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Member since: 05.06.2009

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    • The Week / Magazine / Newspaper / 8 Readings / 7 Ratings
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      10.06.2009 23:12
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      The Week is ideal if you are politically minded and you don't have enough time to read a paper daily

      What is it?

      The Week is a magazine that purports to condense the big news stories of the previous week into one place. It is almost a one-stop-shop for catching up on what has been going on. It takes articles from all of the major UK newspapers (and some of the major international ones) and combines commentary around the same thing from different journalists.

      Why?

      The reason I find The Week useful is that I often find that I just do not have time to sit down and read a newspaper every day. It means that I am able to keep up with what is going on without having to make an effort to cram in a newspaper or two on a daily basis. I also like the fact that you get the views from across the whole of the political spectrum. I would not buy a newspaper like the Daily Mail or the Telegraph but sometimes it is nice to read how those newspapers view certain events - even if it serves only to enforce my own views to the contrary!

      I would make you aware that The Week is aimed very much at a middle class, middle-aged audience. Some of the content is stereotypical in its nature - for example, the previous week's choices on Desert Island Disks is always included and the classified adverts at the back are almost definitely aimed at houses with a LOT of spare income. This is not a magazine for those who like celebrity gossip or those who want to know the latest goings on in the Big Brother house. The stories are almost invariably politically motivated and there is a lot of foreign affairs commentary as well as the more traditional theatre reviews.

      While I grant you that The Week is not everyone's cup of tea, I am old before my time in many ways and I find that the articles cover a lot of the subjects that I am interested in. If you are not sure, pop into your local newsagent and just buy a copy of the most recent version and see what you think of the content. If it is something that you think you might be interested in, there are frequent deals for those who subscribe. The deals make the magazine cheaper per issue and you don't need to go to the newsagent every week - it comes straight to the door - bonus!

      It is most definitely a magazine for a target audience but if you, like me, are a geek at heart, you will love it as much as I do - stereotypes and all!

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    • () - Sigur Ros / Music Album / 8 Readings / 7 Ratings
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      10.06.2009 22:54
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      A fantastic album with a difference. Give it a go and you won't be disappointed.

      A lot of you may have heard of Sigur Ros more recently, due to the BBC's obsession with including their music in almost every link VT. I was lucky enough to be introduced to the Icelandic band by a friend several years ago. The music created by this group is like nothing else you will have heard before - it includes electric guitars played with a cello bow and the recording is apparently done in an old derelict swimming pool to get the required atmosphere for the recording.

      The music is absolutely sublime and almost ethereal. Of all of their albums, () is by far my favourite. None of the tracks are titled and nor is the album itself, hence the (). I know what you're thinking - "how pretentious" or "that's a bit much" - but I promise you that you will not regret looking up this band's back catalogue.

      This is the band that brought us the music from the BBC's Blue Planet - that soothing and lushious sound that is almost like a dream. () comes before all of that, though, when the band was less mainstream. The tracks are less commercial and for some reason, that makes them all the better. There are a few moments in this album where I could genuinely sit and weep because the music is so emotional. I have sat on countless occasions just staring and listening to this album.

      The singer sings in a strange language which Sigur Ros invented for themselves. They refer to it as "Hopelandic" and it is essentially a group of vowel sounds that best fit the track. There are no lyrics as such but you will find yourself putting your own lyrics to the sounds made by the singer as he calmly and serenely allows his falsetto tones to wash over you like a warm bath.

      If you have not had the pleasure of listening to this album, download one of the tracks from itunes (I recommend tracks 2 and 5 as my personal favourites) and I can almost guarantee that you will want to download the rest of the album soon after.

      The band has gone a little more mainstream recently and their most recent two albums have not lived up to the standard of () but they are still good. This album is just something else. It is something that everyone should own - hurry off to itunes now to listen to it for yourself!

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      10.06.2009 18:32
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      Cheap Chinese restaurant where authentic hot-pot can be sampled.

      Chinese food is my all time favourite kind of food so I was a little hesitant when a friend of mine suggested we go for dinner at a buffet because I have heard all of the horror stories about the food being under or over cooked and the quality generally not being very good.

      Chinois Chinese Restaurant can be found in the Omni Centre, at the top of Leith Walk in Edinburgh city centre. The pricing differs according to the time of day that you eat, ranging from about £6 for lunch through to £13 for dinner - I think we will all agree that this places the restaurant toward the cheaper end of the market!

      The lighting is fairly harsh, with a lot of strip lighting and bright white lights. This could put a lot of people off as it creates a similar atmosphere to a fast food restaurant like KFC or Burger King. The music is a little strange too; it is a mixture of cheesy pop music, traditional chinese tunes and chinese pop. The overall atmosphere is somewhat strange and unique to this place and I get the feeling that the experience of the customers depends very much on which staff are working that particular evening!

      The set up is pretty straight forward, you go to the front desk, tell them how many are in your party and you are shown to a table and given a set of cutlery. You then approach the food buffet to collect a plate, fill up the plate with as much as you like and then once you have finished the plate, you can go back for more, as many times as you like.

      The food itself is varied. There are the usual suspects: sweet and sour chicken, crispy shredded beef, egg foo yung as well as some more traditionally British dishes, including chips and roasted vegetables. The variety of food changes as the day goes on; when evening dinner starts, there is more seafood etc for example. There is also a range of desserts available from the refrigerator section, including cheesecakes, jelly, ice-cream etc.

      There is a fully-fitted bar and the staff will provide you with whatever drinks you would like. It is worth knowing that the drinks are not included in the flat price and they will be added to the bill at the end.

      I really enjoyed the evening. It was something different and, because I went for evening dinner, the food was quite delicious and I would happily go back there any time. It is a wonderful place to go with a group of friends because people are up and moving around all of the time so you get to talk to everyone in the group whereas sometimes with a big group at a restaurant, you only get to talk to the people around you. I would recommend this place.

      I did go back here a second time and I found out something that I didn't know about! I went with a Chinese friend of mine and we booked a table for what she called "hot-pot". When I arrived, we went through to the back of the restaurant where there are smaller round tables. The waiting staff brought a burner with a metal tub of stock and we were handed a menu of various items including slices of beef, prawns, vegetables etc and we were asked to tick whichever items we wanted to be brought to the table. The various things were brought and my friend taught me that the little bits of food are dunked into the stock pot until they are cooked and then they are eaten.

      It was absolutely brilliant and a real group get-together. It is not for the feint-hearted however! Dunking raw prawns and slices of raw beef into a pot of boiling stock is probably not everyone's idea of a good night. I know at least one of my friends was not a fan - she is a little more pedestrian with her taste! The good thing is that if you go for hot-pot, you are also permitted to take anything from the buffet in the main section of the restaurant too. It is well worth a go and at £15 or so per head, if you don't like it, it's not likely to bankrupt you and at least you can say you tried it!

      It was explained to me that in certain parts of China, this is how the food is served on a regular basis. There are various piles of raw food that is all thrown into the boiling stock and then the fun is in trying to find the food again!

      The view from the hot-pot part of the restaurant is also much better than the main section - there is a huge window that looks out onto trees and it feels really airy and bright whereas the main section of the restaurant has no external windows so the lighting can seem harsh (as I said above).

      All in all, this place holds a lot more than you might think at first notice. My advice is to go for hot-pot after about 6.30/7 and the staff will explain what to do and where everything goes. It is really good fun! I recommend it to everyone.

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      • Attitude / Magazine / Newspaper / 9 Readings / 8 Ratings
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        10.06.2009 17:51
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        The best of the gay lifestyle magazines ... but perhaps the best of a bad bunch?

        Attitude is a gay lifestyle magazine. It is published monthly by Trojan Publishing and is currently the best selling gay lifestyle magazine on the market.

        Every month, the production team strive to put something a little intriguing on the cover - of course they do, it is a commercial magazine. Something has to attract the customers! The covers tend to lean toward the cliché side of gay culture and play very much into the hands of stereotypes. The primary focus of the magazine is (and always has been) the London gay scene so for those of us who choose not to live in London, the magazine can seem a little alien and irrelevant.

        The regular features include a letters column, "uppers and downers" and "how gay are you". The letters section of Attitude has undergone some kind of renaissance over the last few months; gay men are writing into the magazine and actually becoming passionate about current affairs and their have been several examples of proto-debating among the readers. Hopefully, this will result in a move away from the narcissistic letters about celebrity abs and who did what to whom and where ... but I won't hold my breath just yet.

        "Uppers and Downers" is the section of the magazine where the team put together a list of things currently in the public eye and decide whether it has made them seem more positive or more negative to the public. It is almost a barometer of public relations success and failure although, once again, this tends to be accompanied by the tiresome cliché of the gay man who loves a diva and hates ugly-ness.

        The irrelevance of it all is typified in the "How Gay Are You" section where a "celebrity" is asked a series of bizarre (and borderline offensive) questions and then eventually given a score out of 100 which purports to be their "gay score". Once again, unfortunately, this section of the magazine tends to be more about the celebrity trying to convince us that they are "cool" and "down with the gays". It usually makes me think of the celebrity worse than I did before reading the article!

        It is disheartening to see the magazine sticking to the stereotypes and enforcing the self-loathing that is rife in the gay community. The London-centric journalism also makes those of us outside the capital feel second-rate. However, some of the journalism in the magazine is to be commended. They were the first gay magazine to get an interview with a sitting Prime Minister (Tony Blair) and they regularly get the big interviews with whichever celebrities are visiting the UK around the deadline date.

        The major draw of this magazine is the fact that it manages to get such big names to appear in it. There is also the regular debate between two journalists who write articles from either side of a common theme. All of these things make the magazine worth reading and there is a lot of content that could easily be skipped-over as being frivolous and a waste of time. The "other" gay lifestyle magazine out there at the moment is worse than Attitude in all of the above categories and the stereotypical view of the narcissistic and promiscuous homosexual man is forced into everyone's face.

        I long for the day that a magazine comes along that savours the members of the gay community who focus more on the intellectual side of life rather than on which face-cream works best overnight. While I recognise that a magazine needs to have appeal across the market in order to gain enough readers to make it financially viable, I do wish Attitude included something a little more meaty sometimes in order to justify the almost £4 price tag. I will continue to read the magazine because I think, of all of the gay lifestyle magazines out there, Attitude is by far the best. If this is the kind of magazine you are looking for, you should head for Attitude over the others. Let's just all hope that the gay press has the courage sometimes soon to move away from the media's view of the gay community and that it focuses eventually on the reality of the gay scene.

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        10.06.2009 15:30
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        Edinburgh is a vibrant city with a lot to offer everyone - just bring an umbrella!

        I remember the first time I came to Edinburgh. I caught the train from my hometown and alighted at Edinburgh Waverley. The station is smack in the centre of the city - you get off the train and emerge onto Princes Street, the main shopping street in the city. I have been to very few cities with such a well-placed central station.

        Coming out of the station, you are faced with the side of the world-famous Balmoral Hotel and its beautiful clock tower. Immediately, it becomes apparent that this city is something special. The buildings are gorgeous - everywhere you look there is architecture that is hugely interesting.

        Princes Street is a little like any other high street. There is the famous Jenners store, although now owned by House of Fraser and shops that you would expect to find in a cosmopolitan and modern city. Behind Princes Streets is George Street - the place to find the more high-end fashion stores and designer boutiques. Edinburgh has a Harvey Nichols store on Multree Walk with all of the designer goods that come with the store - there are also Louis Vuitton, Armani, Mulberry stores on this street, making it one of the most exclusive in the city.

        Moving away from the shopping, the city is split into two main architectural districts - the Old Town and the New Town. The New Town is a world heritage site and probably the best example of Georgian architecture outside Bath. The Old Town has winding streets and is stacked full of history. Obviously the Castle cannot be ignored and one of the major streets in the Old Town is the Royal Mile that connects the Castle and Holyrood Palace, the Queen's official residence in Scotland. The Castle is a major tourist attraction and there are regular tours around it as well as the one o'clock cannon that is fired every day.

        Holyrood Palace is also open to the public and just across the road is the new Scottish Parliament. The parliament building is in stark contrast to the conservative nature of the palace but both are beautiful in their own way and both are definitely not to be missed.

        There are regular bus tours around the city with guides pointing out the main sights to see but I find wandering around the city and finding hidden gems off the beaten track is much more rewarding. The Royal Botanic Garden is well worth a visit and indeed could be an entire day in itself! It is situated in the New Town and is the best way to relax after a day of shopping/ sightseeing.

        If you arrive other than by train, Edinburgh Airport is situated a little outside the city but there is a regular bus shuttle service for a couple of pounds that will drop you into the centre of the city - ironically at the train station!

        There are countless restaurants and bars throughout the city. My personal favourite restaurant is Petit Paris on the Grassmarket in the Old Town - it is a gorgeous little French restaurant with French staff and the best French food this side of Paris. George Street is well known for having many high-end bars and footballers from the local teams as well as local celebrities can often be spotted in these bars on a weekend.

        It is just this that makes me love Edinburgh so much. The mixture of the old and new ... Old Town/New Town, Georgian Architecture/cutting-edge bars and restaurants, history & culture/modernity and cosmopolitan. The castle and the palace and the lilted-accented Morningside give one impression but an entirely different Edinburgh exists in the annual Arts festival/fringe festival and in the novels of Ian Rankin and films like Trainspotting. Every aspect of Edinburgh is valid and every aspect makes it the city that it is.

        I loved this city so much during my visits that I chose to come to university in Edinburgh and I never left. Edinburgh feels like my home more than the place where I grew up and spent my childhood. I think it almost becomes part of you and it is impossible to leave once you have let it in.

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          10.06.2009 15:06
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          World-class university with world-class teaching in a world-class city.

          The University of Edinburgh's reputation goes before it. It is continually ranked in the top ten universities in the UK and is part of the elite Russell Group of universities - a marker that the university is renowned for its research and contribution to academia. Along with St Andrew's and Glasgow, Edinburgh University is one of Scotland's "Big Three" and a degree from this university is recognised as being world-class throughout the world.

          Situated in the centre of Edinburgh, the main university buildings are found in and around George Square. This is next to the meadows part of the city and means that it is very green and relaxing. The buildings themselves are a little less beautiful - there are some prime examples of 60s brutalist office buildings, including the main library which bears more than a passing resemblance to a multi-storey car park.

          However, alongside these concrete buildings, there are some traditional streets that have been bought be the university over time and are now used as classrooms. The George Square area is used primarily for Arts and Social Sciences degree teaching. There are lecture theatres behind the David Hume Tower as well as next to the main library all of which seat around 300 people.

          The law school is in the historic Old College building on South Bridge. This is a few minutes from George Square and forms one of the most beautiful parts of the university. The tower can be seen from almost everywhere in the city and the Principal of the University's office in set within this building too.

          The theoretical parts of Medical degrees are taught in the medical buildings off Bristo Square and these are, once again, some very beautiful buildings which back onto the historic McEwan Hall. The vet school is situated just off the meadows and the main science buildings can be found at King's Buildings (KB) which is a little distance along Mayfield Road - there is a free shuttle bus between the two main areas every 15 minutes or so.

          The teaching and research at the university is continually ranked at world class levels and the standard of the academic staff is outstanding in most if not all departments. There is a strong sense of support throughout the university with every student being allocated a Director of Studies who is a first point of call for all problems and questions.

          The student mixture is a healthy ratio of Scottish:Rest of UK students. There is a large number of English students which makes this university different from the University of Glasgow that has a large number of Scottish students and few English students. Class sizes and tutorial sizes are regularly kept low and lectures are usually at around 250-300 people in popular Arts/Social Science degrees but lecturers are happy to take individual/ personal questions following the lecture so that students do not simply feel like a number.

          Graduations take place in the McEwan Hall which is an absolutely beautiful building and the ceremony of it all makes one glad that Edinburgh was one's choice at the time of making such a huge decision.

          Socially, there are two main student unions, Teviot and Potterrow. Students are free to use both of them interchangeably and many do so. As well as these two places, there are countless bars and clubs which welcome students. There is little if any conflict with the local people unlike universities like Durham so the whole experience is somewhat more relaxed.

          I am glad I chose to go to university in Edinburgh. As a graduate, I am able to use the library facilities for the rest of my life and the degree has given me skills that I can put to use in whatever walk of life I find myself. Everyone values an Edinburgh University degree and if you are about to make the choice of where to go, there are a LOT worse places that you could find yourself than Edinburgh. A lot of people come here for four years of university and find it impossible to ever leave!

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          10.06.2009 14:38
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          Student halls of residence with catering, cleaning and internet provided.

          I stayed in Pollock Halls during my first year - in Lee House to be exact - and found the whole experience to be positive in the main.

          The location of the halls was a slight concern to me when I first looked at it on a map - it seemed awfully far to get to the university buildings from the halls. Let me assure you that the maps are deceptive. At the most, the walk from Pollock Halls to George Square takes about 10-15 minutes - if you walk incredibly slowly, perhaps a little longer. The best thing about the location is that it is so close to Arthur's Seat, a large dormant volcano that forms a picturesque setting in the centre of the city, and Holyrood Park, the green area surrounding Arthur's Seat that makes for beautiful, head-clearing walks when the studying gets a little too much.

          The rooms are what you might expect of student halls of residence. My room had a bed, a sink, a desk, a telephone and an internet connection point. There was plenty of room for all of my stuff and there was a large cork notice-board in the room so that I could keep important pieces of paper to hand. The internet connection at Pollock Halls is marketed as "Resnet". It is a high speed connection that is fairly reliable and it is all included in the price that you pay for living there. Each corridor has two shower rooms and a bathroom between about 8-9 people. Because everyone's classes tend to start at various times throughout the day, there is never usually a problem with having to wait to use the shower on a morning etc.

          A cleaner comes on a daily basis to empty the waste paper bins in the rooms and once a week, they will give your room a quick clean and tidy, provided you have not left books and paper all over the place.

          The price can be a sticking point with Pollock Halls. It is rather expensive but it does include the room, food from the attached catering building, a cleaner, the internet connection etc. There is at least one warden in each building; they tend to be older students that have agreed to stay in halls to ensure that any problems are handled quickly and effectively.

          The food from the JMC (the catering building) is okay. It is not gourmet dining by any stretch of the imagination but nor is it chips and beans every day. There is a choice every day and there is always a salad bar for those who do not want to choose anything from the hot food counter. The food works on a points system so that everyone is allowed a fair amount of food and it stops people being selfish and cuts down on waste.

          The major benefit of Pollock Halls is the ability to mix with students in the same position as you - living away from home for the first time and probably in a city far away from their family. It is a good way to make a lot of friends very quickly and there are organised nights out in the first few weeks which allow people to mix together and get to know one another/ break the ice. It is true that there are "yahs" - public-schooled people with rather loud voices and a lot of self-confidence - but then there are also a lot of non-yahs; they just tend to be a little quieter.

          If I were going back to do my degree again, I would definitely choose to stay in Pollock Halls again. I enjoyed my time there and, although I did not necessarily get along with everyone on my corridor, there were enough people with the same sense of humour and interests as me that I did not feel lonely and I made friends fairly quickly. The university tries to put people on the same corridor who show similar interests etc to make such a big upheaval a little less daunting. I am glad I chose Pollock Halls over self-catering halls and have no reservations with recommending the same course of action to others.

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          10.06.2009 14:15
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          The home of presbyterianism in a beautiful building in the centre of Edinburgh city.

          St Giles' Cathedral is known as the High Kirk of Scotland. It is situated on the Royal Mile, in the very centre of the city.

          The building itself can be seen from most places in the city and forms part of the skyline from all of the best vantage points with its golden cockerel being visible at all times.

          The cathedral has undergone a huge amount of renovation in the last few years which has brought about a few new stained glass windows - they are beautiful - and most recently new lighting. The lighting was much needed as the unusual design of the cathedral makes natural light a little scarce.

          There are several large pillars in the centre of the cathedral that makes visibility quite difficult during the services. For example, the choir stalls are set back and are almost impossible to see from the congregation seats. There are very few places in the cathedral where one can see both the minister and the choir. Having said that, the cathedral itself is a huge tourist attraction and at almost any time of the year, one will find tourists from all over the world looking around the cathedral.

          The organ was replaced a few years ago and it is grand and clear when it is played. The master of music is an accomplished organ player and it is a delight to attend the cathedral during one of the many music concerts held at the cathedral. The choir, which sings at all services at the cathedral, are by no means a world-renowned choir but they are very accomplished. For me, the choir is the weakest part of the cathedral package. I often find the repertoire to be too strained and forced. The choir has a lot of older members - musical though they are - and sometimes the music that is chosen for performance would suit a younger choir more and I wish they would choose something that would suit the choir that they have rather than the choir that they want.

          The minister at the moment is Gilleasbuig Macmillan and if one is lucky enough to have the time to attend a service with one of his sermons, one will not be disappointed. His voice has a highlands lilt to it and his intellect shines through whenever he speaks. The cathedral is presbyterian in nature as one might expect from the High Kirk of Scotland and indeed it is regarded by many as the home of presbyterianism.

          Attached to the cathedral, there is the usual tourist shop, selling souvenirs/ books etc as one might expect so one is able to take away a reminder of the cathedral so that one can relive the memories whenever one wants.

          I personally find the cathedral to be a wonderful place. I have been there countless times and I still find something new every time I go. I recommend it to everyone and, given its central location and domineering building, tourists cannot fail to notice the cathedral. It is free to go in and look around and it is open all day, every day - except when there is a service going on.

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        • More +
          09.06.2009 22:04
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          Fantastic restaurant, great food, great wine, great service - book a table NOW!

          I was taken to this restaurant as a birthday surprise and, having heard a lot about it, my expectations were high - not only did it live up to the expectations but it surpassed them and created an entirely new bar for all other restaurants to reach. It is located next to Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile. It is easily accessible by taxi, by public transport and indeed by foot.

          Beginning with the décor, the atmosphere is set by fairly dark and heavy décor. There are lots of dark reds and metals and feint stencilling on the walls and ceiling; the chairs are extremely luxurious and heavy and I personally wanted to take mine home with me! The table was laid immaculately and the cutlery and glasses were polished so well that I could have sworn that it must be someone's job purely to polish table settings!

          The wine list next. It is phenomenal. I am a HUGE fan of red wine and there were so many to choose from that it became almost an evening in itself. There really is something for everyone - dark and heavy to light and fruity - regular restaurant prices through to once-in-a-lifetime-treat bottles at eye-watering prices. I settled on two different bottles and they were set aside and a specialist wine waiter came over to explain the wine to us and allow us to taste it as usual but something felt special about it. We felt really well looked after all the way through the evening.

          Next, and most importantly, the food. The food was AMAZING. The style of food is a mix of high-end French/British/Italian dishes. The menu was world-class and when it was brought to the table (without any excessive waiting), it was absolutely divine. The starter and the main were beautifully presented and I had the world's nicest dessert; it was small bite-size pieces of everything on the dessert menu because I could not choose between them.

          The waiting staff were an absolute dream and, although the restaurant is expensive, it is worth every penny. If I could, I would go to the Witchery for every special occasion! I recommend this restaurant to everyone ... go now and you'll never expect the same from any other place!

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          • Jenners / Department Store / 4 Readings / 4 Ratings
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            09.06.2009 21:46
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            Jenners - now like any other department store on any other high street.

            I'm afraid that having read the other review of Jenners, things have changed. Jenners was bought by House of Fraser and there is now nothing special about this once great store.

            Jenners is now just like any other House of Fraser store, one with the labyrinthine layout of the old Jenners. What we indeed now have is a store that is almost impossible to navigate and that is filled with some of Scotland's rudest staff.

            My last visit to Jenners was typified by several members of staff abruptly telling me that they did not know where I would find certain items and I should just wander around until I found the department I needed. While I do not hold the staff themselves responsible (I have worked in a department store when I was a student and I know how large they can be and how everything moves every ten minutes) I do hold the management responsible for the store's many failings.

            New departments have opened within the store, including Hamley's toy store in the basement but unfortunately this also failed to live up to the hype. There is an air of something among the staff in Jenners that suggests that they cannot be bothered to help anyone and asking them a question always seems to be a big chore.

            It saddens me to have to review this once great store in such a way. The building is a true Edinburgh landmark and forms one of the central pieces of Princes Street, the main shopping street in Edinburgh. I think however, the purchase of Jenners by House of Fraser has taken away everything that was special and different about Jenners. There is now nothing sold in Jenners that cannot be bought elsewhere in the city - and probably at a lower price. The only reason to go into Jenners now is as a tourist attraction. Even the tourist souvenirs can be bought a few stores along Princes Street though, so once you have had a look around, head further down the street and buy the souvenirs at a fraction of the price.

            I hope things look up for this store in the future, I really do. It is a shame to see it as a shadow of its former self but I am afraid that is what it has become.

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            • Wii Music (Wii) / Nintendo Wii Game / 6 Readings / 6 Ratings
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              09.06.2009 21:23
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              Good idea with brilliant background games but the main idea is lacking in interest-keeping features.

              Wii Music is a strange concept for a game. The idea is that one is able to play various musical instruments using the Wii controller by holding it in various different ways. One is then able to layer the recordings of several instruments over one another to create a track with harmony parts, percussion etc.

              The main problem with this game lies in the obvious fact that you are not holding the actual instrument in your hands so you are somewhat in the hands of the Wii as to how far you can ad lib around the melody to create really different sounds with the same tune. One of the best things is that there is a tutorial option where one can learn about different styles of music from all around the world - one is introduced to instruments, rhythms and styles from all over the world. This is brilliant for someone who has an interest in world music and various cultures.

              My favourite part of the game comes with the handbell game. There is a selection of about six well-known tunes and, by using the Wii controller and a nunchuck, one is able to take part in a handbell orchestra and play the tunes. This can be played by up to four people at the same time (depending on how many controllers one has) and has provided me with hours of fun.

              There is also a conducting feature where one is able to "conduct" an orchestra/ choir made up of Wii characters. I love this but it is nothing like real-life conducting. One can only conduct with downbeats and the orchestra are sometimes slow to respond to tempo changes but it is fun nonetheless. I like the way that there are tunes which require very different ensembles - the Vivaldi has a baroque orchestra and a soloist and the Beethoven has a choir and therefore requires a very different kind of conducting.

              I like this game a lot but the main section - the creating the tracks by layering the instruments over each other - will become old very quickly. Personally, I do keep coming back to the games (handbells and conducting) but I am not sure I would have bought the game in the first place if I had known that I would only use it for this purpose.

              It is worth a go ... borrow it from a friend or hire it from a shop rather than buying it though. It will save you money in the long run.

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            • More +
              09.06.2009 21:03
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              Fabulous voice, fabulous songs, fabulous artist ... fabulous album. Buy it!

              I was never really a Beyoncé fan ... until this album. I admit I was drawn to it by all of the hype and, like most people, when I buy an album, I end up listening to a few of the tracks and neglecting most of the others.

              This album was different. It begins with the fantastic "If I Were A Boy" and let's face it, the rest of the album then has a lot to live up to. The album contains a wide variety of styles and sounds and it showcases the voice of Beyoncé brilliantly. There are the soulful R&B numbers that we would expect from her ("If I Were A Boy", "Halo") but there are also very soft and heart-breaking numbers ("Satellites", "Ave Maria") and heavier songs like "Diva".

              I have listened to this album countless times now and it has become firmly one of those albums that I can put on from beginning to end. I genuinely do not think that there is a weak song here and as a vocal performance, it is nothing short of spectacular. Beyoncé can REALLY sing and the way that she tackles the vocal gymnastics of some of the songs is enough to make the listener sit open-mouthed, staring at the CD player in awe.

              I would buy this album again and again and would happily listen to it on repeat for several hours without getting remotely bored and without skipping a single track. Having not been a huge fan in the past, I am now well and truly converted!

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            • Mario Kart (Wii) / Nintendo Wii Game / 5 Readings / 3 Ratings
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              09.06.2009 20:53
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              Mario Kart allows the player to feel part of the action of the game. Everyone should give it a go!

              This was a birthday gift from a friend and included the game and the official Mariokart steering wheel. At first, the game can seem really difficult to get the hang of. The steering wheel is really really sensitive and the cars that are available at the beginning of the game do not lend themselves to you becoming a driving champion any time soon!

              However, once you get going with the game and you get the hang of the steering and your rankings at the end of the races start going up, the game becomes addictive and I have been known to sit and play on it for hours at a time. As you win more races, you are awarded more characters (the characters are all from traditional Nintendo games - Mario, Luigi etc), more cars/motorcycles and more racetracks.

              There are three kinds of competition: 50, 100 and 150 cc, all of which have different cars. 50cc uses small-engined karts, 100cc uses motorcyles and 150cc uses a combination of the two but with much faster engines. The racetracks have various hidden shortcuts and boxes pop up on the tracks that can be collected and the contents used to try to gain an advantage in the race.

              It is a brilliant game and it will provide hours and hours of fun. I have been playing for months and I still have not managed to unlock everything so there is still a lot of gameplay left in it. If you are looking for something different that makes great use of the Wii's capabilities, you could do a lot worse than this game!

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            • Will and Grace / TV Programme / 7 Readings / 7 Ratings
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              09.06.2009 20:41
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              Will & Grace should be seen by everyone. It is funny, the characters are fantastic and I love it!

              Will & Grace is an American sit-com, based in Manhattan, New York. The title characters are Will Truman, a gay corporate lawyer and his best friend, Grace Adler, a Jewish interior designer. The secondary characters are friends of Will and Grace, Jack and Karen. Jack is a gay actor wannabe who has various jobs throughout the eight series and is quick-witted and sharp-tongued. Karen is a rich socialite who gets a job with Grace at her design studio just as something to fill the time - she rarely does any work and has lunch breaks lasting upwards of three hours!

              The characters in Will & Grace develop hugely throughout the eight series and one really does feel by the end that they are old friends. In the first series, Will has his own law firm, consisting of just him, and Grace lives in the same building but before long, the two have moved in together and Jack moves into Grace's old place. This allowed for most of the action to take place within the Riverside Drive apartment building.

              The humour in W&G is based largely around one-liners and innuendo. Karen and Jack tend to have most of the witty, cutting remarks with Karen being especially good at saying things that harm the feelings of others in a humorous way as they are not at all intended to have that effect. For example, there is a running joke that Grace has really bad taste in clothing and Karen regularly asks her "what's this all about?" while waving an arm in her general direction and she says things like "that blouse hurts like a hangover", adding to the loveable nature of Karen's character.

              If you have never seen W&G, I would recommend it wholeheartedly. Each episode is about 20-25 minutes long (without advert breaks) and so it makes for a handy comedy fix during a rushed morning breakfast or while you are waiting for something else to happen. I have watched all eight series many, many times and still they make me laugh out loud whenever I see them. Like all successful American sit-coms, the celebrity cameos begin around series 3 and they continue throughout with people like Matt Damon, Madonna, Candice Bergen and Cher each making appearances - sometimes several appearances throughout the various series.

              It is a brilliant show and it will be sorely missed now that there will be no new episodes. The writing is brilliant and despite the main character being gay and the humour having a lot of gay innuendo, this is not a marginal show for gay audiences. It can be enjoyed by everyone and indeed SHOULD be enjoyed by EVERYONE! Go out and give it a go now. There is a box set available which contains all eight series as well as all of the bloopers reels and interviews with the cast. You will not be disappointed!

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              • More +
                09.06.2009 15:36
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                Hong Kong is the best city in the world - book your trip there now.

                I am going to declare a bias, first of all: Hong Kong is my all-time favourite place in the entire world. You can see where this review is going.

                I went to Hong Kong for the first time for a ten-day period. It is clear that this is not long enough to see the whole of any city - that is especially true of somewhere like Hong Kong. There are a few cities in the world that truly never sleep and Hong Kong is one of them.

                It comes from a unique standpoint, historically. Clearly Hong Kong is now part of China but for a long time, it was a British colony; in fact, it was only handed back to China in 1997. The culture is therefore a strange mixture of East and West and the culture shock for a European tourist is immense when one first steps off the aeroplane.

                Most of the signage is in both Chinese and English so there should not be a huge problem with finding one's way around the city. My advice would be to make sure to see the night markets in Kowloon while you are there, make sure to take a trip on the Star Ferry across the harbour at night to take in the lights and feel of it all, make sure to see the light show from the Kowloon side of the harbour if it is on while you are there, make sure to go to Lan Kwai Fong to take in the ex-pat community bars and try to take the tram to the top of the Peak to see the unbeatable view from the top.

                Once of my favourite experiences was cocktails at the Peninsula Hotel bar. The hotel sits right on the harbour, looking out at Hong Kong Island. The cocktail bar is toward the very top of the skyscraping hotel and so the view from there is breath-taking. The drinks are a little pricey, given that you'll be in one of the best hotels in the world, but it is so worth going, even if you only have one!

                I cannot explain in words how much I recommend everyone goes and visits Hong Kong. It is the city holiday of a lifetime and, if you are anything like me, you will spend all of the time that you are not there, wishing that you were.

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