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kate2009

kate2009
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Member since: 05.06.2009

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      02.10.2009 13:53
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      Buy it and try it for yourself

      I was passed a copy of this book by my mother recently. My mother is usually a very sceptical person and would not normally be seen dead reading a book like this, assuming it to be another one of those 'long winded' self-help books.

      However, my mother had been staying with a male friend who had inspired her to read it and take the book's message seriously. Let me explain. This friend has been an actor and producer for 30 years. Unfortunately, last year he was accused by another playwright of plagiarising some work. The case went to court and my mother's friend was found not guilty. However, he had to pay £37,000 in legal fees. Work had dried up, he was bankrupt and was living in a small flat.

      He then bought the book 'The Secret' and adopted the message and the principles of the book. One year later, this man is now living in an 8 bedroomed appartment, has £50,000 profit in his account, and was unexpectedly offered the directors job against all odds for a top London theatre production. He has also had a full year of work - which as an actor has never happened in 30 years.

      All of this could of course be coincidence, but this man is absolutely convinced that his fortunes and life improved considerably since wholeheartedly adopting the principles and beliefs in the book. My mother said that when she was there her friend was opening his mail, and two letters contained royalty cheques for large sums of money, whilst the others were more offers of work. He fully recommended this book to my mother, who then passed it to me.

      ***What is the book about?***

      The book is about 'a secret,' which will supposedly change your life for the better and help you to 'know how you can have, be, or do anything you want.'

      The author Rhonda Byrne uses her own life experience to demonstrate how she pulled her self out of turmoil and despair to one of positivity and fortune. This all came about after her daughter passed her a hundred year old book which referred to this 'secret,' which in turn inspired Rhonda to trace this back through history, including the links with famous scholars, scientists and philosophers. Rhonda then used the principles of the secret to produce a film about it, despite having no idea how to fund or go about this. Rhonda claims that she had utter faith that this would happen due to knowing the secret and so it did. Rhonda claims that since the film and book was produced, people wrote to her to confirm that applying the secret had worked for them, produced miracles and changed some people's lives for the better.

      ***So what is this secret?***

      The secret outlined in this book is very simple.

      It is the 'law of attraction' and positive thought.

      The book works on the principle that everything that you are experiencing in your life is attracted by you. In other words, whatever is going on in your mind you are attracting to you. The book suggests that thoughts and images in your mind can become concrete and transfer into a reality.

      'Every thought of yours is a real thing - a force' - Prentice Mulford (1834-1891)

      Rhonda claims that in researching 'the secret', she has found that famous poets, musicians, artists and scientists have used the secret and in some way referred to this in their works. For instance, Shakespeare, Browning, Leonardo da Vinci, Pythagoras and Sir Issac Newton. Rhonda also claims that evidence of it can be found within all of the major religions.

      Rhonda claims that we are responsible for the law of attraction , that we call it into action, and that we are responsible for this via our thoughts and feelings. She likens it to a magnet, whereby you attract what you think.

      'Most people are thinking about what they don't want, and they are wondering why this shows up again and again.'

      This is not always easy to get your head around. Rhonda gives a number of examples:

      Your thought: 'I don't want a bad haircut'
      Message you send out: 'I want a bad haircut.'

      Your thought: 'I can't handle all this work'
      Message you send out: 'I want more work than I can handle'

      Much of the book dedicates itself to talking about what the secret is about, whilst the rest focuses on how a person can change their though process and bring about the changes in their life as a result.

      This is not as simple as it sounds. It's all very well thinking positive thoughts for a short time, but to attract what you actually want, Rhonda states that a person needs to be specific about what it is, have complete faith it will happen, and believe they already have it. Any doubt at all will hinder the process.

      The book recommends a number of tips and tools throught - such as making lists of what you want, providing gratitude daily for what you have, and visualising change.

      ***Positives?***

      The book is an inspiring read and is thought provoking.

      It certainly can't hurt to train yourself to think more positively about life - we have all heard stories about people who have improved their health and achieved more in life by being positive and believing only the best can happen.

      This book takes that concept one step further by implying that you can actually manipulate the world around you and turn thoughts into actions and 'things.'

      I have heard personally from people who have used this book to improve things in their own lives and believe that it works for them.

      ***Flaws***

      This book will probably draw people into two seperate camps - the 'believers' and the 'non-believers.'

      * The book is written in a simple manner and is easy to understand. It's not all that long and you could get through it in a few hours. However, it can be repetative in stages, often repeating the same message over and over again. However, I believe that this is done to reinforce the message to the reader which, if you are going to take it seriously, is probably necessary. This is because putting the law of attraction into practice and changing your thought process, is not as easy as it sounds. Many of us are very negative and don't even realise it. The book is aiming to give you the tools to 'retrain' your thoughts and resulting feelings. No easy feat.

      *There is little factual evidence to back up Rhonda's claims. To me, it seemed as though Rhonda quoted a great deal of famous names as adopting the principles of the law of attraction. However, we are rarely informed about the evidence behind this and at times it feels like she is expecting the reader just to believe what she is saying. In essence - why should we? Where is the evidence? The book also has an absence of detailed case studies, which possibly could have inspired the reader more. However, I am aware that there is a website on the Secret, where people have posted their stories about how the law of attraction has worked for them.

      * There are some statements in the book, that without evidence to support them , can be somewhat controversial. This includes the reference to the fact that people who have been caught up in accidents or natural disasters, have been in that situation because their thought processes have drawn them to such scenarios. Some readers may find this frustrating.

      ***Overall opinion***

      I found the concept of the book to be a simple one, and I personally do believe that there is some truth in the law of attraction. Whether this is a religious concept (as in the bible - 'Ask and you will receive') or a law of the universe I am unsure about.

      Some people will say that the only benefits of positive thinking are psychological ones. This is fair enough, but it is harder to explain how some people can materialise cheques for exact amounts, get parking spaces in the exact same places each time by thinking about it, or reverse serious illnesses.

      I have personally yet to try out the techniques in this book. If I feel they work I will update this review at a later date. However, the concept is not new to me, and I have used complete belief and faith about smaller things in the past which against all odds, have actually happened. But I think a person needs to get to a place where they have absolutely no doubt to make this happen - which is really difficult. This may explain why it is harder to believe that bigger things can happen - could you really believe that you can move a mountain? I doubt many people could!

      The actual book itself, I feel could have been written in a better way. Although I have quite liberal views and believe in the power of the mind and the law of attraction to an extent - many people will not. This book does not provide enough evidence or reference to research and will therefore not convince everyone. It is also quite 'americanized' in style - by that I mean it can sometimes come accross as a bit patronising and dramatic to the more sceptical British reader!

      In a nutshell - I do recommend this book because I personally believe there is some truth in the message, and I also know people who have made positive changes in their lives by adopting the message and techniques.

      However, at £12.99 I think it should be sold for half that price! Buy a second hand copy on e-bay or amazon!

      Visit www.thesecret.tv for more information on the film or real life success stories.

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        12.09.2009 17:36
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        An essential profession but things need to change in certain areas

        I wanted to write a review about social work in general, however due to the subject matter of this review being linked to 'Children's social services, this review will discuss a bit about social work in general, and a bit about Children's services.

        ****Who would be a social worker?****

        "Who in their right mind would actually chose to be a social worker in this day and age", I hear you ask?

        Well believe it or not, most people who chose to train as social workers tend to be reasonably nice individuals, with humanistic principles. Ask any budding social worker why they got into the profession, and they will tell you the same thing: 'I want a job which I can use my skills to help other people.' Sounds fair enough, doesn't it?

        However, nowaday's if you gave this answer at an interview to get onto a social work degree course, you would not even be allowed to park your vehicle in the university car park.

        To me, whether wanting to help people or not is the correct answer to give, in essence this is the reason why most people want to become a social worker. However, I think that this reflects the fact that lecturers and trainers are cautiously ensuring that social workers today need to brace themselves for the fact that the job is going to be no minor feat.

        It is no use allowing social workers to think that they will be leaving university, and entering a magical world whereby everyone will want help and be eternally grateful for the support that you, as a nice person will provide. This is not reality.

        ***So what exactly is it that social workers do?***


        Maybe the question should be reversed to read ' what is it that social worker's don't do? I have at times struggled to pinpoint the core role of being a social worker. Social workers often do a bit of everything. They assist people by helping them cope with issues in their everyday lives, deal with their relationships, and solve personal and family problems. There are different types of social workers who work within different government legislation and practice frameworks. For instance there are many role differences between social workers who work primarily with children and their families, and social workers who work with adults. Some social workers help clients who live with a disability or a life-threatening disease or a social problem, such as inadequate housing, unemployment, or substance abuse. Some workers help families who face domestic conflicts, such as domestic violence, which can have a severe impact on families and the emotional wellbeing of children. Other social workers conduct research, advocate for improved services, engage in systems design or are involved in planning or policy development. Many social workers eventually specialise and over time work within a specific area of interest.

        Child, family, and school social workers provide social services and assistance to improve the social and psychological functioning of children and their families and to maximize the well-being of families and the academic functioning of children. They may assist single parents, arrange adoptions, or help find foster homes for neglected, abandoned, or abused children (see careers.org for more info).

        ***What are the problems associated with being a social worker?***

        1. Social work has historically found it difficult to establish itself as a credible profession. I think that this in part links to what I was saying before about it being difficult to define the core role of a social worker. For instance, a doctor or a nurse has a clear role to diagnose and assist with medical treatment. An occupational therapist has a clear role to ensure that a person's environment or home can meet their daily living needs. A teacher provides education and a psychologist looks at a person's state of mind and IQ. But a social worker's main role usually involves assessing and planning to meet a person's social needs which can be various. It involves co-ordinating and ensuring that everything runs smoothly. A social worker may be run of their feet with work but still not get the acknowledgement that some of the other involved professionals may get from their client. In fact, if something does go wrong, it is usually the social worker who has the finger pointed at them. This can often be disheartening.

        Efforts have been made to 'professionalise' the social work profession. New social workers now have to have a degree rather than a diploma if they wish to practice. In addition all social workers have to register with the General Social Care Council (GSCC) and reguarly submit evidence of up to date training, practice and registration. In my opinion these steps have mainly been taken to improve the image of social workers to the public.

        2. Lack of appreciation. This links to my first point. Whilst This can happen to some degree in all professions, social work can often be a thankless task. As a GP, a teacher or a nurse, you may be used to people saying thank you. As a social worker, all the valuable and essential hard work you put in often goes unthanked and unnoticed.

        3. Most social workers are bound to the government and the organisations that they work for. This means an enormous amount of paperwork, bureaucratic structures which mean more time is spent in the office than with clients, and resource limitations which mean that not everyone will be eligable to receive services, support or resources. Unfortunately, most people and clients do not consider this and can become agitated that they do not always have as much contact with their social worker as they would like, or that they have not been provided with services that they feel they are entitled to. Most social workers WANT to spend more time doing direct work with families, or provide them with more services, but this is not always possible.

        4. High caseloads. This relates to the above. Social workers are not afraid of hard work. However it is not possible to deliver a good service to every family if you need to be in two places at once. This links to a wider issue with funding and structures within the social work system. Unfortunately, having such high caseloads also means that mistakes are more likely to be made. This has been particuarly evident within cases reported in the media in relation to Children's Services recently.

        5. Risk to personal safety. In no other profession would you find yourself so routinely being put in situations of such personal risk. Social workers frequently have to interact with clients on a crisis basis without security staff or basic safety precautions. In theory, social workers should not go out alone if there is a known risk. However, what happens if a situation turns nasty unexpectedly? I have heard of situations whereby a social worker has been locked in a cupboard. I myself have had my life threatened and had to have a panic alarm installed in my home. Yet still I was expected to case work that particular case despite the individual who threatened me living near my home until I made it clear I was not prepared to put other people in my family at risk too. By putting workers at risk like this it also sends a message out that social workers are less worthy than other professions and it makes them feel unappreciated.

        6. Burn Out. This can occur in all social work professions. However, it is particuarly the case in Children's Services. Where child protection is concerned, high caseloads are combined with court deadlines, report deadlines and required statutory visits. When crisis hits a family, planned work goes out of the window, leading to a back log of work. When this happens, unless you have very good management to support you, which is not always the case, you end up taking work home to complete. It is not uncommon for many social workers to work long hours dealing with crisis, then spend a large portion of their personal home time, completing work tasks. This seems to be an expectation in many Children's Team. After all, it takes guts to tell a court that you have not completed a report on time even if you have a good excuse! I suspect that this is one of the reasons why Children's services struggle to recruit and most importantly, retain staff.

        7. Poor image. Social workers make mistakes, of course they do. However, whenever I hear of a social worker being singled out and subjected to severe critisicm within the media I always feel disapointed. Social workers do not work in isolation - they are not allowed to. They
        co-ordinate a care team of other professionals who are all supposed to be working together with the client and families. For instance - take the absolutely tragic case of Baby P.

        ***Baby P***

        Baby P lived a horrible existence and died a shockingly painful death. I don't doubt that the social worker made mistakes. She should have paid closer attention during her home visit to ensure that the baby was being looked after. She probably should have been a little suspicious about a baby covered in chocolate considering the history of the case and in hindsight should have asked the mother to wipe the baby's face.

        However, the social worker was part of a care team of professionals who were all responsible for safeguarding Baby P. The police had just dropped charges against the mother relating to possible abuse of Baby P. A peadiatric consultant had seen Baby P and not noticed that the baby had significant injuries. Where was the health visitor in all of this mess? All children under 5, particuarly those on a child protection register would have a health visitor who should undertake regular home visits.

        The 'Care Team' and not the simply the social worker had obviously agreed that it was in their opinion, safe for the child to remain at home with the mother. A social worker never works in isolation - Care Teams of professionals work together to make decisions, particuarly in Children's Services where children may be at risk.

        I suspect that what has happened in this case, is that the social worker has believed that the child was not at significant risk at the time of her home visit. Mother had been cleared of charges by police, the medical consultant had not picked up on any serious injuries. The social worker did not realise that mother was in a relationship with the man who would later kill Baby P. Should the social worker have been more vigilant? Yes I believe she should have been. However, I also understand that considering all of the above factors, combined with the fact that she was probably meant to be in another 3 places at the time of the home visit, meant that errors occured.

        And this is one of the problems of social work - trying to prioritise and remain vigilant when you have such a high caseload that you don't have time. In this case, the signs were not obvious to the social worker and so she missed them, probably because she didn't have time to investigate the situation further.

        The other issue is that social workers are trained to look at families holistically, and to promote strength based approaches. What does this actually mean? It means that social workers look deeper than at the problem. They look at why the problem may have occured - social functioning, family dynamics, family background, parenting skills. Social workers look to see how they can work preventatively with families to promote longer term change. A good social worker will try to help a client (such as a parent) see what their strengths are as well as their weaknesses. Their role is to try and empower the client to do things for themself and improve their own life. The goverment tells social workers that the best outcome for a child occurs if social workers can work in partnership with parents, rather than just telling them what to do.

        This can sometimes conflict with child protection procedures and cause an internal struggle for social workers. It can be difficult to work fully in partnership with parents, when you clearly have to prioritise the child and often make decisions which the parents do not agree with. It can be difficult to get the balance right between taking control and working in partnership. This can lead to mistakes being made.

        ***Is social work all bad??***

        No of course not, there are many different areas of social work, and all are different. Many social workers love their job and find it rewarding.

        But there are fundamental problems with some areas of social work, particuarly Children's Services. Having worked for 4 years with Children in Need and within a Child Protection Team, I can honestly say that there were many times where I loved my job and felt like I helped some families to make a difference to their lives. However, these tended to be families who wanted to make changes and eventually realised that social services were here to help them and not hinder them. There were also times when difficult decisions had to be made.

        For me personally, I decided to change to another area of social work mainly because of the impact the work was having on my personal life. Working all week sometimes day and night just to keep up began to grind on me, particuarly because it was often such a thankless task.

        ***What needs to happen??***

        I would work again in Children's Services but I would probably not see it as a long term career move unless substantial changes were made. I, like many social workers, would probably burn out after a few years.

        There are no easy solutions, and I am sceptical that such changes will happen. But in an ideal world the following should be considered:

        * Smaller protected caseloads - to allow reasonable time for more direct work and meaningful home visits.

        *More protection for social workers professionally. Better standards of management and supervision, which happens reguarly as it is supposed to. It is not uncommon for some social workers to go months without supervision.

        * Government work with the media to promote the good work that social work does. Why do we only hear about things that have gone wrong?

        *Better safety measures for social workers - perhaps all visits should be in two's? Unless the visit is office based. This may have resource implications but so be it.

        * Better Pay - social workers should be paid more, in my opinion, for the huge amount of challenging and demanding workloads they have to deal with.

        * Better, realistic training relevant for the job. In depth and up to date training should be given around how to work effectively with families and how to balance partnership versus managing risk. Some authorities are better than others at this.

        * More resources for social work. Always a challenge this one. But if there were more social workers there may be fewer caseloads and more time for social workers to do their jobs properly.

        Final comments:

        Social work is a valuable and essential profession that has taken a lot of stick and needs more government support. Politicians such as Ed Balls have rightly taken the opportunity to highlight the Baby P. However in doing so they have also given the impression that such tragedies are widespread and that social services are guilty of terible neglect. As is pointed out by Hilary Searing, the reality is that a recent study into the rate of 'child abuse-related deaths' in England and Wales from 1974 to 2006 found that such deaths 'have never been lower since records began' and that significantly greater progress has been made here than in the majority of the other major developed countries.

        What we need is for the government to start by responding to the constant negative, media headlines in order to show their appreciation whilst raising awareness of the difficult job and hard work carried out by the majority of frontline social workers.

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          08.09.2009 21:23
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          Stay away

          Firstly, just to make it clear that his review is in relation to 'Coolmint' listerine mouthwash.

          I first stumbled accross this product in Boots the Chemist. I often use mouthwash (not that I have seriously smelly breath I must add, but I just don't want to take the risk!). Why did I buy the product? Well, basically for no other reason that it was on special offer - two bottles for the price of one.


          The cost?

          Various supermarkets and chemists may have this product set at slightly different prices. However I bought the product from Boots at £2.30 for a 500ml bottle a few months ago. It does pay to shop around if you can be bothered!


          The packaging?

          Let's be honest. The packaging is nothing special. The bottle is largely translucent so that you can see a blue- green formula inside.

          There is a large black screw top on the bottle, which sensibly, has a safety feature on it. To access the contents of the bottle you will need to squeeze the sides and turn. Although if you are anything like me, you might find that you have to ask some passing kid to help you open the bottle. Like most of these products with 'safety features' it bizzarely tends to stop the adults getting into the product rather than the kids.

          On the front of the bottle is the name of the product and an unconvincing drawing of what appear to be teeth, before and after using the product(for pete's sake could they not have splashed out on a glossy photograph?). As expected, the 'after' drawing is free of plaque. It's truly a miracle.

          On the back of the bottle is a label with directions for use and a list of ingredients.


          Directions for use?

          If possible I shall try not to patronise the reader too much here. Unless you have just arrived from Planet Pluto I am sure that the clue for use is in the title 'mouthwash'.

          You can use the removable cap to pour the mouth wash into or as is advised on the bottle, you can pour 20ml or 4 x5ml teaspoons into a glass and use that to sip and swill into your mouth. To be completely blunt I don't share my mouthwash with anyone so I just swig out of the bottle!

          The product works best when used twice per day and should be used after brushing your teeth.

          For the love of God, please do not drink this product. Unless you want to suffer internal burning (okay I am being a little dramatic here - but more on the taste later). Swig and spit. You can swig for as long as you want - but absolutely, 100%, spit.

          Ingredients?

          alcohol (this I can handle)
          sorbitol
          benzoic acid (I had a feeling there was acid in this product)
          sodium saccharin
          menthol


          Advantages of Listerine?

          This product is apparently well known for killing most of the bad bacteria within your mouth. It kills the bacteria between the teeth and prevents and reduces plaque, which is a major cause of gum disease.

          And obviously, it helps to freshen breath.


          Disadvantages?

          The taste. To be fair, I think Listerine 'original' is worse than Listerine 'cool mint.' However let's face it. This product is poison in a bottle. I took a swig of it and could not swill it around in my mouth for more than a few seconds. There was no 'cool mint.' There was only pain.

          After spitting it out, my mouth and tounge was burning. My morning coffee tasted like Listerine. My crunchy nut cornflakes tasted like Listerine. My 11 o'clock hob nob tasted like Listerine. This is UNACCEPTABLE! When your mouthwash begins to affect your daily life a line has been crossed. On the plus side it could work alongside a new diet plan.

          I had to throw this mouthwash in the bin and donate my 2 for 1 bargin to an unsuspecting family member.


          In conclusion?

          Don't buy this product unless you are tougher than me. I tasted Listerine for most of the day but I am not convinced my breath was any fresher. I prefer Sensodyne Mouthwash, which is more expensive but at least you can actually swill it in your mouth and gain the effects. Avoid!

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            26.07.2009 22:29
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            Recommended for a trip to Glasgow

            I stayed at the City Inn Hotel in Glasgow in February 2009.

            It was my first time in Glasgow and so I was not sure where to stay until I spotted this hotel via a search engine on the internet.

            The hotel itself is a modern hotel with a chic and attractive style to it.

            A great feature of all the rooms is that there is an apple mac computer on the desk. From this you can watch tv, listen to the radio and use the internet. There is no charge for this service. There is also a WIFI available and a DVD library.

            Air conditioning is available in the rooms, which are reasonably sized, although not huge. The bathroom is very nice, although there was no bath in my room - only a glass shower. This was fine by me as I would rarely use a bath in a hotel anyway.

            Downstairs there was a small but very nicely done out bar, and a restaurant.

            I thought the food at the hotel was excellent. Breakfast was particuarly good - with a large choice of food available, such as fish, full english breakfast, yoghurts, fruit and cereal.

            If you don't fancy eating at the hotel, there is an Indian Restaurant accross the road from the hotel - I did not try this but it came highly recommended by some of the staff.

            I was fortunate to get a really good deal on a two night package for two people - which included breakfast, dinner on the first night, and champagne and hors d'oeuvres over the course of the weekend. All of this for about £160. I got this directly through the City Inn's own website - so I would advise you to keep your eyes peeled for similar deals.

            The only minor downside to this hotel is that it is not in the centre of Glasgow. This means you will need to use transport to get there. This can be a bit of a pain if you are wanting to have a day or night out and want to keep the cost down. A taxi ride only takes 5 or 10 minutes to get to the centre of Glasgow, and this cost me about £7. I booked a taxi at the hotel reception with no problems. For die hard tourists you can also pick up a discount card at the reception for the City Tour bus which will stop off at the centre - I didn't do this however.

            However, even though this hotel is not in the centre of Glasgow, it is in an excellent location for the SECC (5 mins away) and is right next to the Clyde and Squinty Bridge.

            I would recommend that you request a river view. I did this upon arrival and it was no problem - we were then treated to a great view overlooking the river and the bridge. This looked even better at night time when everything was lit up.

            Service wise, I was very happy with the staff at the hotel. Sometimes this could run a little slow, such as at breakfast time - however, when staff spoke to me they were all very well mannered, helpful and professional.

            I took my own car to Glasgow and the hotel has a private car park less than a minutes walk from the hotel entrance - you will need to ask the reception for a code so that you can get out of the carpark. This changes daily although there is no charge for parking.

            In summary

            I would certainly recommend this hotel and I would go back on my next visit to Glasgow. I advise you to check out deals on the City Inn Website to see if you can get meals included at a good price.

            Visit www.cityinn.com/glasgow/glasgow-hotels.htm for more information.

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              16.07.2009 23:09
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              Great for a bargin, especially if used via a cashback site

              I stumbled accross this website whilst using Quidco, a cash back website.

              I was looking to buy some new perfume, and as I consider myself to be quite savy when it comes to finding out cheap websites and bargin deals, I decided to search through a number of other fragrance related websites before settling on 'Fragrance Direct.'

              I chose to purchase a number of fragrances from this website primarily because the prices were so cheap. In comparison with other websites such as Superdrug and Cheapsmells.com (to name just a few I compared prices with) the products I bought were cheaper at Fragrances Direct.

              For the record, one of the items I ordered was Davidoff perfume - cool water - the summer edition. I got this for an excellent price at £15.99 - up to £10 off the original rrp price.

              Unfortunately, when the perfume arrived and I sprayed it on, I smelt like I had fallen into a giant, out of date bowl of fruit cocktail - but I guess that was my fault for not testing the scent out elsewhere before I ordered it online!

              ***Website layout***

              I found the actual website layout simple and easy to use.

              The site sells other beauty products apart from fragrances, and these categories are clearly listed above such as 'cosmetics,' 'skin care' and 'bath and body.' There is also a gifts section and a mens section.

              You can also browse the site by keyword or brand name which is useful.

              An interesting feature of this site is that you can choose an option to buy products - such as perfumes - which may have a slightly damaged box or even no box at all. The perfume may have been on display although never used. You can get a whopping 50% off the price if you choose some of these products. I did not choose this option but I would in the future.

              To buy anything from the website you will need to register your details and sign up with a password. This is necessary in order that your contact details are secure. This process does not take very long.

              ****POSTAGE****

              Unfortunately the postage is not free so you will need to take this into account when you are looking at the final cost.

              However, in my opinion the postage costs are still fairly reasonable.

              1st Class post is £1.95 per order, which takes up to 5 working days to arrive. Alternatively you can have a tracked service at £4.95. This means that you will be given a tracking number so that if any issues arise you can contact Royal mail to ask about your item's whereabouts. Finally there is the
              Next day delivery service at a more pricey £6.95.

              I chose the standard 1st class delivery option and am pleased to report that my items arrived after only 2 days. I was also sent an email to let me know that my items had been dispached along with a receipt. My perfume arrived in a plain whote box with lots of polystyrene bits of stuffing in it to keep it from being damaged.

              ***My opinion***

              I have had no problems using this website and was impressed at the ease of being able to order a product, and the speed of delivery. I think the prices are good and I challenge you to find another website which is as consistently cheap as this one - particuarly if you take up the option of selecting a product without perfect packaging.

              I also advise you to order it via a cashback website such as Quidco in order to get up to 8% cashback.

              Check out Fragrancedirect.co.uk - Recommended!

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                05.07.2009 21:06
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                The peppermint flavour prevents the nettle from tasting like poison

                Like most people do at some point (apart from the annoying 'genetically slim' people who don't count), I recently came to the conclusion that it wouldn't hurt to start eating and drinking in a healthier manner.

                After all, Jesus did say that 'Your body is a temple' (or was that Madonna?) and in my case, my body was in danger of becoming bigger than a temple.

                After considering my options on how to tackle this issue, I decided not to exercise too much as I had heard that excessive strain could cause limb damage. Equally, I considered that radically changing my diet could in fact cause my body to go into shock.

                Therefore, as I'm sure you will agree, the most sensible approach was to start with changing my brand of tea which I hoped would single handedly detox my body and assist weight loss.

                All of this inspiration came to me whilst I took a wrong turn in Tescos away from the alcohol aisle, and ended up in the tea and coffee section. And suddenly, there in front of me, like a sign from above, was' Twinnings Nettle and Peppermint Tea.'

                ***Packaging***

                Now I can't really claim that the exciting packaging drew me to choose this product, because really it's not particuarly dynamic. No, I really think it was a sign. Or if not, my frame of mind that made me search for something specifically healthy perhaps instead of my morning cup of 'water retaining' coffee (inside information from a Weight watcher representative).

                I chose the Twinnings brand because I knew that they are a well respected brand and I wanted to experience a decent cup of alternative tea. The packaging consists of a small cardboard box of 20 tea bags and is green in colour with pictures of nettle leaves on the front! Luckily the nettles pictured do not look prickily. I suspect this is due to airbrushing. The overall connotation of the packaging is that the product is a healthy, natural one which will give your wellbeing a boost. The front of the packaging claims to 'cleanse' your body and all with 'natural ingredients.' I just knew that these tea bags were the start of a new me, and with that in mind I purchased them for £1.20.

                ***Ingredients***

                Nettle 50%
                Peppermint 50%

                All of the ingredients (or herbs) are steamed to ensure that the taste is protected.

                ***Nutritional information***

                All you need to know is that 100mls (I'll take that as one tea bag or one cup of tea) is only 2 calories. I mean really, how can you go wrong with that fellow dieters?

                ***The taste***

                Let me be clear here - I have also tried Twinnings 'Nettle tea' without the peppermint. This tasted like poison. In fact, I considered scrubbing my tounge with bleach to remove the taste.

                Thankfully, nettle and peppermint tea is far more drinkable. However, I'm going to be honest. This is not a hugely enjoyable drink. I do not have cravings for this drink like I would have done for my morning coffee. In fact, I have to reason with myself to drink it. However, once I get used to it and get someone to hide the coffee jar, it kind of grows on me.

                Nettle on it's own has a sharp and bitter taste. However when combined with Peppermint, the taste mellows out and you are left with a reasonably enjoyable, refreshing and light drink.

                DO NOT use milk with this drink - this tea should be taken on it's own. Simply pour boiling water on the tea bag, leave to steep for a few minutes, and take out the tea bag. Some people also add a touch of honey to sweeten the taste, although I don't find this to be necessary.

                ***Why would anyone drink nettle and peppermint tea***

                I admit, I have asked myself this question before. The reason I drink this tea is because the ingredients are well known for assisting bodily wellbeing and detoxing the body. Peppermint is used to aid digestion whilst relieving cold and flu symptoms. Nettle is well known for it's cleansing properties. Additionally nettle can relieve coughs and asthma, and improve skin appearance. After drinking this tea for a week or two instead of coffee, I do tend to feel a bit more refreshed and alert, although equally I begin to have cravings for other more tasty drinks after weeks of drinking nettle!

                ***Summary***

                A light and refreshing drink with healing properties. A healthier alternative to coffee and worth buying if you are trying to loose weight or improve your health and lifestyle.

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                • 27 Dresses (DVD) / DVD / 101 Readings / 97 Ratings
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                  28.06.2009 14:38
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                  Not one to watch if you like comedy and something with more teeth!

                  I watched this film last night after renting it from Lovefilm.com. A number of people I knew who had seen it had suggested that it was very funny and worth watching, so I thought I would get in on the act ans see what all the fuss was about.

                  27 Dresses is a romantic comedy which is directed by Anne Fletcher and written by Aline Brosh McKenna. Mckenna was also screenwriter for the Devil Wears Prada, which led me to expect an equally good film in 27 Dresses.

                  The film has a 12A rating and was released in January 2008. Running time is approximately 110 minutes.


                  ***The Cast***

                  Katherine Heigl as 'constant bridesmaid' - Jane Nichols
                  James Marsden as ' wedding journalist' - Malcolm Kevin Doyle
                  Malin Akerman as ' Jane's sister' - Tess Nichols
                  Edward Burns as 'Jane's boss' - George

                  ***The plot***

                  The film centres around Jane Nichols, a woman who has been a bridesmaid an astonishing 27 times, yet never the bride herself. The film opens with a slightly amusing scene (albeit completely unrealistic) whereby Jane has the misfortune of being a bridesmaid at two seperate weddings on the same night. In this scene Jane spends the night going back and forward in a taxi all evening between weddings, changing in and out of her seperate bridesmaids outfits in the back seat.

                  It is at one of these weddings that Jane falls and hits her head whilst trying to catch a boquet - and is brought around by wedding journalist, Kevin Doyle. Despite writing the wedding column, Kevin admits he is 'full of crap' and yearns for something more challenging to write about. And here we have the central plot of the movie - Kevin spots Jane changing in the taxi and decides to do a story on unsuspecting Jane about her bridesmaid obsession.

                  Other plot lines involve Jane's attractive yet overbearing, 'can do no wrong' sister Tess. Cast alongside Jane, Tess makes her look like a do-gooding angel. Unfortunately Tess strikes up a relationship with Jane's boss George, who Jane happens to have been in love with for years. Instead of protesting, Jane goes along with it all and ends up agreeing to be maid of honour when the two decide to get married.

                  What follows is a personal conflict for Jane, not helped by the persistent Kevin Doyle who also hapens to be writing a piece in the wedding column for Tess and George. Will Kevin's article on Jane ever end up in the newspaper? Will Jane ever get together with her boss after all? Will there be a new love relationship between Jane and journalist Kevin? Will poor Jane ever get to be the bride instead of bridesmaid? Well, I think we can safely guess the answer to ALL of these questions, without me saying anymore.

                  ***My Opinion***

                  This is 100% an absolute chick flick. I tried to convince myself this was not true before I watched it, as I had heard rumours that it was 'not your average girlie flick' and that it had a strong comedy element to it.

                  I was wrong.

                  If you enjoy predictable, uneventful chick flicks - then you won't be disappointed. And to be fair - the film does have some amusing comedy aspects to it. For instance, I found it remotely funny when Jane was helping two of her brides to go to the toilet and was holding their dresses up in the air for them. That goes beyond dedication, it really does. However, there was very little throughout the film which was funny enough to make me laugh out loud. When I spend money on hiring a comedy film, I expect to be made to laugh. This film did not achieve this. And I had had half a bottle of wine too which normally makes me laugh at anything...

                  ***Summary***

                  This is not a terrible film - and I can see why some people would watch it. However for me, I expect more from a comedy film. The plot is predictable and not hugely interesting. In addition, although the acting standard is decent, the characters themselves are rather dull and I didn't really care about what happened to them. At times I wanted to shake Jane and tell her to get a backbone.

                  A predictable and uninspiring, slightly amusing comedy, which I have forgotten about already.

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                  • More +
                    24.06.2009 23:49
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                    Good for the occassional shop

                    You may have your own opinion about Marks and Spencer in general, with some people still perceiving it to be a tad old fashioned and unimaginative.

                    However, the same cannot be said about Marks and Spencer's food department.

                    The reason I buy Marks and Spencers food is because of the taste and quality. I often pop into Marks and Spencers on the way home from work if I don't have much in the fridge and fancy a quick but tasty convenience meal. To be fair, I think that the ready made meals are probably the biggest attraction for most people shopping at this store. You just don't manage to get the same selection or quality of convenience meals from the larger supermarkets, such as Tescos or Asda. I know that I can stop off at Marks for 10 minutes and manage to pick up a nice meal for tea, whereas if I went elsewhere, I just wouldn't find much that would appeal. My local Marks and Spencer is a small store, but the selection of ready meals is well focused with a good selection to choose from.

                    My favourites which I would recommend include the Cumberland pie (which is nice and crispy on the top with a tasty mince and gravy filling), Chicken pie, Quiche and lasagne. There are many other tasty meals to choose from which can just be heated up in a short space of time. Many of the meals are genuinely delicious, unlike a lot of other supermarkets which appear to churn out bland and unappetising convenience foods.

                    However it is not just the ready meals that are worth a buy. Marks and Spencers also sell many other quality food products such as pasteries, fish, meats and vegetables. I reguarly buy the following items and which are always delicious - smoked mackerel, tuna pate, croissants, blueberries, mashed potato, yorkshire puddings (which taste almost homemade) and most of the cheeses. I particuarly enjoy buying the Oakham full Chicken which sometimes comes sealed in a bag and takes only 30 minutes to heat up alongside a delicious gravy and stock taste. The reason for this is that Marks have a welfare policy that they should be commended for. They will only stock certain products which endorses the positive treatment of animals, and much of the produce is organic. The Oakham chicken is exclusive to Marks and is endorsed by the RSPCA. This in my opinion, sets Marks and Spencers aside from other supermarkets.

                    I would also recommend the wines sold at Marks and Spencer. I am a fan of red wine, and the Italian Wine priced at £4.99 is delicious and very easy to drink!

                    In my local store in Newcastle staff are fairly approachable and well trained, whilst the checkout staff are also usually friendly and helpful. This might have something to do that Marks and Spencer are known to be very reputable employers and the staff rate of pay is typically higher than other supermarkets. At the end of each shift, most stores offer their staff the opportunity to purchase almost out of date goods for 'pennies' or massively discounted prices. I know this because a family member works at one of the stores.

                    CONS***

                    Not everything is perfect about this food store. One of my minor irritations includes being charged 5p per carrier bag. Now I appreciate that this is controversial, and that they are apparently trying to save the environment. But the fact is that I don't shop at Marks reguarly and often pop in on a 'whim.' As a result I always end up paying for carrier bags and I can't help feeling that it's just more money in their pockets that should be in mine. If they are so concerned about the environment, why not produce paper carrier bags?

                    Secondly, Marks and Spencers food is not cheap. It is a luxury, and unless you are rather well off, it's good for the occassional shop / treat only. Perhaps this is why there are no large trolleys - because most people only shop with a basket and buy only a few items. Yes - you can get the 'meal deal' - 2 people can eat in for this price including a 3 course meal and bottle of wine. This is not bad. However in general the store is not cheap, and I am often close to tears when I hand over my debit card at the checkout. Everytime, I can't help thinking 'how on earth does it cost that much for only 2 or 3 items?!!'

                    My final gripe are the portion sizes of the convenience foods. Often a meal will claim it feeds 4 people when it clearly would struggle to feed 2! And I promise I'm not that greedy that I'm eating huge portion sizes!

                    The other thing to note is that Marks and Spencers stocks it's own brand food and not the usual brands which you might be able to buy at other supermarkets. However Marks has recently introduced select key other brand items into their store to make it more convenient for customers - this includes weetabix, tomato ketchup and Nescafe coffee. This is a nice touch and shows Marks is prepared to listen to customers.

                    Overall***

                    A great food shop which stocks a range of convenient, tasty and quality foods. I would recommend that most people shop here occassionally for a treat. Unfortunately, it might dent your bank balance a little.

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                    • moonpig.com / Online Shop / 105 Readings / 103 Ratings
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                      19.06.2009 18:55
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                      Worth it for that special occassion

                      I first discovered Moonpig.com after reading a review on Doo Yoo no less! If I am honest I have previously heard the advertising jingle in the background on TV, but the tune irritated me and so I just ignored it, thinking it was an advertisement for car insurance. Yes, I am aware that that is a bit dense - but I am exceptionally good at selective hearing.

                      **What is Moonpig?**

                      Moonpig is an online company which sells personalised greeting cards. The company has a range of cards for all occassions - whether you are searching for Wedding or anniversary cards, birthday and Christmas Cards, good luck cards or Father's day cards, you can pretty much find a card to suit your needs here.


                      **What is meant by 'personalised cards?'**

                      Basically, you can choose from a range of card designs and add your own personal touch. For instance, you can select ready made designs - such as a picture of 'Big Ben', and write a message or your recepient's name on it. You can also write your own greeting inside the card electronically, so that you can choose the font style and colour. Moving it up a step, you can also put personal photographs onto the cards. In fact you can put a number of different photographs on the front of the card, and also on the back.


                      **How does the system work?**

                      Moonpig produce the cards in a hi-tech production facility in Guernsey.

                      First of all you will need to register your details on the website, including billing addresses and payment details. You can pay via all the leading credit and debit card brands. This is simple enough and only takes a few minutes, unlike some companies which seem to want to know the far end of a fart, including your star sign and the colour of your underwear.

                      You will then go through the process of choosing your card and personalising it. This is a really easy process, because the online instructions take you through it step by step. Uploading photographs is easy and happens quickly. At the end you have the option to preview your card, which I recommend in case you have made any spelling mistakes or you decide you want to change the photographs.

                      What I really like about this process, is that you have the option to send the card via e-mail, if you are running late with your dates! So if you know the card won't arrive via post exactly on time, Moonpig can send an email to the recepient advising them that the card is running late but allowing them to look online at the card in the meantime. There is no charge for this service and I thought it was a nice little touch.

                      Finally, you can choose who you want the card sent to - the recepient or yourself. If it comes to yourself first (presumably so you can sign it), they will include a seperate envelope for the card inside the letter.


                      **Pricing**

                      Another bonus about this service is that the cards are actually very reasonable in price - especially considering you are adding a personalised touch. Many times I have gone to a high street card shop and suffered severe heart palpitations when looking at the price! Overall, I think that Moonpig cards are probably usually cheaper than the high street, particuarly if you go for the regular size.

                      An A5 design will cost you £2.99 when delivered first class, or an A4 card will cost £5.99. Any card orders received before 2pm Mon-Fri will be posted the same day.


                      **Tips***

                      When you log onto the website, you can have the option to 'Prepay.' If you pre-pay £20 up front before ordering anything, you can save get £5 extra free. However, I did not use this service because I didn't think I would be using the service on a regular basis. But if you want to incorporate the personal touch each time you send a card, it may be worth the money.

                      At the end of your order you will be given the option to sign up for 'i-points.' You can earn i-Points on each purchase which can be used for a range of things such as DVD's and CD's on the I-points website. Make sure you sign up!


                      **Summary**

                      I used Moonpig for the first time to buy a father's day card. I found the website easy to use and navigate, and simple to create a card. The card arrived two days after my order as I expected, and it looks great. I would definitely recommend this website and I think it is reasonably priced.

                      For more information, see the website - www.Moonpig.com or contact them on 0845 4500 100

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                        19.06.2009 01:02
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                        There are many other, better bed and breakfasts in Keswick than this one

                        I stayed at this Bed and Breakfast for 3 nights over the bank holiday weekend 22nd August - leaving on 25th August 2008.

                        I have often stayed at several Bed and Breakfasts in Keswick over the past few years and all have been to a good or very good standard.

                        I did look on my favourite travel website, Trip Advisor, to see if I could find a review on Squirrel Lodge before I went - but unfortunately there were none, and so I was not aware of what to expect. However, thinking this B&B would be similar to the most other's in Keswick, I did not anticipate any problems.

                        Upon arrival the property looked reasonable from outside, with lots of attractive flowers and garden decorations. As I walked inside however, I was greeted by a slightly unpleasant odour - I'm still not sure what that was but it did not make for a good first impression. It reminded me of wet dog mixed with curry powder.

                        The decor was shall we say, not good. The bedroom colour scheme was an embarrasment to modern society - instead of nice, fresh, neutral tones which would have made the room feel nice and airy (particuarly as it was a small room) the walls were a blue colour. The bed spread clashed completely as it was purple with a hideous zig zagged pattern on, and there was a chair with a blue checked cushion, whilst the bathroom was painted a bright turquoise colour! Those colours could have penetrated even the most hardwearing UV Sunglasses and I was concerned for my health.

                        On the bed was a child like fluffy and matted purple heart shaped cushion. I know it's not big and it's not clever - but I couldn't help thinking, 'how many people have either slavered on that pillow or done indecent things with it?' In any respect, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. In my mind I had an image off the woman from Channel 5's 'Hotel Inspector' turning up at Squirrel Lodge and giving the owners a shake, shortly before shutting the place down for the sanity of their customers.

                        What really annoyed me during my stay was the less than adequate service. During a 3 day stay you would expect our towels to have been changed at least once. However they were not. One day I even came back from a long walk in the hills to find that our towels had been hung back on the door and they were still soaking wet. At other B&B's they are usually changed every day. Particuarly if you place them in the shower to be changed like we did!

                        Breakfast was also poor. You had to have breakfast between 8.30 -9 which I didn't feel was much of a time scale. There was no friendly greeting other than a begrudging 'hello' and 'what can I get you.' There was no interest taken in what people were getting up to that day or advice given on walks like in other B&B's I have been to - not even a question about how we were enjoying our stay. On the menu we were supposed to be given a choice about what type of tomatoes we would like - but we weren't even asked this - plum tomatoes were just routinely provided. Portion sizes were not that big and I couldn't even eat my cumberland sausage as it tasted brittle and awful. Toast was brought out as soon as you sat down with the result being that it went cold. Finally I had a dirty cup twice during breakfast - when this was pointed out we got no apology.

                        I could not believe this place was rated 4 stars - more like 2 in my opinion! I looked in the guestbook one night - bizzarely all the enteries appeared to be positive (although there were not many entries!) - which I found suspicious. I hoped to leave a comment but on the way out the owner was 'conveniently' resting her hand on the book so I was not able to write in it!

                        This place can only be improved with a cosmetic makeover inside - there is too much clutter everywhere and the decoration is horrible. At breakfast there was a dining chest, with what I can only describe as 'evil' looking dolls hanging off it, and there was even a goldfish bowl covered up with cards - the water had turned so green and grimy we did not realise there was a fish in it until the last day! Not pleasant to have to look at head on whilst eating your breakfast!

                        The owners also need to improve the service so that people feel that they have spent there money well and are getting a more personal touch.

                        **Summary**

                        The Location of this B&B is reasonable, being close to Keswick town centre.
                        However, for me - I would not currently recommend this place and I would not go back. There are far better B&B's elsewhere in Keswick for similar prices.

                        A similar review written by me is also on Trip Advisor.

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                          18.06.2009 23:18
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                          I recommend 100% that you buy and read this fantastic book

                          I first spotted this book at the airport when I was going on holiday. I was browsing the book store with an open mind, when I passed the autobiography section, and was immediately drawn to the title of the book, 'Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes.' With a title like that, you can't fail to be curious about what story lies within the pages of the book.

                          This book has been a number one best seller in the UK, and is the debut book by author Martha Long (2007).

                          The book is 477 pages long and it retails at £6.99 at all good bookstores - but I recommend you get a cheaper copy at Amazon.com

                          **Plot**

                          The book is a true life account of Martha's turbulent childhood, whilst she was growing up in the slums of Dublin in the 1950's.

                          The book begins when Martha is only four years old and takes us on a trip throughout her childhood until she reaches the age of 12.

                          From the age of four, the reader is thrown into Martha's world, as we follow her day to day life in the slums. Initially living in cramped conditions with her young mother, alcoholic aunt and cousin, Martha's life quickly becomes a whirlwind of turbulent, chaotic and often tragic events.

                          The reader fairly quickly looses sympathy for Martha's single mother, who presents as having absolutely zero parenting skills and consistently puts herself and her relationships with men before Martha. Moving from man to man often in order to survive, Martha's mother fails to provide adequate food and clothing for Martha, yet continues to have more children. The absolute downfall for Martha comes when her mother moves in with a man named Jackster - a brutal and violent man who spends much of his time in the pub. Here the reader is further shocked at how selfish Martha's mother is capable of being - neither Jackster or her mother are concerned about the children's education, and as the oldest Martha is forced to act as a serogate parent to the other 3 children, walking the streets with them day after day in rags often without warm clothing or anything to eat. Martha is soon expected to beg and steal to support her family whilst her layabout 'parents' sit at home or go to the pub. This being Dublin in the 1950's - if you didn't work, you often didn't eat.

                          I don't wish to go into too much detail about the plot because there are so many incidents and events in this book that Martha is involved in and has to overcome, that I can only recommend that you purchase this book and read it from cover to cover.

                          **Opinion**

                          Initially, the reader will likely find that they need to allow themselves a little bit of time to get into this book. The reason for this is due to the narrative style of writing. The book is written in 'Irish child speak' - in other words, the words are written as Martha would have spoken and pronounced them as a young child living in Dublin. I have recommended this book to several friends who have given up after the first page and dismissed the book completely. This in my opinion, is a great pity. This book is an insightful and truly inspiring read, and once I got into the writing style, I could not put this book down until I had finished. I often give books away once I have read them, but I have given this book priority on my book shelf and have re-read it several times. Once you become used to the writing style, the words bring the story to life. I actually felt like I was being told the story through a child's eyes, and it's fair to say that at times I could actually visualise myself in Martha's cramped flat. Indeed, I was with her when she was walking the streets in her rags and pushing her siblings in the pram, I was with her when she was at the convent door begging for food, and traumatically, I was with her when she was sexually assaulted by two men in England, whilst her mother was close by. The powerful images and feelings the narrative style and written word evoked in me, coupled with the fact that I was keenly aware that the story was in fact autobiographal, made this a powerful and moving read.

                          Many people avoid 'true-life-misery stories' because they feel that they have better things to do than become depressed by often sickening and horrific tales of woe. I cannot deny that this book has some truly shocking moments which will make you question the morality and nature of the human race. Any decent person will read this story and at some point think - how could you do that? For me, I was more disgusted by Martha's mother than Jackster or the wicked men who later abused Martha. Her mother's selfishness and apathy to Martha's plight makes you loose all respect for her, which is a conclusion that Martha also comes to as the book goes on.

                          However, this is not your typical 'misery story.' Martha inspires the reader because throughout her entire 'ordeal' from the age of 4 to 12, Martha tells her story without a single ounce of self-pity or self loathing. In fact Martha's perspective and child like voice, often manages to bring humour to each situation, which has the reader laughing along with her and her innocence. One of my favourite little moments within the grand scheme of the book, is when Martha is invited by the church to a Sunday class. Martha loves attending because she gets something to eat. However there are a number of other well presented girls who look down in disdain at Martha. Martha recalls how one of these girls pillages all of the sandwiches and they end up having a row. From this point on, Martha appears to forget the girls name, and when she thinks of her, refers to the girl only as 'sambidge.' This always makes me chuckle. To fully appreciate the charm and humour of this book you really do need to read it yourself.

                          **Summary**

                          This is a tale of an innocent child, who paradoxically has to grow up very fast in order to survive. The reader is given the impression that Martha is not the only disadvantaged and neglected child in 1950's Dublin, however alongside this the reader is keenly aware through Martha's eyes, that there are many other children who are cared for properly by loving families. The reader will finish this book with a feeling that they have been living Martha's life with her, and that they have shared in her experiences. They will feel truly inspired and almost energised by the end, simply because Martha is still resolutely strong and that she has survived her young life against all of the odds and with such wit and spirit.

                          A further book is available by Martha Long, which will take you through her journey from 12 years onwards. I have not read this book yet, but I certainly want to find out what happens in the next stage of Martha's life and I intend to purchase it. The second book is called 'Ma, I'm getting meself a new Mammy!' It is available online at Amazon.

                          **What happened to Martha?**

                          For the record, Martha Long is now in her late 60's and it is encouraging to know that she went on to marry and have 3 children of her own, which truly demonstrates her strength of spirit and determination to live her life to the fullest.

                          This book is an absolute must read - buy it today!

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                          • Heinz Lentil Soup / Sauces / Soups / 62 Readings / 62 Ratings
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                            17.06.2009 14:32
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                            worth buying for a lunchtime meal

                            If you are like me and are usually on the go - you will find it handy to have a couple of tinned soups in your cupboard. The advantage of tinned soup is obviously the convenience factor. Minimum preperation and minimum effort is required to have a meal ready in a short space of time.

                            ***Preperation**

                            Heinz Lentil Soup has a ring pull lid, and if you have a microwave at work you can therefore take it along without having to worry about hunting out a can opener. Many supermarket own brands of soup do not come with a ring pull lid, so if this is an issue, it may be worth paying a little more for the Heinz brand.

                            It will take about five minutes to heat up the soup in a pan - I would advise that you heat this up slowly however, in order to avoid burning on the bottom of the pan. This can ruin the taste.

                            You can also microwave this soup - which is my preference. If I wanted to spend a long time heating it up, I wouldn't be eating convenience soup. I advise stiring the soup to spread consistency before you heat it up. Make sure you cover the soup up with a lid or clingfilm whilst in the microwave - this not only avoids splashes but it also prevents the soup from drying out, which really does make a difference to the taste.

                            **Texture**

                            Heinz Lentil soup does not look particuarly appertising at first sight when you pour it out of the can. It has a gooey, jelly like consistency, and is a dull orange / brown in colour. It can also present as watery at the top and thick at the bottom. This is because the lentils will have sunk to the bottom - and the texture will become more smooth and consistent once heated up.

                            **Taste**

                            Well, here we have the most important question. How does Heinz Lentil soup taste? Personally, I like this soup - it is smooth to eat and I can taste the lentils, which I love. However, you can't compare this to home made soup with proper chunky vegetables. Heinz soup has very fine, soft vegetables in it which are almost mushy. And it can taste a little bland without seasoning - which I choose not to use.

                            **Top tip**

                            Heinz Lentil soup tastes a heck of a lot better if you compliment it with other food items. I absolutely recommend that you put some small chunks of cheese in your soup once served hot. Wenslydale cheese is my favourite, but cheshire and cheddar cheese is also good. This really brings out the taste of the lentil soup. Serve also with a slice or two of chunky wholemeal bread with butter on to dip into your soup and fill yourself up.

                            ** Nutrition**

                            Nutritionally, Heinz lentil soup is better than you might think. A full can is 400g and contains about 170 kcal. There are reasonably low sugar and salt levels too.

                            **Summary***

                            Heinz lentil soup is convenient, reasonably nutritious and reasonably tasty - but it can taste a little bland without bread, cheese or seasoning. Worth buying for a quick lunch - but not a substitute for hime made soups.

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                            • Dragon's Den / TV Programme / 74 Readings / 71 Ratings
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                              17.06.2009 00:09
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                              Thought provoking and addictive

                              The Dragon's Den is a television show which airs on BBC 2.

                              **Format**

                              The programme is based on a 'reality TV' format. Each episode sees budding
                              entrepreneurs making a pitch in respect of their products / inventions and ideas to a panel of 5 rich and successful businessmen and women. The aim of each candadite is to try and convince one or more of the panel to invest in their product(s). This usually involves a request for a relatively large amount of money in return for one or more of the panel having a percentage of their business and / or a return on profits made.

                              What makes this show unique and interesting is the range of entrepreneurial ideas. These have ranged from sculpture making and design, pizza warmers, stick on whiteboards and devices to stop gravestones from falling over! hmmm....clearly a winner.

                              Each candidate must present a clever pitch in order to generate the interest of the panel 'Dragons,' and this is where most become unstuck. There are some hilarious pitches, whereby many get to show off their often appalling and completely unprepared introductions to their products and ideas. Some become so nervous that they can't speak or appear to loose any previous level of intellegence. Granted, the Dragon's may seem a little intimidating, but if you're going to ask for £100,000, it's probably a good idea to remember what product you are endorsing. Then you have the egotistical fools who are convinced that their ridiculous product is going to change the world. Er, sorry - no. This is soon put into perspective by the Dragons. I always feel sorry for those people who have put 20 years into developing and promoting a product, only to be told by the panel that it is quite frankly, pants, and that they should stick to the day job.

                              **Who are the panel?**

                              The usual panel consists of four business men and one business woman, all who have a wealth of experience in different areas such as property, leisure, music and finance. The five Dragons are James Caan, Deborah Meaden, Theo Paphitis, Duncan Bannatyne, and Peter Jones.

                              More information on the panel member's history and business dealings can be found on the BBC website (see below).

                              **Success stories?**

                              Many of those who have secured an investment from the Dragons have successfully used their expertise and finance to market and promote their products. Take Raymond Smith's 'pizza cooker' - a seemingly pointless invention, coupled with the worst pitch EVER dared to be presented in front of the Dragon's. Poor Raymond was ripped to pieces but yet he choose to be quiet and humble, and at the very last moment, two of the panel members decided to offer him a joint deal. Now his pizza cooker is retailing in several stores and online. Although whether the success of this product is down to the product or publicity of the programme is difficult to establish...

                              There are rules attached to the programme in that the candidates must be able to get at least the minimum amount of money they ask for from the Dragon's, or they walk away with nothing! This tends to give the Dragon's more power - and often the poor candidate will have little choice to agree to give away more equity of their product / company than originally intended, if they want the money. However, if the product and pitch is exceptionally good - then sometimes the Dragons will try to out do each other by offering better deals. However, usually - in spite of a good pitch, candidates will make a balls up when quizzed in details about their projected finances.

                              Then you will hear the famous catch phrase from each Dragon ".....and for that reason, I'm out!!"

                              **Worth Watching?**

                              Absolutely - this programme can be addictive. It's like a more sophisticated, business version of the X Factor, although normally without the singing! If you are a budding entrepreneur yourself you might get some tips - it certainly drums home the fact that you need more than a good idea to be successful - you need sound marketing and financial skills too.

                              You can watch the programme on BBC 2 AT 9am on Monday or repeated at 7pm on Tuesday.

                              I recommend that you check out the BBC website for more information. Here you can watch repeats online, find out more about the candidates and Dragon's, and most interestingly, find out what happened to those poor people who were turned down or refused offers. Did they make a success or a failure of their ideas? Find out here:

                              www.bbc.co.uk/dragonsden/

                              In summary - an interesting, thought provoking programme.

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                                13.06.2009 14:09
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                                worth a trip for reasonably priced goods

                                My local Boundary Mills store is in Shiremoor, Tyne and Wear.

                                Boundary Mills is a store which sells a variety of different products, ranging from plants, to household goods, to soaps and perfumes, to bags, shoes and clothes. The good thing about this store is that you can buy designer products at discounted prices. If you shop around in store you can usually find something worth buying at a reasonable price. Discounts are typically between 30 - 75% off the original price tag.

                                ***Layout***

                                The store is extremely large, namely because it has such a vast variety of clothes and products in store. There appears to be little order as to where everything is, and there are no signs overhead to direct you to the right area. However, the store is usually neat and tidy, unlike some discount stores, whereby everything is in piles and slung everywhere (mmm, Primark springs to mind!!).

                                There is a huge clothing and accessories section instore. Whether you will find anything worth buying will depend on your style and perhaps your age. Personally, as a woman in my 20's, I don't tend to find many items of clothing that I would want to wear. However, I have friends and relatives who are 30's - 90's who often find things to wear which look good on them. Yet I do sometimes find myself looking at some of the clothing items and think ' who in God's name would wear that?!' - at which point some unsuspecting person will come along and put it in their trolley. But if you are prepared to have a look around - you will probably find something nice. The clothes and products are usually organised according to the designer, so it sometimes appears that there is little coordination.

                                I like this store because I get some great household products at reasonable prices. Last week I bought a duvet cover and pillowcases, reduced from £60 to £24. I also bought a chrome dustbin and bath mats. I'm not saying you will pay pennies for some of these products, but you will be able to buy them for a reasonable or reduced price. Most of the goods are good quality too. So if you want super cheap - go somewhere like Primark. If you want reasonable prices and good quality - go to Boundary Mills.

                                ***Accessability***

                                I have an elderly relative in my family, and because of this I always try to find places and stores which are accessable for people in wheelchairs. I like Boundary Mills, because unlike some stores, you can generally get through the sections and aisles. Sometimes it's a bit of a squeeze, but I 've never not been able to get from A to B.

                                I also like the fact that the store has a selection of wheelchairs at the entrance, which is great for older people or those which struggle to walk far, but may not have their own wheelchairs.

                                ***Restaurant***

                                There is a restaurant / cafe at the store - however this can be expensive and the selection is just average. Not great for a trip out, but maybe okay for a coffee if you fancy a rest in between searching for bargins.

                                ***Opening times***

                                OPENING HOURS
                                Monday 10am - 8pm
                                Tuesday 10am - 8pm
                                Wednesday 10am - 8pm
                                Thursday 10am - 8pm
                                Friday 10am - 8pm
                                Saturday 9am - 6pm
                                Sunday 10am* - 5pm

                                ***TIP***

                                If you look at the website, there is often a list of pre-arranged sale dates, so you know when to pay a visit for extra discounts.

                                www.boundarymill.co.uk

                                ***In conclusion***

                                Worth a visit particuarly for household goods

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                                  13.06.2009 12:28
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                                  read the small print and compare with other company deals

                                  Until recently I had been a customer for 3 years with 3 Mobile.

                                  Why did I originally sign up with 3 mobile? I did so because they offered many cheap deals and at the time, mine was one of them.

                                  ***Phones***

                                  You can get a large selection of phones from this company in with your contract deal, including all of the newest and leading phones. However, in the case of the two phones I have ordered through the company, they have arrived with the '3' logo engraved on them. I don't speak from personal experience here, but a friend of mine who was also a 3 customer, was advised by a 3 mobile customer representative, that if you were to leave the company and try to put a different sim card in your 3 mobile phone, you could damage the phone. Now I have no idea if this is true as I have never tried this out - but the information came from a customer advisor. It would be interesting to know if anyone else has experienced any issues in relation to this - feel free to comment if you have.

                                  ***Coverage***

                                  Overall, throughout the 3 years I had my contract with the company, it's fair to say that I had few problems with the coverage. I could nearly always get a signal, although there were sometimes problems whereby I would have a signal one moment whilst at home, and then suddenly I had none. Although I found this odd, it did not happen often enough to warrant it being a major issue.

                                  ***Why did I leave 3 mobile?***

                                  I took out a contract with 3 mobile because of their competitive prices. Mine was a 750 deal - which was 400 minutes and 350 texts per month. This was at a cost of £35 per month.

                                  This went fine for the first year of the deal. However, into the second year, I recieved a letter from the company, telling me that they were introducing a new pricing policy. I was informed that I would no longer be charged per minute, instead I would be charged 'per unit.' So what does this mean in practice? I soon found out! For instance, if you make a phone call, and don't stay on for a full minute, you will still have used up your unit. So lets say you try to ring someone, and you just get their answering machine. As soon as you hear the start of the answering machine, you hang up, you don't leave a message. But because you have hit the answering machine, you are charged a unit. Whereas if you were priced on the original 'minute pricing policy' as opposed to units, you would have used up only a second or two out of your minute.

                                  So effectively, I no longer had 400 inclusive minutes in my contract -I had 400 units. To put this into perspective, my mobile bill shot up over the months. After rarely going over £35 per month for over a year, my mobile bills were reguarly hitting £50 and £60. My highest bill was £95!

                                  Initially, I couldn't understand why my bills were so high, after being so consistent for so long. I rang the company to complain. After speaking to several different people, one advisor finally let slip that it could be because of the units. I asked to leave the company and was put through to another person, who denied this was the reason. However, by that time it all made sense, as I had been doing nothing different yet my bills were sky high.

                                  I was offered a new deal, which I trialled for a week, and then I sent the phone and contract back because it appeared my bill was still high. I blame the new pricing system. I have now left 3 because I fancy a change and want to look around for a new deal with a different company.

                                  ***Trying to leave 3 mobile***

                                  Good luck!! These guys are VERY persistent. What typically follows is this: You go through the usual automated process ' press 1 to get to option 2', 'press 2 if you have nothing better to do', press 3 if you have been on here for so long you are starting to hallucinate..' etc etc.

                                  Then EVENTUALLY you might get to speak to a real live person. From India. Their English is usually good, but occassionally some of the accents are hard to understand and you will have to speak slowly to make sure you are understood.

                                  Now, as soon as you tell them that you want to leave the company, you will be transferred to another 'specialist.' This basically means someone who will do anything and everything they can to stop you from leaving, including selling their soul to the devil. This is great if you are just playing hardball yourself and are angling to do a bit of bribery and get a better deal. However, if like me, your mind is made up and you do actually want to sever ties with the company, that is another matter altogether!!

                                  My experience went along these lines - on 3 occassions I was bizarely 'cut off' mid conversation. On another occassion I actually caved in and accepted a 'trial one week deal' which I later sent back (see above). And on the final occassion I almost made the customer service rep cry - or at least it felt like that! He even asked me to ring him back if I changed my mind! But the deals I was being offered were not good enough and I was scarred by the pricing policy change. Finally, I managed to escape. But it takes some willpower to get away from 3 mobile!!

                                  ***would I recommend 3?**

                                  It depends. Overall, they are not a bad company. Usually customer service is good, and at least superficially they seem to have good deals. However their pricing policy has changed and it worked out very expensive for me. They could also do with having a little more courtesy and shall we say, 'dignity' when a customer wants to move on. After all if it wasn't for the changes they made, I wouldn't have left.

                                  If you want to find out more about 3 mobile, see their website:

                                  www.threestore.three.co.uk

                                  I never used the internet on my mobile, however it's worth noting that 3 mobile have recently launched some competitive broadband deals.

                                  I would also recommend that you check out competitively priced websites such as Dialaphone and Carphone warehouse to compare deals.

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