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gollygumdrops
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    • Top Ten Childrens Books / Discussion / 9 Readings / 21 Ratings
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      06.11.2003 15:57
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      Hello, feel free to ignore this opening rant and skip down to the challenge. Or not. You could always skip straight on to another opinion, by someone else, I wouldn?t mind, honest. I wouldn?t even know that you?d been by, so there would be no need for any embarrassment as you tried to shuffle out without being noticed, or texted a mate to request a strategically timed ?emergency call?. Really I?m just filling space. I find it really difficult to read text which is all in lower case and therefore see no need to inflict it on you, dear reader. I admit, I?ve been away a while, and I?m not sure what all this lower case nonsense is about. I?m not saying I?m back either. I just read Lamornas latest few opinions, and wanted to go to Russia but had to settle for the next thing she made me want to do, which was take part in malus literature challenge. I?m going to have loads of question marks all over the place too aren?t I? How annoying is that? Hmmmmm? maybe that level of hassle is just too much. Maybe not. I don?t know, I don?t care. (?Therapy is extremely expensive, popping bubble wrap is radically cheap. You choose which one helps with your problem, I?m gonna get some sleep?). x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. x. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Literature Challenge ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Question: what is your favourite genre? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: I don't know whether it counts as literature really, or even a genre, but I really enjoy tales of childhood that have a hint of semi autobiography, but not a ladle full. You need an example really don't you. The Liar by Stephen Fry, or the excellent Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, I could even site Angela's Ashes, but that claims to be more than a hint of autobiography. No matter how diverse the childhoods I always find myself relating to the incidents, feelings a
      nd characters far more than in other books. Question: Do you read the classics, i.e., the great authors of the 18th and 19th century? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: Nope. I was force fed Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy as a child, and I fear they are like sprouts, still totally indigestible and no matter how good for me people believe they are I know the truth - they are dull, slightly unpleasant and make you smell. Question: Are you interested in thrillers? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: I enjoy thrillers, particularly for reading on planes and in airports. They keep me absorbed. James Pattersons books are perfect as they have tiny little chapters so you never have to worry about losing your place when you need to move to let someone go to the toilet or when your meal arrives! Question: What about horror stories? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: I don't enjoy the blood and guts and curious alien kind of books. Horror needs to be far more about suspense for me, so no to horror. Question: Do you read science fiction? ~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: I used to, I loved Aldous Huxleys Brave New World. Does Anthony Burgess count? Its future fiction really rather than science, as is 1984, another goody. So, in summary, I like future fiction, not necessarily science. Sorry for inventing another new category! Question: How many Harry Potter books have you read? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ All except the most recent one. I'm part way through, and likely to remain so for life. It's just not very good. Surely she wasn't paid by the word, and I know she can afford an editor, why didn't she employ one? Question: Have you ever read and enjoyed biographies or autobiographies? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: Yes. Love 'em. Bring &
      #39;em on. I'll read about anyone. Well, there is one exception. I currently have an autobiography of a childhood friend on my bedside table. It's the story of his death, a day by day account of his failure to win a long fought battle against cancer. I want to read it, I know he'll make me laugh, he always did, but I also know I'll cry - a lot - and need to plan around that really. When I've finally read it I'll write a review and you can all rush to Amazon and see what you think. Question: Do you remember any of the books you read and loved as a child? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Still love it! The Magic Faraway Tree. Catcher in the Rye, corny but spot on. Why doesn't somebody somewhere make exploding toffee? Why? Question: Have you reread these books as a grown-up? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: I re read Charlie to any kid who'll listen. I read Catcher a few years ago and still enjoyed it. I think Enid is best left to childhood. Question: Is there a book of which you can say it has influenced you? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: Animal Farm. How did it influence me? I read it first when I was a trusting and idealistic 15 year old. It made me think about how power affects people. Now I'm just an idealistic 35 year old. Sad but true. Mix it with The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again for full effects. Question: Which are your favourite authors? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: I'm not really an author groupie. Question: Which book would you take with you on a desert island? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: Robinson Crusoe of course! But only if it had to be fictional, otherwise something like the SAS Guide to Surviving
      On and Escaping From a Desert Island. Most of my reading is non fiction. Question: What is your attitude towards translations? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: I'm not sure I can have an attitude to translations. Anything which gives great ideas and creativity a bigger audience is a good thing. Anything that brings tosh such as Paulo Cohelo to a bigger audience is a waste of carbon based material. Question: Do you buy your books/get them from the library/borrow them from friends/steal them? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I buy non fiction. So much so that Amazon sends me Christmas gifts! Fiction I tend to borrow. I've just discovered BookCrossing.com - totally fab. A really fun and innovative way to make space in your home and spread a little happiness. Go there. Do it. Question: When you buy books, do you prefer hardcover editions or pocket books? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: Paperbacks Question: Have you ever tried Audio Books? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Answer: Yes. I used to drive an absurd number of miles alone. I found them a great way to make journeys more interesting. I love plays on the radio so it's a natural extension. Warning: Do not listen to the Dads Army tapes in the car, fellow motorists become alarmed as you laugh uproariously whilst driving. This challenge was originally set by MALU - go MALU! - please join in, read other peoples entries and pass the challenge on to another bookworm!

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        16.10.2002 01:52
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        Bereavement affects different people in different ways. Losing different people has affected me in different ways. An encounter with bereavement last winter affected me in a new and interesting way. My ramblings from the time appear below, slightly toned down from my original diary scribbles. Do not read on any further if you are upset by bizarre conflicting emotions, excessively long opinions or language that is totally inappropriate for a family site. Consider this 'opinion' to be an 18 Certificate. Sunday morning and there's a knock on the door. I'm up, but not dressed, just mooching about in my slops. At the door there's someone I don't expect, someone I haven't seen for a while. It's my ex's brother. - Shit. What does he want now? Why can't he just leave me alone. It's been almost eighteen months since John and I were together and although the intensity has died down I can always count on him to rain on my parade with a soppy birthday gift or valentines flowers, or just turn up on high days and holidays to tell me that he wants me back. Get the message mate - I don't want you back. Ten years. You dumped me, I cried, I'm moving on. "Hello" is what I actually say. It's not Peter's fault. He looks tense and stares at me. I invite him in. I have the horrible realisation that John's mother has died and he's sent his brother around to see if I'll go to the funeral and make nice. - I don't want to go. Let's face it, your mum and I were hardly bosom pals, and if I turn up for you this time you'll think I love you and have just been playing hard to get for years. "I've got some bad news" he says, "John's dead". - Whoump. The room expands in front of me. My vision blurs. I know what Peter said, I just can't make sense of it. The air sounds loud and
        starts to press down on me. He's still talking. I know he's telling me what happened, but I only have two words in my head. I sit down. He shuffles nervously. He looks worn out. I haven't seen him for ages, his wife was ill, I wonder how she is. What? Why do I care? Shit. I don't know how I feel. I'm conscious I'm just staring at Peter. He starts talking again. I decide to talk. "I don't know". That's it. No end to the sentence. I don't have one. "I feel..." "It's OK", he's in reassuring mode, "you were together a long time. I know it hasn't been easy. Will you come to the service?". I don't remember him giving me the details. I don't know what I said. I don't remember him leaving. I sat for a while, trying to process the information. - Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I'm vaguely aware that I'm punching the bed and throwing pillows and clothes everywhere. The swearing and hitting dies down and I collapse into a heap of sobs. I get up. I start tidying the house. I wash up, clean up the mess I made in the bedroom and put a load of laundry on. It won't really have much of an effect on me. After all, I did my grieving years ago, he was already dead to me. I had plans to go out that evening. I decided not to cancel, but to tell my very close buddies what had happened. Being good Catholic kids we handled it the best way we knew how. They took me out and got me wasted without mentioning the news once. I get up. I go to work. Bit of a sore head but basically fine. I've decided I don't want to go to the funeral. I don't want to replay everything. I'm just going to carry on as before, after all, nothing's really changed. I'm in the office til late, plenty to do, just keep focussed and don't think about it. I decide I might go to the f
        uneral. I reschedule some meetings so I can take the morning off if I need to. Back to work nice and easy. - Why now? It took me long enough to get back into the swing of dating. I was really back on my feet. Woah - new emotion coming in. Relief. Face it. I'm glad you're dead. It's a weight off my shoulders. I don't have to worry about you showing up all the time. Boom. I didn't realise I thought that. What a bitch. I don't mean it. I wanted you to be happy. It's my fault you're dead. Face it Golly - you killed him. Maybe you didn't actually shoot the guy, but if he'd still been with you this wouldn't have happened. He didn't kill himself either, but everybody knows he'd be alive today if it wasn't for you. Guilt. It's the day of the funeral. I'm anxious to get it over with and put it behind me. I've been fine. I even scheduled myself last evening to wallow in self pity and grief, but I didn't need it. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't make myself cry. I did all my crying when we broke up. I'm there a little early and take a stroll. Someone comes up and talks to me. "Terrible shock, are you waiting for someone, would you like to sit with us?" He knows me, I don't know him. I wander off. I see one of John's colleagues. We used to get on like a house on fire. I muster a brave smile. He looks at me like I'm the devil incarnate. I look down. Some of my friends and family are there. I acknowledge their existence, but it's clear to them that I'm in no mood to chat. The hearse arrives, then the family. His sister in law waves at me like a long lost friend. I don't respond. In that moment I realise he's dead. - He's dead, oh dear God he's dead. What am I going to do? Big fat tears roll down my face. I know my chins gone all dimply, my glasses have steamed up and my bo
        ttom lip is sticking out and wobbling. W hat right have you got to stand there crying - bitch. He's not yours anymore. This isn't about you. It's about his parents and his brothers and sisters and their kids, not you, you self indulgent cow. Too late. I'm looking at his brothers and friends carrying the coffin. His dad steps forward, but then back. He can't do it. A colleague steps forward to take his place and in that moment I know exactly what John's wearing in that coffin. I almost smile as snot mingles with my tears. The service was hideous. Part secular, part half assed religious. The minister has clearly been given a crib sheet to talk about John. The facts are all there, but he's talking crap. - I want to step up and say something. Anything real about him. Good or bad, it doesn't really matter, just some indication that John was a real person, some tiny insignificant detail of his life. I don't. I sit and listen to the piped music and inane readings as rage builds up inside me. Just hold on Golly. A few more minutes and you can walk out of here, straight into the car and home without talking to anyone. No such luck. The chapel is arranged in such a way that you have to walk out past everybody as they examine the flowers. I stay in the chapel for as long as possible, hoping they'll have gone. They haven't. - Fuck off! People are looking at the flowers. It's not a bloody flower show. I feel violated. I chose the colour and type of flowers, along with a message that means nothing to anyone else except John. Quit gawking you fucking freaks. I'm rooted to the spot. There's no way out except past all the family. Non family members are staring at me. Peter comes over. My mouth moves, but I can't think of anything to say. "Thanks for coming" he says, "It means a lot. Will you come back to the hou
        se?". - Are you insane? &qu ot;No, I can't" is all I manage. "Sure you can, we all want you to" is his response as he hugs me. I'm conscious of having left a trail of snot on his obviously new suit. I see a gap in the crowd, I plan to walk boldly through straight to the car. John's dad, Bob, appears in my way. - Shit. What's he going to say? What do I say? Fuck. "Thanks, it's good to see you", he says. He moves to hug me. I hug him back. "You know he should never have treated you that way. You were the best thing that happened to him". I don't speak. I can't. Bob is shaking in my arms. He's not just weeping, he's sobbing. Loud. I look around, hoping to pass him on to a family member, but everyone is just staring at me, like I know how to make it better. I don't. It gets worse before it gets better but I manage to leave without going back to John's house. I'm home, crying like I did when he left. I don't know why I feel so bereft. I would never have taken him back. Time moves on, so do I. I remember why I loved John, I also remember why I hated him. I've been through denial, anger, depression and bargaining several times, with added stops at hatred, bitterness, guilt and relief. I think I've found acceptance. I know I've found that reactions to death vary, not just between the bereaved, but within individuals, depending on their loss. Oddly, writing about it helped at the time. A friend who felt they were experiencing the 'wrong' emotions after a parents' death took a look recently. It got us talkng about how we were supposed to feel. Reactions arent predictable, there is no normal.

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          01.10.2002 22:30
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          I travel through Frankfurt Main pretty often. Flight schedules mean that it's not unusual for me to spend two or three hours kicking around with nothing to do. The quality of airport entertainment, catering and snoozing zones therefore becomes important. As I travel with Lufthansa I have grown to know and fear Terminal One. Frankfurt has the annoying habit of loading and unloading little iddy diddy planes to/from Birmingham in the field. I know it looks good on news footage to see people walking down airplane steps and kissing the tarmac, but it's just plain irritating to have to get off the plane and on to a bus to trundle to the airport. I want to walk in one of those tube things (which you do get to use when flying across the Atlantic). I don?t suppose it?s really fair to complain that it's always grey and rainy in Frankfurt, but I will anyway. Walking into the Terminal you are confronted with a bank of monitors listing arrivals and departures. There's lots! Information throughout the airport is good with another departures board upstairs giving a total of around three hours worth of advance information. Signage is good in English and German to food, loos and gates. Loos are less good. Whilst they are clean there are far too few for the traffic in the airport, and there are even fewer sinks available which is a pain when you want to splash a bit of water about to freshen up and brush your teeth. Catering is OK, certainly nothing to write home about. There's a McDonalds with a permanent queue, but the upside of taking credit and debit cards as well as serving the full menu all day so you aren't just faced with breakfast choices when your body clock is telling you it's supper time. There's plenty of seating that allows you top watch the runways. There's also a McCafe if you just want sandwiches, pastries, beer or coffee. There's a full blown fancy pants restau
          rant which I haven't tried and a slightly more German style diner with toasted sandwiches, chicken dinners and the like at fairly reasonable prices. Expect to pay 4 to 10 Euros for a meal here, or 15 to 30 in the restaurant. Downstairs you'll find what looks excitingly like an oyster bar, but isn't, just more sandwiches pastries and booze. There's a large duty free selection for booze, fags and smellies. Other shopping is rather limited. You'll find an optician, quality watch shop, and a delicatessen selling caviar, German necessities and 'gourmet steak sauce' that is in fact HP Brown Sauce with over developed self esteem. There's two newsagents, both of the same brand and with the exact same stock, and a candy kiosk which is the only place to buy canned/bottled pop/water. If you are really bored there's a stamp machine and a post box so you can send postcards from the airport and save yourself a job later on. Staff whiz around the airport on little old lady bicycles which can be a little disconcerting. You never get to forget that you are in Germany. Each time I?ve visited there?s been a small leak or structural problem. In Britain you?d see a bucket catching drips, in the US the whole area would be closed off to prevent ?slip and fall? litigation, but here in Frankfurt there?s always a huge Heath Robinson construction channelling water away from passenger areas or supporting errant tiles. Rather meanly the catering areas do boast some rather comfy padded seats which are surrounded by signs declaring ?sleeping forbidden?. However, the gate areas are fairly spacious and if you head to the gate early you can quite comfortably snuggle down on a triple seat without fear of being moved on. Security has tightened. You will be patted down and rubbed all over with a metal detector, including two swoops to check that the metal is just under-wiring! I've been through in four diffe
          rent pairs of shoes this year after deciding that it was my 'travelling boots' that raised suspicions but each and every time I've been asked to take them off for checking. Fortunately for the most recent booty call they've added a chair for shoe removal. Overall Frankfurt is a good choice for a transit airport. It's clean and it has the stores you absolutely need without excessive consumer temptation. It's spacious without requiring you to be the kind of international endurance athlete that Schipol demands for quick transfers. If I could improve one thing it would be to eliminate the bus shuttle.

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            11.08.2002 16:34
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            Ah ... two for one, three for two, phrases that have preceded some of the great buying errors of our time. Deodorant is one of those items I always find expensive. Everytime I buy it it seems to have rocketed in price, although I couldn't tell you what price I thought it was last time, or what price I expected it to be. Where deodorant is concerned I live in a constant state of sticker shock. The formats available have been narrowed down by me over the years. Aerosols had to go. I'd love to tell you it was my environmental conscience kicking in, but no, it was a bleary eyed morning when I mistook a can of Deep Heat for deodorant. Roll ons are too sticky and gunky. I tried a weird rock thing, but that's right up there with hairy armpits and regular washing as a deodorant technique, fine if you sit around all day in a jos stick haze, but just plain offensive if you find yourself on the tube. So it has to be sticks. Creamy sticks tend to leave me with white stripes, zebra like all over my clothes so I try and find clear ones. Secret looked perfect. Here's the claims. Not too stinky, 'glides on clear'. Long lasting protection against wetness and odour. No alcohol. I know that this is great if you're a recovering alcoholic, particularly using Antabuse or similar drugs, and I understand it's kinder to your skin. Oh and it was a 'threefer' in Boots (dontcha just love Boots). Here's the facts. It glides on clear - woohoo, allowing me to look a bit like a professional and together person, at least for the first few minutes of the day. It isn't too stinky - I tried Nature Fresh which smeels slightly like the Flash powder my Mum used to wash the kitchen floor with, and a peach colour labelled one which was vaguely fruity. No allergic reactions, no itching, no zits, even if applied to freshly defuzzed pits. Mild wetness, but it is summer, and I
            9;ve been having a fairly crappy few weeks at work so I'm a bit of a sweaty betty. Limited odour. I certainly wouldn't risk a work-to-date scenario without a freshen up, but it'll get you through the 9 to 5 and on to the gym without flies gathering around you. So why am I grumpy. I'm grumpy because all my shirts now have gunkiness under the arms. Despite laundering there's a weird solidity to the pits. It's not quite yellow, it's not quite white but it's there and it's bloody resistant to Persil. It doesn't stink, it's just vaguely like the kitchen floors of my chilhood, but it is clearly visible. I've bought some Vanish stick this weekend to see if I can shift the gunk. I'll let you know how I get on (It looks a lot like a deodorant, so I'm keeping it safely in the kitchen cupboard). In the meantime feel free to post laundry tips! I won't be looking to save money with Secret again. I won't be buying it.

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            • Men In Black 2 - Superbit (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 31 Ratings
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              05.08.2002 05:39
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              I rarely look forward to a sequel, but trailers for MIIB looked great so I happily settled down to a showing this weekend. It was well worth it. The basic story sees Will Smith fighting to keep the Earth safe without Tommy Lee Jones, who has retired to work for the United States Postal Service, a place where, as I'm sure you all know, most visitors from other planets are able to find work. I must admit, if I was a United States Postal worker I might be a little offended by the stereotyping in this film, so offended in fact that I might just 'go postal'! The film really gets going when Tommy Lee Jones is back in the saddle having been de neuralised by the re-appearing head guy from the first movie, as only he can save us all. Without his calm efficiency Will Smith seems a little lost. Some characters from the original movie are back, bigger and better than before. The talking dog, Frank, takes up a temporary role as Will Smiths partner, and the smoking worm guys get there own apartment, in which they can entertain women by playing Twister (you probably need to see the film to find that anything other than just plain disturbing). The new baddie is interesting, if more than a little gross in her Medusa-like moments. Arriving on Earth she takes on a new form, and for a brief moment I finally saw on the big screen a woman who looks just like me when wearing Victoria?s Secret underwear (that?s disturbing with or without seeing the film!). MIIB answers plenty of questions for me, particularly the one about ?what the hell is up with that Jonny Knoxville guy??. He plays a dim witted alien who owes more than a little to Zaphod Beeblebrox. Interesting cameos from Michael Jackson, sadly held back by Men in Black?s failure to have an alien affirmative action programme and an intergalactic Martha Stewart added to the fun. I certainly won?t risk dropping litter on the tube again, now I know what happens t
              o it. Zaphod was joined from the Hitchhikers Guide by a scene in which a scale error almost results in an invasion fleet being eaten by a small dog. The MIIB storyline also seemed to be recycled, and if you?re going along to the movie expecting a surprising drama you should probably avoid watching The Fifth Element as anyone other than the movies lawyers will tell you, it?s a straight lift. That doesn?t make it a bad film though. I did become irritated by the product placement in the film. I hadn?t really noticed much in the first film, except for the Marlboros enjoyed by the worm guys in duty free, but this time round I felt positively violated by the volume of messages. The commercials are so blatant that the HQ contains a Burger King and a Sprint Store. It got naffer and naffer throughout the film, to the point of being distracting. In spite of this I do plan to watch MIIB again, and soon. It is the kind of film where little references and quips can pass you by the first time, and I know I?ll enjoy watching the range of aliens in the fore and backgrounds as there was plenty going on.

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              • Sephora.com / Online Shop / 3 Readings / 40 Ratings
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                18.07.2002 06:05
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                I'm walking along, the weathers depressing, my job's depressing - hell - today everything in mylife is depressing. I catch a glimpse of a store front. It's black. I recognise it immediately. I've been to places like this before, but previously only in the less well known areas of big American cities. I thought being back in England I'd be safe, but temptation is never far away. I'd done it on the internet before, and they'd sent me stuff, but it's not the same as really being there. I look around. There's no one I know, anyway, nobody's looking at me, they're all too busy whistling 'The Happy Wanderer' and enjoying life to worry about what I'm doing. The combination of excitement and guilt causes a knot of nausea in my stomach and a rush of blood to my head leaves me feeling giddy. I'm going in. I deserve it. It'll make me feel better. It's my life, I make your own choices, earn my own money. It's clean, it's safe, and nobody needs to know unless I tell them. I walk through the door, onto the thick, deep red carpet. The walls are black. The smells, the colours - the aura of pure hedonism is almost overwhelming. I know I'm about to blow a sizeable chunk of my paycheck but I don't care, the sheer pleasure of the moment makes it all worthwhile. Deep in my heart I know I'm going to feel guilty in the morning, but right now I'm living for the moment. Welcome to Sephora! Here it is, the answer to all my problems. Sephora sells 365 shades of lipstick in just its' basic own brand. There's plenty of other choices in their 'Artist' range, and that's before you even start looking at the branded goods. There's BeneFit, Bourjois, Versace, Givenchy, Nars, Stila, Tony & Tina, and an array of others. Urban Decay and Hard Candy are available - yes this place stocks Class A cosmetics. The
                re's eye shadow, foundation, blusher, mascara all in an array of colours and a capitalist frenzy of brands and we're only half way through the store. You don't have to go mad and spend £10 on the most gorgeous Hard Candy nail polish (perfectly good value when you consider the ring you get with the packaging), you can buy a teensy tiny 3ml pot of Sephora's own for around £2.50. Just about the right amount when you know there's around 50 shades to choose from. I don't think I've ever left a store with less than three shades on each hand. Let me take you by the hand and lead you to the fragrance wall. Every perfume, cologne, eau de toilet and aftershave you could sneeze at can be found here. Allow the heady scents to fill your mind, let your mind wander to happy hours spent in the bath, perhaps with Fresh, or Moulton Brown or Philosophy. Still dazzled by the colours? Try one of Sephora brands bath gels in 20 or so colours. Oooh that clean feeling. Build on it with skincare from Ahava, Aromapharmacy, Decleor and Dior, and I'm only four letters into the alphabet. Sephora are part of the Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton group, so they know a thing or two about luxury, and several things about making money as they own many of the fragrance and cosmetic brands they sell. I could go on, and indeed on and on, but then I'd have to stop for one of the dinky little sweets, again in a range of colours that you can scoff while shopping. Not shopping? Don't worry, you can simply go in and make yourself look fabulous with all the trial products. Not good at that kind of thing? No cause for alarm, a Sephora staffer will give you a free makeover, after all they know you'll be back, and back with cash! I've been back - to BlueWater, Milton Keynes, West Quays, Merry Hill and Touchwood, as well as the place that I first got high, the Somerset Collection in Troy. Sephora is not f
                or the weak willed or the financially committed, but when you need a quick, instant hit, it's the place to go. OK so I'm shallow. I thought about my favourite things and by and large they aren't products. News bulletins that contain no deaths, sunny afternoons in the park, rain bouncing of the tent roof, the smell of freshly mown grass and exhaust fumes, none of these things appeared as DooYoo categories so here it is, my favourite thing opinion. Go ahead and paddle in my personality while I cheer myself up with retail therapy, and the best favourite thing of all - good news. "Jill Murphy asked me to write about one of my favourite things to help her celebrate her fourth anniversary of cancer-free living and to remind ourselves of all the nice things in the world. It takes more muscles to make a frown than a smile you know. If you'd like to join in, whether you've only just joined dooyoo, or you've been here ages, you're more than welcome. Just write about one of YOUR favourite things, make your title "A Favourite Thing: [your choice]" and include this paragraph at the foot of your opinion. And post before Friday, 9th August."

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                • Lufthansa / Airline / 4 Readings / 30 Ratings
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                  30.05.2002 22:34
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                  Lufthansa wasn't my first choice of airline. I'm a British Airways kind of chick personally. Given the choice I think the British really do know how to fly. However whilst they know how to fly, they don't always know where to fly from. Darling, I don't do Gatwick, and Heathrow is soooo common. I'll pay good money to fly from a civilised airport, like Birmingham. I can fly Birmingham to Detroit on BA, but it involves flying to Paris and back to Heathrow and that's not an expense I can justify on any level. Other choices are KLM via Schiphol, although that, often, due to code sharing, involves a transatlantic trip with Northwest (shudder). American via Chicigo O'Hare offers oodles of leg room, though not always a great price and tight schedules usually mean missing a connection on the return leg and getting shipped to Heathrow anyway. That leaves Lufthansa via Frankfurt Main. Lufthansa is often cheaper than American by a noticeable amount, so I've made the trip a few times now. On a route specific point the only downside is a long wait at the terminally dull Frankfurt Main terminal on the westbound leg. Lufthansa has new planes, newer on average than most other big carriers. Good news for the happy traveller as they don't have visible damage to the wings to worry about as they cross the Artic Circle. They do their level best to remind you at all times you are flying Lufthansa - the seats are a deeply unattractive grey with yellow piping. Nobody steals anything from Lufthansa planes. Leg room is similar to everyone except the lovely folk at AA for transatlantic flights. Business class in Europe is, as always a waste of money apart from the flight flexibility. You are guaranteed nobody sitting in the middle seat, early boarding and disembarcation (is that a word?) and priority luggage handling, but it ain't worth paying 4x the price for. Transatlantic business gets you a b
                  igger seat, more space, better food and entertainment but not a flat bed. They do all the same stuff as other airlines. They serve meals. Hot ones are your standard cooked on board beastliness, sandwiches aren't a strong point unless you like rye or tongue. Booze is free on transcontinental flights, but unlike BA they pour you a glass of wine or spirits from a bottle, rather than loading you up with sufficient unopened miniatures to keep you sozzled for a week and save you buying duty free. So what's the service like golly? Er...well...'Germanic' is the best way to explain it. They serve you meals and drinks. On schedule. Exactly on schedule. Only on schedule. Other requests are taken, then reported back to the cabin commander who may grant your request after due consideration, or may come back and explain to you in some detail that your request is not on their list of requests and if you want to make a request you should request a request in advance. But hey, they fly on time, and they have never lost my luggage. In flight entertainment (excluding watching people make unauthorised, unrequested requests) is limited. No seatback video here. A video screen pops down from the overhead cabins and shows a couple of films and old sitcoms. No choice. However, they are Anglo American movies, you aren't subjected to German comedies. News programmes and sports updates are German sourced, but there are a range of audio channels so an English audio translation is available. All the cabin staff I've encountered speak excellent English, as well as native German. The Frankfurt <-> Detroit flight has always been on a DC10. No cause for alarm, honest. This has an advantage. Back in cattle class the window seats are just two wide, so no 'middle seat dilemma'. You can ask for a window seat knowing that you only have to step past one person to get out, or opt for an aisle/window becau
                  se you can still see out without craning your neck. For those frequent fliers Lufthansa is a Star Alliance partner so your miles are transferable to United, Air Canada or BMI amongst others, but not BA or AA. I fly Lufthansa reasonably happily. I'd pay an extra £100 rtn to fly American, because those 2 extra inches really count (yes, your girlfriend was lying), but if I'm picking up the tab, I don't pay more than that as Lufthansa is a good, solid airline that does exactly what it sets out to do. Definitely no more than it promises, but no less either, and that's good enough for me.

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                  • opodo.com / Internet Site / 0 Readings / 28 Ratings
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                    22.04.2002 18:44
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                    opodo - it reads the same upside down as it does right way up. I found this amusing. I should get out more. With Opodo I can get out more, because I can fly cheaper. Pretty good huh? OK so Opodo is just another on line flight search and booking site, but this one is brought to you by the good folk at British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM, and Aer Lingus amongst others. Why is this good? It seems that these full service carriers have overcapacity and rather than throwing it all out to the great unwashed they can offer cut price seats and hang onto the commissions they would have to pay third party agents. I can fly with a better airline for less money. The site is available in English, French and German, and is very easy to use. The quick search facility is perfect if you know where you're going and when, but if you just fancy a break to 'somewhere' they list special offer prices on the front page. Each search I made returned a range of flight options, not all from the participating airlines. My first purchase was a real steal. I was struggling to get a short notice flight to Detroit at a reasonable price, even from, God help us all, Gatwick. Opodo turned up a cracking fare from Birmingham International (so much more civilised than London departures) via Frankfurt on Lufthansa. I paid around £225 return, against the best alternate fare I found of £860. Quite a saving! The Frankfurt option didn't even show up on most searches, and when it did it was at silly money. The flight was jam packed, but who cares at that price. Booking was quick and easy. I did have to register to buy, but there's no need to register just to search. I made my credit card purchase and was immediately e mailed my e ticket info so that if the hard copy tickets didn't arrive in time I could fly on numbers alone. I need not have worried. I booked shortly after midnight and the tickets were mailed that day, arriving a mere 36
                    hours after purchase. Loyal souls can link Opodo bookings to their frequent flier plans, particularly the One World Alliance. An extra bonus is the ability to book special meals like veggie, low salt, Kosher or similar efforts to avoid the worst excesses of mass catering, on line at the same time as tickets. Membership options allow you to save your food preferences so you don't need to remember to do this every time. Opodo isn't always cheapest. I have discovered cheaper TransAtlantic fares on other sites for advance booking. However, where normally I only expect a £50 difference on the same flight, or maybe £100 if I'll fly via somewhere beastly, if you're willing to be flexible and hold out for last minute bargains Opodo is definitely worth a look saving real money. Opodo also offer a car hire and hotel booking service, but I've had no need to use these as yet. Quick comparisons with other providers suggest that the prices and options available are competitive. Opodo is now my first point of call for cheap flight searches.

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                      12.04.2002 17:13
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                      What a name! You really can’t argue with a restaurant chain that calls itself Fuddruckers. You used to be further discouraged from arguing by the sides of fresh cow hanging in the front windows, but now hygiene regulations mean that the hacking up of bovine corpses takes place in a glass encased butchery within the store. This is not a restaurant high on the Vegetarian Society’s recommendation list, although it does serve a vegetable burger and some salads. Fuddruckers is a temple to the good old fashioned American Hamburger. For a real US experience try having White Castle for lunch and Fuddruckers for dinner. None of your junk food grey patties here, you can choose from a 1/3 , ½, 2/3 or 1lb beef burger from the regular menu or go mad and select a 10lb burger for a party. You choose how you want your burger cooked, from blue through burnt, with helpful little diagrams showing the level of blood you can expect! They’ll give you a pager to let you know when your burger s ready to collect as every one is cooked to order. Chicken, ostrich and turkey and fish sandwiches are also available, but if your cardiologist isn’t with you then beef s the only sensible choice. The buns are cooked fresh on site every day and are tough enough to cope with the meat and the “fixins”, oh the fixins! You can select menu fixins like bacon, caramelised onions, fried mushrooms, assorted cheeses, and chilli (no not chilli sauce, real meat chilli). Then its on to the fixins bar. This is where you can ease you conscience just a smidge. Start with the salad items, sliced tomato, diced tomato, salsa, sliced onions, diced onions, pickles and chilli peppers of all descriptions, oh and lettuce if you must. Then there’s hot cheese sauce, ketchup, mustard – American, English, Dijon, French, chilli sauce, Caesar sauce, cilantro sauce, barbeque sauce, even Lea & Perrins. Helpfully they provide l
                      ittle dipping pots so you can gather additional sauces to dip your giant seasoned fries and fresh, beer battered onion rings in. Before you sit down in the Americana themed restaurant its off to the soda bar where you fill your all you can drink, free refill, cup with pop (stick to diet, you’re gonna need the room). Avoid the real shakes and ice cream floats as even Homer would struggle to down one of these with a meal. Better still, if you have time to eat your sandwich slowly and savour every bite, then this burger joint serves beer. How does it all taste, well, pretty darned good, although the exact flavour is up to you as it’s easy to go too mad with fixins and over balance your sandwich. Pace yourself! Eating at Fuddruckers is not a civilised experience. You need two hands to pick up even the smallest sandwich, and I recommend a trip to the bathroom before you leave as I usually discover bits of salad and sauce in my hair, all over my cheeks and chin, down my from, and perhaps more curiously, in my eyebrows. Fuddruckers sells some divine looking desserts, including pies, cookies and brownies, but there is no way on earth I’d ever be able to leave room for one so I can’t comment on the flavour. Expect to pay more than you would for a regular fast food burger joint, about $10 a head for a chubby persons meal and drink. It’s well worth the money for the experience alone, and the obsession with fresh, high quality ingredients certainly pays of in the taste department. Fuddruckers started life in San Antonio, Texas, but now restaurants can be found in most of the United States, with the bizarre and unexplained exception of Tornado alley. Even more bizarrely they have quite a presence in the ex pat communities of the middle east. Check local availability at http://www.fuddruckers.com/locations/osus.html

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                      • Ice Age (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 36 Ratings
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                        23.03.2002 23:48
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                        . . . all the sensitive ones get eaten". Well it amused me anyway. This film kept me and my team of mini reviewers amused for an hour and a half, and was pronounced to be worth 'eighty million points'. The scale isn't really much help in dooyoo terms. They recommended sixty zillion out of five when asked to be more precise. A more meaningful assessment would perhaps be that Ice Age should get less points than Monsters Inc, but more than that old cartoon thing (some form of animated Christmas Carol movie they wanted to watch because it had some famous bird and Nic Cage doing the voice acting) that we saw before Christmas. I'd have to agree. Ice Age is fun, but it's no Toy Story. Whilst the characters we do meet, and there's only really four you get to know, are nicely rounded and entertaining to watch, there's not much development of extra characters. The neurotic squirrel that you'll see advertising the film is just a bit part player who sets up and seals down the film. Other characters that appear on posters are only in the movie for a matter of minutes. More annoyingly there are no female leads. The only 'women' we do get to meet are a rather weedy mother who saves her baby only to disappear forever, and a couple of three toed sloth hotties who show up in a hot tub and bitch about the lack of good men. Perhaps I'm expecting too much of kids films to provide balanced animated role models! The voice acting is great, and I can never imagine a mammoth with any other voice than that of the slightly depressed 'Raymond', you know, the one Everyone Loves. The animation is great, particularly in the big action ice slide scene which had my mini olympians praying for snow so we could go sledding. The BBC has a lot to answer for after showing skeleton at prime time. The Ice Age storyline is the classic sloth meets mammoth, sloth attacked by gay rhinos, mam
                        moth saves sloth, mammoth hates sloth, sloth and mammoth save baby from sabre tooth tigers, sabre tooth tiger tricks sloth and mammoth but all turns out well in the end kinda buddy road movie. It does have a lot to say about accepting peoples differences and playing to everyones strengths, so it does redeem itself in some ways. Ice Age does make full use of the big screen, so it is worth seeing it there rather than waiting to rent it, but if you only plan one movie trip this Easter go see Monsters Inc. If your local cinema offers a holiday/Saturday £1.50 kids special then wait for that before paying full price for Ice Age. It seems, after careful analysis of the trailers, that Snow Dogs looks like dog poo and Jimmy Neutron is for nerd babies, so the next film I've been booked to act as 'responsible adult' for is Stuart Little 2.

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                        • Vegetarian / Recipe / 0 Readings / 32 Ratings
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                          28.02.2002 16:33
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                          Need an easy recipe that makes you look good? Try this. You need: Cherry tomatoes Pasta Garlic Oil A saucepan A bowl It would be good if you had: Rock/sea salt Black pepper Olive oil (extra virgin would be tops) You can add: Basil Put some water in the pan and set it on the hob. You need a good handful of cherry tomatoes per person. Cut them in half. If they are big (wider than the distance between your knuckle and the end of your thumb), cut them into quarters. Put them in the bowl. A wide bowl or dish, like a lasagna pan is best. Smash some garlic. One clove per person if you're going out, two if you're staying in, and three if you're staying in with a date. You can use a proper garlic crusher, but if you don't have one just smash the garlic with the side of a knife blade. Sprinkle the garlic over the tomatoes. Grind on just a smidge of salt and some black pepper. The water should be boiling by now. Add the pasta. I like to use tubes, but you can use any shapes that are bigger than macaroni. Allow two big handfuls per greedy person of dried pasta. If you are using sketti or linguini then use a bunch about the size of a two pound coin and snap it in two before throwing it in the water. Cook according to packet instructions. Fresh pasta is better, but much more expensive. Homemade pasta is better still, but a real pain in the ass to make. While the pasta is cooking dribble the olive oil over the tomatoes. You're probably going to need to allow about 4 tablespoons per person I guess, but I've discovered that people who measure ingredients and carefully follow recipes are bad in bed so don't get too obsessive. Now the good bit. You need to smush up the tomato and oil mix. Grab handfuls and squeeze. It's therapeutic if you imagine that the tomatoes are bankers, exes, people who claim that tom
                          atoes are fruit, or other social deviants. Steady on, don't go mad, you just want the tomatoes to break up a bit and to mix up the tomato juices, garlic and oil. When the pasta is ready drain it and put it back in the pan, but don't return it to the heat. Throw the tomato mix on and stir it up quick. Throw it in a bowl and serve with salad, wine and conversation. Enjoy.

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                          • epinions.com / Internet Site / 10 Readings / 47 Ratings
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                            27.02.2002 18:11
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                            Epinions was a fore runner of DooYoo and is perhaps the best known of the opinion site world wide. It runs on similar principles to DooYoo with members contributing opinions on copnsumer products as well as proferring advice on a wide range of family and health related topics. It used to pay per read as DooYoo does, but nowadays it only pays a proportion of its' earnings to members, based on a complicated (and undisclosed) formula where opinions that attract the most non-member traffic, and therefore are assumed to generate the most lucrative advertising and click through revenue pay out the most cash. To give you an idea of the traffic my sumbitted opinions vary in read level from about 25 reads up to over 1000. The most profitable areas to contribute to tend to be technology products and consumer durables. You'll earn nothing for community type writing, and close to nothing for opinions on restaurants, locations, movies and books, where the internet is flooded with more opinions than can ever be read. Earning potential varies widely. My first opinion to be fired would be the one that brought me just 17 cents. My David Beckham of opinions has just tipped over the $65 mark. High earning opinions tend to keep on earning much longer than DooYoo ones do. This seems to be because the site is more widely used for product comparison. One earnings bugbear for European contributors is that this is very much an American site. Up until 2001 only US residents could be paid. Now other worldwide citizens can be paid but must pay tax on their earnings in the US. Now I'm sure you all declare your DooYoo earnings here in the UK so are used to paying from 20-40% of your thruppences to Gordon Brown, so it is satisfying to know that you'll only pay 10% in US taxes! Your cheque will be denominated in US$ so there is likely to be a bank fee involved in cashing out. Alternatively if you happen to be in the US you can ge
                            t your check sent to a US address and provided you earn less than $600 a year you'll pay no tax. The sumbission, rating and commenting systems are simple, and very similar to those found on DooYoo. Epinions lost gazillions of users when they shut down operations for a month around this time last year for a total site redesign and came back on line with more bugs than a very buggy thing. The rant that follows was written for WBM (RIP) way back then... "I miss my old local, Epinions. It may be clean, professional and efficient, but I can't hang out with friends who always guaranteed me a laugh or something to think about. Several years ago I started going to a pub. It was a perfectly good pub, close to where I lived. It served great beer, and I could comfortably drink it, knowing that I could walk home. I made some great friends there. It became a home from home kind of place where I could drop in and the barman would have my drink poured before I reached the bar, and there would always be a few buddies around to chat to. The pub wasn't perfect. It was cold and draughty in the winter, the windows rattled in the wind and occasionally rainwater appeared from the oddest places. In the summertime it was hot and stuffy as many of the windows were painted shut and it had no air conditioning, allowing cigarette smoke to build up to levels that made it difficult to see your hand in front of your face. The Dog & Duck served food, great when I couldn't be bothered to cook and just wanted 'sumit and chips'. The chef was temperamental and wouldn't allow any substitutions or alterations to menu items, wouldn't serve appetizers without an entrée and became violent if anyone complained. Occasionally he simply didn't show up, and the landlord would encourage hungry patrons to call the local Chinese takeaway, who would deliver to the pub. My fellow drinkers were an odd bunch, a
                            ged between twenty and ninety, the only thing we seemed to have in common was that we disliked most things, particularly newcomers, and had no qualms about telling bawdy stories and using foul language until uppity people left. No children were allowed in, but muddy dogs were fine. The dress code was just plain scruffy. I was careful about who I took there, no easily offended folk, no parents, no-one who knew me at work. The fireplaces, though solid eighteenth century originals were rarely lit because the chimneys hadn't been cleaned for years and they caused huge blow backs of smoke, so tacky portable heaters sat within them. There was no music, except at Christmas when a loop of three bad festive hits played continuously for six weeks. No TV sports, and major events like the Grand national had us huddled around an old AM radio. Being miserable souls we moaned about the food, the poor repair, the decoration, the food, the boxed wine, and the spirits which had aged twenty years on the counter, rather than in oak. Yet we kept coming back. I moved eight miles away, but still kept coming back, driving, or taking advantage of the better weather and cycling so I could still enjoy the beer. Other regulars moved, but still popped in when they could, and Friday nights and Sunday lunchtimes were unmissable. The wingeing reached the ears of a bright spark at the brewery. The pub was to be refitted - heating, air con, indoor toilets, the works! It sounded great. In order to complete the work it would be closed for a few weeks, which was a shame but perfectly necessary. We each tried a few locals until we found ones that we were comfortable with. Re-opening night I returned, it looked nice from the outside, a little twee, but hey - the parking lot was now paved rather than a muddy mess that you needed to be hauled out of by a 4x4 if it rained over lunch. Inside the pub had changed completely. There was comfortable
                            seating, drinkable wine, clean air, controllable temperatures and a big screen satellite TV. Families were welcome, there was piped music and a wide menu of de-frostable corporate meals. Bandits jingled happily in every corner. The loos were not only indoors, but were equipped with toilet paper, mirrors and dryers. There was no place to stand and children ran around. People were asked to moderate their language and refrain from smoking pipes and cigars. It was so much better on paper, but its' soul had gone. Original features had been removed and replaced with fake timbers and the hideous horse brasses were replaced with quaint objets. I'd be happy to take my mother or work colleagues there, but wouldn't really want to. I skipped a couple of Fridays, then I noticed a smaller crowd of chums on Sundays, forced out by families taking Mum out for lunch. The chap who used to bring along any extra rabbits or pheasant he had shot was asked not to bring dead animals in and dogs were banned. Slowly it became less of a fixture in my diary, and when I did go, I felt an outsider, few of my friends were ever there. I don't know when it happened, but at some point I stopped going. The Dog & Duck I loved had gone. Without the crowd of reprobates I loved there was no point in making the trip. Occasionally I stopped by if I was in the neighborhood and wanted a drink, hoping to see an old friend. What I got was keg beer and uniformed, polite staff. The first re fit was eleven years ago. A lot has happened, I've been away, I've come back, I've fallen in and out of love, I've changed career. The Dog & Duck has had a complete re-fit every three years, but retains its soulless character. There is nothing wrong with the Dog & Duck. It is a perfectly good pub. It is profitable. Families who eat and leave within an hour and a half, feeding the bandits and paying premiums for institutionalized food spend more money than
                            slow supping drinkers. Nitro kegs take no skill to care for and there's no chance of wastage with pasturized beer and measured pints. In any customer service questionnaire, service level agreement, footfall assessment or accountants measure the Dog & Duck of 2001 would far outshine the boozer of the eighties, but I just don't love it. Perhaps I'll find the kind of local I'm looking for here. "

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                              03.02.2002 23:08
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                              The events of September 11 affected far more than they should have done. I've seen news clips of thousands of people dying day after day throughout the world and whilst I'm left feeling saddened, angry, and more often than not helpless, I carry on pretty much as before. I knew no-one who lost their life or was even in the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon, or even Pennsylvania that day, but having previously visited all those places the horror was far more real for me than any newsworthy event I'd seen before. New York was the biggest shock for me. The defining buildings of its' southern skyline had gone and it seemed that there was a danger of people upping sticks and leaving the city permanently. I needed to go back and check that New York was still alive and well. Security checks leaving Heathrow were marginally tighter than usual, but the presence of security personnel seemed if anything to be lower key. There was definitely a more nervous edge to passengers, and co-operation with security staff was far less grudging than normal. Arrival at JFK was no more stressful than normal and we joined the immigration queue expecting the normal interrogation to be even more hostile. I was wrong about that. The INS guy I talked to was delighted that so many British and Irish people were planning on spending the New Year in New York, and whizzed us through with a cheery 'happy holidays'. He was however, one of a large number of New Yorkers who expressed fears of another attack, specifically on New Years Eve. New York is different now. There is no getting away from it. As we neared Manhattan New York virgins looked in awe at the skyline, their attention focused on the festively lit Empire State, while others looked quietly downtown, where the skyscrapers blurred into one without the towering towers. Billboards on the bridges onto Manhattan call to New Yorkers to 'rise above' and there are pl
                              enty of posters attesting to the heroism of the NYPD and NYFD. The TV carried ads encouraging people to seek counseling and ensuring them that it was 'time to feel good again'. The city was always full of Star Spangled Banners flying from stores, businesses, public buildings and apartment blocks, but now they are seen on cars, with every single storefront boasting some sort of US flag, even if it was a pullout copy from the New York Post. The slogan of choice seems to be 'United We Stand', but in a more worrying trend small businesses owned by non-white operators seem compelled to put statements like 'Proud to be American' outside their Chinese laundry or Lebanese restaurant. Whilst US immigrants have always been 'Proud to be American' these hurriedly prepared signs look like they've been put up after others have questioned their patriotism. Perhaps the moment that brought New York's loss into sharpest focus for me was when walking back from an evening out and passing a Fire Station draped in black with photos and potted biographies of two firefighters who had lost their lives framed by the doors. Looking south from the fire house you could just make out the downtown skyline, but with no WTC. Major stores like Bloomingdales and Macys were selling NYPD and NYFD merchandise to raise funds for families. Street hawkers were selling similar merchandise to make a quick buck. More tastelessly souvenirs such as snowdomes of the NYC skyline with fire trucks stuck to the outside and postcards of the devastation were selling well. We'd thought long and hard about visiting 'Ground Zero'. In some ways I wanted to just see it for real, to put the streaming video from September 11 out of my mind, but in so many other ways I really didn't want to go stand by a mass grave and take photos. There is now a viewing platform, allowing people to get up close and personal for twenty minutes
                              at a time. Plenty of time on a tourist schedule, but rather limiting for people dealing with real grief. The most disturbing element of the Ground Zero viewing area is that the neighbourhood has its? own street hawkers selling some fairly tasteless tat, alongside woolly hats emblazoned 'Ground Zero WTC NYC 91101'. There were people wearing them. As a New York visitor I wanted to pull off their hats and slap them around a bit, so quite what it is like for people who lost family and friends, or who survived the attacks, to see happy holiday makers in the black beanies I can't begin to imagine. Having ventured downtown none of us had the stomach to visit Ground Zero, particularly as news reports were emerging that recovery workers had found a small pocket of people with worn away finger tips, suggesting that they had survived for hours if not days in the underground mall. Instead we took a trip on the Circle Line ferry out to Liberty and Ellis Islands to get acquainted with the new skyline. There is no getting away from the fact that the attack has made New York look a little smaller, less bold, but that is certainly not reflected in the spirit of the place. Sailing past WTC the cranes can be seen as work goes on pretty much 24/7. The remaining buildings of the WTC are covered in giant black shrouds, not in morning, but to prevent falling glass, steel and masonry from falling onto workers below. The largest surviving building is adorned with the biggest Old Glory I've ever seen, shining bright against the black background in typically American pride and defiance. The Statue of Liberty still welcomes people into New York harbour. America still welcomes people from all directions. Having been back to downtown Manhattan, and New York in general I've been able to get a better perspective on September 11. I love New York more than ever.

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                                09.01.2002 21:43
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                                New York gets cold, very cold. It also gets windy which, when it's cold, makes it colder. You can either hide under the duvet some time in December and refuse to come out until April, or you can get out and make the most of the cold. New Yorkers have two skating rinks in Central Park to help you make the most of the cold. The Lasker rink at the north end of the park converts from a swimming pool in the summertime. It is however, less popular, and less safe particularly at night than the Wollman Rink. The Wollman Rink is one you've probably seen before, even if you've never set foot in New York City. It's the rink across which the baddies chased our hero in Home Alone 2, and is currently on the silver screen in the romantic comedy Serendipity. It is located at the south end of Central Park, between 62nd and 63rd Streets on the East side, just a short stroll from Bloomingdales. In the summer time its’ concrete base is used for in line roller skating. The queues to get in can look pretty intimidating, particularly during the festive season when skating here is the thing to do, and the place to be seen. However the queue moves along at a fair old clip and you shouldn’t be waiting for more than an hour even on New Years. Security is surprisingly tight for a skating rink, with metal detectors, bag searches and pat downs. The rink opened in 1950 following a gift from Mrs Wollman, but is now in the hands of Donald Trump. He last took it over in 1986 and put serious money into renovating it then. He plans on spending $4m on it over the next ten years, so expect some improvements. The first will, I hope be to the shoe handling facilities. We picked up our rental skates (sensibly sized in European and British sizes so I didn’t have to order Side Show Bob size shoes), but this is not where you leave your shoes. This seems not only to create extra work, but must surely make it remarkabl
                                y easy to steal skates. The skates are good, reasonably new and firm. Your shoes should either be left in a locker, for which there are insufficient padlocks so very few are ever available, or handed in at the ‘pro shop’. Right now there is no pro shop, just a desk and an empty room. We queued only to be told that we needed a separate ticket for this and so should queue again. That wasn’t going to happen, so after a full and frank exchange of views the chappie on the counter took my money and our boots, giving us a receipt ticket. The rink looks superb, with an excellent view of the New York midtown skyline, dominated of course by Mr Trumps tower. Christmas decorations further enhance the area. This year the people of Vermont sent a giant Christmas tree in memorial of those who died on September 11. It was decorated in patriotic red, white and blue with the extra significance of red ornaments to represent the firefighters, white ornaments represent the civilians, and blue ornaments for the police officers. It’s a good sized rink, shaved every 90 minutes or so to ensure a top class skating surface, although the staff go on to quickly cut up the ice before each session. It took me the best part of an hour to inch around the outside of the rink, taking itty bitty baby steps, but my happy skating companions whizzed around safely as there is a strict one way policy to minimize accidents. Skating guides are on hand to rescue people splatted on the surface and to calm down racers and lunatics. It’s a superb place to meet people if you are a poor skater, just lock onto someone cute looking and skate right into them. What better way to start a conversation than thanking someone for rescuing you? Music plays day and night, and the evening have a definite romantic air. Off the ice there’s a small café selling hot and cold snacks and drinks, and this only gets really busy when the ice
                                is cleared for scraping. The return of the shoes was a stressful experience. We joined a giant queue back at the ‘pro shop’, only to hear rumours that our shoes could be returned, but the queue was for dropping off shoes. I left a companion in line whilst I headed up to the front. The rumours were true. No extra shoes could be dropped off because they had no more bags to put them in! Having taken huge amounts of abuse for queue jumping I explained to my main tormentor that if I got my shoes back he could get the bag they were stored in and stow his shoes. This caused a mini rebellion, and I apologise to anyone who was hurt in the ensuing stampede. Handing over my ticket I waited while being stared down by an angry mob. After 10 minutes, laddo came back and asked if I could help him find our shoes! I went back in the storage area to find bags and bags of shoes piled high on the floor. No, they hadn’t used any numbering system. They had just dumped the shoes. At this stage walking home in ice skates seemed like a smart idea. Eventually I found our boots, having resisted the temptation to try on some of the more spangly ones available! Shoe storage aside I’d wholeheartedly recommend a trip to the Wollman rink for an unforgettable New York experience. Hours: October through April Mon, Tues 10am-3pm Wed, Thu 10am-10pm Fri-Sat 10am-11pm Sun 10am-9pm Pricing: October through April $7.50 for adults ($8 on weekends and holidays) $3.75 for seniors and children under 12 $3.75 skate rental $2.75 lock rental + deposit $4 Phone number (001) 212 439 6900 Web Site http://www.wollmanskatingrink.com/

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                                  08.01.2002 16:53
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                                  The following will be outlawed with immediate effect: Fruit on pizza - it's just wrong. American Tan tights. Centre lane driving. Un house trained children in swimming pools - eeew - and little swimmers nappies are no defence. Kids in pubs, there?s no reason and no excuse. Jeffrey Archer novels. Channel 5, wasting good airwaves. Economy brand fish fingers. Cilla Black. Sitting with a group of friends in the pub while talking on the phone to another group who you will go see the following evening and spend your time ignoring while you talk to the original lot on the phone. Scratchy loo roll. Public toilets with no loo roll. Character ties/socks/boxers. Communal changing rooms. PopStars/PopIdol/PopTarts. Curry flavour Twiglets. Chinese restaurants that close on Tuesdays - it's the only day I want to eat Chinese. Smoking in bedrooms. Instant coffee. Weddings where two hours is taken up with photographs - you're supposed to be having the best day of your life, don't mortgage it for 6000 shots of which you'll keep 24 and only look at 12 times. Mulletts. Clothes with the label on the outside. Tins that don't come with ring pulls - surely we've evolved beyond the can opener now. John Prescott. Saying 'Pacific' when you mean 'specific'. BMWs, or maybe just their owners. People who get to the head of the queue and then take ages to find their purse/wallet - surely you?re not surprised that you have to pay, you can?t be Sainsbury's millionth customer every week. Musak. Marks & Spencers not delivering groceries - why oh why won't you deliver groceries. Saying 'why oh why'. The Weakest Link. Anne Robinson. Winking. Discussing house prices in public. Re packaging of laundry detergent - liquid, powder, super concentrate powder, tablets and gel tabs are enough - it's just bloody soap for crying out loud
                                  . Peas. The National Lottery, the Daily Mail/Express. Bill Gates. Late changes to the TV schedules. Handwash only clothes. Mobile phones that make any noise other than a ring. Sunday closing. People who insist that tomatoes are fruit. People who wear cheese cutter knickers outside their shorts at the gym (or anywhere else). People in the fast lane who leave their indicators on for miles - there's no more lanes for you to move into - boneheads. Men who don't wear supportive underwear at the gym, that's just not nice. People who park across the lines taking up two spaces. One hour photo processors and dry cleaners who can only get your pictures/suits ready for next Tuesday. Liars. Expect the list to grow.

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