C's might be there is one C that is mentioned time and time again, Comfort. Comfort cannot be universally measured or defined; it's entirely up to each and every individual to decide on a level of comfort a C/J provides. That makes it an excellent example of a Secondary C. All Secondary C's are either covered by one existing Primary C already, or a combination of Primary C's. Comfort is a combination of Cut and Cloth (and to some extent may be influenced by Compartments in certain cases). I've listed below a few examples of Secondary C's and put in brackets the Primary C's that cover each:
Creasability: Does it lose most of its creases just by being given a good shake (Cloth)
Cleanability: Does it wipe away kebab sauce stains with minimal effort (Cloth)
Checkability: Does it have so many checks on it that people looking at you vomit (Colour & Cloth)
Chavability: Does the C/J make you look like a chav - a negative (or does it help you fit in with your chavy friends - a positive) (Colour, Cut & Cloth)
Catch-on-ability: Does the C/J posses the ability to start a new trend (Colour, Cut, Cloth, Cost & Compartments)
Caravan-ability: Does wearing the C/J makes you look like you own a caravan (Colour, Cut, Cloth & Compartments)
So, let me just clarify that I understand individually these factors don't seem like I'm telling you anything new, but the key to successful application of the 5 C's is ensuring you fully consider all the C's together, not just two or three of them. Anyone can say you want to buy a coat within your budget in a colour you like. What I'm trying to get across is the fact that if you obey the 5 C rule strictly as a collective you will never make anything other than an excellent coat/jacket purchase again for the rest of your life.
That is the gift I have given you today. Some would say it's a priceless gift, and one that keeps on giving for the rest of your life.
Was that last line too much? Nah.
My family is split between Northern Ireland and Scotland. So some family gatherings take a bit more effort to get to than others. Last weekend some of the Northern Irish side of the family made the journey over to Scotland for Grannie Douglas' 80th Birthday party in Greenock. The location for the party (well I'm saying 'party' but it was actually just a big dinner) and also the place where we stayed for one night, was the Tontine Hotel in Greenock.
A quick bit of information for those of you who aren't familiar with Greenock; it's a reasonably large town that lies on the banks of the River Clyde on the West coast of Scotland. It's about 20 miles west of Glasgow and used to be famous for shipbuilding.
Right, back to the matter in hand. I'd been to the Tontine Hotel before, for the very same Grannie Douglas' (and Granpa Douglas) Ruby Wedding Anniversary. But this was in 1989 and I was only 10 years old, so I didn't really remember much about it before going again this time. Ok, let's begin...
*** Getting There & General Info***
I'm not very good with directions so I'm not even going to try to describe how you get to the hotel, but there are extensive directions at the hotels website using this link http://www.tontinehotel.co.uk/en/directions.html but I can tell you that the journey from Glasgow International Airport only takes about 30 - 40 minutes by car at a non rush hour time. There is parking available right outside the hotel on the street or you can use their privately owned car park at the rear of the hotel. The Greenock town centre is a mere 5 minute walk in one direction and the riverside Esplanade is only 2 minutes away in the opposite direction.
If you are anti large faceless hotel chains you may be interested to know the Tontine is the largest independently owned hotel in the Inverclyde area.
*** Check In & Rooms ***
Checking in took no time at all, with the usual credit card details required plus a couple of signatures, and then the key card was handed over (wake up calls and morning papers were also offered).
Me and my wife were staying in one of their 52 bedrooms, an executive double to be precise. It was all very much as you'd expect, one double bed, two bedside cabinets, an arm chair, a desk, a wardrobe, a few drawers, and a table. It had a small telly, hairdryer, iron, trouser press (nice), tea and coffee making facilities (including complimentary custard creams) and internet connection capabilities. The room could probably do with a bit of an update to freshen it up, the décor is beginning to look a bit dated, but the room was clean, including the bed sheets and that's the main thing. I was slightly annoyed by the television because connection at the back of it was a bit dodgy and I kept on losing the picture on Sky Sports News when I was looking up the football scores, but it wasn't a big problem (I've been informed that everyone else's televisions worked fine). The en suite bathroom was a decent enough size; it had a bath with a shower attached to the wall and was clean if a little dingy. There were plenty of nice white towels and lots of complimentary toiletries.
Room service is available 24 hours a day.
There is a selection of double, twin, and family rooms available, plus a honeymoon suite. The hotel has six different function rooms of various shapes and sizes and caters for weddings, funerals, christenings, meetings or whatever other functions you may have in mind. Unlike the décor in the bedroom, the function rooms are very well presented and completely modern.
*** Food & Drink ***
I only stayed for one night so can only comment on the food that was served at the birthday dinner and the following morning's breakfast. The food at the dinner was of excellent quality. The sirloin steak that I had was cooked just as I like it and was very tender, and there were lots of vegetables provided (if you like that kind of thing). A sample menu of what they have on offer is available on the hotel website: http://www.tontinehotel.co.uk/en/samplemenus/dinnermenu.html
The staff were very efficient and friendly, plus there was no problem getting some last minute additional items that weren't on the set menu for some fussy eaters.
There is a small bar and lounge on the ground floor near the front reception which stocks a variety of beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks. One round of drinks consisting of 2 pints of lager and 3 cokes cost £8.80. That seems pretty reasonable to me. It was quite relaxing to sit in this little lounge area on the Sunday afternoon. You can order a 3 course Sunday lunch for £12.95 and either eat it in the bar lounge or in the dining room. Menu at this link:
The breakfast is served from 7.30 to 9.30 on weekdays and 8.00 to 10.00 at the weekend. As you'd expect, you can choose from a variety of different breakfasting options. The hot and cold food is set up in a serve yourself buffet so you can help yourself to as much as you like of what you fancy. There is bacon, sausage, black pudding, tomato, mushroom, fried egg, scrambled egg, croissants, rolls, different cereals and yogurts, toast, juice, tea and coffee, plus some other things that I've no doubt forgotten. I really liked the flexibility of the breakfast, as I could make myself a bacon roll, then have a bowl of cereal, then a toasted sausage sandwich (with the tomato sauce provided as standard) and then a little yogurt for breakfast dessert. No need for lunch!
*** Prices & Special Offers ***
The standard rate for a double/twin room is £80 per night, and a single room is £65 per night (other rates are available for family rooms and premier suites). This includes all taxes and a full Scottish breakfast. At the moment there is a Weekend Bargain Break rate of £70 per night for a double room (Friday, Saturday or Sundays) or £60 for a single room per night. This is a fairly average price for a 3 star hotel, as a Saturday night stay at the Premier Inn in Greenock for two people in a double room with fully breakfast would cost £69. Bearing in mind the excellent location of the Tontine, I'd say it's worth the extra pound.
*** Overall Impression ***
If you're looking for a simple bed to sleep in and don't need any meals at your hotel, including breakfast, then you would get better value for money from a larger chain hotel like the Premier Inn. You would probably also get a slightly more modern room décor (and television). However, there's a good chance you'll be located in the middle of nowhere, and won't be dealt with friendly staff that'll stop and talk to you to find out how you're enjoying your stay and help you out with useful local information.
Basically I'd recommend it. It's battling against the corporate big boys, but its prices are still competitive. It provides first class dining, you get a traditional friendly Scottish service, and it's in a great location in Greenock.
See www.tontinehotel.co.uk for more information.
Furnishing and picking the décor for a new house isn't something that comes naturally to me. If I was being stereotypical I'd blame it on my gender or my sexuality. From watching some of the endless different television programmes on interior decorating it seems pretty obvious to me that the experts in the field are women or gay men (or Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen - who is neither a woman nor a gay man, but still comes across as a mixture of both). So when I was given the task by my wife to carry out one act of interior decoration for our newly painted living room, I saw it as an opportunity to represent straight men everywhere and prove that we are not completely useless. A bold claim, undeniably, but one I was determined to validate.
My task was to get a clock, something stylish, yet functional (a bit like myself). It didn't take me long to work out what sort of clock I was after. My inspiration struck me while standing in a queue in the bank. I noticed they had a giant flip clock on the wall behind the tellers. It boasted not only the time but also the day and the date. I've always liked flip clocks. I like the 'schwump' noise they make when the minute flipper flips. They make much more of an event out of the end of a minute and the beginning of a brand new minute than boring old analogue clocks do.
So, I set about my search for a suitable flip clock. I was after one that was about 30 - 40 cm wide by about 20 - 30 cm high, and not too deep as I wanted to mount the clock on the wall. As I do with most things I buy these days, I trawled the internet to find exactly what I wanted. I thought Ebay would have a selection of clocks meeting my criteria but I was disappointed to find none that made the grade despite carrying out a number of searches. So I had to look elsewhere, and after a few hours scouring the internet I found the flip clock I so desired from Twemco at revivehome.com, a Singapore based website. I was a little reluctant to make any more mail order purchases from the Far East (the last thing I got from that part of the world had to be returned. Mai Ling was just rubbish at cooking, and don't even start me on her ironing) but my Twemco clock arrived securely packaged and in perfect working order in a little over 2 weeks. If you were to buy it from www.revivehome.com today it would cost $160 US Dollars (about £80) and postage to the UK costs an extra $35 USD (£17.50). This may seem a bit much to spend on a clock, but it's manufactured with German Quartz movement, and needs virtually no maintenance as it keeps great time, and it looks fantastic. There may be the occasional one for sale at a better price on Ebay, or some other websites if you are willing to search around.
The clock, as you can see from the picture above, displays the day, date, month and time and has the following dimensions; 305 x 216 x 78mm. It comes with a fully detachable stand or it can be mounted directly on a wall with just one screw or nail. It weighs in at a meaty, but not too meaty, 890g and runs off the power of just one C-size battery (which will last you for about 3 years).
The clock comes with full instructions, but it's very easy to use. There are a few buttons at the back of the Twemco you just need to press to flip the flaps to the correct date and time. Be careful when setting the date to make sure the 29th February flips over on a leap year (it has a perpetual calendar). It was very exciting in our house a few weeks ago when everyone in the family gathered round at midnight to see the inaugural leap year flip. Well, not everyone gathered round, there were only a few of us. Right, ok, it was just me. I'm the sort of loser that watches a flip clock, flip. So what, there wasn't any wet paint around to watch dry. I don't want to labour the point, but midnight at the beginning of a new month is so enjoyable, 5 flips at once! There's flip over load! It's a veritable flip-fest!!
As an ugly man once said 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. I completely understand that there will be some stupid wrong freaks out there who won't appreciate the beauty of the Twemco flip clock. But for those other people out there who are of sound mind, I can't recommend the Twemco highly enough as a contemporary stylish clock for a living area, a bedroom, a study or wherever. It's very functional, I didn't realise quite how often I needed to know the time or even the date while watching telly (picking up the TV remote to check on screen is far too much effort) and the Twemco is right there willing to help me out.
One of the concerns I had before getting the clock was that it would have a loud distracting click every minute on the flip. But it has the perfect volume. If there is silence in the room you will here a deliciously quiet 'schwump', but if you are making any noise at all or watching telly, or even absorbed in a book the noise is so subtle it magically becomes inaudible. On the hour flip there is a louder click, which I find very useful to highlight the time of day, but again it's not so loud that it'll interrupt whatever you are doing, or will wake you from sleeping if you have the clock in a bedroom.
We have a white clock in my house, but it is also available in black, yellow or red if that's what you'd prefer. Revivehome.com also has a larger version of our Twemco clock available with the following stats:
Dimension: 422 x 318 x 118mm
Power by: 2 D-size battery (last appox. 2yrs)
Cost: Approx £220 plus £17.50 P&P
You'll notice that despite my glowing review for the Twemco flip clock I have only given it 4 stars out of 5. I'll concede that the Twemco is a bit pricey and it isn't that readily available, so I've rated it with my head rather than my heart. If I were to rate with my heart it would easily be a 5 star product. The price tag just proves that you have to pay for class. The limited availability, to all intents and purposes, creates an exclusive club for proud owners. When I walk pass my Twemco it fills me with pride and I can't help but cry out "straight men aren't completely useless!" Then my wife will walk past and give me a slap and tell me to stop being a tw*t.
Thanks for reading.
I, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, am not a very well read individual. I have a grade 'C' in English Literature GCSE, and have to ask my wife the meaning of 'big words' on a fairly regular basis. Basically I'd struggle on Countdown. Suzi Dent would look down on me (well Suzi always strikes me as a nice lady, she'd probably disguise her disdain to safeguard my feelings).
But don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for your pity or sympathy, I'm not an idiot (believe it or not). I can do mathematics to a slightly above average level (I would do ok at the numbers bits on Countdown, 'One from the top and five from anywhere of your choosing Carol', and boyish wink to camera. Not so smug now are you Dent!) and I can programme the timer on pretty much any video recorder that's put in front of me, I'm just a bit rubbish with the English language n'stuff. By the way this little review preamble is just to set the scene before I take on my next book review.
So a couple of months ago I made a conscious decision to improve the standard of my literature intake. I had a look around Amazon to see what I could buy. I browsed the genre's - 'Classics' - yes, some classic literature that's what I need. But hang on, maybe if I struggle with today's language, writing from over 100 years ago is going to be a bit much for me. One step at a time David, one step at a time.
'Modern Classics' - now that's more like it. It's modern so there'll be none of this 'And foresuth Guinevere did but hark whence Heratio's carriage was upon thee' (I know what you're thinking, yes I did have to bribe the examinations board for that grade C in English Literature) type malarkey. But it still has 'Classics' in its title so it ticks the culture box. Sadly at this point I got distracted by one of the other genres, 'Lad Lit', and I forgot about my Classics quest.
To those of you who have never encountered the phenomenon of Lad Lit (I'd never heard of it before, but then I don't think I've ever mentioned this but I'm not a very well read...) it's quite obviously the male version of 'Chick Lit' - lady books which have a central woman character who will meet a number of men, including one who will be instantly obvious as the man she's meant to be with for the rest of her life, but things just don't seem to quite happen and it looks like they never will. And then in the last chapter of course they do get together and live happily ever after, and we've all had a lovely time getting to the wonderfully predictable ending. Or so I'm told, ahem, being a man I obviously wouldn't read such books...right ok, I've read one of my wife's, 'The Nanny' I believe it was called. I just wanted to read a book and it had the brightest most colourful cover and everyone knows that's what you should judge books on.
Anyway, I've often heard Chick Lit referred to as fluff. Very easy to read stuff. So.... Lad Lit eh? Yeah, let's forget about the classics and get me some man fluff! (yes, yes I am aware how gay that sounds, but I'm writing a review on men's Chick Lit, I left my balls at the door when I started this review).
Ok. So, let's talk about the actual book. Our main character is Will Kelly, who has just moved to London to become an English teacher in a comprehensive school. His job isn't really that relevant as the book's timeline runs from a Friday afternoon to the Monday morning. Will is a man who's been drifting through the last 3 years of his life ever since his longterm girlfriend Aggi dumped him. He thought she was perfect and that they'd be together forever, but out of the blue she left him broken hearted. Will can be a fairly pathetic character and I didn't instantly warm to him, but I found his character, and my liking of him, grew as the book went on. He whines about his ex-girlfriend for the whole book, but fortunately it's fairly entertaining whining. The other leading ladies in the book are Will's recent one night stand Martina, his friend Alice, and a previous occupant of Will's flat, Kate. We get to experience the weekend of Will's 26th birthday and his relationships with these four women.
Like I said earlier, this book is very easy to read. It's not going to win awards for innovative storylines or take you on any sort of magical life altering journey. But that doesn't mean it's not worth reading. Mike Gayle gives a man's perspective of things well (though you'd expect this, what with him being a man and all), even though elements of the plot are ridiculous fantasy, there are true aspects of male attitudes and lifestyles picked up on and humorously portrayed. The only book that I've read of a similar nature that I can think of is Nick Hornby's 'About A Boy', and I'm not saying it's on a par with that, because it's not, but it's not a million miles away. Even though this was my first foray into Lad Lit, I can safely say Mike Gayle writes this style well and successfully takes you along with Will on his journey.
I certainly don't think this is a book for everyone, but if you're a man who likes romantic comedies (it's ok, it's nothing to be ashamed of), for example, or a woman looking who's a fan of Chick Lit, this probably will be the sort of book that'll appeal to you.
*** Other Info ***
I bought the book from Amazon.co.uk where it's currently for sale for £3.00, though the rrp is £6.99.
ISBN No. 978-0-340-71816-2
Paperback: 368 pages
My Legendary Girlfriend was Mike Gayle's first novel, he has 6 others available to buy:
Dinner for Two
Wish You Were Here
Brand New Friend
His 'n' Hers
I'm not a massively well travelled individual, in fact I've only been outside of Europe on one occasion, and that was when my wife and I went to Antigua in October 2006. We stayed at the Coconut Beach Club, and thought the place was brilliant. If you're looking for a quiet place to relax and do very little, at the best price in Antigua, this is the hotel for you.
The hotel is located beside Yepton Beach on the west of the island, about 20 minute's taxi from the airport in St John's (the capital of Antigua). Our package deal was with Virgin Holidays so transfers to, and from the airport were included in the price. One thing to look out for at the airport is the 'redcaps'. They are locals, wearing red caps, who 'helpfully' start loading your bags onto a trolley without your permission, the second you take them off the baggage carrousel, to take them out to the taxi rank. Of course they want payment for this service, so you have to insist they leave you alone as soon as they start to grab your bags. The taxi area is literally seconds away from baggage claim so no matter how many bags you have, or even if you have no arms, you do not need to use the redcaps!
Our room wasn't quite ready when we arrived, but we were directed to the bar to get a quick drink, and our room was ready in 10 minutes. We opted for the all inclusive option with all food and drink included in the price, though room only deals are also available.
The deluxe room we requested on the 3rd floor was massive and very clean, and had a kitchen, lounge, bedroom and bathroom, 2 air conditioning units and 2 balconies, including an amazingly simple but fantastically comfortable hammock. Gently swinging on the hammock reading a book was a great way to relax. There are no televisions in any of the guests rooms, so beware if this is unbearable for you (I thought it might be, but it wasn't an issue at all through out the holiday), though the TV would usually be on in the bar so you could still catch up on the news (and the football scores). The lady who cleaned the room did an excellent job, and was very friendly, and would also entertain you with her singing, free of charge!
You always got a friendly welcome at the bar, and were encouraged to get drunk at all times! The food provided was excellent. A great choice of hot and cold breakfasts, fruit, cereal, breads etc. We often had so much for breakfast we didn't need lunch! In the evening the meals are a la carte (expect Saturdays when there is a BBQ, and Tuesdays when it's a buffet after the managers cocktail party by the pool) and are first class. I can be a fussy eater but there was always something on the menu that I could eat, and it was always of an excellent standard, as were the waiting staff. Neil was always there with a warm welcome to show you to your table. A point to note though, you need to book the time you want to eat in the big book at the reception in the morning, this is so everyone doesn't arrive at the same time. The dining areas are covered/sheltered, yet still in a sort of outside area, so you are covered if there are any heavy rain showers, but you still have the feeling of dining outside.
The hotel is right on the beach, literally a few yards away, and it's a nice size, clean, has lovelt soft sand and is generally only used by the hotel guests. The bar staff would occasionally patrol the beach with drinks to save you from getting up to go to the bar! Just another great bonus. The hotel provides sun loungers for guests use on the beach, and also beach towels which you just pick up free of charge from reception, and then return when you've finished with them so they can be laundered. There was only one time in our 10 stay that they ran out of fresh towels, and they did have their stock replenished in an hour or so. The sea is lovely and clear and very calm. I particulary enjoyed the strange experience of swimming in it one time during a rare heavy downpour of rain. The hotel also has a small pool by the bar if you prefer to swim/lounge there rather than the beach.
Different day trips could be organised through the hotel, to circumnavigate the island on a catamaran, or to visit the neighbouring island of Barbuda, or simply to visit the island capital of St. John's. We took a trip around the island on a catamaran and the boat picked us up from the beach right beside the hotel, we just had to walk into the sea, to about shin height and then up the catamaran's lowered steps!
We went to Antigua to get married and the hotel offered a package to take us through the whole process effortlessly. One of the managers, Nolda, along with her assistant Bonnie, took us to the relevant registry office and high court to get our documents sorted before the wedding, and made sure everything went smoothly on the day (including organising the steel pan player to play 'Here Comes The Bride' - a nice touch). She also helped us out after the wedding; picking up our certified wedding certificate from the High court on her way to work, and making sure our wedding photographs arrived on time. We are very grateful to Nolda and Bonnie (who also was one of our witnesses!) and also my best man on the day Selwyn (hotel gardener), who would always stop for a chat when he saw us (and to climb a tree and cut us down a coconut!) and he even made us a wedding gift!! I've never experienced such kind hotel staff, and they made our stay in Antigua, and our wedding, completely memorable.
The hotel, and Antigua in general, won't be for everyone as it is very quiet and sedate. However, if you are looking for a totally relaxing holiday with no distractions, plus a hotel with the personal touch, first class service and great value for money, this can be your only choice in Antigua.
This review is also now on ciao.
I can't be bothered providing an insightful proper review right now, so I think I will do that 20 questions thing that quite a lot of women seem to fill out. Yes, let's do that:
1. How long, on average, does it take you to get rid of someone trying to sell you something over the phone?
I often have a bad line when those people phone, or they accidentally get cut off. Shame that.
2. What is the most expensive object you have ever broken on purpose? ('when angry' counts as 'on purpose' even if you regretted it soon afterwards)
In a fit of rage I took an axe to the sofa in our house after Bolton beat West Ham 4 - 0 in 2006. Though the sofa was extremely manky and was left in the house by the previous owners and we couldn't fit it through the door to get it out in one piece. So the football score just helped me with my motivation.
3. If you buy something for 99p with a £1 coin, do you really want the 1p back?
Yes. I have to give any spare change I have to my wife so she can put it in her automatic coin sorter. So if I store up the coppers for her, I can keep my good change for myself and then who's laughing? Exactly.
[Just to clarify, it's me who's laughing.]
4. What was the last thing you shouted while alone in a car?
I didn't make a note of it in my 'shouting in the car' log book, but I imagine it was a swear word of some description. I could list them, but I think that would be frowned upon. It also may have been 'COS I'M MR BRIIIIIIIIIGHTSIDE, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH, DUH DUH DUH DU-DUH' I'm a bit of a shouty singer when driving solo.
5. What is your typical path through a supermarket?
To the special offers, the milk, the microwave kebabs, then the checkout. Same as everyone.
6. Do you lick the underside of the foil top when eating a pot of yoghurt?
No, not since I nearly died after a horrific yoghurt top tongue injury at a young age.
7. How many greetings cards have you sent in the last 12 months?
8. A criminal maniac invites you to "Pick a city for destruction, Mr. Bond." Which one do you choose?
Newtownards (look it up). It's not a city, but if this bloke thinks I'm James Bond I don't think he's that bright and will bicker over the specifics.
9. Which font do you use most often?
Wingdings 2, or Arial (Yes, I'm that dull)
10. If you had the choice between a petrol chainsaw or a bread knife, which would you use for felling a small tree with a 1" diameter trunk?
I'm not felling a 1" tree!! It's only a baby tree. You sicko.
11. On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that you know when to use a semicolon?
10 - You use a semi colon to make a winking face, and a colon for a regular face. Come on, ask me something harder.
12. What proportion of the CDs you own are in their original cases right now?
I haven't carried out a spot check in a while, but I'd say the vast majority.
13. Favourite colour black or white?
What sort of grammar is that, 'Favourite colour black or white?' I'm no Richard Whitely (R.I.P) but even I can construct a sentence bester that, innit.
14. How accurate is the time on your watch?
Enough. Don't wear it any more unless I'm not going to be near a clock or my mobile.
15. What are you wearing right now?
Are you flirting with me, questionnaire?? I'm a married man!
16. Have you ever written to, emailed or telephoned a newspaper, radio station, TV programme etc?
Very occasionally to make a contribution to Mark & Lard's old radio show. That's all that springs to mind.
17. Do you, in the most fundamental depths of your soul, give a crap about the extinction of the Red Cockaded Woodpecker?
An animal with so many references to male genitalia in its name must be saved.
18. What is the cheapest thing you've bought with a debit or credit card in the past month?
A lottery ticket. I had a good feeling about entering the lottery for the first time in over five years. Not one effing number.
19. Favourite books?
I'm not a big reader, but I'm trying to get better. Quite liked 'The Time Travellers Wife' recently, and all the Harry Potter books.
20. What is your most favourite meal?
Doner kebab from La hore kebab shop in Newtownards. Oh balls, I destroyed Newtownards in question 8.
Arrested Development is an American comedy series that a lot of people, including myself, missed out on seeing when it was first aired in the UK on BBC2 back in 2004. It ran for 3 series before being cancelled in 2006 due to poor viewing figures, despite receiving a massive amount of critical acclaim (including 7 Emmy nominations) and obtaining a sizable cult following.
So what is it about? The main character that the show revolves around is Michael Bluth, played by Jason Bateman, who is forced to take over running the family real estate business after the previous boss, his father, is sent to prison for dodgy dealings. Along with looking after the business, Michael also spends a lot of his time looking after his dysfunctional family who are struggling to adjust to the fact that they are no longer wealthy.
The programme is shot in a mockumentary style, in a somewhat similar way to 'The Office', with no laughter track or live audience. All the episodes are narrated by the executive producer Ron Howard, perfectly storytelling events.
It's difficult to do the characters justice in this brief review, because the way that they interact with each other is a major part of the show. However, I'll give you a quick breakdown:
George Senior (played by Jeffrey Tambor) - Michael's father - though he's in jail he's still trying to control the family, and run elements of the business through them.
Lucille (played by Jessica Walter) - Michael's mother - She's a cold manipulative woman, who struggles desperately with the fact that her family has lost their wealth.
George Michael (played by Michael Cera) - Michael's son - The only other family member (along with Michael) who seems to be genuinely decent and honest, he constantly seeks his fathers approval. He also has a massive crush on his cousin Maeby.
G.O.B (George Oscar Bluth II) (played by Will Arnett) - Michael's elder brother - A struggling magician GOB (pronounced 'job') desperately seeks his fathers approval and respect, but is just used by George Senior to undermine Michael's control of the family business.
Buster (played by Tony Hale) - Michael's younger brother - Still considered the baby of the family by his mother, who has mothered him so much he is prone to panic attacks whenever he's not by her side.
Lindsay Funke (played by Portia de Rossi) - Michael's twin sister - Lindsay is completely materialistic. She is also struggling to keep her marriage to Tobias together.
Tobias Funke (played by David Cross) - Michael's brother in law - An aspiring actor and former psychiatrist, who may or may not actually be gay.
Maeby Funke (played by Alia Shawkat) - Michael's niece - Continually rebels against her parents, but it really just seeking their attention, often unsuccessfully.
There are a number of minor characters who also regularly appear, including the family's inept lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn fantastically played by Henry Winkler, and Lucille's slightly crazy best friend (also called Lucille) equally fantasically played by Liza Minnelli (though I don't know how much is acting and how much is just Liza Minnelli!).
There's no other way to put it, this is one of the greatest comedy programmes of the last decade. I'm a big fan of various comedy shows from the 1990's and 2000's, both American (Seinfeld, Frazier, Friends) and British (The Office, I'm Alan Partridge, Peep Show) and this is as good as any I've seen. The combination of amazing writing and genius comedy acting is right here. The storylines are always very well constructed, and the cameo appearances are seemingly endless (Ben Stiller, Heather Graham, Zach Braff, Charlize Theron...). The cast is so perfect I'm reluctant to pick out a favourite, but I have to say Will Arnett as GOB just gets the nod from me. I honestly can't do the programme justice describing it, I simply ask you to watch it and I defy you to not get hooked.
Where can you see it?
I'm not aware of it being on British TV at the moment. I can only imagine the fact that it was a ratings flop on its initial airing in the UK was down to the ridiculous scheduling by the BBC (on at 11.30pm).
It's available to buy on DVD in 3 separate season long boxsets, going for around £17 each on Amazon currently. The Season One 3-disk DVD boxset includes:
Introduction By Ron Howard
Commentary On Selected Episodes
Deleted And Extended Scenes
Featurette Breaking Ground Behind The Scenes Of Arrested Development
Original Song Segments
Featurette The Museum Of Television And Radio Q And A With Creator Mitchell Hurwitz And The Cast
Featurette TV Land Arrested Development The Making Of A Future Classic
Featurette TV Land Awards The Future Classic Award
Featurette Ron Howard Sneak Peak At Season 2
Easter Egg Tobias Out Take
To anyone who hasn't seen this show, I cannot recommend it to you highly enough. You need this television programme in your life. It's not too late.
I've seen a review or two on Dooyoo for the Beko WMA510 washing machine. And it's a quality machine, with its 1000rpm of awesome spin, its on/off switch, its fully functioning door, etc, etc. I could go on (maybe). But imagine if there was a washing machine with all those features, and the high standard Beko workmanship we have all grown to expect, plus a little bit more. But surely that's just a pipe dream, a drainpipe dream if you will, I hear you cry...
Well my friends prepare to turn your dreams into a reality. I give you, the Beko WMA520! Forget your measly 1000rpm; this beast packs a whopping maximum spin of 1200rpm. As well as the classic 'porthole' style door, which provides excellent viewing facilities, and the 3 compartment tray (for detergent, fabric softener, and pre-wash detergent) the WMA520 also has a couple more tricks up its perfectly laundered sleeve.
Once you're underway with the washing you do have the option to pause your wash at any time with the handy start/pause button, something I find essential in a washing machine. While we're talking about timing, a standard full cotton wash at 40 degrees takes about 2 hours. If that seems a bit excessive, say you've only lightly soiled your clothes, you press the 'time save' button and it does it all a bit quicker. There's your standard washing machine knob on the front for you pick to your correct setting (cottons 60 degrees, synthetics 40 degrees, that sort of thing) plus a spin speed knob so you can go for less than 1200 rpm if you're not man enough to cope with it.
If you've really badly soiled something and think that the washing machine will never get the stains out, fear not, just bin it and go out and buy a replacement, because you should have a bit of extra cash as the Beko WMA520 is nice and cheap, in and around the £200 mark. If you've made a bit of a mess you could try pressing the handy 'pre wash' button and it'll give your wash a bit of an extra clean. There is also an 'extra rinse' button that will give you 4 rinses instead of the standard 3, which is to extract more detergent for people with particularly sensitive skin.
Another genuinely useful feature is the time delay button. You can delay the start of the machine by 3, 6 or 9 hours, so you can time your washing around your busy life style.
Size wise the Beko is fairly standard at 85(h) x 60(w) x 54(d) cm and will fit under a normal 90cm height kitchen counter. It's cold water supply only so that makes things even easier to set up.
We've had ours for nearly a year and a half and have no complaints at all. We got it from Argos, but it's available from a lot of different places as one of their 'budget' options. Ours is the silver model, but it's also available in white. Plus it's energy efficiency Class A.
So there you go, a complete washing machine review without any predictable condescending sexist remarks. That should keep the busy little ladies in all the kitchens happy.