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    • More +
      20.03.2010 13:52
      Very helpful



      An account of the infamous cult of Thuggee.

      In this book Mike Dash outlines the history of the thuggee movement that terrorised the highways of India for centuries. We have all heard of the Thugs but perhaps not in any real detail. In Thug we have a concise history of this shadowy grouping, which is perhaps as definitive as we could expect from a group of stranglers who left nobody to tell the tale.

      The book opens with the tale of Bunda Ali, a moonshee, (teacher of languages).He is travelling across India to attend the wedding of his daughter. He is accompanied by his wife and children and several servants. They fall in with another party, a respectable group of men travelling in the same direction. They travel together for a few days on amicable terms until, on reaching the chosen spot, their new companions fall on them and massacre the entire party. One of the assassins makes a plea to keep Bunda Alis baby daughter but the leaders will not agree to it and the baby is thrown into a hastily dug pit and buried alive. In 5 minutes around 20 people had been assassinated in total silence barring a babies screams.

      Bunda Ali and his party had fallen victim to Indias notorious thugs

      In truth the book never reaches these early heights again. Much of the thug story is shrouded in mystery. Mr Dash constructs his history from company records and the trial transcripts from the few thugs ever to face justice. What does become clear is that Thuggee was viewed as an alternate source of income for the Indian peasant farmers of the time.

      Crops fail - lets waste a few travelling merchants!!

      They were highly organised and efficient and they operated their own codes and rituals. Over the centuries they killed thousands if not hundreds of thousands of helpless travellers, helped by Indias patchwork political system, an inefficient police force and the sheer vastness of the country. Bunda Alis party would not be reported missing for months and even then who would search for them.
      These locals were sheltered by the numerous local noblemen and princes who took the lions share of the proceeds in return for protection.
      The thugs were brought to book by 2 key factors. Firstly the British lost patience with the regular culling of off duty sepoys, killed on the way home on leave, their pockets full of cash. Actions were taken to address this

      Secondly the growth of the Indian rail network meant that the rich could travel in safety, free from the terror of the open road. What a relief that must have been to the well heeled.

      I am a huge fan of Mike Dash. His earlier work , Batavias Graveyard, is one of the best written historical works I have ever read. However the story here, resolutely fails to come to life. Murders are recounted, rituals described and so on. And yet the killing fields are never really put into a human context. There is no voice of the victims in this. What happened to the victims families?
      This lack of a human element is the books achilles heel.

      It is an interesting read overall. However I cant help but think that there may be a more interesting book to be written on this subject


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    • RBS Royal Bank Of Scotland / Bank / 12 Readings / 10 Ratings
      More +
      21.02.2010 18:18
      Very helpful



      A decent no frills account option.


      I have had an RBS current account for many years but not really used it as an active account. However I recently set up a small business which meant that I would have to register as self employed and I wanted to keep all of my transactions for that business in one place. As its easier to thread a brick through the eye of a needle than set up a new account I decided to use my old RBS account for this purpose.

      I also needed to set up the account for internet banking as I can no longer be bothered to visit a branch of any bank.

      Setting up the internet account is "easy peasy". Visit the branch, any branch, and a clever girl will do it all for you. All you need to do is take in your account details and your E mail address. Following this you will be sent an activation code through the post and you are off and running.

      When you log in to the account you will be faced with a very simple Home Page.

      In the centre of the screen will be "Accounts Summary" detailing the most recent transactions of any accounts you have with them.

      From this you can drill down to a more detailed account summary from any period from 1 week to forever. Its dead easy.
      You don't get any flutes and whistles with this .There are no funky graphics or graphs which analyse your spending habits or other pecadillos but I don't think that they are really needed.

      Option 2 in the left hand panel takes you to statements. This allows you to view the information available from the Accounts Summary screen. It's a bit pointless really bar for two options which are useful.

      Firstly you can view upcoming charges that will be applied to your account. Not nice but useful to know.

      Secondly you can opt to cancel or restore paper statements. Why you would do that is not something I understand. I understand that the bank may save a few bob by not having to post it to you but surely they could share the savings with the account holder? it's a small point I suppose.

      This is the third option.
      You can transfer cash between your RBS accounts as easily as clicking a button. It takes literally a couple of seconds and even Sun reader could manage it. I did it from my current to my savings and then reversed it immediately. Then I checked it on my Accounts Summary and both transactions were already credited. Fantastic stuff. There is actually a quick transfer box on the left of the screen which enables you to do this even quicker.

      Pay your bills, set up direct debits or standing orders and generally shift your money around. They will send you a card reader for this and it is needed to verify the various transactions you want to er transact. Its straightforward enough and I guess is just another safety measure. However Mrs Soames was not impressed with this piece of kit, the HSBC do not have them. A word of warning, they didn't send me one automatically, I had to go back and request it.
      (I believe Barclays have a similar tool and I would bet my house that the Natwest do as well.)

      This tells you when your statement is ready to view or if there are any charges to be levied. You can opt in or out of this and you are informed by e mail or text.
      What it says on the tin. Add accounts, change your details or order stationary.

      Change your passwords, change your security number and so on. Very easy to follow.

      There is a very handy little tool called Savings Goal. You basically input how much you want to save for a special occasion and it calculates how much per month you need to put away in order to achieve this. it's a bit of a gimmick but I enjoyed a few minutes playing around with it and have since scaled down my new car expectations.
      The site is very simple to use. There is a bit of selling on there. You can apply for a loan and there is info about several rubbish savings products and mortgages and so on. However its not "in your face" and certainly not as full on as the hard sell you get in most of the branches these days.

      Mrs Soames banks with HSBC and she reckons that their offer is better, certainly there isn't a card reader to master, however I am happy with this product and will continue to use it.

      So it's a big thumbs up from FW!!


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    • More +
      21.02.2010 14:33
      Very helpful



      Corruption at the highest levels in the world game.

      Tom Bowers book "Broken Dreams" lifts the lid on the seamy side of British Footie and this book is the essential companion piece to that excellent work.

      Andrew Jennings is an investigative journalist of some repute. He exposed corruption in the Olympic movement and in this work he exposes the corruption at the heart of FIFA, the world games governing body.
      If you have ever wondered why FIFA has never taken action against the FA or the Premier League then the answer is very simple. FIFA is more corrupt than either of these bodies.

      Mr Jennings focuses on the Secretary of FIFA , Sepp Blatter, and systematically dismantles the guys reputation. Now footie fans know Blatter as a rentagob idiot who will say anything to get into the papers.

      In this book he is exposed as a deeply cynical Godfather figure who has been able to attain and keep a position of power in the game through his use of patronage and a devotion to the dark arts of committee politics.

      The game is run by Blatters placemen who deliver their masters wishes.

      The money from TV and kit contracts gives Sepp a bottomless slush fund with which to buy the people he needs around the world.

      To be connected with FIFA is like finding the golden ticket from Willy Wonka.You fly around the world in first class,eat you eat the finest restaurants and drink the finest champagnes. When you weary of this you can lay down your head in the most prestigious 5 star hotels on the planet.

      All of this is delivered courtesy of Uncle Sepp. In regions of the world where Associations can barely put a team on the field the local Mr Big is living it large on a FIFA expense account.

      Nowhere is this more obvious than the case of Jack Warner, the sometime President of the Trinidad and Tobago Association and the main man in the CONACAF federation.

      Mr Jennings uses Warner as an example of everything that is corrupt about football. Warner can deliver 35 FIFA votes from footballing hot spots like Aruba and Sepp needs to keep him sweet.

      So Jack can pretty much do as he pleases in his Carribean kingdom,safe in the knowledge that their will be no comebacks.

      For their important world cup qualifier against the USA Warner printed and sold 43000 tickets for a stadium built to hold 28000.The Trini team had to be manhandled into the ground over the heads of the fans due to the congestion.

      When the Trinis eventually qualified their supporters the world over were dismayed to find that their entire ticket allocation was to be sold through the office of a local Port of Spain travel agent (Propieter - Mr Warner Junior) and sold subject to the purchase of an expensive package.

      This decision was taken by President Warner in the modest association offices that were rented from a local landlord (Mr J Warner) at an agreeable rate of rental.

      Famously Mr Jennings travelled to Trinidad to confront Warner and the whole was captured by Panorama cameras filming for the documentary of the book.

      Warner is still in position and a major power broker in the game.The Football Association are forced to court him as part of their dismal effort to bring the world cup circus here in 2018.

      The author carefully constructs this and other scenarios where grants go missing and grassroots football around the world is robbed by the greedy and cynical.

      Does it matter? Well Mr Jennings thinks so and so do I.

      After all our money underpins this corrupt gravy train.

      A brilliant piece of work that should have seen football cleansed but inevitably hasnt.


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    • Vanity Fair [2004] (DVD) / DVD / 15 Readings / 15 Ratings
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      19.01.2010 00:25
      Very helpful



      Hollywood butchers a classic with a blunt spoon

      Having reviewed the BBC version of Vanity fair a few weeks ago I thought that I would give the Hollywood version a tumble.

      What a waste of over 2 hours of my life.

      This film sucks on a grand scale and is another miserable chapter in Tinsel towns quest to "adapt" great works of art to a format that just isn't suited.

      So what happens is this - the studio takes a work of genius and compresses the action into 140 minutes. This is not possible. Capra would have struggled to do this and the Bollywood hack drafted in for the job, never gets to grips with it.

      Even worse than, this they then decide to invent scenes, manufacture dreary dialogue and er, change the ending and jettison characters and so on.

      What they have actually done is used the title "Vanity Fair" and created a vehicle for Ms Witherspoon in the hope that schmucks like me would buy a ticket on the strength of the title.


      A decent cast flounders in the stodge. Witherspoon cant do Sharp and Ifans looks uncomfortable as Dobbin, it's as if he knows its pants and is just going through the motions. James Purefoy does a very good Rawdon but that is about it.

      NB - Natasha Little (Becky in the BBC version) appears as Lady Jane Sheepshanks, what a waste of talent.

      There are no redeeming factors in this piece of dross, unless you have never read the book or even watched the BBC version.

      The lesson is obvious. You cannot shoehorn 800 pages of literature into 2 hours of film without making one too many compromises. (or 150 in this case)

      It's a shame really as the budget for this one must have dwarfed the BBC budget.

      Do not buy this DVD! At £2 it is overpriced. Get the BBC version instead or better still buy the book


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    • More +
      27.12.2009 11:53
      Very helpful
      1 Comment



      Essential to your understanding of how football really works.

      Broken Dreams is one of the hardest hitting books ever written about the football business.

      As a football fan myself I am not really shocked at the majority of Mr Bowers findings but what I do find depressing is that nearly seven years after it was first published the game has not been cleansed.

      Broken Dreams exposes the rotten core at the heart of the national game. Bower tells his story through a series of portraits of the football great and food. His targets are not obscure Norwegian agents, they are all members of footballs hierarchy.

      Brian Clough - Arguably the greatest manager in the game ever. Bower outlines Cloughys approach to transfer deals that take place in motorway service stations and require brown envelopes. Should Clough have been banned from football? Should he still be venerated today or held up as an example of footballs sleazy culture?

      Terry Venables - Manager of England, cheeky "cockney sparrer" of El Tel fame. How did the FA decide that he was an appropriate character to manage the national team? El Tels financial details and his fall out with Alan Sugar are outlined in shocking detail here. I will not rake it over except to state that Venables has managed the impossible - I actually have sympathy for Sugar.

      Ken Bates - The most nauseating individual in British football. Mr Bates dubious rise to fame is chronicled with devastating detail. I was shocked by this story. Why had I never seen an account of it anywhere in the mainstream press? Spin forward a few years and examine the way that Bates took control of Leeds Utd and it all makes sense.

      Harry Redknapp - I will be careful here as "Appy Arry" is currently engaged with m'learned friends and is assisting the police with some ongoing investigation. I would be shocked if this did not relate to certain transfer deals conducted by the cockney sleazer. Of course Redknapp is firmly ensconced as a leading manager in the shiny Premier League. He advertises Wii games as an archetypal family man and is on course to return Spurs to the glory days. Does anyone give a stuff about his extra curricular activities?

      Peter Ridsdale - The man who did more than most to bring Leeds United to its knees. Ridsdale is now venerated as the new Prince of Wales, the man who made the Bluebirds fly. Should he still be involved in the game?

      The list goes on with many minor players showing up.

      Football is the wild frontier. It's a sullied product that is run for the benefit of those who leech off the large sums of cash that mugs like me throw at it. The game is nominally run by the Football Association but Bower outlines how the Blazers lost control of the game to the Premier League barrow boys .He describes how the New Labour election commitment to clean up the game is firstly compromised and then abandoned as the government is scared to tackle the goblins who run the national game.

      Seven years after this book was written the game is no closer to the integrity and transparency that most fans want to see. Bates is firmly in place as the Il Duce of Elland Rd, Ridsdale will slide into the Premier League on the coat tails of Dave Jones Cardiff miracle and what of Cloughy?

      They have just put up a statue of the old sleazer in Nottingham.

      Football does not want to clean itself up. There are too many people who are doing too well out of our dreams to see that happen.

      This book is a sickening indictment of the game and those who run it. It is also an indictment of the supine national press who do not have the guts to publish this stuff. Still, footie sells papers and Satellite TV subscriptions doesn't it? Cant have that interfered with can we?

      Read it and weep.


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      • Vanity Fair [1998] (DVD) / DVD / 13 Readings / 13 Ratings
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        20.12.2009 17:56
        Very helpful



        The BBC at its very best.

        Vanity Fair was Thackeray's greatest masterpiece and probably one of the greatest novels ever written. Thackeray probably ranks behind the likes of Dickens and Eliot in today's literary pantheon, however the publication of this work put him right up there with the greatest writers of his day. The novel is the work of a genius. The funniest and most accurate dissection of greed, vanity, ambition and cynicism ever written.

        It is also very, very long and this makes any adaptation a bugger to get right.

        There was a film version of the book released a few years ago. It starred Reese Witherspoon and the less said the better.

        This BBC adaptation was released in 1998 and is an absolutely brilliant piece of work. I would hesitate to describe any adaptation as definitive but this is definitely as close as you are going to get to that nirvana.

        The key to the success in this instance is definitely in the casting. Every role taken is cast to perfection and I am struggling to think of any role in the film that is mis-cast.

        In the lead role of Becky Sharp we find Natasha Little taking the honours. The girl is a revelation and becomes Becky Sharp incarnate. This is a fantastically difficult role to undertake. Becky is the anti heroine of the book. On the one hand she is amoral ,scheming, cynical, manipulative and on the other she is funny, attractive and fascinating. Left to fend for herself, she uses all the tools at her disposal to make her way in society and we are 100% behind her efforts to succeed.

        Life isn't fair so why should Becky play fair?

        Ms Little plays the role to perfection and we are never in any doubt that she is the cleverest person in any room.

        A bit further down the cast list I have to commend David Bradley for his portrayal of Sir Pitt Crawley, a hard drinking and miserly baronet with a taste for the low life and mutton broth. Sir Pitt ekes out his life by pursuing his writs and extinguishing candles in the vast interior of Kings Crawley the ancestral hall.

        As Rawdon Crawley, Nathaniel Parker succeeds in turning the brutish rogue into a sympathetic character, reduced to ruin by his devotion to his scheming wife. A measure of Parkers achievement is the fact that I did not realise it was him until Mrs Soames pointed it out.

        The size of the novel has obviously led to some short cuts being taken with the narrative and some excellent decisions have been taken here. All of the cuts have taken place in the second half of the novel where it is obvious that Thackeray was just showing off. In short nothing of importance is missed out.

        I cannot praise this work too highly. The whole runs to about 5 hours and I doubt that the book could be done justice in a moment less. As a final compliment I have to add that when I re -read the book nowadays I visualise the characters as their counterparts in the TV series.

        Brilliant stuff.


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        • More +
          20.12.2009 17:10
          Very helpful
          1 Comment



          A good spot for a cheap night out.

          Ive read some mixed reviews of this place , on other forums, and was a bit dubious about giving it a go.
          Shrewsbury is well blessed with eateries and you really do not need to take a risk unless you really have to.

          To put you out of your misery I can confirm that the Oxon Priory is A - OK and a decent spot for family meal or a quick snack at very reasonable prices.

          The pub is situated on the Welshpool Road out of the town, about a mile from the town centre. Apparently it used to be a Priory many years ago ,hence the name, although there is very little evidence of that in today's pub. It has been established for many years as a pub restaurant and in living memory was a Beefeater. It now does service for the Greene King chain as a Hungry Horse outlet.

          Visiting on a wintry evening the interior was bright warm and well lit. The pub has several rooms all well kitted ,clean and comfortable. The night we visited it was doing a brisk trade and there were several works parties going on in the noisier parts of the pub.

          Service is the usual order at the bar routine, this can sometimes be a pain , and we were lucky to not have to wait for too long.

          Food ordered and drinks served we took our seats and observed the usual rituals of pub eating.

          I.E. Seeing what everyone else is eating.

          I must say that the portions I observed were on the generous side and that goes a long way with myself. I am quite happy to cede some quality in exchange for quantity and the HH chain is well placed to satisfy this requirement.

          Garlic bread starter was functional and reasonably generous in size.

          Our food took a little longer to arrive than I would have expected and the young girl could have secured her tip by offering to get us some more beer but this opportunity was passed up. I know that in these places you have to get your own drinks but the queue was building at the bar and I could not be bothered.

          I had a Bad Boy Burger which came with chips some bacon, tomato and the usual salad type accompaniments .It was excellent and more than large enough to satisfy my needs. One gripe , the BBQ sauce portions are always on the small side in these places.

          My companion had the same as myself and declared himself well satisfied with his meal.

          The menu is very competitively priced and seems to be aimed at the Wetherspoons market.

          Special offers included 2 meals for £8 and a Curries from £5.99 offer.

          The most expensive menu item was the 20oz Megasaurus stake which came in at £11.99.

          So far so good.

          On the downside, the choice of beers is very limited. In fact a straight choice between Belhaven, which was very good, and John Smiths. There is supposed to be an IPA option but I couldn't see it anywhere. Contrast this with the wide range of Lagers that were available.

          When will breweries learn to offer a greater variety of proper beer to older diners. I would suggest a couple of bitters, a mild, a brown and an IPA would be the least that could be offered.

          The pub is family friendly but thankfully offers an area where the little brats are not allowed.

          We didn't bother with the desserts and given the size of the entrees I doubt if they sell many puddings at all.

          Our plates were cleared away in good order and I always see that as a sign of a well run establishment.

          I was impressed with the Oxon Priory. The staff were friendly and there was a relaxing hum about the place. The toilets were spotless and we ate reasonably well for just under £20 for the two of us.

          I would definitely visit this place again.


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          • Taken [2008] (DVD) / DVD / 14 Readings / 13 Ratings
            More +
            18.12.2009 11:50
            Very helpful



            A nasty manipulative redneck thriller.

            I know this is the five hundredth review of this film but I just have to get it off my chest.

            I thought it was a thoroughly unpleasant piece of work and I am shocked that an actor of Neesoms standing chose to be a part of it.

            The early part of the film gave no clue as to what would unfold.

            Neesom plays standard estranged father trying to make up for the years of neglect whilst he was working for a top government agency. The script is 100% ordinary but you have probably seen worse and Liam is always worth watching.

            Daughter is then kidnapped whilst visiting that Europe and the film then shifts a gear with Neesom becoming vengeful father. Again this is no big deal. It actually reminded me of those films that Arnie made his name in back in the 80s,the ones he did in between the Terminator films.

            Its still quite a watchable film and the action scenes are handled well.

            However I started getting an itch about this movie.

            It hasn't been made for me. Its been produced for an insular red neck audience back in Iowa and Alabama.

            Lets run through the evidence.

            1. Europe is a dangerous place. - Hmmm, not like America then.

            2. French police are corrupt or incompetent. - You know its true Bubba!

            3. Albanian bandits are the baddies - Why not, Albanians don't buy movie tickets (except for Norman Wisdom films)

            4. American values backed by a gun can save the day. - The idea that Neesom could waste half of the Parisien underworld without any come backs is hilarious.

            I finished the film hoping his daughter would get killed as she was really annoying and stupid.

            This film is an unpleasant and calculated piece of rubbish that I bet Neesom hasn't had the bottle to watch since he made it.

            Give it a miss.


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            • More +
              12.12.2009 21:30
              Very helpful



              Will change your Wetherspoons perception.

              The Linford Arms is a JD Wetherspoon pub in Cannock.

              Now I tend to have a very fixed view on the JDW experience, having drunk in many of their establishments I find them to be generally full of old winos who are attracted by the chains biggest selling point, cheap ale.

              However this place may have helped to alter my perception an inch or two.

              I visited on a chill November evening about 5ish.

              Despite the traditional baseball capped chavs smoking outside, the interior was a bit of a revelation.

              The Linford comprises of a series of linked rooms, each with its own atmosphere and décor. Its brilliant.

              There were about 5/6 of these separate areas and they give the pub a quite different feel to the usual JDW workhouse type ambience. There is also an upstairs area, however this appeared to be closed when I visited.

              The clientele appeared to be a real mix as well. Certainly not the usual grunts you would find in ,for example the Square Peg in Brum. Students, people who had just finished work and early chrismas shoppers were very much in evidence.

              As ever the usual JDW choice of ales was on offer although, on this occasion, I stuck to the John Smiths. There was no queue at the bar and I was served straight away by the traditional non smiling member of staff.

              I ordered the gourmet burger meal and it was on a par with other burger meals I have had in similar pub chains. In fact I wonder if they all buy their ingredients at the same outlet ! (BlandBurger Corp)

              The burger cost £6.25 and came with a "free drink" although to be fair you would not pay £6.25 for it if there wasn't a "free drink" involved.

              Food service was quick and friendly and I really enjoyed my JDW meal. In my little room there was a young couple and a guy in a suit. They were all eating meals and it was all rather civilised. The pub itself was pretty busy although it didn't feel it due to the layout of the place.

              Toilets were a bugger to find though, no signage in place anywhere. (TIP - they are upstairs)They were spotless when I visited, no doubt due to punters being unable to find them.

              Apart from that I cannot fault this place and in fact would like to swap it for my local JDW.

              NB - the website states that the building goes back to the C15th and so am guessing that it must be listed.
              The website also states that children are welcomed although thankfully there were none evident on my visit.

              When in Cannock give this place a go it's the real deal.


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            • More +
              06.12.2009 23:10
              Very helpful



              No frills family pub that is quite cheap.

              The Highwayman has recently reopened after a short break for a refit. The refit being occasioned by the opening of a new rival ,The Oswalds Cross, just down the road.

              The Highwayman is long established as a family friendly pub on the Shrewsbury Rd that caters to people who live on the many housing estates that are close by.

              To be honest I have felt for some time that the place needed a make over as it looked and felt a bit tired. There have been several significant changes to the layout which should enhance the place to visitors.

              Firstly the dining area has been increased. The scruffy bar area, to the left as you walk in, has now been tidied up and looks like it belongs to the rest of the place. In this area there is also a TV so that you needn't miss any programmes when you make that special effort to leave the house.

              To the right of the entrance a new area has been built which contains around 50 covers. This area is a bit like a room within the pub and it is where we retreated to when we were scared off by about 6 screaming babies in the main room.

              The rest of the place has been given the usual painting, carpeting and lighting upgrade you would expect from a refit.

              It looks ,and smells, like new.

              On the downside I just have two gripes. Firstly it looks like the old furniture has been stuffed back in which is a shame. Secondly I would have thought the brewery would have taken this chance to get rid of the carpets altogether. The words "family friendly" and "Carpet" should not really be in the same sentence and having seen the amount of debris on the carpet on a Saturday tea time I don't think it will be long till it starts showing its age.


              Cards on table time here. We go to the Highwayman for one reason only. Our kids love it and eat everything on their plate. Any parents reading this will recognise that you cant put a price on that.

              On this visit I had a "burger stack" Mrs Soames had a "Mixed Grill" and the young Soames enjoyed a "chicken burger" and a "plain burger" respectively. Experience has taught us to order an extra portion of chips for the kids as the normal meal portions do not last long. (even with the extra chips they still swiped several chips off our plates).

              To be fair to the pub they are trying to entice the kids off rubbish by offering a make your own fajitas option. Our kids sneered at that and headed straight to Burgerland.

              Mrs Soames enjoyed her mixed grill and the burger stack was all that I expected. One minor quibble here. If I wanted barbecue sauce to go with my burger it would cost me an extra 30p.I thought that was a bit tight considering that ketchup and brown are given away gratis.

              None of us had any room for the puddings but I couldn't help but notice that a portly gent on the next table was tucking into what looked like a small mountain of chocolate, cream and ice cream. He was still going for it as we were leaving. He is probably still there if truth be told.

              As a Banks/Marstons pub I was a bit disappointed with the brews on offer. I started with a Ringwood guest ale which was nothing special and then tried a Marstons Smooth which slipped down very easily. Pedigree was on offer with a decent range of Banks but I felt that they could have gone a bit further in their offer. Marstons has such a splendid range of Ales in its portfolio that as a competitive edge type thingy they should be able to offer a killer range of ales. Put it this way, its crazy that their ale offer is so far behind any Wetherspoons.
              Anyway I digress.

              The pub looked and felt clean, the toilets were fine and even the menus were not sticky.

              We arrived early evening and it was just over half full. I estimate 200/250 covers. The place soon started to fill up with punters, mainly families and there was quite a buzz about the place. We had to wait about 20 minutes for our meals which is just about acceptable and the service was friendly and pretty well organised.

              On the whole a decent spot to take the kids or grand parents.

              The menu is pretty basic and the pricing reflects that with no meal being priced at more than £9.

              You are unlikely to see young couples on a special date or older couples celebrating an anniversary but as a budget priced place to take the brats it fit's the bill.


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            • Angels and Demons (DVD) / DVD / 14 Readings / 13 Ratings
              More +
              29.11.2009 15:32
              Very helpful



              Undemanding fodder for a saturday night stuck in the house.

              I think that the reviews of this film are rather on the harsh side.

              Is this a result of Brown fans being disappointed by the films?

              Or is it the general mass having an aversion to the Da Vinci hype?

              Or perhaps folk just don't like the film!

              I have not read any of the Dan Brown books and only have a vague recollection of seeing the Da Vinci Code movie a couple of years ago.

              Without rehashing the plot for you.......................

              I will accept that the plot is a bit on the fantastical side, but arent most thrillers?

              I will accept that the characters are not fully fleshed out - but it isn't really Ibsen is it?

              Neither is the dialogue likely to form an A level study text.

              On the plus side the movie evolves into a desperate chase around Rome for a few kidnapped cardinals. If you have ever visited the Eternal City its great to see the locations used in the film. Mrs Soames and myself were constantly arguing about whether we had been into one or other of the churches shown.

              "it's the one where you dropped your ice cream darling"

              So, not a great work of art, but it saved me from having to choose between Strictly and X Factor and you cant put a price on that can you. (Actually you can, it cost us £4 from Sainsburys.)

              So in summary.

              No Oscars were won for this film.

              Tom Hanks will not be remembered for it.

              Ewan Mcgregor will probably air brush it from his CV as well.


              As an undemanding 2 hour entertainment it hit's the spot.

              There are enough twists and turns in the plot to keep surprising you.

              You get to see religious leaders die in interesting ways.

              Rome looks superb.

              And finally;

              Ben Jones of "Absolute Radio" rates this movie as the ;

              "Must see film of the year"

              Well done Ben for sticking out against the tide, but you really need to get out more.

              Don't be put off by the arty types sneering at this film. Its ok, and when you strip away the hype its just a standard chase movie with a big star at the head of it. Ive seen dozens of these over the years and not been damaged by the experience.

              NB - A prize for anyone who can point me to Absolute Radio. Does it really exist?


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            • More +
              29.11.2009 13:11
              Very helpful
              1 Comment



              Good value lunch venue

              The George & Dragon is a big mock -Tudor pile situated right on the edge of Chesters main shopping centre.

              I last visited this place about 20 years ago and vaguely remember it being a bit on the rough side.

              However the rise of the JD chain has sorted out this problem in most towns as the unwashed now stagger into a Wetherspoons at 9 in the morning rather than waiting for their more traditional local to open.

              The typical George & Dragon client is more likely to be a student these days. Chester College being situated on its doorstep it attracts loads of youngsters who I believe are studying to be teachers.

              It's a Greene King house and serves the famous IPA amongst other brews such as Abbot. There isn't really a selection of proper beer but they seem to do all the regular fizzy stuff for the kids.

              I visited on a Sunday in order to watch a football match. The place was less than half full, no more than about 60 customers present. This might sound a lot but the interior is huge with a capacity for around 400/500 punters.

              The layout inside is as follows. As you enter the pub there is a pool room on your left, there is a seated area on your right. This seated area is quite lush with deep leather sofas and comfy chairs.

              If you push on past the bar there is a large open plan dining/drinking room on the other side. As far as I could make out virtually every seat in the house was facing a large plasma screen. The exception to this would be to the left of the open plan room where most tables seem to be away from the action.

              The menu appears to be the standard pub fare. 2 meals for £7 being the main offer. I had the steak pie and chips option for just under a fiver and it was fine. The gravy arrived in a separate boat which was a nice touch. There is an option to get the whole pie for £8 but you don't really need it, especially at lunchtime.

              The food was served in good order and they even cleared my plates away when I had finished. Couldn't comment on the puddings but I had garlic bread as a starter and it was fantastic.

              The service was efficient and friendly , if a little on the impersonal side,(but who cares, you are not looking to build a relationship).

              Toilets were a bit battered but clean. The pub itself was clean enough and there was quite a civilised atmosphere in the place.

              I believe it gets quite busy at night but for a lunchtime snack at a reasonable price this place is ok.

              Thumbs up from me.

              NB - the pub is situated in the middle of a traffic island.You need to be a bit nippy to get across the road although I understand that , to date, there have been no fatalities.

              NB - apparently offers hotel rooms and party bookings.


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              • Destry Rides Again (DVD) / DVD / 13 Readings / 13 Ratings
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                24.11.2009 11:02
                Very helpful



                Top quality western entertainment.

                This is one of the legendary great westerns from back in the day. James Stewart plays a peace loving Sheriff brought in to clean up the town and action ensues.

                I havent actually seen it for about 20 or 30 years so my memory of it is a little blurred. However I picked up a copy at HMV yesterday, for a fiver, and watched it last night.

                How does it stack up?

                On the whole pretty well. The movie was produced in 1939 and Stewart had already perfected the gawky charmer persona that served him so well throughout his career. The film is, in turn, funny and touching and follows a straightforward narrative.

                Destry is a man who does it his way, no guns, drinking milk in the saloon and so on. We know that he will triumph in the end.

                The female lead is taken by Marlene Dietrich who plays saloon gal "Frenchy". When I last watched the film I thought that the musical numbers were a pain that got in the way of the action. This time around I think that they actually enhance the movie.

                I also "get" the fuss around Marlene as well. She is gorgeous. When she is on screen you are not looking anywhere else. Whether this says more about me or the luminous Ms Dietrich shall have to remain a matter of conjecture. Probably my age!

                The set pieces are well set up and executed efficiently. In particular the "cat fight" in the saloon and the "Destry gets off the stage " scenes live in the memory.

                Some of the acting by the minor leads is a bit dated,but not so much as to affect your enjoyment of the whole.

                It was shot in black and white although the DVD cover is colourised (probably to appeal to cretins) and mainly filmed on studio sets. In fact it is one of the few westerns that could transfer to the stage without any major revisions.

                The script is fine and to be honest Stewart must have been a dream to write for. Music is also top notch with at least 3 numbers that you come away humming.

                And yet to be totally honest I was a bit disappointed with it. Perhaps I have built this film up, over the years, into something it isn't .

                I cant put my finger on it so I cant explain any further.

                It was remade in the 60s with Audie Murphy playing Destry,it was not a great success.

                Still all things taken into consideration its great entertainment and has worn well. Try and catch it if you get a chance.


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              • Kenwood JKP100 / Kettle / 13 Readings / 12 Ratings
                More +
                24.11.2009 01:13
                Very helpful


                • "Ease of use"


                Does what it says on the tin.

                We bought this a few weeks ago ( from Comet) and have been pleased with it.

                A kettle is not something that you want to spend a lot on.Lets face it the machine only has one useful function - to boil water.

                As quickly as possible.

                Anyway in the name of science I put this beast to the test and it boiled two cups of water (for two cups of coffee) in one minute and 6 seconds.

                That gives you enough time to get the rest of the tray together.

                It holds 1.5 litres and comes in a kettle shape.There may be other colours but the people who buy this are not going to be worried about it blending into their designer kitchen.Its a cheap kettle for people who want access to hot water.

                Ideal for the student flat or office.

                As a final boost to this product,Comet offer you 3 years warranty for a tenner.That suggests to me that you will get at least 3 years out of it.

                Do not pay more,it isnt worth it.


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                • More +
                  24.11.2009 00:26
                  Very helpful
                  1 Comment



                  Civilisation unravels as the survivors fight for survival.

                  This is a great yarn, a tale so chilling it almost defies belief.

                  The story is as follows:

                  In 1628 the Dutch ship Batavia runs aground on a rocky island off the coast of Australia. Oz is still "undiscovered" at this stage and the 200 survivors are in a fix. Thousands of miles away from anywhere and particularly the comfort and security of civilisation.

                  The captain rigs up a dinghy and sets sail for help in the Dutch East Indies leaving the rest of the crew to fend for themselves.

                  A Lord of the Flies type scenario ensues. Power shifts to a religious nut case called Corneliuz.

                  Corneliuz was a follower of a religious sect which basically believed that whatever you do is ok because God has willed it. I am, sure it was a bit more involved than that but this was the essential tenet of his faith that directed his actions.

                  Now the brighter amongst you will see the way this one is going. Kill a few survivors, that's ok its gods will. Steal a woman from her husband (and then kill him), that's ok, its all gods will you see.

                  Pretty soon Corny has a grip on the island and his psychotic killing spree is in full flow. Its horrific stuff as families try to survive the pogrom of a loony backed up by the duller witted amongst the survivors. The body count mounts on a daily basis.

                  And its all true.

                  Civilisation, such as it was on board the ship, well ordered and backed by laws and conventions, breaks down on a barren stretch of rock. It's the survival of the fittest and I will not spoil the ending for you by giving away the ending.

                  Mr Dash has done an amazing job in assembling the facts of this horrific episode. He uses company documents ,testimonies from survivors and other documents.

                  It all adds up to an amazingly gruesome story that you can hardly bear to read but can hardly bear to put down.
                  If these people had been American there would have been a film or two made about this but sadly they were all Dutch and had awkwardly spelt names.

                  Don't let that put you off, this is a massive achievement and Mr Dash is to be congratulated on his work.


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