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kevin121

kevin121
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Member since: 12.12.2008

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    • Lanolips 101 Ointment / Lip Care / 108 Readings / 107 Ratings
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      05.12.2013 22:26
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      Dry and chapped lips be gone!

      For as long as I care to remember cheap lip salves have served me well. Or so I thought. Last winter I felt I had to look for something better, fed up that no matter how many times I applied them, they couldn't stop my lips from drying out and chapping. Good old fashioned Vaseline was on my bedside table and one of Boots own lip salves in my handbag. Perhaps if I'd paid more attention to the ingredients I would have sussed out why much sooner.

      I'm sure the Petroleum jelly used in both these products is high grade stuff, but it's also the reason why they're so cheap. Along with the Mineral oil used in the Boots lip salves, the jelly works as a barrier between the skin and the air. While it might stop any moisture from naturally leaving my lips, it doesn't actually bring anything to the party either.

      Having wasted time and money with the cheapies, I started reading the labels. Boring yet interesting how so little says so much. The first one I tried that actually seemed to make a difference was by Burt's Bees. It's still one I keep in my handbag, but now I've tried this Lanolips one, its relegated to second favourite.

      I cant remember where I first heard about the lanolips range, their website lists a whole range of various beauty industry awards that they've won over the last few years but I don't usually take much notice of that kind of thing. At over £10, I could buy 5 tins of vaseline, or 3 of the more effective Burt's Bees for the price of a tube of 101 ointment, but when this was included in a 3 for 2 offer in Boots I took a punt.

      Growing up on a sheep farm in Australia, the creator of Lanolips ought to know more than most about lanolin. Kirsten Carriol realised that the substance taken from freshly shorn wool could be used to create that rare thing in cosmetics: something that's totally natural yet looks lossy and high end. If this product had been thought up in a lab in Paris or London I'd probably be more sceptical, but having tried it the awards do seem justified.

      Two small niggles I have with this Lanolips are the packaging (it comes with a gold coloured lid which looks rather naff) and the consistency. Perhaps because it is ultra high grade lanolin, the texture is thick and takes some pressure to squeeze out of the tube. The temperature in my home tends to be cool thanks to some draughty windows, so I warm the tube in my hands for a fews seconds before trying to dispense some.

      The results are worth the hassle though. The efficacy of this 101 ointment is far better than any other lip treatment I've tried before. I can apply some in the morning and even some four or five hours later after I've eaten lunch my lips feel soft and smooth. Once the nights started drawing in, I began applying this at night as well. Suffice to say, it's still noticeable when I wake up. I can't say that my lips feel any plumper, but there has been a definite improvement in the state of them. They've dried out far less than usual leaving them almost chap free. This shouldn't really be surprising, there are no other ingredients used beside the heavy duty lanolin. Their website states it can hold up to 200% of its weight in moisture, which if accurate could account for the positive effects on me.

      What puts this head and shoulders above others are its other uses. I haven't counted 101 but there are several I can vouch for. I don't wear much make up, but when I do I prefer subtle lipsticks over deep reds or pinks. Several fairly cheap ones I have are matte and I find these rather drying. If I apply some of this first it leaves a nice glossy finish and gives some protection at the same time.

      Only a sneeze behind the chapped lips is a runny nose which quickly becomes sore. Only having had one bad cold since I bought my first tube of this, I can vouch for it helping with sore nostrils. Thankfully this is hypoallergenic and unfragranced - blocked nose or not I don't think I could stand the smell of something as strong as Vicks wafting underneath.

      So, it's more than just a lip balm and incredibly useful. The website also states that this is used post operation to help with scars healing. Most people won't have cause to need it for that fortunately, but anyone as sloppy as me with a kitchen knife will often have tiny cuts. I did nothing differently with one recent one other than applying a small dab of this, yet it seemed to heal faster by days.

      The one reason people will probably avoid buying this is the cost. There are far cheaper alternatives out there, but they simply don't work for me. This 101 ointment is well worth the outlay. I only need to use a tiny amount, and while my lips aren't in perfect condition, being outside with my dog in all weathers and then inside with central heating that's hardly surprising. They need better protection than cheaper stuff can provide and they get it with this. Top marks from me.

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        16.11.2013 10:49
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        Old meets new and neither gets what they expect.

        ~ The plot ~

        Having gone to the cinema expecting to see an E M Forster adaptation, a high brow novelist who is somewhat out of step with the modern world finds himself watching an American teen flick instead.

        Once Giles De'ath catches sight of one of the young actors on screen, a passing interest quickly turns into an obsession which sees him flying to New York to seek out Ronnie Bostock at his home in Long island.
        How will De'ath's infatuation with Bostock and their improbable meeting pan out, if not destructively?

        ~ The characters ~

        With only three main characters and the other speaking roles probably in single figures, at least there isn't the complaint that the film introduces unnecessary characters.

        Although Giles De'ath (pronounced Day-ath) is snobbish and completely detached from modern life, as the film progresses he becomes a more sympathetic character. Recently widowed, he spends most of his spare time at art galleries or private members clubs, with friends who wouldn't seem out of place (or time) in an EM Forster book themselves. This is (or was, it was filmed in 1997) for me one of Hurt's best performances in a long time. It would have been easy to give the character a one dimensional dourness, but it's offset by a twinkle in Hurts eye and a droll delivery. Although De'ath is undoubtably manipulative an innocence shines through too thanks to the actor.

        The antithesis then, is Ronnie Bostock. A B list Hollywood hunk who wants to break out from the teen market and be taken seriously as an actor. Seemingly both dim and superficial, this role didn't demand much of Jason Priestley. Disappointingly, his performance was so wooden it started creaking in the scenes with Hurt. Maybe I shouldn't expect more of Priestley, but many actors and actresses have had undemanding roles and still come away having given credible performances (Cate Blanchett in The Shipping News, Naomi Watts in The Ring to name just two).

        Geographically, culturally, intellectually and age wise these two people are poles apart so why does Bostock hold such an attraction for De'ath? A painting the older man admires in the Tate shows a young man lying lifeless on a table. The scene in the film (Hotpants College II) where Bostock catches his eye for the first time involves the actor lying prone on a diner table after a fight. This starts a chain of events culminating in their meeting.

        Crucial to their meeting is Bostocks girlfriend. Smarter than her boyfriend, she sees through De'ath quickly but keeps her concerns to herself. Aside from keeping a watchful eye on De'ath she has very little to do, and the character doesn't have much scope for development.
        Of the supporting cast, one worth a mention is De'ath's housekeeper. Played by a hammy Sheila Hancock, a few facial movements and comments are all she needs to show that she thinks her boss is a bit of an oddball.

        ~ The screenplay ~

        Those who have read Death in Venice by Thomas Mann may already suspect there are passing similarities. Even so, don't let that put you off watching this film. Infatuation and obsession have been done to death in films as well as novels, but the charm here lies in the unlikeliness of their relationship. A fusty scholar who eschews anything modern becomes enraptured with a vacuous Hollywood star? The very idea!

        Once we see De'ath mistake a microwave for a video recorder we understand he lives in a time warp. Other scenes such as a deaf neighbour explaining subtitles seem to labour the point unnecessarily and become tedious. Better pacing might have enabled both of the main characters to spend more time on screen later on.

        Its not entirely without wit though. Aside from the obvious pun with his name, the painting in the Tate that jumpstarts De'ath's infatuation is that of an 18th century poet, Thomas Chatterton. So naturally the town in Long island where Bostock resides is also named Chatterton. It might have been visually more appealing to shift the scenes from The Hamptons to Manhattan but I'm glad they didn't. The themes of classic versus modern or young versus old which run riot through the earlier London part would have been overkill here. Instead, once in Chatterton the film concentrates on the two main characters meeting.

        And how does that pan out?

        Rather than heading for something much darker, this feels a bit like a Richard Curtis film. Unlike the trip to Venice in Mann's book, this one closes not destructively, but having been fulfilled in way neither of the men could have anticipated. Again, and more subtly, the old versus new theme pops up again, but I wont spoil it for anyone who might want to see this.

        It's rated 15 due to some strong language and themes but compared with more recent films this is tame.

        Recommended.

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        • Skullcandy INK'D / Headphones / 112 Readings / 109 Ratings
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          20.10.2013 15:46
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          Disappointing compared to other earbuds in this price bracket.

          My last headphones were from Sony and have survived regular use for a couple of years before the left side stopped working. Good quality and a good buy, but I thought I'd venture into the unknown with a pair of these Skullcandy ones recently. Unknown because although there are loads of reviews on this pair (Amazon has somewhere near 200) they're mixed; neither overwhelmingly good or bad.

          At £9.99 I figured they were cheap enough to take a chance on, and they had to be better than the alternative. Nothing could persuade me to go back to using the ones apple give away with their mp3s, they're awful. Unless of course you like scratchy plastic in your ears, with mediocre sound quality to top it off.

          I also didn't want to buy some of the chunky headphones. These may not appeal as much to fashionistas as the over the head ones, but they are more portable and less obtrusive, which suits me perfectly.

          ~ I should like what I'm hearing ~

          I have music from the 60s onwards uploaded on my iPod. It's an eclectic range asking for a good quality pair of headphones.

          These are not them. Abba isn't to everyones taste, but their vocal range was superb. The nuances are missed using these. The range of The Boss might not be so great, but he should still sound crisper than he does.

          People who like punchier music than Bruce might feel the lower notes are disappointing here too. The bass should feel weightier and sharper, and I don't feel these have the overall clarity I was used to with my old Sony ones. While we're talking noise - which most bass booming music is to me - I should probably mention the noise from the cable. I appreciate there are those who use headphones at home to use with their pcs or laptops and this won't be an issue for them, but I only use these with my iPod when I'm out and about walking. There is definitely a more noticeable crackle using these than with my old pair. It's distracting and also gives the impression of being poorly made.

          Where these fair better is in isolating other noise. Passing traffic especially isn't too invasive. Whether that is down to the cable, the earplugs or the silicone earbud sleeves I don't know, but the claim that these are noise isolating isn't far off the truth.

          ~ The design and feel ~

          These feel surprisingly well made given the sound quality. The cord has a soft tactile feel to it which is altogether nicer than both my Sony ones and the shiny plastic of my apple ones. They don't look as cheap or plasticky either. I bought mine at TK Maxx for £9.99 which was apparently half the usual rrp. A few pounds cheaper than the £14 my Sony ones cost me, which is why I'm not overly disappointed with the fewer accessories, but at full price be warned.

          This Skullcandy comes with only two different sizes of earbud covers, not the more usual three but luckily the first pair I tried fitted well. As for a cable tidy for the long cord, forget it. It seems I've been spoilt by Sony.

          Still, the earbud covers are made of silicone and fit well on the earpieces, so at least I shouldn't find they slip off accidentally. The feel of them when I'm using these is infinitely nicer than the iPod ones which are like round plastic discs with a teeny bit of rubber seal attached. Their one size fits all didn't work for me and after half an hour or so my ears felt sore. I usually wear these Skullcandy ones for around an hour at a stretch and up to nearly two hours occasionally and as far as comfort is concerned they're every bit as good as the Sony ones.

          A nice touch is that its stereo mini plug is gold plated. Does this assist in giving better sound quality? Not in my experience, no, despite lending to the overall feel of good quality materials which could easily be hit or miss in this price bracket.

          If there is any design niggle it would be that I think the cord is too long at 1.3 metres. When I'm not using this, the cord tends to get bunched up in a mess, meaning I have to untangle it every time. A shorter cord would be more practical, just as easy to use and probably less likely to cause wear and tear in the long run.

          Having used these almost daily for around three months now, they aren't showing any signs of wear and tear which is good. Whether they last as long as my old Sony ones remains to be seen, but I'm almost hoping they won't. Don't get me wrong, the sound quality isn't abysmal, just very ... average.

          Although they look good and seem to be well made, they don't deliver. Had I paid nearly £20 I would be disappointed, but at £9.99 I've probably got exactly what I paid for.

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            25.09.2013 22:13
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            A good choice for those needing toric lenses.

            I've tried various contact lenses in the decade that I've been wearing them. Starting with monthly disposable ones, I switched to Acuvue dailies a couple of years ago. After that came their daily moist ones which were recommended as my eyes became drier. Aside from being soft lenses what they've all had in common is that they're the more usual spherical ones.

            Perfect for those without astigmatism. However on my most recent eyesight test, the reason for my worsening vision in one eye was revealed to be the changing shape of the eyeball from roundish to more that of a rugby ball (although the optician didn't couch it in those terms). Fortunately astigmatism isn't the problem it once was.

            Eyesight test over, my optician was happy that the toric lenses by Acuvue would be suitable so arranged for a trial supply to be ordered for me.

            Once tried and tested I started purchasing them (from Tesco Opticians) at £38 for 30 pairs. Aside from the convenience of buying them from the same place as I had my eye test, it seems to be competitively priced and in fact cheaper than my previous online supplier charges.

            Unlike the trial pack which came in bright yellow packaging, the 30 pairs come in typical Acuvue packaging: light blue and white boxes. The blister packs are, as ever, in rows of 5 which are easy to tear off and easy to peel open the two that you need.

            Although these are made from the same materials as the other Acuvue lenses which I found reassuring they feel thicker, like monthly lenses. The upside is that I've never had to discard a torn one unlike the 'normal' dailies, the downside being I was concerned this might make my dry eyes worse or reduce the levels of oxygen reaching my eye.

            Inserting them isn't any different to any other lenses. A spherical lens has no up or down - it has the same power all the way around meaning that it doesn't affect your vision if it moves when you blink. Toric lenses have two separate powers: one for the astigmatism, one for the short (in my case) or long sightedness. It sounds complicated, but wearing them all you need to know is that there is a definite up and down and if they move out of this position when you blink or move then everything becomes a blur. This isn't obvious from looking at the lenses though. You simply insert them and due to what Acuvue call their Accelerated Stabilization Design (ASD) they rotate to the correct position. Earlier toric lenses had a simple ballast method of managing this. The bottom of the lens was slightly heavier so thanks to gravity it would shift to the right position and stay there. Usually. Presumably if you wanted to sunbath wearing them, you would be fine unless you turned on your side and wanted to try reading a book. Gravity would surely fox the lenses. Maybe the same applies to any energetic sports too. Times change though, and although Acuvue are somewhat vague in detail, they do imply that the lens thickness varies in places and works in conjunction with the pressure of both eyelids to keep the lens in place. However they achieve it, for the most part it works. There are maybe a couple of instances a day when I'm wearing these (out of about 10 hours use) when they move out of place, but they've always readjusted within a few blinks.

            The positives:

            The much bigger field of clear vision I have with these over wearing glasses. And my astigmatism is less of a hindrance thanks to the improved vision with these toric lenses compared to my old daily disposables.

            They don't steam up or get wet in the rain unlike glasses.

            Acuvue 1 day moist for astigmatism have UV Protection. Johnson and Johnson claim that these particular lenses block up to 80% of UVA and 95% of UVB rays. That's no substitute for a decent pair of sunglasses though as these don't cover all the eye.

            The main risk with contact lenses is infection. With monthly disposables, you have clean them every time you take them out. Poor cleaning will obviously have a detrimental effect on your lenses, and thus your eyes. You wear these once and then bin them. No faffing about cleaning them, which in turn reduces the risk of catching any eye infection, or worse, longer term corneal problems which won't be picked up until you go for a check up.

            These aren't without a few drawbacks though...

            Potentially any contact lenses can fall out, but I haven't had that happen to me with these lenses.

            It may sound obvious, but you need to be comfortable touching your eyes. This doesn't bother me now after years of wearing contacts. Assuming that most people who would use these lenses have already used spherical ones, it probably wont be an issue for anyone considering these.

            The expense. Once you've paid for your glasses there is no on-going expense. Daily disposables work out pretty darn expensive by comparison. These 1 day moist for astigmatism are more expensive than normal daily disposables and even more so than the monthly options. Just shy of £40 for thirty pairs seems to be the most inexpensive price I have found.

            Recommended?

            Theres no substitute for a good optician who feels you are at the stage where you need to use toric lenses and discusses your options with you. Perhaps someone indulging in high impact sports, or even a Strictly Come Dancing contestant might find another toric lens more suitable. However, given that these still feel comfortable after 9 or 10 hours of use, and they have given me clearer vision that I had before, I would happily recommend these.

            Given there isn't a big difference in price between these and ordinary spherical lenses, yet the manufacture must be more complex, I've awarded 4.5 Dooyoo stars, with half taken off for the price.

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              20.08.2013 08:51
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              A gentle shampoo which leaves my hair in very good condition. Recommended.

              Having bought the smaller sized bottle of this Creme de Coco shampoo - at 50 ml this is probably the tiniest bottle of shampoo I've ever bought - yet at £5.50 it was hardly inexpensive. I like to use a smaller or trial size first with any new haircare product in case it doesn't agree with my hair or skin. The claims Bumble and Bumble make sounded impressive enough for me to want to try it though.

              Described as "an extra-mild, luxurious cleanser with a blend of moisture-rich Coconut and Murumuru Butters" it aims to help restore sheen & softness, improve flexibility and minimise frizz. I wouldn't say I have a problem with is frizzy hair, but because I often have my hair highlighted and use a hair dryer and GHD's I think a good quality shampoo and conditioner are in order to help keep it looking its best.

              Despite this being the smaller of the two sized bottles, it has the same flip top lid as the 250 ml bottle. This was fine until I got to the very end of the bottle and found it easier to dispense the shampoo by unscrewing the lid.

              The shampoo itself is creamy coloured and slightly pearlescent. This, together with the consistency lends itself to the "luxurious" claim as this is a nice, thicker consistency than most other shampoos without being gloopy or unmanageable.

              As expected, the scent is primarily of coconut although I think its a more subtle smell than a lot of other coconutty shampoos. It isn't too noticeable on my hair after I use it either, but that's fine with me - I want my hair cleaned not deodorised!

              A quick look at the ingredients provides some reassurance that Bumble & Bumble aim to use mostly natural ingredients: Coconut oil, Coconut extract, Murumuru (Palm Tree) butter, Mallow and Milk Thistle extract are all included to make my hair glossy and soft. Another, Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLS) puts a dampener on things, but it is at least in the minority.

              Using this shampoo is a treat. I need very little as it lathers brilliantly with no effort. I would put this down to the SLS but the Tigi Catwalk shampoo I use is swimming in surfactants and doesn't lather anything like as well. This coco de creme also leaves my hair feeling far less tangled than either of my Aussie and Tigi shampoos, but I still tend to use a conditioner afterwards out of habit.

              ~ The Creme de la creme? ~

              I love a bargain as much as anyone, but more concern to me than the price of a shampoo is whether it causes any irritation to my scalp and how it leaves my hair feeling. In the past I've bought products having read wonderful reviews only to find they're not suitable for me.

              I usually wash my hair every other day, and when I use this shampoo the immediate results are very good: my hair is tangle free and once its dry it feels really silky and looks glossier too. The following day and my hair is still quite soft and hasn't really lost its body. The initial glossiness could easily start to make my hair feel lank before the next wash, but it doesn't.

              My small bottle lasted about two months and in all that time it hadn't left my scalp sore or blotchy. It is, as it states, gentle.

              Considering how cheap some shampoos are, the Bumble &Bumble range might seem over priced but I still recommend this nevertheless. The scent isn't off-putting, it feels nice to use, and most importantly it keeps my hair and scalp in tip top condition. It also seems to last me slightly longer than others as I use less.

              I see that Boots now stock the Bumble & Bumble range albeit mostly the larger sized bottles. I had bought my bottle online from B & B but I'll no doubt buy the bigger bottle in store soon (and gain Boots clubcard points as well). It costs £18.50 which some might think is insane but given my experiences with other shampoos and its longevity, I think this is money well spent.

              I'll award this 5 Dooyoo stars despite it being expensive as it really works for me.

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                28.07.2013 13:42
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                An extra gentle soap which is suitable for all the family. Recommended.

                I can't remember how I first came across this soap as some of my early experiences with L'Occitane products were disappointing insofar as their hand creams are just too rich for my skin. This is described as being extra gentle and containing Shea butter as well as lavender so try this I did and I'm so glad I have.

                ~ Less provincial, more Provençal ~

                Lavender has a bit of an outdated rep. Mostly, I associate it with products from the likes of Yardley, Crabtree & Evelyn or Woods of Windsor. The sort of olde worlde and typically English products which seem to be marketed as much towards tourists as anything Prince George could shake a rattle at.

                I have no idea whether French lavender is any the nicer than its English counterparts, but L'Occitane state that: "fine lavender or true lavender (Lamiaceae family), fills the mountains of Provence with its vibrant colour and scent, at altitudes from 600 to 1,500 meters. The Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O.) label is only granted to lavender that is grown at altitudes above 800 meters, in Haute-Provence. This is the lavender of perfumers, with its small violet-blue flowers and its fine, subtle scent."

                The vibrant colour has gone - this soap is white, but the scent is certainly natural and strong without being overpowering. Not only is it a true lavender scent, which is lovely from the time the paper packaging is opened, but it lasts. Not for the duration of a bath, but unlike other soaps I've bought, the scent doesn't diminish with use.

                I've always bought the larger of the two sizes of this soap. The smaller 100 g size is probably better suited to face washing or hand washing, but the 250 g size is an excellent size for baths or showers and is better value for money.

                ~ Raising the bar ~

                At 250 g this isn't little, in fact it feels a bit odd at first if you normally use daintier bars of soap. What is still surprising despite having bought this repeatedly is the quality of this soap. With other soaps, I can almost see the bar getting smaller with every use, whereas this soap just doesn't seem to get smaller. Neither does its lather ability diminish over time either. Both, I imagine are due to the soap, along with the others by L'occitane, being triple milled. Simply put, once the soap is made and dried, it then gets rolled three times between large rollers until a paste is formed which is then pressed into soap moulds, et voila: triple milled soap is created.

                A fancy way of extracting more money for their products you might think, but one of the benefits of this process (which was apparently developed in France in the 18th century) is that the soap is longer lasting than other types of soap. How exactly, I don't know, but the reality is spot on.

                The results...

                .. are excellent. My skin sometimes feels dry thanks to factors like the summer sunshine, air conditioning or central heating over winter. Shea Butter is known for being a good moisturiser, and although I cant establish what percentage L'occitane include in this soap, I put its rich and creamy texture down to this. It's one of the best soaps I've used for leaving my skin feeling hydrated and not at all taut, which comes in handy for those times when I forget to moisturise after a bath.

                Given that L'Occitane work directly with women's collectives in western Africa to gain the Shea, one disappointing aspect is that they make no mention of the source of the sodium palmate or sodium palm kernelate which are also ingredients. These may well be naturally occurring but presumably not from a sustainable source.

                The rrp for the 250g soap is £7.50. For those convinced that soap is soap I beg to differ. I can pinch pennies as well as the next person but this is one item I still pay full price for. I usually buy from their shop in Bromley and signed up to their electronic newsletter with the promise of a 10% off voucher in return when I was there. They haven't overwhelmed me with spam, but the voucher did take around 2 months to arrive which seems excessive. Nevertheless, its already been used to buy three more of their soaps on my most recent visit. For anyone wanting to try this soap, I would suggest signing up to their newsletter and using the 10% voucher for the smaller 100g soap, which would then only cost £4.05.

                To put the price into context, Crabtree and Evelyn sell a Lavender triple milled soap which costs £15 for three 85g bars. Korres have a Chamomile soap which is £5.50 for 125 g. L'occitane is good value in comparison.

                Recommended.

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                  23.07.2013 20:11
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                  I would like to return to the Brudenell Hotel, we had an enjoyable stay.

                  A promise of hot weather coincided with a recent news article I had read describing some of Britain's best beaches. The ball soon started rolling: find a seaside resort which is pooch friendly in high season, with dog friendly accommodation nearby, and which wouldn't be overrun with other visitors (people sunbathing and one very nosy Labrador simply don't mix well).

                  Suffolk may as well have been the Himalayas, so often have I visited. And to think Ipswich isn't really any further distance than Bournemouth, yet lovely Bournemouth is far better known to us than the Suffolk coastline. As well as to most of southern England judging by how busy the beaches get there.

                  Having narrowed our search down to two hotels which both appeared to be ideally suited, we plumped for the Brudenell in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

                  The words 'boutique hotel' would normally leave me quivering in my muddy walking boots, but not at the Brudenell. Small and tastefully furnished it may be, but the trump card as far as we were concerned is its location...

                  .. slap bang on the beach front. Situated near the end of a tiny cul de sac (Crag Place), with nothing but the narrow road and the sea wall between the hotel and the shingle beach, it really couldn't be better located.

                  Clearly it makes sense to place the restaurant and bar on this side of the building, but the terrace which spans the entire length of the hotel was the icing on the cake for us. What better place to enjoy breakfast or dinner?
                  Privately owned and with only 44 bedrooms, booking should be quick and straightforward, which it was for us because we chose the cheapest available room. For those less thrifty, there are a multitude of room options ranging from the deluxe sea view rooms to those overlooking Aldeburgh.

                  Our room rate was £142.50 per night. With £10 per night extra cleaning costs to take our pooch, we paid in total £305 for two nights and two breakfasts.

                  The only concern we had when booking was the lack of car parking. The website describes the Hotel as having 8 covered parking spaces near the entrance together with some more parking at the side.

                  First impressions...

                  .. were good, nevertheless. The front of the building, while not as visually appealing as the rear, does blend in well with neighbouring properties. Having snuck into one of the last available covered parking spaces almost directly opposite the hotel, we entered the lobby. Which is all there is really at this level. Reception is up two short flights of stairs although there is a lift there for anyone with mobility problems or buggies. Beyond the reception desk on the left is the lounge area, some toilets, a payphone and the stairs. To the right is the bar and restaurant. Walking straight ahead will lead out on to the terrace and towards the beach.

                  Checking in was straightforward, they already had our card details from the online reservation, we simply had to let them know our car registration number and if we would like a newspaper in the morning.

                  ~ The room ~

                  On the first of three floors and facing Aldeburgh rather than the sea, on the face of it room 112 might not have much to recommend it but it wasn't disappointing. Look beyond a few roofs and all you can see is the river Alde wending its way towards the sea, and countryside.

                  Mid July and hot, we weren't in need of the duvets on the bed - the tartan blankets were enough. Both the room and ensuite were spotless when we arrived and remained that way thanks to housekeeping. Although we didn't catch much telly, it was easy to swivel around and see from the bed. Some nice touches were the books on Suffolk kept on the little coffee table, and the tea and coffee tray. Tucked out of the way on a pull out tray under the telly, the excellent biscuits and hot chocolate soon disappeared. There isn't air conditioning, but the sash windows open at the top and let in a lovely breeze. There's also a small fan kept in the wardrobe, but we didn't use it during our stay.

                  The en suite was not only spacious but looked very new. The colourful tiles along one wall together with the yellow blind gave the room a lovely warmth and were a bolder alternative to most neutral colour schemes. The Rituals toiletries they supply also came in handy, if only to try out something new.

                  The Brudenell website is quite clear that this room is slightly cheaper than most of the others due to it being nearest to the lift, with the potential for some noise being heard. That's accurate in that the lift (which is quite small and slow) can be heard whirring up and down in the room but not to the extent of keeping one awake much less causing a bad night's sleep. What did wake me the first night were some loud guests getting out of it around 2.30 am. Where they'd been until that time is anyone's guess as Aldeburgh isn't exactly Magaluf.

                  Aside from that, no other internal noise could be heard either from the rooms above, despite our room having the odd creaky floorboard, or the lobby below. Perhaps due to the hotel being at the southerly end of Aldeburgh, with very little apart from the harbour being beyond, there's no perceptible noise from outside the hotel either.

                  ~ Rise and shine ~

                  Breakfast is part self service; there's a choice of half a dozen cereals, some fruit juices, pastries and yoghurts. Waitresses then take your cooked breakfast order and bring tea or coffee and toast. Breakfasts are cooked to order and range from a bacon or sausage muffin; smoked salmon with scrambled eggs up to the full English (or its vegetarian equivalent). The breakfasts, as well as their evening meals are delicious. Both mornings we opted to sit out on the terrace and watch some early morning swimmers making the most of the good weather.

                  ~ The advantages ~

                  The hotel and room are spotlessly clean. I couldn't fault the room either despite it being considered a cheaper one. The Brudenell website offers a 360 degree panoramic view of some of the other rooms and they do look as lovely.

                  The staff are all responsive and hard working. The evening we arrived, the hotel was holding their weekly barbecue dinner with live music. Although the menu looked appetising, neither of us fancied a heavy meal. Despite the staff being rushed off their feet, the chef prepared two lighter meals from their usual menu for us both. There is also a range of cooked breakfast options including a vegetarian one. Their menus can be accessed from their website.

                  The location. Having visited the pub we had also considered up the coast in Walberswick, the Brudenell was definitely the better choice. Aldeburgh is a lovely, unspoilt town which is celebrating the centennial birthday of its famous son, Benjamin Britten. The beachfront house where he stayed once he returned from the US in 1942 is at the northern end of town, barely a 10 minute walk away.

                  The beach. It may be shingly, but in high summer the beach is practically deserted for as far as the eye can see. Even the ugliest beaches on the south coast would be packed with lobster red people in such nice weather, but not in Aldeburgh. Bizarre, when you consider this stretch of coast is as easy to reach from London as Bournemouth is.

                  The Brudenell is in the minority by letting dogs stay! Naturally Amber wasn't allowed inside the restaurant, but we were allowed to let her sit outside on the terrace with us when we ate. For anyone alarmed at the prospect of sharing breakfast with a smelly mutt, the terrace probably runs the length of 8 cars, and I don't think anyone else even noticed the third guest perched under the table. Mostly she was busy watching all the passing dogs taking their owners for walks.

                  ~ Disadvantages ~

                  Parking must be a real pain for the locals. Lots of the roads in the older part of Aldeburgh are narrow and have double yellow lines everywhere. With 16 or so proper spaces together with around 8 further ones in front of the terrace the Brudenell has more than most hotels we saw, but that wouldn't be enough if the hotel were fully booked. Their website does state that their day porter can offer assistance in finding parking when you check in, but in the event we didn't need help, and there is also a large pay and display car park towards the harbour.

                  Dogs aren't permitted on the beach directly outside the hotel. We did see a few owners walking south beyond the harbour, but mostly we walked or drove to the beach between Aldeburgh and the next town to the north, Thorpeness. It's a bracing 45 minute walk to reach Thorpeness, but its a popular walk with joggers, walkers (those with and without pooches) and families. There are two pay and display car parks and one tiny but free car park halfway between the two towns.

                  Recommended?

                  Yes. Alternative accommodation we looked at was around £150 per night and wouldn't have been as nice. The staff here are friendly, there was very little noise despite warnings, and the location couldn't really be bettered. Prices still range from £142.50, but for those wanting to enjoy a deluxe sea view room, expect to pay £310 per night. Ouch.

                  Website: www.brudenellhotel.co.uk

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                    09.06.2013 18:58
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                    Use sensibly and this will help prevent skin burn. Recommended.

                    ~ Flaming June ain't no oil painting ~

                    After such a dreary spring I was almost convinced summer would be another washout. Thankfully there have already been a handful of occasions when I've been proved wrong and found myself seeking sun protection before going out.

                    Usually I choose moisturisers for my face which have a SPF included, so it's only when I'm in short sleeves or wearing sandals that other sun protection creams get brought out. June is the month when the sun is at its hottest in the northern hemisphere so decent sun protection is necessary, even if it feels daft applying it in cloudy weather.

                    This Ambre Solaire Light & Silky was one of the items I had bought for a foreign holiday last year. As it wasn't high season I thought this sunscreen with an SPF of 20 would be appropriate. I have the lotion although it can be bought in a spray.

                    ~ Promises, promises ~

                    The bottle has a flip top lid which is easy enough to open but firm enough to stay shut when not needed. More importantly though is the blurb. Having a SPF of 20 means it will take twenty times longer for the UVB rays to start their damage than it would without this on. The star rating is just as crucial as that gives an indication of the protection the lotion should provide against UVA rays and the dreaded wrinkles and premature ageing. This has a star rating of 4 which is good. The best rating is 5 stars which indicates that the lotion provided equal protection against UVA rays as it does UVB.

                    ~ Effectiveness~

                    When I use enough, it works well. Having spending nearly a fortnight on holiday in temperatures up to 30 degrees any tanning was barely perceptible. The slight change I did notice was probably due more to my sloppy application of the lotion rather than the product's fault. This might be disappointing for anyone wanting to show off a post holiday tan, but for me it was ideal.

                    Aside from the differences in the star rating, the effectiveness of every sunscreen should really be the same. The only differences (or means of measuring the quality) in any sunscreen are cosmetic aside from the price: how it makes your skin feel and how easy it is to apply. So...

                    ~ The Application ~

                    Calling it light & silky is a good start. Ambre Solaire claim this is light and therefore easy to apply and I have to agree. It's neither so runny that it dribbles everywhere, or thick and greasy. That makes any new sun screen tedious to rub in, and (if you're like me) with any older ones that you've squirrelled away for a sunny day, clumps can be a sign that the lotion has gone off and should be discarded.

                    The claim that it leaves skin feeling silky rather than greasy when it's applied is appealing too. I tend to stick with Ambre Solaire or Piz Buin for sun lotions, and from experience this does rub in better rather than leaving a sticky film on my skin.

                    This lotion has that unmistakable scent they all seem to have, although it is far lighter and less cloying than most others I've used, making it less troublesome to apply too.

                    Good Value...

                    .. this certainly has been for me. Not only did I manage to buy this 200 ml bottle when it was on offer at £6.49 being half price, but I stored it away with about half the contents remaining after my holiday. Unlike some beauty or cosmetic products which have a short shelf life once they've been opened, this is still perfectly useable now, some 9 months later.

                    I wasn't on a beach holiday though, and mostly used this on my arms and lower legs. For those intent on swimming and sunbathing more - and no doubt needing to apply sun cream more frequently - this is still inexpensive and very good value.

                    Recommended?

                    As sunscreens go, this is good protection combined with a sun hat and sunglasses. As sun lotions go, I can't fault this. Those with children may want a product with a higher SPF, but for adults who don't intend to fry on a beach in warmer climes this is a good value lotion to use. I'll wager that the weather on 21st June wont be anything special, but I'll be prepared with this Light & Silky for when the sun will be at its most intense.

                    The full 5 Dooyoo stars from me.

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                      27.05.2013 10:31
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                      If only Faith, Hope and Charity could be bought as easily as this decent cleanser.

                      Having face skin that's a combination of oily and dry can sometimes be as troublesome as trying to find a decent facial cleanser to use on it. Especially as my skin can be overly sensitive the choices become more limited. I also like to to change facial cleansers often, just in case the efficacy lessens over time. Marketed as an exfoliater as well as a cleanser, Face Soap and Clarity by Soap and Glory is my latest cleanser, and aside from a body spray this is the only Soap and Glory item I've bought to date.

                      ~ The style ~

                      The Soap and Glory range is easily identifiable by its packaging. The 50s style photos and pink backgrounds may differ slightly on each product but they all look bright and sharp on the store shelves. Refreshingly, S&G haven't fallen into the trap of other beauty brands by inventing new lingo (I cant be the only person who thinks mattifying isn't a proper word). Instead they use puns to name their products. Thus, with a little assistance from Faith, Hope and Charity comes their new cleanser. The packaging and name make me think S&G are targeting a more youthful market than myself, teens and twenty something's probably. The price also reflect this; at £7 Face Soap and Clarity is neither bargain basement nor as expensive as brands such as Elemis (who currently sell a cleanser aimed at teenagers for £12. £12!).

                      ~ The substance ~

                      Using this is no different to any other cleanser. I probably use a tad less than the recommended amount (grape size) but it lathers up nicely once its applied. Incidentally it is a greenish coloured gel which looks unusual in the see through tube although it doesn't smell or behave any differently to other cleansers. There are some small pink beads scattered throughout the cleanser too which I assume are there to assist in the 'exfoliation'. They don't feel overly abrasive although I often find i have to inspect my face carefully for any stubborn pink beads before I moisturise.

                      And moisturising afterwards is essential. Anyone with combination skin knows there's a fine balance between cleaning and stripping all the natural oils from your face. too much of the latter seems to send my Sebaceous glands into overdrive. While the Face Soap and Clarity hasn't caused me any adverse effects it does tend to dry out my face more than other cleansers I've used. So although this is marketed as one that can be used daily, I tend to alternate this cleanser with an even cheaper (and milder) one by Simple.

                      Recommended?

                      Having using this two or three times a week for about three months I can say it does a good job of cleaning my face without being unduly harsh. However, although it isn't a 'Eureka!' product neither does it deserve to be damned by faint praise. Those with either sensitive or combination skin may well find this works well and at 150 ml in a tube, it is reasonably priced too. For anyone who has drier skin (or those with skin which needs more attention) I'd recommend looking elsewhere.

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                      30.03.2013 02:07
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                      An unbeatable experience.

                      There are those people who are naturally up with the lark, and others, myself included, who are happier being night owls. So it was that when my sleep was rudely interrupted by the 4.30am wake up call on holiday in Cappadocia I wasn't in a bad mood, just wondering if this balloon trip would be worth the lost sleep.

                      I had never entertained the thought of going up in a hot air balloon before, it just seemed like a weird idea, but when the opportunity presented itself on holiday last year my mother leapt at the chance. Her curmudgeonly daughter knowing full well that she'd be woken up anyway, resigned herself to tagging along (after paying for both of them) and chalking it up to experience if it was less than interesting.

                      All the more surprising for me was that so many others from our tour group also wanted to go ballooning. I think around 14 of us were duly waiting in the hotel lobby at 5am to be collected by a Sultan minibus.

                      We were then driven to the take off site which seemed only a short distance away. Presumably the launch site changes with, well, the wind, and is dependant on factors such as the speed and direction. I was aware that we were on a ridge (unsurprising given that Cappadocia is all ridges and valleys) but rather unappreciative at the time what a smart move this was on the part of the crew.

                      Sultan had two balloons in use that day which the crew were preparing to inflate when we arrived. From what I could see of the other balloon companies, and there are many, most seemed to opt for taking off in the nearby valleys. We all helped ourselves to coffee and an assortment of biscuits and snacks which were laid out on some trestle tables and watched as the crew got to work inflating the two balloons.

                      We'd all been given a little card to hold as we got off the minibus and this indicated which balloon we'd be getting in. By 6am and with the balloons now ready to rumble we were climbing into the basket one by one. I didn't think to examine the other balloon, but ours took sixteen passengers. This might sound worrying to anyone with a fear of confined spaces but actually there was a fair bit of room to move. For anyone who has ever had the pleasure of squeezing on a London tube train in rush hour this basket would have seemed almost spacious. I'm not scared of heights but even I was slightly nervous climbing aboard. Finding out that there were no grotesquely obese people on board to tip the basket at a drunken angle helped quell my fears.

                      The basket was divided into 5 parts: four corner sections where the passengers were four to a section and the 'pilot' and guide in the middle. Ismail, our pilot, introduced himself and ran through the safety procedure for landing, which he said could sometimes be quite bumpy.

                      ~ Up ~

                      And then we rose. It might sound weird but what struck me first was how loud the propane gas cylinders were. And how hot they made my face feel when they were burning the liquid gas. We had all dressed ready for chilly weather and with comfortable footwear, but with the blowers on (and they will be for most of the time at the start) I could feel my face burning almost straight away. It almost felt like I had been standing too near a large bonfire for some time. This is perfectly normal though and probably helped to keep us warm as we all turned our attention to the landscape below.

                      Cappadocia in Turkey is a quirky looking region, and very popular with tourists. Best known for what are called the Fairy Chimneys, these strange sights have been naturally formed over millions of years from limestone wear and erosion. The landscape looks like a cross between somewhere you might meet both Frodo the hobbit and Luke Skywalker.

                      Unsurprisingly I saw neither, although we did get close enough to see what looked like birds of prey warming themselves in the morning sunlight.

                      The views over Goreme (the area of Cappadocia we were in) were magnificent too. Okay, so the fairy structures aren't as ornate as the palaces of Alhambra or Versailles but they're all the more stunning for being natural.

                      Now I'm no engineer, but even I know that the direction any balloon flight will take depends on the prevailing winds. The pilot can merely get the balloon to rise or fall at will by means of hot air. The journey any flight will take is probably a bit of a mystery even to the pilot. Still, what we did see, and plenty of, were the old pigeon roosts. I've forgotten what Ismail explained the locals used to use the pigeon droppings for but I've a feeling it was to fertilise the soil.

                      The feeling of being in a hot air balloon is vaguely surreal. Even as we climbed higher (and I think we probably got to about 1000 metres) I didn't feel the same sense of height I would in a tall building. Perhaps because, apart from the burners, it seemed so peaceful and quiet. Added to which the balloon seems to move slowly and smoothly which makes the experience feel otherworldly. The feeling could only have been topped by spotting Frodo the hobbit or Luke Skywalker on the ground but you can't have everything.

                      The landing was interesting though. Far from being bumpy it was masterful. Our pilot had radioed the ground crew to let them know where we would be landing, and as we started losing height, so their pick up truck appeared on the horizon. Once the truck had stopped somewhere suitable, Ismail managed to land the balloon on top of its trailer. Yes really. The show off.

                      ~ Après Flight ~

                      Once we all got out, there was a little guest book that the passengers were invited to sign, and more refreshments laid on. Not champers, but fruit juices and cordials and some more nibbles. In the short time that we were waiting for the mini bus to arrive and take us back to our hotel we were all given a certificate, which a staff member had diligently written our names on. Corny, but I still have mine!

                      ~ The staff ~

                      Our pilot Ismail is also the owner of Sultan Balloons (he was too modest to tell us this, I gleaned it from their website afterwards) and he certainly has an impressive CV (again, according to the website). Not only is he a competitive ballooning champion in Turkey but has been piloting commercial balloon flights for 21 years. This might not seem relevant to any potential customers but his experience showed. During the flight his manoeuvring of the balloon was fantastic - when we climbed over some ridges, he cut in really close to the rock face and then lifted us up. This was not due in any way to clumsiness or lack of attention, more his adept skill and got all the passengers ooohing and aaahing.

                      His English was as skilful as his piloting although mostly he kept quiet. Some people may prefer more commentary, but personally I was happier that he let us drink in the sights without chitter chatter.

                      And as for the other staff, although a 4.30am start was supremely early for me (nearer my bedtime than waking), some of them must have to get up even earlier to check the weather conditions will be good enough to fly. People who are not as keen as mustard need not apply for jobs in this industry then, although you could argue that as the profit margins appear to be good, perhaps the salaries are enough to motivate new recruits.

                      ~ Burgeoning Ballooning ~

                      One local had the bright idea of starting balloon trips over the region in 1985, which proved to be so popular that it seems like every man and his dog is now somehow involved in this thriving industry. I counted nearly 80 other balloons up in the sky with us, with most companies having several balloons on the go at once. Sultan Balloons seems to be one of the smaller operators with only three qualified pilots and three balloons, two of which were used the day we were there. Other companies are far larger. Having a quick look at the Turkish Civil Aviation Authority website (albeit in Turkish, I can still get an inkling of what is written) some companies - including the original, Kapadokya Balloons - seem to have 16 or 17 balloons! All of them have to be licensed to fly, as do their UK counterparts with the British CAA. I would like to think there weren't any rogue traders operating, but for peace of mind it's worth checking the CAA website for any country where you plan to take a balloon ride.

                      Losing sleep over it...

                      ... is a necessary evil of any balloon flight with Sultan Balloons. Apparently early morning is the time of the day with the lightest winds which make things easier for the balloon pilot. How true this is I don't know, but warmer winds towards the middle of the day may pose more problems for the balloon. We were there in late September when most touristy things are winding down, but in Cappadocia balloons seem to fly all year around, weather permitting. Take offs tend to coincide with dawn, so if you were to visit in midwinter - allowing for more inevitable cancellations due to poor weather - you would at least get a later start of around 7.30am. I shouldn't grumble though; once we were airborne it became apparent that the valleys look their best at this time of day. Not only was it incredibly peaceful but at the risk of sounding arty-farty, the light is much better for taking photos (and you would want to take loads). Mine certainly seemed to come out better in the early morning light than once the sun had fully risen, even on my little point and shoot digital camera.

                      ~ Not pushing but blowing (the envelope). ~

                      I rather hoped boundaries weren't going to be stretched to their limits once we'd got off the ground and thankfully I had nothing to worry about. The envelope in question is the proper name for the nylon balloon which the staff managed to inflate in what seemed like the blink of an eye. The basket was made entirely of wicker and according to the Sultan website, manufactured along with the envelope, by a UK firm in Bristol. They advertise themselves as being the worlds largest maker of ballooning equipment as well as other things, so should you feel an urge to buy an airship, Cameron Balloons are your go-to people. Should you have enjoyed the experience with Sultan so much that you simply must have one of your own, their envelopes start at around £12,000.

                      The Outlook...

                      ... over Cappadocia was not only gloriously warm and sunny as expected when we were there, but far easier on the Sultan staff than their British counterparts. One common complaint among people who book any UK balloon trip seems to be the disappointment at recurring cancellations due to poor weather conditions. In Cappadocia they fly even in winter with snow on the ground! Richard Branson plans to propel civilians into space but he can't yet fix it for those same people to travel up a few thousand feet in nothing more complex than a wicker basket without disappointment.

                      For Sultan balloons, the outlook seems as buoyant as their envelopes. They aren't one of the largest operators, but the ride is comfortable and the staff (or at least our pilot) are experienced and capable. Neither do they pack passengers in like sardines. Some other operators in the area have twenty odd people to a basket, so you may not get as good a view as we all had.

                      ~ Recommended? ~

                      I am so glad I went despite my initial reservations, it was probably the best one off experience of my holiday. My mother also thoroughly enjoyed it, as did all the others in our group we chatted to.

                      The recent hot air balloon tragedy in Egypt will probably put many off the idea but I would still recommend going on a balloon flight, and especially here with Sultan Balloons. Thankfully any tragedies like the Egyptian one are rare, and in all likelihood ballooning is probably far less dangerous than driving up or down English motorways.

                      The only downside is that our balloon flight slightly spoilt the rest of Cappadocia for us. After being dropped off back at our hotel (and more importantly, getting there in time for breakfast) the rest of the day was spent looking around the Goreme Open Air Museum. Although that is a must if you are in the region, the rock formations and the overall landscape is far more impressive when viewed from the air.

                      Not only that, but being on a hot air balloon flight anywhere is an extraordinary experience. The feeling of gently floating along isn't one I can adequately convey in a review but the strange thing is, despite the balloons needing a slight wind to actually move anywhere, once we were in the basket I didn't feel any breeze and certainly not chilly.

                      I paid 150 euros for each of us which for a one hour flight I didn't feel was exorbitant. There are some cheaper alternatives in Goreme but I don't think ballooning the sort of experience where I'd really want to be penny pinching or cutting corners. This is payable directly to the crew once the flight finishes. Their website gives the price now as now being 160 Euros per person. The website is also very helpful in explaining who should and shouldn't fly (although it doesn't mention the grotesquely obese).

                      While it isn't a cheap outing, it is one I recommend.

                      Website: http://www.sultanballoons.com/EN/belge/2-1/homepage.html

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                        11.03.2013 20:25
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                        A very reasonably priced toothbrush which helps keep my teeth clean and healthy. I like it.

                        There are very few sights more pitiful than someone attempting to brush their teeth with an electric toothbrush that no longer works. That someone was me for a few days recently, once my existing Oral B electric toothbrush had expired.

                        How difficult can it be to choose a new toothbrush? A quick glance on the internet and I found the market in electric toothbrushes has grown since I bought my now lifeless Vitality.

                        Fortunately, wading through all the chaff stopped the instant I spied this toothbrush on the Superdrug website. I could of course saved some time and effort and simply bought another Vitality Precision toothbrush. For around £18 it isn't a bad toothbrush but then it isn't in a fetching pink colour like this one.

                        Aside from its pinkness, the Professional Care 600 pretty much covered all my bases and more importantly my teeth. I wanted one that's easy to use and clean, which is lightweight, and as suitable for going away as it is at home. Oh, and I was inclined to opt for one which uses the same Precision Clean brush head as the Vitality which I like and am comfortable using. Not much to ask then...

                        In the box I got...

                        .. the Professional care 600 handle, a Precision Clean brush head, a standard Oral B charging base unit to recharge the battery and the travel case.

                        ~ Featureless? ~

                        If you want a toothbrush which comes complete with its own UV sanitiser unit, or feel you need feedback as to how well you're brushing your teeth via a wireless 'smart guide' then you will surely find this too basic. It suits me just fine though. It's at the lower end of what Oral B call a "£2.9 billion brushing market" meaning they could reasonably have got away with little or no frills, but credit to them they didn't entirely scrimp.

                        Like my old Vitality brush this pauses after two minutes, which is apparently the recommended time for brushing ones teeth. Unlike my old brush it also stutters slightly every 30 seconds, the idea being that you give each quarter of your mouth the same level of attention before moving on. This is an improvement for me as I'm sure I used to spend too much time focussing on just a few areas once the whirring of the brush head started me contemplating life and I lost track of time. Even better than using a manual brush as I'm sure back in the day I probably not only cleaned for far shorter than recommended but a good deal harder too, generally causing more damage to my teeth and gums.

                        Not content with one light on the handle which flashes green when it's charging, the Professional Care 600 has a second light which will flash red when the battery needs recharging. Much simpler than that of the guesswork needed to use the Vitality which simply got slower and less powerful until it ground to a halt, annoyingly nearly always mid use.

                        Don't be fooled by the name though. The 600 stands for, frankly, nothing. Neither do the others in the range from the 500 up to the 3000 aside from the higher the number the more frivolous features you can expect to find. The important part to note when choosing any electric brush is how fast it rotates and pulsates (yes, really). This is one step up from the Professional Care 500 toothbrush - the only difference is that this one rotates 8,800 times per minute compared to 7,600 times for the PC 500 model and pulsates a staggering 20,000 times. As for the Vitality, the Person Who Names Toothbrushes at Oral B must have a good sense of irony as there isn't even the tiniest flicker of a pulsation at all. It does stand its ground with the 500 on rotations though so all is right with the world.

                        ~ Ease of use ~

                        Straight out of the box and I encountered my biggest bugbear with it. Or rather lack of. Not the fact that this brush should be charged for 17 hours prior to first using it, (which seems excessive unless you have the teeth of an enormous crocodile) but that nowhere on the tiny accompanying leaflet does it state how long it should be charged for initially. I only found that out some time after from the Oral B website. Fortunately they redeemed themselves by selling this already partly charged up, so after only a few hours it was good to go.

                        The charging unit is the small, no-frills one used for all their entry level brushes. It's easy to keep clean and compact enough to travel with. Some of the fancier brushes have a charger which can store four brushes. Ideal for a family at home maybe but not for travelling light. Perhaps my bathroom is hopelessly outdated, but we don't have a shaver socket at home. Not an issue generally but the charger is a 2 pin variety so if this is your first electric toothbrush you will also need to have a suitable adaptor.

                        The brush (the front half is pink with the back being white) is not so much easy to use but effortless, as teeth brushing should be. There are no confusing choices to make like which cleaning mode to use, just brush and go.

                        The power button needs a fairly firm finger to switch on or off, but that's fine as perhaps there's less chance of it going off accidentally when it's packed in my luggage.

                        The ridges above and beneath the power button are enough to get a good grip but also easy to keep free of toothpaste. It wasn't until I bought this one that I realised how icky the ridges of my Vitality brush were by comparison.

                        The handle is lightweight although the weight seems more distributed towards the base rather than evenly like my Vitality. Not a problem in use but the design which is fractionally bottom heavy makes this easier to balance than the Vitality if it wasn't kept on the charger.

                        The Precision clean brush head is predominantly white with disappointingly dark blue bristles. Disappointing because it clashes dreadfully with the lovely pinkness beneath it. The bristles, as they wear, go a lighter blue indicating the need to replace the head, roughly every three months. Looks aside, I really like this particular brush head. Thanks to it being small and round I can reach my back teeth far easier than the heads normally seen on manual brushes. It cleans my teeth well and the bristles are neither too hard to go near my gums or feel like they're scraping the enamel. I imagine this would be ideal for younger people still wearing braces too. If that doesn't suit you, then all the other Oral B brush heads can be used with this except the Sonic and Pulsonic ranges. These are twice the size and personally, not to my liking.

                        Overall, this toothbrush is so easy to use that my little pinkie resolutely refuses to have anything to do with it, and sticks out as if I'm a posh bird drinking a cup of tea.

                        ~ Do I like it? ~

                        Blue is the colour...

                        .. of the bristles on the Precision Clean brush head (try saying that when you're tipsy!), which is the only real issue I have with this Professional Care package. While the colour blends nicely with the Vitality brush as it may well do with others, it doesn't really gel with mine. With each new brush head Oral B provide a little band in different colours to slip onto the brush head where it joins the brush. These are in case a couple - or an entire family - want to use just the one brush. In theory a good idea but in practice it proves fiddly and easy to forget to change the tiny bands. I don't know why Oral B can't simply make the bristles in a range of colours.

                        Nevertheless it still looks rather more modern than the Vitality toothbrush and whether its charging, on my windowsill or in its travel case it takes up no room at all.

                        It feels...

                        ..lightweight enough to use only holding it with three fingers and thumb (something I never cracked with a manual toothbrush). Neither does it feel cheap or tacky unless you equate pink with tack. An improvement would be to substitute the 2 pin charger for a 3 pin plug for the UK market but this is common with Philips toothbrushes as well.

                        More importantly, my teeth feel as if they've been thoroughly cleaned without my being too overzealous. Oral B state on the box that this will remove "up to" 100% more plaque than a regular manual toothbrush. Having used it for a few weeks now, I'm more inclined to think it's nearer the 100% than, say 5%. Aside from the plaque removal, I don't feel that I'm doing any long term damage by brushing too vigorously either.
                        What I do dislike is the cost of the replaceable heads. A pack of 4 generally costs around £16 in Boots and around £10 online if you were to shop at the Oral B store on Amazon.

                        Niggles aside, yes I like it.

                        ~ Overall ~

                        I wanted a decent electric toothbrush which I could use at home with minimal fuss and this Professional Care fits the bill nicely. It's small enough to be travel friendly although I haven't been on holiday since buying it. Despite never having any problems with my old Vitality toothbrush switching on inadvertently in transit when I took it away, the travel case will no doubt prove more useful than having to find space in my toiletries bag like I usually do.

                        Having used an electric toothbrush for around four years now, I wouldn't go back to manually brushing. Ultimately though - and aside from your choice of toothpaste - dental care boils down to how long you brush for, how thorough you are and the kind of head on your toothbrush. Fancier toothbrushes - and some reach the dizzy heights of £200 - have other features which seem frivolous to me. Who really needs a bulky storage unit built into the charger base for four brush heads, or wants to check an lcd display when they're running late for work?

                        This is ideal for me and so it comes highly recommended. For those who have an issue with the pink colour, there is the standard PC 600 which might be more to your liking for a similar price but sans travel case.

                        Currently sold at various retailers for £24.95 which is half price, and in my opinion a steal.

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                        • More +
                          25.02.2013 01:22
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                          The initial results are pleasing but long term this leaves my hair feeling lank and my scalp itchy.

                          Having bought the larger sized bottle of TiGi's Catwalk Oatmeal and Honey shampoo at 750 ml, this is probably the biggest bottle of shampoo I've ever used. A rather rash purchase too, mostly I try to use a smaller or trial size first in case a hair care product doesn't agree with my tresses. However, the chance to buy this at half price in TK Maxx proved too enticing to ignore.

                          Described as "comfort food for damaged hair" this should be ideal for me. My hair is regularly highlighted at my hairdressers which can dry it out, as can using a hair dryer or GHD's which I also use. The promise that this shampoo will "enhance moisture and shine" is also given which sounded good.

                          As for the bottle, rather than having to lift this up to use, TiGi have thoughtfully put a pump dispenser on the lid so it needs little more exertion than a press of the finger to get to the shampoo.

                          The shampoo itself is - not surprisingly - white. I find its consistency seems slightly more watery than most other shampoos. The upshot being that I have to use slightly more shampoo than usual and my hands have to work that bit harder to get any sort of lather going. One depress of the pump dispenses an amount the size of a 10p coin which is the right amount for my bob. Although I have quite fine hair, there is lots of it.

                          The scent of this seems to be what every other reviewer raves about. Although its certainly stronger than most shampoos I'm used to, I wouldn't rate it highly. I can't say that honey is prevalent (and oatmeal is surely the blandest of smells). Personally I find it too sweet smelling, perhaps more suitable to a rich hand cream. Toffee sweets spring to mind more than honey which is a shame as a quick look at the ingredients does provide some reassurance that TiGi aim to use natural ingredients: Cucumber, kiwi, coriander, jasmine, bitter orange flower, macadamia seed oil are all listed on the bottle. The scent doesn't linger too long on my hair, fortunately.

                          Of more concern to me than the scent of a product is whether it causes any irritation to my skin. I have combination skin and both my scalp and face can be troublesome in the face of products which otherwise come highly recommended.

                          I usually wash my hair every other day, and when I use this shampoo the immediate results are decent enough: There aren't too many tangles to comb out and my hair feels soft to the touch once its dry and quite glossy too. By the following morning however my hair has lost most of its body and the glossiness has turned more to greasiness with it feeling lanker than usual.

                          This I could ignore if it wasn't for the fact that use of this shampoo results in my head started to itch as well. As I'm writing this, my forehead has some sore red patches and my scalp feels slightly sore too which experience tells me is down to this shampoo.

                          For those reasons I cant recommend this TiGi shampoo. There may be those who will benefit from the extra richness this provides, but I find it too rich to use often. I always use a conditioner after shampooing, but even so this Catwalk shampoo is disappointing. Not only that but the scent, which virtually every other review I've read, either on here or MakeUpAlley claims to be wonderful is too artificial for my liking. For those still unconvinced (after all I seem to be in a minority in not appreciating a TiGi product) I would suggest seeking it out at TK Maxx where I paid £9.99 rather than the RRP of £19.99.

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                          • Sinister (DVD) / DVD / 124 Readings / 119 Ratings
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                            11.02.2013 08:44
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                            Far better than some other modern supernatural/horror films although not without faults.

                            ~ The plot ~

                            A true crime writer and his family are moving home. Ellison Oswalt's latest project concerns an unsolved murder case of a family of four that were found hanging in their back garden. A third child of the doomed family disappeared and has never been seen again. Unfortunately the broke writer chose to move to the very house of the murders in the hope that it would provide inspiration for his much needed bestseller. As they are settling in, Ellison finds a box of old Super 8 films in the attic. The footage is not only of the hangings but shows other families being murdered, some stretching back to the 60s. Who made the films and what will happen to Ellison and his family now they are living there?

                            ~ The characters ~

                            Being set mainly in the new Oswalt home and with only a handful of people on screen at least there isn't the complaint that the film introduces unnecessary characters.

                            Ellison Oswalt isn't a sympathetic character. When he realises what the super 8 films contain, he should of course hand them over to the police as evidence but Sinister would end there if he did. He realises if he can get one over on the local police and perhaps solve some unsolder murders it could propel him back to the bestsellers list. In letting his ambitions override his family's safety he makes a Faustian pact which we watch slowly unravel. Despite that, Hawke still manages to bring some credibility to the character and I was hoping for a good outcome. His character's choice of natty cardigans was criminal though.

                            His wife, who has very little to do apart from occasionally bicker with Oswalt and announce that she's running the kids to school wasn't well developed. It isn't clear why Tracey would allow her family to be uprooted again (this isn't the first time) so that her husband can chase his dream. Even less so when we realise that they bought this house sight unseen and she isn't aware that it is where the massacre took place. There is one rather vigorous scene between the two which feels genuine as the reality of their situation sinks in but otherwise there's no real chemistry between her and Hawke. To be fair this seems to be the film debut of Rylance although in parts her acting is as creaky as the floorboards.

                            The two children's characters are slightly better developed which is just as well as their roles are more pivotal. Trevor begins to have night terrors and sleepwalks once the other kids at school let on about his home's history. Ashley, who is allowed to paint on her bedroom wall, develops a passion for summoning disturbing images.

                            Of the supporting cast, one worth a mention is the local deputy Sheriff. Smarter than he seems at first, he's eager to help Ellison write his book in the hope that he'll feature in the acknowledgments when it's published. He's also instrumental in pointing out the connection between all the video footage towards the end. Every good horror flick should have a supernatural element and that falls to a pagan deity called Baghuul here. If you can overlook the fact that the character looks like he'd just stepped off the stage at a Kiss concert he does look, well, spooky.

                            ~ The screenplay ~

                            When it comes to fantastic dialogue or acting, the horror genre is usually at the back of the movie queue. This film at nearly 2 hours long doesn't really have either a unique screenplay or great actors to hold a viewers attention but it does have plenty of the required shocks and most of them I really didn't see coming.

                            The film opens with four hooded people standing under a tree with nooses around their necks. We watch as a branch gets sawn off the tree. Acting as a counterweight, as it falls so its weight lifts and hangs the people. A grisly ending for them and a startling opening for viewers.

                            Thankfully, aside from the footage Ellison finds the screenplay relies more on tension and mood than outright violence. Ellison increasingly spend his time analysing the videos with the curtains drawn, meaning the viewers lose sense of time alongside him. Even when its daylight and Tracey is taking the kids to school the house is in darkness.

                            The film combines three themes: found video footage as seen in The Blair Witch Project, the idea that film itself can be evil a la The Ring/Ringu and haunted house scares as in the Paranormal Activity franchise. Not to mention that the central character is a down at luck writer who moves his family somewhere isolated so he can write in peace. Still, younger audiences may be indifferent to the connections with Jack Nicholson even if they were easy to spot.

                            The escalating sense of dread I can still feel watching The Shining isn't present here though. The sight of little Danny cycling round and around empty corridors at the Overlook was enough to chill my blood. Neither the wit or the funding were present here, but what there is are loud noises and yes, things do very much go bump in the night.

                            One more niggle is that there isn't really a good explanation given for the family having moved there in the first place. "I had to move here. The new story I'm writing is here," Ellison tells his wife. On that basis, how did Roald Dahl write his books? Perched on top of a peach? A giant one maybe.

                            Naomi Watts carried off her role in the Ring films with credibility, despite what seems a daft premise (the idea of a spooky girl crawling out of a telly sounds ridiculous but it nevertheless scared me rigid). Hawke too is surprisingly well cast and manages to carry off the role well.

                            Although the house is in rural Pennsylvania the film could be set anywhere. a modest budget of $3m was perhaps one reason, another being that bland, characterless houses are a blank canvas. Rather than get distracted by nick nacks over the mantelpiece the audience sees every little movement - perhaps more than the characters on screen. This worked a treat in the Paranormal films, but if that was Derrickson's intention here, it was partly scuppered by the busy musical score.

                            Worth watching?

                            Those who enjoyed the film The Shining may feel this is a poor imitation. Neither Nicholson's long descent into madness or the beautiful scenery at the Overlook hotel is matched here. Others who are hoping to see a more gory flick may also come away disappointed. Personally I'm not sure Sinister will stand up to a second viewing, but I would still recommend watching it once. The music design is attacked with too much relish and I found those 8mm films truly unnerving, but its still a much better film overall than a lot of nonsense in this genre.

                            Rated 15 due to the scenes involving the grainy video footage which were realistic enough to be disturbing.
                            Images for Sinister (DVD).

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                            • More +
                              30.01.2013 09:37
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                              Conveniently located to visit Ephesus but not my ideal beach resort.

                              Of the ten or so hotels in Turkey I recently stayed in, I arrived hopeful that this would be one of the most promising. One of the potential tour spoilers is having no control over where you stay, but I did a little research before going hopeful that being forewarned would mean not finding any nasty surprises.

                              Kusadasi - Kus meaning bird and ada meaning island reflecting the number of migratory birds stopping over - has a more Mediterranean feel to it than most of the locations we stayed in. Which is not surprising as it is not only situated on the Aegean coast but as the Kus might fly it overlooks Greek islands such as Samos.

                              First impressions...

                              .. were good. The town has around 60,000 residents which nearly rises tenfold in high season. Aside from being a beach resort, it owes its popularity to the proximity of Ephesus.

                              Thankfully Kusadasi isn't reminiscent of some trashy Spanish resorts though, and this hotel stands at a modest four floors. With 80 bedrooms it isn't hideously huge either, nor is there likely to be room for another tour group to be staying at the same time.

                              ~ Pouting at the grouting ~

                              Rather optimistically the Grand Onder website describe their rooms as debonair. Perhaps something was lost in translation, but I wouldn't come here hoping for some Manhattan boho chic. Our room and ensuite while perfectly acceptable, were if anything more shabby than urbane.

                              The first thing I noticed was the carpet. Odd maybe, but I personally dislike carpeted rooms in hot countries. Tiled or wooden floors would surely be easier to clean and feel cooler under foot. That said, it may well have helped with the sound proofing as I slept soundly both nights.

                              The second thought was more cheering in that the room was a decent size, unlike some of our other Turkish dwellings. The decor was a neutral beige but the tired CRT television, although it worked perfectly, wasn't really a nod in the direction of sophistication.

                              The ensuite was more disappointing. Too small to fit a bath and the shower surround was a cheap plastic which didn't feel all that secure. One place black feels neither urbane or suave is when it's the colour of choice for grouting as it is here. It merely reminded me of mould which is unfortunate as the ensuite didn't have a working extractor fan so the room tended to fill with steam easily.

                              Oh well, if I haven't done a good job of selling the hotel so far it's because I've saved the best till last and that is the views. The same steep lane the Grand Onder is situated in that proves a pain for coach drivers is fantastic for those with sea view rooms. Although the hotel is a five minute stroll to the waterfront, our balcony had a wonderful view of the bay and the harbour.

                              Breakfast and dinner are both buffet meals and we sat and watched from our balcony as poolside tables were laid on the swimming pool terrace by staff the first evening we were there.

                              ~ Advantages ~

                              There are tables in the dining room inside, but provided the weather is good (which it was even in late September when we were there) dining alfresco is a must. Watching the sun rise over the harbour sets the day up wonderfully.

                              The food too was good. Cereals, fresh watermelon and other fruit, the obligatory toast and yoghurts were both plentiful and fresh at breakfast. Our tour provided for dinner on the first night but not the second. We stayed two nights and our package provided for dinner on the first night but not the second. We opted to try a local restaurant on the promenade the second evening. The buffet at dinner the first evening was good though, and all the better for having reasonably priced wines to wash it down with.

                              Despite some of its tired features, the hotel and rooms are nevertheless well maintained. That perhaps might prove harder in high season, but despite the grouting and carpets, I couldn't fault housekeeping. The same went for the pool itself and surrounding area when we were there - we had a few free hours before dinner the second night we stayed and like several others on our tour took advantage of the warm weather and splashed about a bit in the pool. Space is at a premium in Kusadasi and so there aren't any gardens as such, only the pool terrace. Still, what there is is kept spotless.

                              It's a short drive to the Greek and Roman ruins of Ephesus. Those who, as John Lennon said, should rattle their jewellery are more likely to opt for a cruise. We saw several large cruise liners docking overnight.

                              ~ Disadvantages ~

                              Perhaps the Grand Onder has had issues with previous guests, but there is a strict policy of allowing no food or drink in rooms or they threaten to charge you for them. Not only are there notices at the entrance but in the rooms too. The oldish mini bar didn't get used during our two days here. Normally I'd be only too happy to keep some shop bought water cooling in the fridge, but not with those signs. Rather regimental In these days of customer friendliness I thought.

                              Not all the rooms will have a sea view. It you travel here under your own steam I would suggest asking for one at check in; the location really is the making of the hotel.

                              There is no indoor pool. Given that the hotel is open all year around that makes swimming here unlikely during the cooler months.

                              Recommended?

                              Given there are more positives than negatives then yes. The Grand Onder is located in the north of Kusadasi bay. Not only is it very convenient for a walk along the seafront and to the shops and restaurants, but perhaps more importantly it's a short drive to Ephesus. Having covered what seems like huge distances during the course of our tour, it was a relief to know that for once we wouldn't have an early morning start.

                              Both my mother who has arthritic knees and I scrambled down the steep road and returned like billy goats, probably thanks in part to the wine with our dinners. It's near enough the beach and town to not feel isolated, yet far enough away to not hear any noise from bars or traffic (Incidentally, the lovely promenade is lit up with fancy blue lighting after dark).

                              Some reviews on Trip Advisor had warned of surly staff, but I didn't find that to be the case. Check in and out were both smooth and pain free and we had no other reason to contact reception.

                              Address: Ataturk Bul. 4.Sokak No : 10 YatlimanI KarsIsI, Kusadasi 09400, Turkey.

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                              • iTunes U (iPad app) / Apps / 103 Readings / 101 Ratings
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                                09.12.2012 05:30
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                                One of the biggest and best apps out there. Try it.

                                U who?

                                If 'geniosity' isn't already a word then it ought to be. It should be used to describe whoever thought up the iTunesU application at apple. It could well pique the interest even of those of you who have no intention of downloading any app. Ever. It's really a very simple idea. iTunes have developed a basic framework and made it available to colleges or schools interested in uploading some of their courses content online. For a couch potato user like me it's a cross between lingering in a virtual bookshop - the longer I spend browsing, the more I find that I want to download - and walking through a European Christmas market where some iTunes stalls have more enticing wares than others.

                                "Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe" ~ Thomas Jefferson.

                                Though a brilliant wordsmith, by his own admission Jefferson was a poor orator. One disappointing aspect about iTunesU are the number of highbrow lecturers featured who aren't good public speakers.

                                Take 'Great Writers Inspire' from Oxford University. I had optimistically downloaded a short video hoping to watching a lecturer explain Beowulf in engaging terms. Disappointingly he barely glanced up from his notes and fidgeted throughout. I lasted about 2 minutes, although not before learning that the work was slightly singed thanks to once having been thrown from a burning library.

                                Equally, there are authors who are far more comfortable orators yet they readily spend long periods of time in seclusion. One such person is Alexander McCall Smith. The Academy of Achievement ("The Academy") invited him to talk for 15 minutes at their rather pompous sounding International Achievement Summit for authors and poets. The Academy is probably one of my favourites on here. Unlike the majority of institutions featured, it's a non-profit organization which brings together high profile, successful people from various fields and college kids to inspire them to succeed.

                                ~ It's all academic isn't it? ~

                                Far from being dry, the content on iTunes U can be fun and arguably relevant. The Music category of The Academy features performances from Taylor Swift in 2008 and James Brown in 2004. Their Entertainers category features interviews with the likes of Morgan Freeman from earlier this year to Olivia de Havilland in 2001. I wonder if she expected her interview to be as accessible as it is, or merely gone with the wind?

                                Another 10 minute speech was given by Barack Obama in 2007 (under 'Challenging the status quo') once he had announced he was standing for election. While I enjoyed watching him explain how a teenaged encounter with two ANC members became a turning point in his life, the funniest part comes about 8 minutes in when Bishop Desmond Tutu who has joined him on the stage, shushes him.

                                What you could get...

                                * Mr Burns from The Simpsons *

                                Would Montgomery Burns give his time for free? No. but what you will find is a far more charismatic man called Michael Sandel who bares an uncanny resemblance. 'Justice with Michael Sandel' is the subject which first introduced me to iTunesU. Although called Justice it would be more aptly called Moral Reasoning. In less charismatic hands this might leave me cold, but Sandel keeps discussions about utilitarianism and free market exchange interesting by drawing on real life scenarios from egg and sperm donation to same-sex marriages. It's also undeniable that Mr Burns looks remarkably like Sandel (as well as having the same signature hand gesture), and that many Simpsons writers have studied at Harvard, but their writing team is staying silent. Characteristically the two may be poles apart, as Sandel is one of the more popular tutors at Harvard, with over 1000 students listening to his lectures.

                                Its not all perfect though. The videos sometimes spend too long focussing on the students, who are either fidgeting, looking bored or taking notes. Some judicious editing wouldn't have gone amiss. There is also some tiresome American advertising to skip over at the start of every lecture.

                                * Heroin in the New York Public Library *

                                More accurately Lou Reed, Maureen Tucker and Doug Yule not only being interviewed but performing as the Velvet Underground in 2009. A shame it's audio only. I suppose one upside is that I can carry on surfing or check emails while listening, but I would much prefer seeing them perform. I should warn you that about 11 minutes into the session, while they're playing the song Heroin the screeching viola nearly made me ears start bleeding. I'm not a Velvet Underground fan but I've listened to this twice, despite it being 1 hour 20 minutes long. If Lou Reed discussing his relationship with Warhol isn't your thing, perhaps conversations with Christopher Hitchens or Antonia Fraser are? These can all be found in 'Live at the NYPL' along with 130 other interviews.

                                'New York beyond sight' is another audio series where this library really shines. Like many others, when I've been to New York I've barely left Manhattan. What surprised me was the rich seam of history that New Yorkers still hold dear in the four other boroughs. Queens is home to the Adriance Farmhouse from the 18th century, while NYC's oldest house is the Wyckoff Farmhouse in nearby Brooklyn. Both are typical Dutch style Quaker homes more suited to rural Pennsylvania yet a stones throw from Manhattan. Fast forward a century and the house where Edgar Allan Poe spent his last years is also now open to the public in the Bronx. Meanwhile, Staten Island might be best known for a ferry crossing, but the Coney Island fairground sounds like its worth a look as does the Marchais Tibetan museum. These talks are given by people who know them well and last only around 4 minutes each. Well worth listening to.

                                * Double trouble *

                                I didn't get to see Lenny Henry in last years production of The Comedy of Errors at the National Theatre but his performance won rave reviews from the critics. The NT has a presence here too. Aside from a 30 minute interview with Henry most of the content seems to be aimed more at those interested in backstage roles with sections on wigs & makeup and special effects. Their series on vocal exercises might not have as large an audience as their theatre but could help any festive Cinderella's.

                                I give you musicians from the Velvet Underground to Taylor Swift, an equally swift look at utilitarianism which is more pleasure than pain and some Dutch masters in New York and yet you're still nonplussed? What you will personally find appealing on iTunesU naturally depends on your own tastes and interests. A look at the weekly Charts (or most popular downloads) reveals Spanish to be the most popular subject by far. Interestingly, a secondary school Academy (go Essa!) in Bolton, Lancashire has 5 of the courses in the top 20 downloads as of today (double that of Yale and Harvard combined). 'iPad and iPhone Application Development' and 'Developing Apps for iOS' are both in the top 10 collections too. Perhaps there are lots of wannabe Zuckerbergs out there hoping to create the Next Big Thing. Another popular topic seems to be creative writing courses which is how I chanced upon McCall Smith's interview I've mentioned above.

                                Not everything is rosy in this apple application though. Some of the content is decidedly old hat. That may not be a problem with courses such as those above, but I would have thought that any financial ones should be bang up to date. The New York Public Library has a finance course aimed at locals wanting to start up their own business in the city with chapters like 'How to start a fashion line in today's market' and 'Good business practices for entrepreneurs' both dating from 2008. Perhaps the basic tenets of starting up a business haven't changed but getting finance and staying afloat might need more tenacity now.

                                The material doesn't have to be exclusive to iTunes either so it may well appear in a similar format elsewhere. I'm fairly sure that some of the 'Justice' content has been broadcast by BBC3 or 4.

                                Some institutions could do with making their site more appealing. I had high hopes that the Museum of Modern Art in New York would at least be visually engaging. I was wrong. 'Edward Munch - the modern life of the soul' dates from 2006. The MoMA exhibition featured nearly 90 paintings although they've only uploaded discussions on 18 here. What's really irritating is that they only display one generic painting for all of the talks. Why would anyone want to listen to a depiction of a painting without seeing what's being discussed? You have to skip along to their own website to view the paintings. The same goes for their 'Explosive with lots of colour- Pixar- 20 years of animation'. Sadly they've missed a golden opportunity.

                                Those niggles aside, I would still recommend iTunesU. They claim to be the world's largest online catalogue of free educational content which is believable although I doubt it's available worldwide. The range of subjects, not to mention the universities which offer them is immense. Oxford university was one of the earlier adopters and they claim to have had 19 million downloads of their courses in the last four years which testifies to its popularity. Despite what I've written, it isn't too US centric or even English speaking either. It's easy enough to find content in Japanese and various European languages for those that speak them.

                                For those that don't, why not brush up on a language? Not having studied French for years I picked a beginners course from the Open University in anticipation of a day trip to France. Having downloaded it onto my iPad, I can now sync it to my desktop, and in turn sync my iPod from my desktop. Should I want to take my iPod with me, I would then have some very basic French to listen to on the way over there.

                                Also, part of its charm lies in simply not knowing what I might find. Glamorgan Uni has uploaded a performance of a play written by Hollywood screenwriter Diane Lake. It was recorded in front of students in 2010 and hasn't been edited since - a few stumbles over words bear witness to that.

                                Recommended.

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