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I have been researching in glamorous Birmingham for the last month or so. But as a PhD student my budget for accommodation is limited. I personally have an aversion to B&Bs and prefer 4 star hotels (don’t we all) but sadly the Economic and Social Research Council don’t run to such luxury. Cheap accommodation is hard to come by but I recommend considering the University of Birmingham’s self catering accommodation. It is university accommodation and therefore only available during the summer vacation (June to September). The University of Birmingham rents out 2 of their self-catering blocks of flats during summer. I stayed at the Beeches which is about 10 minutes walk from Five Ways station if you are travelling by train. Trains to Birmingham New Street are fairly regular, though strangely not between 8.40 and 10.10, and it’s about 10 minutes away. By car it’s in Elvetham Road, off Wheeley’s Road, Lee Bank Middleway, A4540. It’s near Edgbaston and located down a nice leafy street, though I’m sure the local residents don’t like having a student complex there! There are about 50 flats in the complex. There is a large car park if you are driving. Each flat has 5 bedrooms, a kitchen/ dining room, a shower room and toilet. The rooms are of a reasonable size. In fact all student rooms I have stayed in seem to be exactly the same size. Maybe there is an architectural standard which determines how much space a student should be allowed. Anyway, they have a single bed, wardrobe, desk and shelves. The bed was fairly comfy and they provide bed linen. However, it is a single bed because students are probably the least sexually active group within society! The wardrobe doesn’t have any hangers so you need to bring your own. Each room has a phone, though you can’t actually dial out! The kitchen is fairly standard and comes provided with crockery, cutlery and so on. There is a gas
cooker and a fridge freezer but no microwave. There is a Tesco’s about 15 minutes walk away which is very convenient. Apparently there is a laundry on site though I didn’t use it. You also allowed to use the university sport’s facilities, the Barber Institute of Fine Art and the Botanical Gardens. Sadly I didn’t have time to do any of this! Costs If you are a student of the University of Birmingham then the costs will be less as they don’t charge you VAT. Otherwise: £15 per night (this includes bed linen and cleaning) £58 per week (without bed linen) There are some other price scales but you would need to ring and ask. There is some information on the website (www.birmingham.ac.uk) and the phone number for the office is 0121 440 6265. The official office hours are 2.30pm to 4.30pm. You are meant to complete a booking form in advance but in actuality this wasn’t a problem. They also only accept cash or cheque. If you are looking for budget accommodation during the summer it’s well worth considering staying here. The flats are fairly new, very clean and definite value for money. The only thing I didn’t like was how quiet it was! There were some other people around but they were in different flats. If you are on your own I would bring a radio with you. I personally like to have a reasonable amount of background noise and find going to stay at my friend’s farm vaguely scary as it is so quiet! I guess it would be a good option of you are travelling with a group of friends. Though except for going to see the cricket I’m not exactly sure how many tourists Birmingham gets! I would stay here again but as I still have a few months to go I have decided to rent a room in a house, sharing with professional rugby players! Should be interesting….
I was apprehensive about travelling by train in China, particularly after the image Lonely Planets conjured up of the toilets. I’m paranoid about toilets, but then you would be too if one of your formative memories is at age 3 going to use some ditch in the ground at your grandparents house and finding the hut full of lizards. Sorry, back to trains in China. I decided to travel from Shanghai to Hong Kong by train as it was exceptionally cheap, approximately £45 in fact. **Buying a ticket** You can’t buy a ticket from the train station in Shanghai, you have to go to the Longmen hotel. This is about 2 minutes away from the train station and quite easy to spot if you head towards the station concourse. Once inside, you head right towards the booking office. There are 2 windows, only one sells tickets to Hong Kong, even if there is a really long queue at this window and no queue at the other. Time management techniques doesn’t seem to have reached China. You get a form to fill out, however, it’s in Chinese without translation so you will probably have to ask someone to help you here! You need to bring your passport with you and they only take cash. Classes China doesn’t have classes as it’s a communist country you know, not that there was much to give this away in Shanghai. So your choices are deluxe soft sleeper, soft sleeper and hard sleeper, it refers to the class and not to how comfortable your bed will be. Deluxe soft sleeper costs about £100 and for this you get a private compartment with 2 beds. The only difference between this and soft sleeper is that the next class has 4 beds instead of 2 and it costs around £75. Again you have private compartments. These ticket types are at one end of the train, which is divided by the dining car, and at the other end the masses are in hard sleeper. I travelled by hard sleeper, the carriages are divided up into berths with 6 beds. Y
ou can choose upper, middle or bottom bunks with upper being the cheapest. I personally wouldn’t choose the upper bunk as there is very little space, you get no view out of the window and climbing up to your bed seems to be a small mountaineering feat. I chose middle bunk as people sit on your bed during the day if you are on the bottom bunk which I wasn’t keen on. Also it felt quite luxurious in the morning to lie in bed and look at the wonderful scenery passing me by. If you are less than agile I would choose bottom bunk as there is no ladder to climb up, just a small step. If you want to sleep in the day, people will move off your bed. You are provided with a pillow, sheet, blanket and small towel. The small towel is for putting over your pillow when you sleep! I would suggest sorting out your bedding before they turn the lights out. The lights are turned out at 10pm and then back on at 6am with lots of loud Cantopop. There is a small reading light as well which only works after the main lights are turned out. There is a shelf to put your luggage on inside each compartment, although all the compartments are open. There are seats opposite the beds, with small tables, where you can eat or just look out of the window. At the end of each carriage there is hot water for food and 2 toilets (squat) and hand baisins. I would definitely travel by hard sleeper again, as not only was it very cheap, you could walk up and down the carriages and get to speak to people. In the other classes you had to stay in your compartment. I imagine that would be a nightmare if you were sharing with one other very dull person. **The journey** The journey from Shanghai to Hong Kong (and vice versa) takes around 29 hours which seems like a mammoth amount of time to spend on a train. However, I didn’t find it as bad as flying as you got to sleep on a bed, albeit a narrow bed with a blanket that never covered my feet! There are a number
of stops at train stations ranging from about 10 minutes to 30 minutes. I wouldn’t recommend getting off the train and going very far unless you are very sure how long the stop is for. Even when they said 40 minutes at one station, they changed their minds and the train left after 10 minutes. However, about 2 hours before you get to Hong Kong you have to go through immigration in China. Everyone will get off the train and you have to take all your luggage with you. They stamp your passport and then you can buy duty free at a very small shop. About one hour before the train gets to Hong Kong, there is an announcement (in Chinese) apparently this is saying that during the last hour the toilets will be locked and you won’t be able to use them. **Food** You can buy food either at the dining car, or trolleys come round the carriages during the day. You can buy tea or coffee, cold drinks including beer and breakfast, lunch and dinner. Attendants will also try and encourage you to buy commemorative stamps and night vision binoculars! Water costs 3RMB (25p)a bottle. I tried the lunch and dinner which cost 15 RMB (c. £1.30). It was edible, just! You got rice, pork in a strange sauce, tofu, cabbage and a salted egg. Lunch is at 12ish and dinner at around 6ish. I would recommend taking some food for the journey with you. You can buy the Chinese equivalent of pot noodles, except they are edible, in supermarkets. Snacks and sweets are also a good idea. Lots of the Chinese people bring tonnes of fruit and share it which was nice! **Toilets** There are squat toilets in all the carriages. They are sometimes a little grim though they get cleaned during the night. They weren’t as bad as the open toilets in Glastonbury if that gives you an idea. However, if you are a girl I would recommend wearing a skirt or shorts, as you really don’t want any clothing to touch the floor. The flush is a small handle to
the right of the compartment; it looks like it will fall off if you touch it. There is also a tap in the toilets, I have no idea what it is for. There is no toilet roll so don’t forget your own. **Things to do ** *Read *Sleep *Enjoy the wonderful scenery *Chat to people. Some of the Chinese people speak English and Westerners are fairly easy to spot. Though I did scare a few people when I started talking to them with my southern accent. I’m sure that most of you won’t have that problem as your mum probably isn’t Chinese *Be annoyed by the awful music **Things to bring** *Tissues and/ or toilet paper *Toothbrush and toothpaste *Wet wipes – handwashing facilities are limited *Dried food *If you bring tea or coffee don’t forget a cup *Book(s) *Phrase book – the train attendants don’t speak English *Pen – for filling out forms at immigration in China and when you arrive in Hong Kong In conclusion, if you get an opportunity to use the long distance trains in China I would recommend it. One of my most surreal memories from my trip was eating dinner, looking at rolling hills and paddy fields whilst a medley of Carpenters songs was playing!
“..Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people, by the people for the people.” The thing that I, and many others, love about Wilde, are his witty sayings. Too often painted on pub walls in an attempt to refine the drunken masses, the Soul of Man is a thought provoking essay. According to Robert Ross, editor of my library copy, “…every subject is illuminated by a phrase which haunts the memory.” Apparently at that time lots of leading orators plagurised these (naughty!) Dammit, I should really be getting on with a very interesting (yawn) report on how I will be tackling my fieldwork for the PhD and I’m writing an opinion for Dooyoo. I just really am lacking in motivation, all the students seem to have gone home and it’s sunny outside. Sometimes, I get really fed up with the “world” and if you are unlucky enough to be one of my friends, with me in a pub, then you will be treated to Rant 1(a), “The wrongs of capitalism” which when I have enough time leads me neatly to Rant 3(c) “How people are distracted from the more important issues in life.” Now this makes me sound very stuck up I think, though I’m not (honestly). And believe me I realise the paradox of doing very nicely within the society we live in and how moaning about it is slightly hypocritical. And yes I’m easy distracted from the bigger picture, by Dooyoo (you servant of the evil capitalist empire), Eastenders and Buffy, among other things. Sad and stuck up, that’s a new one. However, as I mentioned in a opinion about Sheffield University Library, I’ve been browsing the stacks, a wonderful place full of books I would want to own, but of course private property is wrongJ, soI have recently read The Soul of Man under Socialism by Oscar Wilde. My copy doesn’t have all the other essays with it as it’s very old (1912) but still in lovely condition. Th
at is besides the University sticking their labels in it and writing a shelfmark on the side. I’ll let them off because without the shelfmark the whole shelving system is doomed to horrible failure. However, I am annoyed by the evil person that underlined huge sections of the book, admittedly in pencil, but that is no excuse. Do you notice how they always underline the most obvious phrases too, was anything going on in their head whilst they were reading the book? I think they have watched too many American movies where in order to depict studiousness, the main character is depicted underlining one book. Really pushing the boundaries of theoretical knowledge by looking at one book. Sorry, it’s so easy to rant. I wonder at the lack of respect some people have for books, let them do what they like with their own books, but with a nice old library book, shame on you, may you burn in perpetual torment in the hell reserved for abusers of books, especially those that bend the spine back. Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh, mmmh hope that a heavy book falls on your foot when you are wearing flimsy footwear. So what’s it about I hear you ask, okay I am lying in order to make my paragraphs mesh. The essay is entitled The Soul of Man (sic) under Socialism. And it is a treatise for a move from democracy and capitalism towards a socialist state. With most other writers this might be a regular yawnfest, however, as I’m sure you may guess, written by Wilde it is witty and thought provoking. It took me just over an hour to read this and it was an hour well spent. As I was saying earlier, if you were paying attention, I get fed up with life and injustice in a manner that fits my Guardian reading profile. In order to never be able to go to work and forget about it, my PhD is on equalities as well. In fact the only thing that really annoyed me was how when speaking about people, he uses man, he, him, a reflection of the times but still
annoying! So the essay “The chief advantage that would result from the establishment of Socialism is, undoubtedly, the fact that Socialism would relieve us from that sordid necessity of living for others which, in the present condition of things, presses so hardly upon almost everyone” is how the essay starts. Clever don’t you think? The essay is divided into parts, although Wilde never had lecturers telling him that sub-headings are a useful device (admittedly I’m not using any myself). So, although seeming a little presumptuous of me, for your benefit, I would divide the parts into the following sections (barring of course the introduction and the conclusion). *The wrongs of private property *Individualism *Christianity’s teachings *Art as self-expression I found the beginning of the essay to contain some of the most interesting arguments. Wilde criticises acts of charity towards the poor. During that time charity was hugely paternalistic and fuelled by the belief that philanthropists knew best how to help the poor. This was coupled with the belief that “God helps those who help themselves.” This meant that the poorest didn’t get the help they needed. Wilde says of these philanthropists “They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor.” I live in a council flat, in a very nice estate where your neighbours talk to you, and the children all play outside, it’s how I imagine the fifties were, except of course there was less swearing. I moved here because a PhD doesn’t pay that much and my flat is cheap and very big. Although the flat is nice, if the council were to ask me what improvement I would like, I might say a shower, or a thermostat for the heating so I can ensure my gas bill is lower, thank you. What I wouldn̵
7;t say is a cable TV connection, so I can spend my time watching rubbish TV (though of course I would have got to see Buffy earlierJ) and paying for the privilege. What do you think the Council is installing? I think they are, in part, trying to keep us amused. “It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property.” Wilde’s point being that those with property had the privilege of enjoyment in their lives, congenial activity as opposed to the poor who had to do quite uncongenial work. Charity was, and to some extent, still is dictated by the giver, imposing what they think is best on the recipient. Wilde’s argument was that without this highly polarised system people would have the freedom to develop themselves. I hesitate the use the word “better” as that carries all sorts of connotations about what a person should be, and involves some sort of conformity with society, and I don’t think that is what Wilde meant. The next section deals with the teaching of Christianity and how they fit into the idea of self development and rejecting private property. I am an atheist so I don’t really want to comment on them except to say it is quite an interesting interpretation. Before my move to atheism I was a Christian for 23 years. I do agree with the sentiment that what we really are and what we really want comes from within rather than from external possessions. The longest section of the essay deals with art and individuality. This section is quite timeless and can easily be applied to great artists of history and today. Wilde is quite disdainful of public opinion of the arts “No country produces such badly-written fiction, such tedious common works in the novel form, such silly vulgar plays as England.” You get a definite impression that this section is rather thinly veiled annoyance with the public
’s reception of Wilde’s work at the time. However, one of the best parts of this section is on Journalism. This made me think of the total irresponsibility interspersed with the absolute rubbish the tabloid press sometimes write. “The tyranny that it proposes to exercise over people’s private lives seems to me to be quite extraordinary. The fact is that the public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.” So how does this tie in with the newfound knowledge never to buy me beer on a ranting day? Well the thing that cheers me up from this pessimistic outlook is when I read or speak to someone that sees the contradictions in society, gets annoyed about it and even sometimes believes in social justice (kfingleton). I would say that reading this has given me reknewed motivation with the PhD but I am blatantly writing a Dooyoo opinion. However, reading things like this, help me carry on in my paradoxical little life. I will continue ranting in the pub on occasional but at least I realise there is something to rant about. We are never going to change the world in our lifetime but we can make people stop and think about it and question what they take for granted. That is always a good thing! ***The Practicals*** On Amazon, there is a new edition of the essay, along with other non-fictional works, being released on the 3 August 2001. It costs £4.79 and is 400 pages long. It’s only half of your £10 Dooyoo voucher too! The essay is less than 100 in my copy so I’m guessing you get quite a lot of other works. Of course, if you use Sheffield University library then it’s Stack 1, shelfmark 822.89(W) though someone who should be doing other work has got it until the 19 September. (I was only joking about Dooyoo being evil!)
I did write the one opinion about Kiasma and Atenuem together, but the good people at dooyoo divided up the categories and I have been meaning to get round to splitting the opinion up, but you know how you put off the things you have to do, like going to the dentist perhaps? Well Finland has been voted most popular destination this year by a discerning bunch of people, those readers of the Guardian and Observer, with Helsinki being the first stop for many. I feel smug, albeit in a shallow and vacuous way, hey I went to Finland before it became so mainstream. Anyway on to the art gallery review Atenuem is located on Kaivokatu, the Railway station square. Admission is 25 FIMs for the main collection and between 25-45 FIMs for any special exhibitions. I am not sure how much the current ones cost as I visited on National Musuem day and admission to all the exhibits was free! Opening hours are between 9-6pm on Tuesdays and Fridays, 9-8pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 11-7 at weekends. It is closed all day on Mondays. The main body of the collection, is naturally work by Finnish artists. There is also an international collection with works by artists including Rodin, Cezanne, Goya and Le Corbusier. However, as there was work on a new exhibition I got the feeling that many of the works were in storage. At the moment there are 2 special exhibitions. The first is a collection of Japanese woodblock printings from the 18th century onwards. The second entitled 'Surface and Depth' is a collection celebrating early Finnish modernism. This is well worth seeing as although I didn't recognise many of the pictures this in some ways made you appreciate more some of the painting techniques of the period. For example, with Monet when you see an original the effect is lessened by 'Monet fatigue' i.e the fact you have seen so many prints, mugs and mousemats!of his paintings already. Though, this sometimes worked
against artists in my opinion, as a few paintings looked like very bad attempts at Van Gogh's. Besides all the art, there is a very nice cafe at this gallery. A cup of coffee is about 90p and there was a good selection of snacks and cakes at fairly reasonable prices. The salad is about £3.50 for an all you can eat type affair. It also appeared to be popular with Finnish people who were meeting each other during their lunch hour as well as us tourist. Behind the cafe there is also a book shop selling the usual collection of books and postcards. Here you will also find an information point were not only is there extensive information about other galleries, there is also general tourist information about Helsinki. You can get a very good free map of Helsinki here. Best of all there are 2 free computer terminals where you can check email and surf the net for free.
I love Sheffield and I love Sheffield University. However, I am not immune to the criticisms of it and one of the main criticisms of is the quality of the library. Some are the fault of under spending, of all Russell Group universities, Sheffield spends the least per student on books. However, this was nothing compared to the (recent) days when students were stuck with Windows 3.11 and dreamed of the day we might use the newfangled Windows 95 program. This is a review of the library collection in Sheffield and in particular the Main Library, with a few tips on getting hold of those tricky course books, some of which may apply to other universities and some only to Sheffield. I’m not sure where else it would fit in. There is also a bit about general reading which is a good thing and I’m not sure whether going to university encourages people to enjoy reading and become a wider read person. Oooh starting to sound like my dad, anyway….. ~~~~The Libraries~~~~ There are actually a number of libraries at Sheffield University **** The Main Library houses the majority of the university collection, including arts, humanities, social sciences, science, statistics, architecture and east Asian studies **** St Georges Library houses the engineering and management studies collections **** Crookesmoor Library – law collection, looks like a Scandinavian sauna **** Health Sciences Library – medicine **** Portobello – part of Adult Continuing Education (reference only) **** Chemistry **** Music **** Geography, Planning and Landscape – now I don’t need to explain what's in the last 3 do I? The fact there are so many libraries has advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is if your department is one of the lucky ones with a branch library in the same building. My own department (town planning) has a branch library and you are always guaranteed he
lp from the library assistants, also there is never any major backlog of shelving and access to books is easy. On the downside, the library is only open 9-5pm Monday to Friday as it is in a departmental building. Also it can sometimes get annoying when you end up using 4 of the libraries, like me. ~~~~Anyone can use it~~~~ Sheffield University Library isn’t just for students at this fine institute. Being part of many higher education collaborations, all students can use the library for reference only. However, a number of universities have reciprocal borrowing arrangements, details of which are on the library website This may come in useful if you live in Sheffield and are at university elsewhere. Of course it’s not just students who are interested in books, or was that students aren’t interested in books. A number of friends of mine managed to make it to the third year of their undergraduate degree without having stepped foot into any of the university libraries. However, if you live and/ or work in the Sheffield region you can become an external borrower for an annual fee, around £25. ~~~~The Main Library~~~~ The Main Library dates back to the 50s (you can see the stiletto marks imprinted on the floor ). There is a covered bridge that links the library to the Arts Tower which was a fatal mistake. The Arts Tower is a miniature copy of a Mies Van de Rohe skyscraper and has been listed meaning that the Main Library by extension is also listed and cannot undergo significant alteration or extension. Damm those planners I say. Other interesting (depending on how dull you are) facts about these two buildings are that building the 19 storey Arts Tower next to a 3 storey building led to a lot of the cutting edge research in the 60s on the effects of wind tunnels. The Arts Tower is sliding down the hill by about 2 centimetres a year. This library has the longest opening hours (9-9 Monday to Friday, 9-5 Sa
turday, 2-6pn Sunday), the biggest backlog of shelving and is without a doubt the smelliest place to be when there is a freak heat wave in March and the heating is on at full blast. Most of the books are housed in the reading room where there is also lots of space for….reading and absolutely not for talking on your mobile or other such irritating habits. The postgraduate reading section is for joyless souls who are irritated by people flicking through the pages loudly. In the main hall there is the counter, but only for book returns or to collect reservations, you have to take them out at the counter the next floor down. There are also computer terminals where you can search the library database. Here, especially if you are a sociology student you will spend much time searching through the books waiting to be reshelved. It is a well known fact that during term time there is no point going to the bookshelves as no decent book will ever make it make during these 30 or so weeks, instead browsing through the returned books is a much more rewarding experience although slightly annoying. There is talk that the most in demand books are to be housed in a 24 hour all singing all dancing open access centre but that is when the university gets round to building it! ~~~~Top Tips~~~~ As a former library employee myself I do have some tips for Sheffield students (and maybe some apply to other students) on how to make the best of the library and getting hold of one of the 6 books on the reading list for a course of 100. I must point out I wasn’t incredibly miserable, and even wiped fines when flirted with by attractive students. It’s worth being nice to library assistants, it may pay off later, oh and it’s good manners as well. However, ****Take the time to have a bit of an explore and browse round the library in your first year, maybe even read some of the information leaflets or look through the video collection, a
t least find out where your course books are ****Books in demand will never be on the shelf, instead try the reshelving section if they are not on loan (as mentioned previously). If you find out the barcode number a library assistant can tell you when it was returned and possibly where you might find it ****If this fails, look at shelf marks above and below. E.g. shelf mark 710.2, look at 700.2, 701.2 or 711.2. Invariably someone has had a problem working out how to count and it may pop up there, sometimes people hide books somewhere easy to remember for a later date. ****Still can’t find it, then fill in a reservation card and let a member of library staff hunt for it on your behalf. They are getting paid and thus have the time to have a look for you. *****Short loan copies – In Sheffield high priority books are only available to take out until 11.15am the next morning. How many times will you take the book home, leave it on your desk, go drinking and invariably miss the rudely early deadline. Instead reserve the book for a Friday, it will then be due back on Monday. It can sit on your desk unopened for longer. ***** Portobello library has reference only books for students. This is not always convenient but when you are one of about 300 students that needs to read Ariel within the next 7 days, it may be worth popping down there for a few hours. *****If there is an urgent need to read a book, and you can’t afford to buy it or are a bit short of points to get another Amazon voucher from dooyoo, ask a lecturer or tutor. When students ask me nicely I am always happy to lend them a book, though sometimes a little embarrassed as a few of my planning text have some obscenities reflecting my annoyance at the course material ****If it’s not urgent, then email the library and ask them to stock more copies of a particular text or to make sure they are put in short loan.
****Inter library loans, you need a voucher from your department and then it will be ordered from the British library depot at Boston Spa ****You can get a free minibus to Boston Spa if you can’t get an interlibrary loan voucher, you pre-order the books, however, photocopying is very expensive ****Use journal articles, they are reference only material. There are a number of electronic abstract databases and journals on-line linked from the library website The best bit about the Main Library are the stacks. Well stacks 3 and 4 are a little dull and house journals and pamphlets. However, stacks 1 and 2 are to my sad mind magical. You generally have to be a postgraduate to use them due to fire regulations or something like this. However, they are wonderful and it was my visit to them today which inspired me to write about the library. These stacks house the archived collections, all those books that were really cutting edge 40, 50 or 100 years ago and are now unwanted by the majority of the student population. On one hand it’s rather sad because I love books and the fact that hardly anyone sees these books let alone takes them out is a little tragic. On the other hand it’s exciting because so few people go to the stacks to browse, well except me, it’s like having my own incredibly large and diverse book collection. Though I am plagued by a nasty desire to nick a couple of lovely books, no one would notice, but I slap myself on the hand and move on. However, as a child I was taught to share with others and if you are at Sheffield, please go and have a browse, though be warned they are a little spooky and there may be a mad woman in there singing and talking to herself. Browsing in libraries is the best bit, you come across all manner of books that you otherwise wouldn’t find by searching the catalogue. Today in my travels I came across massive collections of novels and plays. Some of these date back to 189
0 and have never been taken out of the library, isn’t that sad? I also came across the 4 volumed proceedings of the carbonisation industry conference of 1942 (yawn), lots of planning books from the 40s which made me laugh for their sheer rational optimism of the greatest of engineering and science to solve the ills of the world. I am also currently reading a fascinating essay on socialism by Wilde. I also came across the Pearce collection. This is a smallish collection of books, about 3500 in all, a bequest of Anthony Pearce. Who is Anthony Pearce, I have one of his books on loan and there is no information about who he is. It is bugging me, if you are kind enough to leave a very nice book collection to the library, you would perhaps like to be remembered , oh and perhaps not have all your books stuck in a basement for my occasional visits. All I know about this man is that he personifies the phrase “well read.” This is the first time I have seen a copy of the Legend of Gilgamesh (penguin edition) outside a religious setting. This person has a lovely set of Penguin modern stories showcasing new and young talent such as Sylvia Plath (I can’t help it but I love penguin books or is it just penguins?). Besides this there is lots of literature, philosophy books, art books and history books. Well besides the fact my own book collection looks pretty lightweight in comparison and a little heavy on the town planning front, I have come out with a stupid and foolhardy idea, to try and read a book a week from this collection. I won’t get very far through it, perhaps only 100 or so books before I leave Sheffield. But I think if I left my books to a library collection, it would be nice to think that people read them, appreciated them and thought about who I was. That’s what I am going to do, so thank you Mr Pearce for leaving me some interesting books to delve into. Well back to more reading, absolutely unrelated to my r
Have you been to Glastonbury? If so I’m sure one of the highlights must have been the open air toilets where after marvelling at the lack of aim of some people you can muse on whether your waste products may be sprayed on some fields in the near future? You can then enjoy watching the people scrubbing their hands in cold water with their antibacterial soap attempting to cleanse themselves of the horrible dirt as if it was the stain of devilish sin? Then you may know that agreeing to spend 7 weeks without flushing toilets and showers and without the distraction of music, drugs and alcohol may be a bad idea. Actually I lie about the alcohol as they were allowed to ferments some apples, yum! Surviving the Iron Age is another series in that great genre of TV where BBC producers gleefully persuade some unsuspecting volunteers that there is nothing they would rather do than live a life of deprivation in front of the cameras. These people don’t really think about what they are. Who on earth would agree to go and live on a damp hill in the middle of Wales? The narrator gleefully informs us that it was the wettest autumn in about 50 years during the filming of the project. Our 17 hopefuls seemed to think that all would be well and they would rediscover themselves after a pleasant stay in an Iron Age hut. How wrong they were and evilly I was secretly glad. Though it’s not so secret now I’ve told you lot. How bad I am, but you can’t blame me the narrator glories in all the mishaps too! However, the initial marvelling at the carved bowls and blankets (yawn) which our Iron Age ancestors may or may not have used was soon dissipated when they realised that toilet paper was not due to be invented for a few thousand years. In my opinion most of the participants were incredibly annoying so I was happy to see things go horribly wrong for them, or maybe that’s just because I’m evil. The most likeable person being
Chris, a druid, who adapts marvellously to the lifestyle. Format Each week the programme documents the day to day activity of living in the Iron Age which to be fair is pretty dull sometimes merging on the quite gross. Even the simplest tasks of cooking seem to end in mishap with doctors having to be called in as the volunteers all go down with food poisoning. Or you get to see them make charcoal or soap with maggoty animal fat, skills for very good reason forgotten by users of that modern convenience the supermarket. Interspersed with this are the comments of the ‘experts’ who make sweeping generalisations about life in the Iron Age. Or that’s how it appears to me. Though they do point out that they would be subject to raiding parties and attacks, but I fear that the BBC aren’t going to actually stage this. The real interest of the show is the group dynamics. The leader was elected by group voting and is Anne who on the surface seems like a pleasant enough if not overly fluffy middle aged woman. However, there is a real rift between her and Yasmin and they have to bring in a management motivator to stop the project all going horribly wrong. Some might say that Yasmin is overreacting, after all one of her main complaints is that Anne never pronounces her name properly. Like Narinder with Helen in Big Brother I guess. But as someone with the name Yasminah ( and no I’m not Yasmin, cunningly disguising my identity by adding an “ah” to the end of my name) it is immensely annoying when people obviously don’t listen to what you are saying and I guess there is really no excuse if you live with someone for 6 weeks to be incapable of saying their name. Whenever things seem to be going well, the narrator intones sometime sinister such as all is now going well but will this fragile consensus last over the next 6 weeks, to which we all know (or maybe) hope that the answer is no.
And what are the lessons learnt from all of this? That people from the 21st Century would have real problems living in the Iron Age, which let’s face it was a harsh and unrelenting existence. I could have told you that from the comfort of my sofa. The programme has suffered as the BBC have shunted it’s time all over the place. It did start off at 8pm on Thursday’s but has since been moved to Sunday’s and they dropped the advertising for it. This could be because it was immensely unpopular but I think it was because it all went horribly wrong for them! Still if you are interested the link is www.bbc.co.uk/history and the last programme is going to be on the 17th June. I found it an interesting example of reality TV, though not as good as the 1980’s house (Adam & Jo) which I guess I will be waiting for a decade or 2 to see but I remain quietly confident….
Vodka is a funny old drink, sometimes it's a sensible and wise decision and sometimes having it is, well a bit foolish. Mmmh, like drinking vodka after coming back from the pub last night and then for some inexplicable reason logging into dooyoo. Even more annoyingly, you can't delete your opinions, in dooyoo. So here I am in a post hangover period, trying to rewrite my opinion as I had some inane ramblings about vodka last night. Well what can I say, as the thought of drinking vodka as this moment in time is making me feel slightly unwell. I was immune to its charms before going to Finland where the average person drinks about 8 bottles a year. Here the vodka flows a little too freely but then they have an excellent selection. I recommend Finlandia which bottles an excellent selection of vodka's. There is obviously the standard vodka, then there is a range of flavoured vodkas which I particularly enjoy. They include Finlandia Lime, Lemon and Cranberry. Apparently they are made from pure glacier water and barley. Finlandia can be quite pricey however, in certain locations in Finland. In duty free shops at airports, a litre bottle costs upwards of £20, though if you are flying to a non EU destination that price would at least halve. A half litre bottle of flavoured vodka would cost around £11 which is fairly pricey. The best place I have found to purchase Finlandia is on the ferry from Helsinki to Talinn. Here a litre of Finlandia retails for around £5. Well I would tell you more about vodka but I think I need to go back to bed for a short while.....
As you may know I absolutely despise Kilroy, the thought of possibly seeing this show is enough to get me out of the house in the morning. However, during the last few days I have been going into work a little later as it's the exams at uni and as an exam free postgrad, I like to miss the hoards waiting for exams as it makes me stressed and they also are in the way when I go to buy the paper. So the cat and I have been watching the Wright Stuff as I don't want her spouting the Toryesque views of Kilroy or giving me pyschobabble a la Trish. The format of the Wright Stuff is very tabloidesque and you would expect no less from Channel 5. Just in case you don't know that Matthew Wright is a Mirror journalist then each topic is presented at the side of the screen upon a tabloid. He is joined by James, humourous but slightly annoying man and Kate who I absolutely detest. She is a low rent Emma B or Kate Thornton, that is, has an opinion on everything but knows nothing. I am sure she will be turning up on I love 1980s documentaries in the near future and telling us something really obvious that is supposedly of more value because she is on TV. The programme alternates between phone ins and comments from the studio audience. They also have email messages running along the bottom of the screen which I find quite confusing in the morning. Both groups of people always seem quite alarmed by the fact they are on tv and often make little sense. Wright does actually manage to deal with them fairly well and can be quite humourous. There is also an opportunity for at home participation. No not just shouting at the tv, you can part with 10 shiny new pennies to vote on some poll. The thing I love about these polls is that they prove nothing except that 34% of the audience of this programme agree/ dont agree with some contrived topic. Recent topics include Incentives for School Children National Insurance Con
tributions Should booze be banned on planes? Is flirting advantageous for you? Was survivor a good or bad programme? So you can see it's a mix between the utterly banal and the somewhat serious. However, Kate often manages to make completely irrelevant and unthought out comments regarding the serious topics. Wright also comes across as a misogynist, for example, calling air stewardesses trolly dollys which led to some annoyed stewardesses calling in! I am undecided about James, I think he may be having some sort of life crisis. I like the telephone operator as she always manages to make some unasked for comment and seems quite condescending towards the presenters. Apparently this is daytime tvs equivalent to Newsnight! But it's better as it's not all overpaid pundits. Mmmmh I am of the opinion that the contributors to newsnight and other such programmes actually have some background in investigative journalism and politics. My advice, is this programme is ok if you take it at face value, a daytime programme that is ultimately superficial and shallow. Enjoy it for what it is and don't try to make grandiose claims. As for the cat, well she doesn't really have an interest in current affairs, oh and cats can't talk. If you really want to there is at link at channel5.co.uk. Hey you could even be in the audience. I won't be seeing you there.......
I'm going to be unpopular for writing this opinion but I don't care!!! The majority of the opinions seem to be saying that the Government are greedy for taxing fuel so highly and how much better all our lives would be without having to pay high fuel prices. I say that we are greedy to demand the Government to subsidise us in our polluting ways. **Pollution** I, as much as anyone else, am all for saving money and I'm learning to drive which means that I too will contribute to global pollution. Therefore, I'm happy to pay duty on my fuel because it makes me acknowledge that petrol is bad and if it was cheaper I would only use more. Think about all that money that we could save and all those extra car journeys we could make. We could ensure hotter weather in Britain as we accelerate global warming. There would be no need to go abroad to get a tan. How great that would be! **Costs to others** THe Government will apparently raise £23bn on fuel duty but as any basic economics text book will say there is a near to consider the externalities of car use. It's not just the costs of buying, insuring and driving a car but the costs to others. However just the health impacts of the pollution caused by car ownership cost £11 billion a year e.g childhood asthma. In fact if we were to take into account other factors such as road traffic accidents and damage to landscape the real cost of motoring are far higher. (Source Transport 2000) **Oil Companies** In fact my annoyance is not caused by the Government taxing me. You just have to look at the USA to see that cheap petrol is a bad thing, people buy big cars, use lots of fuel, oh yes and contribute 25% of the greenhouse gases in the world. They really are leading the field, they are rejecting Kyoto and unsurprisingly Big Oil gave $25 million to the Republican campaign. So I wish the government would tax oil companies more and make them change t
heir ways. Instead of courting big business in the really distasteful way they have been. There used to be taxes on oil at the point of extraction and if there continued to be such taxes then companies such as Exxon wouldn't have make such ridiculous profits ($17.7bn last year). The ex Tory MEP Tom Spencer suggested that we stoped giving hurricanes women's or mens first names (their increase is attributed to climate change). "Why don't we name the truly guilty parties?...Let's call the storms Amoco, then BP, then Chevron......" (The New Statesman) **The Poor** As for the argument that the poor benefiting from a reduction in fuel duty. What a load of utter rubbish! The real poor don't really give a damm about how much fuel costs because you know what they can't afford a car (see work by Rosalie Hill). What about the disabled? Well if you get mobility allowance you can exchange this on a Goverment scheme to get a new car with power steering, fully comprehensive insurance and AA membership. The only cost you bear is the fuel and my mother is very happy with this arrangement and doesn't mind having to pay petrol costs at all. **Fuel Protesters** No review would be complete without a few choice words about fuel protesters. They feel they have some legitimate complaint but they way they went about it can hardly be said to be peaceful, as opposed to say the Mayday Protesters. Truck drivers don't stop working because someone says 'If you really would be so kind, please go back inside and don't go to work.' Also since when has a self elected group gained the right to decide if ambulances or other services have fuel. In fact they are completely different to May Day protesters because they are bolstering capitalism and self interest through their protests where as they May Day protesters, in the main, have something important to say about altruism. <br><br>**Public Transport** As to those people living in rural areas? Well I agree there are issues to do with rural poverty and the lack of decent transport. There does need to be much more investment in public transport however, post deregulation (by the Conservatives I may add) the means of funding services do not lay with local authorities but with the individual profit making companies. Therefore, the Government should give local authorities more powers. We are currently in a ridiculous situation where local authorities can pay for bus stops for not for extra bus services. As to the operators well they too are driven by profit not by public interest. However, I must add that Sheffield has an excellent public transport system. The same thing applies to intercity rail services. Since deregulation the fares have gone up and up so it costs much more to travel by train. **Status Symbols** However, lots of people drive fuel inefficient cars. And I really don't see why people who live in cities drive range rovers and whinge about the cost of petrol. The answer may be to buy a fuel efficient car. People need to stop treating cars as status symbols! Also there are no kangaroos in Britain so kangaroo bars are not necessary and also very dangerous. **Short Term** Current arguments for the reduction of fuel duty are short term views and basically says to future generations that we don't give a damm about them or the future of the planet because we will be dead, they can just sort it out for themselves. Just saying that we would use public transport is a bit of a cop out because we are saying we value personal convenience about anything else. Oil is a finite resource let's use the money to develop clean(er) transport means before it is too late. Let's think about others and not just ourselves
I am spent far to long trying to think of a punning title involving the initials QPD but have been unable to come up with any that don't sound completely lame though Quality Paperbacks Direct is scarcely a work of genius after all. So answers on a postcard please..... QPD are one of these generic book clubs advertised on the back of weekend supplements to the paper. A few years ago I succumbed to their evil marketing ploy. The initial offer is great and I have no criticism to make of it. It was a few years ago so I can't remember exactly how much I paid but I think it was £2.50 for 5 books plus postage and packing which was about the same price again. For this I chose: Amsterdam - Ian McEwan England England - Julian Barnes The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy Beloved - Toni Morrison Filth - Irvine Welsh Their special opening offer did offer good value for money as you could give books that were bestsellers at the time. Amsterdam, I think won the Booker prize that year. The obligation after that was you had to be a member for 2 years and during that time buy 6 books. I thought that it would be unproblematic and I didn't think that it would be a problem to select 6 books I wanted especially as they promised a discounted price. How wrong I was! At first rejecting the editors choice was easy to do. You could ring up the automated number and you key in the number of the editor's choice. It is therefore important not to misplace the order form, not so easy when I was moving house though! If you don't have the number you have to go through the torture of trying to get through to a real person to make your request. This is not an easy thing to do and took about 3 attempts and being put on hold for upwards of 15 minutes on occasions. When you get through to a real person, you have a 50% chance of not having a really sarcastic customer services assistance to whom the idea of customer
relations is a sick joke. On the other hand the other 50% of the time the person is very nice and helpful. Maybe they do it to give an extra bit of excitement to the whole process? Despite rejecting the Editor's choice on most occasions, because in my opinion, the Editor at QPD had really bad taste in books and trys to enforce their dire taste on a wider audience, it should not be allowed in a civilised society! Let me give you the short extract of the latest editor's choice: "A Day Late And A Dollar Short Terry McMillan An exuberant and emotionally charged new novel from one of America's best-loved chroniclers of family life, variously described as the black American Maeve Binchy and a modern Dickens." Not only is this review likely to put off alll but hard core Binchy fans(ok my mum), what exactly is a black American Maeve Binch? This book may be good but I've been put off reading it. OK, so I've rejected the editor's choice because even I have better taste in books and part of my reading list at uni included A History of Development Control. I now flick through their catalogue to see what else I could buy. And although there are a few reasonable choices nothing is much cheaper than at your local book store and even if there is a small discount you end up paying more with posting and packaging. So during this time the only book I really enjoyed was the Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer. However, Editor's choices arrived at my house even when rejected. To return them you have to order a voucher and then they try and charge you another £2 postage fee. The end of my membership which is still dragging on because of continual disputes about payment. I ended up receiving 3 packages of books that I hadn't ordered and being asked to pay £6 to return them plus late payment charges. However, after writing to them because I couldn't get through
to the phone number I just got a standard letter saying payment was overdue with no acknowledgement of the first letter. I wrote again attaching a copy of my first letter and then got a letter from Credit Control threatening me with court action. After this I wrote a very annoyed letter asking why they didn't have the decency to respond to my first 2 letters (I sent them again for good measure). At the moment I am told that I must pay £7 unspecified charges to end my membership. In summary, QPD have good initial offers, however, the selection of books after this are limited and generally the sort of novels that come free with magazines. You may as well do that! If you have problems with them it is a time consuming and frustrating process to follow up. I got the impression that they just drag out the process so you pay them anyway. There are other reviews of good book clubs in this section, stick with one of them!
I have kept on debating writing an opinion on this topic as it is a little too close for comfort. Well here goes..... My dad used to be a vicar at our local church. He is charming, funny and at times was the best dad in the world. He is loved at work, he works on a pyschatric ward and is well loved by staff and patients. Some of my best childhood memories are of the fun times I had with my dad but some of the worse memories are of him as well. As a child I thought it was normal to get hit for doing something wrong. I'm not talking about a smack for being naughty but being hit with a stick or hit so hard that you have bruises on your legs. Things weren't so bad at home, as a family we did have fun some of the time. I can't even remeember when it would start to go wrong and what would happen. All I remember is being dragged into the lounge with my brother to give an account of some misdemeneour. We would sit there for what seemed like hours, how did we know why we had done something wrong, we were only kids. However, the answer 'I don't know' wasn't acceptable and that's when my dad would hit one or both or us. If my mum tried to intervene then it would only make matters worse and I can quite honestly say I would prefer to be hit than see my mum get beaten up. During the evenings when we went to bed, my mum and dad would row at least 4 times a week and I still get that sick feeling in my stomach. I longed for my mum to stop arguing with my dad as there were going to be inevitable consequences. And what did I do? Nothing. What did my mum do? She just didn't want to leave my dad, she really loved him and having a 14 year daughther tell her otherwise just wasn't going to work. On the other hand she was also quite violent perhaps because of it and she was much more out of control with me than my father. My brother started intervening in our fights when he was older. Of co
urse, when I was older I spoke to one of my friends about it and she enlightened me to the fact that this wasn't the behaviour of a normal father. When I used to row with my dad I threatened to tell people at church about it. He responded that they would never believe me and everyone would hate me for telling lies or other such threats designed to cause guilt. So I never did tell and it carried on and on. I got sick of it and at the age of 19 left home to live with my partner of the time. I wasn't really in love with him but I thought any escape was better than staying. Needless to say that didn't work out and we split up after a few years together. Partly because I had difficulty in holding together a normal relationship. I had grown up expecting relationships to be aggressive (not so much physically but emotionally) and problematic and during successive relationships found it hard to just be happy with someone. I spent a fair amount of time at my parents during holidays from university though I wasn't keen to go back for obvious reasons. Although my parents still argued when I was there it was too a lessor extent and although it was stressful nothing seemed to come of it. I reasoned that I was old enough to stand up to my dad and I wasn't scared of him anymore. That was until one evening my parents were having a really big row and then the sounds of a fight came upstairs. What did I do? Rush and stop it, I wish I had, however, I was completely petrified. After it had been going on for a bit, I went downstairs and accused my dad of hitting my mum. He seemed scared of me, I couldn't believe it, but I was very angry! He came up with some lame excuse about my mum annoying him and I told him never to hit her again. I was very disappointed with my completely inadequate response and don't believe he still scares me. Whether he stopped or not I don't know and although I used to tell my mum to leave
him I do think things are better and she loves him. Anyway I don't think it's for me to say what she should do. This may seem a little weak willed of me. There is absolutely no excuse for domestic violence, it damages people so much. If you are in a relationship and argue you don't consider how others outside the argument may feel i.e. children. I feel glad that I've had supportive friends to talk to, my brother's wife wouldn't even know about it if I hadn't said. He tries to deny it ever happened which worries me. At the end of the day, I've forgotten how much getting hit hurts, those bruises go away (I didn't experience the level of violence that others have suffered). However, for me the thing that makes me hate my childhood is that even in recounting this tale, those feelings of fear, anger and worry for myself, my brother and my mum are still there. I can't forgive my father for doing that to us. I don't know why I don't blame my mother, she was seriously deranged at the time. Of course, now we see each other and all pretend it never happened. It may seem like I'm trying to sweep it all under the carpet and forget abot it, which I won't. However, I honestly believe they are sorry for what happened. But the worse thing is that at the time people from our church knew what was happening and did nothing and said nothing. They just left us to get on with it. The sad thing is that the only emotion my dad has ever been able to express eloquently is anger. But I still love him.
Helsinki has 2 excellent art galleries in close proximity to each other. The first - At Ateneum is a more traditional gallery and probably the Finnish equivalent of the National Gallery. Kiasma, was built in 1998 and is one of the architectural highlights of Helsinki. It contains modern art and again has similarities to Tate Modern. Kiasma is at Mannerheiminaukio and also near to the train station. It's a very distinctive modern building and there is a statue of Mannerheim on a horse so it's pretty hard to miss. Kiasma is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10-10 and on Tuesday's from 9-5. It's also closed all day Monday. I'm not sure of the cost because I also visited this gallery on National Musuem Day. The gallery is well worth seeing both for the collection and the design of the building. There are some excellent views of Helsinki from parts of the gallery. Again, as you would expect, most of the work is by Finnish artists and there is a small but growing collection of international works by artists such as our own Tracy Emin. The current special exhibitions include Nina Roos, a Finnish artist; Widening Circle is a showcase of recent international acquisitions; and Vicious Circle by Sirkka-Liisa Sass. I found this a particularly challenging and interesting exhibition as it dealt with her experience of Scoliosis which is a disease which causes curvature of the spine and through this she examined concepts of body image. Kiasma also has a smallish bookshop, there are normally 2 computers for internet usage but they weren't there at the time. And it has an excellent cafe and bar, I recommend the lattes here which are about £1.70, they also sell hot chocolate but they put pepper on top which I found a little weird. The bar has djs during the weekend but I don't know how good it is as a evening venue. The website http://www.fng.fi/ has much more information on both galleries and is well w
orth a look. Sinebrychoff Art Museum is currently closed for renovation until 2003. If you only have time to visit one gallery in Helsinki I recommend Kiasma.
Social Research - Issues, Methods and Process by Tim May is one of the best books in the field. The second edition was published in 1997 as the book was such a success. It is excellent for both undergraduate and postgraduate students and I found it useful during my first degree and now during my PhD. My supervisor (a professor) also thinks it's one of the best books in the field. The book is well structured and you can dip into it easily. Part I is about issues in social research. Chapter 1 gives a good introduction to various perspectives from positivism to postmodernism. Chapters 2 and 3 address how theory links to research and how values and ethics impact on research. Part II looks at methods of social research, the remaining chapters each tackling a means of research: Chapter 4: Official Statistic Chapter 5: Social surveys Chapter 6: Interviewing Chapter 7: Participant observation Chapter 8: Documentary research Chapter 9: Comparative Research I found chapter 5, social surveys, to be particularly useful in designing a questionnaire survey. The chapter gives an overview of the stages within conducting a survey: * sampling * types of questionnaires * types of questions * coding * analysis It highlights potential pitfalls that can be made when conducting this type of survey and I found it much more accessible that many other books on questionnaire design. Each chapter is well structured, giving background to each topic, and flagging up issues and dangers with each approach. Each chapter concludes by highlighting the key issues, summarising the chapter, giving a few questions for reflection and then some recommended further reading. The two parts work well together, giving it much more depth that a how to.... book. The book is easy to read and has an excellent layout but this does not compromise its academic rigour. It's a must have for any
I recently was tempted to get a mini rough guide for Brussels. (It was free if I bought a rough guide). How wrong I was! Although the book contained some useful information about places to stay and places to eat, the layout of the book made it hard to get anything useful out of it. Instead of setting out all the information by geographical location, there is a small section detailing history and places of interest. Then the bulk of the book is the listings section, containing accommodation listings, places to eat and drink, clubs etc but each subsection is subdivided again into geographical districts rather than grouping all the listings together. This made for unnecessary complication when using the guide. Not least as the size of Brussels means that you had to scan through several sections at once, as bars and restaurants separated by the guide were in reality a short walking distance. There were also some errors within the guide, for example the hostel I stayed at - Bruegel, is given a completely different map reference to its actual location. The maps may have been in colour but a lack of detail and relation to reality rendered them fairly useless (though I don't think the rough guide is much worse than other guides). I recommend buying a city map (about 70p) from tourist information or your hostel/ hotel. Another area which seemed muddled was information about houses designed by Victor Horta in the EU district. However, a lovely lady, working in the EU information shop, had already drawn us a map of houses of interest. Incidentally, there is a monument designed by Horta in a park in the EU district (I've forgotten its name but the National Art Museum is in the same park), however, it was closed 3 days after it was open in the late 1800s due to public outrage and you need to book an appointment to see it. Although there were a few helpful pieces of information, the guide made it hard to access them. I was lef
t with the impression in some sections that the author had spent more time reading about Brussels than actually being there. I would recommend either a lonely planets guide or the Time Out Guide to Brussels. I would have been really disappointed by this guide but then it was free....
Not being the most motivated or confident of learner drivers, BSM is the third driving school I have had lessons with. I'm currently learning in Sheffield, which as probably the hilliest city in England could be one of the worst places in the country to learn how to drive. Lots of people have strong! opinions on how badly BSM have treated them but my experience has been fantastic compared to previous driving instructors. Taking a slight detour through time... My first driving instructor was with a small driving school in Sheffield. I found the instructor to be rude and intolerant of any mistakes I made driving and during this time I don't think I did any manouvres at all! I dreaded my lessons and I'm embarassed to say used to cry after them. I stopped my driving lessons with a complete lack of confidence in my ability to drive. Two years later, whilst I was persuaded to try and learn to drive again. The second driving instructor was a sole driving instructor. These driving lessons were in Dartford, a flatter and less busy town. Although the experience was better than the previous time, again I found on occasions the instructor getting annoyed with mistakes I made. I decided last year that maybe a woman instructor would be better and I did try the AA first but they didn't have any female instructors. BSM had one however, and I decided to book lessons with her. She has been the best driving instructor of the three. She always arrives early, if we end the lesson early she adds the time on the next lesson, I've only had one lesson cancelled due to sickness and she never takes a break during the lessons. Also once during very snowy weather I didn't feel confident about driving and we returned. I wasn't charged for the lesson even though we ended up being in the car for over an hour She is, more importantly, an excellent instructor and I feel (almost) confident about my drivi
ng. I have never felt intimidated or that I wasn't a good driver and I do feel that she understands my concerns. Although I have had 30 lessons I don't feel they have dragged things out as I was completely lacking confidence before and I am nearing test standard. You must also bear in mind that Sheffield is an evil place to drive in and some of my driving friends avoid driving around certain parts of Sheffield. The cost is quite high though there is a small discount for students. They also like you to take 2 hour lessons. Though I personally prefer them to one hour long lessons as you can get more done. The cars are new corsas which are replaced every 6 months. The main disadvantage is that you have to cancel lessons 48 hours in advance or you lose the money. I think I may be eulogising over my instructor but I think that relationship is the most important part of learning to drive. So the important thing when deciding to take lessons is finding someone that will be supportive and understanding whilst pushing you to develop your driving ability. If your first instructor is bad then feel confident about changing rather than letting them make you feel bad. I now even enjoy driving!