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The thing to remember about Hertz (and especially when reading DooYoo reviews) is that this company is absolutely HUGE. With almost 30,000 employees and 7,500 rental locations worldwide (3,500 in the USA alone) it is almost inevitable that a company engaged in the complex business of renting hundreds of thousands of different vehicles in hundreds of different countries is going to experience some inconsistencies of service.
Here in the UK, my airline rewarded me for using Hertz for a while, and I found their city centre branch in Glasgow to be staffed by friendly and helpful employees, even if it wasn't in such a great location. The cars were always clean and new and provided exactly as I had booked them.
In the USA, I've used their airport rentals the most, from the huge rental centre at Chicago O'Hare airport to the tiny podium desk at a rural airport in northern Minnesota. At the big airports in the USA, Hertz frequent customers in the Hertz #1 Club get the smoothest service, checking-in on the bus to the rental lot and finding keys ready for them in the car. However #1 customers have often complained about grossly inflated prices for the privilege of these perks. Hertz also charges a frequent flier fee of up to US$2 a day if you want to earn miles or points with your airline's frequent flyer programme, which seems a bit cheeky to me.
We've booked online many times from many different sources. I would advise shopping around, and ask your airline or frequent flyer programme to see if they offer a CDP or PC discount that you can enter on hertz.com (although always try costing out the booking with and without it to check it makes a worthwhile difference). For prepaid holiday rentals in the States, our best deals have been through aggregator sites like Hotwire.com, which gave us the best deal ever with a Ford Mustang convertible for a stonkingly cheap weekly rate. While Hertz was once owned by Ford, they now have a vast fleet with numerous manufacturers' models. Unless you book a vehicle in one of the 'collections' (Fun, Green etc) you can never be certain of the precise vehicle you'll be getting until you show up.
I will probably rent from Hertz again, but as always advise renters to read the small print and shop around. And if an online prepaid rate looks to be to good to be true, always check to see that the excess, insurer, second driver and additional charges are either included or made clear to you. These can come as a surprise when you get to the rental desk!
I have the pleasure of being in love with a Minnesotan. She's the light of my life and my best friend. But her hometown isn't exactly easy to get to. Until a year or two ago, you're only way there was flying with NorthWest Airlines. Now, they've been subsumed into Delta. So for my first Christmas with her folks and extended family, I got to experience various aspects of Delta's service.
Delta is a member of the SkyTeam Alliance, so if you're travelling with them to or from Europe you can expect to see their collaboration with KLM and Air France. We used a KLM Cityhopper flight to feed into Amsterdam Schipol and onto Delta's twice daily service to the ex-NorthWest Airlines hub in Minneapolis-St. Paul. There are additional hubs in Detroit, Salt Lake City and Atlanta (the hometown of Delta).
Our flight was a packed out Airbus A330-200, filled in both Economy and Business with people heading home for Christmas. I generally prefer Airbus aircraft to Boeing, and the on board experience was pretty good. Economy seats were finished in soft blue leather, with reasonable comfort and pitch (although as with all economy class flights, I struggled to get any sleep on the overnight return leg). Depending on the aircraft you get (and you can check this online) you'll get one of several kinds of inflight entertainment. Ours was on-demand film, tv and audio in a seat back screen. The retractable arm-rest controls weren't so great and the navigation wasn't intuitive, but once you got the hang of it the film selection was pretty good.
In-flight catering on long-haul international services includes beer and wine; the wine wasn't great but from Amsterdam the food was very good - one of the best economy class meals I've had in many years. From the USA, however, it was not so great, with an overly cheesy pasta dish and a miserable salad.
All on-board crew were older but evidently more experienced staff. They were courteous if not particularly talkative. No complaints though, as they have a tough job at the best of times.
Transiting at Minneapolis-St. Paul was a breeze, almost as easy as Amsterdam, but their airport was less attractive. The regional commuter service to our rural destination was on board a very small turboprop aircraft (just 30 seats) served by a subsidiary of the former NorthWest Airlines. Even on this short forty-five minute hop, the single cabin crew member provided beverages and a snack.
Crucially, and perhaps not unexpectedly for a multi-leg journey, one checked suitcase did not make it with us. However, and unlike other long haul flights where this has happened to me, it arrived twelve hours later, having been rushed for us. That earned some brownie points.
Right now, we are aware of a number of minor issues as NorthWest and Delta merge their systems. We experienced some difficulties with a NWA ticket not printing correctly, and depending on which website you used to check our itinerary, one of our return legs was showing up as going to Helsinki rather than Glasgow!
In the end, I was impressed. For an American legacy carrier, Delta is working hard to raise the bar and we enjoyed decent economy class service. As long as the minor niggles get sorted out, I look forward to another trip with them again soon.
If you've grown used to the chaos and confusion of British airports (as I unfortunately have) consider treating yourself next time you fly mid or long haul to a connection through Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS).
We recently made a complicated trip from Glasgow to a remote town in northern Minnesota. Only Delta served our ultimate destination, so that limited our flight options to connections with SkyTeam airlines such as KLM and Air France. But that also introduced us to one of the most pleasant long haul connection experiences we've ever had.
KLM and their subsidiary KLM Cityhopper fly into Schiphol from dozens of airports around Europe (and no less than fourteen in the UK alone). Their business is centred around facilitating smooth connections at Schiphol, and boy were we impressed. The single terminal has a number of lettered piers, from which all flights depart (so no troublesome bus or train between terminals). At the end of each pier is a connection enquiries desk, staffed with friendly multilingual staff. If (like us) you're missing a boarding pass for an onward flight, the easy-to-use touch screen machines can find your booking and print it in seconds, and point you in the right direction. No connection should require more than twenty minutes walk.
Between the piers you'll find a great selection of enticing bars, cafés, shops and attractions. Unbelievably, this now includes a full service casino (with smoking room, for long haul travellers who desperately need to ingest nicotine the old fashioned way) and a small satellite of the famous Amsterdam Rijksmuseum. Located near pier E, this modest museum carries a selection of fine paintings, ceramics and works of art from the museum in the city, meaning that even if you are transiting through Amsterdam, you still get a bit of the city's culture.
A surfeit of friendly and helpful staff when we needed them, clear signage and well thought out facilities made our transit a breeze, and KLM's extensive network of flights to UK regional airports meant we were sold on never using Heathrow again!
If you're planning a long haul flight or holiday from the UK, you'd probably think that your journey would automatically include one at the very least a connection through one of our delightfully disorganised and unreliable British airports. The kind that sends you and your bags to different planes, and which is guaranteed to feature some of the most depressing carpet known to man.
But next time you're planning a big trip, consider this: KLM Royal Dutch Airline fly from fourteen UK airports to their international hub at Amsterdam-Schipol, including Birmingham, Cardiff, Hull, Liverpool and Norwich. And if you've ever travelled though Schipol, you'll appreciate just how pleasurable it is to fly through small airports to an efficient and well organised hub, with one manageable terminal and superb facilities.
KLM is probably one of the last true "legacy" airline carriers to serve the UK, and the fact that they serve so many airports, including one near you, means you can be sure of some very easy international travel from your nearest city. Even the regional subsidiary of the airline, KLM Cityhopper (whose small and mid-size jets and turboprop aircraft serve most UK destinations), offer a full service. So you can enjoy complimentary beverages and a snack as you make the short hop over to Amsterdam.
While the budget airlines usually undercut KLM for simple return trips to Amsterdam (tip: KLM still expects you to spend Saturday night away from home for the best fares) that's no bad thing - as the airline's strength is providing hundreds of connections to all six continents from Amsterdam, both on other KLM flights and SkyTeam partners such as Delta.
When Wikipedia hit the world headlines as the newest internet sensation, a traditional conception of knowledge was being challenged. The term 'wiki' entered the internet language as a prefix for something created, updated, edited and moderated by users. And Wikipedia became the first of many.
Wikitravel is, therefore, almost self explanatory. Tagged as 'The Free Travel Guide' it is to guidebooks what Wikipedia is to encyclopaedias, although depending on your opinion of 'wikis' that could mean either a seismic threat or amusing distraction. Wikitravel is an attempt to build a free global travel guide that is always up to date. It uses a Creative Commons license to make its content publicly available, and everything is written by volunteer members. Wikitravel received a Webby Award for Best Travel Website in 2007.
If you're familiar with Wikipedia, you'll have no trouble navigating Wikitravel. The interface is almost identical, and the structure of the website is logically arranged with continents, countries, regions, cities, towns etc. In addition are a number of Travel Topics that cover subjects that aren't limited to a geographic area.
However, Wikitravel's strength (its ground-up user-created content) is obviously also its weakness. While large cities and popular destinations are well covered, you shouldn't be surprised to discover a remoter or small destination to have either a blank or non-existent page. And as with Wikipedia, vandalism is not uncommon, corrected only when another user spots it, and in my experience this can be depressing page attacks or subtle alterations written by homopbic, racist or sexist users.
And while Wikitravel seeks to be the most up to date guide available, some of its information is out of date and hard to verify. You can easily check the history of each page and enter into the discussion about each and every topic, but as with all travel guides, in some cases you won't know the availability of something until you contact the proprietors directly or show up yourself.
Somewhat confusingly, Wikitravel does not see itself as a threat to published guidebooks. There are numerous references on the site to printing off pages to take with you, which I personally would imagine to be less convenient than just buying a professionally edited and produced guidebook. Secondly, Wikitravel also seeks to make its own books. In 2007, Wikitravel's founders created the Wikitravel Press to publish printed travel guides based on the Web site's content. The first print guides were released in 2008. As an occasional contributor and reader of Wikitravel, I'm unsure that I'm happy for my content to be used in a book sold out under the same Creative Commons license that applies to the website.
Regardless of these concerns, if you enjoy travel and are passionate about the places you live in or know well, make a visit to Wikitravel. You can make plans for future trips or help enhance the pages on your home town or region, or even share your top tips and expert knowledge in the travel topics.
It is undeniable that the European air travel market has been revolutionised by the advent of the low cost airlines in the last ten to twenty years. Flying is no longer the exclusive activity of the wealthy; anyone with an internet connection can, with a bit of patience and careful de-selection of 'optional extras', get a single digit air fare from the UK to the sunnier corners of Europe.
But some perks of the old world of air travel remain. Frequent flyers on Ryanair and Easyjet are told that low fares make loyalty points redundant. But virtually every full service airline still maintains a Frequent Flyer Programme (FFP). And if you have any cause to fly long haul on a scheduled airline, you should find out more about these, because they and other associated earning opportunities can reward you with valuable points or 'miles' that can be used to purchase flights, car hire, hotel stays and more.
But which programme to choose? And how to get the best out of it? That's where FlyerTalk, the invaluable internet forum of truly frequent flyers, can help. FlyerTalk is a free to join and easy to use internet discussion board, structured by category (airline, hotel, car hire) and airline into a wealth of informative boards. In each you can enquire or consult handy 'Frequently Asked Question' (FAQ) threads to discover how to maximise your 'earning and burning' potential.
A case in point: a few years ago I moved to Northern Ireland. Frequent trips over to London meant I had a couple of airlines to choose from. But a promotional credit card offer from BMI (formerly British Midland) landed me with 20,000 'destinations' miles to spend with BMI and their Star Alliance partners. FlyerTalk told me about this special offer which gave me a head start to earning miles to redeem for flights, and also how to earn more miles just by flying with BMI or other Star Alliance carriers.
FFPs are complex entities, and it helps to know them inside and out. Certain fares don't earn miles, while others (such as business class) can earn double or even triple miles. And most programmes will allow you to earn two kinds of points: those that can be redeemed for flights, and those that reward frequent patronage with 'status'. Even as a student making occasional trips and annual or twice-annual long haul flights, using the inside information and tips on the friendly FlyerTalk boards, I was able to carefully choose flights that - without costing more than the best fare I could find - soon earned me the 'silver' BMI status to access business lounges and other priority perks.
In addition, many of the detailed queries you would have trouble finding answers to on the airlines' own websites can easily be answered here. The BMI Diamond Club forum, for instance, has well maintained FAQ threads with information on in flight menus, aircraft configurations, lounge availability and extensive discussions about the future of the programme following Lufthansa's acquisition of the majority stake in BMI. The Hertz forum even has a thread detailing what iPod and CD compatibility you can expect in most Hertz vechiles
If you fly with any of the non low cost airlines more than twice a year, or if you make any long haul trip, head to FlyerTalk and see if other flyers can help answer your questions about maximising the perks you could be earning.
Let's deal with the well known motto out of the way first: the Isle of Arran is, indeed, just like Scotland in miniature. The southern half is low lying and more agricultural; the northern half is mountainous and less populated, with majestic hills and valleys all easily accessible to tourists and visitors. And like Scotland, it's simply beautiful.
Arran is not a Hebridean Island, being in the Firth of Clyde. But that location is its greatest asset, since multiple sailings of the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to and from Brodick on the island connect with trains to Glasgow Central station at Ardrossan Harbour. And if you live or are based in Glasgow, you can buy a discounted all inclusive day return ticket from any railway station in the Strathclyde area that includes train and ferry travel to the island, saving money on the total cost of the two bought separately. That's how I've come to know Arran, as an easy day out from Glasgow by train.
The ferry from Ardrossan will bring you to Brodick, a handy base for exploring. Buses on the island are timed around the ferry, and during the summer an additional open top service takes day trippers from the ferry the few miles out of town to Brodick Castle and Gardens (an absolute must see). You can also climb from there to the top of Goat Fell for stunning views across the island and Firth of Clyde. A number of local businesses, including soap, cheese and beer producers are clustered along the road to Brodick Castle, north of Brodick town, for tasteful and affordable souvenirs.
If you're staying a while on Arran, Brodick is also a convenient place to stock up on self catering supplies, with a large Co-Operative supermarket, petrol station, bank, post office and car rental office.
Navigating around the island is easy, with a single road completing a loop around the whole island. From Brodick you can turn north and make an anticlockwise circuit, or turn south and go clockwise. An additional route across the centre of the island allows for a shortcut between Brodick and Blackwaterfoot. Buses are regular, if not that frequent and increasingly expensive for visitors. Cycling is a popular way to see the island, although walking on roads is not particularly advisable since verges are tight and local traffic travels faster than you might expect.
Highlights for me include the partially ruined castle at Lochranza in the north-west of the island, and the secluded council run campsite at Sannox Bay. I'm not a walker or climber, but have heard great things about the numerous well signposted paths and routes across the north of the island. All capabilities are catered for; contact the tourist office in Brodick for suggested itineraries.
One word of warning, however. If you're visiting in the summer be prepared for midges! The shape of the island means you can often lose any breeze to disperse these pesky bugs, and if you're not adequatelty prepared with anti-midge cream, you will be eaten alive in the summer time! Take a tip from the locals, and invest in Avon brand 'Skin So Soft' moisturiser, which seems to be particularly good at keeping Arran midgies off your skin!
Choose a 'Green' compact car next timer you rent from Hertz in the UK and you'll most likely be handed the keys to one of these cars, the Ford Focus 1.8 TDCi. Often overlooked by renters, you can drive a more economical equivalent of a class C compact hatchback for the same, and sometimes less, than the regular daily rate of a class C vehicle.
Hertz chose the Focus Duratorq diesel for it's low CO2 emissions (approx 137g/km) and good fuel consumption (54.2 mpg on a combined cycle). For a car of its size, that's not bad at all, although devoted tree huggers who still need to drive should consider the miserly Ford Focus ECOnetic that squeezes even better fuel consumption out of improved aerodynamics and less weight in the car.
The latest Focus is a smart looker - a 3 and 5 door hatchback and 5 door estate versions (the 4 door saloon isn't sold in the UK). Getting one at a rental counter is also a real treat for North Americans, who have to make do with a mildly restyled version of the first generation Focus. The build quality is generally excellent - on all the versions I've seen the body panels have a consistent fit and everything that opens/closes does so with a reassuringly solid sound.
Inside, materials are of good quality for a family hatchback. Some of the plastics are a bit scratchy looking, but then at this price level that's rarely a surprise. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and compared to some cars in this class, the Focus has a comfortable weightiness to its controls and steering. The standard fit sound system is good, but the ease of use of the controls has been sacrificed to make them look all smart and symmetrical on the dash; I found it hard to find the preset buttons while driving, although would probably learn with time.
I took one on a major road trip - 650 miles by motorway and A-road from Scotland to the Midlands and back. On the twisty bits the Focus is well poised and composed, yet still fun to drive. The diesel has a responsive kick when you need to change down for more speed on the go (excellent for quick overtaking) although 0-60 acceleration is not this car's strong point. Over that trip I managed a solid average of 45mpg according to the in-car computer, and I reckon you could better that if you go easy with the right foot.
A smart family choice or compact business car, but to get the advantage of the fuel consumption you'll need to spend most of your time on A-Roads and motorways.
As I've stated in other vehicle reviews, I'm not a car owner: I rent when I need a vehicle and therefore have the advantage of driving whatever car I need for the job in the hand. I got to take a 2008 model Toyota Hilux D4D double cab for a spin earlier this year when I need a truck to shift three people, some spades and a load of horse manure... not your average requirement for a city dweller like me, but the Hilux impressed.
Toyota have been building Hiluxes for decades, and they've brought everything they've learnt in the process to this latest model. Toyota's infamous attention to engineering quality and durability is evident in the number of these trucks in use around the world twenty or thirty years after manufacture.
From the outside the optional four wheel drive gave our truck imposing height and ground clearance. However it's still a compact vehicle, and is very manoeuvrable around town. It's an easy step up into the cab: the front seats are hard wearing and mostly supportive: I always seem to suffer from lower back pain after a long time behind the wheel, so I don't put that down to this vehicle's design. A second row of seats makes the double cab version more flexible than the single cab, although it is only a bench seat with a seat squab that can fold up to provide more internal luggage space. You can get five adults in the cab, but their luggage will have to ride in the back, meaning you need a tonneau or load hood.
The diesel engine is revvy and powerful: you can switch between 4WD and 2WD relatively easily and that allows you to conserve fuel when on the road and maximise traction when off it. After loading the bed with a large quantity of well rotted manure, I inadvertently tried to get us out of a boggy roadside in only 2WD. Switching the 4WD changed everything: the Hilux suggests itself to be a seriously competitive off roader, and a practical farm hand.
Fuel consumption wasn't bad: certainly better than my experience of similar petrol engined vehicles, although don't expect car like economy on long trips: this is a tall and unaerodynamic hulk of a truck, despite the swoopy modern styling.
I don't own a car any more. I used to, when I was about 21 and living in Northern Ireland, where my car was parked on the street. Those three factors contributed to a third-party-only insurance premium that was more than the value of my car.
So I got into the habit of renting whenever I needed a vehicle. Living in the city, it's the absolute way forward for me. Because not only can I chose precisely what size and sort of vehicle I need for whatever journey or task in hand (a van for Ikea, or a efficient diesel for a long trip) I don't have to worry about the menial day to day running costs and practicalities of owning a car.
It also means I get the modest rental counter excitement of wondering what sort of car I'm going to get this time. At Hertz in a large Scottish city this month, I was handed the keys to a brand new gunmetal grey Kia C'eed 1.6 (which rents in their class C, comparable to a Focus or Astra). This was a first time for me, and I was prepared to put my preconceptions of Korean cars asides to give it a punt.
Boy, was I impressed. In the couple of decades since I saw my first Kia on British roads (a thinly veiled reworking of an older generation Mitsubishi) this company has come a long way. The C'eed (and it's three door sporting brother, the Proc'eed) is a compelling alternative to the European and Japanese benchmark family hatchbacks. Built on the same platform (and with many shared components) as the Hyundai i30, the C'eed sells on comfort and reliability (compared to the i30's keen price point). But perhaps most interestingly to a private customer is the standard 7 year warranty this car comes with. That displays real confidence in this car's build quality and design.
Outside: the styling is forgettable but entirely attractive. Access and egress through the four passenger doors is easy, and there's a big boot (and an estate version if you want more). Inside, the seats are supportive and comfortable, front and back. The driver has a sporty position which positive tactile materials throughout the cabin. The audio and ventilation/heating controls were relatively straightforward, and stalk controls are now standardised on the European format (indicator left of the wheel, wipers etc on the right). That reflects the European design team who came up with this car; to complete the picture that this is a serious competitor for European models, it's also built at a brand new environmentally-sensitive factory in Slovakia.
Driving around town (I didn't get a chance to use it for longer jaunts) was a doddle, with precise but light steering and a relatively smooth gearbox. A few weeks later I rented a diesel Ford Focus and found the Kia to be much lighter around town, especially when parking in tight corners.
So, only a brief test drive, but an impressive one. I'm not in the market for a new hatchback, but if I were that seven year warranty and the remarkable build quality would certainly endear me to the Kia C'eed.
Living in a major UK city, it's not unusual to see promotions teams loitering the concourse of our larger rail stations. A team employed by Nivea (or whichever faceless multinational sells Nivea products) was there the other day, handing out 35ml samples of this new product to any interested man (or, perhaps worryingly, woman) who was passing.
So I dived in, grabbed a can and later gave it a test. Straight off the shelf, this is evidently marketed towards men, not just with the overlong name, but also the predictable shiny silver / matt silver packaging. I initially grabbed the can because I thought it was another brand of deodorant I used to use... I forget the name because as a male consumer of bodycare products I just go for the shiny silver packaging.
The deodorant itself, however, is more teenage boy than man. Don't be fooled by the masculine design of the spray, because this is an obnoxiously sweet scent for connoisseurs of that pubescent favourite, Lynx. I used it once and got some seriously negative feedback from my girlfriend. She said it made me smell like some kind of sour candy.
I have no feedback to offer on the product's performance as a deodorant because I only used it once and couldn't bear not to wash it off within a couple of hours. My guess is that regardless of whether it deodorises or not, it will certainly overwhelm any bodily odours just as fast as it overwhelmed my girlfriend's sinuses.
In what must have been a career changing twist of fate for the French actor Mattieu Almaric, 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly' was to have been produced by Universal Pictures in English and to have starred Johnny Depp. But Universal dawdled and pulled out, and Depp's film schedule became occupied with the third 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movie. Depp must be kicking himself.
'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly' (or 'Le Papillon et le Scaphandre' in French) is the filmed adaptation of Jean-Dominique Bauby's novel of the same name. Bauby was healthy, active and vivacious magazine editor who suffered a massive and almost entirely debilitating stroke. He was in a coma for almost three weeks, before awaking to find himself paralysed from head to toe: he had control only of his left eye and eyelid. This film tells us both fragments of his life story before his stroke, but also of the frustration, despair and hope that he encountered as he adapted to life with "locked-in syndrome" (the rare incident of a fully aware mind trapped in a paralysed body). The intensive care he received while hospitalised on the north coast of France lead to him using his one working eyelid and a frequency ordered alphabet to blink, letter by letter, the manuscript of his book.
Julian Schnabel's film is an intricate and poetic masterpiece; his commitment, despite a largely American production crew, to telling the story in its native language is to be admired. But it is his vision and masterful understanding of cinematic vantage points that makes this film so moving and memorable. In the terrifying opening moments, we are Jean-Dominique - blinking and blurring our sight as we are transported into his position, forced to consider what it could be like if we were struck by such a stroke tomorrow.
The film starts and frequently returns to Jean-Dominique's viewpoint. But his internal narrative is complimented by careful presentation of his life from outside his body. There are delightful moments of black humour, proof that the human condition is mightier than the most despairing situations.
This is a deeply respectful, moving and inspiring film. Schnabel was the perfect director to entertain a cinematic envisioning of Jean-Dominique's memories and imagination. And his film inspires audiences to value every moment and every human relationship.
The DVD offers the original French audio with subtitles, as well as English language dubbing for the hard of hearing. There are some extras, namely the theatrical trailer and photographs, but the "behind the scenes" documentary is short and only contributes a little extra to our understanding of the picture. I'd probably recommend skipping it entirely: the movie itself is as perfect as I'd want this story to be.
* Actors: Mathieu Amalric, Lopez Garmendia, Emma De Caunes, Jean-Philippe Watkins, Nicolas Le Riche
* Directors: Julian Schnabel
* Format: PAL
* Language French
* Region: Region 2
* Number of discs: 1
* Classification: 12
* Studio: Pathe Distribution
* DVD Release Date: 9 Jun 2008
* Run Time: 112 minutes
At age 16, I was treated to a life changing birthday present: a second hand Olympus OM-10 camera. Ten years on, this fine SLR (single lens reflex) 35mm format camera is still with me, and I expect it to outlast every other film or digital camera than I will ever own.
The OM system was developed by Olympus in the seventies, and although production of the cameras, lenses and various compatible accessories was wound up by the time I got my OM-10, you can still find plenty of good condition examples online and in specialist camera shops. The OM series of camera bodies are numbered by professional grade and order of release: single digit models (OM-1, OM-2 etc) are professional, double digit models (OM-10, OM-20 etc) are consumer grade.
That said, the OM-10 is perhaps one of the best ways for a young photographer to get into the art of making and taking fine photographs. Apart from the automatic exposure, everything is manual (although if you want to set your own exposure using the viewfinder light meter, the optional manual adaptor is very useful: look for it as part of a camera package, because its more expensive to buy separately).
My camera came with a good quality Zuiko lens, but the popularity of the OM system means that there are still plenty of compatible lenses available. More obscure ones are more expensive.
Using the camera on a day to day basis, I simply love the feel and sound of the body. The camera's winding action is robust and satisfying, and 100% reliable (provided you keep it in good shape and watch out for dusty, dirty or sandy conditions). The light meter is a reliable tool if you're still learning how to manually expose your pictures, and with the manual adaptor the camera is flexible and offers great resolution.
Not being a pro photographer, wither in digital or 35mm formats, the OM-10 has been a great toy that produces consistently good results. There's no auto-focus, and later OM models were successively better featured and better designed. But, if like me when I was 16, you yearn to have a bit more control over your pictures than you do with a modern automatic or digital camera, the OM-10 is an affordable and enjoyable way into the world of amateur photography.
(check before purchase, some of these I've transcribed without appreciating their meaning!)
Lens mount: Olympus OM Mount.
Shutter: Electronically controlled cloth focal plane shutter. Manual exposure: B, 1 - 1/1,000 sec. with adapter.
Synchronization: X type contact, hot shoe.
Automatic exposure control: Aperture preferred automatic exposure control electronic shutter type. TTL Direct Light Measuring System, center-weighted average light measurement.
Measuring range: ASA 100 from F1.2, about 60 seconds to F16, 1/1,000 second.
Programmed Automatic Exposure: TTL direct, measuring range : approximate. -5 EV ~ 18 EV , 50mm F 1.4
Manual exposure: With a Manual Adapter
Self timer: 15sec. delay
Metering system: Olympus direct metering in body. Full aperture center weighted metering.
Measuring range: EV1.5 - EV17 (ASA 100 with F 1.2 standard lens).
Film speed Setting: ASA 12 - 3200
Power source: Two 1.5V silver oxide batteries
Viewfinder: Pentaprism type finder.
Finder view-field: 93% of picture field.
Reflex mirror: Quick return without lockup
Manual film advance: Lever with 130° angle for one long or several short strokes, pre-advance angle 30°
Exposure counter: Progressive type with automatic reset.
Film rewind: Rewind crank
Weight: 430g, body alone
Dimensions: 136 x 84 x 50mm
If only I could take credit for some of our best home interior features. Unfortunately all the best bits were hand-me-downs or recommended to us by friends. And in the case of this simple, elegant floor lamp, I have the Guardian Saturday magazine to thank. In a feature entitled "Austerity Chic" in January 2009, this lamp was arranged with a number of other affordable but expensive looking furnishings and textiles. And it's certainly true that it could easily be confused for a more expensive designer brand.
Not entirely flatpack, the lamp comes in a box about 40cm wide, deep and tall. the faux suede lampshade on ours is black, but brown and blue are also available. Assembly is reasonably easy, the instructions are not as clear as Ikea for instance, but if you follow them carefully and don't twist the flex while screwing the frame together you'll have it up in no time.
The base is well weighted and along with the lamp frame itself is finished in a shiny metallic chrome. The lamp has a good length of cord and a foot operated power switch. The frame makes an elegant curve from vertical to horizontal and back down to vertical into the lampshade. It's very simply, very classy and if you choose black should last countless changes of home décor.
One 100 watt ES bulb does the trick, but we prefer the brighter light of an energy saver. Tucked into a corner over my partner's favourite reading chair, this is definitely one of the bargain lighting purchases of our home.
Retails at £39.99; seen briefly (and in selected colours) during the last January sale for £19.98. Catalogue numbers 432/3680 (black) and 432/3611 (brown).
If you know Ikea, you'll know Billy, the Swedish store's most successful and versatile bookshelf system. Billy comes in dozens of possible configurations, with different colours, heights and widths for rooms of every shape and size. However, if you want something a little different, and dare I say it, something a little more aesthetically pleasing for keeping books and files in, why not consider Ikea's lesser known range of storage units called Expedit?
Expedit is, admittedly, less versatile than Billy. Units come in just three melamine finishes: black-brown, birch and plain white, and there are fewer basic shapes and sizes. But what's clever about Expedit is its simple design principle: a bookcase formed with a thicker outer frame (approx 5cm thick) and thinner inner shelves and dividers (approx 1.5cm thick) that form square storage spaces approximately 33cm wide and tall.
Expedit come in the following sizes:
- Two squares wide by two squares tall (approx £39, Width: 79 cm, Depth: 39 cm, Height: 79 cm, Max load/shelf: 13 kg)
- Five squares by one square (approx £39, Width: 44 cm, Depth: 39 cm, Height: 185 cm, Max load/shelf: 13 kg)
- Four squares by two (approx £29, Width: 79 cm, Depth: 39 cm, Height: 149 cm, Max load/shelf: 13 kg)
- Four squares by four (approx £69, Width: 149 cm, Depth: 39 cm, Height: 149 cm, Max load/shelf: 13 kg)
- Five squares by five (approx £109, Width: 185 cm, Depth: 39 cm, Height: 185 cm, Max load/shelf: 13 kg).
While two Expedit shelves can't be attached into one, if you have a tall Victorian room like us, you can stack the larger square units on top of each other. Wall fixings are provided and strongly recommended for the larger shelves; they also allow the narrow shelves to be placed vertically up against the wall. Various Ikea legs are also available, and our most successful purchase was a five squares wide by one square tall unit which we mounted on legs and use as a long, low focus bookcase.
The clever squares design ties different units in the same room together, and also provides a clever way of organising your disparate books, files, magazine racks or objects. A variety of doors and snug fitted storage boxes are also available in store, so that you can fill your Expedit with a mix of books, files, toys, materials etc and it all looks neat and tidy.
My description may not have done Expedit justice, so check out www.ikea.co.uk/expedit for dimensions, images and prices. Look out for specially designed accessories in the Market Place zone of the store; various boxes and doors can easily be added to personalise you shelves. All Expedit shelves are flat pack, and the solid chipboard frames aren't light. Two people are needed to lift them from the warehouse to your trolley and car; the longest dimension of the assembled shelf will give you an idea of whether you can fit them in your vehicle. Assembly is easy enough, but a soft mallet (and maybe a thick towel or cushion) will help you gently tap the larger pieces together.