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~~About The Author~~
Born Theodore Seuss Geisel in Massachusetts in March 1904, he arrived in a family with its share of mixed luck. His father, for instance, was lucky enough to inherit a brewery only to find that Prohibition kicked in one month later! Geisel was made editor of his college magazine, only to be caught drinking in his room and banned from enjoying any extra curricular activities. But writing is where his heart was, and thus the invention of Dr Seuss - a pen name he used during this time to avoid detection from his college masters and one that stuck with him throughout his life (altho he also published under 'Lesieg' - (his surname spelt backwards)
Any reader of Seuss will be familiar with his classic use of anapestic tetrameter (in laymans terms this simply means that the verse chugs along much like the puffing of a train with strain placed on the 3rd sylable - reverse waltz style) - Something like this (the capitals denoting where to place the strain when reading aloud):
When Im WRIting for DOOyoo I'll ALways agREE that I'll RATE you in TURN if you COME and rate ME
Apparently this kind of rhyme is great for pulling the reader in, explaining the huge popularity of his work amongst adults and children alike. He would have been glad to hear that as by his own words he was 'subversive as hell'! His books have come to represent a host of political and social issues (The Lorax is believed to represent his views on anti-consumerism/materialism; *Horton Hears A Who - about internationalism) but Seuss makes a big point of not including a moral in his stories, reasoning that 'kids hate that' - nonetheless, there are always morals to be found in stories and Solla Sollew is no exception..
*The pro-lifers have attempted to persuade the public that Horton Hears A Who is about the abortion debate ("A person's a person, no matter how small") but Seuss's widow has made it clear that it was not Theo's intention to comment on this.
~~An Epic Journey~~
Q) So what's it all about?
A) Our hero is letting life get him down - he's having a few problems and feels the need to escape - so on hearing about Solla Sollew - "where they never have troubles, at least very few" - he decides that he can escape all the annoying bitey, stingy animals at home and head there for a more peaceful life.
Q) And he gets there and lives happily every after?
A) Not quite - he goes through so much to get there, at one point even having to drum up some help from an army (they don't help much - deserting him at a crucial point!) and then on arrival discovers exactly what the problem with Solla Sollew - altho it was just as nice as he had been led to believe, the problem was more to do with the inability to get beyond the city walls.
Q) He must have been gutted after such a long Odyssey-journey to find that he couldn't make it into the city.. how did he deal with this disappointment?
A) Well he met another chap who suggested they teamed up and headed off to a city that had no troubles at all. And you could see he was sorely tempted to join him, after all - Solla Sollew had been a bit of a wash out and going home meant he would have to deal with all the annoying bitey things that he had been trying to get away from in the first place. So after much deliberation he picked himself up and decided to head back home - this time armed with a very big bat and a subtle air of determination and violence.
Q) And that's the moral? Violence IS the answer?
A) Hmmm. I guess it is. Or perhaps Seuss would be happier if we took 'Face your problems full on' or 'The grass isn't always greener'... Whatever message you take from the book, it is bound to delight young children. An absolute classic from one of the world's most well known children's authors. Enjoy.
"Did you poo on my head?" asks Little Mole.
Little Mole has so many questions yet nobody seems to have the answers. But with some clever detective work, Little Mole finds out exactly who has pooed on his head. This is a hilarious book for children. And adults. It's a little surreal. But it's very, very funny.
Q) What's it about?
A) Basically a mole wakes up one morning to discover that somebody has pooed on his head. The story follows his adventures to find out just who had the sheer audacity to relieve themselves on our intrepid hero...
Q) And did he find the culprit?
A) Indeed he did.. but only after thorough examination of a great number of his fellow animal's droppings.
Q) Well at least it doesn't describe the poo, does it?
A) It does - in glorious detail. Little mole spends literally hours comparing the pile of poo on his head with those that he comes across on his journey. And very thorough he is too - checking the size, shape and consistancy as well as keeping an ear out for the sounds that could indicate poo in the neighbourhood.
Q) Is there anything in the book that would be of interest to people who do not have a natural fascination with poo?
A) The illustrations are truly charming. Even the ones that aren't depicting droppings.
Q) Thanks all the same but don't you think this all sounds a bit childish?
A) That's almost the point. It's a crazy little book, but one that the kids will absolutely adore. I've bought this book for so many children that I know and they have all fallen in love with it. It's impossible to read without a giggle, and however 'poor taste' it may sound, it delights little kids so much that it could inspire them to read more..
Q) Poppycock. Why would it inspire them to read?
A) Here's a tip - buy it for a three year old girl and then give your six year old boy the job of reading it for their little sister at bedtime. Education and fun for the six year old, quality storytime for the three year old. It may even give you five free minutes to pour yourself a G&T/write a dooyoo review. Everyone's happy.
A) Well, everyone apart from Little Mole. He still has poo on his head...
Philip Pullman - best known for his Northern Lights/Dark Materials trilogy* - is one of the most popular children's authors in the UK. Born in Norwich in 1946, with spells in Zimbabwe and Wales, he worked as a teacher for many years before his first novel 'Count Karlstein' was published in 1982. He's no stranger to controversy, but the subject matter in this, his latest book, has caused more stir than Cleggmania; he follows the likes of Dan Brown and Monty Python in daring to be seen to mocking religion. And, predictably, enjoys the ensuing publicity. A clever man indeed - there is no faster way to reach the best seller lists than court publicity. In reality though, this book is more a tale of siblings and storytelling than any deep, dark attack on religion.
*If you have ever tried and failed to 'get into' a Philip Pullman novel, the trick is to hang in there - he does take some time to warm up! The books are far superior to the films so certainly worth tucking into.
The Good Man Jesus And The Scoundrel Christ is aimed at teenage+ readers, and follows the lives of two twins. Jesus is the favoured of the two - an honest, charismatic lad who has a somewhat idealised opinion of the world and people. His brother is more pragmatic and sees beyond his brother, writing the story of his (Jesus') life as it happens, understanding that without strong direction Man will never make it to 'The Kingdom of God' and that sometimes there has to be compromise to make at least a small part of what you are aiming for, actually happen. The story knits many well known 'tales' from the bible into it, whilst offering a slightly different slant on some traditional favourites. It is perhaps misleading that the title contains the word 'Scoundrel' - as both brothers are portrayed as good people. Jesus - the miracle worker and preacher, and his brother Christ as the devoted sibling who chronicles his works. It is only the appearance of an angel towards the climax of the book that brings a darker feel to the text. The book raises far more questions than it answers, leaving the reader to fill in the gaps. In short, fanatics have little to cling onto but their own bias - any questionable statements within the book are pulled directly from the bible leaving Mr Pullman neatly in the clear. As I said before: a clever man indeed.
It's THAT time of year again: the sun peeking out from behind the clouds, the shops full of bikinis and sunhats, the birds chirping at full volume. Spring - everything fresh and new - and summer just a whisker away. Avoid mirrors; a quick glance in the bathroom mirror is enough to terrify even the bravest of souls. The New Year resolutions to get to the gym, avoid junk food and stop smoking are but a distant memory. And yes - the pasty grey looking thing in the reflection really is you.
Luckily help is at hand. St Tropez Everyday Gradual Tan Body Lotion is your new best friend - like many of the other 'summer skin' style body lotions, this is basically a moisturiser with a small amount of tanning solution that you can apply daily to gradually build up the desired effect. Anyone who has tried to apply the 'original' St Tropez 'instant tan' should not be put off by any unfortunate past experiences - the gradual version will not leave visible 'tidemarks' even if your application is slightly sloppy. The tan itself is also suitable for very light skins and still leaves a natural look. For best results a quick body scrub (St Tropez have a specially designed product, but any cheap non-oily body scrub will do) in the shower before application will leave your skin silky soft as well as gorgeously golden, and because the lotion can be used daily, it's quick to apply and doesn't involve hours of standing around waiting for it to dry off or worrying about towel and clothes being stained.*
Within days that pasty grey reflection will be a distant memory. And better still, not only will you have that subtle golden healthy glow, a light tan somehow make you look a little slimmer so you may not have to bother with the gym either! And at around £20 from most stockists, it won't break the bank
*Quick tip - it's worth giving your hands a quick rinse under the taps after application to avoid any 'brown palm' accidents.
Only a madman would spend over £100 on a toaster. Not my words, but those of my mother who, despite using a toaster each morning for breakfast, would rather cut off her arms rather than spend over £10 on such a simple applicance. In spite of this - or perhaps because of it - my father raided the coffers and presented me with my Dualit three years ago. And it's still going strong, having managed the workload of four teenage toast-loving boys in the house.
The iconic style cannot be faulted and there is just something so very 'solid' about the design and the gently ticking timer that lets you know that breakfast is on the way. My personal favourite function is the fact that the toast does not pop up automatically and instead rises manually with the press of a lever; not only does this mean that there is far less to go wrong mechanically, but it also makes breakfast a calmer affair - no longer are you hit with flying toast while you are waking up over 'the first cup of caffeine' of the day, nor resorting to unhooking bits of bread from the element whilst still half asleep.
For those 'energy-savers' amongst us, there is also is extra bonus: the ability to turn off two of the elements should only two slices be needed in the mornings. Worth every penny. Despite what mum says.
Oh people are so cruel about Ryan Air, aren't they? Come on, they are a budget airline so you need to expect budget service, right?
No frills is one thing, and I'm sure none of their customers expect to have oodles of legroom nor be served champagne and caviar during their shorthaul flight, but the staff are so awful, rude and miserable during the entire flight and a smile costs nothing especially from those working in the service industries. Perhaps they don't have too much to smile about - the inflight magazine contains pictures of selected stewardesses looking 'hot' - Ryan Air's own Calender Foxes; it's like time travel back to the 70s. For whatever reason, the staff do not seem the most jolly (and I should add that it isn't because of my suggested tips below) as they are a special type of miserable even when I turn up in a t-shirt.
Back to travel: Much has been said about their 'con us out of extra charges' which generally makes their £1 flight into an £80 flight before you have reached the check out, but as a regular traveller (I usually go abroad 2ce per month (with easyjet if I can help it)) I am sometimes forced to use a ryan air flight and I have found a quick and simple way to keep the costs low.
1) Beg, borrow or steal* a visa electron to make your booking. This will save you circa £12 per ticket (big saving on a family holiday)
*Actually, probably best not to steal a visa electron, now I think about it. That could have you in trouble with the police and the like.
2) Take all the members of your party to jumble sale or charity shop* to purchase an old coat. Once home, cut slits in the lining of the coat, horizontally, just below the arms, creating deep pockets in the lining. This pockets will form the major part of your 'ryanair suit' and will completely rid you of the need for hold luggage. Slot all your holiday clothes into to your coat and then wear the coat whilst boarding. You will look like a big of a chunkster as you waddle towards your seat, but the warm glow of your cheeks as you swelter under all those layers for a few short moments will be quickly replaced by the warm glow of your wallet when you count how much you have saved.
*Look at that! Not only are you saving money, but you are also doing something nice for charity at the same time - everyone's a winner, huh?
The staff do not like people who wear RyanAir suits - but your fellow passengers will all admire your ingenuity and hopefully offer to buy you drinks on the flight. Or they would do if the drinks weren't so extortionately expense, I guess.
No excuse for bad service - whatever the budget. Do yourself a favour and fly easyjet.
Update: Thanks for the comments, guys.
Using the website: As with everything Ryanair - this is cluttered and low budget in design. That said, it is easy enough to find the flights that you are looking for, and whenever I have booked on here I have found no problems with pages sticking or bookings going astray. Neat features for flexible travellers such as being able to book with a couple of days either side of your chosen date make picking a cheaper flight far quicker and easier, but as I mentioned before, the pricing isn't clear at all and you can easily find yourself forking out for a lot more than you bargained for by the time you reach the checkout.
An extra tip for would-be travellers is to be sure to book at least two weeks in advance for the best price fares - in the 1980s it used to be the last minute flights that made for the best bargains but this is no longer the case - booking as far ahead as possible will get you the best rates.
Have a good trip!
For me there is nothing so fine as the thrill of the chase - be it horses, dogs or even who is going to win the next X Factor - (well, we've gotta have some reason for watching it, right?) and online gambling fits neatly into my busy life. No longer do I have to stand around clutching my ticket in a grotty little betting shop, I can experience this thrill from my desktop dressed only in a pink dressing gown and fluffy slippers.
Sadly ladbrokes.com just doesn't cut the mustard. Ladbrokes is a trusted High Street name but their website just doesn't do them justice. The first thing you will notice on there is the design - they've clearly tried to put as much information on the page as possible and teamed with their trademark colours (bright blinding red) this does less to inspire confidence in the brand and more to inspire a migraine.
If you can face signing up (a more long winded experience that you may have hoped) then finding your way round the site is not as simple as it should be either - placing multiple bets or accumulators isn't a 'one-click' transaction and will require some serious concentration.
They offer a selection of 'casino style' gaming on the site as well but the quality isn't anything to write home about and any offers they periodically tout are generally worse than you will find elsewhere - (eg. 10 free chips when you buy 50)
And finally - and most crucially for the majority of gamblers* - the odds they offer on sporting events are consistently and considerably poorer than their close rivals - one recent observation was during a tennis match when I bet £10 on the favourite to win - on William Hills website this gave me a return of £13.40 - whilst on Ladbrokes I came out with just £11.
*I do not consider myself the same as the majority of gamblers - I enjoy the experience as much as comparing the odds - and if the site was easier on the eye and more navigation-friendly then I would use it regularly despite lower odds. Sadly it's not. So I don't.
Remember that game you used to play at college - the one where you all decide who you would invite to your 'fantasy dinner party' then select a group of 6 people who would be fascinating, witty and wonderful to have at the table? We have a similar game in our house - it is the reverse version where you are forced to imagine a gathering of the most tedious, mismatched people possible to come up with the 'dinner party from hell'.
Without exception, Ricky Gervais is on everyone's Hell-party list.
Poor Gervais. He is only slightly less welcome to the dinner party than Freud ("Oh, for pity's sake, Freud, stop going on and on about your creepy mother at the dinner table")
But unlike Freud, who fails even to amuse at a distance, Ricky is more than welcome to appear on our screens any day of the week. We may not want him in the house, cluttering up the kitchen but the man is comic genius, and Animals is one of his best shows.
I saw the show live, and the DVD has been watched numerous times. It is still hard not to raise a smile when Ricky explains to the audience about this new theory that contradicts Darwin's version of events that he 'found in a dusty old book in the library'... 'It's called the bible.. '.. 'And it's called The Gospel - so it must be true - clue's in the name!'
The show goes on, covering everything from Sharks and Nazis - "sharks good, nazis less so.." to homosexuality in the jungle and of course the tale of Adam and Eve and how the poor snake was forced to crawl on his belly for the rest of his days - "not the worst possible punishment for a snake.." A fabulous DVD and a wonderful show. Check out the 'extras' on the DVD if you are still unconvinced of Gervais's particular unsuitability as a house guest!
An excellent performer and a genius writer. But a completely rubbish dinner party guest.
I first came across audible years ago when looking for some Ricky Gervais audio tapes. Years back it was quite simple to download them to your PC without needing to instal the audible-player - but I am assuming that audible introduced this to stop people file sharing - so I guess the extra trouble and time it takes to download is worth it if you are expecting to use the service more than once.
If you have a small child, then I recommend that you get them to get it all set up for you, as you do need to be quite computer literate to get everything installed in the right place - particularly if you have an older computer.
The range of books they have is tremendous - with everything from 'radio style shows' right thru to classic literature and the prices are reasonable too - (an hour of Ricky Gervais's 'Guide to...' series is less than £2)
I have never needed to contact their helpline, but through audible I have rediscovered a joy for audio/radio that was long forgotten. Ideal for those of us who work at home - a lovely way to break in the day.
Didn't everyone just rave on and on about this book after it won the Booker Prize in 2002? Everywhere you went you would bump into people who would tell you it was 'just incredible' and 'life-changing' and 'fascinating'. For this reason, I delayed reading the book until very recently. And I wish that I had picked it up far earlier when the band wagon was there to be jumped on - as I now find myself evangelising about it to people in the street in the same annyoing way that people would do to me before.
The story follows Piscine (Pi for short), a teenage boy, who escapes from a cargo ship on a life raft after the cargo ship he was travelling in was sunk. In the life raft with him is a hyena, a wounded zebra, a orang-utan and a Bengal tiger. Once rescued, he tells his story which appears so fabulous that the doctors are loathe to believe a word he says, yet by the same token, have no alternative explanation as to how he could have survived.
Written with humour, and subtlty it is easy to see why this book was so widely appauded. Yann is Spanish-born but currently resides in Canada. Life of Pi is his thrid book, and certainly his most successful, making him the darling of Canongate almost overnight.
A genuinely fascinating, original and hilarious novel suitable for adult readers as well as bright young teens (13+)*
*I add the ages here as I do think the subject matter and style tend to make people shy away of recommending this to children - but my teenage sons have all read the book and enjoyed it, and gone on to recommend it to their peers.
Think X Factor. And then double it. Elton, has covered similar topics in the past (Dead Famous comes to mind - parodying Big Brother and the constant dumbling -down on television these days) but Chrat Throb really takes it up a notch. There will be few readers who fail to recognise the Simon Cowell-esque character, ably 'performed' by Calvin Simms, and fewer readers who will not recognise the similarities between the X Factor show on television and the one featured on the pages - particularly in regards to the method they use to divide the contestants into manageable groups: Mingers, Clingers and Blingers.
Ratings are everything as the contestants are abused in the name of 'great television' and the battle of the egos is played out behind the cameras as well as 'in front of a live studio audience'. As with all of Elton's work, the book is topical to the point of being visionary, and it is the wit and strong characters that carry you through the book rather than any exceptional plotlines (that said, there is a nice twist at the end of this piece!). The story follows 'Wannabe Pop-star Shaiana' from start to bitter end.. and the end is more than bitter.
Definitely worth a read even for those that have never picked up a Ben Elton book in their lives.
As a 70 a day moker, I KNEW that this would never make me quit. I LOVE smoking - I love everything about it - I adore the smell, the taste and the look of cigarettes; I enjoy the paraphenalia that you have to carry round with you - the lighters, the matchbooks, the rizlas. And this was a gift - I didn't actually want to give up smoking at any point.
So damn it, Allen! I'm now a non smoker. I don't miss smoking at all - (altho I do occasionally light up a cigar after a big meal) I am about £7000 richer per year, which translates into almost £250k richer between now and retirement.
Allen's method revolves around making you understand that nicotine is very addictive, and that any of your reasons for continuing to smoke are just because your body is craving nicotine. We all know this - but he puts it so clearly that you do start to feel a little annoyed at yourself for 'letting it happen' - and as soon as you reach that point, then you are well on the way to stopping smoking. It's described as the EASY WAY as the idea behind it is almost empowering - rather than moping around saying/thinking 'I really need a cigarette, I'm gasping for a cigarette' etc. you simply have to change your mindset - decide to 'escape' from this cycle of addiction and enjoy your new richer, healthier life.
Definitely worth a look, for even the most hardened smoker. Dr Carr can come across as a little smug at points - but to be fair, he has every right to - this is an excellent program to use to stop smoking. The main points that make this different from usual programs is that he does not advocate use of nicotine substitutes. If you can make it thru the first 3 days with your new mindset then everything becomes so much easier, and he's right - you really can give up smoking in a painless way.
Give it a go - you have nothing to lose.
Christmas is on the way and if your family is anything like mine, the requests for Wiis, XBOXes, DSes and other unpronouncable electronic consumables are flooding in faster than you can say 'Santa has a bit of a painful overdraft'.
Then, in a flash of inspiration you realise that getting a small rodent-like pet would be just to thing to take their minds off the latest computer games. They have always wanted a little pet, and the bank manager will love you forever if you just fork out for a tiny rat-like creature rather than the latest computer games, right?
You remember, you had one as a kid - you called it Hammy - and you loved it to bits, and you congratulate yourself on coming up with a marvellous plan for xmas, knowing that the children will be over the moon, and not only will they be happy, it will be educational for them too - an important step where they learn to clean and care for their little friend.
It's Boxing Day. The children are too busy chatting to their friends on MSN to feed the hamster so you do it for them, clearing some of the wet sawdust out while you are there. They moaned last night that Hammy kept them awake (hamsters are nocturnal) by running around on his wheel in an inconsiderate manner and have decided that he should live in the kitchen rather than their room. The thought of a rodent in the kitchen fills you with dread, but you smile and agree anyway, trying to convince yourself that it is early days and the kids will soon start taking care of Hammy. At 2pm your mother arrives and reminds you that she was forced to take care of Hammy #1 when you were a kid and then she laughs a long, evil, cackling laugh that makes you wish you had bought a Wii.
Fail to follow this advice then remember: hamsters like living alone (so you should stick to just one per cage as they are keen fighters). They are cheap to feed (especially partial to sunflower seeds) and will need fresh water and sawdust daily as they are fastidious and clean natured. Don't rely on young children to help you in this task - you will undoubtedly be the main carer! And don't forget to oil that wheel - they are nocturnal animals so a squeaky wheel could disturb your sleep more than you expect!
Ragdoll Cats - the clue is in the name! They are larger than most breeds, longer and fatter, but the real difference is in their floppiness. The name 'Ragdoll' was coined when it was noticed that the cats would flop like a ragdoll on being picked up.
Children tend to adore them as they are generally happy to be picked up and cuddled and have a placid nature compared to most other breeds. That said, despite their lazy sloth-like lifestyle, they tend to eat like food is going out of fashion. Flopping around all day must use up a lot of calories!
Colourwise: Ragdolls come in many different colours but the one constant is that their eyes are always a beautiful blue colour. Whereas their fur ranges from seal, flame, chocolate, lilac etc and the coat is generally semi-long, silky and soft. Be sure to choose a reputable breeder and see the kittens alongside their mother to get a better idea of how they will look when they are older.
In short, the ragdoll is a beautiful, placid natured cat, ideal for families with younger children.
Agatha Grey was the name of my cat
I am sure I have told you before
She would patiently wait while I went out to work
Then she'd purr as I walked through the door
She would curl in my lap, she would look up to me
With her gorgeous, intelligent eyes
And I loved her so much with her silky, soft fur
So imagine my utmost surprise
When I went in the hallway to hang up my coat
And I happened to glance at the mat
She had moulted all over my lovely new rug
And there's no way i'd put up with that
After all, getting hairs all over the mat is just one step away from soiling my favourite handembroidered bed linen.
So I drowned her in the canal and got a dog instead.
Actually, that's not true at all. I'm a massive cat lover. In fact I am in danger of being one of those crazy old ladies who sits home surrounded by old newspapers and tincans and her 26 alphabetically named cats.. Cats are wonderful pets to keep - they have clear cut personalities, yet are not as dependent on you as a dog, so perfect if you are working, or have other commitments.
Never kept cats before? If you are considering kittens then it is advisable to get 2 at once - they tend to keep each other company and it is adorable to watch them playing together especially while they are small.
Bengals - I have three bengal cats as well as a number of stray/mix breeds - the Bengals are beautiful; their markings are like those of a mini leopard and they are unusual in the fact that they generally like playing with water. This breed is ideal for those who prefer dogs - as they do tend to like going out for walks with you, splashing around in the rain or the bath and they are particularly noisy - much like Siamese - so it is hard to ignore them! So it is worth researching a breed that will fit in with your lifestyle if you wanted something a bit more exotic than the usual tabby.
Cats are so easy to keep - they need a bit of food, a bowl of water and the odd cuddle, and they are happy as can be. Over and out.