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Kate Nash burst onto the scene in 2007 in every way imaginable. She was signed to a Polydor offshoot in March, had first single 'Foundations' released in June, had her album release hurriedly pushed forward to August after the unprecedented success of the single, performed non-stop through the Summer, and announced in December that she has already started writing songs for her second album. However, in all this rush, could her first album 'Made of Bricks' actually be any good? Did the speedy release of the album mean that the tracks on it were hastily pulled together without any real substance? And does the fact that she's already onto writing her second album with only a couple of songs off the first one released mean that there's not enough releasable material on here at all? 'Foundations' was an instantly popular song - it was added to both Radio 1 and Radio 2's playlists in its first week of release and reached number 2 in the singles chart. It was released at a good time, just before Summer, so Nash was perfect for festival touring a couple of months later. Because the song became so well-known, it was strong enough to have the album released on the selling-point of it alone and, for many, it would have been the only recognisable track on the CD. Would the rest of the album become as popular as the infamous first single? When the album was released it reached number 1, despite receiving mixed reviews. Whilst Time Out awarded it 4 stars out of 6, The Independent claimed it was in "pole position for worst album of the year". The marmite-esque "love her or hate her" adage could have been written for Kate Nash. The first track on the album is 'Play'. This is a short, introductory, track, which has elements that particularly reminded me of tracks by artists such as Amerie. It obviously would only ever have been intended to be the first track, and would be deemed ridiculous if it was placed anywhere else on the album. The second track is the well-known 'Foundations'. This song tells the story of a couple obviously not having the best time together, through Nash's style of singing and storytelling. It is known that Nash is from kind a middle-class background, yet the Cockney accents in her words can be heard quite apparently. It is this style that links her to Lily Allen, and even presenters such as Fearn Cotton - whose 'Cockney' accents leave much to be desired. Dick Van Dyke school of language, anyone? Despite this, 'Foundations' is a catchy and poignant track that will strike a chord with anyone who has faced the end of a relationship. 'Mouthwash' follows 'Foundations', possibly the second most well-known track here. 'Mouthwash' is another likeable track, with catchy lyrics and a very hummable tune. Part of Nash's style is her use of familiar lyrics, for example, 'And I use mouthwash / Sometimes I floss / I got a family / And I drink cups of tea' shortly followed by the bridge 'And I'm singing oh oh on a Friday night / And I'm singing oh oh on a Friday night and I hope everything's going to be alright'. These are not ground-breaking lyrics, but very easy to catch on to, which is what makes a song memorable. The fourth track on the album is entitled 'Dickhead', and although personally I find this is quite a memorable song on the CD, I wouldn't say that I thought it was any good. In fact, I remember telling someone about this particular track and saying how ridiculous it was. This is very repetitive with lines such as 'Why are you being a dickhead for / Stop being a dickhead'. Apart from the infuriating use of grammar, these lines seem to be endlessly and unnecessarily repeated throughout the song. The next song is 'Birds', and I for one find this song, with very sweet intentions, utterly cringe-worthy. Sometimes, lyrics that depict everyday life can come across as very fresh and witty. However, in this case, they come across as childish and comedic. They are also quite repetitive, like 'he said she looked well nice, all she wanted was for him to think she looked well nice'. That was paraphrased, but you get the idea. 'We Get On' is actually one of the highlights of the album. It tells the story of her seeing her boyfriend kissing another girl, but in this case the tell-tale lyrics actually work in quite a sweet way. Coupled with this, the song has a very nice melody ticking away in the background. This is one of the songs off the album when actually concentrating and listening to the words makes the track better. 'Mariella' is another highlight for me. Nash practically spits her words out for you, and each word is beautifully pronounced. This song stands out from some of the others because of the kooky imagination of the lyrics; 'Sometimes I wish I was like Mariella / She got some prittstick / And she glued her lips together / So she never had to speak'. Also, this song is perfectly situated on the album. Placing it next to 'We Get On' makes the album work well, because they are potentially two of the most different songs presented. It shows how versatile Nash's voice and work could be with a bit more time and development. 'Shit Song' follows, and although it doesn't quite live up to its name, it's not one of the stronger tracks on the album. By this point, most of the themes in this song have already been sung about, and it makes this song seem dull and lifeless. With a background that could have been recorded off an old-school Casio keyboard, there is nothing exciting about this track. 'Pumpkin Soup' is fantastic, and definitely one of my favourites off the album. It is different to most of the other tracks in that it has a very ballsy beat and melody - it also has more of a 'pop' edge and wouldn't seem out of place on a Girls Aloud or Sugababes record. Unfortunately, the lyrics aren't saying much new, detailing Nash's relationship uncertainties. However, the chorus here ('I just want your KISS, boy') still is very loud and brash and personally, I love it. 'Skeleton Song' starts to head up the end of the album. There is nothing new here, the lyrics are in the same style as they are on practically everything else, and after 'Pumpkin Soup' I find this song quite disappointing, annoying even. 'Nicest Thing' is the second to last song on the album, and starts to close it up very nicely. This is almost mostly an instrumental track, with Nash's vocals starting up a little while into the song. Some of the lines are quite poignant and heartbreaking, particularly 'Basically, I wish that you loved me, / I wish that you needed me, / I wish that you knew when I said two sugars, actually I meant three.' This is quieter than all the other songs on the album, and brings the tone of the album as a whole down a level, as we near the end of the CD. 'Merry Happy' is the last song on the album, and reverts back into Nash's normal style after the mellow 'Nicest Thing'. There isn't really any other way that this album could have finished, as much as I like 'Nicest Thing', it wouldn't have worked as an album closer - it is so different to the rest of the tracks that it would leave the listener with feeling more downbeat than they would have done while listening to the rest of the tracks. 'Merry Happy' is a loud, trashy song much like the rest of Nash's work, done in her usual style of drifting between singing her lyrics and pronouncing her words like lines from a play. Overall, I don't hate this album, or love it. Whilst writing about all these tracks individually there are not many that I do not like, but many of them seem so similar that I get bored of the album before I have listened to it all. I will definitely listen to Kate Nash again, but I will undoubtedly skip through to my favourites. 'Made of Bricks' is available on Amazon for £6.97.
You know how in programs like Law and Order and CSI everything seems to come together and you're left wondering why crimes ever go unsolved in the real world? Well I got a similar feeling whilst watching 'The Kingdom'. Although the subject matter is very complex with a very detailed history, the film is very fast-paced and gets straight to the point. Although this might not mean that the film sends out as accurate a message as it could have done, it does mean that it does work well as a piece of entertainment, which really, is all it is. The film opens with a fast moving timeline of Saudi Arabia's history. Again, this is very simplified, but it certainly gave me enough background knowledge to be able to enjoy the film. After this we are thrown straight into the action. The first scene opens in an American community in Saudi Arabia - the people here are American men, with their families, who work for the oil companies. In the same scene we see Saudis patrolling. Then, shots break out as two men drive a Saudi patrol vehicle through the streets, shooting at houses and people as they go. As chaos ensues another Saudi man walks through the streets telling people to stay calm and to follow his directions. He puts his arms into the air and detonates a bomb that he is carrying. The four American characters who go over to Saudi Arabia are played by Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman. Although they are all well-rounded characters, they do each carry certain stereotypes. Foxx is clearly a family man, in his opening scene he is at his son's school. He is a good guy - he goes to talk to the young son of a friend who dies, and he comforts Garner near the beginning of the scene. You know he wants to do well by everyone, but uphold truth and justice. Garner carries stereotypes by simply being the only female, and although it would be too much to say she has a chip on her shoulder about this, she is very strong and almost masculine, as well as clearly being very intelligent. Bateman plays the role of 'funny man'. Although this is a serious subject, the director obviously wanted to make the film accessible to all so 'comedied' Bateman's character up somewhat. The four characters are obviously close and we see a lot of banter between them, Bateman's character often being the cause, and butt, of their jokes. Finally, Cooper is the more experienced character. He is older than the other three, and we get the impression that he has seen scenes like the one in Saudi Arabia before. As well as these four characters, we are also introduced to Ashraf Barhom, who plays the Colonel in Saudi Arabia. This is an excellently drawn character; he has a family and obviously wants to protect them, and realises that it is his people that have caused this, yet at the same time knows that there are boundaries and rules that the Americans must not break. Theirs is a different culture to his, and this really gets brought home to us, as the audience, when we see him telling Bateman's character to 'wash his mouth out with soap' and giving Garner's character a shawl to wear to cover herself up more. Each of the characters act well in this film, but I personally think that Barhom does an excellent job, and the relationship he forms with Foxx's character is superb. Peter Berg directed this film, and you can tell straight off that he wanted to make the film accessible to a large audience. I'm not really a fan of action films, and I only went to see this because my boyfriend wanted to. However, I found that I did enjoy it, because of the fast-moving nature of the film, and the funny, almost laugh-out-loud, moments. I said at the start that the plot comes together easily, and I even said to my boyfriend half way through "catching terrorists is easy!" However entertaining this may make the film, I feel that it may also be its downfall - it won't be enough to satisfy people; its simplified nature of a complex subject at times seems to gloss over the importance of what the film portrays. Yet, saying this, I did come away from the film thinking about what I had just seen, and a particularly haunting ending highlights just how difficult the situation is, and how there won't be a resolve any time soon. You get the impression slightly watching this film that you do in a lot of American action movies - 'it's OK, the American's are here now to save the world!' - however the introduction of Barhom's character does a lot to tone down this, as it is only with his help that the four characters are able to get anywhere. It seems that Berg is maybe trying to portray how it is only with combined effort from both cultures that we can even begin to solve these kind of issues, but it is very apparent that there is a strong American influence upon the outcome of the film. Overall, I enjoyed watching the film and would recommend it. As entertaining as it is, I still found it thought-provoking. The film is very neatly tied up and makes for a nice, punchy package. It does have some flaws, in that it, at times, glosses over how hard these situations are, but it does its job very well in bringing these issues to people's attentions, particularly when their knowledge about the subject is very little. At the very least this film can make you leave the cinema wondering about the situation more, and that can hardly be a bad thing.
Whilst I was on holiday in Sydney, my boyfriend and I decided one evening to go to the cinema. There wasn't a lot on that we hadn't already seen, so I chose 'The Nanny Diaries'. I had heard of the book but had never read it, and thought that as it was probably in the same vein as 'The Devil Wears Prada' it would probably suit me fine. (I neglected to tell my boyfriend that it would probably be similar to that until we were already seated - as a boy, he hates that film.) 'The Nanny Diaries' is the story of Annie Braddock. She has recently graduated after studying finance and anthropology. She heads off for an interview in New York City with a financial company to be faced with the question 'Who is Annie Braddock?' In a rather clichéd way she finds she has no idea, starts to stutter, and leaves the interview. We next see Annie wandering Central Park, where she (literally) runs into a young boy; Grayer. He latches on to her (this behaviour completely contradicts with the behaviour we later see of the young boy, and so we can only gather that this is a simple plot device to get the story moving) and his mother, Mrs X, immediately offers her a job as his nanny. Annie decides that the pros of taking the job outweigh the cons - she can move to the city, live in Mr and Mrs X's posh town house and also figure out her life plan. However, once she gets there she realises that this job isn't going to be as simple as she thought - Mrs X is a nightmare who Annie cannot please and is almost as needy as her son, while at the same time Grayer is a spoilt brat who hates Annie straight away. Annie is played by Scarlett Johansson, but unfortunately she does not shine in this role at all. She brings nothing to the character, and the poor script is highlighted with her expressionless acting. Laura Linney on the other hand, who plays Mrs X, delivers her character in a much better way - she manages to pull of being selfish and manipulative in a very believable way. The rest of the cast are ample but unmemorable - Alicia Keys and Paul Giamatti do fine, but with a weak script there characters still remain largely one-dimensional. Chris Evans, playing the token hottie, is average. There is seemingly no chemistry between himself and Annie and therefore we do not believe, nor care, about their relationship. The script and the way it is delivered is a main sticking point for the film. The crew have obviously tried to remember that the original form of this story was a novel, by including a lot of voice-over narration, so you get the feeling that you are delving into Annie's diary. Some names are kept unknown, such as Mr and Mrs X, and also Annie's love interest, called Harvard Hottie. Although this is quite a kitschy idea, it does not work as well as it could because there is such a lack of substance to the words. Annie is so unbelievable as a character that we find ourselves uninterested in her thoughts. Any emotion she does display is so obvious that we cannot sympathise with her at all. There does not seem to be any back-story to her life, we are never left wondering why she behaves in the way she does. The main reason that this is so obvious is because it is such a contrast to the character of Mrs X - we can tell straight away that the manipulative nature of her behaviour is because she is deeply insecure and troubled by her relationship with her husband - we can make no such speculation about Annie because it seems as though there is nothing there. Some parts of this film are acutely embarrassing - seeing Annie singing along in the car to 'Freedom', and seeing her rant whilst swigging from a bottle of wine are not only excruciating but ridiculous. There is not enough substance in this film to make it a contender to films such as 'The Devil Wears Prada', and it is not funny enough to make it enjoyable. There are almost no redeeming features about this film, and it definitely is not one that I would recommend, or be in any rush to see again.
Last Friday my boyfriend and I decided to go out for dinner. We decided to go to Garfunkels, in Leicester Square, because we walk past it everyday after work (whilst starving) yet had never eaten in there. The restaurant is situated down Dean Street, which is one of the roads that leads into Leicester Square. It can be seen from the centre of Leicester Square, and is very easily accessible from Leicester Square tube station. It is also in walking distance from Charing Cross National Rail station, and about 5 minutes walk from Trafalgar Square. WAITING TIMES As we had decided to visit this branch in central London on a Friday evening, we decided to book in advance. So, my boyfriend rang up the restaurant that morning and reserved a table. When we got to the restaurant we entered and queued for a couple of minutes before everyone else. You got seated when you got to the front of the queue, a system that didnt seem representative of us booking a table earlier in the day. When we got to the front of the queue my boyfriend told the waitress that we had booked a table. Youve booked a table? Yes Really? Er, yeah Youve booked a table? For tonight? Yeah, for 2 Well Ive got a spare table for 2 anyway Apparently they dont normally take bookings on a Friday night, fair enough, but theres no need to look at us like we made it up! Anyway, it was only about 5 minutes between when we entered the restaurant and when we sat down, so that wasnt too bad. However, this short wait wasnt something that we encountered for the rest of our meal. Although we didnt have to wait long between sitting and getting our order, and ordering and getting our starters, we had to wait a long time between our starter and our main, and a similar time between having our plates cleared away and our bill being brought to us. Our wait overall was uncomfortably long at some points, particularly when it came between our starter and our main. I deduct one star because of this. SERVICE As I mentioned before, the first staff member we encountered was a waitress who didnt believe that we had booked a table. Not the best first impression, and unfortunately this below-par service carried on throughout our meal. As I mentioned above we spent the majority of our meal waiting for one thing or another, as this really puts a sense of unease over the whole experience. The staff werent overly friendly, and didnt apologise for the long wait. This bad service was something that I feel other diners also felt; at the table next to us there was a group of 6 who had ordered a sharers platter as their starter. They received their main courses first, and had to ask for their platters. Also, the young girl with them had ordered a burger and asked for it to be without mayonnaise unsurprisingly it had mayo with it. Although we visited on a Friday night, I dont think that the place was busy enough to warrant the bad service. As the evening wore on the restaurant got less busy rather than more, yet our service seemed to get worse. There were plenty of empty tables around us in the area we were sitting in, yet hardly any attention was focused on us. Unacceptable one star deducted. FOOD My boyfriend and I decided to share a starter, so we ordered 6 potato skins. These were delicious; 2 were barbecue sauce flavour, 2 had bacon in and 2 had chives in. The sauce was a lovely sour cream and the skins were the perfect size for us for sharing (my boyfriend had 4 and I had 2!) For our mains my boyfriend had a giant burger which had both beef and chicken, also bacon and cheese (piggy) whilst I had salmon and broccoli fish cakes. Both these main courses came with a choice of chips or jacket potato we both chose chips. My fish cakes were very tasty. The outsides were crispy and the insides were smooth and creamy. The crisps also were very nice; they looked like they had been cut fresh from potatoes (although they probably werent!) and were cooked for just the right amount of time. My boyfriends burger was apparently very good, although so massive that he couldnt finish it. The food here was tasty and cooked to a good standard.1 star each from me and my boyfriend. PRICE The pricing at Garfunkels isnt out of the ordinary at all; it is exactly what I thought it would be. Our large starter (it was stated for 2 people) was about £7 and my main meal was just under £10, with my boyfriends being just under £15. Obviously our drinks were a bit costly but they usually are, my glass of rosé was about £5. Our total bill came to about £40 in the end which is average I think for a restaurant of this type. We didnt leave a massive tip either so we saved a bit there! Overall I wouldnt say I had a bad time at Garfunkels, but I would hesitate to go there again. The price is average, the food is alright, but the service is definitely below par, and hampered our experience. Im not going to say that I will never go back to Garfunkel;s, or indeed try another version of the chain, but it definitely wont be my first port of call.
I have been to Thorpe Park on a number of occasions over the last few years. The university I went to was about a 15 minute drive away from the park, so it was one of the places we went to at least once a year. Ive always had a good overall time there, though when I visited last weekend there were a few downsides to the park that somewhat let down our visit. Although some of these factors are things that are not necessarily in the park managements control, I personally felt that there should be more measures in place to combat this type of thing. Anyway, let me explain. Last weekend, me and three friends of mine decided to head over to Thorpe Park. We had decided a couple of weeks in advance to go, as I had received some 2-for-1 ticket vouchers in the post recently, so we picked a Sunday and crossed our fingers for sun. As we woke in the morning we realised that we were in luck, as it was a bright sunny day and so we drove over to the park. Thorpe Park is pretty easy to get to, with a sign on the M25 telling you which junction to come off at, and then signs pointing you all the way to the front gate. As we drove in we could instantly see the swarms of other people who had had the same idea as us, but parking was not a problem. There was still masses of space left, and with the attendants directing us into spaces it was easy to park. We then headed over to buy our tickets, and were greeted with a massive queue. This was just after 9.30, so the park has already opened but the queue was snaking round towards the car park. Luckily, an attendant told us that a booth to the right of the gate was about to open, so we joined the 15 or so people milling about there. About 9.45 the booth opened and we finally managed to get to an open window. I handed over our 2-for-1 voucher, so our tickets were cut down to £16 each. We bought a park map as well that cost 50p, so for two people I spent £32.50. This price is fine I think, though I dont think I would go if I didnt have a half price voucher or such like, £32 each is far too much money I think. Clutching our tickets we made our way into the park. As you enter, you put your ticket into a reader above a turnstile. This reads the barcode on your ticket and the turnstile is opened. You take your ticket with you, so you can get in and out of the park as you please. After entering the main gate you walk across a bridge, and into a complex where there are shops selling food and Thorpe Park merchandise. There is also a Caffe Nero here and a Thorpe Park branded restaurant, regaling signs offering a full Sunday Roast. You walk straight through this area into the open air again, which is where the main attractions are. By this point it was getting really hot, and I was glad I had chosen to wear a skirt rather than jeans. We decided to head over to the back of the park and work our way forwards, focusing first on the most popular rides. We headed to the Lost City where some of the bigger rides are, and decided to first go on Colossus. At this point the park was starting to fill up, and we noticed that the queue time advertised for the ride was about 30 minutes. We joined the back of the queue and waited. And waited. The queue was definitely much longer than half an hour, and after about an hour we were nearing the front. By this time it was nearly unbearably hot, and unfortunately nearly the whole queue area was not covered by any shade. Eventually we got to the front, a bit pink faced. The ride itself is pretty good, lots of twists and turns; loops and corkscrews. It lasts about a minute, which is average for roller coasters Id say. After the ride we went to look at our photos, which, naturally, were awful, and decided to head over to Stealth. Stealth is one of Thorpe Parks newest attractions. At the start you are plunged from 0mph 80mph in a matter of seconds (2 to be exact!) up to the dizzying heights of 205ft and then plunged straight down again. This roller coaster is definitely not for the faint hearted. As one of the newer rides this is also one of the most popular, and the queuing time stated was 45 minutes. Again the queue was not covered by shade at all, and as the time approached 11 we began to feel swelteringly hot. We were also desperate for a drink by the time but we stayed where we were figuring that wed already wasted nearly an hour as it was. As we started to near the front of the queue we decided to time one of the cars from the second it took off to the second it came to a halt. 26 seconds. Hmm. 75 minutes after joining the queue we got to the front. Obviously, the ride is really good but are the 26 seconds worth the 75 minutes waiting time? After this we were starving so decided to get some food. There are many places to eat at Thorpe Park, but obviously, none of them are particularly healthy. Three of us got KFC, while one of us went to Caffe Nero. The food was the same as you would expect from any other KFC / Nero outlet and the same price. There are also Thorpe Park branded places to eat, but Im not sure of the prices or quality of the food from these. After eating we decided to head onto a water ride to cool down. We looked at the time boards, and saw that the queue for Tidal Wave was 90 minutes, and Rumba Rapids was 75 minutes. We decided to head to Rumba Rapids as usually these queues move faster, and as it didnt seem that long we decided to join. We didnt want to go on anything too exciting straight after eating anyway. Luckily, the queue time for this was only about 20 minutes, so goodness knows why they were stating 75. Also, some of the queue this time was in the shade for this ride, so that made a welcome change. For the rapids you sit in a circular boat that takes 8 people, and due to the busy nature of the park the 4 of us were sat with a family of 4 to fill the boats up. This then bobs along the river, bumping along the sides and the current occasionally going under sprays of water and waterfalls. This is a ride with a height minimum of 0.9m, so is one for the entire family. I got a bit wet, but not soaking, and in that heat it didnt really matter anyway. You also get your photo taken on this ride, but as there are 8 of you in a circular boat, it is inevitable that a couple of people will either have their back to the camera or wont be in the photo at all. After the rapids, we decided to head over to one of the other popular rides; Nemesis Inferno. Nemesis is one of the rides that is well established at the park, and has a good reputation. T lasts much longer than Stealth, and is slightly more exciting than Colossus. With a stated queue time of 45 minutes we joined the back. This was without a doubt the worst queuing experience of the whole day. At about 1pm the temperature was at its hottest and, surprise surprise, the queue had practically no shaded areas. As you slowly moved along the queue we noticed that the stated queue time at the entrance had now risen to 90 minutes. As the sun got hotter and hotter we got thirstier and thirstier and we wondered why there was no way of buying drinks or ice creams in the queue. Surely this would be a perfect money making exercise?? We even moved along the queue at one point behind the back of a stall selling drinks to people not queuing, it seemed ridiculous that we were stuck so close to this but unable to buy anything. You could see that everyone in the queue was hot and thirsty, any drinks that had been bought before we started queuing were either long gone, or warmed by the sun so much they werent really thirst-quenching. We finally got to the front after about 2 hours of queuing, and although the ride is good and arguably the best in the park, its definitely not good enough to justify the long wait. After this we were all feeling a bit hot and bothered, with visibly bright pink faces and shoulders. We went on a couple more rides, namely Rush and Vortex (Rush being one of my favourite rides) both which had about a 45 minute queue time. We were going to go on X:/ No way Out, but it was closed when we got to it s there was an engineering fault, and Samurai, but there was an hour queue time so we decided not to bother. It was just over 6pm by now so we decided to head home. I wouldnt in any way say that we had a bad day out, but there are definitely some things that I think should be done to make the park run more smoothly, and more enjoyably. Firstly, it was infuriating seeing how much of the queues were not covered by shade. Not only is this uncomfortable but it is dangerous. In the UK many people dont even think about putting sun tan lotion on, and 8 hours spent in the sun can be very harmful. Similarly I dont see why there is no way to buy drinks whilst you are queuing. This would be beneficial to both the park and the guests. In the big theme parks in places like Florida, there are water fountains scattered everywhere. You get none of this in Thorpe Park, and the bottles of water are all £2 a go. You can buy big cups that you can refill as much as you like with Coke, Sprite or Fanta for £5, but when we tried to buy these the two outlets we went into didnt sell them. Another thing I think they could work on to improve the queuing times is to make better use of the fast-track tickets. These are tickets you can buy to go in a faster queue, but the process isnt really made clear, and these cant be used on all of the rides. At £32 a ticket it seems a bit much to have to shell out even more to be able to queue less anyway. Like I said, we still had a good day out, but there were lots of rides that we didnt get a chance to go on as we ran out of time. Obviously, this was a peak time as it was one of the first weekends of the school holidays, but as we all work full-time we are limited in the times we can go anyway. I would still recommend Thorpe Park as a good family day out, but I would definitely say to scour the internet for 2-for-1 vouchers before you go, and to remember to take the sun tan lotion. Thorpe Park is situated in Chertsey, Surrey about 10 minutes from the M25. It is clearly signposted. Tickets cost £32 per adult on the day, but booked online are £24 each. Under 12s are cheaper, and family tickets also work at a discount. Until the 2nd September the park is open from 9.30am 8pm, but times vary throughout the season. The park is closed from roughly the 5th November to the 17th March. All toilets have disabled access, wheelchairs are available for hire and disabled tickets are cheaper than child tickets. www.thorpepark.co.uk
Heather Lewis novel House Rules was first published in 1995, and then republished in 2005, with a new afterword, which is the copy that I read. Although it cant be known for sure, I would say that this was only published again in this way because of the authors personal life. She killed herself in 2002. House Rules tells the story of 15-year old Lee, who at the start of the novel has just been expelled from boarding school. The way that Lee tells us this makes it sound as though she was not really to blame for the incident that resulted in her having to leave, however in the following pages we witness her let a complete stranger on a plane that she finds almost repulsive perform a sexual act upon her. These two contradictory accounts of her personality almost set the tone for the rest of the book; Lee is a very confused young girl, one who has obviously been scarred by events in her past, and is just trying to find a place where she can fit in. We learn that Lees father was abusive to her, and so to escape from this she decides to join the horse-show circuit rather than going home. Although she has met some of the characters in this environment before, it is now that she becomes truly embroiled in their lifestyles, entering into a world of violent sex and heroin as the blurb of the novel so brashly tells us. As Lee sinks deeper and deeper into this world we see her become less and less in control of herself, and finds it harder and harder to even know what it is she wants for herself. As their lives get more intense, we are left wondering whether Lee will even make it to the end of the novel alive. Although this book is a work of fiction, one cannot help but wonder about the connections to Lewis life. She was very familiar with the horse-show circuit that her character becomes a part of, and it is easy to suggest that the fact that she killed herself at only 40 clearly shows that the author had issues to work through that she may have revealed through her novels. Is it impossible to see Lewis in Lee? House Rules is clearly a well-written book; with comprehensive language and meticulous attention to detail. However, I personally found that the often harsh content overshadowed this. I said above, that Lee becomes involved in a world of violent sex and drug use, and this, more often than not, made me wince and have to skim over the details. I dont think it was the fact that the author was writing about sex that bothered me, but the fact that this young naïve girl was so blatantly in pain did. As well-written as Lewis work is, I couldnt bare to read it, and, like I said, ended up skimming over a lot of paragraphs. As much as I could appreciate this novel as beautiful, intricate writing, I just couldnt read about the subject matter without wishing I had got to the end already. I originally bought this because I had seen it as book of the week in Time Out, and have seen numerous reviews praising its brilliance without a doubt, this book is critically acclaimed. However, I think that you can find a book good but not accessible to you. I wouldnt necessarily not recommend this book to other people, but I definitely wont be reading it again. You can currently by this book new from Amazon.co.uk for £6.99.
Death of a Salesman was written by the playwright Arthur Miller in 1949. Although it is considered an American Classic, I had never really heard of it myself until I bought it. I only even bought it because the last time I was in New York I was trying to spend my change, and this caught my eye. It has been critically acclaimed many times over both as a written play and as a stage production, and won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1949. It made both Arthur Miller and his main character, Willy Loman, famous. The plot of the play focuses on Willy Loman and his family; his wife and two sons. Once enjoying a successful career as a salesman, he now experiences life as a 60-year old, with a somewhat less profitable profession. He begins to live his life through his past; placing massive emphasis on how successful he used to be, and telling over the top stories about the places he visited and the people he saw. It is obvious that Loman has worked hard to provide for his family his whole life, yet instead of being able to settle down as the years go by, he is forced to keep trying to find work to be able to pay to keep his household running. He is faced with the humiliation of having to go begging to people he used to consider colleagues and friends, and son this starts to take a toll on his sanity. Lomans two sons, Biff and Happy, both have problems of their own. Happys life is mixed up in the lies he tells his father so to portray the idea that he is the perfect son, whereas Biff has never been able to settle down with a career or family. We get the impression that his fathers insistence upon him to drive harder and become successful probably has something to do with this. As the play moves on we are able to find out more and more details about Loman. We hear of his brother, Ben, who moved away and became rich beyond his wildest dreams. Willy has always lived in his shadow, yet it turns out that his older brother has been dead for a while. Ben haunts Willy, perhaps literally, and we are led to believe that Ben is the man Willy wants to be. Millers writing is absolutely fantastic. The way the characters interact with each other is so moving and believable, and you totally emphasise with each one of them from the first page. Because you know the histories of the whole family as you read through, you begin to understand their actions and realise why they behave in the way you do. You can also recognise when they are truly being themselves, or when they are lying to each other (and themselves). This is indeed an exceptionally sad play. Willy Lomans demise is played out in front of our eyes. We witness him reliving his past glories to recognising the life he leads now, and at times this can be truly heartbreaking. It s a situation that we can really appreciate, as nobody can ever know whether the successes they may have had in the past is going to be enough to carry them through their whole lives. Lomans need and desire to be able to support his family and have them feel they are able to rely on him is something that everyone can understand, and as we see his life unravelling we truly feel sympathy for him. Lomans life effectively dies in front of him, and this is a very poignant element of the play. One of the things about this play that makes it so accessible and easy to read is the fact that on a lot of occasions the dialogue isnt conversation between the characters, but a sort of stream of consciousness, i.e. just one characters thoughts. This means that you dont get lost in the conversation, and also this obviously adds to the fact that we understand the characters on a much deeper level. It also means that for someone who doesnt read a lot of plays it will be easy to get to grips with; it is more like a novel than a lot of other plays I have read. Death of a Salesman is a remarkable play and a wonderful achievement. As I said, it is considered an American Classic, and I cant see that changing any time soon. Although it might not appeal to everybody (but what does?) it is something that I would recommend to everybody regardless. It is a short play, and takes hardly any time to read. I found it so engrossing that I hardly took any reading-breaks. It is something that I personally think everyone should have on their bookshelf.
I have never written a travel review before, and to be honest, havent really read that many either. Therefore, Im not really sure of the customary layout, so Im going to do mine in the form of a holiday diary. Last week, my boyfriend and I went on holiday to Cyprus. We had been planning to go away at this time for a couple of months, and looked at a number of places. We had wanted to stay in a villa or apartment rather than a hotel, so our search for where to go was limited really to people we knew who owned and rented out apartments. My boyfriends dad then told us about a guy who worked with him who owned a villa in Cyprus and that was that. The benefits for us for staying in an apartment rather than a hotel meant that we were more able to come and go as we please, and with our own kitchen could stay in and cook for ourselves of an evening if we wished. We were able to find out anything we needed about the apartment or the surrounding area in just a quick phone call, and the owner also arranged for some food to be in the apartment ready for our arrival. Last Wednesday my boyfriend and I set off from Gatwick on a GB Airways (subsidiary of BA) flight to Paphos. We had flown with GB Airways before and to be honest, they werent our first choice of airline. (On a flight to Austria we had to turn around half way there because the plane hadnt been de-iced properly and then had to sit in Gatwick for 6 hours waiting for another plane to be ready! For a 4-day holiday we didnt really appreciate losing a day!) However, on this occasion we didnt really have a lot of choice. Paphos Airport is relatively small, with currently only two runways (I am told that they are probably going to build a third). This means there is not an abundance of available flights, and it is hard to find ones at perfect times. We had only booked the apartment for 5 days, so we wanted to get flights that would give us the most time there. We decided to look for a flight that we could get late Wednesday so we would arrive in Paphos on Thursday, and then leave late on the following Monday. GB Airways were the only airline that did flights that werent in the middle of the day, so we booked them up. These were roughly £330 return for the two of us including surcharges and taxes, which is a pretty good price. Our flight left Gatwick at 18.55; with the two-hour time difference this got us into Paphos at 01.30. Going home, our flight left at 22.30, getting us into the UK again at 01.15. This time, we had no problems with our flight and got to Paphos exactly on time. A taxi had been arranged to take us to an apartment, and we shared this with another guy who was going to the same apartment block. The apartment we were staying in was in a block called Tala Hills, up in Tala. It was about a 20 minute ride from the airport in the taxi (which looked like a hearse all in black with 3 doors on each side!) and cost us £C30 for the three of us. Some Cyprus Facts!! In Cyprus they drive on the same side of the road as in the UK. Today, only four European countries drive on the left; Britain, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta, and therefore have no land borders with countries that drive on the right. The currency is Cyprus is the Cypriot Pound and Cents. One English Pound is roughly 80 Cypriot Cents, which means that its sometimes hard to work out how much things cost. I took £150 over with me, and this was £C121. We arrived at our Tala Hills apartment at about 2.30am. You can tell that Paphos airport is relatively small from the fact that we had picked up our suitcases and were on our way within 30 minutes of landing. The airport was about 25km from where we were staying. The next day we awoke bright and early to have our first look around in daylight. Our apartment was lovely and spacious, with two bedrooms (meaning a closet room for me!) a small kitchen, and a nice-sized lounge area. Our apartment also had a balcony with a beautiful view of the shared swimming pool for the block, and then down the hill into Paphos. We had arranged with the apartment owner for him to sort out a hire-car for us, so Thursday morning a guy from CY-Breeze Rentals came over to our apartment with a car for us. He then drove us down to their office in Paphos. This was actually really useful, as he showed us the way to drive down, and pointed out things to us such as the supermarket and ways to the beach. He also pointed out to us how many new apartments and villas were being built. Particularly in the area near where we were staying, it was a bit like driving past a building site every 2 minutes. Our apartment was about 15 minutes from Paphos. We decided to keep our car for 2 days, taking it back early Saturday morning, at a cost of £C55. We then drove back up to our apartment in Tala. Our car was a little Toyota Yaris (called Josephine) and drove perfectly well. One thing we noticed though is that drivers in Paphos are a bit mental, and I dont think the Highway Code is a must-read! Just be on your toes. We decided then to drive down to the supermarket just outside Tala to pick up a few bits, and then we went down to the square in Tala Village to have a drink. Tala Village is under a 5 minute walk from our Tala Hills apartment block, and has a couple of restaurants and places to drink, as well as a couple little shops. We sat down outside and had a beer each (Keo being the beer to drink in Cyprus. Brewed on the island, it is available everywhere). After that we decided to drive down to Paphos Harbour where we saw Paphos Castle, which is the smallest castle I have ever seen in my life! This was originally built as a fort to protect the harbour, but was destroyed and rebuilt after an earthquake in the thirteenth century. Im not sure that there is much more known of the history of the castle, Wikipedia tells me that several archaeological excavations have taken place in order to find out more about its past. On Paphos Harbour there are loads of cafes and restaurants, and seems to be a very child-friendly part of Paphos. There are, of course, all the souvenir shops dotted about, and there are also a number of boat trips to choose from. One good thing about this area is that there is a large car park situated right next to the port where parking is free. The next day was Friday, and we decided to bring out our true sun-worshipping selves and head down to Coral Bay Beach. Again, this was a drive away, so we drove through Paphos to get to it; about 20 minutes from our apartment. Parking here is free also, and only a tiny walk from the beach. The beach itself isnt huge, but there was enough space for everyone there. Im not sure what it would be like in mid-Summer though. We paid for the use of two sun-loungers and umbrella, which cost £C3.75 for the two, and then settled down for some hardcore chillaxing. This is a very child-friendly beach. There is a bar right on the beach where you can buy drinks and typically English food such as chips and burgers. When you head down to the beach there is a sign pointing you in one of two directions, one for water sports and one for sunbathing. We headed down the sunbathing route, but could see people bobbing about on jet skis and the like. The weather on this day was very hot, about 35 degrees C, but yet the sea was still freezing! It wasnt too choppy though, and was nice for a paddle. We decided to spend most of the day here, soaking up both the sun and the atmosphere. About 4pm we decided to head back, via the Car Rental Place. We had decided to keep the hire car for the rest of our stay; it would probably work out cheaper than getting taxis everywhere. To keep it for the last three days of our holiday was another £C55, making it £C110 for the 5 days, which we thought was pretty reasonable. As far as I know you have to be 21 to hire a rental car. I know in some places its 23, but Im 22 and they had no problems with me. We were insured to go anywhere on the island, except up in the area thats now under Turkish occupation. There is a lot of hostility between the Greeks and Turks on the island, each thinking they have more of a claim. That evening we walked down to Tala Square and ate at The Square Bar and Bistro. An English woman, who we assume moved her family out here to open it, as all the waitresses spoke English as their first language and all looked slightly similar, ran this. On heading in we were asked if we had booked a table, as they had entertainment on on a Friday night. Unfortunately we hadnt, but there was a table spare outside where we had a nice view of the square, so that was fine. Im not the biggest fan of people singing when Im eating my dinner anyway! The food here was delicious, I had melon and sorbet to start, then lamb, and then apple pie. All a bit English Im afraid! It really was nice though, and the wine I had also was very drinkable. This is a restaurant I would definitely recommend to anyone staying in the area, the price came to under £C30, and as it was only a short walk from our apartment was perfect for us. On Saturday we decided to head over to Aphrodite Water Park. Aphrodite is the Greek Goddess of Love, Sex and Beauty, and you can find references to her all over the island as Paphos is the mythological birthplace of her. Aphrodite Water Park is about a 10 minute drive from Paphos Town Centre, and costs £C15 per adult. To use the lockers you pay a £C5 deposit, of which you get £C3 back. Unfortunately we lost our first key so had to pay for another one The Water Park is really nicely set out, with 2 big slides for adults only, about 5 medium sized ones for teenagers and lots of smaller pools and slides for younger children. There were lifeguards everywhere you looked, and plenty of sun-loungers for parents to soak up the sun. There is one pool that is used for snorkelling, but we didnt try this. There is a café in the middle of the park which sells things like burgers, kebabs, chicken nuggets, and, of course, chips. You are given a wristband when you enter the park, and when you buy any food or drink your wristband is scanned, and then scanned again at the exit where you pay. This means you dont have to go back and forth to get money, which I think is a brilliant idea. As I said earlier, there are many smaller pools for children, and lifeguards at every turn, so I definitely think that this is a place for the whole family. (See http://www.aphroditewaterpark.com/ for more information.) After our day acting like children we decided to head out and see what the nightlife in Paphos was all about. We ordered a taxi from our apartment, and headed down to Bar Street, which we had been told was the place to go. Our taxi driver was very friendly (if a bit manic with his driving!) and he pointed out to us where the restaurants and bars were after he dropped us off. We decided to eat at a Cypriot-Steak Restaurant called Agapinors, where I had garlic bread and then Sirloin Steak, and my boyfriend had breaded mushrooms and then the Agapinor Steak. Again, the food was delicious and very reasonably priced. Drinks also were cheap, I had a martini and lemonade and it was about £C2. As we were given our bill we were also given a complimentary shot of coffee liquor for me and a brandy for my boyfriend. Not being Brandy or Coffee drinkers it didnt really make much difference to us, but its a nice gesture nonetheless. Our bill, again, came to under £C30. After this we headed towards the sound of music, where in typical tourist style, there were people advertising the different bars on the street enticing you in with offers of free shots and 2-for-1 cocktails. We spent the majority of our night in Bubbles Bar, where the drinks were 2-for-1, so 4 cocktails came to £C6 each time. The staff here were really friendly, and the music was just the right side of cheesy. Unfortunately though there werent many people dancing so we headed around a bit, to one place where we got a free shot which after drinking I managed to smash the shot glass, and then to another place where apart from some Greasy Greeks we were the only ones dancing! My dancing shoes started to hurt a bit after this so we jumped in a taxi home, where the taxi driver was telling us about Cyprus. He said that he had lived both in Cyprus and the UK and there was no contest of which one he preferred. He also said that there are 25,000 British people living in Paphos alone, and I also learned that in Cyprus it is compulsory for boys to do 2 years service with the Army. The things you can learn from chatty taxi drivers. Sunday we headed again down to the Port, mainly to get some stamps. We were planning on going on a glass-bottom boat today, but it was so windy and the sea was so rough we decided not to. We spent most of the day lazing about the apartment, going for a swim in the pool and sitting out on the balcony. We had already decided that we wanted to try a traditional Cyprus Meze, so that evening we headed to Pentaras Restaurant in Paphos to try it out. A Meze is a traditional Cypriot feast in which about 20 dishes are brought to your table. All the guide books advised not eating anything for at least three days before, so I was a bit dubious about how much food there would be, but actually it was just the right amount of food. Saying that though, my boyfriend ate far more than I did! At first you are brought bread with a variety of dips such as houmous and mint yoghurt, and then you are brought things like potatoes, olives, meatballs, and then some chicken and pork kebabs, sausages and lamb. The majority of what we had was delicious, and the things I didnt like were due to personal taste rather than them being cooked badly. This was also very good value for money, at £C9 per person. We had dessert here as well, and altogether the bill came to under £C25. There was a lot of traditional Cyprus food on the menu, and this is definitely somewhere wed head back to if we were in the area again. They also gave us a shot here, so it must be a Cyprus thing; my boyfriend was the lucky recipient of yet more Brandy, and I got Banana Liquor! I managed about half of it before we made our exit. Monday we woke up to our last day in Cyprus. We decided today to finally go out on that boat, so we headed down to the harbour. The boat trip was £C8 each, so we scraped the remainder of our coins together to pay for it. It was really sunny again today so the boat was a great way to spend the time. The trip was just an hour, but this was the perfect amount of time I think. My boyfriend especially agreed as he gets a bit seasick The guy who took us out was very friendly and enthusiastic, he told us that he was one of only three sponge-divers in Cyprus, and that the sponges he collects he sells all over the world, even to Harrods in the UK. He said that the reason there were only 3 people trained to do this was because they are so deep underwater. He also was telling us about how he was one of only 9 seaweed-divers in Cyprus. The reason this is so dangerous is because you have to use plastic explosives, and there are these fish that swim near the seaweed that are 25 times more deadly than Cobras! After we were back on shore we got some lunch from one of the many restaurants along the sea front. I went for an English jacket potato, but my boyfriend got more into the spirit of things and had a lamb kleftiko. The food here was especially cheap as it was off the lunch-menu, and came to under £C10 altogether. My jacket potato was pretty standard, but my boyfriends lamb was delicious and tender. We decided to spend the rest of our afternoon playing mini golf. When we had gone to the beach and paid for our sun-loungers we were given a leaflet about a mini-golf course near the Water Park. This was about £C5 each, and run by a really friendly old man. The course was 18 holes long, and of course I won, even getting a hole in one on one occasion! The only problem with this is that there wasnt much shade round the course. After this we headed back to the apartment, had a last swim in the pool, packed our stuff up and drove over to the airport. We were able to keep the hire car and leave it at the airport for the company to pick up, so that was very handy. We had no problems with our flights, and were back in the UK a few hours later. The flight took just over 4 hours all in all, before I left I didnt realise how far away Cyprus is, but its not technically in Europe, but is classed as the Middle East. From some parts of Cyprus you can get a ferry over to Lebanon. We had a fantastic time in Cyprus, and would definitely visit it again. Every single person we met, whether English or Cypriot, were really friendly, and although a lot of the areas we visited were very touristy there was a lot of tradition around us. Also, it wouldnt have taken much to travel a bit further to see some real Cypriot history and culture. This is definitely a place for people with young families, old families, or just a group of friends. There is so much to do and see, and I would definitely recommend you going sooner rather than later before the place becomes strictly tourists only.
I added The Girl in Times Square by Paullina Simons to my Amazon wishlist after reading a review of it. Despite my English Degree I am, and probably always will be, still a fan of trashy chick-lit, so I always have at least one eye out for novels that sound easy-to-read, but still maybe have that little something that makes them stand out from what we could very easily describe as a genre that is mainly full of very similar tales of little substance. The Girl in Times Square sounded like it took a different approach to the genre. Simons novel centres around Lily Quinn, a normal college student who has just been broken up with. The start of the novel makes you wonder whether it will take any course other than the regular chick-lit style one of boy meets girl, boy and girl find problems, boy and girl overcome problems; but what Simons has done is to through some unusual situations into the mix that not only tug at your heartstrings and make you feel for Lily, it means that the budding romance isnt necessarily the most important aspect of the story, and this is what, for me, really made the novel shine. Relatively early on in the novel when a few major things happen to Lily that affect her story for the rest of the duration of our time with her. Her roommate, Amy, goes missing, Lily comes into some money and then she becomes ill. This first event means that a whole new plot level of crime, mystery and drama begins to unfold (which, naturally with this type of novel, is where our hero, Spencer, is introduced to us), and the last event means we see a much more vulnerable side to our heroine than we are usually privy to in other novels. As the disappearance of her roommate becomes a much more complicated affair then Lily first anticipated, her illness becomes worse, and Lily soon realises that everything in her life is much more intertwined than she could ever have imagined. Personally, I felt that there were some moments in the novel where it got a bit too caught up in itself. As the mystery of Amys disappearance deepens, the plot and backstory to her life becomes evermore complicated and twisted. We learn about her life many years ago and the people she was friends with, and hear about some pretty uncomfortable scenes after Spencer goes to question one guy, who now seems to have been sectioned and living with monks or something like that As the novel begins to reach a conclusion, some of the ties just seemed a bit out of my grasp; I could see where Simons was going, but it just began to seem just too unbelievable, the way the characters were connected just became too much for me. However, in saying that, I still read the whole book in a matter of days, and considering that its 672 pages long I feel this shows how gripping the novel was as a whole. Even when there were moments that I felt were unbelievable or perhaps not in keeping with the pace of the story, I was still unable to put it down and would find myself flicking through pages at every opportunity. I would recommend this novel definitely, but only as an easy reading piece of fluff. The ending admittedly feels a bit rushed, as though Simons suddenly realised her book was reaching epic proportions and wanted to tie everything together neatly. But still, I enjoyed reading it and would probably even read it again at some point; it would make quite satisfactory holiday reading for example. I bought my copy on amazon, where you can now buy it for £5.29 (works out as less than 1p a page!). As ever, you can find it cheaper on amazon marketplace.
I originally joined this site when it went under the name channel.com, and I found it after following a link from one of those ipod referral sites that I joined ages ago. Im not sure exactly when Channel.com changed its name to musicandfilm.co.uk, and I dont really know why. I guess its a more obvious name and is easier to search for. When I got to the site I was offered four deals to entice me to join. These offers are pretty good, things like 2 DVDs for £8+£2 p+p; 4 DVDs for £20 with free p+p or 5 CDs for £10+£2 p+p. This, combined with the prospect of a free ipod was definitely enough for me, so I joined up straightaway, opting for the 2 DVDs for £8+£2 p+p. Once I had joined and given all my details it didn't take long for my DVDs to arrive, and I have had no problems with them, they were both obviously brand new and work fine on my DVD player. Musicandfilm.co.uk differs from other sites such as Amazon because it works on a loyalty scheme, i.e. you have to buy a certain amount of items over a certain period of time. At first I was fine with this, I got sent a catalogue about once every three months, which I would flick through, find something I wanted and send it off. Of course, there are more items on the website that arent listed in the magazine. The DVDs would usually arrive promptly, and in perfect working order. You can return an item if you change your mind as long as it's within 30 days and is unopened, and they will refund your money as well as postage. The terms and conditions of the website are pretty plentiful. When you join, you agree to buy 6 items from them over the period of a year. Although you might at first think against this, seriously, who doesn't buy a combination of at least 6 DVDs, CDs or Computer Games over a year? You have to buy one of these 6 items at least every 3 months. If you do not buy an item then they will send you an item instead that they think you will like based on your previous choices. After you have bought your six items you get free postage and packing on all orders, and once you have bought 12 items you get £1 off all items. To keep this benefit all you need to do is buy 3 items a year. That works out at one every 4 months, which to be honest isnt all that much. Postage and packing is quite reasonable it is just £1 for 1 item, and £2 for multiple items ordered at the same time. Of course, once you've bought 6 items, postage is free. If you don't fulfill these obligations then you will be liable to pay a £25 fee. I always felt that I could trust musicandfilm with not only my items but also my credit card details and the website is easy to manoeuvre around; the search facilities are good and items are easy to find. After a while, however, I began to get frustrated with musicandfilm.co.uk. I often searched the website for CDs I was interested in and found they were not on there, there didnt seem to be a great selection for CDs that were outside of the current chart. When it came to DVDs I did find that there was a greater amount of choice, but I wouldnt say that this would be the website to go to if you were looking for anything rare or a bit off-the-wall. My greatest problem with the website was that the prices just do not compare to other online shopping sites. Websites like amazons and HMV are so competitively priced now that when another website isnt, it really shows up. Id often search for an item over all three websites, and find it at its most expensive on musicandfilm. Although its true that the postage and packing is relatively cheap, when you consider that HMV offers free postage on everything, and Amazon has free postage when you order something over £15 then suddenly it doesnt seem like such a great offer. Eventually one day I had just simply had enough of the website. I had a couple of times bought DVDs that I didnt really want, simply to keep up with my obligations. The DVD that they would choose for me based on your tastes would always be an expensive new release one, often that I wasnt interested in anyway. At this point I had been a member for over a year, and had fulfilled my contractual obligations of buying 6 items. Therefore, I was free to walk away from the website with no looking back. Overall, it wasnt the contractual ties that I had a problem with on this website, but the prices. A couple of times I bought something knowing full well that I could find it cheaper elsewhere, but at the same time was tied into buying it. I dont think that I would join musicandfilm again, even if they did decrease their prices. Their catalogue simply doesnt compare to the amount of items you can find on Amazon its not as if I have a completely bizarre taste in music, yet often I couldnt find CDs that I wanted. A couple of times I searched for items that I didnt necessarily want to buy, but I felt were popular CDs that just happened to be a few years old. Often, my search would come up blank. Unfortunately I would not recommend musicandfilm.co.uk to others. The initial opening offers are very good and lure people in, but once youre tied into the contract you find that there are not many products, and the ones that are there are far too highly priced.
The American teen romance genre is one that is notoriously popular, and notoriously filled with below-par films. I'm afraid that, for me, The Prince and Me is no exception. The film stars Julia Stiles as Paige Morgan and Luke Mably as Eddie, the Prince of Denmark. As with all of these teenage romance 'comedies', there are a number of obstacles that from the very start you know will hinder the couple during their blossoming romance. In this case, it is that he is a Prince, moved to Wisconsin to firstly meet topless college girls, and secondly because he wants to escape the harassment of the Danish Press. For she, it is that she has her ambitions to become a doctor and 'help' in third-world countries, what a good soul. Having watched a number of her friends get married and give up their dreams to simply become housewives (does that actually happen in this day and age??) she has decided that she will never let a man come in the way of her ambitions. As soon as the pair meet you just know that somewhere along the lines she will BAM! discover that he is a Prince, and then as soon as she overcomes this BAM! will decide that her need to be a doctor is greater than her need for him. It's very formulaic, but then, I always feel that that is half of the point of the whole film; you don't watch them expecting to be shocked at the end. With this genre being so saturated now, films such as this one need something extra to make it stand out from the crowd. In this case, I think what they were trying to do is to present a film that's a little bit older, with people with more realistic issues. To an extent they do manage to portray this; the leading boy is aware that his father is dying and that soon he will have to become King, a position he does not feel emotionally ready for in the slightest. For our heroine, she is faced with the heart-aching dilemma of whether to follow her dreams of the man she loves, or her dreams of becoming a doctor. However, these ideas aren't really followed up in the film, as decisions are came to quickly; there isn't enough character development for us to really understand the choices the two make. While I didn't exactly love the film throughout the time I was watching it, my particular gripe is with the ending. I won't go into too much detail as I wouldn't want to spoil it for you (!) but it is so hastily patched together that as the credits rolled I actually sat up and went "what???!?" Obviously, it's apparent how the film is going to end, but it literally happens within 30 seconds of the finish, and left me sitting there thinking, 'but why didn't you just do that before?' I think the point they are trying to make is that love is all about compromise, but I don't think this really works, as this wasn't really the couple's main stumbling point throughout the film. If Eddie had even once said 'there is no way I want you to become a doctor once you become Queen' then yeah, it would be a bit more of a believable ending. Overall, I wouldn't say that I hated this film, or that it was especially worse than the majority of other films in this genre, it just didn't really have enough substance for me to find it believable. There was hardly any comedy, and I just could not believe in the romance between the two; she goes from hating him to loving him far too soon for me to really care about the couple. The acting though, is quite adequate; I would say that it is the script that needs working on. This film is alright, it just doesn't hold up to some better films from a similar vein. I personally felt that 'The Princess Diaries' which is quite a similar type of film was much better rounded than this one. If you want to watch a simple film that doesn't need a lot of brain cells then this is fine; just don't expect it to be better than anything else out there.
Nando's is a Portuguese themed restaurant chain that specialises in good-quality, well-cooked chicken, and is well known for it's famous Peri-Peri sauce. There are branches all over the UK, and new ones are regularly being opened. Right now there are restaurants due to open in 2 months in Fife, Colliers Wood and Walton-on-Thames, with other branches scheduled to open in 4 months and then 6 months. The one nearest to me is in Maidstone, and is the branch I have visited most often, but I have also eaten in the outlet in Staines and near Elephant and Castle. I have found that in all the different branches, the layout and format is pretty much the same, but then as this is a chain you cannot really expect anything more. On entering the restaurant a sign tells you to wait to be seated. There are usually many tables available, and these are usually quite well spaced out. I have never had to wait for a table, even when one time about eight of us went. I am unsure of whether you are able to book, I never have. After arriving, a server takes you to your table. Currently, Nando's has both a smoking and non-smoking section, although this will have to change soon. Once seated you are presented with menus, though these are usually already on your table. Nando's is a cross between a restaurant with waiter-service, and a fast-food outlet. This cross mainly becomes apparent when it comes to ordering your food. Once you have decided what it is you want, you go up to the counter and place your order, as you would in a restaurant such as McDonalds or Burger King. After you have ordered your food and paid for it you return to your seat, with your drinks. I usually buy a fruit juice when I am here as I don't really like fizzy drinks, and these are about £1.50. Other drinks are much more economical though, as you can refill your glass as many times as you want if you're ordering coke, fanta or the like. On returning to your table you pick up the cutlery you require and any napkins, along with any extra sauce you feel you may want. However, I would advise you to be liberal with the sauce as the chicken is usually pretty spicy already! The décor of Nando's tries to imitate its Portuguese 'roots'. There is Spanish-style music playing, and the furniture is all wooden (although the seats aren't uncomfortable to sit on). There is often a very friendly atmosphere, usually because there are families dining. Nando's is a restaurant that specialises in chicken. Now, although this may sound like quite a boring menu, this is not the case. On the menu are both chicken burgers and chicken wraps, along with wings and the option to order a whole or half chicken. The usual option is to buy one main, such as a burger, and one side. The sides available are chips, rice, coleslaw or corn on the cob. You can also order olives, nuts or pitta bread as a starter, which is brought to you before your main meal. Once you have decided what it is you want to eat, the next decision is how spicy you want it. There are four levels of 'spiciness', which are lemon and herb, medium, hot, or extra hot. Now, this is the point in the meal where you have to use discretion! It is tempting to go all out and plump for the extra hot sauce, but I would highly recommend this. I nearly always go for the lemon and herb, which you would expect to be extremely mild, and still this leaves a very spicy taste in your mouth. This is probably why Nando's have the refill option available on some of their drinks; you would probably over-heat and pass out if you didn't have a drink to gulp down! The Peri-Peri sauces are available in bottles to take to your tables, so if in doubt, go for the mildest and then add the hot sauce yourself. When you are placing your order they will ask you how spicy you want it to be. As I previously mentioned, Nando's is a cross between a restaurant and a fast-food chain, and when it comes to the time taken between ordering and when your food is brought to you, I would say that Nando's lands right in the middle of the two. You, obviously, have to wait longer for your food than you would do in a KFC, but nowhere near as long as you would in the majority of restaurants where you order with a server. I would say that on average you usually receive your food roughly 10 minutes after ordering, which I think is a pretty good amount of time, especially when you consider that you collect your cutlery and fill up your drinks yourself. The food at Nando's is very tasty. I usually go for a burger or a pitta wrap, although I have had a Greek salad there before. The chicken is usually cooked for what seems like the perfect amount of time; it never seems too chewy, and similarly it never seems undercooked. The chips are a little on the bland side, but I usually cover mine in salt anyway. On the occasions that I have ordered a salad, I have found it to be very tasty, with the olives and feta both tasting very fresh. There are also desserts available, but I have never had one so cannot comment. I personally have found the prices at Nando's very reasonable. A main meal and drink usually comes just shy of £10, and for a very filling meal I think this is more than acceptable. OK, so it might not be the healthiest food in the world, but when you're craving some fast food, it is by far healthier than a lot of the competition. In all of the Nando's I have been too, there seems to be a very reasonable amount of wheelchair access, with at least a few tables being situated on ground level. The toilets also generally seem to be in good condition. Nando's is a nice, reasonable, fun and tasty place to eat. On their menus is written 'don't be chicken to get a bit messy, use your hands, it adds to the delicious fun and saves us on washing up.' This is definitely the sentiment here, the staff are very friendly and the atmosphere is loud and friendly. Nando's is a firm favourite with my friends, and me because it is a great place to eat, with reasonably priced food, and is a perfect place for a natter. http://www.nandos.co.uk
I'm one of those girls that always stands in awe looking at make-up counters, buying products on a whim. Usually this results in disappointment, as most make-up is never as good as you expect it to be. However, I am a bonafide Benefit fanatic, I have to try every new product, and, truth be told, I own far too much of the stuff, always willing to try out anything they stick their name to. I love Benefit make-up. I always find it works well, and the packaging is always so pretty it seems to count for extra. Eye Bright itself is a pencil, that looks a lot like a fat eyeliner. The stuff itself is a pink colour, which looks a bit daunting, but isn't as bright as it seems once applied, and blends into your skin easily. The pencil itelf is black, with pink writing. Very cute and pretty. The pencil comes in a box, also black with pink writing. All the Benefit pencil make-up products, such as Mr Frosty and BadGal eyeliner, come in boxes the same size, so all your products can be nicely stored together. It comes with detailed instructions which detail all the ingredients as well as telling you how to apply the product. This is more of a base for make-up rather than a product in its own right. It claims that it can open up your eyes and make you look more awake, and for the most part this is true. Obviously, this isn't a magic formula, and some days the only solution to tired eyes is to get new ones, but Eye Bright is an enormous help. You apply the pencil to the corners of your eyes, and the pink colouring means that it works as both a base for more make up, and as a cover-up, hiding the dark areas. Once applied, simply blending it in with your finger means that it doesn't stand out, but still makes a noticeable difference. It is quick and easy to apply, and I often stick some on first thing in the morning before lectures so it doesn't look quite as much like I just fell out of bed. It has become one of those essential items, as I use it quickly on it's own, and also use it before I go out as part of my coating-it-on routine, it works well blended into Benefit's BadGal eyeliner, and with just a spot of mascara. This effect is very good, as eyebright is slightly more subtle than most eyeliners, and the colour is perfect for blending in with other colours. I often use it with either a darker eyeliner, or with a silver eyeshadow. The only downside with Benefit cosmetics is the price. Boots Online sell it for £13.50, I bought it on holiday in New York, so I think it was slightly cheaper. This goes for all Benefit make-up, it doesn't come cheaply. However, I have always found that you are paying for quality, and I have always found that products work well, look nice, and make you feel like a million dollars. I would without a doubt recommend Benefit products, and the eyebright in particular. The price is going to be off-putting, but I strongly feel that it pays off, as, if nothing else, the products seem to last for a long time so you don't need to keep replenishing your make-up collection. This isn't what I'd describe as in indispensible product, but, I'd say it's a worthy purchase for the price.
Yesteray I received my second cheque in the post from globaltestmarket.com, so I thought now was the perfect oppurtunity to write a review on them. I'm pretty sure that I first heard about the website after reading a glowing review of it on ciao, and, seeing as I was already a member of a couple of paid survey websites, I thought that joing up to another one wouldn't hurt. The website is very simple to use. When you join you are given an account number to log in with and you choose a password. My account number is 7 numbers long, so I'd recommend writing this down otherwise you'll be trawling through emails trying to find your registration one! After joining, you have a number of profile surveys to fill in, so they can learn information about you and know what kind of surveys to send you. I'm not sure that there is a huge amount of point to these, as I still regularly get sent surveys that I do not qualify for, and ones that ask me questions like whether or not I have children. Surely, they would already know this from my profile surveys, but so be it. Once these are all completed you receive 500 points, so it's worth filling tham all in.Like I said, the website is very simple, and there isn't a lot to do on it. When you go to the page that shows your account details, it shows you firstly whether you've completed all your profile settings, and then under that it shows you your recent survey activity. There is also a page that shows you your marketpoints, and there is an option here for you to refer your friends. If you refer someone, you get points for this, but only once they have completed their first survey. I'm not sure how many points you get for this, as your total number of points isn't split up to show whether the points came from referrals or surveys. I would say that generally I get surveys sent to me quite regularly. I do find however that there will be periods of maybe 2 - 3 weeks where I don't get sent anything at all, and then will get 2 or 3 sent to me over the space of 2 days. I suppose that the surveys could be sent more regularly, but it doesn't realy make any odds to me. One thing that does happen sometimes with the surveys though is that you will open it up to find that it has already been completed. I think that because there are so manymembers of globaltestmarket, if you don't fill the survey in on the da the email is sent then it will probably already be full up when you do. Generally, I have found that the average time for the surveys to fill up is about a day. The best thing about globaltestmarket is the points system. Unlike many survey websites you still get credit even if you do not qualify for a survey. This is, I think, an excelltn feature of the website. You only get a small amount of points, either 3 or 5, but they all add up, and it makes filling them in a bit more worthwhile. I have also fuond that the screening questions don't usually last very long, so you don't often feel that you've wasted too much time for only a small amount of points. To qualify for a payment you need to gain 1000 points. This is an America website, so every point counts for 5 cents. Therefore, 1000 points is $50. Depending on the exchange rate, this means that for every 1000 points you get roughly £25. (The cheque I got yesterday was for £25.06, and I'm sure the one I got previous to that was for slightly more. It sayson the cheque that it will not be valid over £30). Although 1000 points does seem quite a lot, they add up quickly, especially as you get cerdit for surveys you don't qualify for. They add up especially quickly for your first payment, as you get 500 points for answering all the profile surveys, leaving you with only 500 points to get from surveys. I'm not sure exactly how long I've been a member for, but it's probably about 15 months ish, and I have had two pay-outs, so I have earnt about £50. Obviously in the grand scheme of things this isn't very much, but for a survey website I'd say this is quite reasonable. I would also say that the timeframe from which you request a payout and actually erceive the cheque is amazingly quick when compared to some other sites. There is no 6 - 8 week waiting period, and seeing as my cheque came from the US, I was pretty surprised when I received mine after requesting it just over a week ago. I don't really have any complaints with globaltestmarket. Obviously, it would be good if the surveys got sent more, but when you're getting paid to pretty much do nothing you can't really complain. I have found that it is one of the most erwarding survey sites out there, and would definitely recommend it.
The first time I went to Hamburger Union was with two girlfriends, after we had seen a glowing review of it in Time Out. Since then I have been back a number of times, introducing different people to it, and this review is based on the last time I went there, which was a couple of days ago, with a male work friend. Hamburger Union is a restaurant with a fast-food edge. The place is layed out over two rooms; the first one being where you order and the second one being where you eat. As you walk in you are faced with a fast-food style counter with a menu written above it. You order your food and pay here, just as you would in any fast-food restaurant, and then are given a card with a number on. Hamburger Union is, obviously, a burger bar, so the menu generally revolves around this. However, there are a couple of vegetarian options available too. I have just looked on the website (www.hamburgerunion.com) and they have a copy of the menu on there: The Union Burger with ketchup, mayo, red onion and lettuce Cheeseburger with ketchup, mayo, red onion and lettuce Monterey Jack Cheeseburger with ketchup, mayo, red onion and lettuce Bacon Cheeseburger with smoked streaky bacon, ketchup, mayo, red onion and lettuce Monterey Jack & Bacon Cheeseburger with smoked streaky bacon, ketchup, mayo, red onion and lettuce Chorizo Sausage with olive oil, piquillo pepper and rocket Barn reared Chicken Sandwich rosemary, lemon and thyme marinade, tomato, lettuce and mayo Fillet Steak grilled to order with English or French mustard or horseradish, tomato and lettuce Vegetarian Citrus Marinated Halloumi chargrilled with red onion, piquillo pepper, beetroot and rocket Field Mushrooms chargrilled field mushrooms, garlic butter, tomato, red onion and lettuce Vegetable Sausage Pattie chargrilled with ketchup, mayo, lettuce, and red onion The menu, I think, borders just on the interesting side of basic, which for a hamburger restaurant is perfect. The prices are also very reasonable, with a meal and a drink usually costing just under or around £10. This time I ordered a cheeseburger, chips, and an orange juice. My friend ordered a chicken sandwich, chips, and a chocolate milkshake. (In regards to alcoholic drinks; there are a number of wines on the menu and a couple of beers) We were given our numbered card, and then we walked into the room next door. This is where you sit to eat. You can sit where you want; there are about 8 tables for 2 down one side of the room, a large table which could probably fit about 16 people in the middle, and a couple tables for 4 with about 4 tables for 2 down the other side. While we were there there were a large group of girls sitting in the middle on the large table, so we chose one of the small tables at the side. I popped down to the toilet (which are a bit on the small side but fine nonetheless), and then a few minutes later our drinks were brought to us. The orange juice is freshly squeezed, and tastes amazing. Really really good. My friend's milkshake was also very tasty. The food arrived shortly after your drinks; it couldn't have been more than 10 minutes since we first sat down. I had already drank half my orange juice, but this was because I was gulping it down! When my six-stomached friend was presented with his food he said "is that all the chips?" However, the food is so filling that you really have to struggle to finish everything. The chips are proper chips cut from potatoes and not frozen, so they taste really fresh. The burgers are thick and tasty, the lettuce is plentiful and crisp, and the bread is soft. I really can't fault the food, everything tastes delicious. By the time we were halfway through our meal we had run out of drinks, and although there is a drinks bar at the end of the room, there are also cups and jugs of water you can help yourself to. We just about managed to eat all our food, leaving only a few chips. The great thing about Hamburger Union is that as you have already paid, you don't get waiters buzzing around you after you've finished waving a bill in your face. Overall, I would definitely recommend Hamburger Union. I personally love the food there, and think it is excellent value for money. Go with a big appetite, and you won't be disappointed! Hamburger Union is now open in a few locations, though the only one I have visited is the one in London, on Garrick Street, near Covent Garden and The Strand.