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hazydaze123

hazydaze123
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Member since: 09.01.2009

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    • More +
      27.05.2009 00:13
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      First step to creating a masterpiece!

      Even before my son was born, I was adamant that no child of mine would be put to sit in front of the television all day or even becoming boggle-eyed whilst playing computer games. However, despite my good intentions and fairly hefty investment in 'real' toys, at four years old, my son has already acquired the skill of using a mouse and clicking on the homepage of CBeebies and The Disney Channel, so I decided to take into account the fact that he also loves drawing and painting and headed off to Toys'r'Us to purchase a Fisher Price Digital Arts & Crafts Studio - which essentially provides a good mix of art work and computer skills, albeit designed for the younger generation.

      The 'studio' has, what seems, a never ending choice of projects to do including drawing, painting, making crafts, making books, party invitations and colouring in pictures, and each project is undertaken by using a pressure pen on what is the equivalent of a mouse pad. In my opinion, this is a very unique 'toy' in that the child can use their imagination to make a wide variety of artwork.

      ~~~What's in the box?~~~

      In addition to the main digital studio, referred to as the 'studio base', the box also contains the relevant CD software together with the USB cable for connecting to the computer. The studio system that I purchased also included a promotional piece of software centred around a dinosaur theme for use on the system.

      Also included was a fairly in-depth, yet easy to understand, instruction leaflet.

      ~~~Getting started~~~

      Before your child begins to set the world alight with his creative talent, mummy or daddy needs to set the system up first. This is a very straight forward process and is no different from installing any other program. The USB cord is simply connected to the computer and the disc inserted. Once the program has been installed, remove the disc and the studio is ready to be used.

      ~~~Layout of the Studio Base~~~

      The studio base is essentially placed in front of the computer monitor and the USB cord is connected to the computer. On first appearance, the base itself looks a little on the 'busy' side with a plain white mouse pad in the centre which is surrounded by the various paint colours, project options etc. on either side. However, once the child has used it a few times, everything soon becomes familiar and easy to use.

      To the left of the studio base, there are four buttons which the child can press, giving the options of spray painting, normal painting, pencil drawing and eraser. Each button has a hole in the centre in which the child can push the pen to activate that activity. Below the paints section lies a set of seven buttons, providing the options of undo, paint bucket, toolbar switch, stamper, backgrounds, type, special effects, and erase the whole screen. To the side of these buttons is a small lever which brings up various sub-sections of each of the above. For example, when selecting the stamper, the lever will show a selection of different stampers which can be added to the picture.

      On the right hand side of the studio, we find the colour palette which gives a selection of nine different colours. However, if the middle button of the palette is selected, you are offered a further 256 shades which can be added to your picture. Above the colour palette, there are two additional buttons - the project studio button (homepage) and the utilities button.

      There is also a holder in which the pen is placed.

      The on/off switch is just at the back of the studio on the right hand side.

      ~~~And now the clever bit - what does it do?~~~

      The numerous options available on the art studio appear never ending:

      (Projects)

      When turning on the art studio, the home page automatically takes the child to a page of options including colouring pages, paper projects, create a party (party hats, invitations etc.) free draw, crafts, create a book, and dot to dot.

      (Drawing Options)

      Here, the child can create their own pictures using the various colouring options such as pencil drawing, painting and spray painting. With the spray painting option, you all get sound effects of...spray painting no less.

      (Special Effects)

      In my opinion, this is a wonderful feature because the child can create a picture, and then mix it all up, swirl it around and reverse it.

      (Stampers)

      There is a fairly wide selection of stampers available which can be added to any picture the child creates. The child can create a picture themself or use one of the backgrounds (explained later in the review) and can then add little pictures to their creations. Cats, dogs, suns, cars are among the options available.

      (Backgrounds)

      Again, a fairly wide selection of backgrounds is available to start the child off on creating their picture. Additional pictures can be added to the background, together with downloaded photographs.

      (Picture Gallery)

      When the child has finished a picture, these can be saved by pressing the green tick at the end of the project. The gallery is the place where completed pictures can be viewed.

      (Type)

      On selecting the 'type' option, a small keyboard appears on the screen and the child can practice their spelling. Typed words can also be added to completed pictures. There are various styles of type which the child can choose (italic, bold, large type etc.)

      (Erase Screen)

      This basically does as it says - with the press of a button, the whole picture on the screen can be erased. This is ideal if the child wants to have a practice before creating the 'real thing'.

      (Share Pictures)

      The pictures created on the art studio can be e-mailed to friends in the same way as one would normally send an e-mail attachment. When selected, the pictures can be saved to the 'share' folder from which they can be retrieved to forward via e-mail.

      (Add Pictures)

      The child can add pictures retrieved from elsewhere on the computer and can incorporate these into their studio art picture.

      (Print )

      This is self explanatory and, provided you have your printer set up to accommodate the digital art studio, the child can print off their artwork. This is particular useful if the child is making things such as the party hats, party invitations etc.

      ~~~Matthew's Masterpieces (and experience of the art studio)~~~

      Although not yet quite addicted, I would say that this is one of Matthew's favourite toys (if you can call it a toy!) Within a couple of days, he had sussed out which buttons needed to be pressed to create his chosen projects, and he ended up having to show me how to use it. (It's amazing what you can learn from a 4 year old!).

      At the moment, Matthew's favourite project is adding stampers to the various backgrounds and we are currently inundated with lots of doggies and pussy cats sitting around a farmyard. Another favourite is making 'messy' pictures with the paint and then mixing up the pictures to make even more of a mess, though I daren't mention the fact to him!

      Whilst I watch my little man pulling his funny faces when concentrating on his pictures, I am fully aware that, although this is a computer generated pastime, he is using his imagination to quite an extent as he is thinking of things to create and ways in which to arrange pictures. This is also his first experience of dot to dot and, after a shaky start, he has really got the hang of it now, even if we do sometimes start at the end! He has recently learned how to write his name so is also having great fun in creating pictures, typing his name on the keyboard and adding this to the top of the picture.

      ~~~Technical Bits~~~

      I doubt that many of us are still using computers built before 2003, but if any of you are out there, Fisher Price suggest that you may have difficulties in running this program on an older computer.

      As for further technical information, here are the system requirements:

      Operating System: Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000
      Processor: 750MHz
      Memory: 256MB RAM
      Hard Drive: 200MB available
      Video Resolution: 1024 x 768
      Video RAM: 64MB
      USB Port: 1.1

      (...no, I haven't got much idea of what it all means either!)

      ~~~Age Group~~~

      The art studio is suitable for children between the ages of 4 - 9 years old.

      ~~~Price~~~

      I paid £39.97 from Toys'R'Us, though I notice from the website that they are now selling at £34.97 if purchased online.

      ~~~Good Points~~~

      In my opinion, this is a fantastic way to develop your child's creativity and imagination. There are so many options available to create pictures, artwork and even books and the range of colours within the colour palette is just as good as a real paint palette, if not better.

      You can also purchase additional programs for this system including Fairytales, Go Diego Go, Dora the Explorer and Dinosaurs. As I mentioned earlier, we had a free copy of the dinosaur program and I must admit that Matthew uses this one quite a lot. It includes lots of background scenes in which you can place numerous species of dinosaur of all colours and sizes.

      ~~~...And the not so good points~~~

      To be honest, I don't have any particular bad points to mention on the digital arts studio. However, I would say that we had a slight problem in getting the system to work properly on Windows Vista. There is the possibility that this was down to a problem with the computer, though everything else was working ok. The art studio kept switching itself off which made for a very frustrated little boy (and an even more frustrated mummy who had to keep switching it back on). We ended up installing Windows XP and, as it has been working properly with this system, it does seem more compatible.

      ~~~Recommended? ~~~

      Absolutely! However, it can be difficult when you have to chuck the little'ns off the computer to do your reviews!!

      Thanks for reading.

      (Reviewed on Ciao and Dooyoo)

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      • More +
        23.05.2009 09:41
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        A great place to while away the time

        ...But the men in white coats are not coming to take me away yet (I hope!)

        So what do you do when you have gone on holiday hoping for sun, sand and, erm, sitting on the beach, yet all you get is rain, rain and more rain? Yep, make sure I book next year's holiday in the Med! Seriously though, we were taking a short holiday in the Channel Island of Jersey with our young son but were basically confined to indoor activities due to the bad weather. From past experience in Jersey, I knew that the Jersey Potteries were one of the more popular places on the island that attracted people who wanted to take shelter from the rain, so off we went, pack-a-macks and wellies at the ready (only joking about that bit) and made our way to the village of Gorey.

        ***A Little Insight***
        ================
        The Potteries were first opened in the village of Gorey in 1946 by Charles and William Austin Potter, only to be bought out in 1954 by Clive and Jessie Jones. Three generations of the Jones family would become involved in the running of the Potteries over the next forty years, and to this day, they are still owned and run by the same family. Jersey Pottery exports products to as many as twenty countries, and was even asked to provide crockery to the 7 star Hotel Abu Dhabi in Dubai.

        Located in a thoroughly modern setting with immaculate gardens, the Potteries also pride themselves on the cuisine of Spinnakers Restaurant, which I will go into a little later in the review.

        After parking the hire car in the spacious car park, we entered through the main doors where the first sight that meets you is a display of old photographs of the potteries over the years. To the left of the main door is a touch screen where you can select video clips of the various things to see within the Potteries, thereby making your tour round a little easier to plan. The building itself is light and airy and the delicious aromas coming from Spinnakers Restaurant welcomes you as you enter the main hallway. In my opinion, this is quite a cunning layout because you cannot reach any other parts of the Potteries without passing the restaurant, so I personally think the idea is to get the hunger pangs going as you take in the rest of the place. Maybe that is just me being cynical!

        ***See How It's Made - Or Not!***
        ===========================
        Anyone visiting the Potteries for the first time in, say, five years will notice an immense change in the way it is set out. Years ago, visitors could see many of the workers going about their working day, making the pots from scratch, painting, firing etc., but on this visit, I saw a maximum of two people at work. It occurred to me that maybe the pots were now made somewhere else within the building, out of the view of the general public, and that just a couple of volunteers agreed to sit on show to entertain the visitors. However, I may be wrong in my assumption and it could be that it was just a quiet day. Who knows? On our visit round the workshop, where the public were supposedly able to see the pots being made, there was no one actually working any clay, no one at the kilns and no one doing a great deal to be honest. We merely watched two artists painting the some plates, which in my opinion, was not overly inspiring.

        ***Glaze Craze***
        ================
        This was the highlight of our tour round the Potteries, more so because it kept my son entertained for a good half hour. This really is for the kids, but many adults were making the most of the opportunity of going back to their childhood and painting pretty pictures - me included!! The idea of the Glaze Craze is to paint a piece of pottery of your choice, and then your item will be fired and finished and it is usually ready for your collection by the end of the week.

        The Glaze Craze is situated at the back of the pottery shop. Quite simply, you choose a piece of plain white pottery off the shelf at the front of the Glaze Craze room. Items range from small dinosaurs and fish for the children, to larger items for adults such as vases, teapots, plaques etc. You take your item to one of the tables and help yourself to one of the aprons provided, if you wish. You are then provided with a pallet of various colours and away you go. Also available are pencils and various stencils to help with your drawing, together with ink pens and sponge shapes. When you are happy with your painting, you take it over to the counter where a member of staff will take your payment and contact details. Fees depend on which piece of pottery you choose, the smaller items such as the ornamental fish and dinosaurs are £5.00 and the larger items can range from £10.00 upwards. You then pay an additional £5.00 for the firing in the workshop. All items are usually available for collection each Friday. If you are on holiday, however, and you will no longer be around to collect the item yourself, you can arrange to have it delivered to your home address for an additional postage fee, depending on how large the item is. To give you an idea on prices, I paid £8.00 postage for a medium sized vase and a small dinosaur for my son, which in my opinion is quite reasonable considering the way it was parcelled up when I received it - very professional and well packaged.

        ***Shop 'Till You Drop (Or Run Out Of Money!)***
        ======================================
        The Pottery Shop offers an extremely large selection of goods to buy, but be warned - it is expensive! Goods on offer include fruit bowls, mugs, dinner plates, serving dishes, vases, coasters and many smaller ornaments.

        Although all the items are very professionally made and appear to be good quality, the design on a lot of the items were not really my cup of tea, and did seem a little garish. However, like many shops, you can usually find something to suit your taste if you look around. There was also a small section of the shop which sold small toys such as magic sets, puzzles, travelling games etc., but I could not imagine the connection of these toys with a pottery shop. I suppose one reason for these being sold was to keep the kids happy while mummy and daddy were looking at the boring stuff!

        There is a section within the shop displaying discontinued stock which can be purchased, together with pottery items of years gone by - 70's Aztec patterns a prime example! You'll be pleased to hear that these are not for sale.

        ***Fancy a Cuppa?***
        =================
        Spinnakers, situated on the left hand side of the main hallway as you enter the Potteries, is an exceptionally large restaurant. Just outside the entrance leading into cafe, you will find a wooden stand with the menu on it to enable you to get an idea of what refreshments are on offer. The cafe offers an extremely varied choice of food including hot meals, snacks, sandwiches, kids' meals, tea, coffee and soft drinks. It also hosts a bar serving draft beers, wines and spirits. The cafe is very spacious inside with large pine tables and chairs, together with available high chairs and boosters seats for the smaller members of your family. My son doesn't usually have a particularly large appetite so we opted for the children's portion of chicken nuggets and chips. This very generous helping came in a cardboard fun box (my son wanted to know where his plate was...like mother like son!) but he tucked in quite happily. The food is not exactly cheap but you do get your money's worth in the size of the portions. On this occasion, we also chose tea for two which came in a nice large white tea pot with matching mugs.

        On a separate visit, I chose the cream tea consisting of a cup of tea (surprise surprise) and a very large home-made scone with fresh Jersey cream and jam. I must admit the queuing system does get a little hectic at busy periods because the counter staff work their way along the line and take your order, for it to be waiting for you at the cash desk. Essentially, you can be near the back of the queue when your order is taken and by the time you reach the cash desk, you have to try to find your drinks amongst the other orders that are waiting for customers. It does work, but can get a little confusing if there are a lot of customers.

        For anyone wishing to eat alfresco there is a large seating area just outside with umbrellas to shade diners from the sun (when there is sun!) This is a particularly nice atmosphere in which to eat your lunch as you are surrounded by the immaculate gardens, together with a small pond containing Koi Carp. A very peaceful environment.

        One thing I did notice when we were in Spinnakers was the number of locals who were dining there. It appears to be quite a popular meeting place for Jersey people, in addition to tourists. Proof in itself of the quality of the food!

        ***Play Area***
        ============
        Situated just to the side of Spinnakers is a lovely little play area which I found to be a great help in keeping my little fella happy for a short while. There are many things to do for the little ones including bead roller coasters, a see-saw and large video screen where movies are shown. Whilst we were there, there were some Disney cartoons playing. With a soft play mat flooring, this is an ideal way to occupy small children for the times when the old boredom hits.

        ***Private Functions and Corporate Events***
        ===================================
        Spinnakers also has a good reputation for private functions and corporate events. There are posters all round the cafe offering various options for kids' parties, private parties etc. You can choose a theme, decide exactly what you want, whether it be just a quiet family get together, or a big event with entertainment, balloons etc. It offers seating for up to 300 and you can even take advantage of the party organiser to help with the arrangements of the party. Whilst we were there, there was a very small birthday party going on for a seven year old little girl. All the tables were nicely laid out and balloons were everywhere! A staff member came through with a birthday cake and candles and everyone seemed to be having a great time!

        ***They Do Weddings Too***
        =======================
        If you fancy tying the old proverbial knot in Jersey, then the Potteries is an option you may wish to consider. The Wedding Team will make all the necessary arrangements for you and even sort out your wedding list. Although you can pass a morning away walking round the potteries and enjoying the fine cuisine, this would not be my personal choice for a wedding venue, but there are some lovely gardens here which would make a nice backdrop so some people may find it more to their taste.

        ***Out and About***
        ================
        Yes, the Potteries have expended! There are three Jersey Pottery Cafes within Jersey's capital of St Helier, together with Jersey Pottery Gifts & Flowers and Jersey Pottery - Le Riche Capital.

        ***Facilities***
        =============
        As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, there is a fairly large car park. The complex is thoroughly wheelchair/buggy friendly and I do not recall seeing any steps whatsoever. As usual, toilets are available for customers' use.

        ***On-Line Purchasing***
        ====================
        If you are not planning a trip to Jersey in the near future, you can have a look at the Pottery website and make your purchasers on-line. (website address at the end of the review) You simply need to register with the website and you are then free to purchase. However, you are free to browse through the online catalogue available on the homepage of the website.

        ***Contact Details***
        =================
        Jersey Pottery
        Gorey Village
        Jersey
        JE3 9EP
        Channel Islands

        Tel 00 44 (0) 1534 850850

        ***Would I Recommend***
        =====================
        Yes! Although the pottery styles and colours may not be to everyone's taste, it does make for an interesting little tour and the Glaze Craze was certainly the highlight of our visit. All the children seem to love the idea of making their own little pottery item and this seemed a very popular section of the potteries with other visitors. As the title of my reviews says, I did go potty this year and painted myself a little flower vase which I enjoyed doing and, to be honest, it hasn't come out too badly. Unlike many of the attractions in Jersey, it is free to get in, though the prices of some of the pottery on sale certainly make up for the fact! On previous visits, I have really enjoyed watching the pots being made in the workshop and I did find this aspect to be a little bit of a disappointment this year. However, there could be many explanations as to why not many people were working - workers on coffee breaks, or just working in other parts of the building etc.
        One final piece of advice: if you do manage to get there and decide to paint a piece of pottery in the Glaze Craze, try and get there at the weekend or very early on in the week in order to get your painted pot back before you leave for home. This will save you money in having it posted to you. I think the pots are sent down for firing either on a Monday or Tuesday so try and get it in before then.

        Thanks reading, hope you enjoyed, and remember... try not to get too potty!

        (Reviewed on Ciao and Dooyoo)

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        • More +
          23.05.2009 09:29
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          A very interesting hospital!

          Having visited the Channel Island of Jersey many times over the past 25 years, I have always been inspired by the Jersey War Tunnels, formerly known as the German Underground Hospital.

          We decided to visit Jersey again last year, but unfortunately, the British summer had been a non-starter and the appalling weather decided to make its way down to the Channel Islands. Needless to say, there was no chance of soaking up the sun on the beach, so we had no alternative but to explore the indoor attractions. It had been several years since we visited the War Tunnels so thought this would be a good opportunity to see if it was still as interesting and enjoyable as in previous years.

          ***What are the Jersey War Tunnels?***
          ===============================
          As I have already mentioned, the War Tunnels were formerly known as the German Underground Hospital. However, this kilometre of underground tunnels, excavated through thousands of tonnes of rock and lined with 6000 tonnes of concrete, were originally built as a bombproof barracks, together with a weapons store, rather than a hospital. It was prior to the completion of the barracks that the Second World War broke, the German forces occupied the Channel Islands and it was decided that the barracks would be used as a casualty clearing station in the event of an allied invasion. To this day, you can still see the fully equipped operating theatre, wards, radio control room and officer's room, though admittedly, some of these rooms have been re-created with special sound effects and props to give a, shall we say, realistic feel.

          For three years, slave labourers from Europe, together with Russian and Polish prisoners-of-war, were forced to dig bare-handed through the concrete to create the tunnels, many being cruelly treated by the officers and many more losing their lives in the appalling working conditions.
          Despite the atrocious conditions in which these men had to work, the hospital was never used. The anticipated invasion never happened, the war ended and the Channel Islands were liberated.

          ***My Experience***
          ===============
          The War Tunnels are approached along a fairly winding road, quite typical of the roads in Jersey. On driving into the car park, our first glimpse of the War Tunnels was the familiar site of the white archway dug into the hillside, with a red cross above the entrance. After parking the car, we went into the reception to purchase our tickets. In addition to our entrance tickets, we were each handed an Identity Card, which I will explain about later in the review. On leaving the reception area, we walked the very short distance to the entrance to the War Tunnels where we handed in our tickets.

          On walking into the tunnel, the first thing that I noticed was how cold it was and I was hit by the damp, musty smell, hardly surprising considering we were underground surrounding by concrete tunnelled walls. The first section of the tunnel portrays life on the island under the German occupation. The first 'display' on the approach into the main tunnel area shows enlarged photographs of the onset of war and the effects it had on islanders, together with written explanations as to what was portrayed in each picture. Cine footage is played on the bare brick wall at the end of the tunnel to the sound of war time music and Hitler giving one of his speeches. I must admit it was quite an eerie feeling hearing such music, together with the sounds of the marching Nazis, in this cold, stone-walled environment, especially knowing what went on down there over sixty years ago.

          As we travelled along the tunnel complex, it was easy to imagine this cold, stark environment as a hospital. Small rooms run off each of the tunnels, which I assume were intended as hospital wards. Nowadays, the rooms are used as exhibition areas showing various stages of the war and the islands under occupation, both in extremely large picture boards and video footage. In one room, I watched a video playing of interviews with islanders who were growing up on the island during the war, where they explain what life was like under the German rule, and how they managed to live in such circumstances. In my opinion, these islanders who spoke about their experiences are such strong people to have lived through such a harrowing time and still be able to talk about events to this day.

          One section of the tunnel, which I found particularly impressive, not to mention moving, was the unfinished chamber. This part of the tunnel has been left as it was when the slave labourers put down their picks for the last time. You can quite clearly see the bare wall of rock where large sections have been cut out manually by these poor workers and it so easy to imagine what hell they went through, being forced to cut away at the rock face in such terrible conditions. Also visible is the railway track that was used to transport the workers into the tunnels and take the excavated rocks back out. This impressive display has magnificent sound effects of the clanking of picks against the bare rock - certainly one of the best features in the tunnels as it gears away from the tourist attraction side of things and actually gives you a feeling that you were living the terror.

          As we moved along through the tunnel, we could see the operating theatre, still with the surgical instruments on show. We could see the German officers' room with mannequins of the officers standing round a large table, planning their next course of action. The Radio Room was extremely small and portrayed an officer sitting at an old fashioned desk working away. Also on show was a small kitchen with unfinished meals on the table, depicting how people were forced to leave their homes without warning.

          One of the large exhibitions within the War Tunnels focuses on the life of Violette Szabó. I won't go into too much detail on this section as it is quite an in-depth area, but very briefly, Violette Szabó was a French secret agent during the Second World War. The exhibition tells her story and how she was caught and executed in the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp. Her work was duly recognised and her daughter, Tania, was presented with the George Cross on her mother's behalf.

          ***The Garden of Reflection***
          ========================
          Situated beside the Cafe, the Garden of Reflection is a fairly recent addition to the Jersey War Tunnels, being established only four years ago. The idea of the garden is to provide a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere where visitors can read about various aspects of the war. These snippets of information are engraved onto fifty steel plaques around the garden. Also contained within the garden are a further fifty plaques each bearing the name of an islander who died under the German occupation. Access to the garden is free and I would personally recommend looking around after you have been into the War Tunnels as its relaxing ambience is such a contrast to the stark environment within the tunnels.

          ***War Trail***
          ============
          The War Trail is another relatively new addition to the Jersey War Tunnels. Unfortunately, I am unable to comment with any certainty on this aspect of the exhibition as we did not venture out onto the trail due to the persistent rain. However, this is located in a wooded area close to the tunnel entrance and was once occupied as a German anti-aircraft gun battery during the occupation. Apparently, the gun positions, trenches and German personal shelters are still visible through the undergrowth. The area has been left as it was at the time of the island's liberation and is now a haven for local wildlife.

          We are hoping to visit the War Trail in the future and I will then update this review with my personal experience and opinion.

          ***So What Happened to You?***
          ==========================
          I mentioned at the beginning of this review that, on purchasing our tickets, we were each handed an identity card. It was only at the end of our tour that we realised the reason for this. To end our visit, we decided to wander up to the cafe for a lovely Jersey cream tea (as you do!) To our amazement, the walls of the cafe were covered in identity photographs of some of the islanders who were living on Jersey during the time of the occupation. The idea is that you look around the walls to find the person who is on your identity card. Once the person is found, you can then read the caption against the photograph which explains what happened to that person, whether they survived the war, whether they were sent off to fight on the mainland etc. I found this really interesting and, whilst I was looking round for my identity photo, I couldn't help but hope that I survived.

          ***Cafe***
          =========
          This really is a delightful way to round off a trip to the Jersey War Tunnels. The cafe is built quite high up onto the hill, but is accessible by concrete steps or a lift. The cafe itself is very light and airy and there are also seats and tables outside if you want to take advantage of any nice weather that decides to come your way. The cafe boasts a wide, varied menu serving both hot and cold food, with a selection of freshly baked pastries and cakes.

          ***Facilities***
          ============
          The Jersey War tunnels has all the facilities you would expect to find in such a tourist attraction, including baby changing facilities and disabled facilities. As I mentioned, although the cafe is built fairly high up, there is lift access so this would not cause any problems for disabled people. For people with wheelchairs or buggies, you should not encounter any problems with making your way around. The War Tunnels themselves are actually flat so there are no nasty stairways to climb up.

          There is also the obligatory shop where you can purchase various souvenirs. However, I found the goods quite expensive and refrained from actually purchasing anything.

          ***Entrance Fees***
          ================
          I thought the fees were quite expensive initially, but when you consider the extent of the exhibition, together with the fact that entry into the War Trail and Garden of Reflection are free, you do get a good deal for your money. At the time of writing, the entrance fees are:-

          Adults £9.30
          Children £5.30
          Senior citizens £8.50
          Students £6.30

          ***Opening Times***
          =================
          The War Tunnels are only open between the months of February and December from the hours of 10.00 am to 6.00 pm. During this time, there are three days when the War Tunnels are closed, namely Liberation Day, Battles of Flowers Day and the Battle of Britain Day.

          ***Contact Details***
          =================
          Les Charrières Malorey
          St Lawrence
          Jersey
          Channel Islands JE3 1FU

          Telephone +44 (0)1534 860 808
          Facsimile +44 (0)1534 860 886

          E-mail
          info@jerseywartunnels.com
          www.jerseywartunnels.com

          ***My Overall Opinion***
          ===================
          I would advise anyone to add the Jersey War Tunnels to their 'things to do list' if holidaying in Jersey. Whilst it is a very moving experience walking through this tunnel complex, seeing how the labourers were treated and the effects the war had on the islanders, it is also a fascinating experience to see the various exhibits in an original wartime environment rather than the usual modern day museum.

          I would however say that, in hindsight, it is not particularly suitable for young children. It is not an overly unpleasant environment and is fairly well lit, but I imagine it would not hold the interest of children under the age of maybe ten years old.

          Thanks for reading.

          Oh, and by the way, for anyone who is interested - my wartime identity photo confirmed I did indeed survive the war and lived until well into my 70's!!

          Thank you for reading.

          (Reviewed on Dooyoo and Ciao)

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          • Bronchiolitis / Health Problem / 77 Readings / 72 Ratings
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            12.05.2009 19:35
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            A life threatening condition

            I usually like to make my reviews fairly light-hearted and entertaining, but I am going to make an exception here as it concerns the most worrying and stressful time I have ever experienced. It concerns my son, who at the age of 11 months, was admitted to hospital no less than three times in just two months after being diagnosed with Viral Bronchialitis. It is very personal to me and I only feel comfortable writing about it now because of the amount of time that has elapsed since this illness took over our lives, and also the fact that Matthew, now 4, is back on top form, full of beans again and totally clear of the infection. I would add that I am not attempting to produce a first class piece of writing, review, op, whatever you want to call it, but merely want to share my experience with you in the hope that it may help anyone whose baby should ever be unfortunate enough to contract Viral Bronchialitis.

            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            A Brief Description of Bronchialitis
            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            Up until October 2005, I had never heard of Bronchialitis. I was familiar with Bronchitis having suffered from it myself when I was in my teens, but Bronchialitis was certainly a new one on me.

            Essentially, Bronchialitis is a viral infection which affects the bronchioles in the lungs, and is most common in babies under the age of twelve months. The bronchioles are the tiny airways within the lungs, and should not be confused with the bronchi (the larger airways) which are affected by bronchitis. Bronchialitis is usually contracted when the baby breathes in water droplets from a sneeze or a cough where the virus is present. The bronchioles become full of mucus and swell up, causing severe breathing difficulties.

            ~~~~~~~~~~~~
            My Experience
            ~~~~~~~~~~~~
            Matthew was born in November 2004, and although he decided to surprise us all by arriving five weeks early, he weighed in at 6 ½ pounds and was a healthy little boy. During his first 6/7 months, he caught a couple of very minor colds which didn't seem to bother him and they both cleared up very quickly. It was only when he came down with cold-like symptoms in October 2005 that things took a turn for the worse. The runny nose only lasted a couple of days or so, but then turned into a dry, 'tight' cough.

            Within 24 hours of the cough starting, Matthew's breathing had become quite laboured and, during the night, things got so bad we decided to take him to A&E. In fairness to the hospital staff, they did take him through to the treatment room straight away and connected him up to an oxygen tank. Unfortunately, he was so stressed out by the breathing difficulties that he was kicking out all over the place and would not keep the mask over his face so we had to physically hold him down and press the mask down over him until his breathing eased a little. After a couple of hours, Matthew was admitted to the Paediatric Unit, all the time remaining connected to an oxygen tank. In order to breath, he was pulling on his tummy muscles and this has to be one of the most upsetting things you could see your baby go through. Once his breathing had steadied slightly, he was given some oral steroid tables (Prednisalone) which were dissolved in a syringe of water. He was also given a Salbutamol inhaler which will be familiar to asthmatics. Basically, this is a 'reliever' inhaler which, in normal circumstances, is designed to bring quick relief to breathing difficulties caused by the likes of asthma and lung infections. As Matthew was only 11 months old, he was given this via a volumatic which is a plastic cone with a valve at the end. These are designed for children or for people who are unable to use an inhaler in the normal manner. Generally, when using an inhaler, the trick is to press the canister of the inhaler at the same time as breathing in quickly. Obviously, young children are unable to do this so the drug from the inhaler is dispersed into the volumatic and the child breathes it through the valve as normally and evenly as possible. Fortunately, the medication worked wonders and, within 24 hours, Matthew's breathing had calmed down immensely and we were sent home with an inhaler, volumatic and two day's worth of Prednisalone. At this stage, we were given no indication as to what may have caused the breathing difficulties other than it 'could be a virus and will probably clear up'.

            Life returned to normal until the week before Matthew's first birthday. And then the runny nose started again, which led once again to breathing problems. It is very hard watching your baby fighting to breathe. Under normal circumstances, if anyone has ever sat and watched their little one breathing, the chest goes up and down nice and evenly, but with Bronchialitis, the stomach is being pulled in due to the force of trying to take in each breath of air.

            So once again, we rushed off to A&E, probably breaking the speed limit at the same time. The procedure took the same route as on the previous occasion, with Matthew having to be nebulised with a combination of oxygen and Salbutamol. For anyone not familiar with nebulisers, this is where a mask is placed over the face and the medication is administered in a measured form of steam so that it can be breathed in more easily. Again, Matthew was placed on a monitor to measure his blood saturation and pulse rate. After a few hours, his breathing calmed down and he was given some more diluted oral steroids and regularly dosed with more Salbutamol through the volumatic. He was kept in hospital overnight and released in the morning with a further two day course of steroids.

            Everything returned to normal and then six weeks later, in fact it was the week before Christmas, we were back to square one. This time, the runny nose started in the night, and by midday the following day, the breathing problems had started again but not so badly. We therefore decided to get an emergency appointment with the GP in the afternoon, but things took a turn for the worse before we had chance to go.

            And then the most frightening moment of my life happened. Matthew had been having such a struggle breathing that he just keeled over and seemed to 'pass out'. I was trying to wake him and he wouldn't move or open his eyes. It only lasted for a few seconds and I can't describe what was going through my mind at that point. We forgot about the GP appointment and just went straight to A&E again where he was nebulised. He was so bad this time that it took a total of 8 sessions of nebulisation before his breathing calmed down. However, he could still not breathe properly on his own and remained on oxygen for 24 hours. Each time the oxygen mask was removed from his face, his pulse rate and saturation slowed right down and would not stabilise. On this occasion, the nurses sent both me and my husband home as we were both totally drained after having no sleep. I didn't want to leave Matthew but he was sleeping all the time and we were assured that if there was any change, we would be called straight away.
            First thing the next morning, we phoned the ward only to be told that Matthew was sitting up, playing with toys and had had his breakfast, and we could bring him home. If anything could be classed as being a 'weight off my mind', it was being given this news.

            ~~~~~~~~
            Diagnoses
            ~~~~~~~~
            It was only after this final occasion that we were visited by a paediatric consultant while we were still in the hospital. It turned out that, the first time Matthew was admitted, there was a severe case of Viral Bronchialitis doing the rounds in the north west area of England, and the consultant's opinion was that Matthew had caught this back in October, i.e. the first time he was admitted to hospital. The problem with Viral Bronchialitis is that, once the child has had it, it weakens the immunity of the lungs so that any cold or chest problem that is contracted causes the same symptoms again until the child either builds up an immunity, or is old enough to fight off this type of virus.

            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            Related Problems
            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            If left untreated for any length of time, there is the possibility that the condition can turn into Pneumonia.

            It is also said that children run a higher risk of contracting Bronchialitis if there are smokers in the house, but to be honest, I don't know if the child has to have suffered from it first to be at risk.

            It is now four years since all of this happened, and I am pleased to say that Matthew is back to his normal devilish self, full of mischief, very happy and very healthy. After being discharged from the hospital, we were required to visit our own GP for a general check-up and Matthew was prescribed a separate inhaler containing Beclamethasone, which is a mild steroid intended to recondition his lungs.

            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            Worries about Steroids
            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            There have been many controversial reports on steroids over the years, especially when being prescribed to infants. The medical profession are very reluctant to give oral steroids as too much use of these can affect the growth in young children. If the use is limited to emergency conditions, as in Matthew's case, the risk is minimal.

            Inhaled steroids, such as the Beclamethasone, are a lot safer. With an inhaler, the medication is going straight into the lungs where it is required, and has been proven to be a safe method of treating lung conditions such as asthma.

            Viral Bronchialitis is an awful thing to experience for anyone, but I imagine that it is worse in babies and children as they do not understand what is happening and why they cannot breathe. I know for a fact that it is easier said than done to advise a parent to be calm so that the baby does not pick up on the stress, but if you are a parent and your baby comes down with this virus, I have added a few pointers in the hope that it will be of some help to you:

            *If your baby is suffering from Viral Bronchialitis but is not ill enough to be admitted to hospital, keep him upright as much as possible. The mucus which has collected in the lungs will eventually loosen and is often coughed up and the baby will be able to do this more effectively if he is upright. At nighttime, elevate the mattress slightly if possible so that the baby is not lying totally flat.

            *Keep the baby well hydrated. In Matthew's case, his difficulty in breathing also made it difficult for him to eat and drink and this can cause dehydration.

            *If the baby's breathing deteriorates, don't bother with the GP's surgery - get straight down to A&E. Once they are in the hospital, babies take priority over sprained ankles, cut fingers etc. and will be seen straight away. They will be given oxygen immediately, and no matter how long it takes for the medication to have an effect, at least they will be on the right track.

            *One thing that I noticed when Matthew was ill was that it came on so suddenly, literally in the space of hours. He went from having a little cough to major breathing difficulties in such a short space of time. And then once he had been discharged from hospital, it took only a couple of days to get back to normal.

            I apologise if this 'review' has been a little on the depressing side and longwinded, but I felt I had to give all the details if it was going to help anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves in this situation.

            Finally, I would say that I am not in the least medically qualified and the information I have given in this review is based solely on my experience in the three months before Christmas, 2005.

            Thank you for reading.

            (also posted on Ciao)

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            • More +
              10.05.2009 00:22
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              Top CD for Eagles Fans

              I first became interested in Don Henley's music when 'Boys of Summer' was released in the mid 1980's. And yes, before anyone under the age of 20 corrects me and says that it was DJ Sammy (huh.....???) who had a hit with this track a couple of years ago - WRONG - Don Henley did the original.
              For those of you not familiar with Henley's work, let me give you a little background information on the man himself.

              >>> Background Information <<<
              ==========================
              Don Henley is one of the founder members of, and lead singer/drummer with the American band The Eagles, who had many hits in the 1970's including Hotel California, Desperado and Life in the Fast Lane. For anyone familiar with the Eagles' work, you will know that Don Henley's voice is totally unmistakable. However, his solo work is not so widely known in the UK and therefore, in my opinion, his albums are very underrated. In total, Henley has released six solo albums since the 1980's and 'Inside Job' includes some of his best work to date.

              >>> Track List <<<
              ===============
              1. Nobody Else in the World but You
              2. Taking you Home
              3. For My Wedding
              4. Everything is different now
              5. Workin' it
              6. Goodbye to a River
              7. Inside Job
              8. They're not here, they're not coming
              9. Damn it, Rose
              10. Miss Ghost
              11. The Genie
              12. Annabel
              13. My Thanksgiving

              The album has a great combination of rocky, uptempo tracks and a few ballads and I can honestly say that this album is proof that Don Henley's voice suits both styles of music.

              Let me share with you my personal favourites on the album:-

              "Nobody Else in the World but You" is a superb track to open the album. A very strong beat which gets the old foot tapping. (Don't do this while you are driving!)

              "Taking you Home" has quite a haunting feel to it. The first two lines of the song - "I had a good life, Before you came" (how many men have said that, I wonder - or women for that matter?) draws the listener into thinking that Mrs Woman has come along and ruined his single life. However, you find out later in the song that she only makes it better. Altogether now - aah. To be honest, I would say this is one of the best songs on the album.

              "Workin' it" really changes tempo and has an incredibly strong beat to it. However, this track contains some very odd lyrics. For example:

              "It's plain to see Miss Liberty has not yet come of age
              But she loves to feed the animals
              As long as they're locked up in the cage
              And everyone knows the girls got balls of brass
              Aw, kiss my ass..."

              Mmm, odd! A great track all the same.

              "Goodbye to a River" sounds quite mournful but the grittiness in Don Henley's voice always tends to lend an edge to any song he sings and this prevents the slower numbers being depressing and 'slushy'.

              "Inside Job" - the title track of the album is another foot tapper - get on in there Don!

              In my opinion, there is not a bad track on this album, which is fortunate for me because I bought it without hearing any of them beforehand. I never usually do this and would only normally buy an album if I have heard at least a couple of the tracks, but I always know I will enjoy any of his work and I was not disappointed.

              >>> Presentation and Album Cover <<<
              ===============================
              The cover is very simple with a mean and moody Mr Henley peering from the front cover. He's not exactly your rock god but looks damn good for his age (now in his 60's).

              Now I had always thought that the days had gone where you would buy an album and, as well as the track listing on the inside cover, you would get the words to each song. However, this album contains a booklet which does just that. You can sing along to your heart's content.

              <<< Price >>>
              ===========
              I actually bought my copy of the album in the US so cannot recall exactly what I paid for it, but play.com are selling it at £8.99.

              >>> A little additional information for you <<<
              ===================================
              If you listen to the CD and enjoy it, Don Henley has released the "Inside Job" DVD which basically shows him performing some of (but not all) the tracks on this album, plus a lot of his other solo work, at Fair Park Music Hall in Dallas on 25th May 2000. Well worth a look if you are a Henley Fan. There is even a Caribbean style version of Hotel California to end the DVD.

              >>> Overall Opinion <<<
              ===================
              Like any album, it all comes down to a matter of taste. There will be many people out there who are not fans of Don Henley's music, or maybe not even familiar with it. If you fall into the latter group, I would say give it a go. Have a listen to the original (and best) version of Boys of Summer and if you like that, then you will love this album.

              As for my personal opinion - I love it.

              Thanks for reading.

              (Reviewed on Ciao and Dooyoo)

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              • More +
                10.05.2009 00:17
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                • "Ease of use"

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                A good all-round washing machine

                *** FIRST - THE BAD NEWS ***

                Last year, I had to say goodbye to a very dear friend.

                She was old but she had worked hard all her life. I thought we would be together for much longer, but it wasn't to be. And then it happened... my ever faithful washing machine realised things were getting too much so it burned out and died! The kitchen smelled of burning electrics, the dogs wouldn't go near it, and to top it all, my husband was working a nightshift so it had to stay where it was.

                I had to accept it. My old faithful Servis had left me for that great washing machine graveyard in the sky!

                *** AND NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS ***

                I don't want to appear heartless, but I found a replacement the following day!

                I wanted a machine with a fairly large capacity due to having a very busy four year old son who never worried how much mud he jumped in or when he would next cover his clothes in paint. The Hotpoint WF220 basically provided everything I needed.

                The machine comes with the usual instruction booklet which is not the easiest to fathom out. Reading it is fine, the problems start when you have to decide which page you start with as it is set out in duplex on a piece of A3 paper, folded in on itself. When you have untangled yourself from this, the first page starts with 'Getting to Know your Appliance" which is just general information on cleaning and maintenance. The booklet is then divided into eight sections:

                (1) Electrical Guide
                (2) Installation Guide
                (3) Dispenser Drawer
                (4) Programme Selection
                (5) Using The Machine
                (6) Options Guide
                (7) Typical Wash Programme
                Trouble Shooting

                *** FEATURES ***

                The machine itself has 16 programmes. Very briefly:-

                (A) Mixed Pre-wash
                (B) White Cotton & Linen (without special finishes)
                (C) White Cotton & Linen (Superwash)
                (D) Colourfast Cotton, Linen Or Viscose
                (E) Fast Wash at 60 degrees
                (F) Non-Colourfast Cottons
                (G) Colour Synthetics, Nylon, Acrylic etc.
                (H) Acrylics
                (J) Handwash Wool
                (K) Silks
                (L) Fast Wash at 30 degrees
                (M) Handwash
                Rinse & Spin - Mixed
                Fast Spin - Cotton
                Slow Spin - Delicate
                Pumping Out - All
                (Don't get confused - there is no (I) programme)

                The machine is capable of washing up to 6kg of washing. However, certain programmes on the machine only cater for 1kg, 3kg or 5kg.

                For example, Setting J (handwash wool) only washes 1kg.
                Setting K (silks) only washes 3 kg.

                However, the programmes you would use most frequently do cater for 6kg of washing so don't let this put you off.

                The dispenser drawer allows you to use powder detergent, liquid detergent and/or fabric conditioner, whichever is your preference.

                *** APPEARANCE ***

                This is quite an attractive looking machine and is not too bulky for a machine that holds a fairly large amount of washing.

                The dispenser drawer is situated on the left hand side on the front of the machine, together with a layout of the programmes available. The dial and settings and on/off button are situated on the right hand side on the front of the machine.

                This model comes with a 'door lock' indicator light. This stays lit for a couple of minutes after the washing programme has finished and you are then able to open the door.

                The machine has adjustable feet to enable you to balance it properly.

                The machine comes in a choice of two colours - grey or white.

                *** THINGS I LIKE ABOUT THIS MACHINE ***

                This is a very efficient washing machine which does hold a large amount of washing.

                If you need to wash 'hand wash only' or woollen items, the machine will gently clean these very effectively.

                Hotpoint offer an extended warranty.

                One of the things I do like about this model is that, unlike my former washing machine, this one never decides to go for a waddle round the kitchen when it is having a fast spin. It makes a nice change not to have to reposition it after each wash!

                *** THINGS I DISLIKE ABOUT THIS MACHINE ***

                None really, apart from the fact that one thing did go wrong within six months after we bought it. Towards the end of a wash, the water carried on filling up, and filling up and filling up... Eventually, we had to disconnect the water supply to the machine. An engineer came out to see it and we found out that the problem was down to the cold water inlet solenoid (rinse cycle) being jammed open. It was just a case of having a new part fitted and we have had no problems with it since.

                I would be inclined to believe that this was down to pure bad luck. The Hotpoint Service Engineer suggested it was probably just down to a faulty connector and, to be honest, since this part was replaced, we have had no trouble with it whatsoever.

                Another point I would mention is that some of the programmes take a very long time to complete. For example, Programme B which caters for white cottons and linen, takes 2 ½ hours to complete. If you are on a budget, remember you are using more electricity during this time so it may be something to consider before purchasing this model. However, I never actually use any of the programmes which take this long, and manage to do all my washing on Programme E, F or handwash wool. You may consider this machine to be a little wasteful when only a few of the programmes are used, but I always think it is nice to have the option should you need to use any of the others.

                *** PRICE ***
                I bought this machine for £309.95. I decided to take out an extended warranty at £4.49 per month.

                I hope this review has been useful for anyone looking to purchase a new washing machine in the future. I would certainly recommend this model as, apart from one little glitch, it has been very reliable.

                Finally, for those who are interested:

                *** TECHNICAL DETAILS ***

                Dimensions: 59.9cm wide
                Capacity: 1 - 6 kg
                Electric Connections: 220/230 Volts 50Hz
                Maximum Absorbed Power: 1700W
                Spin Speed: Up to 1200 rpm

                Contact e-mail address: www.hotpoint.co.uk

                Thanks for reading.

                (Reviewed on Ciao and Dooyoo)

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                • More +
                  10.05.2009 00:05
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                  Plenty of feelgood music

                  What is the first thing you think of when someone asks you what you remember about a well known movie? It could be the story. It could be the characters or the actors who play them. But quite often, it will be the soundtrack. With a few exceptions, most movies are accompanied by a memorable soundtrack which, more often than not, is a big hit. And that is why I have chosen to review Back To The Movies, an album full of hit records that have been made famous by various movies over the last twenty years.

                  **GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE ALBUM**
                  =======================================
                  This double CD has a varied selection of hit records. Some tracks are very 'sugary' and will make you cringe and possibly wonder why you are listening to them. Other tracks are all time classics which take anyone over the age of 30 down memory lane and can only be played blaring out on an in-car CD player with the windows down! Ok ok, maybe I am getting a little carried away with memories of my youth and the sound of the 80's, but this is a great album and well worth a listen.

                  So let me guide you through these hits of Movieland. Some tracks will take those who have seen a particular movie back in time, and others will make you wish you had never seen the movie in the first place.

                  **CD1**
                  =======

                  01: Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes - Up Where We belong
                  =============================================
                  Taken from the movie "An Officer and a Gentleman", this well matched duo belt out this classic ballad. Joe Cocker's gravel-like vocals lead us into the track quite gently, shortly followed by Jennifer Warnes' energetic tones, and then the song builds up into a crescendo to the main chorus. A well-known track opens the album very nicely.

                  02: Roxette - It Must Have Been Love
                  =============================
                  This was a track from the movie "Pretty Woman". Swedish duo Roxette have had many hits in their own right so their contribution to the movie could only have been an advantage. The track itself starts off quite hauntingly with a hint of sadness, but soon escalates to a strong beat, with Marie Fredriksson taking the lead vocals, as she does with most of Roxette's material.

                  03: Wet Wet Wet - Love Is All Around
                  ============================
                  Taken from the movie "Four Weddings And A Funeral", this track drives me absolutely mad. When the movie was released in the cinemas, Love Is All Around was played to death on the radio stations, and as such, we had a bit of overkill. However, probably unbeknown to a lot of people, this is an old song originally recorded by The Troggs in 1967, but was not such a big hit as the Wets' version. However, it still has a 1960's sound and may possibly come across as a little boring to many people (including me!)

                  04: Phil Collins - Against All Odds
                  ===========================
                  This is one of my favourite tracks from the album. Taken from the movie of the same name, this is a very emotional offering from the ex-Genesis frontman/drummer and gave him his first solo number 1 hit. For any Phil Collins fans, this is very typical sound from the man from Chiswick.

                  05: Ben E King - Stand By Me
                  =======================
                  Again, taken from the movie of the same name, Ben E King gives his utmost best on this track. The musical content is very typical of the 1960's which is when this track was originally recorded. Ben E King presents us with an all time R&B classic with this offering.

                  06: The Righteous Brothers - Unchained Melody
                  ======================================
                  Before anyone groans, no it's not Robson & Jerome! Performed by the original artists, Unchained Melody is taken from the movie "Ghost". This version is by far the best I have ever heard and is another all time classic.. We really get to hear the wide pitch variations of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield and although the song is very slow and sometimes 'whiney', you can't help but like it.

                  07: Maria McKee - Show Me Heaven
                  =============================
                  Taken from the Tom Cruise movie "Days of Thunder", Maria McKee really belts out the lyrics here. At the start of the track, you think it is going to be a very soft, gentle song. Wrong! This woman can really reach the high notes with vigour. Not really my cup of tea but if you want to listen to it, the stereo needs to be loud.

                  08: Starship - Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now
                  ===================================
                  Starship, having undergone a couple of name changes, have been recording for what seems like a lifetime. Lead singer Grace Slick must have one of the best voices of 60s/70s rock music and she is definitely on form on this track taken from the movie "Mannequin".

                  09: Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy
                  ==================================
                  Oh how I detest this record. This has a very reggae feel about it and sounds more like a novelty record. Not really one you can sing along to, or indeed would want to, but at least the movie "Cocktail" was a big success.

                  10: Bruce Channel - Hey Baby
                  ========================
                  Taken from the movie "Dirty Dancing", this is yet another 1960's track and is typical of the era. In my opinion, a very lame offering which is usually played at weddings.

                  11: John Travolta - Greased Lightening
                  =========================
                  The movie "Grease" was a good excuse for John Travolta to show off his musical talents. Some people think he can sing, some think he can't and should stick to acting. He did quite well on Greased Lightening though. This has a very rock & roll beat and is reminiscent of the Teddy Boy era, for those who remember them. A great track to get people up and boogying.

                  12: Kenny Loggins - Footloose
                  =========================
                  Great track! This starts with a very catchy drumbeat before leading into an uptempo song. The movie Footloose is based around dancing and this track certainly has the ability to get anyone on their feet!

                  13: Blondie - Call Me
                  ================
                  This track is taken from "American Gigolo". It was recorded in Blondie's heyday when Debbie Harry's vocals were still going strong. This woman could belt out a track with what seemed like little effort and still have everyone upstanding. Shame she doesn't make them like this any more.

                  14: Kenny Loggins - Danger Zone
                  ===========================
                  Kenny Loggins' second offering on the album, this is a lot more powerful than Footloose and really fits in well with the genre of the movie "Top Gun". Kenny Loggins has the ability to match his style of vocals to the type of movie he is recording for and this is no exception.

                  15: Irene Cara - Flashdance (What A Feeling)
                  ===================================
                  Not to be confused with "Fame", Flashdance is another track that starts off quite slowly and may lead some people into a false sense of security - you think you are going to listen to a softly softly track, but the beat moves up a step and it's time to get the legwarmers out and jump about to this very lively track.

                  16: Denise Williams - Let's Hear It For The Boy
                  =====================================
                  Another track taken from "Footloose", this is very 'poppy' and you just feel like getting your dancing shoes out and boogying on down.

                  17: Limahl - Never Ending Story
                  =========================
                  Taking from the movie of the same title, in my opinion, this track is a bit on the wet side. Probably will be more popular with former Kagagoogoo fans. Limahl has not got the strongest voice in pop and it certainly shows in this fairly weak offering.

                  18: Go West - The King Of Wishful Thinking
                  ==================================
                  Peter Cox and Richard Drummie were the founder members of Go West and had lots of successful hits in the 1980's. The King Of Wishful Thanking is quite a catchy tune but maybe not the kind of track that one would expect to find on a movie soundtrack album.

                  19: Peter Cetera - The Glory Of Love
                  ============================
                  Chicago frontman Peter Cetera has a very squeaky clean voice with a reputation to match. This track is a little on the 'cheesy' side, not what you expect as a soundtrack to "The Karate Kid". The main problem with Peter Cetera music is that it all sounds like a Chicago record. If you like the group, you will like this.

                  20: The Shirelles - Will you Love Me Tomorrow
                  =====================================
                  The Shirelles were one of the Spice Girls of the 1960's. Listening to this track instantly brings to mind bobby socks and beehives, although this is still a classic song after forty years. The was taken from the film Dirty Dancing.

                  21: Nat King Cole - Stardust
                  ======================
                  I personally had never heard this song until I played the album. It is not really my kind of music and I would regard it as a little too old, but probably fits in well with the movie 'Sleepless in Seattle' from which this track is taken.

                  **CD2**
                  ======

                  01: Harold Faltermeyer - Axel F
                  ========================
                  Axel F is an instrumental track, but was a major hit in the 1980's. Instrumental records do not always fair well in the charts, but this was probably helped by the success of the movie "Beverley Hills Cop" from which it is taken. The track itself is very upbeat and has a very strong synthesiser feel to it.

                  02: Duran Duran - A View To A Kill
                  ===========================
                  As a former Duranee (yes I know, hang my head in shame!) I love this track. All of the theme songs from the James Bond movies have been a hit and this was no exception. I would not say that the lyrics are that memorable compared to some of the Bond tracks, but for any Duran Duran fans out there (and I assume there are still some left...) this is a must.

                  03: Survivor - Eye Of The Tiger
                  ========================
                  Ah, classic! This is one to really get your feet tapping. Eye Of The Tiger was a big hit for Survivor, probably much to the relief of lead singer Jimi Jamison who did not originally like the song. A very strong vocal with a classic rock beat. This track was taken from the movie "Rocky V".

                  04: Huey Lewis & The News - The Power Of Love
                  =======================================
                  Huey Lewis & News was a band popular in the 1980's who seemed to consist of a never ending line-up. This is the track that really got them noticed and is very poppy with a nice uptempo beat. I dare anyone not to sing along with this. The song was taken from the movie "Back To The Future".

                  05: Mental As Anything - Live It Up
                  ===========================
                  If I remember rightly, a very old episode of Neighbours referred to some of the young ones going to a Mental As Anything concert. They were really a one hit wonder in the UK and this track is stuck between being a good catchy pop tune and an embarrassing single to have in your collection. The group were from Australia which may explain why this track is taken from the movie "Crocodile Dundee".

                  06: Simple Minds - Don't You Forget About Me
                  ====================================
                  Brat pack offering "The Breakfast Club" was the movie from which this track is taken and is one of Simple Minds best hits. Jim Kerr has a distinctive voice and in my view this is a great track.

                  07: Psychedelic Furs - Pretty In Pink
                  ============================
                  In my opinion, not the best vocal sound on the album, but very apt for the movie of the same name. The lead character in the movie is a bit of a tomboy and this track suits it well.

                  08: Billy Idol - White Wedding
                  =======================
                  The man with the snarl gives us his all in this track taken from "The Wedding Singer". The track starts with Billy Idol's sultry style, and then moves upbeat to a more punk sound, which of course is where his roots lie - and I don't mean where the peroxide has grown out!

                  09: James Brown - Living In America
                  =============================
                  I am certain not many people with share my view on James Brown, but he is a singer who I have never liked and I have never been able to get into his music. However, this is a fairly good track taken from "Rocky IV". If you like James Brown, you will love this.

                  10: The Beach Boys - I Get Around
                  ===========================
                  No matter what the Beach Boys sing, it always makes you feel like it's summer. This is no exception. A very typical Beach Boys sound, get the Hawaiian shirts out and sing along to this track taken from "Good Morning Vietnam".

                  11: Philip Oakey/ Georgio Moroder - Together In Electric Dreams
                  ==================================================
                  This track was recorded for the movie "Electric Dreams". The start of the track is well suited to the title in that it has a very electric synthesiser feel about it. A good record.

                  12: OMD - If You Leave
                  ==================
                  I personally think this track is quite boring. It must have one the longest intros on the album and once I had got to the actual lyrics, I had already got fed up of waiting Probably only suited to OMD fans.

                  13: David Bowie - Absolute Beginners
                  ==============================
                  The unmistakable style of the man who has reinvented himself more times than Madonna does not disappoint on this track taken from the movie of the same name. It turned out that the song did better than the movie itself, but does prove that Mr Bowie can still churn them out!

                  14: Prince - Purple Rain
                  ===================
                  Prince is another artist who I have never been keen on. Of all his hits, this is probably one of the best.

                  15: Tina Turner - We Don't Need Another Hero
                  =====================================
                  Ms smokey voice herself had a huge hit with this track taken from the movie "Mad Max - Beyond the Thunderdome". I personally think she is quite hard to hear at the beginning of the track as it starts off quietly, but she is soon belting out the chorus as only Tina can. Great track.

                  16: Dusty Springfield - Nothing Has Been Proved
                  =======================================
                  The late Dusty Springfield showed that she could still perform quality music 30 years after her first hit. Taken from the movie "Scandal", although the vocals are excellent, the song itself is a little dull.

                  17: Bryan Ferry - Slave To Love
                  ========================
                  Former Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry sung this track from the movie "9 ½ Weeks" and I always think that, whatever Bryan Ferry sings, it still always sounds like Roxy Music. Again, this was a little dull in my opinion and nearly sends you to sleep.

                  18: Christopher Cross - Arthur's Theme
                  ================================
                  Taken from the movie "Arthur" featuring the late Dudley Moore, this track was always a favourite of mine. Christopher Cross has a very clean cut vocal sound. It is quite a simple track, but a nice one to end the album on.

                  **ALBUM COVER PRESENTATION**
                  ==========================
                  The album cover itself is nice and bright and shows a drawing of the foyer of a cinema with a queue of people waiting outsider. The title of the album is made to look like it is written up in lights over the door, where you would normally see the name of the movie being shown.

                  There is nothing too special about the inside cover as this merely lists the tracks on the album. There is also information on purchasing ringtones for your mobile of the various tracks on the album.

                  The CDs themselves are quite colourful. CD1 is a nice dusky pink and CD2 is an acid green. Nice if you like that sort of thing!

                  **MY OVERALL OPINION OF THE ALBUM**
                  =================================
                  In all, I think this is a great album. Like all albums though, there are one or two tracks that I am not particularly keen on, but it all comes down to a matter of personal taste. There is a wide variety of music featuring very different artists and styles of music.

                  **WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS ALBUM?**
                  ================================
                  Yes I would. It is a good album and well worth a listen.

                  Thanks for reading my review.

                  (reviewed on Ciao and Dooyoo)

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                  • More +
                    05.05.2009 21:59
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                    Bryan Adams rocking away on a DVD

                    Canada. It's the land of the Mounty, the maple leaf and dry ginger (as in Canada Dry). However, in my opinion, one of Canada's greatest exports has to be Bryan Adams. Unlike your usual stereotype rocker who sets out to make big bucks and enjoy the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll lifestyle, Bryan Adams says he just does it 'because I wanna...' In my mind, that's as good a reason as any! There are no heirs and graces about Bryan Adams - he's just a nice bloke who sings with his two buddies because it's what he likes to do.

                    Bryan Adams was born in Kingston, Ontario on 5th November 1959. At aged only 18, he signed his first recording contract with A&M Records for, wait for it, one dollar.

                    Over the last couple of decades, not only has he written numerous hits, he has also written for various other artists including Ronan Keating (The Way You Make Me Feel),

                    So that's the history lesson over with. Now onto the DVD.

                    *****WHERE, WHEN AND WHO*****

                    Filmed at Slane Castle, Ireland in 2000, this is a very 'no frills' concert. There is no dramatic background set, no support act (which means you don't have to bother skipping the beginning of the DVD) and no never-ending group line-up. As with any Bryan Adams tour, his band comprise only his two long-term 'buddies' - Mickey Curry (drums and backing vocals) and Keith Scott (guitar and backing vocals).

                    *****TRACK LIST*****

                    At the risk of being accused of wasting space on a review, I think it is a key factor when deciding whether to buy a certain DVD to know exactly what you are paying for. So, here's what's on it:-

                    Back To You
                    18 Till I Die
                    Can't Stop This Thing We Started
                    Summer Of '69
                    It's Only Love
                    (Everything I Do) I Do It For You
                    Cuts Like A Knife
                    When You're Gone
                    She's Only Happy When She's Dancing
                    I'm Ready
                    Heaven
                    Blues Jam (If Ya Wanna Be Bad Ya Gotta Be Good/Let's Make A Night To Remember)
                    The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You
                    Don't Give Up
                    Cloud Number 9
                    Run To You
                    Best Of Me
                    Please Forgive Me

                    *****ANY BONUS TRACKS?*****

                    Yes, you lucky people. You get three bonus tracks on the DVD as follows:-

                    Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?
                    Into The Fire
                    Before The Night

                    *****SO WHAT ROCKS AND WHAT CROCKS?*****

                    (Ok, I don't know what 'crocks' means either but it's the only thing that I could think of to rhyme with 'rocks' - suggestions on a postcard please)
                    Anyway, on with the review...

                    "Back To You" is a fabulous opener for the concert. It's a very 'rocky' track and gets the crowd straight into the spirit of the evening. This, accompanied by giant balloons being thrown out to the crowd by the band, sets you up for a good gig.

                    "Summer of '69" is one of the Bryan Adams' most popular tracks. Those first few strums of the guitar brings instant recognition to the audience and Bryan doesn't really need to do anything. Play the guitars and the audience will do the work. In my opinion, although this is one of the best tracks of the concert, it is spoiled somewhat by the audience participation, which obviously cannot be avoided on a live concert DVD, but it does bring to mind the fact that you want to hear the artist singing, and not the crowd.

                    "It's Only Love" was originally recorded as a duet with Tina Turner. Alas, and fortunately for some, Tina could not make the venue so Bryan does this one solo, but still with the same level of energy that everyone will recognise and love.

                    "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" was recorded by Bryan for the Robin Hood movie. Personally, this got right on my, erm ...nerves, because it went on for sooooo long and was at the top of the charts for sooooo long. Zzzzzzzzz. Still, with not a pair of green tights in sight, he performed it well and I suppose a Bryan Adams concert would not be complete with it.

                    "When You're Gone" gives a whole new meaning to audience participation. It is quite a normal occurrence at a Bryan Adams concert for a member of the audience to be invited on stage to sing with him. The Slane Castle concert was no exception, and as usual, this very excitable (in this instance, it is a teenage girl) person has to have the voice of a screaming banshee. Speaking of which, this song brings on the surprise guest appearance of Mel C. Now, whether you are a Mel C fan or not, after seeing her performance on this DVD, you would have to admit that she could have put in more of an effort. I will leave the rest to your imagination.

                    "Heaven" is one of my favourite Bryan Adams' tracks and no concert would be complete without a rendition of this. This certainly did not fail to impress.

                    "Run To You" is, in my mind, Bryan Adams' signature tune. Another track where, once you hear the initial guitar intro, it is instantly recognisable.

                    *****AND WHAT ABOUT EXTRA FEATURES*****

                    Jam packed - that's the best way to describe the extra features on this DVD. The choice is plentiful:-

                    **You can watch the band doing a final rehearsal before the concert.

                    **You can see the band arrive at Slane Castle (in a mini bus no less) on the night of the concert and watch the boys at play backstage.

                    **My favourite section within the extra features is an interview with Bryan Adams, Mickey Curry and Keith Scott where they talk about things such as memories, nerves and their favourite songs, amongst other things.

                    **Within the 'Extras' section of the DVD, you have the chance to view five songs from the concert from a 360 degree angle so you get to see the view from the stage too.

                    **Finally, you can look at some photos taken over the past few years showing things such as concert footage and rehearsals.

                    *****DVD COVER AND ARTWORK*****

                    To be honest with you, this is nothing spectacular. The front cover of the box is merely a picture of Bryan Adams performing at said concert. However, you do get a booklet inside which contains some fairly silhouette-like pictures of the concert, but which also sets out the track list and credits. That's about it really as far as the artwork is concerned.

                    *****COST*****

                    I was bought this DVD as a Christmas present two years ago, but it is currently selling at £5.99 from Amazon.

                    *****THE GOOD BITS*****

                    Bryan's performance is exceptional and, unlike a lot of artists nowadays, his vocals sounds just as good live as they do on record. He knows how to 'use' an audience and get everyone involved.

                    *****AND THE BAD BITS*****

                    Mel C is not really my cup of tea where singing is concerned and I feel that she spoiled what could have been a good performance of 'Baby When You're Gone'. The intention was obviously to bring on a recognised guest singer but, in my opinion, he shouldn't have bothered!

                    One thing that I find a little off-putting when watching recorded concerts is the audience participation. As I mentioned earlier, you pay to watch the artist sing, not the audience. Obviously, this is unavoidable on a DVD like this, so it is only a problem if it is the kind of thing that spoils it for you.

                    *****AND FINALLY, WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS DVD?*****

                    Yes, definitely. It you are a Bryan Adams fan, this has all the well known tracks on it, including some of the older ones, pre Run To You. From someone has seen him live in concert, take it from me that he is as good as he sounds on the DVD and that, in my opinion, makes this a worthwhile concert to watch.

                    Thanks for reading.

                    (Also on Ciao)

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                    • More +
                      05.05.2009 21:51
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                      A great DVD for pre-schoolers

                      For quite some time now, ever since he was very young, my son has loved watching Balamory on television and this review covers one of his very first, yet still one of his favourite, DVD's.

                      ==========================
                      WHAT IS BALAMORY ALL ABOUT?
                      ==========================
                      Balamory forms part of the children's group of programs on Cbeebies. Unlike a lot of children's tv where studio backlots play a large part in the making of the program, Balamory is actually set in real-life Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.

                      Balamory comprises a number of colourful characters. Literally! In my opinion, the creators of the program have thought very carefully as to how to portray the various characters using colours. Confused? Let me explain. Each character has been allocated a colour, and throughout all the programs, that character remains in the same coloured clothes, and what's more, they each live in a house which, again, is painted in their own special colour. This obviously enables the young viewers to familiarise themselves with each of the characters. Ask any avid mini-viewer of Balamory what colour house Miss Hoolie lives in, and you can be sure you will be given the right answer!

                      =============
                      CAST MEMBERS
                      =============
                      Anyone who intends buying this DVD for that special little person in their life may be interested to learn a little about the characters in the show. In all, there are nine main characters:

                      "Miss Hoolie" is in charge of the one and only nursery school on the island and basically presents each program. She lives in a green house and dresses in green clothes.

                      "Archie" is the inventor. Now this may just be a matter of personal opinion, but as Archie is a rather cherubic figure of 6 foot or more, why have they dressed him in PINK? And what's worse, he lives in a pink castle! Not exactly the style one would associate with an inventor but with his yoghurt pot tops and bits of string, he does manage to come up with the goods.

                      "Spencer" is the local painter. He will paint your house or paint
                      your picture. Whatever you need doing, Spencer will help. Now Spencer's colour is orange. He wears an orange t-shirt, an orange hat and lives in an orange house. A very bright character in more ways than one.

                      "Edie McCredie" is the local mechanic who drives the school bus in her spare time. Now I do love to see a bit of equal opportunities cropping up in today's tv and Balamory is no exception. Female mechanics are few and far between. Edie has allegedly travelled all over the world, especially Africa and Australia, and her own personal colour is blue. Unfortunately, there is one thing that I have never understood - her school bus is yellow.

                      "Josie Jump" is, naturally, the most energetic member of the Balamory team. Dressed from head to toe in yellow, Josie loves to dance and bop about encouraging the children of the nursery to be as active as she is.

                      "PC Plum" is the local policeman who knows all about the birds and animals on Balamory. He helps little frogs to cross the road (huh?) and travels round the island on his bicycle helping those in need. The only character not to have an abode to match his attire, PC Plum lives in the white house. No, not THE white house.

                      "Penny Pocket and Susie Sweet" are a pair of characters who run the local shop/café. Penny Pocket is wheelchair bound and serves the locals with anything from gifts to coloured pencils and fruit. Susie Sweet (apparently an ex-resident of Take the High Road - zzzzzzzzzzz) bakes all the cakes and pastries in the shop's café.

                      ===========================
                      OK, NOW ONTO THE DVD ITSELF
                      ===========================
                      The DVD comprises four different Balamory stories. However, before you get to watch the episodes, Miss Hoolie gives a short introduction with a brief outline of each story and a little information on some of the bonus features.
                      The stories featured on the DVD are as follows:-

                      1) Jungle Story
                      2) Sound Story
                      3) Story Blanket
                      4) The Tortoise and the Hare

                      I do not intend to give any details of the stories themselves so as not to spoil things for anyone who may wish to buy the DVD, but each Balamory story always follows the same routine.

                      For anyone not familiar with the program, each episode is introduced by Miss Hoolie from the nursery and each morning, one of the main characters comes to visit. They bring with them their problems or little snippets of gossip, and in order to try to resolve things or get some help, Miss Hoolie always suggests they go and visit one of the other main characters. This is where the Coloured House Song comes into play and the children have to guess which house we are going to visit. On their visit, they decide they need to go see another Balamory character, and we then get to hear that character's theme tune. Throughout each episode, the cast are constantly going over what has happened in the story so far so that the young viewers are able to keep a handle on what is happening.

                      As with a lot of children's programs, there is more often than not a moral at the end of each story and the aim is obviously to teach the children whilst they are having fun.

                      The program ends with each character standing outside their home and waving goodbye to the viewers.

                      ==============
                      BONUS EPISODE
                      ==============
                      The DVD has listed The Tortoise and the Hare as a bonus episode, but in my opinion, this is just a fourth story. There is no difference between the presentation of this episode and the other three so I have included it in my list of episodes earlier in the review.

                      ==============
                      ADDITIONAL BITS
                      ==============
                      There are a couple of pieces of bonus material in addition to the Tortoise and the Hare story where the children can interact.

                      Firstly, there is a Miss Hoolie sing-a-long where your young viewer can joint in one of the songs.

                      Secondly, and in my opinion this is the best bonus feature, there is Miss Hoolie's Story Game where your child can help create a story. Again, Miss Hoolie introduces the section and the viewer gets to choose the Balamory characters who they would like to see as the centre of the story which Miss Hoolie will then narrate, and all they have to do is to sit back, relax and enjoy.

                      ======
                      MENUS
                      ======
                      I personally love the main menu section of the DVD. It is set up in the form of portholes. Each episode begins with the ferry crossing over to Balamory from the mainland and each ferry porthole is the icon for:-

                      1) Play All
                      2) Choose Episode
                      3) Bonus Material
                      4) Subtitles

                      If none of the icons are selected, every few seconds, a Balamory character will pop up and offer suggestions as to what you may like to watch, such as choosing an episode or playing all of the DVD.

                      ==========================
                      PRESENTATION AND ARTWORK
                      ==========================
                      As with all children's DVDs, both the front and back covers of the case are bright and colourful. The front cover shows Miss Hoolie looking as jolly as ever, and the back of the cover gives a little information on each of the stories, together with an idea of what special features are included. Naturally, the cover is green to compliment Miss Hoolie's picture on the front!

                      ===========
                      CERTIFICATE
                      ===========
                      U (Universal - particularly suitable for young children)

                      =====
                      PRICE
                      =====
                      I bought this copy of 'Balamory - What's the Story Miss Hoolie?' from Woolworth's for £9.99. but as there is no wonder of Woollies any more, a check on e-bay or Amazon may get you a better deal.

                      ========================
                      AND NOW FOR THE TECHNICAL BITS
                      ========================
                      Running Time: 56 minutes
                      Sound: Dolby Stereo
                      Language: English
                      Regions: 2 and 4
                      Released: 2002

                      Hope you and your little angels enjoy!

                      Thanks for reading.

                      (also on Ciao)

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                      • Goodnight, Poppy Cat! / Junior Book / 26 Readings / 23 Ratings
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                        05.05.2009 21:33
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                        A great bedtime book for young children

                        Poppy Cat's Dream is the sort of book that makes you wish you were three years old again. Then again, it could be that I just haven't grown up yet! My son received this book as a Christmas present and it really has been a favourite of his (and mine). Not only is it a lovely story for getting your little bundle of joy off to sleep at night with its rhyming verses and vivid illustrations, it also brings to life Poppy Cat's dreamtime adventures in the form of colourful pop-up pictures.

                        I would normally refrain from spoiling a book review by giving away the plot, but given that Poppy Cat's Dream is written for very young children, I anticipate that it will be the mummies and daddies who will potentially be reading the review, so I hope no one minds if I cover the book in greater detail.

                        ***The Story***
                        ============
                        Poppy Cat is a very cute little pussy cat who is the proud owner of a sweet little teddy bear called....'Bear'. Poppy Cat always likes Bear to sleep next to her in bed, but one night, Bear goes missing. Poppy Cat embarks on some exciting adventures through the night in search of Bear - OR DOES SHE?
                        As the title of the book suggests, the story is all about Poppy Cat's dream, and in my opinion, is the perfect way to help get your little ones off to sleep at night.

                        ***Page 1***
                        ==========
                        "Sleep time Poppy Cat
                        Snuggle down there
                        But somebody is missing
                        Oh where oh where is Bear?"

                        Page 1 is where we meet Poppy Cat for the first time. As she lies in bed waiting for her bedtime story, Poppy Cat realises that Bear is nowhere to be found. At the same time however, we can see that she is surrounded by all her toys including a small bus, a picture of a hot air balloon, a toy car, a submarine, a small boat and a toy cube with drawings of the moon and stars on it. All of these toys feature throughout the story.

                        ***Page 2***
                        ==========
                        "Oh dear Poppy Cat
                        Bear is lost it seems
                        But cuddle up all cosy tight
                        You'll find him in your dreams"

                        On page 2, we see Poppy Cat's mummy standing at the door, story book in hand, having told Poppy Cat to go to sleep and not to worry about Bear.

                        ***Page 3***
                        ===========
                        "All aboard Poppy Cat
                        Wherever can Bear be
                        Alma, Zuzu Mo and Owl
                        Are coming along to see"

                        Page 3 is where Poppy Cat's adventures really begin. The toy bus has come to life and Poppy Cat climbs aboard with her friends in search of her beloved Bear. By opening and closing the book slightly, the animals on the bus appear to be waving through the windows.

                        ***Page 4***
                        ==========
                        "Whoosh whoosh Poppy Cat
                        Drifting up so high
                        Floating in a big balloon
                        Is Bear lost in the sky?"

                        On opening page 4, a brightly coloured hot air balloon comes out to meet you with Poppy Cat sitting inside the basket. As you can imagine, Bear is nowhere to be seen in the sky.

                        ***Page 5***
                        ==========
                        "Brum brum Poppy Cat
                        Chugging up and down
                        Zoom zoom beep beep
                        Is Bear lost in the town?"

                        Yes, that toy car can really go. On opening page 5, the car drives out towards you via the pop-up, with Poppy Cat and all her friends inside.

                        ***Page 6***
                        ===========
                        "Splish splosh Poppy Cat
                        Bubble bubble wheeee
                        Deep down below the waves
                        Is Bear under the sea?"

                        Poppy Cat has searched the sky, she has searched the town, and now she is searching below the sea in her own little submarine - or could it be her toy submarine from her bedroom? Amongst the fish and the octopus, the submarine bobs through the ocean in search of Bear, but again, Bear remains missing.

                        ***Page 7***
                        ===========
                        "Whizz whizz Poppy Cat
                        Around the moon and stars
                        The rocket ship zips up and down
                        Is Bear up there on Mars?"

                        Remember that little toy cube with the pictures of the moon and stars? Well, Poppy Cat now has her own rocket ship in which she can fly through space in search of Bear. On opening the page, a rocket, complete with roaring red and yellow flames, takes off into space.

                        ***Page 8***
                        ==========
                        "Hush rush Poppy Cat
                        The sea swishes round
                        The pirate crew are sailing fast
                        Ahoy can Bear be found?"

                        The toy boat is now very real and Poppy Cat sets sail across the ocean with her friends. The boat now has a little flag that you can wave from side to side.

                        ***Page 9***
                        ==========
                        "Fly fly Poppy Cat
                        Faster through the night
                        Swoop whoop loop the loop
                        To look for Bear tonight"

                        Poppy Cat's final adventure takes her on her very own aeroplane in search of Bear. Again, on opening the page, the plane flies out towards you.

                        ***Page 10***
                        ============
                        "Sleepy time Poppy Cat
                        Snuggle down there
                        Underneath the bed oh!
                        That's where you went to Bear."

                        So, after all those exciting adventures, Poppy Cat finally realises that Bear had fallen under the bed and was never lost at all!

                        ***Price***
                        =========
                        Having checked with Amazon, the book is currently on sale at £3.99 which is a fantastic bargain for what you get.

                        ***My Opinion***
                        =============
                        This book is excellent for young children for two reasons:

                        Firstly, the story is very simple and, and being in rhyme format, is easy to read and quite short so as not to cause the child to lose interest.

                        Secondly, and I think this is a major factor in the popularity of this book, the pop ups and illustrations are second to none. Designed by former fashion designer Jo Lodge, the graphics are rich in colour and are very appealing to the eye, especially that of a young child.

                        I would certainly recommend this book to anyone looking for a nice present for a youngster, or even as a special treat for your own child.

                        Thanks for reading.

                        (also on Ciao)

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                      • Live Aid (DVD) / Music DVD / 42 Readings / 40 Ratings
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                        03.05.2009 22:22
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                        A great DVD of music history

                        The date was July 13th 1985 - and this is the day the world stopped to watch the biggest ever concert of its kind.

                        *** What is the DVD about ***
                        =======================
                        Before watching the DVD, it is important to understand how the event came about.

                        In 1984, after seeing a news bulletin on the millions of people dying from the much publicised famine in Africa, lead singer of the Irish pop band The Boomtown Rats colluded with Midge Ure, lead singer of 80's pop band Ultravox, and brought together a group of well known musical artists to record a charity record. It was called "Do They Know It's Christmas?" The record remained at No.1 in the music charts for many weeks, and it was following the success of the record that the duo decided to put together a one-off concert to take place the following summer.

                        The concert would be called "Live Aid" and would take at Wembley Stadium on July 13th 1985. All the artists involved would appear voluntarily and all proceeds of the concert would go to the charity.

                        America held their own concert which was televised simultaneously from the John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, and many other countries held their own concert on the same day.

                        This four disc DVD basically tells the story of how the concert came about, and then leads in with the actual concert itself, together with footage and videos from the concerts which were taking place around the globe.
                        Although the concert itself took place in 1985, the DVD itself was only released in 2004. This was because Bob Geldof initially refused to release a video/DVD to prevent record labels etc. making money out of a charity event. However, on the run-up towards the 20th anniversary of the concert, he took the view that, as so many people had asked why it was not available to buy on video/DVD, he may as well agree to it being released in order that the proceeds can continue to help the starving in Africa, who after all, were the reason the event came about in the first place. It was also discovered that people were selling 'pirate' videos of the concert and cashing in on it, so it made more sense to sell the original, therefore making more money for the charity.

                        *** So What Does The DVD Contain? ***
                        ================================
                        I am going to start this section of my review with a little apology. I know that many readers dislike reviews which include list after list of tracks contained in a CD or DVD. I know that some music DVD's or CD's don't always require this, but I thought I would make an exception here due to the extremely varied styles of music which was performed at the concert by such a good mix of artists, and also because everyone gave such a fantastic performance for a worthwhile cause.

                        DISC 1
                        ======
                        Prequel and BBC Television News Report (This is the original news bulleting which prompted Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to instigate "Do They Know It's Christmas?" which led up to the Live Aid concerts.)

                        Band Aid Video (Do They Know It's Christmas?)
                        USA For Africa Video (We Are The World)
                        Coldstream Guards (Royal Salute)
                        Status Quo (Rockin' All Over The World; Caroline)
                        The Style Council (Internationalists; Walls Come Tumbling Down)
                        The Boomtown Rats (I Don't Like Mondays; Drag Me Down)
                        Adam Ant (Vive Le Rock)
                        Ultravox (Dancing With Tears In My Eyes; Vienna)
                        Spandau Ballet (Only When You Leave; True)
                        Elvis Costello (All You Need Is Love)
                        Nik Kershaw (Wouldn't It Be Good)
                        Sade (Your Love Is King)
                        Sting (Roxanne)
                        Phil Collins (Against All Odds)
                        Sting & Phil Collins (Every Breath You Take)
                        Howard Jones (Hide and Seek)
                        Bryan Ferry (Slave To Love; Jealous Guy)
                        Paul Young (Come Back And Stay; Every Time You Go Away)
                        Paul Young & Alison Moyet (That's The Way Love Is)
                        Bryan Adams (Kids Wanna Rock; Summer of '69)
                        U2 (Sunday Bloody Sunday; Bad)

                        DISC 2
                        ======
                        The Beech Boys (Wouldn't It Be Nice; Good Vibrations; Surfin' USA)
                        Dire Straits & Sting (Money For Nothing)
                        Dire Straits (Sultans of Swing)
                        George Thorogood & The Destroyers (Madison Blues)
                        Queen (Bohemian Rhapsody; Radio Ga Ga; Hammer to Fall; Crazy Little Thing Called Love; We Will Rock You; We Are The Champions)
                        Simple Minds (Ghost Dancing; Don't You Forget About Me)
                        Davie Bowie (TVC15; Rebel Rebel; Modern Love; Heroes)
                        CBC Ethiopian Famine Film
                        Joan Baez (Amazing Grace)
                        Pretenders (Stop Your Sobbing; Chain Gang; Middle Of The Road)
                        The Who (Love Reign O'er Me; Won't Get Fooled Again)
                        Kenny Loggins (Footloose)
                        Elton John (Bennie And The Jets; Rocket Man)
                        Elton John & Kiki Dee (Don't Go Breaking Me Heart)
                        Elton John & George Michael (Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me)

                        DISC 3
                        ======
                        Madonna (Holiday; Get Into The Groove)
                        Freddie Mercury & Brian May (Is This The World We Created?)
                        Paul McCartney (Let It Be)
                        Band Aid Finale (Do They Know It's Christmas?)
                        Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (American Girl; Refugee)
                        Black Sabbath & Ozzy Osbourne (Paranoid)
                        Reo Speedwagon (Can't Find This Feeling; Roll With The Changes)
                        Crosby Stills & Nash (Teach Your Children)
                        Judas Priest (Living After Midnight; Green Manalishi)
                        The Cars (Just What I Needed; Heartbeat City)
                        Neil Young (The Needle And the Damage Done; Noting Is Perfect)
                        Thompson Twins, Steve Stevens, Nile Rodgers & Madonna (Revolution)
                        Eric Clapton (White Room; She's Waiting; Layla)
                        Phil Collins (in Philadelphia) (In The Air Tonight)
                        Duran Duran (Union of the Snake; Save a Prayer; The Reflex)
                        Patti Labelle (Imagine; Forever Young)

                        DISC 4
                        ======
                        Hall & Oates (Maneater)
                        Hall & Oates with Eddie Kendricks (Get Ready)
                        Hall & Oates with Eddie Kendricks & David Ruffin (Ain't Too Proud to Beg; My Girl)
                        Mick Jagger (Just Another Night; Miss You)
                        Mick Jagger & Tina Turner (State of Shock; It's Only Rock
                        'n'Roll)
                        Bob Dylan with Keith Richards & Ronnie Wood (Blowing in the Wind)
                        USA for Africa Finale (We Are The World)

                        EXTRAS
                        =======
                        INXS (What You Need; Don't Change)
                        B B King (Why I sing The Blues; Don't Answer The Door; Rock Me Baby)
                        Ashford & Simpson with Teddy Pendergrass (Reach Out and Touch)
                        Run DMC (King of Rock)
                        Cliff Richard (A World Of Difference)
                        Various contributions from various parts of the world
                        David Bowie & Mick Jagger (Dancing in the Streets)
                        Documentary (Food and Trucks and Rock'n'Roll)

                        *** My Opinion on Various Contributions ***
                        ==================================
                        There are certain parts of the DVD that stand out far more than others.
                        Status Quo were definitely the right act to open the concert, performing their best known single "Rocking all over the World". The title was very apt for the occasion and got the crowd warmed up nicely.

                        Probably the most talked about performance at the time, and possibly still today, is that of Queen. Live Aid was one of the last few stage performances that Freddie Mercury did before he became ill and passed away from Aids in 1991. Queen performed the longest set on stage and there was not a note off key.

                        A poignant moment was when Bob Geldof, performing with his Boomtown Rats, sang "I don't like Mondays". The crowd applauded when he sang the line "...and the lesson today is how to die".

                        Watching Madonna perform 'Holiday' and 'Into the Groove' feels quite strange twenty odd years on. Live Aid took place when Madonna was just starting out in the music business, and this will really take viewers back to those days when she wore rags in her hair.

                        Another thought provoking contribution came from Freddie Mercury and Brian May when they sang "Is this the world we created?" Again, very apt for the occasion.

                        There is one point in the concert where video footage of the starving children is played to the crowd and is accompanied by the American band, The Cars, singing "Drive". The crowd are clearly moved to tears watching this - the video ends with a mother laying down the body of her dead baby. Certainly not pleasant to watch but it's one way of drawing to the attention of people the reason behind this concert.

                        Finally, a moment I thought a little odd but at the same time quite appropriate was the finale of the Wembley concert where everyone came on stage and sang "Do They Know It's Christmas?" It was quite strange hearing being sung on a hot summer day in July. However, this is how it all began, and for this concert, that is how it ended.

                        *** Presentation and Packaging ***
                        ============================
                        This four DVD box set is presented in such an immaculate way which I could not fault.

                        The whole package is contained in a white outer box with a date stamp on the front left hand corner which says "July 13 1985, The Day The Music Changed The World". The DVD title, "Live Aid", is written in bold black lettering across a drawing of a gold guitar in the shape of the country it is trying to help - Africa. On the back of the outer box, there is a very simple list of the all the artists who took part in the concerts.

                        And now onto the inner box. This is made of high quality glossy card and contains the actual discs themselves. The box is basically 5 fold and closes in on itself. On opening the box fully, the sections which hold the individual discs is filled with a colourful picture of a very packed Wembley Stadium, interspersed with a black and white picture of the starving in Africa. This is very cleverly put together and I must admit I had never really noticed this until I came to do this review.

                        The pictures on the front of the discs themselves contain photographs of the various artists who performed at the concerts.

                        As well as the discs, you also get a glossy booklet which, as well as giving you the Track List, also contains hand-written notes by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure when they were arranging the concert line-up, the transcript of Bob Geldof's words taken from the original Live Aid Programme, information on the actual event itself, and many photographs. Throughout the booklet, the outside edges of the pages contain the original playlist with various amendments.

                        *** DVD Information ***
                        ==================
                        Running Time: 9 hours 20 minutes
                        Region: DVD Region 2 (Europe)
                        Release Date: 8th November 2004
                        Catalogue No. 2564 61895 2
                        Language: English (there are no subtitles on the DVD)
                        Special Features: Food Trucks And Rock N Roll Documentary, Band Aid Do They Know Its Christmas Music Video, USA For Africa Music Video
                        Sound: DTS 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

                        *** Is it worth the money? ***
                        ======================
                        In my opinion - definitely. This is currently selling at £31.99 at 'play.com' and I would say it is worth every penny. I anticipate it would be enjoyed more by the people who remember the actual event, purely for the sense of nostalgia about it. If you were watching the concert on t.v. at home, or indeed if you were lucky enough to be there, the balmy summer day in 1985 will come flooding back to you.

                        If you are not old enough to remember Live Aid, this DVD is certainly worth having a look at for the sole reason that you can experience one of the largest music events every to have taken place. If you managed to see the Live 8 concert, also arranged by Bob Geldof, take a look at the original to see where it all began.

                        For me personally, this is a fantastic DVD. Unfortunately(!) I am old enough to remember watching this concert when it was originally televised and it brings back some great memories of some really good songs. It was during the time that I was at college and I can remember everyone going on about how ill Freddie Mercury looked. If only we all knew! Having watched bits of this DVD again to write this review, it's a little strange when, watching the crowds, the camera pans along to the VIP balcony and there, having the time of their lives, is Prince Charles and...Princess Diana. Not a Camilla in sight!

                        *** Good Points ***
                        ===============
                        (1) Some of the top name bands of the time (together with some long established acts) uniting together in one concert.

                        (2) All the money made from the concert and the sales of this DVD was donated to the famine in Africa.

                        (3) Good value for money when you consider the length of the DVD and the quality of the artists performing.

                        *** Bad Points ***
                        ==============
                        (1) As the concert is over twenty years old, many younger people will not be at all familiar with some of the acts who perform in it (but may have a good laugh at the fashions!)

                        (2) As the concert was recorded 'live', there are a few sections of the DVD which show band change-overs where all you are watching is people moving about on the stage, preparing for the next band.

                        (3) Bob Geldof, not renowned for his subtle approach, does make a speech which includes a little swearing which may offend some people.

                        Thanks for reading my review. I hope anyone who buys this DVD enjoys it as much as I did.

                        (Hope you're all still awake!)

                        (Also on Ciao: matthewsmum)

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                          30.04.2009 09:21
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                          Plenty of feel-good hits

                          I purchased this album a while back after having a sort out of my old vinyls (or LP's to those of us who remember them), I discovered that I had once upon time bought ELO's greatest hits and it had just got stored away with all my other albums of yesteryear, but I decided I ought to listen to these guys on a piece of modern equipment - namely a CD!

                          *** A Little Background Information on the Band ***
                          ========================================
                          The Electric Light Orchestra was formed over 35 years ago by lead singer Jeff Lynne. Their popularity soared between 1974 and 1981 in which time they amassed 28 hit singles in the UK. The band split in 1986 and Jeff Lynne went on to join George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison to form The Travelling Wilburys.

                          *** Album Tracks ***
                          ================
                          When I originally looked at the tracks on this album, I didn't recognise a lot of them. However, once the album is played in full, it is surprising how many of the songs do sound familiar

                          "Mr Blue Sky" is one of my favourites on the album. Everyone will recognise the "du du du du du du du du sun is shining in the sky...." No matter how hard I try not to sing along with it when driving, I just can't help it. (Just watch the suspicious expressions on other drivers' faces at the traffic lights when you are nodding to "du du du du du du du du...."), It is one of those tunes that just get stuck in your head.

                          "Evil Woman" starts with a soft drum roll and Jeff Lynne claiming 'you made a fool of me'. With his 70's hairstyle at the time of recording this track, he managed that all on his own! However, this is a great song all the same.

                          "Don't Bring Me Down" starts with a good strong drumbeat and then the electric guitars kick in and we're away! This is a good track which really shows off Jeff Lynne's wide vocal range, and there are times when he can give Barry Gibb a run for his money. This song could almost have been recorded by Status Quo - very typical of their style of music.

                          "Sweet Talkin' Woman" is my favourite on the album. A really good singalongy which everybody knows. For anyone who has never heard this - where you been?

                          "Shine A Little Love" is definitely one I had never heard of until I played it - and then it call came flooding back! Very 70's disco sound, and again, a great track.

                          "Turn To Stone" has a bit of a quaint feel to it. Anyone listening to this track for the first time could be forgiven for thinking this is a Sweet song. Well, I suppose it is quite sweet at times, but quite unusually, the verses to the track are fairly loud, and then the chorus is sung fairly quietly. Strange way of doing it but it works.

                          "The Diary of Horace Wimp" is another one I had never heard of. But my god, what a resemblance to The Beatles. A bit of a cross between I am the Walrus and Strawberry Fields. Once you get used to it, this is quite a catchy tune but not as widely recognisable as some of the other tracks on the album.

                          "Confusion" - well, it confused me! In my opinion, this is not really typical of ELO music. Very melodic and a little slow. Not the usual upbeat style that the band are renowned for.

                          "Hold on Tight" (to you dreams....) - remember it now? Not really one of my favourites. It's a little too cheesy for my liking but hey - a little cheese can go a long way when it's hidden amongst some good tunes!

                          "Livin' Thing" brings us back to atypical ELO music. Some good hard drum beats starts the track off. This is not a very outstanding song in my mind, but if you are already an ELO fan, then you will enjoy this.

                          "Telephone Line" starts off very oddly! The sound of someone dialling out. Then a ringtone. No one answers (she obviously had her answering machine switched off on that day!) Jeff Lynne talking down an empty phone line "Hello, how are you, have you been alright...." and so on. There is a hint of the doo-wa's on this track but it's still a good song.

                          "All Over The World" sounds like it was recorded live with lots of crowd noise. A very uptempo song with toe-tapping potential!

                          "Wild West Hero" is another favourite of mine. A little on the slow side which may not appeal to some, but Jeff Lynne's vocals open the song with, yes you guessed it, 'I wish I was a wild west hero' which make this a classic ELO song.

                          "Showdown" is one track that I must admit I am still not too familiar with. As to whether I like it or not, the jury is still out. I would just say that it could be anyone singing it as it doesn't really have the upbeat ELO sound that they are renowned for.

                          "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" - well I thought I was listening to the Rolling Stones' Brown Sugar when this started up. A little bit too heavy and not to my taste but if you fancy a bit of head shaking and strutting your platforms, this is one for you!

                          "Xanadu" threw me into a state of panic when I saw it on the album. I instantly got a picture in my head of Oliver Newton-John in leotard and sweatbands jumping, bumping and grinding about all over the place (now guys, calm down!) This was in fact the title track to the film and was actually an ELO/Oliver Newton-John duet.

                          "Rockaria" treats us to a little rock opera opening - and then it all kicks off with the guitars and heavy drum beats. I am not too keen on this track and I usually just skip it - but then that's just my opinion.

                          "Strange Magic" has a nice slow opener with Jeff Lynne's dulcet tones. A very calm piece of music after the previous few tracks. A little haunting for ELO, but another one of my favourites.

                          "Alright" is what I call 'swingy' music - you know the kind of thing, a sort of slow drawl of a beat. It's not really one you would want to sing along to (well I didn't but I suppose some might!).

                          "Rock-N-Roll is King", the final track on the album, sounds just like it is intended to - a 60's mix of rock'n'roll, jive and bopping. Made me tired just listening to it, but a great song to end on.

                          *** Any Extra Tracks on the Album? ***
                          ==============================
                          No. What you see is what you get. A Total of 20 tracks but no extras such as hidden tracks, unreleased tracks and so on.

                          *** Album Cover and Presentation ***
                          =============================
                          Very bright and colourful is the best way to describe the album cover. The album itself is called "All Over The World" and the cover depicts a brightly lit red, yellow and blue spaceship/Frisbee speeding all over the world. A very typical style associated with ELO albums.

                          Inside the CD case, there is a pull-out booklet setting out the track list. In addition to the track list, there is an eight page message written by Jeff Lynne, together with accompanying photographs of previous concerts and band line-ups.

                          *** So would I recommend this album? ***
                          =================================
                          Yes, most definitely. My personal favourites on this album have to be Mr Blue Sky, Evil Woman, Don't Bring me Down, Sweet Talkin' Woman, Telephone Line, Wild West Hero and Livin' Thing. This is probably because these were some of ELO's biggest hits, had the most airplay, and therefore are the most familiar. But as I mentioned earlier, there will be a lot of tracks on the album that are not instantly recognisable, and I would recommend you have a listen before writing the album off because so many of them will sound familiar once you hear them.

                          Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy!

                          (also on Ciao: matthewsmum)

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                            30.04.2009 09:08
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                            A very lieable electric toothbrush

                            Altogether now....."If you wanna get Braun give him a hint..." Anyone else old enough to remember that advert?

                            Anyway, enough of the 80's telly trivia and on to the review:
                            We've all got them (well, nearly all). What am I talking about? Yep, teeth! But those happy little guys who live in our mouth don't remain happy for long if we don't look after them. They need lots of loving care and attention. As the title suggests, you want to keep your teeth for the rest of your life, if possible, and this is where a good toothbrush comes in.

                            Up until a couple of years ago, I had never used an electric toothbrush as I had always thought I was doing a good enough job with a manual one. However, it was a trip to the dentist that converted me into an electric toothbrush user. The dentist made a point of telling me that my mouth was quite small which made it quite difficult for a medium manual toothbrush to reach the edges of the back molars. She suggested I either use a children's toothbrush or invest in a good electric one. Now what was I to do? I had seen some nice little Whinnie the Pooh ones which looked quite cute. Or should I just act my age and buy an adult one? It was a tough decision. When I mentioned to my husband what the dentist had said, he was no help whatsoever, commenting that I may have a small mouth but plenty comes out of it. At that point, I didn't bother 'giving him a hint' and decided outright that I would spend HIS money on an electric toothbrush. The decision was made!

                            *****SO WHICH ONE DID I BUY?*****
                            =============================
                            I already new that Braun was a good make, having bought a few Braun products in the past. The Braun PC 5000 D is a very good model and has always been reliable for me. The toothbrush was not overpriced and it basically provided everything I needed in a toothbrush.

                            *****AND WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?*****
                            ==================================
                            This is quite a stylish looking toothbrush (if a toothbrush can possibly look stylish!) but, at the same time, is very straight forward to use.
                            First of all, you need to look at the toothbrush holder. The holder has two purposes. Firstly, and quite importantly, it is responsible for charging the toothbrush battery. The flex which descends from the back of the holder comprises a two pin plug, as do all bathroom appliances. Attached to the holder is a little case in which you can keep your toothbrush heads. The holder is made of white plastic and is extremely easy to keep clean.
                            The toothbrush itself stands on a pin at the front of the holder. This is also made of white plastic but has a blue rubber grip on either side which makes it easy to hold whilst cleaning your teeth. You will also find the 'on' switch situated at the front of the toothbrush, and this is made of blue rubber, just like the side grips.

                            All in all, this is a very neat electric toothbrush.

                            *****THE IMPORTANT BIT - HOW DOES IT WORK?*****
                            ===========================================
                            Well, all I can say is: It's not rocket science. It's only a toothbrush! However, when you think of how you would normally use a manual toothbrush, it's obviously just a case of brushing up and down, forwards and backwards etc. Well you can still do that with an electric toothbrush, but with the Braun PC 5000 D, it does a little bit more. The selling point of this particular model is that it rotates, oscillates and pulsates. Flash eh? Basically, the brush rapidly turns round, twists and vibrates which means your teeth 'get hit' from all angles.

                            So there I was, happily brushing away one morning, when suddenly the toothbrush 'cut out' a couple of times and then carried on regardless. Haha - this was obviously the timer kicking in. The little guy doesn't believe in working you too hard, so assumes you have done a pretty good job after two minutes of brushing and gives you a gentle reminder that your teeth should be sparkly clean so you can now stop brushing.

                            The only downside to this, from my point of view, is when you are brushing your teeth before visiting the dentist for your regular check-up. You know how it is, you brush and brush until you can brush no more just to make sure your teeth are as clean as possible - and the timer goes off telling you that you can stop. But do not fear - all you need do is switch the toothbrush on again and carry on to your heart's content. Normally though, the two minute time period is sufficient to give your teeth a good clean.

                            *****HOW ABOUT THE BRUSH ITSELF?*****
                            ============================================
                            The toothbrush comes complete with one brush head. This fits neatly and easily on the top of the toothbrush by just clicking it in place. Again, made of white plastic to match the toothbrush and holder, this is quite cleverly designed. For anyone who has never used an electric toothbrush before, the brush head, unlike a manual toothbrush, is fairly small and circular, hence the ease of use for anyone without a big mouth (I prefer to think of it in that way!) The bristles of the brush are green in the centre of the circle, and blue and white around the outside. Now there is a reason for this. The blue section begins to fade once the brush head needs to be replaced. I am still undecided on how accurate this is. Is it Braun providing good dental hygiene advice and suggesting we need to change our brush heads every two or there months, or is it a sales gimmick to make money on the replacements heads? (I will explain more about the replacement heads shortly). The particular brush head I am using at the moment has been on the go for about three months and has just started to fade, so according to Braun, I need to go shopping!

                            Spare brush heads can be purchased from most supermarkets or chemists and are available in packs of two or four. Each replacement pack comes with 5 coloured rings which fit around the outside edge of the brush head, enabling each family member to identify their own particular toothbrush. I paid in the region of £7.00 for a pack of two replacement heads from Tesco. However, a search on e-bay or Amazon may offer a better price.

                            *****BATTERY LIFE*****
                            ===================
                            To be honest with you, this could be better. The electric toothbrush in my house gets used four times a day - twice by me and twice by my husband. I would not consider this an exorbitant amount of use, but it generally needs charging approximately every five days. I usually plug it in at night time, and it is all nicely fully charged by morning and ready to use again.

                            *****SO WHAT DO I LIKE ABOUT IT*****
                            ===============================
                            I had never been overly keen on trying an electric toothbrush but, once I had bought this, I could never go back to a manual one. With the brush head being quite small, it certainly reaches right to the back of the mouth and you can access all those little places you couldn't with a manual one.
                            I also like the fact that you don't really have to do much to clean your teeth. The days of brushing up and down have gone as, with this toothbrush, you just rest it against your teeth and the brush does all the work. I like that!

                            *****AND ANYTHING WHICH I DON'T LIKE?*****
                            =====================================
                            I have no complaints about the toothbrush itself, but some people may find the replacement heads a little expensive.

                            *****AND FINALLY, WOULD I RECOMMEND IT?*****
                            =========================================
                            Yes I would. This is an extremely good toothbrush, which does not require fancy bells and whistles to make it tooth-worthy!

                            Thanks for reading.

                            (also on Ciao: matthewsmum)

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                              29.04.2009 09:38
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                              A great car supermarket

                              Take one extremely snowy morning, one husband who has worked a twelve hour nightshift and one mother-in-law. Mix them all together and what do you get? A recipe for disaster, that's what!

                              It was January when the old white stuff decided to hit the country with a vengeance, my mother-in-law decided to book a last minute holiday (yay, a nag-free fortnight was on the cards) so she gave 'instructions' to my husband that she would need a lift to the airport. Forever the dutiful son, and the price we pay for a peaceful life, he agreed to collect her at 7.15 in the morning after he had finished work. It had been snowing all through the night and, being that early in the morning and not much traffic out, the snow was still lying quite thickly on the roads.

                              And then it happened:

                              My husband decided to attach himself to the back of a wagon! Well, he attached the car rather than himself - literally! Basically, the front bumper had got caught under the back end of the wagon and got dragged along, but being an HGV, the driver was totally unaware of what had happened and carried on driving, never to be seen again. When my husband got out to check the damage, there was a gaping hole in the passenger door (but unfortunately not big enough for said mother-in-law to fall through) and the wing had been bent down over the tyre. After pulling the wing off the tyre, and as the car was still driveable, my husband carried on and dumped, oops sorry, safely delivered his mother at the airport.

                              (For those of you who are bored already by this little pre-amble, the review will start very shortly - promise!)

                              In my husband's own words, he "couldn't be arsed" going through the insurance to get the repairs done, which would have meant a new door and a new wing, so he decided he would get another car.

                              *NB: At the end of the review, there is a twist to the story, together with a moral. It explains how we managed to afford a new car!

                              Anyway, on with the review.

                              WHY WE DECIDED TO GO TO FORDS OF WINSFORD
                              ====================================
                              I had actually bought a car from them a few years ago and my husband bought his last car from them, so we were aware of the vast choice in cars available, how reasonably priced they were and knew they were a trustworthy and reputable company.

                              Fords of Winsford won the "Which Car" award for Britain's Best Car Supermarket in 2002, 2004 and 2005. And with good reason too. We actually live 30 miles from Winsford, but it is certainly worth travelling the distance to get such a high quality of service.

                              LAYOUT - EXTERIOR
                              ==============
                              On arrival, you will note there are ample parking spaces to leave your own vehicle while you go car hunting. After walking through the entrance, your view is literally filled with cars, cars and more cars. Quite understandable really as it is, after all, a car supermarket. All the cars are situated in numbered rows. I will explain the reason for this shortly. The cars are located in order of style, rather than make of car. For example, all the hatchbacks are together, all the estates are together, people carriers and so on. You should however bear in mind that they do occasionally vary the layout. When I bought a car from here about 8 years ago, all the cars were positioned in order of make, so the Vauxhalls were together, the Rovers were together and so on.

                              I mentioned earlier that the cars are in numbered rows. The reason for this is that there is a FREE stock list catalogue at the front of the showroom which lists each and every car for sale that day. The list shows in alphabetical order the make of car, mileage, price and location in the car lot. The list is obviously updated on a daily basis.

                              LAYOUT - INTERIOR
                              ==============
                              Now this is one of the flashiest looking car showrooms I have ever seen! As soon as you enter through the automatic doors, you will find a stand containing the day's stock list and, if you are a serious buyer rather than just a window shopper, you are advised to take one of these before venturing into the forecourt. Straight ahead of you is the main reception desk where there are usually at least four assistants on hand to help you, whether it be an enquiry about a car, getting your own car valued or collection of your new car.

                              To the far left of the showroom is another desk, usually manned by two assistants. This is the key collection point where the keys to all the cars on sale are held.

                              Across the front of the showroom are numerous smaller desks which are the work stations of the salesmen. Each salesman (I say salesman rather than salesperson as I have never seen a female at any of these desks) has their own desk and this is where the deals are sealed, paperwork signed and (ouch!) money handed over!

                              To the far right of the showroom you will find the 'Collection Point' which is where you go to collect your new car on a pre-arranged day.

                              As with most car showrooms, they always have the flash sporty models on show. We were unfortunate in that, when we were doing the sealing and dealing for our new car, we had an early morning appointment and they had decided to move a nice little convertible out of the showroom. Only trouble was - it was parked next to the desk we were sitting at and we nearly got carbon monoxide poisoning!

                              There is a very pleasant waiting area at the rear with tea and coffee and a cold drinks machine. For those with young children, there are crayons and paper available to keep them occupied. There are public toilets and the building itself is extremely modern.

                              TYPES OF CARS FOR SALE
                              ==================
                              Don't let the name fool you. By no means do they sell only Fords. You can more or less find any make and model of car you want here with a choice of over 1500 vehicles . All the well known makes and models are available, together with MPV's, small commercial vans and transit vans. Fords of Winsford do not actually sell brand new cars, but many of the vehicles for sale have a very low mileage and are always in superb condition. They tend to sell a lot of fleet cars which usually have a low mileage and it is for this reason they can afford to sell them at such reasonable prices.

                              Although no new cars are sold here, neither will you find old cars. The cars for sale usually date back no further than five years. If you trade your own car in and it is an older car or has a high mileage, it is sold on to another garage to sell.

                              PRICE RANGE
                              =========
                              The prices do tend to vary, but I personally think that, for the mileage on most of the cars, the prices are extremely reasonable. For example, the car we bought is a three year old Nissan Primera Estate 1.8 SE. It had a mileage of 15,500, one previous owner, full service history and in immaculate condition. It cost us £6,500.00. Obviously, there are bigger, flashier cars for sale but their prices reflect the make, model etc., but there are also smaller cars, ideal for first time drivers, and these are usually set at fairly low prices.

                              PRICING YOUR OWN CAR
                              =================
                              If you are planning on trading in your own car, you need to get it valued first. To do this, you need to register your name at the main reception and they log you onto their computer. Your details (usually just your name, address and telephone number) are then kept on their database for future reference and, should you purchase a car, and then years later go back and purchase another, they already have you on file. This is very useful because, if you are a previous customer and you trade your car in with them at a later date, they add on an extra £50 to the valuation price.

                              After you have registered your details at reception, you are given a card with a reference number on it and this is your personal number for the rest of the transaction. You are asked to take a seat in the waiting area and you are then allocated a salesman who goes to your car with you, has a quick check over it, and then requests one of his colleagues to reinspect your car and give you a set price. This price is fixed against any car for sale on the forecourt, irrelevant to what price you pay for the new car.

                              THEY EVEN GIVE YOU THE CAR KEYS
                              =========================
                              Ok, so you've been given a price for you car and you now know how much you have to spend. It's time to shop! Once you have seen a car you like, you note down the registration number and head off back to the showroom where you go to the Key Collection Point. It's simple. You just give the ladies behind the desk the details of the car, they key in your name into the computer and hand the car keys over to you. If you have seen more than one car you like the look of, you may take those keys too.

                              FANCY A TEST DRIVE?
                              ===============
                              Now that you have had a good look at the car you fancy buying, both inside and out, had a sit in the driver's seat, started the engine and played with the 'boy's toys', you probably want to see how it handles on the road. Just return to the showroom and show your personal client card to the receptionist, telling her you wish to go for a test drive. You will be offered a seat in the waiting area and the salesman who valued your own car will be informed and will take you over to the car. He will drive it out of the forecourt by using a key card. Once on the road, you can take to the wheel and away you go. In a way, this is similar to taking your driving test again because the salesmen have a set route where they take test drives. It usually lasts about 5 minutes but gives you the experience of various road layouts, i.e. small private roads, junctions and dual carriageway. In other words, you can see how the car handles in a built-up area, and what the speed pick-up is like on a long stretch of road at national speed limit.

                              OK, SO YOU LIKE IT - WANNA BUY IT?
                              ==========================
                              You have decided that this is the car for you. As if by magic, a smile appears on the salesman's face. The car is then driven round the back of the building where it is prepared for your collection at a later date.

                              Now the salesman has good reason to be happy now because this is the point where the old proverbial dotted line gets signed and the deal is done. You are taken to the salesman's desk and he will go through the car's history such as service record, previous owners, engine size etc. You are not expected to pay the full amount for the car at this stage as this is done when you collect it. However, they do expect a £250.00 deposit to secure the purchase. At this time, you are asked how you propose to finance the purchase, whether it be by banker's draft, building society cheque or credit card. A word of warning though - if you pay by credit, you get stung with an extortionate fee for the privilege. If possible, they do prefer a building society cheque.

                              You are then asked when you would like to collect the car. As my husband was due to be in work a lot during that week, we asked if we could fix a date in about a week's time. The salesman advised that they do like to have the cars off the premises within a few days, so we reluctantly agreed to collect it three days later. As you will see later, this did not turn out as we had hoped and the salesman's keenness to get his commission resulted in us having to do a lot of re-arranging of insurance etc.

                              FINANCE
                              ======
                              When buying a car, you are nearly always offered finance by the garage, and Fords of Winsford is certainly no exception. They have in-house financial advisers who are happy to sell you finance to assist with your purchase, but the advantage of taking it through them is that it is arranged at the same time so you do not have to worry about getting this sorted elsewhere before deciding whether you can buy the car. However, I always like to shop around so this may suit some people, but not others.

                              AND NOW THE EXCITING BIT - COLLECTING YOUR CAR
                              =====================================
                              So the day has come. You have been busy getting your tax and insurance sorted out and off you go, armed with your tax disc and payment.
                              While you have been counting the days to this happy event, the workshop staff have been busy getting your car in tip top condition. Any minor repairs will have been done and the car will have been fully valated for you. It is important that, when you have decided to buy this car, you check for any repairs that are required to bring it up to your expectations.

                              You will have been allocated a time to collect the car, and on arrival, you are met by your salesman. He will check the tax disc and also take from you your own documentation for your old car which you are trading in. The payment process is very quick and takes literally a matter of minutes. The salesman then asks you to wait on the forecourt while he brings your newly valeted car round to you.

                              So you now have your new car and you are free to drive it at your leisure back to its new home.

                              STAFF
                              =====
                              I found the staff at Fords of Winsford extremely helpful. There is no pushiness or hard selling. They are there to answer any questions, and if you take the keys to have a look at any car, or even go on a test drive, they basically just leave you to it.

                              As I said, all the sales people are male but, for you ladies out there, there are no patronising comments and female customers are treated the same as the men. When I bought a car from them a few years ago, I was so pleased that they treated me like a serious customer, not a dippy female. This was a refreshing change because when I bought my previous car from a small garage, I was told by 'Mr Smoothy' the salesman that as the car was white, it would look nice in the summer!!! Aarghhh!! I felt like saying to him "**** the colour, let's see the business under the bonnet!!!!" (Can you tell he annoyed me?) Anyway, there is none of that here - the staff are very good.

                              AFTER-SALES SERVICE
                              ================
                              Once you have purchased your car, you have a short warranty period where, if you find any faults with the vehicle or anything goes wrong, you return the car to them and the mechanics will deal with any repairs required.

                              MORRISONS (ISN'T THAT A DIFFERENT REVIEW?)
                              ==================================
                              Well, Morrison's supermarket have struck lucky here because they are situated just round the corner from Fords of Winsford and, oddly enough, have a petrol station! More often than not, when you buy a new car, there is not an awful lot of fuel in the tank so you are obviously going to want to fill up before driving home. Morrisons seem to get of lot of business from Ford's customers solely due to its proximity. Not the cheapest fuel around at the time we called, but certainly worth it just to get you home.

                              GOOD POINTS
                              ==========
                              1) The wide selection of cars for sale at reasonable prices.
                              2) No hard selling by the sales people.
                              3) Discount of £50 if you trade your own vehicle in, provided it was originally purchased from Fords of Winsford.

                              BAD POINTS
                              ==========
                              1) It gets exceptionally busy at weekends. Easy enough to look at the cars, but if you want to speak to someone or take a test drive, be prepared for a long wait.

                              2.) Don't be rushed by the salesman into arranging an early collection date. Although I would highly recommend Fords of Winsford, there was one slight drawback for us. We asked the salesman if we could collect the car in seven days, i.e. giving them plenty of time to valet it and for us to get the insurance and tax sorted out. We were told by the salesman that they like to get the cars off the premises within a few days of sale, so we agreed to collect it three days later. We arranged a cover note for the insurance, but the day before we were due to collect the car, Fords telephoned us to say they had found a chip in the windscreen which would fail an MOT so would have to replace the windscreen. This would take them an extra day.

                              Unfortunately, my husband would be in the work for the next few days so would still be unable to collect the car until, what turned out to be, nearly seven days later. The problem we had was that the insurance on our own car would be cancelled as from the original collection date, so we had to reorganise this and pay an extra £5.00 to extend our original insurance. Not a big amount of money, granted, but we were not too happy at the inconvenience. If the salesman had agreed for us to collect the car the following week as we had requested, all of this could have been avoided.

                              CONTACT INFORMATION
                              =================
                              Fords of Winsford
                              Wharton Retail Park
                              Weaver Valley Road
                              Winsford
                              Cheshire
                              CW7 3AL

                              Opening times: Mon-Fri 9am-7pm * Sat 9am-5pm * Sun 10am-5pm

                              Telephone: 0845 4563770

                              Website: http://www.fow.co.uk/2006/index.asp

                              The website address is very useful as you can enter a search for the type of car you are looking for, maximum/minimum price, mileage etc.

                              AND FINALLY... THE TWIST IN THE TALE AND THE MORAL
                              =======================================
                              Well the twist in this tale involves my mother-in-law. If my husband had not been ordered - oops sorry, asked - to take her to the airport, our old car would not have been damaged. So she told us she felt so, so guilty and admitted it was her fault, that she offered to pay for the new car for us. Well, it would have been rude to refuse - wouldn't it???

                              And the moral? Never refuse granny a lift to the airport - you may clinch a new car out of it!!!

                              Thanks for reading.

                              (also on Ciao: matthewsmum)

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                                28.04.2009 19:55
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                                A journey back in time to kids tv

                                If there is anyone over the age of 30 reading this review who has not heard of Trumpton, Chigley or Camberwick Green - whatever were you doing during your early childhood?

                                I am leaving myself open to a lot of potential ribbing with this review because I bought this DVD for my son (honestly!) a couple of years ago when he was only two. Ok, I accept that the recommended age group is a little more in the region of four years old, but it was a case of seeing it on the shelf and deciding to buy it there and then in case they sold out (well, you can never be too sure can you?)

                                Ok, so at two years old, my son was never going to be interested in watching it, but as a 'responsible' mother, I thought I should have a very quick glance through the DVD, just to make sure it would make acceptable viewing for him, you understand. Now, for those of you who are getting suspicious at my reasons for buying this DVD, I freely admit that it did take me on a short nostalgia trip back to the 1970's when I would watch these programs to my heart's content. Ah, happy days...

                                *** So what is it all about? ***
                                =======================
                                Trumpton, Chigley and Camberwick Green are three neighbouring English villages in kiddies' t.v. land. Each episode tells a story which centres around a specific character. This is the land where the characters talk via the narrator. Just as well really as you will note that none of the characters have a mouth. The characters themselves are not really puppets, but are animated characters made of what looks like sponge. Something you never notice when you are watching it at 5 years of age!

                                *** DVD Layout ***
                                ===============
                                The set comprises three DVD's, one relating to each village.
                                The menu to each disc is set out in relatively the same way. The characters are moving and doing various things while you look down the episode list to decide which episode you wish to wash. There are three 'signposts' pointing you in different directions to the three villages.

                                *** Disc 1 - Camberwick Green ***
                                ===========================
                                Camberwick Green is a small village in the county of Trumptonshire. Each episode begins in the same way with a clown rolling the credits up, and a music box from which the central character in the episode arises from.
                                There are 13 episodes on this disc relating to the following characters:-

                                Peter the Postman
                                Windy Miller who runs the windmill
                                Mr Crockett the mechanic
                                Dr Mopp with a beard that completely encircles his whole face
                                Mr Murphy the baker
                                Mrs Honeyman the local gossip
                                PC McGarry the local bobby
                                Mr Carroway the fishmonger
                                Farmer Bell
                                Paddy Murphy who helps his dad in the baker's shop
                                Captain Snort (no drugs jokes please) captain of the military academy
                                Roger Varley the chimney sweep
                                Mr Dagenham the salesman (yes, they get everywhere)

                                *** Disc 2 - Trumpton ***
                                ====================
                                Again, there are 13 episodes on this disc and the stories are fairly similar to those of Camberwick Green. On this disc, each episode has been given a title, rather than merely the name of the main character, and each episode begins with the immortal words "Here is a clock - the Trumpton clock". And who's heard of those hunky firemen Hugh Pugh Barney McGrew Cuthbert Dibble & Grubb? Well, Chigley is where they all live and serve the community in the event of fire.

                                The episodes are as follows:-

                                Nick Fisher the Bill Poster
                                Miss Lovelace & The Mayor's Hat
                                Mrs Cobbit & the Ice Cream Man
                                Miss Lovelace & the Statue
                                The Mayor's Birthday
                                Telephones
                                The Rag & Bone Man (young children may not know what these are)
                                Mr Platt & the Painter
                                The window cleaner
                                Cutherbert's Morning off
                                The Plumber
                                Pigeons
                                The Greenhouse

                                *** Disc 3 - Chigley ***
                                ==================
                                Still running with the same genre of Camberwick Green and Trumpton, this disc also contains 13 episodes.

                                Lord Bellborough's Secret
                                Bessie to the Rescue
                                The Balloon
                                The Fountain
                                The Garden Wall
                                Binnie and Bessie
                                Lord Bellborough's Lucky Day
                                Trouble with the Crane
                                Clay for Mr Farthing
                                A Present for Lord Bellborough
                                Apples Galore
                                Willie Munn
                                The Broken Bridge

                                *** Presentation ***
                                ===============
                                I really cannot fault the way in which this DVD trio has been put together. The case itself is threefold, and each DVD comes in a vibrant colour. The Camberwick Green DVD is red and contains drawings of the characters on the actual disc. The Trumpton DVD is blue and the Chigley DVD is green, again, each containing drawings of the characters on the disc.

                                The back of the case basically describes characters in each of the villages and gives an overall description of the village life itself.

                                But that's not all! The DVD case itself is also contained in an outer box, vibrant red in colour and very colourful pictures of the main characters on the front.

                                *** Why I would recommend this DVD ***
                                ================================
                                This is REAL children's t.v. entertainment. I dare anyone to watch just one episode, and then compare it to some of the programs for young children today. You have the likes of Teletubbies who only seem to be able to manage gibberish. With these three DVD's, the characters are supposed to represent real people who have proper conversations (well, sort of) and there is actually a story in each episode. These programs were made in the days when program writers concentrated on pure entertainment and fun, rather than having to get a point across, unlike nowadays.

                                The episodes are also just long enough for the child not to get bored. They get on with the story and that's it. Finished.

                                *** Any bad points? ***
                                ==================
                                Only one. Although all the episodes have been put onto DVD, they are the original episodes ,so if you look closely, you can see a bit of a grainy picture so it is not the high quality that you would expect from a DVD.

                                *** Price ***
                                =========
                                I bought this DVD for £9.49. A bargain in my opinion considering you are buying three DVD's of original programs.

                                *** Overall Opinion ***
                                =================
                                I think this is an excellent DVD. It is of course intended for young children, and the one drawback therefore is the fact that they will not recognise any of the characters as it has not been on t.v. for many years. However, it does make good viewing and they should enjoy it. On the other hand, if you buy it for your child and they are not interested, my recommendation would be to stick the kettle on, settle down and take a trip back in time...

                                Thanks for reading.

                                (also on Ciao: matthewsmum)

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